Saturday, September 24, 2011

Different Voices

Fojammi, Dominic and I were sifting through miles of Wax Theatricks videotape last week for our film about the reunion. Fojammi’s song Different Voices was about to start. I sing it and as I was introducing the song, Fojammi said, “Benet didn’t believe a word of your story.”

I was telling about the recording sessions I had been working on with Fojammi before he joined the band. He needed a drummer for the song, so I did it. I decided to try an easy disco beat with a straight bass drum, snare and high hat. Try keeping an even repetitive bass drum going for five minutes. I thought my shins were going to collapse.

As I was describing all this, Benet, sitting behind his drums, nodded his head and was generally intimating that none of this was true. From my new vantage point of audience, it almost seemed like Benet was sticking up two fingers behind my head. I guess he just can’t picture me playing drums.

It made me realize there were a lot nuances to the development of the band. Many were not shared by all members.

To start at the beginning, probably a year before Danny (Fojammi) joined the band we went on a road trip to Chicago.

My buddies Kent Gray and Michael Slay were chefs on a beautiful, antique railroad club car called the North Star. It was generally parked at Union Station but they’d do corporate parties. They would hook the car up to an Amtrak train and travel around the country. Most of their journeys were in the Northwest.

They ended up in Chicago after one of one of these trips.

I’m not sure who all went, but Dominic, Danny and I rented a van to get up there. The whole trip Danny was working furiously at some kind of poem in the back. Right as we were arriving at the train yard in Chicago Danny said, “Finished!” They were the lyrics to Different Voices.

We partied in the train yard for a couple of nights. The car was incredible. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom. Finally, we hooked up to a train coming back to St. Louis. We sat on a little back porch on the car shooting bottle rockets and drinking Bloody Marys.

I was still working at The Broadway Oyster Bar back then and the tracks ran right over the roof. Come to think of it, I had to go to work without sleep and drunk right off the train.

Years later, Kent threw my favorite party I’ve ever been to on the train; it was my bachelor party. There were boys and girls and a separate train car hooked up for a band. The only one I’ve ever been to that was even close to being as much fun was the one I threw for Tracy at Kent’s brother Mark’s warehouse apartment. Man, there was a great jam session.

Different Voices became my favorite song to play lead guitar to.

Promo pic of Wax Theatricks by Matt O’Shea around ’79 or ’80.

L-R front--- Dave, Fojammi, Dominic

back---- Tracy and Benet

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Being Opinionated

My ex and her friends used to poke fun at me, insisting I was incredibly closed minded about music. I spent years trying to turn them on to Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Kurt Weill, Prokofiev, Grieg, Stravinskiy, Radiohead, Doves, Spike Jones, Louis Armstrong, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Judy Collins, Roland Kirk, Captain Beefheart, Woodie Guthrie, Hank Williams, Leo Kottke, The Bonzos and many others.

It blew their minds that I hated Rush, Foreigner, Styx, Journey and Kiss.

I’ll never forget our friend Laura showing me a lead solo by Eddie Van Halen. I said something like, “Yeah, it’s okay.” She said, “Oh yeah, show me something better!”

I played Adrian Belew’s solo from The Great Curve on the Talking Heads Remain in Light LP. She laughed and said, “Sh#t, I could play that!” Man those were lonely years.

I’m not denying I’m opinionated. Why is it I love Captain Beefheart, but find Frank Zappa cynical and pretentious?

One night Kim’s friend Sandy was visiting. I was listening to Buddy Holly. Kim said something to the effect of, “Do we have to listen to that crap?” Sandy asked if I liked normal music, like Country. I said I loved Country music. Kim said, “He only likes that old sh#t.” I never considered cowboy hat wearing, bare chested, pop, baritones filtering their accents through Auto Tune being anything like Country music.

I like to brag that I partied with Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagner, Boxcar Willie and others in Acuff’s dressing room after having sat in the church pews on the stage during a live radio broadcast at Opryland.

My son is into Dub Step. I really can’t hear the difference between it and the Industrial Disco that was popular in clubs in the 80s. It has good visuals, but no dynamics or sex. There doesn’t seem to be anything beneath the surface.

I feel the same way about Lady Gaga. She’s a Hell of a performer and I think she has a lot to say, but the music has run its course.

My buddy Fran loves Yes. He always had a hard time understanding why I didn’t. After all, I love King Crimson and Art Rock in general. Yes has always felt like family though. Their arrangements are incredible, they’re all virtuosos and they’re sincere. I believe they’re great guys. I just don’t like their music.

I have guilty pleasures too. I’m embarrassed to admit I like some of the Moody Blues records. I like Tom Sholz guitar work even though I don’t like Boston.

I think I could fill a book on this subject. Maybe I’ll make a list of likes, dislikes, and guilty pleasures.

Joanie and me partying with Roy Acuff and Grandpa Jones

Saturday, September 10, 2011


When I began writing this blog it was in response to a story about Wuxtry Records by Steve Pick. I think there were a few inaccuracies I wanted to set straight.

Wuxtry was the first real used record store in St. Louis. We also sold comic books, so I had to work there.

I was Wuxtry’s first local hire and only employee for years. I became so associated with the place that, when Marge and I were robbed in our apartment at gunpoint (I was hit on the back of the head twice by a gun butt) and then rolled up in carpets, it was because they thought I owned the place and couldn’t believe there wasn’t money somewhere in the apartment.

In St. Louis we ended up with 3 stores. The first one was on Euclid, then on Cherokee Street and finally the Delmar Loop. They were three incredibly diverse neighborhoods with incredibly diverse customers. I remember kids walking into the Cherokee store with rags in plastic bags soaked with tulio. They must have been huffing all day. The room would spin as soon as they walked in. What a way to experience life!

Wuxtry started in Carbondale, expanded to St. Louis, Colorado, and then Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia stores are still there. Members of REM and The B 52s worked in the Athens store. Fojammi moved there to work at that store for a while. He lived with Cindy from the B 52s in an old church. My friend Dan Wall opened that store with his college buddy Mark. He tried to get me to move down there, tempting me with the church as a rehearsal space. This was just before all those bands broke.

I opened a sister store in Charleston, IL for Dan’s brother. I’ll never forget the bus ride there. It probably would have been only been a couple of hours drive, but the bus stopped at every tiny, ancient gas station bus stop in every tiny, forgotten Illinois town along the way. It took all night. I was the only passenger, so I had to keep the driver company. I remember it being hard to keep my eyes open listening to his boring stories with only the faint glow of the dashboard lights to see him by.

The store was called Mazuma. That was Dan’s idea. Mazuma means money and the name combined two of Dan’s favorite ideas; money and a memorable name.

Charleston is a college town and I arrived during the Thanksgiving break. The town was deserted.

I slept in the back room of the store. I’d start every morning looking up and down the desolate, chilly, wind blown streets. Man, it was lonely.

Every night I’d play a 1940s antique guitar Dan left for my amusement to old Bing Crosby records. I still love those records. Instead of comic books, Mazuma sold romance novels. I had nothing to read. It was a retreat of sensory deprivation except for old records and the guitar. It was like fasting. I found it very cleansing.

Dan collected instruments and amps; that’s how I was often paid. I acquired a 12 string acoustic guitar, a flute, an alto sax, and a beautiful Ampeg VT-22 amp which I rented to the group in Hail, Hail Rock and Roll, the Chuck Berry movie. I don’t know who ended up using it, but there were only legends in the band. I finally sold that amp last year.

I can’t figure out how I ate or paid rent.

Wuxtry in St. Louis turned into Euclid Records and Steve Pick still works there.

It turns out Valerie was going to school in Charleston when I was there. So close and yet….

My brother Patrick and me in front of Wuxtry on Delmar in the 70s before Joe Edwards rebuilt U City. Matt O’Shea took the pic.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Under the Ice

I loved the Christmas records The Beatles made every year for their fans. It was fascinating the way they matured as the years went by. I was so inspired by them, I started making a Christmas recording for my mother every year. I haven’t missed one since the 1970s.

In 1995 I didn’t have access to a studio. My son was a year and a half old and my daughter was on the way. It was the most removed I’ve ever been from music. I was making my living as a videographer, so I taped a live performance for her. My son can be seen running in and out of the frame. I will post that around Christmas.

Some time in the early 80s I began work on my mom’s song and I showed what I had to my friend Carl Weingarten. We were working on the second Delay Tactics album. I had a repetitive guitar part and Carl talked me into making a loop out of it. The piece went through several changes before it became Under the Ice on the Any Questions? LP.

We performed the song live on the show Sound Waves which was hosted by Kevin Martin. That must have been before the release of the album because it was called Antarctica.

Last year I came across the show on YouTube. Unfortunately whoever posted it only played the band being interviewed and none of the musical performance.

I borrowed my buddy Tracy’s fretless for the song and was very proud of my part. That show was the only time I’ve ever been featured as a bass player. I wrote Kevin to see if he had a copy of the show. He said he thought it had been Wax Theatricks and didn’t save it because he was embarrassed by his part. I wish I could find out who posted it and get a copy.

I came up with the name Under the Ice because I had been reading about Harry Houdini almost dying when he performed one of his escapes in a frozen river. He got trapped under the ice and almost died.

Suffocation has always held a special fascination for me. I read somewhere that it was the most painless way to die. I had recently had an experience in a dream. I was drowning in the river where I grew up. I had just gotten past panic and was ready to accept the inevitable. There was no pain and I had an overwhelming sense of peace. Suddenly I awoke to see my girlfriend Jill’s cat moving away from my face. My dad had also recently died by drowning.

Under the Ice went in such a different direction with Delay tactics that I can’t even call it my song, it’s a Delay tactics piece. I’m really happy with it.

St. Louis dancer Suzanne Grace made a great video using the song but I can’t find a complete copy. KETC-TV made a documentary of the band showing how LPs are made and they used part of her video. I posted it on YouTube. At the end of the piece Walter and I joked that we would take one song and slow it down or even run it backwards so we could resell the same song several times. The interviewer took us seriously.

The record pressing plant was in Arnold Missouri. The narration was a little silly, but check out Suzanne’s performance.

Here’s what there was of the Kevin Martin show