Category Archives: My Rock and Roll Journey
Written by Tony Housh (Seasons After)
As I mentioned in my last installment of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” after living in a small area and searching for my spot, eventually I began looking for a new place to call my musical home. I knew that if I didn’t somehow find my way to a larger area with a more happening music scene, that I would surely never find the musical situation that I needed in order to grow myself as a young vocalist and frontman. I began slowly setting my sites on Dallas, TX. I just couldn’t help thinking about a trip I had once taken to Dallas several years earlier to visit my cousin Mark and family.
My cousin Mark had extended an invite to me to come to Dallas and chill for a week or so after I had just gotten out of high school, so I took it. I had already given college a run, and to be honest, I sucked at it. I would sit in my classes and think to myself… “Why am I here? I didn’t like going to school in the first place, and now I’m paying for it??” Naturally, it didn’t work out in the end because the college route never felt right to me.
I found myself getting off of a Greyhound bus in downtown Dallas at the age of 18 to meet my cousin Mark for a short stay. He immediately began showing me around the city after picking me up from the bus station.
Dallas was huge to me! I could feel the energy pulsating through the air. There was something about that city that made me feel electric. Even the traffic was amazing. I loved every aspect of it! It honestly felt like I had been missing this fast-paced environment my entire life. Coming from a small town, Dallas was truly amazing.
One of the first places that my cousin took me to was the historic Dallas entertainment club district – Deep Ellum. It was only a few miles from the bus station. As we made our way down the one-way streets in downtown Dallas, I stared out of the windows of his red Chevy short bed hotrod at the towering buildings, each one casting a shadow over the streets. I was amazed and blown away during the entire ride through the downtown area. Keep in mind that it was only around noon on a Saturday when Mark picked me up, so Deep Ellum was relatively quiet.
He looked over to me and said…“Hey cuz, I’m going to take you into the area that I am bringing you to tonight for a concert. I want you to see it during the day. Once I bring you back tonight for the show, you will be floored by the transformation that happens when the sun goes down.” And boy, was I ever!
Later that night, he brought me back to Deep Ellum. I was fascinated by it all…the large crowds moving from club to club, the well-dressed men standing at club doors overseeing the entry of patrons, the tattoo shops, the beautiful women and the cars wrapped around (what appeared to be) blocks of traffic with everyone partying to the max! It was my first time seeing all of the colors of personality and insanity that can be humanity…each person doing and being what they wanted to be at that very moment. I freaking loved it!
Mark took me to my first, second and third rock show ever…all in one night! Our first top was Trees, a live music venue that it still killing it in Deep Ellum to this day. We watched a band from the Dallas area called Stinkbug. I just stood there in awe of the band. I was mesmerized by the frontman. He was so in control of the crowd, and brutal with the delivery of every phrase. Even in between songs, he was an animal. I just stood there, not even bobbing my head, just watching, thinking and dreaming about that being ME on stage. It felt like my place for some reason. That dark club and those crazy streets outside somehow made me feel like I had a direction.
After leaving that show, we bounced over to another local kickass spot called Deep Ellum Live. Once again, I stood there in awe while watching a band called Fishbone. I just knew that I needed to live in this city, but it would be another six years before I would call it home.
Over that six-year period, I would end up doing a lot of things that had very little to do with music. The occasional jam session here or there would happen with friends from time to time. I even drove back and forth to the Dallas/Fort Worth area from Abilene just to jam with random guys for a night before heading back home to the family life. It was my little way of fulfilling my urge to sing I guess.
During that time, I ended up getting married and having two wonderful kids. I even began building some sort of career for myself outside of music in trucking and route delivery. But as they say, all good things must come to an end (I suppose). The “Big D” was just around the corner for me, and I don’t mean Dallas. That “Big D” would come a little later.
At the age of 23, I was facing a divorce. I was super bummed about the entire thing (as you can imagine). By the time the situation had found its way to finality, (almost 5 years later), I had begun trying to find my way back to Dallas to play music in the places where I had stood and dreamed it all up years before. After all was said and done, I began looking up bands in the Dallas area on the internet and setting up auditions. I had nowhere to live and no job, but I decided that I was going to go to Dallas no matter the cost of the journey.
It wasn’t very long after (on September 9, 2001) that I threw my belongings in my car in West Virginia and set sail for Dallas and a new beginning (without even having a place to live or a job to feed me). I didn’t care. I was going to make a move no matter the consequences!
Once I arrived in Arlington (a Dallas suburb), I immediately began attending auditions. I like to joke that I had a band interview before I even filled out a job application, but it’s the truth. Within a week or so, I had contacted a very good friend of mine who allowed me to have a bed in his efficiency apartment’s kitchen. I would call that home while I searched for my new band. The search would continue for just a few weeks before I ran into a band called Havoc; they were looking for a singer. We would eventually be known as Flip 44, and later as MyMotive.
In Chapter 4 of “My Rock And Roll Journey,” I’ll tell the story of Flip 44 and MyMotive, and the twists and turns through the Dallas music scene that set the course for my journey of today.
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Written by Nathan Colucci (The BallRoom Babies)
Mike, Steve and I had started up the group again, and were gigging around the local bar scene. We were performing cover gigs, which would normally consist of four 45-minute sets. We played tunes from bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, ZZ Top, Queen, etc. At the same time, we started developing our own unique writing style. and performing our own material across the Greater Toronto Area. Between the cover and original gigs, we were playing 2-3 times a week.
I was wrapping up my time at Cawrthra Park Secondary School, and began to explore jazz and classical music. Throughout grades 11 and 12, I was influenced (and motivated greatly) by my music teachers. They introduced me to new styles of music that I would not have discovered by myself. I began listening to artists and composers like Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Brubeck and Eric Whitacre.
Something that always stuck with me was when one of my teachers said to me…“You wouldn’t eat the same meal every single day of your life, so why would you only listen to the same type of music?”
I began to realize that it wasn’t necessarily just rock and roll music that I enjoyed, but any style of music that was bursting with passion and creativity. I started playing the upright bass, and really dove into practicing and pushing myself to become a better player. I was exploring the music of top bass players like Christian McBride, Jaco Pastorius, Ray Brown and Victor Wooten. I wanted to push my playing to the level of these greats.
I would stay in the practice rooms at Cawthra for hours practicing electric and upright bass. I remember my fingers being so blistered from practicing for some performances that I had to put hockey tape over them to stop them from bursting throughout the set. I really loved this time period because I was constantly being introduced to new and exciting music while pushing my own playing to a new level.
By the end of grade 12 I decided that I wanted to follow in my brothers’ footsteps and go to Humber College for their music program. It was the only school I sent an application to, and I was accepted.
Humber was like getting hit by a ton of bricks. For me, there was absolutely no way to comprehend the speed and intensity at which I would be pushed to excel. I thought that I was practicing a lot before getting into the program, but it was nothing compared to what was expected from my new professors. Practicing began to consume all the time in my life that wasn’t already dedicated to gigging or being in class. I was surrounded by some of the best players and hardest working musicians I have ever met in my life, which only further motivated me to push myself harder.
I was drinking coffee like water, and like so many other college and university students, a good night’s sleep became far and few between. Unfortunately, by my third year in the program, this constant grind began to wear on me, and what was once motivating and exciting became exhausting. At the time, I was teaching five nights a week, gigging steadily with the guys every weekend, working 3-4 shifts a week at a grocery store, and attending classes five days a week. I was mentally and physically burnt out, and something had to give. So, halfway through my third year, I dropped out of Humber College.
The band had recently released our first full-length album, Change To Silver. With extra time on my hands, I started booking as many shows as possible across Ontario. Because of our work schedule, I booked us on “weekend tours,” where we would head out on Friday, do two or three shows out of town, and come home in time for our Monday morning shifts. This was a great time for me because I got the chance to meet artists all across Canada. It started to feel like I was part of a music community.
We released a few singles from the record, and everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. It felt great to be playing so many new places. There is nothing quite like that feeling. We kept booking shows and playing gigs while working day jobs and writing songs for our next release.
In Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I’ll talk about the writing and recording of our sophomore release…
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Written by TonyLaSelva (Ugly Melon)
In Chapter 1 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I shared the story of my musical inspiration, my first band (Reign), and mentioned my other passion – martial arts.
Reign only lasted for a few years. After that, I played in a couple of other bands, but nothing ever really took off. A few years later, I tried marketing some songs with a writing partner, but again, not much happened. All the while, I was still training and teaching martial arts. As every struggling musician knows, it’s tough to make a living doing what we do. I was always ambitious, and I knew that I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to work for (or depend on) anyone else for my livelihood.
Right after school, I started working for some friends, and ended up with my own catering truck almost immediately. Lu Cachie (Ugly Melon guitarist) used to help me from time to time with my catering business, which is a crazy job. You’re out until 2am, grab a few hours of sleep, and get back at 4am. I sold that business, and went on to work some other menial jobs before a dear friend opened a karate school (where I began my career as a martial arts teacher). I worked for my close friend for about five years, before my wife (who I met while teaching a self-defense class) and I opened up our own dojo. It wasn’t easy, but it didn’t take too long before we would make a go of it and make ends meet.
With the help of an amazing team of mentors, teachers and the loyalty of so many outstanding students, we just celebrated 19 years in business. Teaching martial arts has afforded us so many opportunities. I have traveled all over the world teaching and training. The highlight of those travels was a trip to Okinawa, Japan.
Our group of schools (Northern Karate Schools of Canada) has cultivated many amazing friendships and relationships around the world, thanks to the leadership, guidance and dedication of our teacher and founder, Cezar Borkowski. As long as I can walk onto the dojo floor, I plan to continue teaching and training in this amazing art. My passion burns as bright as it did 36 years ago when I started.
I’ve always believed that there is a connection between martial arts and music. Many musicians study martial arts and vice versa. The two are inter-connected. I’m sure that there is some science that I wouldn’t understand that explains the connection.
Through the years, I never stopped singing. Desperate to keep my musical flame burning, I also started taking piano lessons. From time to time, I would run into musician friends from my youth, and we would reminisce about the old days. While I loved teaching martial arts, I really missed the musical part of my life. I knew that the time was right to get back into rock and roll.
Throughout the years of running our school, we have been fortunate to develop some very talented teachers. My son and daughter (who have both become extremely talented musicians in their own right) are among the teachers. This has afforded me the time to get back into pursuing a musical career.
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend who was looking for a singer for a project. I was thrilled at the opportunity to try out for it. I wrote a couple of tracks with them, and had a great time. Even though things didn’t work out, I knew that the time was right to get back into rock and roll. The project did lead me back to Lu after he heard one of the tracks.
Both of our daughters went to the same dance studio, so we would see each other occasionally while waiting for the girls. One of the days at dance, I asked Lu if he wanted to check out a demo track from that project. It ended up planting a seed in his head. Not long after, he got in touch with me to tell me that he was starting a new project, one that he could finally believe in with all his heart.
Lu had been quite successful with his projects over the years. During the last few years before we started working together, the direction of his band was changing. He wanted to get back to his roots (which were firmly planted in classic hard rock and heavy metal). He thought that I could possibly sing on one or two of the tracks with his new project. That project would quickly become Ugly Melon, rekindling a relationship that began before we even started high school. We were both so thrilled to be working together again. Though we didn’t know what was to come, we knew that we were onto something.
In Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I’ll dive into Ugly Melon, and where we see the band going musically in the future…
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Written by Shaun Soho (Crash Midnight)
I still remember the picture he sent replying to our ad for a guitarist. He had this jazz cat hairdo and shades thing going on (actually very Berklee School of Music now that I think of it), slouching down on a chair and striking his best “cool” pose. Alex Donaldson stepped off a plane at the end of a hot Boston summer and into a crash-course lifestyle that would become the flash point for a rock n’ roll train wreck destined to become “Crash Midnight.”
Alex had been in town under two weeks when the (now notorious) story of Bo totaling his car in a late night wreck would provide us with the name for the band. We’ve told the story so many times, it’s almost become a contest at this point to find some unique or sarcastic way to explain it in interviews. For the sake of the story…Bo was speeding home after a late night of partying, lost control of his car, skidded off the road onto a pile of rocks and smashed into a tree. You really have to understand Bo’s personality for this part. He’s just always been the guy that tries to sugarcoat things to get himself out of trouble.
Bo calls me, and I pick up the phone, half-asleep. The kid tells me that he’s got a great name for the band…and also that he needs a ride since the tow truck can’t haul his car off the rocks because it’s leaking gasoline, and sparks from dragging it off those rocks would equal massive fireballs or something along those lines. That’s pretty much the story Alex heard the following day as to why Bo couldn’t swing in and grab him at his apartment. I guess you could say it set the stage for what he was in for.
Bo, Alex, and myself had formed the core of the band and started setting about fleshing out the rest of the lineup. We all knew the exact sound we wanted…this hard blues rock thing with a punk edge to it. We just needed to find two other guys to round things out. We held tryouts, and ended up settling on a couple guys to get down our first few songs.
In the early days, we started off with songs called “Yesterday” and “Nothin’ To Lose,” which would eventually turn into favorites like “Diamond Boulevard” and (years later) “Welcome To Boston.” We wrote a song called “Made For The Money” and a little joke song called “151.”
In the early days, we didn’t have any money. We were living off of pasta and liquor; the liquor of choice was Bacardi 151. It was under $20, and the entire band could get completely ripped off of it. We’d cut it with Dr. Pepper, and it looked and tasted like jet fuel –something that would inspire the opening lyrics of the eventual song to come. At some point, we found out there was an even less expensive version of 151 made by a company called Roberto. It was actually bottled down the street in Somerville…that was a game-changer!
During his first year in Boston, Alex had this tiny-ass studio apartment right by Fenway Park, complete with roaches and a mouse we called “Professor Squeakers” on account of the backstory we cooked up for the little guy. It was something along the lines of him coming out late at night to perform experiments that left a mess all over the place. I guess for Alex, it was more palatable to imagine that at least the mouse was up to something of critical importance running around in the early morning hours while he tried to sleep.
Alex had this old lime-green Nokia phone back then. When he got really lit, he would spike it on the floor or hurl it at the wall where it would break apart into four or five pieces that he would somehow always be able reassemble later. This one night, we had some kids from a local Boston “punk” band over drinking what we passed off as a cocktail of high-proof rum. These guys were the typical “Nikki Sixx” haircut, fashion punk rockers who were “so much more punk than everybody else they knew,” but obviously lived in nice houses and were basically just playing dress-up.
So, there these guys were in the roach palace, drinking gut-melting jet fuel and hanging on for dear life. One of them finally mustered up the nerve to start into some tired speech of what “real punk rock” was all about and that was it. Alex jumped off his bed, phone in hand, yelled “That shit isn’t punk rock!” and hurled his phone right past the kid’s head into the wall, where of course, it exploded! Then he screamed, “That’s fucking punk rock!” We all started dying laughing and the guys in the other band just sort of excused themselves for the evening and headed on out.
After those guys left, we were still listening to music, drinking, and generally fucking around. We were pretty far gone and “Nightrain” by Guns N’ Roses came on the radio. I remember starting to sing over the song, changing the lyrics to stuff about 151 and us all cracking up. After the song ended, we grabbed the acoustic guitar and kept messing around with it just because it was fucking funny at the time, having no idea what that would end up starting for us. I think we thought that we were real cool, because as strong and awful as Nightrain wine is, you can light 151 on goddamn fire, so I guess we thought we were one-upping some of our heroes on the drinking front (probably not exactly a bar you want to aim to raise with a band like GnR). We started playing this bastardized version of “Nightrain,” both aptly and bluntly titled “151” at parties, and it quickly became such a favorite among our friends and fans that we started getting requests for it during those first few live shows. That was the point where we were like…“ok, I guess we should actually go back and make this thing into a real song.”
With this band, everything seems to come out of chaos or some car crash-level event. We had a name, some songs and began hitting the rock clubs like it was our lifeblood. Those early shows were wild. Even though those first performances were sparsely attended, there was definitely a “rager” happening on stage. Word started to spread. You could really see it all happening right in front of us. There were all these new faces showing up to see what we were doing. All of that momentum was what lead us to plan out our first tour that summer. Less than a year together, but already destroying everything in our paths, we put together a hastily recorded demo entitled “Fresh From Detox,” and headed out on our first tour.
Tune in next time for Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey”: The Fresh From Detox Tour.
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Written by Joey “Chicago” Walser (DEVOUR THE DAY)
When I was 14 years old, the world was beckoning me in every direction with beautiful questions. Life felt like an endless hallway of unopened doors, and I wanted to see what was behind all of them. I was a freshman in high school and had no idea how complicated life would become, but I didn’t really think about it. I was right there in the moment and I didn’t want to miss anything.
A lot of big moments happened that year. I was a part of an undefeated sports team. I drove a car for the first time (when I snuck out of my house in the middle of the night for the first time). I won a ribbon at the first art show that I entered. I smoked weed for the first time. I had my first “real” girlfriend. and I lost my virginity. I also made a decision that would end up being one of the most vital of my life. Sometimes I think about how much it changed my course, and how much it led me to where I am now. I wonder if I would have met my best friend. I wonder if I would have traveled. I wonder if I would have had my children. It almost seems unreal.
I had been trying to write little pieces of music on my dad’s acoustic guitar a lot that year. I found myself fumbling around on the old Martin’s fret board more and more. The only song I learned was “Smoke on the Water,” because my father had taught it to me. I wasn’t really interested in learning other people’s music though, because it didn’t give me any satisfaction. It definitely wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate previously written music; I most certainly did. I was listening to every kind of music that I could get my hands on. Funk, reggae, jazz, hip-hop and rock and roll were my lifelines to a life not yet lived. Every new discovery was decorated in sonic mystery.
I had been in the school band since the fourth grade playing clarinet and saxophone, but beyond the basic ideas of conception and arrangement, I had no idea how any of it was made, so my brain processed it the only way that it could. I remember in the beginning how colorful music was in my head. I had always been a visual person, and each sound inspired bursts of vibrant changing color, like paint being thrown into a black room without gravity. I saw the colors swirling and mixing, floating and dashing in all directions as each new sound overtook me for the first time. I became obsessed with hearing anything and everything musically (as long as it was new to me). Sure, I had my “go-to” bands and jams that were my favorites, but I was constantly adding to my collection. I wanted to hear it all. Merely appreciating the artists and their art wasn’t enough though; I wanted to join their ranks. I wanted to craft my own bursts of floating color, and I set out to do just that.
I wrote music like I painted. I didn’t know where any of my ideas were headed when I started, but when I let it, the artwork would start to show itself to me. I often found myself cataloging the music that I had written by the patterns my fingers made as I played. Even when I was younger, and playing in the school band, I had memorized the patterns needed to play my assigned music, not relying upon the written music itself. Maybe that’s part of the reason that I didn’t want to learn other people’s music. Doing so felt academic and forced.
As my collection of little riffs and patterns began to grow, I began to notice that I was drawn to one particular aspect. I was drawn to, what I felt was, the driving backbone of what a song would be. I realized pretty quickly that I was writing bass lines. I would play these lines and patterns over and over in my basement, begging my fingers to get stronger and more precise. The acoustic guitar wasn’t enough. It was small and thin and too quiet. I wanted to move air. I also wanted my own identity, and was drawn to the electric bass. My heroes were bass players who were always behind the scenes. Everyone knows the singer, but if you really love a band, you know all of the members (at least that’s how I felt). I realize that I sound like a spokesman for underappreciated, hardworking octave lows everywhere.
That Christmas, I asked for one thing and one thing alone. When Christmas morning finally arrived, I was shaking with anticipation. I knew what I was getting because I had made it clear that my life would be over without that instrument!
I’ll never forget holding my first bass. It was an Ibanez four-string. It had a wood-grain finish (just like the bass I play on stage today). It was beautiful. It was perfect. It felt as though I had had a ghost limb for the first fourteen years of my life, and the appendage has just been returned to me. It was like it was always supposed to have been there. I think now about how many times this instrument has been there for me, and how many years I have depended on it to provide for my family and to support my dreams. I felt the weight of all of it when I held it in my hands for the first time…I was complete.
I couldn’t do this alone though, this dream of mine. I needed a team. I needed a band………
Tune in to Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” to see how the story unfolds…
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Written by Sal Costa (SMASHING SATELLITES)
SEX WITHOUT ORGASMS and EXPECTATIONS
For me, the guitar lessons with Frank Cosentino weren’t just a skill that I was acquiring and would soon forget. I saw these lessons as footprints at the bottom of a giant mountain that I was eager to climb. I just needed to start climbing… and that’s what I did.
I was constantly on a search for likeminded individuals who were ready to take on the harsh climate of the music industry. At this time, I knew nothing about the industry. It was purely about my passion and pure intentions. I didn’t care about being famous, making money or creating a business. All I cared about was making songs, honing in on my craft, expressing myself and working with other misfits like myself. I wish I could go back to those pure intentions I once had, but the music industry makes it very hard to stay pure. Whether people say it or not, you always need to fit some kind of mold (and I hate that). You are just a dollar sign to most people in the industry. You mean something to an elite group of people when you are hot, and when you are not, good luck! Luckily for me, I have had a few people in my court that don’t stop fighting for me, and amazingly loyal fans.
At this point it my journey, however, I was constantly inspired and enthralled at just playing music (even with a revolving door of band mates). The only ones who stuck around were the ones who could stand up and meet up to my extremely demanding expectations. I realized at this point in my life that there are a lot of people who WANT success, but don’t have the strength to face the music and DEMAND the best of themselves. So yes, I kicked probably 100 people out of all my bands (starting with my pre-high school bands). Many of these people saw me as a tyrant, and I kind of was. I was ride or die. Intense. Emotional. Head strong beyond belief. I wanted to be in the best fucking band you could ever imagine, nothing short of that. A lot of other musicians I began playing with were too interested in doing covers songs. I was not really into that whole thing. I was oozing with creative energy that I needed to release. I always felt like only playing cover songs was like sex without the orgasm…zero payoff!
I spent hours pretending to do my homework so my parents wouldn’t bother me. Really, I was doing was just doodling on paper, writing poetry and making logo designs for my future band names. I had all of this excitement and energy, but what drove me nuts is that I didn’t have anyone to share it with. You know, that feeling of dancing alone rather than with someone who appreciates the movement as much as you do. I felt like no one would ever share this drive and passion to achieve greatness. However, one September morning (after years of searching), I happened be sitting in front of my future best friend and bassist extraordinaire.
But that… that is another story to be told in Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey.”
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Written by Tony Housh (Seasons After)
“My Rock and Roll Journey”…I really like that title. Naturally, I was intrigued once I heard that several of us rocker types were going to be sharing our personal experiences that helped us to become who we are today.
I can’t imagine what my journey would have been if I hadn’t made the choice to follow that shiny thing glowing at the end of the (sometimes) dark and creepy music biz hallway. It’s like a high that you chase. It’s irresistible to the budding musician. You want to reach out and have that shiny object that is fueled by your passion. You simply can’t stop yourself once you have been bitten by the bug.
Some people have to go to rehab for gambling, some for substance abuse, and some for other things in life. I have never heard of a rehabilitation center for people who want to “kick the musical habit.” I can say that there have been a few times in my life when I wished I had not been bitten by the proverbial music bug. I would have gladly gone to rehab for my obsession with music, and my determination deep inside to thrive in its environment. In other words, at times, I would have rather kicked the habit and marched to the 9 to 5 gig. Hey, I’m just being honest. It can be a rough ride, not only for the artist, but also the artist’s family. At times, I’ve thought that my life would have been much simpler had I never taken that first “musical crack hit.”
I have been spun out on music (and the surrounding lifestyle) for years. I absolutely cannot imagine not having my daily fix of writing, recording and touring. There’s something special about playing live, seeing your music compete in the market and connecting with people through your words. It is highly addictive, and the overall excitement that it generates in a musician’s soul is irreplaceable (at least that’s how I feel about it).
Sometimes I wonder if all musicians and artists are just a bit crazy. I think that you have to be a little nuts (in some way) to walk away from the traditional structure that society has to offer. When everyone was talking about college and their future, all I could think about was jamming out!
I have a feeling that all musicians have approached that door at some point in their lives. Some walk through it, while others choose not to roll the dice. It’s really that point when you make that decision to open the door and walk through it that the rock and roll journey starts to take place. The moment you say…“this is what I love, and I can’t let it go!” At that point, you begin searching for a way to become sustainable through your passion (which is no easy task).
I stepped into the dark hallway of the music business almost immediately (at age 16), when I joined my very first rock band – Noisy Minority – in my hometown of Cisco, Texas.
I was working at the time at Dairy Queen as a cook. I was just doing my thing in the back, you know, flipping burgers, making french fries, grilling onions and probably jamming out to some country tunes. I looked up to see my meal tickets as the front door opened, and saw Clay Lorence (a local musician) entering the front door with a long-haired dude that I didn’t recognize, but the long hair had me curious.
I insisted to my coworker…“There is no way that you’re delivering these burgers sister! I have it covered!” Away I went with burgers in hand and approached the two rocker dudes. As I recall, I nervously placed the burgers on the table in front of them, and introduced myself as Tony. I said to them…“I think I may be able to sing. I have never been in a rock band, but I really want to give it a shot. Are you guys, by chance, looking for a singer or know someone who may be?”
I later found out that, as I approached their table on that afternoon, there was a comment that was made from one of the guys to the other. I believe it was something along the lines of…“Who is this Marky Mark looking dude rolling up with our burgers?” That comment was made by the long haired guy, Brandon Bennett.
Brandon eventually became a very good friend of mine, and my first real guitar player. I have always shared a special relationship with my guitarists over the years. He was the first one, and the beginning of a lifelong need to have a guitarists around me that I relate to and connect with. Brandon was the first person to sit down with me to write songs, not necessarily always for our band, but just to write a song on a Friday or Saturday night.
I will always view Brandon as that musical drug dealer that gave me my first real “musical fix.” I was never the same after that first fix. He even gave me my first guitar and small amp to play on before I knew how much I loved the instrument itself. He more or less completed the waking-up process of the musician in me. He is kind of like a vampire that bit me and changed me forever by the way he touched my life, filling and nurturing a habit that will forever be with me. It exists in my musical journey to this day.
Sadly, Brandon passed away, but his impact lives on. He helped nudge me toward the opening, and took the first steps with me through the dark and scary hallway of uncertainty that the music business sometimes presents. He pointed out the shiny thing that glowed at the end of the hallway. Because of his music, his influence, and the person that he was, he is missed by everyone that knew him.
Clay was the first guy that I had ever met that could build entire songs on a computer with a keyboard via the midi controller and all that jazz. I had never seen that before, and I was blown away by the recording process and the potential that it offered. Clay was the first person that allowed me to witness the beginnings of our current world (as far as the way we record and make music). We did some of our first gigs together, and made some of our first musical memories with one another. He is still making music and working in production and sound engineering to this day.
It wasn’t long until we had written, tracked and recorded our first song. It was the first time that I had been able hear myself singing over music. I must have jammed that song a thousand times, but I had no idea if it sucked or not. What mattered most was that it was my first musical baby, and there’s no way that you’re going to tell a parent that their firstborn child is ugly.
Eventually, that song created my first radio station experience in Abilene, Texas on one of the local music spotlight shows on KEJY (Rock 108). Hearing my first song on the radio was a truly epic moment of my journey, and I was only 17-years old at the time.
I spent several years writing, recording, and doing my very first live performances with Brandon and Clay. It truly was the beginning of a huge change that would take hold of me for years to come…
Be sure to join me next time as life sends me packing in search of the ultimate rock band in Dallas, TX. Until then…
MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES
Written by Nathan Colucci (The BallRoom Babies)
It all started in the backseat of my dad’s two-door, 1994 Ford Escort. It was painted a bright neon green, so you could find it anywhere in a huge parking lot. For a little car, this thing had some major pep. Best of all, it had a stereo that you could crank all day. My dad would get my brothers and me in the car for long drive and blast music the entire time…
Fly By Night (Rush), Relayer (Yes), Machine Head (Deep Purple), Shinin’ On (Grand Funk Railroad). These were a few of the many records that we would listen to in the car. This is where my introduction to music took place.
For as long as I can remember, my brother Steve was obsessed with music. Some of my earliest memories are of him building his own guitar out of a tissue box, paper towel rolls and a few elastic bands. My parents got him his first real guitar as a Christmas gift, and he played it non-stop. By the time he was in high school, he was teaching students to play guitar on the weekends. They were usually just a few years younger than him. Around the same time, my parents got my brother Mike a drum kit. He was always parked behind that thing wearing headphones and playing along to Rush, Yes and Deep Purple. When I was 9-yrs old, my dad bought me my first bass, and just like that, we had a little rock and roll trio. Playing the bass had never even crossed my mind before then.
I started taking lessons, practicing and eventually playing in a band with my brothers. Learning my instrument and making music with my brothers was inseparable. We would rehearse in the basement trying to emulate our favourite artists, and I have to say, for a bunch of young kids, we were damn good! We wrote our own music, and set out to conquer the world under the name White Dove.
For the next five years, we were on and off with the band. We gigged wherever we could, and practiced together constantly. We had a little rehearsal space set up in our basement. If we weren’t in school or at music lessons, we were down in the basement practicing. We invited various singers to front the band. We even had a Van Halen cover act going for a while. Neither of the front men worked out, and so we realized that we had to learn how to sing.
By the time I was in high school, we had stopped playing together, and had started playing in separate bands. The time away from my brothers was really huge for me. I started listening to a bunch of new music and finding my own kind of sound. I was listening to more modern bands like The Mars Volta, Protest The Hero, Sydney, Of Montreal, Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Lifestory: Monologue and Five Blank Pages. These bands had a huge impact on me and creep into my writing style to this day.
Around that same time Mike and Steve joined a more established rock group and did some Canadian touring. Towards the end of high school, the three of us eventually started jamming together again. It just kind of felt right, so we started the band up again. The biggest change this time was that we were doing all of the singing. We weren’t very good at it, so we decided to take singing lessons, and practiced learning more Beatles songs than I care to list.
Singing was an absolute nightmare for me. Nothing about it came naturally, and I could barely get through a tune without getting terribly off key. I smoked back then, and that made it even more difficult. But I worked my ass off, and eventually got the hang of it. We learnt a lot of classic rock covers (just shy of 300), and started writing our own tunes again.
Before I knew it, we were about to start gigging, so we needed a name. I was trying to think of something that would stick in someone’s head after a night of loud music and drinking. And so, The BallRoom Babies began.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” where the story of three rock and roll brothers continues…
Written by Michael Del Pizzo (Sunflower Dead)
What Made Me Wanna Be A Rockstar?!?!
What made me, a little kid (at the time) from just outside Philadelphia, PA take the road to rock stardom and turn into a guy who now wears a bunch of makeup, sings and plays the accordion in Sunflower Dead? Well, I am a weirdo! Really though, it’s an interesting question. I mean, for a long time, being a “rockstar” was a negative thing. Remember the ‘90s? Loved the music, but hated the whole ‘we are trying to be regular people’ thing.
In my humble opinion, it all starts with the music, but when you have something special, that “it factor,” that is when you become a rockstar. It can happen in different ways with different looks, but once you have “it,” you are a rockstar whether you want it or not.
I can easily narrow down my desire for rock stardom into three events, like the three ghosts that visited Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Yep, it was these three events that led me to this whole rockstar thing (with a side of WEIRDNESS).
Event one started back in the day when there was this little thing called MTV, you know…Music Television. Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy, but there was actually a time when this thing was HOT and really, truly played music videos. When I was a kid, I didn’t have cable, so I didn’t have MTV. I would go to my friend’s house and watch the music videos like they were crack though. I mean, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. One day, this video came on the screen with this guy screaming at a kid…“WHAT DO YOU WANNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE?!” The response, which EVERYONE should know, was…“I WANNA ROCK!” Just like that, the kid in the video transformed into a big-haired, makeup-wearing thing known as Dee Snider. I looked at my friend and said…“What is THAT?” He was like, “THAT is Twisted Sister.” I responded…“I have no idea what a Twisted Sister is, but THAT is what I wanna be when I grow up.” Looking back on it now, those are some mighty big words coming from a little boy. But hey, I guess I always knew what I wanted.
That Christmas, my Aunt and Uncle ended up buying me Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry album, and there I was, immersed in songs like “Burn In Hell” and “Captain Howdy.” I would stare at the pictures of the band for hours while reading the lyrics and seeing myself perform the songs. Remember that last statement… “SEEING MYSELF PERFORM THE SONGS,” it is an important one that we will talk about at a later time.
Event two happened around the same time as my whole Twisted Sister extravaganza. I had a neighbor who was much older than me (he was in high school at the time). He would sit on his porch, play his guitar and read heavy metal magazines all day. One day, I walked over to his house, and all I remember is him telling me about this guy who had died named Randy Rhoads (the guitar player in Ozzy Osborne’s band). My neighbor knew I liked horror movies, so he started telling me that Ozzy’s next album would be him dressed like a werewolf. Of course, I thought that was so cool. So, I started walking across the street everyday to hang out with Bobby, and we began this very inappropriate relationship…HAHA got ya. Get your minds out of the gutter you sickos! Actually, he would tell me all about heavy metal…Motley Crue, Ozzy, Judas Priest, etc. He laughed that I liked Twisted Sister, but he did gave me their You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll album on vinyl. He said the album was lame, but I loved it (and still do), and still have it to this day.
I remember sitting there and drawing pictures of stage sets and rockstars performing. Lo and behold, I was actually drawing pictures of me performing as I was getting my first class in heavy metal and rockstar education. Remember, I never saw rockstars performing to me. I always saw me as them.
Event three happened a few years later. I must have been in middle school. I was sitting in the back of my parent’s car on a Sunday, and a radio countdown was on. The number one song came on the air, and I remember my Mom saying…“that’s the number one song in the country?” Haha, the song was U2’s “With Or Without You.” To me, it is one of the greatest songs ever written, but that is a different topic altogether. Back to the point…as the song was playing, all I could see was me performing in front of 20,000 people. Now, I had yet to be a singer, so it was odd to me that I had a vision of me singing in front of all those people, but hey, that’s where my mind was going, and I went with it. Down the line, I really went with it!
Realistically, it was quite a few years later before I started my journey of playing in bands (and believe me, it’s an interesting one).
It was these three events that let me know what I was put on earth to do. They fueled my desire at a very young age to be a musician. Not just a musician, but a songwriter, an entertainer, a businessman and a ROCKSTAR. Unfortunately, all rockstars have to start somewhere, and for this guy, it was the BOTTOM, and man it was bad. We will talk about that later as the chapters of my story unfold…
Michael – SFD