From the recording Wishes
I was kicked out of my first band for committing a minor act of violence against another band member while on stage. I had started this band with my best friend, so even though I was kicked out with cause, I still felt extremely hurt and betrayed. As a result, we didn’t speak for several years afterward.
We were a five-piece with two guitarists, one of them being me. The incident in question was precipitated by a few aggravating factors. For one, I was having technical difficulties with my amplifier and was unhappy with my performance in general that night, a fact not helped by the fair amount of alcohol I had consumed. I was not alone in that consumption.
There was already a bit of tension between the other guitarist and me. Aside from our different playing styles, his amplifier was about four times the size as mine, both in physical size and loudness. On pure volume alone, I was always outmatched, and he never seemed much inclined to compensate for that. I had finally saved enough money to buy a used Fender Twin Reverb, an astoundingly loud amp, but it was cutting in and out the whole gig. So despite my efforts, the volume discrepancy at this gig was no exception to every other show we had played.
Toward the end of our set, we had a song where the bassist, the drummer and I would exit the stage leaving the singer and the other guitarist to perform as a duo. Frustrated with my own failings, and fairly buzzed up, I went back stage to hear the drummer and bassist talking about how loud the other guitarist was. They talked openly about how between the three of us, we had enough votes to kick him out of the band.
So sitting backstage, pissed off, surrounded by childish drama, I just got riled me up even further. Yet, ironically, I was still attempting to defuse the situation, and said I would go talk to the guitarist. As we returned to the stage for our final song, I walked out and said something diplomatic like “Why don’t you turn your fucking guitar down so the rest of us can be heard”. I meant to punctuated this with a playful and light double-tap of my hand to his cheek. If that is all I had done, it would have been bad enough, especially in front of an audience. But what actually happened was much worse. My hand flew full force, slapping him hard across the face, dislodging and breaking his glasses.
SHIT! That wasn’t supposed to happen. This was bad. My diplomacy had gone horribly awry.
Not knowing what to do, while the audience stood in shock, I walked to my guitar and we launched into our final song. After we finished, I packed up my equipment in deathly silence while the rest of the band completely ignored me. Nobody would even make eye contact with me, yet alone talk to me. I tried approaching the group after we were all packed up. I apologized directly, and offered to pay for the glasses, but nobody would have it. I was told what I had done was unforgivable and that I should go home. So I did.
And that was that.
So I not only lost the band that I had co-founded but I lost my best friend. It took years to heal that break, and a decade before I’d ever perform again. During that 10 years my guitar sat in the corner and looked at me with disdain for neglecting it. It wasn’t until the birth of Napster and the MP3 that I finally regained my passion for creating music again. There was a revolution of direct global distribution happening, and I had to be a part of it. But not with a band. When I finally returned to music, it was as a solo artist. The thought of having a band and repeating the same mistakes was more than I could bear.
It was with great trepidation that I returned to collaboration. At first, I tip-toed in, performing as a duo with a drummer for a while, and honestly, it was pretty great. We communicated in short-hand from our first practice. During this time, I decided I could live with a 3-piece. I decided my ideal power trio would be me, drums and cello. By the time I found a cellist, that bastard drummer had the gall to go and get a job that left him little time for music.
Oh, but my precious cellist. She brought things to my music that I had been dying to hear. We’ve been working together for a few years now, and I have no words to describe how completely gratifying the experience has been. Working with Erin gave me the strength and confidence to bring in others to help me complete this record. A record I had been struggling to do alone for far too long.
I have long been friends with Christopher Hoffee and have always been a great admirer of his musical and engineering talents. I met him a week before my first grampadrew gig, and wouldn’t you know it, he showed up to support me and encourage me at that very first show. I’ll never forget that.
I have many flaws. A lack of loyalty is not one of them. So when I decided to record my album in a professional studio, there was no question about whose studio I would go to. After recording the drums and scratch tracks, “Wishes” was one of the first songs Christopher and I worked on.
Once, after a gig, my friend Larisa came up to me and said, “I really like Wishes. It reminds me of a Roy Orbison song.” I smiled, and thanked her, but honestly, I didn’t really get it. I just tried my hardest to be polite and not look at her boobs. So imagine my surprise when Christopher said “I’m feeling a Roy Orbison vibe with this song….do you mind if I experiment with the arrangement?” I decided to put total faith in him and let him run wild. As things developed, I suddenly heard what the two of them got immediately. The song has a very dark and deep vocal delivery, but like many of my songs, the lyrical sentiment often undermines the musical tone.
Christopher managed to create a really cool homage to the sound of artists like Orbison, while maintaining the emotional tension at the heart of the song. It’s upbeat and kind of swings, with a vocal that seems vaguely threatening while wishing someone the best in life. But most importantly, it started off the recording process affirming my decision to collaborate with others. It built my confidence in letting other people help develop these songs to their highest potential. It cemented my trust in Christopher, and set the tone for the entire recording process. Trust the people you choose to work with. Serve the song.
So thank you my friends, for restoring my trust and belief in the collaborative process. And thank you most of all, for helping me to realize a dream that I had struggled so long to achieve. I knew I had a really good record in me. But if there’s any greatness to it, it’s because of the people I surrounded myself with.