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I am a Musician, and while some people think we are the scum of the earth- others treat us like Gods. I believe, as with all occupations, the truth lies somewhere between. The trouble with being a Musician is, you feel (like any artist) a need to express yourself but (unlike most artists) our expressed emotions have been completely commandeered by pop culture. So how do you keep expressing yourself in such a popular art form. I don't know. The only thing I can say is stay true to yourself, stay true to your musical vision. Don't listen to anybody when it comes to your music. Play what you truly feel. If you like it that's all that counts. If you stop liking what you are playing, then playing your own music can become the worst kind of DAY JOB! My life as a Musician started early on. The first instrument I ever played was the trombone. My Mom's boyfriend at the time had one lying around, so when I was in the 5th grade (like 10 years old), I started playing. In my school, Fairfax Elementary, we didn't have a real band for the kids to play in. We would get together with our teacher and play Mary Had A Little Lamb, etc. in groups. This was after spending several months of sitting in a room and clapping our hands to various rhythms written on the chalk board and then another month or two playing the recorder (a plastic flute like thing). We all got pretty impatient waiting for the day when we could actually touch and play our real instruments in class. When that day finally came it was bliss. The teacher was like-
"See class this is Mary, she has chosen to play the flute", as he held up the flute for all to see. "This is Gary, he has chosen the trumpet," and so on down the line. Because I hadn't picked the trombone as my instrument, I had gotten stuck with it by default, I was luke warm to the thing. The trombone case was huge and covered with burgundy alligator skin (no shit). It was half my size and I practically had to drag it home from school each Thursday. I always envied the drummers. They had these little cases, with cool snare drum set-ups and drum sticks to pummel and beat on things with in class. "Quiet Rick, " the teacher would say. "Quit beating on that desk!"
Man, I think I've always been a frustrated drummer at heart. I always wanted to beat on things with drum sticks. To make music with direct physical action. I mean what other instrument can you play and get a full on workout at the same time. Fucking brutal. Anyway, I kept playing the trombone and was accepted into Honor Band in the 6th grade. We all went to rehearsals at Curtis Jr. High School down the road. Kids came from various elementary schools all around the school district to be in it. This was my first band experience and where I first fell in love. This girl named Diane was a 2nd chair clarinet player. She had amazing dark brown eyes and long, straight dark brown hair down to her ass. I would stare at her in between songs and smile when she'd glance my way. Sometimes we'd lock eyes and I could tell she liked me too. it was puppy love, but I didn't get a chance to talk to her. She sat clear across the room and we all hustled out of the class to get on our prospective busses and go to our different daily elementary school grinds. Soon the year was over and I hadn't got a chance to talk to her. I was depressed for weeks. Then word came 'round that our little band had been chosen to play in a Bicentennial Scholastic Celebration (the year was 1976). An Elementary, Jr. High and High School band would play and the whole thing would be recorded and pressed into a vinyl L.P.! My first recording experience with credits and I was only in the 6th grade! Best of all I would get to see Diane again. Well I chickened out that night, but we ended up playing several other show case gigs, and I finally got up the nerve to ask her out. We went roller skating and stuff and not long after that she moved to Las Vegas. I was heart broken, but that's amore.
My next big love Margie was another clarinetist. This one was in the 8th grade and lasted into High School. When I got to High School I had completely lost interest in the trombone and playing in band, but because of Margie I joined Marching Band and Wind Ensemble. She later dumped me for an older guy with a car. I eventually tried to fill her place with another clarinetist but it didn't work out.
When I was in the 11th grade I found new wave & punk rock and my life was severely altered. Previous to "the change" I wanted to be an automobile designer and work for Chrysler Corporation designing cars. After I had toiled and saved for several years to buy my dream car ( a 1970 Dodge Challenger) working at the YMCA cleaning pools and as a Pizza Delivery Driver I promptly sold it to buy an electric bass and amp. I'd get out of school at 2PM and play until I had to go to work at 5PM, everyday. My buddy A.J. Gerber and I decided to start a punk band. The first tune we every played was Peter Gunn by Henry Mancini (which is also the main riff in Planet Claire by the B-52's). We played that song over and over and over, without a drummer. I had decided that instead of learning other peoples songs we should write our own. A.J. agreed. I had been writing poetry since I was 12 and hacked up a few poems into songs using PiL's-2nd Edition & The Germs- G.I. album sleeve lyrics as blueprints. The first tune we wrote, learned and kept was Self Induced Mass Hysteria. It was a basic 3 chord song with A.J. doubling what I did on the bass with power chords. We decided we needed a drummer and put the word out that. Terry Williams got the job. He was about as good as A.J. and myself (which was not so great). We practiced and practiced and wrote new songs.
About the same time I started taking High School music classes more seriously and the next year trans-ferred to San Gorgonio High as they had a classical strings teacher. I wanted to learn how to play upright bass and figured that would help me master the electric bass (and all things bass). After transferring to S.G. High, I found that the teacher had little to offer other than occasionally criticizing my attitude and letting me take an upright home with me (they had three unused basses) which was no easy feat. My friend Mark Brenneman let me use his '63 Dodge Dart for the task. We had to roll down the back window to fit it in with the basses headstock sticking out into oncoming traffic. The band A.J., Terry and I got better and better and we soon decided we needed a singer. I was working in Lamp Post Pizza in San Bernardino and this guy was playing video games. He had a Johnny Rottenesque meets Sting look (which at the time was uncommon in San Berdoo). I walked up and asked him if he played an instrument or sang, thinking the guy has to have good taste in music at any rate. He says no, he didn't play an instrument but he might be interested in singing for a band and was I in one. His name was Mani Dunn and I told him about A.J. and Terry and another guys who sang a few times with us but didn't work out. We tried him out and it worked. We started practicing more and eventually landed a party gig, that was a complete joke. We set up in the living room of this guy who's parents were out of town and started playing. These girls were in the other room trying to watch TV and kept coming in to tell us we were too loud. So we kept turning it up and they would come in screaming and that was the night. We called the band xijix (Xijix was a name that I had invented during my Science Fiction writing as an early teen. I would make pages and pages of made-up names to use for planets and cultures etc.) and later changed it to xiix, eventually playing a few more parties. Then we got our firstreal show at The Ritz Club in Riverside.
We played a middle slot that night that went over pretty well, except I was massively sick with the flue and mildly drunk on beer. We did some recording that sounded really lame but still managed to get airplay on KUOR in Redlands California and KSPC in Claremont, doing radio interviews and all that with this shit recording. Hey man that punk rock! This was early 80's time and people were still trying to figure new music out. After that we tried to incorporate synthsisers into our basic hardcore sound. A.J. bought a littlemonophonic Octave Cat synth that sounded like warmed over crap. We also did a few practices with Kieth McGrew and his Prophet Pro-One. Kieth turned me on to Killing Joke which later became oneof my all time favorite bands and influences. Thanks Kieth! We met Kieth through our drummer Terry.Terry forwarned us that rumors were Kieth was gay, nobody cared and later Kieth told me he was.Said I was the first straight guy he had ever told. I felt honored in a way.
Anyway shortly after that A.J. quit the band to join the Marines, Terry quit because A.J. quit and Mani joined The Sins, which was started by The Reactors old guitarist. The Reactors were San Bernardino punk legends, getting their lead singer, Dash's letter read in the movie The Decline Of Western Civilization and openingfor every punkish band that played in Berdoo. In fact The Reactors played the very first punk show (2nd concert I had ever seen, the first being Head East & Toto a year before- oh so lame) I had ever seen, opening for the Nu-Cats and Plimsouls. So anyways I'm left on my own. I hook up with an old High School friend of mine Denise Puglisi on vocals and Tom Howe on guitar. We practice a few times. Found a drummer, but it was slow going. We never seemed to practice and it took forever to write songs. I saw an add in a local paper for a bassist wanted. I decide to try out, not dissing Tom and Denise, but to possibly get out and play bass more.
Ricardo Acevedo (formerly Richard Anderson- Freaks Amor promotional photo)
The band was Freaks Amor and as it turned out was the areas best know avant-garde music project. I felt like a whole new world of possibilities were opening up. It was like a greatly expanded artistic mind set descending on my little punk brain. But wait...what about Tom and Denise. Freaks asked me to join the band permanently but my obligations were cast and so I told the Freaks that I could play a few shows with them but I couldn't bail on my own band. Someone came up with the idea to combine forces (Freaks being a guitar, synth & percussion outfit to start with), and so we did. Freaks Amor (named after a sci-fi book about sex shows after an accidental H-Bomb goes off in New Jersey) became this huge musical project with musicians switching instruments through out the show. I played trombone and electric bass and sometimes synth. Richard Anderson (the mastermind behind it all) was the lead singer and synthesist. Jack played synth, guitar, bass. Tom Howe stayed on guitar and Denise sang backups, but eventually quit and later was replaced by Mell. The percussionist who was in the band when I first joined quit and was replace by Phil Seaward.I later moved into the band house aptly called the Casa and began living the wild assed teenage musician on hard drugs lifestyle. I learned alot about people and art and music during that time. Freaks opened for The Suburban Lawns and Komunity FK and played quite frequently in various Los Angeles and San Diego clubs. We did some artsy parties and fashionable parties.
In 1983 we released a self titled 3 song 7 inch e.p. on our own label. Things were going pretty well.But there was a little problem, kinda like a thread that comes loose on your favorite shirt, slowly with every wash unraveling it, until there is an obvious hole.The thread was in fact that I had come to realized the "artsy" crowd was exactly the same as the "high school" crowd, except with nicer cars. It became apparent to me one night as I was sitting at an electronic arts event on a college campus. A side project of Freaks called No Hands was playing and I had come along to be a part of the artsy event (though I wasn't playing that night) After the music I sat listening to the people. An art critique couple began arguing about who was sleeping with who and another group was going on about "how much so and so made," and I thought, "It's all the same, it's all the fucking same." I continued to watch them sip expensive wine and get obnoxiously drunk and it was at that moment I knew I needed more. This was not Nirvana, only a very cheap artistic faqsimilie. Not long after I quit Freaks and moved out to the beach (Costa Mesa) but soon ran out of money and went back to the "armpit of the world", good old San Bernardino. I hung out on the outskirts of the Freaks crowd not wanting to push my way back into a band I had quit but still...they were my friends. Tom and I did a side project with Keith McGrew called Desole Cafe and played a party at the house, but that was all. Later I was at another Freaks party (there was one every week) when I ran into Damien Costilla,an ex-Freak's guitarist. He knew I had recently sold my bass to buy food and said he was looking for a singer for his U2 styled power pop band called Montage. He offered me the job. I had never just sand in a band before. I had always played and instrument, and ocassionally sang backups. I joined Montage in early 1984. These guyswere serious, with Damien being a truly great guitarist. He fused Adrien Belew's fury and The Edge's nuance with his own classical guitar back ground. The bassist Mark Aguilar had been a guitarist and approached the bass with a stutter picking style that was uniquely his own. I felt odd not having any musical input, but forged ahead, writing 99% of the lyrics and singing. We recorded an E.P. called Celebrate The Misery in 1984 and pressed 500 copies. It got decent local airplay and landed us really good headlining gigs in Los Angeles. We played Gazzarris, Club Lingerie, Madame Wong's East and West, the college circuit. My personal life however was falling apart. I was tangled in a co-dependent relationship with a gal who later became my first wife. We would do massive amounts of meth and booze and argue and panic and fight. It was ugly. Eventually Damien wanted to change the sound of Montage. He was listening to alot of R.E.M. and Bob Dylan and wanted us to pursue a folksy sound.
With my life twisting out of control, Damiens "new direction" became the impetus for my departure. After Montage effectively broke-up I concentrated on destroying myself and my dysfunctional marriage. Things were unbelievably chaotic for years. I did manage to start a new recording project calling it Aside/Beside. I recorded all kinds of freaky tunes pretending to be different people. Writing lyrics from the perspectives of S & M Dominatrixes, gay men, dead people. Nobody understood. My friends would ask me "are you gay?" No I'd tell them truthfully.
"Then how can you write songs like that?"
Which was completely the case, but they'd shake their head and say,
It was a strange time. I just kept on writing. Not too long after I put out the first limited run Aside/Beside cassette release, I met Desiree Richards and Claudia Figeuroa. I was so wiped out on drugs and booze I really don't know how they put up with my shit, but they did and we recorded some tracks on my little 4-track. We put out a4 song cassette e.p. selling them in a few local record stores and getting a little bit of airplay on the local college radio stations. Desiree and I began having an affair and soon my first wife and I were separated. That's when I really fell off the deep end. I started drinking all the time and allienating myself from everyone and everything.
ASIDE/BESIDE AT THE RAINBOW 1986 (photos by Rob Powell)
Desiree and Claudia stuck by me and after releasing three of those cassette e.p.s we booked our first show. It was an opening spot for a local "new wave" act called the New Conservatives at The Rainbow in Redlands, CA. I didn't have time to teach all the songs to A.J. (my old guitarist who was fresh out of the Marines) and Derek so we ran tapes while they pretended to play keyboards. Actually A.J. did play some of the bits and pieces of some of the songs. It was all so 1980's goofy but I still hadn't alienated all my friends (yet) and we managed to fill the place up. I told everyone that after we were done playing to leave and go to our party, so the promoter could see who was there for us. So after we're done playing our little 35 minute set everyone starts leaving. The singer of the next band comes running up to the stage screaming "See how bad you guys suck! Now everybody's leaving!" I said smiling, "They're leaving because we are having a party at such and such. You should come on by when your done playing your set." He was furious, but the promoter got the point and asked us back to headline another show. Aside/Beside didn't survive long enough to play that show. My drinking was getting way out of control. I did one more show in San Bernardino solo for a huge birthday bash for a local guy named Johnny. His friends had rented the Lions Club hall and decorated the place with a Blue Velvet theme (his favorite movie). I was the opening act and I ran cassette tapes while I played keyboards and sang. I only did a 20 minute set and it went over well. After that I jammed with a guitarist, but never got anything solid together. We called the project Dear Elizabeth, but spent more time doing speed and hanging out- than writing any decent tunes. It's funny how many failed attempts I had with trying to get various bands started. Alot of hanging out and looking for missing musicians. If you couldn't find a drummer or whatever, and the tide went out- so to speak, you just gave up and started looking for something else to try and start a new project with.
At a certain point in 1987, I decided the city of San Bernardino was in fact the reason my life was so fucked up and I had to get out of town . I was going to the East coast! My Grandma lived in Waldorf, Maryland which wasn't but 4 hours drive from NYC. My Grandpa had died several years before and my Grams was happy as a Jaybird to have me. During that time I worked two jobs and lived virtually free of charge (Grams didn't want me to pay rent or for food). All my money went to buying musical equipment and booze. It was the good life. I wrote tons of new songs and consolidated all my notebooks onto computer files (on the old Atari 130xe 8-bit machine). That took months but made me feel as if I was getting my shit together. I found my way into the Washington D.C. Industrial Dance underground when I went to buy a Mirage sampling keyboard from a guy in a band called Tri-Sect Deafen. They had a Skinny Puppy meets Click Click kind of early Industrial sound. We became friends and I ended up doing sound for them at a club called D.C. Space and went to several shows with the guys at the 930 Club. My drinking was getting more extreme and living with Grams definitely has it's draw backs. If I stayed out late or all night she would panic an dthink something happened to me and call the police and hospitals looking for me. The next day she'd give me the, "Where were you last night, I was worried sick," guilt trip. I love my Grandma but living with a Grandparent when your in your wild oats sowing twenties is not recomended. Unless your Granparent was like Timothy Leary or something. I can't imagine dropping acid with Grams...I'd go nuts fer sure.
Anyways this went on for two years and then Grams drops the bomb on my living situation. I had just bought a new Nissan (1987 loaded with options) pick-up and was (even with two jobs) working my way into heavy debt. She decides that she wants to pickup and move next to her sister to Florida. I had a choice, I could stay in Waldorf or go some place else. I had taken a road trip with an artist girlfriend named Tina to Atlanta, Georgia not long before Grams announcement, and so I decided I would move to Atlanta. No friends or family in the vicinity, I would just go. Tina said she might move down there later on, but it wasn't for sure. She was originally from that part of the country and wanted to get back to the South. So I pack light, put all my equipment in storage in Waldorf, Maryland and go looking for an apartment. It was sad saying goodbye to Grams. I knew I'd never see her again. I found an expensive apartment quickly and headed back to Maryland to get my stuff. Grams had already left town and was in Florida, and I didn't wanna bug my other relatives in Waldorf, so I just hit my storage unit and left Waldorf, Maryland for good. Grams had given me over $1,000 to get settled in to Atlanta, but it went quick, and I soon found myself completely broke. I found a job quickly, but it wasn't enough money to pay the truck and insurance and rent. I had set-up my equipment and started writing new material, but when the money ran out, I had to find a new living situation. I ended up moving in with this gal Lisa. We didn't know each other very long, and both took to drinking alot and getting in drunken arguments. Nevertheless, Lisa was very sweet. Her place however, a studio aprtment in the basement of a house, was not. It was way too smalI. So small, I couldn't set up my gear and so couldn't write music. I was miserable. I did a little writing on my acoustic guitar, and thought about joining different Atlanta bands, but my drinking was getting extreme and I couldn't focus. I hooked up with a guitarist and we jammed a few times, but nothing came of it. We spent more time drinking and trying to score coke and talking about music than we did actually writing anything. Then some guy wrecked into my truck. It was a small dent in the front fender. Nothing at all. The insurance company gave me the money to fix it. I'm not sure why they did that, instead of paying a body shop, but they did. It was like $1,500. I decided to take the money and run back to California. I figured I could get my shit together, if I was closer to family (my Mom and Sister still lived in San Bernardino). I got my gear out of storage loaded the truck, bought some flowers for Lisa, with a note saying "Thanks- but I gotta go!" and headed out. It took 3 days to drive to California. It was an awesome roadtrip.
Back in California, everything went to hell. I remember as I entered the city limits thinking how much I hated San Bernardino and having deep feelings of failure. It was like a rocket that almost broke free of Earths gravity to roam the unlimited possibilities of outer space, running out of fuel mid way and plummeting back to the ground in a fiery ball of defeat. I missed my Mom and Sister, but San Bernardino offers nothing to artists, other than a cheap place to live. So once back in town, within a week or two, I proceeded drink as much as I could, find a good speed dealer and spend all of my insurance money. Since I hadn't done speed in a few years, it really put the zap on my head. I was getting very paranoid and one late night after doing a few complementary rails and guzzeling a 6 pack to calm down, I drove my truck through an intersection, on a red light and was T-Boned by a Ford Bronco. I hit the side window glass hard enough to see white for a few seconds. I crawled out of the truck on the passnger side and proceeded to freak out. I had been reading Life After Death (a cool book BTW) the weeks before and suddenly thought I was dying. So to save my wretched soul, I started screaming The Lords Payer as loud as I could. I was slipping into shock. The bystanders were freaking at my freaking and tried to calm me down. When words didn't work they tried to restrain me. That freaked me out more, so I ran from the intersection.
(TO BE CONTINUED..AS IF THIS ISN'T LONG ENOUGH...)