Friday, September 24, 2010

The One Who Got It All Started

One day back when we were in junior high school, Dave made a surprise announcement. He'd been playing trumpet in his school concert band, but his director had asked him to switch to tuba. Dave wasn't keen on the idea, so he had responded with a counter-proposal: bass guitar. The director had agreed, and thus began a major turning point in both of our musical endeavors.

We started jamming together, him on his bass and me on my father's classical guitar. We were both interested in playing rock, but there wasn't much chance of my getting an electric guitar anytime soon. Instead, gadget hound that he was, he constructed a sort of clip-on pickup for me to attach to the classical guitar. He also built both of the amps we used at the time. It seems totally ridiculous now, but it was a significant first step for both of us. We started out playing mostly Judas Priest and Kiss songs, but it wasn't long before we both started writing songs. I'd been composing tunes since I was about four years old, but it was the first time I'd actually started putting real effort into songs that were meant to be played the same way more than once, possibly even for an audience. Dave also added his own contributions, and we even co-wrote a few tunes.

By the time we got into high school, Dave and I finally had a bit more legitimate gear. I had a Drifter Les Paul copy and a 20-watt Guyatone practice amp. He had a Fender bass that he had rebuilt plus one or two homemade ones and reasonable amp setup. We tried to form a genuine band based on our duo, but we didn't have much success. For one thing, we couldn't settle on a name. (First it was "Hyperspace", then "Kinetic Oscillation", and finally "Corona". There were some other ones that didn't last more than a few days, so I won't bother listing them here.) We also had trouble putting together a lineup that stayed together for any length of time; although Don was a more or less regular member in the vocalist and/or keyboardist slot, we had a couple of different guitarists come and go and had some rather doubtful hangers-on. We also went through four different drummers in quick succession, only one of which stayed with us for more than one rehearsal. That last one, James, was a steady and loyal member for a while, but cracks quickly began to form in the whole operation.

The fact was that Dave and I had started going in very different directions in terms of musical taste. He was a dedicated metal head (who was tending toward Christian metal), but I was becoming more interested in progressive rock and even new wave. Even so, despite James' constant efforts to get me to break away and form a new band with him, I remained solidly loyal to Dave despite my doubts. James finally gave up and left to form a different group (together with a lead guitarist Dave had just brought in). That was kind of the last straw as far as I was concerned, so I finally did break with Dave.

After that I sort of drifted around. I played in a hard rock band called Vital Connexion for the better part of my last year of high school, had my first real pub-gig experiences with a new age/funk outfit called IncogNation in my first year of college, kept getting hired and fired by a band whose members wanted me in but whose manager didn't (because I wanted to play originals), auditioned with a couple of different groups (who said my playing style was "too heavy"), and did a number of guest stints here and there. However, every once in a while I'd get together with Dave for some kind of musical endeavor, such as a simple jam session or even a party gig. Most important of all, however, was his introducing me to studio recording.

Dave actually took a course in studio engineering at Clackamas Community College, and he used me as his demonstration project. We put together one of my compositions with the help of IncogNation's bassist and a drummer I knew there at the college. It wasn't a sophisticated job; it was recorded using a 4-track reel-to-reel recorder and some very basic equipment. (My vocals were pretty bad, too...) However, that experience was what first made me aware of studio recording and got me started thinking about it. Dave took those thoughts up to an even higher notch a number of years later when, during one of my breaks from the university, he showed up with a 4-track cassette recorder of his own and used it to record a demo tape of several of my tunes. I knew I was hooked from then on, and buying a multitrack recorder of my own was my first priority when I graduated from the university and came to work in Japan.

The rest is history. My treasured Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder eventually gave way to an 8-track MD recorder and then a DAWS (Digital Audio Work Station) setup. Dave followed pretty much the same path, but though he always seemed to be one up on me in terms of gear (and generally VERY critical of my musical work), I far outpaced him in terms of productivity. (Shameless plug here.) In fact, from at least the early to mid 90's he hardly seemed to produce anything. He'd often talk about work on new material, but then nothing would surface. That stagnation continued right up till the end. I always thought it a shame, and now that my music is starting to get some small degree of attention, I'll still never forgot that everything I ever did in my home studio...or ANY studio...or even any rock band...was all thanks to Dave's influence. Without him, it's quite possible that none of it would have happened.

1 comment:

  1. The thing I remember most about our bands was what a supremely unconfident singer I was. That and asking females out were two things I could not do. I overcame both, but I always admired you and Dave (and Robin, Mike, and Steggy) for actually making music publicly with other people. It is a feat I have yet to accomplish, but I still don't count myself out.