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.


2 Comments:

Blogger pleomorphick said...

OMG! I totally remember those old bands! Cradle of Thorns, PaPERHOUse, Crushing Violet, Jumping Trains, Large Wooden Matches, Spike 1000! I moved from Bakersfield years ago but spent the very best years of my life there at Java Jazz, Andy Noise, World Records, Guthrie's and the Tejon. *Nostalgia*

5:15 PM  
Blogger Cesareo said...

I played with three of those bands. Paperhouse, Jumping Trains and and Crushing Violet. I remember the old coffee shop "Matches" owned by some of the members of Large Wooden Matches

8:04 PM  

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