“Musings of a Lead Guitarist” (part three)
February 22, 2003
Mid-summer, ’96, our new manager, Mark, took us into a studio in Mar Vista, on Venice BL., blocks west of the 405 Fwy. Mar Vista was a hilly neighborhood just east of Venice (the city.) The guy was producing and engineering the project was also in a Phil Collins sound-alike group. He had a 16 track studio and was fairly knowledgable but seemed a bit heavy handed on the compression. (Compression can really bring up some sounds in a mix that may normally have slipped in the thick of things. You can actually think of a compressor/ limiter as a kind of “regulator”, sort of like the one inside your ears; when people whisper, it opens up so more sound goes in but if someone “claps” really loud and hard, it closes up like a clam shell. The “open” part is the compressor and the “close” part is the limiter. ) This guy appearently didn’t understand how to use it because he squeezed all the life out of our music, leaving our tape sounding processed and limp. Still, it was our first real recording and we were exciting. Personally, I thought the 4-track stuff sounded better. Of course, no one else agreed!
So, with tape in hand, Mark shopped Bad Press to every record company in existence. We played a show case at the Roxy, which sold out, and we actually made a lot of money, if I recall correctly, that night. Still, no labels were interested, so we continued to play parties and clubs and more and more people came to our shows. We were still rehearsing at Witch Mountain (aka, Mary’s garage), but Mary’s x-husband still lived at the house and, even though we almost never saw the guy, we could tell, or should i say I COULD TELL, he hated me. First off, his daughters were fans of our music. Secondly, we were making noise in his garage and i was sleeping in his garage and always hanging out with his daughters (although we were only friends-no funny business ever went on.) Thirdly, we were always having little drinking parties in the garage-studio and left beer bottles EVERYWHERE. I was pushing it.
One day, after a bunch of us went to the beach, i came back to Mary’s to find the whole studio flooded. Her “X” had turned the water on and let it run for about 9 hours. I was very upset at the bastard but decided not to say anything. I walked across the street in disgust. The neighbor across the street, Ken, was a drinking buddy of mine and a damn good pool player. He was in his 40’s and a family man. He was also Irish and never met a drink he didn’t like (he joined “Alcoholics Annonymous” six months later and has been clean ever since, to my knowledge), so we got along fine. Ken also had this incredibly hot neice, Eve, who was 17. She was having some trouble at school (she dropped out of Summer School) and at home (she’s run away several times) so Ken and his wife, Betty, let her spend a few weeks at their place. Eve and I knew each other only by name, as I’d never said more then “hello” or “what’s up” to her. But now i was over there and we were playing a game of pool when Betty and Ken put the kids to sleep and excused themselves for bed as well. Ken said for us to finish our game and then I could sleep on the pool-room couch. Eve already had her suitcase in the guest room. When it was appearent Ken and Betty were alseep, Eve asked if i wanted to drink some tequila with her. (This “tequila thing” couldn’t be going where i thought it was going, i thought to myself. Or could it?)
Being a pretty good pool player, I beat Eve about 10 times straight. Then, abruptly, she put her shot glass down, took off all her clothes and got under the blankets that were on the couch. I didn’t say a word. I chalked the end of my pool stick, blowing off the extra residue, and made a sweet bank shot, knocking in the “3” ball and the “9” ball, a combination shot. I took another swig of the tequila and chased it with a Modela. She put in a tape by “The Cure” (Standing by the Sea?) and yanked me over to the couch. Oh shit, i thought to myself; if Ken or Betty walk in here my ass is grass. Eve was certainly attractive and she really played up her “naughty girl” attitude, even though she barely said a word most of the time. I thought about Ken, our friendship, the fact that Eve was only 17 (which made it illegal for me to sleep with her in the state of California, but not in Alabama), and I thought about what was the right thing to do. She was young and vulnerable and here i was, at 19, taking advantage of this girl who wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. Then i thought, who was i kiddin’? She knew EXACTLY what she was doing. I took a hunch that, if i shagged her, she wouldn’t say anything and no one would find out, as long as I didn’t say anything. I took another swig of the Modela. Robert Smith sang some line about a catarpillar or something. I smiled. My hunch was right.
Mark was working hard on our behalf, doing everything you could ask for from a rock manager. And still, the record labels were slamming the door in our faces. It was terrible, very heartbreaking. But 99% of bands who enter the business in search of fame and money (which record companies pretty much promise you) leave empty handed. Although our number one priority was to make the best music possible, we also wanted recognition and success. People may tell you different, but, to me, they are exactly the same thing as fame and money. Mark shielded us from the harsh realities of this game that the music business plays, but he never hid the truth. He was very honest, had a great sense of humor about these things and always seemed to have a positive idea to follow every bit of bad news. But, bad news kept coming and it was taking it’s toll on our enthusiasm. Everyone of our friends and fans were expecting big things to happen. Everyone held their breath. Problem was, big things WEREN’T happening. Nothing was happening. Even Meg was watching with curious eyes. I could tell she was losing interest in me as well (She even jokingly referred to the band as, “Bad News.” But that was o.k. by me. I didn’t feel bad about shagging Eve because I knew Meg was shagging a few guys herself. Of course that didn’t make it right, but i neither of us were in a position to point fingers. But she WAS the golden goose and Garfield, Rusty and Chris teasingly lectured me not to blow it (You Guess it. I blew it.)
As days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months it was becoming clear that Bad Press was not going to get a major label record deal. And the idea of a small, indie label never crossed our minds. All our eggs were in one basket and the basket had a big hole in it. I began to drink more than ever and, more and more, I was out of control. When you get very drunk a lot and start crying, well, you need to stop drinking. Trust me. But I just kept going. Now, since I got kicked out of the Witch Mountain garage-studio, i needed a place to stay. I couldn’t move back home because I had become so accustom to the rock and roll life style. I wasn’t about to start taking the trash out again, ok? My good friend, Domi, let me move in with her and her dad up in the pacific palisades, which was a beachside, bluff-side community just north of santa monica and south of malibu. Domi was cool and her dad was a respected Illustrater who also was one of the very first surfers, back in the 1950’s. Domi (along with her friend, Ly) got all her friends (Meg among them) into our music. She came to all the shows and she and I got drunk together quite a bit. She also was dating our bassist, Chris (who had nick-named Meg and her friends, “The Rat Pack.”) One day, after drinking way too much beer, i met up with Meg near the Pac. Pal. library (Meg lived 5 min. from Domi) and confronted her about her attitude towards me. We got into a heated argument and broke up right there in the parking lot. Later that night, at band rehearsal, I told the other guys what happen. Garfield shook his head. Everyone was quiet. Then we all looked at each other and started laughing for what seemed like forever! Those guys were great. I had f*cked everything up and here we were laughing our asses off. Chris suggested we go get some beer. It was a good suggestion.
The summer passed in fall and we continued to play parties and universities and clubs. Mark went back to work for the Oil company for a spell, then moved he, his wife and kids to Isreal. The split was amiacable and the blame was not placed on Meg, her dad or anything like that. It was time to break and you just instinctively know when that time is. I started writing a lot of songs at Domi’s house but nearly every dime i had went towards booze and pizza slices at the local pizza hangout, “Barrera’s.” One of our friends, Deek, took me out on my 20th birthday for some ice-cream. it was very sweet of her. We had kinda went on a date or two and were really close friends more than anything else, but i thought it was extra sweet of her to take me out. She dropped me off later, around 7pm, at Domi’s and I invited her up to watch some t.v. I opened the door and to my shock (i was really shocked-i nearly ran the other way!), all my friends had thrown a surpise party for me! And over in the corner was the band equipment…we were gonna jam! And to make things even nicer, Meg showed up and we apologized to each other for our behavour over the summer. Although we still broken up, it was nice not to have her as enemy anymore. No harm, no foul, as the late Chick Hearn was found of saying.
Five weeks later we accepted a New Year’s Eve show in Santa Barbara at a house at the end of Del Playa street, where all the party go-ers raged. It was a fun night and a great show. We rung in 1987 with style but someone called the police on us. As we started to pack up our gear a guy in the crowd said we could come play at his house. he decided to throw a party right then and there! Someone loaded the kegs into a truck and headed over. People grabbed microphones, drums, amps…everyone got involved and pretty soon, we have a bona-fide party in full swing. The guy’s name was Ryan Beechkowski and he would go on to become one of our closest friends. He was just a crazy blonde from san francisco, loved to drink and also played drums in his own band, “Free Beer.” Everyone called him “Beach” for short because he also surfed, plus he had that long last name. He was a total character and even wore a huge gold chain (kinda like the one Flava Flav used to wear) that said,”100% POLISH.” Beach didn’t know it, but he would play an important part in my not-so-future musical life.