Friday, June 28, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: The Purge, Spring Breakers and Olympus has Fallen

MOVIE REVIEW: The Purge, Spring Breakers and Olympus has Fallen


"The Purge": broody and intense; whatever ethical questions are brought up by it are moot since the movie would crumble under scrutiny. However: taken as it is, it works.

"Spring Breakers": colorful and depressing; like drug laced cotton candy and the inevitable self loathsome hangover. James Franco's character has to be seen to be believed.

"Olympus Has Fallen": Die Hard in the White House. 
There is something satisfyingly cathartic about these movies; the bad guys are sneeringly sinister and loathsome and deserving of their come-uppance and the solitary good guy is good natured (and usually in a strained but loving relationship) but EXTREMELY good at inflicting damage- even after getting his butt kicked repeatedly. When the showdowns inevitably happen we are exhilarated at the violence- in essence, we are part of it. It's emotional manipulation at it's core, but a welcome one because we all want to see the villain get what's coming to him. REALLY get what's coming- basically, we want vengeance, we want retribution and we demand justice from these characters that are stand ins for whatever causes we believe in. By projecting us into the action, the moviemakers make us use their characters (broad ones, at that) as projections of ourselves. Now, the success of these films all depend on just how effective the respective good and bad guys are, and they are quite effective here. The main villain leers and sneers and the hero dominates but is still vulnerably human with his own emotional hangups that will resurface occasionally within the film only to resolved at the climax. Every piece of this movie has been done before in plot and in craft - some to the point of mockery- but it's the equivalent of an In and Out burger after being on a diet: it's well made, better than most and tastes really friggen good even though you'll be over it after you're done.

My report on the Steve Miller/Primus shows at the Fox theater, Bakersfield

My report on the Steve Miller/Primus shows at the Fox theater, Bakersfield


It's become clear to me that there are three events in Bakersfield that bring people together that haven't seen each other in many years: funerals, weddings and shows at the fox. I've seen two shows there in four days: Steve Miller and Primus; both had their own distinct vibe, their own distinct approach to their shows and their own distinct crowds. Let me compare them.

Steve Miller is a man about to clear 70 this year. His major successes happened around his thirties and his stage persona is jovial and sometimes goofy; he's better at recreating his guitar lines than trying to raise the roof with his game audience. He played a no-nonsense two hour set of his greatest hits and a few tracks from his 1973 album the joker (still housing one of the most fascinating album covers of the 70's) and two tracks off his latest album consisting mainly of blues covers. His band was tight, professional and didn't waste a single note. Besides a backlit mural in the background, there wasn't anything even remotely close to enhance the simplicity of a band ripping through about a dozen songs that anyone who's been listening to rock radio for the last 20 years is familiar with. 

If Miller's sparse design was on one end of the visual spectrum, the Primus concert might as well have taken over the opposite side completely: it was sensory overload the entire time. Utilizing a huge screen in the background, it played a series of 3D images (seen through the same kind of glasses that you use to see modern 3D movies using some technology that is more advanced than anything I've ever seen) over random videos ranging from clips from old sci-fi films to that of an elephant jumping on a trampoline all synced flawlessly to the music. I used to think that Primus was more akin to Rush and like prog bands but I have completely re-evalulated this opinion: they're the Bizarro to their twin in band size and alliteration The Police. Primus's music is like peering into the bad dreams of an LSD casualty that was raised on a lifetime of Looney Tunes cartoons, psychotropic drugs and claymation whereas The Police (especially in their later stage) is a London wall street banker on a cocaine bender vacationing in the Caribbean; both of these bands have a sinister and subversive perspective sonically and lyrically- touching on distrust, paranoia, disenfranchisement, solitude, and a casual detatchment in their observations, but where Primus wears their weirdness on the outside, The Police kept it bubbling in the dark- just under the surface; secretly and dangerously. Rush is their goofy Canadian cousin who wears a trenchcoat and plays D&D. 

Performance-wise, they were superb. Their drummer had one of the most beautiful snare sounds I have ever heard live and his Ludwig set was one gong drum away from being a facsimile of Herb Alexander's kit. Even as rich as the 3D effects were, I had to give my eyes a rest every few minutes or so and I had to sit down to give my legs a rest. For Primus super fans, this show was great, but for those that stopped listening to them after "Pork Soda" it could have been a bit wearisome. Most of their songs have a pretty linear construction: riff/ ecclectic (normal to them) subject matter/musicianship/solos/riff. By no means should you add a bridge, hell they barely have choruses. The biggest emotional kick of the entire show happened during their last song when Les Claypool commanded "Go!" before the breakdown in "Jerry was a race car Driver". They didn't play "my name is mud" and almost got away with not playing "Jerry was a race car driver" if it wasn't for a particular audience member. If Steve Miller's show and crowd were Heineken and pizza, the Primus show and fans were definitely weed and Bud Lite, and if I could find a metaphor for Primus the band it's this: they are the musical equivalent of Andy Kaufman. 

Appropriately, during their intermission they played four popeye cartoons. Appropriate since Les Claypool is a cartoon character all by himself (at one point coming out on stage wearing a pig mask) with the personality to prove it. He reminded me onstage of the Reverend Horton Heat- in the sense that you get the sense that these onstage "personas" aren't too far off from their real life ones. Claypool's mumbly, aloof, mildly caustic sarcasm (especially with members of his audience) shows that he's in on the joke- whatever it is- and he's not telling us what it is. Maybe hints of it; little by little, but we're not worthy of the entire punchline.

my reaction to the Boston marathon bombing april 16, 2013

my reaction to the Boston marathon bombing april 16, 2013


To every single person already turning this tragedy into a political statement, to all of you pointing fingers or commiserating to make this into an exercise of using it to promote some partisan point of view: shut UP, SHUT UP! SHUT. THE FUCK. UP!!! I try to never curse on my page but you have all driven me to give up on you. It's the same bullshit on both sides. If there was ever anything to bring us all together it's this tragedy, but thanks to the complete caustic cynicism dripping from a lot of you, it feels like the worst heightened high school emotions coming through my computer and smacking me in my face. If you take this and turn it into some forum to spout off some ideological bullshit you are at the best selfish, at worst a ghoul. Get off my page; or I will do it for you. If you don't see me as a friend anymore, it's because you're sounding like an asshole; if you blame me for it- you were never a friend and good riddance. We all have questions; as of now none of us have answers. Please don't pretend that you have them.
I've been touched by the heroism and the nobility that human beings are capable of, along with utter devastation at the exact opposite. Remember the end of Jerry Maguire where Rod is injured on the field and his brother is criticizing him and talking smack even though no one knew just how bad his injuries were? That's you. All of you. Please, shut up before you realize that ,whether you know it or not, we are all in this together- and I can guarantee you that if you were one of the runners that had a limb blown off or worse- the LAST thing you'd be worried about is politics.

MY MOVIE 43 REVIEW, january 29, 2013


MY MOVIE 43 REVIEW

I have been to the mountaintop; I have seen the summit. I have seen bad movies- the kind that are "so bad they are good" movies, the ones whose content goes beyond the pale and goes for the extreme, the ones made with the direct intention of being a bomb (*cough, cough!* Uwe Boll *cough!*), the ones that were phoned in, cashed in, sold out, maligned; failures due to any amount of inconsistency, incompetence or any amount of words starting with "in". All of these movies are mere shadows compared to the most towering turd ever committed to the big screen: MOVIE 43.

This is the worst movie I have seen. Its sole reason of being is to either be a punishment to losing a bet or, I'm assuming (based on the sheer star power of some of its actors) , blackmail. 

It's a testament to the ultimate ethic of creating a movie going beyond utter incomprehension at what you're watching. Making you audibly cry out "WHAT... THE... #@&$?!?!?!" It creates incredulity and sometimes nausea. I won't even bother to start on the minutia of what it does in cinematic terms- this isn't a movie that even bothers to competently make a case for its existence- it throws you in a bucket, defecates on you, lights you on fire and dumps a gallon of cat spray to put you out. 
It's the closest version of the aristocrats joke ethos ever put to film- go for the worst, grossest, gnarliest scenario and hit with a ludicrous punchline. Here's the kicker: there is no punchline- some segments have endings but nowhere is there any resolution at all. If you want a comparison here it is: it's the sickest most offensive stuff on FAMILY GUY cut together as skits with a real cast. Oh, and a cartoon cat.

I have got to hand it to everyone involved with this: you all truly committed 100% to make this utter piece of crap the worst one ever made in the history of utter pieces of crap. This isn't a movie- it's an initiation, an extreme one-like drinking your own pee. A bonding experience in the same way people connect with others who have shared a traumatic event. I am utterly convinced this movie was either the most effective act of revenge directed at a movie studio or a huge tax write off for everyone involved ("Hire the biggest actors you know, pay them whatever they want and make a movie guaranteed to post a loss.") Either way, spoiler alert: YOU SUCCEEDED! 

If you are going to watch this- don't bring kids, go in fully knowing that you are going to see an abomination- the cinematic equivalent of a tumor. Do not watch it alone, (DEFINITELY not with a date, unless your significant other and yourself have either been together for a long time, or are on the same wavelength) preferably with one to four friends. The louder the better, and maybe as a drinking game because if any movie begs for chemical enhancement it's this one.

It took four years to make this atrocity based on all the actors' schedules- it will take that long to forget it. Some things seen can never be unseen- this truly applies here: it is unforgettable in every way possible- none of them good. The only way I will ever see this again, is just to prove to people that it even exists; that there is a movie where Hugh Jackman has a scrotum growing from his neck, Anna Farris wants her fiancee played by Chris Pratt (a real life married couple) to poop on her, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber (ANOTHER real life couple- man, what dirt did the filmmakers have on these guys) bully, torture, humiliate and sexually harass their home schooled son, that attempts to make Chloe Merentz's first period into a skit, Jason Sudekis plays the douchiest Batman EVER and helped Halle Berry make a movie worse than CATWOMAN. In fact, that movie is the original Star Wars compared to this one on the fail scale. The best part of this movie is the laughs you will have with your friend (or friends) about just. how. bad. this is. It does linger, in fact- it wafts. God, does it waft...

NO redemption; truly made as a curiosity piece and as a companion piece for cancer, because if there is anything that will make you welcome death it's this. The mountaintop is mount everest and the summit of pure shit is MOVIE 43. Welcome, and I pity you. You have my sympathy.

Repost: Article about the San Diego Comic Con for Bakotopia 2009

Repost: Article about the San Diego Comic Con for Bakotopia 2009

The San Diego Comic-Con has been going on for forty years. It is essentially nerd-vana for anyone who loves anything geek-centric. I'm talking about comic books, video games, genre movies (horror, fantasy sci-fi I'm looking at you!) Japanese Anime and all manner of toys. I've been to small conventions before (in the 80's in Palmdale and Bakersfield) but those were NOTHING to prepare me for the Leviathan spectacle of what is the San Diego Comic Con. To give you an idea, I will refer to it furthermore as just COMIC - CON.

I've been to big conventions before, specifically NAMM (which was written in BAKOTOPIA magazine earlier in the year by good old JR at http://www.bakotopia.com/home/Blog/jr/39974) where tens of thousands of freaky musicians gather to see all the shiny new gear that they can't afford. Nay, folks. COMIC-CON is wherre over ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND people gather to fawn over all things fandom. I guess it would be fawn-dom.

I've been reading comics since the late seventies and have been an avid collector since the beginning of the 80's. I was aware of the COMIC-CON but just never got around to it, like talking about a vacation that never happens because life always gets in the way. COMIC CON was just Comic-con until around 2000 when Hollywood found out that fanboys ( the typical name to describe us) are the ultimate test group for their movies. Remember, comic book movies died in the mid nineties with BATMAN AND ROBIN, a movie so atrocious that it killed off an entire GENRE of movies. Once X MEN became a success, the suits went and bought any and all comic book properties they could their hands on. The same thing is happening with video games now.

A movie that generates buzz at COMIC CON will open BIG. Guaranteed. Every year all the movie companies pimp out their upcoming movies by having the films' main cast and crew in a panel and introduce new footage in Hall H (A HUGE hall with four massive plasma screens that seats 6500 people yet always fills up) where atendees can also ask questions to the stars and filmmakers.

For example: this year had panels for NEW MOON, AVATAR, IRON MAN 2 among many many others. NEW MOON in particular had people waiting in line for two days before the COMIC CON even started. This has inspired a new breed of geek: the Holly-nerd. A nerd that instead of showing his authority by reciting facts and figures based on fandom knowedge, instead tries to assume it by name dropping celebrities an agencies.
OLD SCHOOL DOUCHE NERD: " I think that the only Daredevil worth reading is the Frank Miller run. All else is garbage."
NEW SCHOOL DOUCHE NERD: " my good friend over at William Morris said that Frank, You know...Frank Miller? He said that Frank just signed up to make a new movie for Fox."

The con has two levels: an upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs is just a massive hall with booths from different companies. The upstairs has many halls with different programs happening every hour. To the east of the main hall is the aforementioned Hall H that has the BIG movies. The smaller halls upstairs have TV shows, anime and panels on actual COMIC BOOKS!

You can meet up-coming artists and creators and get original art at artists alley. You will see the BEST costumes. Have you ever overheard a conversation where someone's talking about a movie you love and you can't help but include yourself into the discussion? Not only are you included but welcome. That's almost EVERYONE there. Everyone's polite (most us geeks are) and welcome to company. Now, it's not all great, the food is incredibly expensive and walking through a big crowd is never fun. I would recommend brown bagging it if you decide to go. You're allowed a backpack but nothing that has wheels.

Also, a few things for anyone that wants to go:

#1: GET A FOUR DAY PASS EARLY, LIKE, NOW.
It will sell out from now on. Get your passes MANY months in advance. Like, NOW. Remember, this is now a Hollywood thing and they are on their shit boys and girls.

#2: ATTEND PREVIEW NIGHT. For those that get a four day pass (Thu-Sun) you get an invite to Wednesday preview night. Trust me, get your badge on that night instead of having to wait in line on Thursday morning with (literally) ONE THOUSAND other people in line.

#3: BRING YOUR OWN FOOD. See above

#4: HAVE A PLACE TO STAY WITH CHEAP PARKING AND STAY THERE. Parking on Thursday? $10. On Saturday? $30-$40 if lucky. Trust me, sleep in your car if you have to. Unscented baby wipes ROCK!

#5: GET THE PROGRAM AND DECIDE WHERE TO GO. It's like Disneyland. If the program is at three, get there at two at the latest. There's so much to do that you must choose. Don't take it for granted that you will get into where you want to go. If you see a line, brave it. Once the doors close then it's back to being a con zombie.

#6: BRING MONEY. San Diego is fun but will always take its toll one way or another.

#7: BUY YOUR PASSES NOW. comiccon.net they will be sold out.

Also, sunscreen, vitamins, talcum powder (don't chafe!) a backpack/bag and a CAMERA are gospel. They give a lot of stuff away. Go with an open mind, a few bucks and a game plan and all will be well. Remember: If you're there for the comic books then you'll have ample opportunity to wget your whistle on one of the most amazing art forms in the world. If you're there for the movies then get in line as soon as you can to Hall H. They don't kick anyone out, so if you want to catch something at three, get there at noon.




Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Comic books have been a huge, huge part of my life. I feel no shame saying that. In fact, I hold that admission as a matter of pride, much like a fan who champions an unknown band that becomes well known: the feeling that I was on the ground floor before the crowd showed up. Comic books jump started my imagination, inspired the artist in me, colored my world view and even helped me bond with my daughter. From the start of my love affair with comics, my world has been painted in a four color comic scheme, in amazing multiple panels and spectacular splash pages.

I've written about my experience at the San Diego Comic-con (or the "COMIC-CON!!!") and my love of all the things that gave me joy in my youth but I wanted to write about the main reason why these little funny books mean so much to me. For a long time, they were my best friends and led me to my other best friends. I looked forward to picking up the newest issues at the local liquor store every week. My close friends at that time collected and read with the same fervor I did. They were sons of the workers on a ranch owned by my dad's friend. I knew what it was like, first hand, to stay in a trailer on a ranch, or to stay in the ranch hands' house because my dad was a ranch foreman himself. The ranch hands' homes were rows of tiny houses where whole families would live crammed and waiting for their dads to come back from a hard day in the fields. I still smile at the sight of a sunset over the vast green fields, being sprayed with two foot tall sprinklers; power lines humming steadily while the sky turned into a golden/purple hue. The daily business of the night pushing the day into the ground. It looks in my mind like one of those splash pages I was talking about. Those friends have disappeared over the years, their houses abandoned and rotted; still decaying off the 138 towards Lancaster.

I drew joy in reading, rereading and remembering those issues that still are burned in my mind: discovering Frank Miller's run on DAREDEVIL and HEAVY METAL magazine (waaay too young) in 1981. Reading Alan Moore for the first time in SWAMP THING in 1983 then in V FOR VENDETTA in 1993 and WATCHMEN and FROM HELL a few years later. Finding the unique wonder of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series; marveling at the mutant massacre in X MEN, buying THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT all in 1987. Reading Wolverine's beginnings in ORIGIN, rediscovering Spider Man and crying at the 9-11 issue back in 2001. Imprinting the work of Bill Sienkiewicz (pronounced sin-KEV-itch), Moebius, Richard Corben, Drulliet, Jack KIrby, Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, John Byrne, Liberatore, Alex Ross, Neal Adams, Mike Zeck, Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison, Mike Zulli, Mark Millar, Frank Frazetta, Berni wrightson and so, so, so many others into the core of my being. When I was 10 years old I wallpapered my entire room with all my comics, their mylar bags holding them in place. It was GLORIOUS!

It's not all sentimental though, there's a real sense of power in getting a particular issue or set at a bargain that gives you a sense that you got away with murder. For every "I could have paid twenty, but I got it for five" it's balanced by " I payed ten, but it was worth five." Regardless, those bargains have a particular aura of their own. they've inspired the frugal, tenacious, aggresive and intrepid collector in me. Whether it was collecting my early toys, magic cards or even CD's the collector in me was always looking to complete the collection/set/run and to get it for a "deal."

Thus, I come to the main focus of this blog: The Bakersfield Comic Convention at the Double Tree on November 8th.

One of the main guests is Sergio Aragones. I was first introduced to his work not in MAD magazine (I discovered that the next year thanks to this) but in a book my mom bought for my dad titled SERGIO ARAGONES ON PARADE. My father was born in Spain in the Aragon region, so my mom thought it was cute to buy my dad a book with the word ARAGON in the title. My wonderful well-meaning mom. I don't think it ever got to my dad- I keelhauled it. A few years leer I discovered GROO which is the ongoing saga of the world's DUMBEST barbarian and the world's most loyal dog (and ironic minstrel, like sir Robin's in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL). Imagine Al from HAPPY DAYS with long hair and dressed like CONAN with an IQ of 2. or for you youngsters John C Reilly with a big nose acting the same way.

If you want to see someone that ebraces their love of the comic book medium look no more than John Dolmayan, the drummer from SYSTEM OF A DOWN. The guy had each of his drums drawn on by different comic book artists (his snare drum was embellished by Neal Adams. Natch.)and he recently shelled out over $300,000 for an issue of ACTION COMICS #1-the first appearance of SUPERMAN. In my opinion, it sounds like a fine investment. There aren't a lot of those left in the world. Besides Kevin Smith he's probably the biggest comic book fan in the public eye that I can think of. Oh, I forgot Nicolas Cage, whose real last name is Coppola but changed it to Cage (after Luke Cage the comic book hero for hire first introduced by Marvel comics in the seventies and who should be hitting movie theatres in the near future. He's due.)
Mr. Dolmayan will be at the Comic con as well.

There will be other names there that most people that don't read comics wouldn't know (like Scott Shaw! and Alex Nino who I remember from HEAVY METAL magazine) but don't let that stop you from talking to them and hearing their stories. If you're already a fan, bring your kids to show where you come from. If your kids are fans take them to see where they're coming from. My fifteen year old daughter Tatijana and I trade comics sometime. She hips me to Japanese Manga and I prefer to share with her their cousins from the west. The fact that this is just one way of seeing the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree and that we can have this wonderful connection in common is a sublime fact that will keep me warm on my death bed.

I have seen comic fandom go from humble magazine racks, to comic boutiques, to comic conventions, to big business, to bankruptcy, to great success in the box office to the rise of Manga and to pretty much taking over popular culture as we now know it. From the golden age and the age of EC comics (where comics were seen as "seducing the innocent" and corrupting children) to the modern fables we see on the big and small screen, comic books have permutated through the fibers of the collective unconcious. Another guest of the convention will be Herb Jefferson Jr who played Boomer in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. How times have changed. In the ravamped series that was introduced a few years ago (and which to this day is still considered one of the most innovative, influential and revered dramas in recent times. Sci-fi or not.) Boomer changed from being played by a black man to a HOT asian woman. Starbuck went from being Face from the A TEAM (Dirk Benedict) to another hot blond woman with a drinking problem and anger issues who *SPOILER ALERT* also happened to be an angel (Katee Sackoff- too soon?), and Adama went from being Lorne Green to Edward James Olmos. Ladies and gentlemen: genre reinvention at work.

This is an unabashed love letter to the longest running relationship in my life: me and my imagination.I could literally keep going but it's time to bust out my GROO lunch box and a Sharpie. It's convention time again. Oh, and also Sergio Aragones killed Marty Feldman. It's true.

Friday, June 12, 2009

ANCIENT HISTORY: MY FIRST GARAGE BANDS

MISERY:/BLACK WIDOW(1989-1990)
Rich Spencer: Bass
Ray Solis: Guitar

DECEMBRE WISHES(1990)
Roland Smith: Vocals
Nick :keys
?????

WARNING: SELF INDULGENCE ALERT!

For any musician, their first real band is like their first real romantic relationship. It has all the highs and lows of drama that comes with sharing a common bonding experience that will always be remembered by all parties involved, but before that unique heaviness happens you get to go through another musical rite of passage: the garage band that never leaves the garage. 

I was born in Lancaster, CA in 1973 and that's where all the fucked up shit in my head started. That town is a fucking ghost town. No one is ever outside! It's located about forty minutes north of Los Angeles so it's basically a suburb of the big city. The main freeway that runs through Lancaster is the 14 and it doesn't matter if it's 9 in the morning or 5 in the evening, there is NEVER anyone driving on it. Folks, this is a city of over 145,000 people! No wonder that my fondest memories of my youth are the objects that kept me company in my own imagination like my toys, TV, movies, music, comics or friends.
I used to draw my own comic books for fun and they were displayed in the Lancaster library for other children to read. They were usually my interpretation of greek myths (I was HUGE into CLASH OF THE TITANS. The movie bug had bit me in 1981 so I started drawing soon after) and some random stuff (sci-fi. Charlie Brown later on Robotech and zombies) I hope they were read because I think they're adorable. Completely incomprehensible. One comic I worked on for my entire junior high stay. I worked on that thing for three years. It was a labor of love. I have a tendency to give away things that I regret giving. I gave it to a friend of that time who put it in a box with his other comic books. His mother, deeming he was too old for comic books burned the box with my opus in it.

When I die, I hope that comic book is there for me to read. 

My first instrument was a guitar (at around 1983 or so) that I never practiced or really played, so after two lessons with a teacher that smelled like coffee, my parents pulled the plug on my music career (ironic because I play the guitar just about every day now and play music for a living). I ended up giving the guitar to an  ex in-law and dear friend Bobbie Joe. The guitar's wherabouts are still pending. Around 1984, I remember watching the video for "Jump" by VAN HALEN playing on TV and intuitivelly picking up two objects and playing along. From there I air drummed to EVERYTHING (If I was actually physically hitting anything it would be my thighs or Charlie Brown encyclopedias). My "drumsticks" ranged from being perches from the birdcage (with AC/DC written on one side and 36-24-36 written on the other. I had no idea what it meant) and welding rods. I didn't buy a proper pair of drumsticks until my mom bought my first drumkit in early 1989. So for five years my drumset was imaginary. Or snoopy.

We moved here in  the summer of 1988. I had just left a private Catholic school in Palmdale namded Paraclete (punishment for ditching on the last day of school my 8th grade year) and from that bastion of affluence and privelige I ended at Arvin High School consisting of the children of lower to middle class hispanic families (which we were). When choosing my classes I immediately wanted to play in marching band. This is what Mr Johnson the band director asked me:

Mr. Johnson: what instrument do you play?

Me: Drums

Mr. Johnson: Have you taken any lessons?

Me: No.

Mr. Johnson: Do you even own a drum?

Me: No.

Mr. Johnson: Then you're playing trumpet.

So began my short tenure playing trumpet. Poorly. Got it from Stockdale Music (R.I.P.).

 Not too long after that, a rocker friend of mine (back then it was the jocks, the cheerleaders, the rockers, the heshens or stoners-the nerds, the good looking smart people, the cowboys, the skaters, the six goth kids, the band geeks aaaand the rest of the school) had a drumset he was selling for seventy bucks (!!) sitting in his parents tool shed. My mom wrote the check and I immediately set it up in my room. It needed heads on the top two toms but I DIDN'T CARE!!! I HAD TO PLAY IT. I did some massive damage to the bearing edges of my toms (where the drum contacts the drumhead) so, alas, they would never sound 100%. The equivalent of cutting off your toes if you're a runner. I had friends over and of course i'd play for them. 

"Hey, Cesareo can play!" Thank you air drums. 

One afternoon, the school's drumset was set up in the auditorium for a jazz band concert and my friend Jesse Rivera (who started the whole local music blog scene. I miss you at the shows my man) and my other friend JR were both going"Hey Cesareo! Let's sneak in the auditorium so you can play "'Tom Sawyer'!" There was no hi-hat so Jesse had to hold up a suspended cymbal. About a minute into RUSH's awesomeness (the song, not me) Mr. Johnson walked in and yelled "CESAREO! GET OFF OF THOSE! YOU'RE NOT A DRUMMER!" Some would agree.

The rest of the students in the Jazz band eventually convinced good 'ol Mr Johnson that I could indeed play the drums (thanks Matt and Mando) so eventually I ended up playing drums through the rest of high school. I gave away my trumpet to a friend, Ronnie Corbitt, who does tattoos in Bakersfield before I moved to Idaho in 1993. That trumpet is gone. Probably with my comic book and guitar. 

After getting a few VERY influential drum lessons from my drum sensei John Snider (who plays with EDDIE MONEY, is endorsed by DW drums, has written one of the sickest drum books ever and who is basically all things drum) it was time to play with others so to speak. So started the tried and true tradition of  the music store bulletin board. If you've been to a music store you've seen it: it's a peg board with business cards and flyers for shows/musicians wanted/musicians needed. Like a dating site for musicians. Now, this is waaay before the internet was everywhere, so there was a lot more legwork, demos played over phones etc. One of the first bands I talked to was the Kish brothers who had a band named FANTASY at the time (one has since passed away. my condolences). They kept pushing that they were related to Gene Simmons from KISS. Regardless, It wasn't for me. They did want my friend Scott Kaiser to sing for them though because he had purple hair.

There's a particular type of band you start with friends that basically revolves around this one looooong song you all wrote but it's AWESOME! It has EVERY COOL PART YOU COULD WRITE FOR IT CRAMMED IN THERE! Basically  5 to 6 minutes of disjoined parts, sometimes tempo/time signature changes and usually NO LYRICS (Or if there are, the music was written first so the melody is...a challenge). And you practice that SAME SONG over and over and over again for months. Band practice usually starts with everyone showing up at disjointed times, beverages are drank, food is consumed, The TV is on, music is playing. About an hour in the dialogue goes like this:

Bassist: so...should we ...uh...play something?

Drummer: (pause)...yeah, um....you got more Dr. Pepper?

Bassist: yeah

Drummer: Let's start after I finish it.

Guitarist: Can I have one too?

Honestly, after all these years,the only thing that's changed is probably the choice of beverage.

Twenty minutes later, amps are turned on, drums are hit (lamely in my case) and...BOOM! there starts the song. After five minutes of the musical equivalent of fumbling in the dark,  the song is finished.

Drummer/guitarist/bassist:thatwasawesome!SOCOOL!wegottadothatagain!YEAH!LET'SDOITAGAIN!yeah!

Aaaaand...repeat. At least three more times multiplied by approximately two months. Rehearsing a song that will never be played outside that garage. This band I'm describing was the first group of musicians (outside of school) that I played with: MISERY.  They were Rich Spencer on bass (who plays in a local celtic band named WHISKEY GALORE) and Ray Solis on guitar (who was later in SEX ART with future rock stars Dave Deroo of ADEMA, Ryan Shuck of ORGY and JULIEN-K and Jonathan Davis from KORN ) who also played in the prominent local band JUICE with the aforementioned Deroo and Tim Fluckey who also ended up in ADEMA (I don't know what Ray is doing these days). I've bumped into Rich a couple of times in the last four years. Usually drunkingly asking him to see if I can jam with his band on the djembe (I drink a lot). We bonded in those early practices over RUSH songs and discussing Amiee Mann of 'TIL TUESDAY. 
Later on (the exact time escapes me), we somehow got involved with these two other dudes to form  some kind of collaboration. The details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember one dude was taller and also played bass and the second dude was short. Like, Dio short. And they lived in a trailer park off of Panama Lane. At least it was a nice trailer park. The next time we met was in a house in what was at that time (1989 or so) the start of the Rosedale/ New Oildale area (what later was to become the "rich" part of Bakersfield). I walked into a huge converted garage with carpeted walls, a full PA system, a white Pearl  drumkit and all manner of musical gear. I was then told that we were changing the name of the band to BLACK WIDOW (BWAHAHAHAHA!!!) and that we would be changing the sound of the band by playing  hair metal.  This is also the first I heard the words "Private Investor" in regards to funding a band (most of the time, THIS IS NOT GOOD). I politely realized I had to be somewhere else at that same  moment (LIE!) so  I told Rich peace, left and never looked back. My own snobby musical integrity which owed (and still owes) it's allegiance to mid 80's alternative rock like THE CURE, THE CULT, THE SEX PISTOLS, ROXY MUSIC, LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, THE CHURCH, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, NEW ORDER and the like, would not let me even entertain that nonsense. To continue down that path would be a heresy to my own musical ethics, Which I have systematically pounded into oblivion over the last twenty some years.

The next ad i answered was from a chap named Roland. He was a fan of SIOUXSIE and especially THE CURE (now we're TALKING!) and a local band named CRADLE OF THORNS (whose singer, Ty Elam, I would end up playing with in KARMA HIT LIST). At first it was him on vocals and me on drums in his living room. I don't remember. I don't think we ever properly finished a complete song, but man we practiced a lot. When he told me the idea of the band name I was FLOORED! NO FUCKING WAY! DECEMBER WISHES?

Roland: actually it'll be spelled DECEMBRE

Me: FUCK ME! (ok, let's go with it until something better comes along)

We tried out different musicians, including one poor guy whose syringe I found in the back of his amp. When I openly confronted him about it he embarassingly told me it was insulin and promptly bolted. It's memories like this that remind me I have a long way to go in the enlightenment department. Eventually Roland found Nick who played keyboards. We played a few rehearsals at his house and then the band was done. Kaput.  In fact, I played a jam session at Nick's house years later (around 1996 or 1997) where I played drums along with Dave Deroo and Caleb Moore from MENTO BURU each playing bass at the same time. One soloing, one keeping the groove then switching. Let me tell you, a drummer playing with two bassists is the equivalent of some quality naughty stuff happening, dig? The WISHES started and ended in mid 1990 and some high school bullshit happened around that whole time ( I mean, we WERE in high school) but that's water under the bridge. I mean, my girlfriend at that time ended up marrying my next lead singer. That band was PAPERHOUSE and  that's where the story really starts.

COMING UP: PAPERHOUSE 


  In 1995 I lived in Boise Idaho and I got a gig with a cover band called THE RHYTHM MOB. Now, these guys were PROS. The archetypal Cats. Their material was basically older funk and R&B along the lines of TOWER OF POWER and JAMES BROWN. They had a horn section and played every weekend in and around Idaho (I played Park City Utah with them. The Black Pearl was the place. Last gig I played with them). Their bass player did not like my playing. I overplayed and was still finding a "voice" and it was not pleasant to him. This was the first time I was fired from a band. Aspiring musicians take note: if you are ever fired from a band, 90% of the time it will be BEHIND YOUR BACK and done BY COMITEE. This is NOTHING PERSONAL or if it is DO NOT treat it as such. A band is a working relationship and if it works better without you (or me) so be it.  They replaced me with a swedish drummer that transplanted to play with a Rock cover band called THE PRAIRIE DUDES out of Jackson Hole Wyoming. They were doing stuff like Stone Temple Pilots , Spin Doctors, Red Hot Chili Peppers (These were the "hits" at that time. God I feel old) so his leaving left them drummerless. I met up with the two guitarists of that band Philip Shanks (who last i heard worked at a guitar center in Texas) and Robby Duran (who has a steadily working blues group in L.A. now) at a bar called the BLUES BOUQUET right in downtown Boise.

Me: So where you guys from?

Philip: well, we're out of Jackson Hole Wyoming but I'm from Palmdale CA and Robby's from Canyon Country ( both are ten minutes from Lancaster).

Me:...uh...I'm from Lancaster too...

(hushed pause)

Me/Philip/Robbie: Whoa...

Needless to say, they weren't drumerless for long. THE PRAIRIE DUDES and THE RHYTHM MOB basically just switched drummers. There's another lesson there: there will always be other opportunities to express yourself.


Friday, September 08, 2006

STILL LIFE GOES ON.

It's truly amazing what a picture can do to you. It's called a still life because as long as you look at that photo, that part of your life will stay still. Sometimes, you wish it would have stayed still, sometimes you wish you could have still stayed and sometimes life stands still just looking at it. Those two words should realistically never be used in tandem considering how oxymoronic they are (life never stands still) but when it comes to a photograph there are no other words that could best accurately describe it.

Photobucket
I've been stuck in a certain mindset lately that makes me wonder if my current mood is an insidious depression, need for change, need for inspiration or just my inability to get to the point. It's basically a lethargic hunt for a slow leak in my being's tire. I spend most of my time on this blogpage reminiscing about the "good old days" and "the not really good old days" and the " what in the fuck's sake was that? days" that when something surprisingly pops up that really brings me back there I actually find myself having to sit down and feel the weight of my own ancient history weighing on me.

There's a line in Raiders Of The Lost Ark that I can fully relate to; where Indiana Jones in his Kasdan-esque wisdom declares that "It's not the years, it's the mileage." Right now, I have to chuckle wondering what my mental odometer is reading at this moment. My mind's eye has been a camera that has taken movies and snapshots of its own with and without my knowledge. Those memories come back through deja vu or dreams; in a scent or in a quiet sudden tear welling sentimentally.

The past distracts from the now, but they also reflect each other.

I'm desperately trying not to make this a piece on aging and nostalgic reflection, It's mainly a letter to myself to remind me that none of us have the superhuman forsight to know what our future(s) will be. Is a divorce something that was predestined before the wedding even started ( sometimes I have to think...yeah)? Or is there a cancer eating at you before you smoked that first cigarette? Are the bad (and worse) decisions I've made over these years the result of some sort of fucked up subconcious, deliberate, self-imposed undermining or from something bigger that wants to mix shit up? Or... am I a moron that's been in training for 30 odd years? The persistence of time is legendary, the weight of it is in direct proportion to the way you spent it.

I post my musings on this page to tell stories. Today I was surprised by an old photo I took that told me a story in itself. I was brought back to a moment in time where I saw my life right in front of me as clear as glass and as brilliant as a diamond. Where just remembering the possibilities of where my life was heading to is powerful enough to almost bring out that fucking tear.

That moment is a poem in itself and knowing that the hope that looked out through my camera's lens to the wonder in front of me was later diffused and shut down crushes me breathless. There was no hindsight then to the thought that I would be a corner shy of 33 writing these words. I don't want to know the future, the past is scary enough.

In short, the picture is beautiful. Surprising, amazing, sad, sentimental and wonderful. Exactly as that moment in time unearthed from the pages of God's photo book.

.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A LETTER FOR FRIENDS REMEMBERED.

Lately,I've been hearing in my head a song from a defunct Bakersfield band that I was a fan of named CASSANOVA FRANKESTEIN that could describe my state of mind as I grow older: "All My Friends Are Dead."

The song itself used death as a metaphor to a certain extent, but in the last year or so it seems to describe my friends by using death a bit more literally. I have been to more funerals in the last nine months than I have in my entire life. Jimmy Sleeves was the first one to go that I remember having a big impact on a large group of people, after that it was Peter Will, Joe"The Game" Ramos, C.B.,Carlos Ortiz and now David Fuentes. These are just to name a few.

I lost my father at 19 so I feel aquainted with the black hole caused by losing someone close to you permenantly. I know intrinsically why my friends' mom cries because he's in a coffin and not sitting next to her. All of us can imagine what that would feel like, but unless you've sat front row at a funeral, you're only imagining the half you can comprehend.

Death feeds philosophy; the dissection of existence needs the reflection of its finality to put our being into context: we're here now. Death is the main connection we have with the rest of the living world(s). It is a constant; the lowest common denominator that puts us equal to an ant, a rhino, a planet or a star.

Maturity doesn't necessarily come with age, the inevitability of change does. I've often wondered (as I'm sure we all have) who would be at my funeral? Would there be a full house? How would I be remembered? Why have a funeral at all? I'd rather opt to skip my memorial service and go straight to the wake. My two songs I would want to be played in my memory would be "Don't You Forget About Me" and "What A Wonderful World" because those two songs would carry two main messages: What I leave behind and where I'm going back to. Screw coffins and caskets, cremation is the way to go. Also, a tombstone seems archaic; An engraved park bench next to a tree with a chess/checkerboard on the top of the table would be a more appropriate way I'd like to be remembered.

I'll admit I've had these thoughts. They are completely egocentrical, self absorbed and selfish because death is really the only thing that is truly our own. We need help being born, but not to die (although some people are more than willing to help speed up the process). A loss of words is commonplace when trying to put into perspective a loss of another kind.

As I told my friend Marc DeLeon who not only helped write and perform the song I mentioned at the beginning of this letter but who also stood by his friend's side from the beginning to the end: Rest in Peace David, and to everyone else- rest well.

The path my temporarily departed friends have crossed is something we will all have to travel in our lifetime. They left behind very big shoes to fill; that will only make it easier to follow their footprints.

"Crossing that bridge with lessons I've learned,
Playing with fire and not getting burned.
I may not know what you're going through,
but time is the space between me and you.
Life carries On.
It goes on."
SEAL "Prayer For The Dying"

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I wish a salute; a toast:

To my old friends,
To my new friends,
and, especially, to friends remembered.
Here's to Carlos.

Monday, May 01, 2006

ANCIENT HISTORY: JUMPING TRAINS (1997-1998)

Jon Shearson: Vocals, Guitar (1990-1998)
Joe Burusco: Vocals, Guitar (1990-1997)
Chris Christian: Bass (1992-1998)
Rob Ruiz: Drums (1992-1997)
Cesareo Garasa: Drums (1997-1998)

RECORDINGS:"When I Was Young" 1993
"Jumping Trains" CD 1996

The first time I saw JUMPING TRAINS was around 1990 while my band, PAPERHOUSE, was auditioning to play at the Kern County fairgrounds. The hall where we auditioned looked like a flea market that was selling bands. The Trains were just two guys at that time: John Shearson and Joe Burusco. My bassist/bandmate Jason Grooms and I were impressed by their music and the balls they showed by trying out as an acoustic duo in an ocean of electric guitars and ROCK!!!! They were definitely out of their element, but they were honestly the best band there.

This is what I remember the most of that time in my life: Andy Noise and Bam-Bam’s.

I remember passing out flyers to the people cruising on Chester Ave, and playing Bam-Bam's (a.k.a.: MARS, a.k.a.:The Oddessey), John Bryants, The Marquee, Mannequins (where Taps and The Masque once was), The Moonlight Lounge, Suds, Narducci's, and Al Polowski’s. I remember The old Coffeehouses: Matches (where Bottoms Up and Rileys eventually resided) and The Olde Coffee shop on Chester Ave next door to the old Goose Loonies. I moved to Bakersfield in 1988 so I missed a big chunk of the genesis of what Bakersfield’s local music scene is today. But my introduction was a great one: my first local show was SPIKE 1000 and THE LONELY at The Harvey Auditorium on the Bakersfield High School campus.

The music scene at that time was beyond ecclectic: it was brilliant. Ferociously learning how to scream while trying to find its voice. From birth, our scene was sleek, dangerous and seductively dark. Like a lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling of a dirty bathroom, painting the walls red and shading its graffitti and band stickers into a familiar shadowed mural. Yes Bam-Bam's, I'm talking to you.

This was the start of EVERYTHING that EVER mattered to me.

Jason and I became acquainted with John and Joe after the audition (If I remember correctly, both of our bands got the fair gig that year). PAPERHOUSE was pretty much the house band at Bam-Bam’s every week and The Trains opened quite a few of those shows. They were also keeping busy playing other local shows with frequent velocity. My friend Chris shared these memories to me:
"John and Joe's first steady gig came in 1991, when Mannequin's had Wednesday acoustic night. A couple of guys named Tom & Eddie played those same Wednesdays- a couple of rockers, good players, nice guys."

"One of the best Trains' stories was December 1991, when it was still just Joe and John. The Mannequins gig was steady for them, and a guy named Damon who worked at Mannequin's got TOAD THE WET SPROCKET to come up to play on a Friday Night.Joe and John opened for them. By the time Toad got on stage, the place was filling up to standing room only, which was just not something that happened at Mannequins. I was among many standing on a chair just to see some glimpse of the stage. Toad got through about 5 or 6 songs, when the show was suddenly stopped by the cops. It was obvious the place was filled well beyond fire code, but somebody must not have been able to resist the cover charges they were collecting. Well, the BPD, staying true to their reputation in Bakersfield, took this as an opportunity to card people as they were ushered out of the place. So there were many youngsters who were being penned off on the sidewalk adjacent to the building, and Glen Philips , who was still 20, was among them. Eventually, they let him go. I know John and Joe were probably a little embarrassed about the whole thing, but it made one hell of a funny story for the rest of us. Definitely the strangest thing I had been close to with them."

Damon was the bartender at that time. He also was the vocalist in a band I also played in called BLOWFISH in 1992-1993.

"By July 1992, Mannequin's was turned into a gay bar- guaranteed to pay the bills. JT's first full-band show was in August '92, in the Albertson's parking lot at White and Gosford- that may have rung in the opening of that store, actually. One of their bigger shows in the winter of that year, December I think, was something at Strongbow, where they opened before RAIN ON JADE (pre-Tim Cartwright with Paul Cierley), THE LONELY, and SPIKE 1000. Good show from all of the acts. The release of the "When I Was Young" cassette (11 songs) came in May 1993, on a Friday Night at CSUB where they opened for the GIN BLOSSOMS. That recording was produced by Todd Thompson, who was a phenomenal guitarist for a local Punk/Rockabilly band THE MUTILATORS"

"There was a big storage space where many bands would practice (the place off 34th. It's like L St, I'm pretty sure), THE MUTILATORS being among the more frequent. Eventually, something very ugly happened with Todd that made Rich Chambers (the guitarist for John shearson’s old band AUGUST RAIN and CHOCOLATE HORSE) kick them out of the studio for good. So, days later, when rich was overseeing THE MUTILATORS' departure with their equipment, a someone backed a vehicle into the place and destroyed the recording area."

I personally remember that wrecked studio. I remember seeing it just after it happened. I used to jam with Micah Lindley and members of his old band GRASSHOUSE back then. Back to Chris, though:

"I forgot that the Trains were regulars at John Bryant's in 92-93, mostly with the full band, usually Thursday or Friday nights. I remember hearing about when Todd got his ass kicked (there). He was egging on Tim Gardea (A long-time Bakersfield promoter), saying he was a fag, and he would not let it go. Just kept saying it into the mike. I guess the bouncers took him outside and gave him a good beating Then, for some reason, the place went under in about 94 or 95. Just like that. That place had been standing about 15 years, and the restaurant did well. I could never figure that one out. Jerry's Pizza happened a lot for them in 93 and 94."

Actually, I played that show where Todd got trounced. There is a lesson here: Don't dare bouncers to fight you when you shouldn't be fighting at all.

There's a great nostalgia on my part for those foregone days. There were plenty of venues to play and I had a wide-eyed "Gee whiz, this is COOL" point of view of just being part of the burgeoning scene. I miss being 18 sometimes.

In 1993 my father died, I quit college, quit my band (MENTO BURU at that time), quit playing drums, moved from Bakersfield to Fruitland Idaho, watched the birth of my daughter and I got married. One year.All in that order. Just writing that floors me.


My divorce was finalized in October of 1995, a month after I moved back to Bakersfield. I had just gotten off a tour with a cover band named THE PRAIRIE DUDES that was based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was anxious to start another band so I co-formed B.o.B. with Terrence Fisher whom I worked with in MENTO BURU and BLOWFISH and one of the best guitarists to ever emerge in this town. That lasted for a few months and then I joined a band called CRUSHING VIOLET.

My time in that band ended soon after that. Badly. Needless to say, I've learned different lessons from the majority of the bands I've worked with. My lesson from CRUSHING VIOLET? When you've been replaced behind your back, and you don't find out about it until the DAY OF THE GIG that " Don't bother bringing your drum set, 'your replacement's' drums are already set up at Jerry's" be the first one to go up them and say "How are you? Everything's cool?" Because if they act like asses, I can just go " you know, I was trying to be cool but I guess I'll just let you be petty."Either way, they look bad. The lessons I learned from PAPERHOUSE also applied to this situation: Have a key to the studio and get your shit out of the studio as FAST as you can.

Just water under the bridge, I guess.

The Trains were still plugging away. Somewhere along the way Joe left the group, and soon after the band recorded a full length CD ( with Nick Forcillo, of course. Man, that guy got around) and John moved to Ventura. In 1997 I was contacted by their drummer Rob Ruiz who let me know that he was leaving the Trains to devote his energy to his new band DIM and asked if I was available to replace him in the Trains (just as he did with me back in 1992 with THE SUBTERRANEANS). I accepted and, to be honest, I'd had daydreams of playing with that band since I first heard them. I originally envisioned Jason Grooms and myself playing with the original duo way back in 1991. When I was on the road in 1995 I would listen to their song "Forgotten Flowers" (from their original demo tape)over and over agian. I haven't heard it in years, but it sounds so good in my head. I think in the entire time I played with the Trains, we only played that song live once. Twice? No more than four times even counting rehearsals. John was hesitent of playing that song live so the only reason we ever played that song in the first place is because he caved-in to my relentless request to FUCKING PLAY THAT SONG. Or, maybe he secretly wanted to. I doubt that. In all the years I've known that guy, John could hardly be called "secretive." Opinionated? Oh yeah.

We rehearsed in the basement of The Trade Center where we shared that concrete pit of a thousand stairs with many diverse bands. The first incarnation of LANGO was there (with Jeremiah Lauria and Johnny Wall on drums, Chet on bass and Micah Lindley and Judd on keyboards) as was VIDEODRONE (formelly CRADLE OF THORNS, the patriarchs/architects of Bakersfield's dark music scene), BPD (the band which eventually became the original ADEMA), SISTERS OF THE RED DEATH (Greg Looney on drums, Erica"Chata" on vocals.....) and, of course, da Trains.

We seemed to have a lot in common as people. John's very articulate and Chris is extraordinarily friendly. Some of the most diverse conversations were observed at those rehearsals.And what did we do when we were done? Walk up the thousand stairs to Bottoms Up (you try lifting a bass cabinet up those fuckers and you'll see why it feels like a thousand stairs) where we continued talking over more beer and many games of pool. Those guys were no slouches at the table. At this time John was still living in Ventura, so he had to drive from there to Bakersfield to rehearse and usually have to drive back on the same night. He had tenacious conviction in his music and herculean resolve to do whatever it took to play it. We eventually moved from the basement to an office on the top floor of the Trade Center (elevator!) where we shared it with, coincidently, THE SUBTERRANEANS. Our friend Slim The Drifter stayed a few nights there. I remember that studio was very...sunny. As sunny as Saturday afternoon band rehearsals in an office building.

We gigged mainly in Bakersfield and Ventura. I only recall a few in detail, one was at Bottoms Up where Nick Forcillo saved our ass by manning the sound board abd John's insistance of having a drum riser at this show. Maybe it wasn't John's idea, maybe it was mine, I'm not entirely sure. I faintly remember John saying " you gotta have a drum riser" with utter conviction like this was a given and it was foolish to think otherwise. Not only foolish- insane. Another show was in Ventura where a few friends from Bakersfield did the migration to support their boys. And, I think this is accurate, we were the first secular band to ever play The Gate when it started doing shows.

After a few months I had the feeling that the band was running furiously in place. John had boxes filled with hundreds of their CD's but there was hardly ever anyone at the shows. Futility was our fourth member. John had a lot to say and every song took at least five minutes to say all of it. Chris was cooking at The Bistro (yet another coincedence: that restaurant is now where the old Al Polowski's was. That restaurant was employed by co-founding ex Train Joe Burusco) and was steadilly becoming domestically grounded. By 1998 I knew the end was coming. Inevitability has its own distinct chill.

The last show we played was opening for BB CHUNG KING at a venue in Ventura that I remember having to ride up a lift to get to. At least they weren't stairs. We killed time before the show playing pool and talking (I miss those guys). There was no feeling of "this is it." It was just three guys playing a gig for the bartenders and an almost empty house. One of the songs in our set had a drum solo. This was the only gig I ever played a good one over it. Maybe, that was the sign: good drum solo=end of band. There was no fanfare, just a phone call from John a few weeks later saying Chris could't commit to music anymore. Life got him, the band was done.

Whenever a band dies, there's always speculation. "Was there another reason?""Was it me?""Was it them?" In any form of death you have to stop asking yourself the impossible questions that can't, and sometimes shouldn't be answered. It's emotional suicide.

I haven't talked to Chris in years. I heard he has two kids with his lovely wife and changed careers by getting into real estate. John's a teacher (figures) and after the Trains were done he started a band named WHEELER which continued in the same vein that JUMPING TRAINS cut. I haven't heard of him doing anything recently, though.

I know for some of you reading this, you might not recognize most (if not all) of the bands, musicians and venues that I sprinkle throughout my various recollections, I’m sure if I was reading a blog written by a complete stranger writing about the bands he was in I’d be tempted to not give it a chance. My memories (vague or not) are one sided: I can see them in my mind, and my words are the only way I can show them to you. But I know that there was a small- but fierce- group of fans that really enjoyed the Trains’ music. I was a fan before I joined, but (like CRUSHING VIOLET before them) JUMPING TRAINS was never fully my gig. Ironically, I just kept jumping from one train before it derailed right onto another that would never, ever make it back to the station.

Friday, November 11, 2005

ANCIENT HISTORY:
EDEMA (ADEMA) (1999)

Mark "Marky" Chavez: Lead Vocals (1999-2004)
Mike Ransom: Guitar (1999-2002)
Erik Jackson: Guitar (1999)
Mike "Motown" Montano: Bass (1999)
Cesareo Garasa: Drums (1999)

Discography: 2-song demo (1999)
1. ????
2. Skin
4-song demo(1999)
1. Shattered
2. Fuck You
3. Skin
4. Fate

Most readers familiar with the Bakersfield music scene are already aware of what this band became: a gold certified selling artist that was signed to Arista records and had success with several popular singles. As of this writing, the future for the band is uncertain and none of the original members are in the group anymore.

The band started as an offshoot of BPD: a band consisting of Jaime Contreras (who now sings with BEFORE JUNE along with ex ADEMA member Anthony Cutshall), his brother R.B. Contreras and Mark Chavez on guitars. Mike Montano ( or his nickname "Motown" due to his soulful playing) played bass and Barry White rounded out the line-up on drums. The band rehearsed underneath The Trade Center ( a very popular rehearsal spot over the years for many, many, many bands) located on 19th street between Eye and Chester Avenue. This was at the end of 1997.

How BPD splintered is unknown to me. I remember being at one of their rehearsals and sat behind the drums and jammed with them (random jamming will always be a source of great joy for me). Afterwards, it was time to go to Bottoms Up that was conveniantly located NEXT DOOR. If you read the BENCHMARK blog, then you know how much I miss this bar. Eventually, Mark, Motown and Barry decided to form another group. Mark decided to step down from guitar and start singing lead.

At that time I was playing full-time with MENTO BURU again, and I had just recently stopped playing with THE STEVE URRICHIO BAND. The guitarist in MENTO at that time was Mike Ransom who had originally played in the band on a different instrument: saxophone. MENTO was in the process of recording their second CD at Pig Studios ( with the illustrious Nick Forcillo engineering once again) and Mike mentioned that he had started jamming with Mark, Barry and Motown. I think Erik had stepped in about this time: around fall of 1998. Ransom would eventually leave MENTO to devote all his energy to the emerging quintet.

For some reason, Barry didn't work out. It wasn't on any bad terms. In fact, when I first tried out for them I played on Barry's Rockstar drum set that was still set up in the studio. I don't know who recommended me, but I remember that I was asked to "try out" to see if I could play their material. I agreed, and two evenings later I was riding with Mike Ransom to their new rehearsal spot located in the far Southeast part of Bakersfield off of Oswell just south off the freeway.

The studio was two rooms: one with a couch, a TV and a super Nintendo; the other with the PA and all the equipment. Mark bought the PA with a loan that he was paying off with each gig. If anyone made any money from those early gigs, it definitely wasn't me. I never got paid once and if I remember right I spent money just so we could play. There is a lesson here for any Band Guys in the making. We initially had about 8 songs but we were still basically a garage band for a month and a half. The name ADEMA was suggested by Mike Montano who was working with his brother-in-law, Kenny Mount (the lead singer and guitarist of THE FILTHIES) in a mortuary. ADEMA is actually misspelled- it's actually edema. It's the swelling of the tissue due to a build-up of fluid.

Mike didn't last long in that job. I remember him telling me how Kenny pulled a practical joke on him by lying on one of the embalmbing tables under a sheet pretending to be a corpse and waited for Mike to show up. When Mike did, Kenny rose up in front of him and caused Mike to promptly go ape shit with good reason. I mean, imagine, you're in a morgue and a corpse sits up. Creepy shit, but pretty funny when I picture it happening to Mike because I can imagine his reaction. If you know either of them, then you can see why it makes me chuckle.

So, ADEMA it was. We started playing regularly at Club Hollywood and at Jelly's; both local venues that closed years ago. At this time the bands that were popular in town were harder edged bands like ANGRY ASPHALT MACHINE ( who wasn't playing much at this time), JUICE and SWAG 666. JUICE was fronted by Brian Armor who later sang in MY BEAUTIFUL SECRET, Dave Deroo played bass and later joined ADEMA as did JUICE'S guitarist Tim Fluckie. The drummer was Anthony Cutshall (whom I previously mentioned) and their second guitarist was Ray Solis (who also played in SEX ART and whom I played with in my first Bakersfield band: MISERY...what a name). SWAG 666's line-up was Bill Van Boening on guitar (who later restarted the band under the moniker SWAG 667), Sean Smith on bass, Peter Lomely on 2nd guitar and Greg Looney on drums (who later played with AUTOMATIC 7, and ARRIVAL OF FAWN among other projects). Zak Griffin sang/growled.

One thing that you might notice is that a lot of the same names keep popping up in the different band line-ups that I've listed. Bakersfield's scene is small but considerably incestuous. Good players will still be able to play in bands here as long as they're willing, able and not ostricized because of a bad reputation or laziness.

After a few shows, we recorded a two song demo at Fat Tracks studios. The quality was questionable due to both poor preparation and a ridiculously bad drum sound. It wasn't the engineer's fault; my drums at that time were laughable. in fact, I got a backhanded compliment from the drummer that was playing with Buck Owens at the time: "He's got the perfect drum sound for that band: shitty."

There was a palpable feeling of building momentum with each gig we played. It was as if we were all on the verge of breaking wide open. It seemed that anyone that was a fan of the band was convinced of it; that success (at least in the general "making it big" sort of way) wasn't just a possibility but an inevitabilaty. Marky was (and still is) a very charismatic frontman. At the time, his confidence was shaky- but the more time passed, the stronger his personality on stage became. A tell-tale sign of a frontman (or woman's) charisma, is by how much hype the band has. The worthiness of that hype is in direct proportion to the quality of the band.

The turning point for ADEMA happened when we played a show at The Roxy in Hollywood along with both JUICE and SWAG 666. The Roxy was taken over by Bakersfield that Tuesday night. We played a great set, and I remember hearing that ADEMA graffiti had popped up in the girl's bathroom after that night. Mostly about Mark.

I have two other memories of that night: JUICE performed as if there were a thousand people in the place even though there was only a hundred or so, and SWAG got the crap time-slot of twelve thirty in the morning.

It's pretty well known that Mark is Jonathan Davis's half brother. Mr. Davis has found extreme success singing with his band KORN. The first time I met him was at a gig we played at Spike's ( another extinct Bakersfield bar) in June of 1999. It was a pajama birthday party for our friend Paul Fugate. I introduced myself and Jonathan introduced himself. I then asked him "Capricorn, right?" because I'm keen on astrology and I remember that his birthday was in January. As soon as I said that, he turned around and completely shut me out. I then muttered "See, I remember" and felt like a moron. It was like being ignored by the cool kid in high school, which is ironic considering the outcast template KORN had perfected in its image and lyrical content. Kind of like being snubbed by Thom Yorke.

I never was a part of the circle that spawned SEX ART, CRADLE OF THORNS ( who later became VIDEODRONE) or bands of that ilk. That was a scene sparked from the decadence that started to gain momentum in the eighties and that either claimed its casualties or fueled the tenacious until meeting itself on the other side of the next century. That was a scene sparked from the bonfire of Bam Bam's and Vidals; the genesis of what the local scene is today. Dark, yet beautiful.I never knew Jonathan or any of the members of KORN before that night. I still don't. I was intoduced to Brian Welch four years ago, but it was no more than "Nice to meet ya." (cool guy, though)

Everyone in Bakersfield either knows someone in KORN or someone who knows someone in KORN. Everyone. Them and Buck Owens.

I remember reading in a Spin magazine article one time that the author was a bit starstruck by Gwen Stefani. He then realized that even she had to take a shit. That analogy kind of puts celebrity into perspective. It doesn't matter how famous, powerful, rich or popular a person is: we all have to take a shit; that is never glamorous and always vulnerable.


A few months after that show, we had another gig at the Roxy so Marky, Erik and myself went down to Hollywood a couple of days earlier and stayed at Jonathan's house. I remember seeing "The Blair Witch Project" on a bootleg video a week before that movie was actually realesed in theatres. The only other words I said to Jonathon during that stay were" Have you heard of ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN?", "Yeah, they suck." and " Thank you for your hospitality." Nice enough guy, but the member of Mark's family I remember the most is his step-sister who I still consider to be one of the most impressive people I have ever met. I hope she's well.


It felt like we were playing The Roxy every week. For a while we were playing there every week! At first we were selling tickets to play (one Roxy show we didn't sell enough tickets, so the owner of Naked Al's tattoo, Al, bailed us out by loaning us the money to give to the Roxy so we could play. As I said, I have no idea who made money in that band, it sure wasn't me), but after a few shows we were being booked without having to do any pay-to -play or push any presale tickets. Still, a lot of gigs were packed by people hoping to see if a member of KORN would be there to watch us. The bigger the rumour, the bigger the crowd.

Before one Roxy gig I was introduced to a stripper (or a porn actress, I don't remember) in front of the venue who said "Pleasure to meet you" and then promptly squirted me with milk from her breast.

.......!

What I remember the most in that band was the people that believed in us. We had a group of twenty to thirty friends that went to every show we played no matter where it was. A lot of them I'm still friends with, the others I have no idea what happened to them. When we decided to record a four song demo, it was partially funded by another loan from yet another friend. we recorded it at Pig Studios with Nick Forcillo (again) behind the board. I used my friend Josh Burns' drumkit for that session. Josh was a coworker of mine at Blockbuster music. When I quit my old band BOB, I turned the gig over to him where he stayed for years. He currently plays with AMERICAN STANDARD who just recently signed with Earache records (coincedentally, ADEMA's current record label).

On the song "Skin" Nick used an inventive reverse chorus delay effect on Marky's voice for an intro. When ADEMA recorded their major label debut, they re-recorded "Skin" but used the same intro, uncredited. The song "Fuck You" was inspired by the fact that Mike Ransom had been randomly jumped by a few guys and was still bruised up even by the time of the recording.
In my opinion, those two songs still hold up. "Shattered" had it's moments, but for the most part it's maddingly generic and "Fate" is simply mundane. So mundane I don't even know if that's the right title. The best part of all the songs we had were the musicians playing them.

By late fall of 1999, I had moved in with Eric and his girlfriend Melissa at their apartment in far southwest Bakersfield. The tension between the band members had reached a tense,volitile state. Factions were formed: Ransom and Marky; Motown and Erik. I was in the middle trying to keep the frayed edges from disintergrating the whole. The last show we played was at Spike's with JUICE and the hostility between members had hit such an intense high, that Erik walked off stage before the show was over. That caused an outrage between the different factions. I ended up stabbing my sticks through my snare drum in frustration.

I remember saying that night that I gave the band three months before it was over. I was wrong, it was a week.

There was some sneaky shit that happened torwards the end. Scandalous, but old hat.

I remember trying to convince Erik that the band should stay together because of the music. I played our demo and we listened to it just to push home my point. It seemed to work, but the next day he was back to his old resolve.

I still don't know if the end of the band was manipulated by alterior motives from different parties, or if the band really couldn't stand each other. I feel it was both. I don't remember who put the axe down, all I know is that we had three gigs coming up that were wasted. In my opinion, that is the SHITTIEST way for a band to go. Sad.

I stayed with Erik and Motown and we formed ANDRIL with Jaime Contreras very soon after. Mike Ransom and Marky were both affected by the split, I remember Ransom being angrier about it and Marky being sadder about it. He really felt betrayed. Since I stayed on the fence during the split I wasn't on anyone's bad side. My band basically imploded and I was left going "What happened?"
It was not the last time I would be in that position.

I was invited to start another project with Ransom and Marky. they had just recently recruited Dave Deroo on Bass ( and he still retains that position) and had booked some time in Fat Tracks again. Our friend Chris O'Donnell engineered that session for us. He was (and still is) the main front-of-house sound engineer at Buck Owens club, The Crystal Palace. He is extremely skilled and also helped us out on many gigs as a soundman. Every time he has been behind a sound board the result has always been gold.
Marky and Ransom had no song. Dave was in the same boat I was: "Huh?" And the session went nowhere. I recorded a drum track and an overdub played with my hands on the snare drum and we all left. I gave Dave a ride home that night. I remember telling him that I had a feeling that project would not be going anywhere. If I would have stayed, it might not have.

Anthony Cutshall stepped in and played with them for a while. I remember Marky calling me and offering the drum chair because Anthony was going to switch to bass guitar. After that, Marky and Anthony had an extremely personal falling out and Kris Kohls (stepping in after the very recently disbanded VIDEODRONE) replaced Anthony. Tim Flucky joined up and they were signed to their record deal soon after.

Marky and Motown are in a new band named MIDNIGHT PANIC, Ransom is busy in LA and Erik is a Kern County Sherriff (!!). The ADEMA of 1999 is nowhere near the ADEMA of 2005 ( hell, the first bumper stickers I designed and got printed were spelled with the proper spelling EDEMA. Thanks to Sherrie Nettles for being an unsung promotions goddess), and I can't help but wonder if what we did back then even made a dent in what our music scene is now. I don't think we'll ever know, due to the later incarnations' success, but I will never forget the anticipation of those early shows ( before everything turned sour, paranoid, angry and personal). I'll always remember the feeling of something bigger hovering in front of us before the hope we all had turned into a debt.

POSTSCRIPT 3/26/11 : I've recently been informed of the technicality that I was not the drummer of Adema per sé since during my time wih Marky and co. the band's name was spelled with an E (in keeping with the words' proper spelling). But the later incarnation's choice to keep the name and change the spelling doesn't change my history with the franchise. After all, two of the songs written in my time with the band were used on later releases by (A)dema proving that changing one letter does not change and cannot hide all the previous work linking all the line-ups into the sum of the whole.