Category Archives: Shaun Soho My Rock and Roll Journey
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.
MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES
By Shaun Soho (Crash Midnight)
I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock from the 60s and 70s. Boston’s debut album was one of the first things I can remember listening to over and over. Trying to sing along with Brad Delp was an obsession of mine (especially having no formal vocal training at the time). I’d work for hours trying to figure out how to hit some of those crazy notes. That shit kept me busy for a while.
There’s certain stuff that does stick out. I remember hearing “Paradise City” for the first time when I was a kid, and Van Halen’s “Jump.” Those are the kind of songs that, looking back, you can have this real vivid memory of where you were and what you were doing when you first began listening to them.
I got into trouble all the time as a kid. I hated listening to adults, especially teachers and those kind of disciplinary figures. I just always wanted to be doing what I felt like or what interested me, and most of the time that wasn’t what was on their particular agendas. I ended up getting redirected into sports and playing the drums for a while; that kept my attention at the time. I always had so much energy that, if I wasn’t diverting it into something constructive, I’d end up raising hell or setting something on fire…which reminds me, I fucking loved Def Leppard’s Pyromania album back then.
I ended up falling out of playing drums when I got into high school. I was listening to the classic rock stations in Boston (WZLX and WROR) religiously, but not playing music myself. The thing about those classic rock stations (even the ones that play a decent variety) they all end up lapping themselves after a while playing the same songs over and over.
I had a brief fling with the 90s Alt/Grunge sound before really developing a distaste for it. As I started liking less and less of what was on the modern rock radio at the time, and tuning out of those stations, that got me back into those more classic rock stations. Since a lot of those classic rock bands weren’t making much new music (or their old stuff was just so much better) the only way to get more of the sound I really liked was to ditch radio and start digging deeper into the catalogs of those older bands. I remember pouring through everything that the Stones, Zeppelin and Aerosmith ever did. That sort of inclination or mentality to tear through everything I could find on bands I was into really set the stage for later on when I discovered classic punk rock.
So maybe a year or so out of high school, I picked up guitar, probably for the same reason that most guys do – to get a girl, or because they saw Ace Frehley firing fucking rockets out of his headstock or whatever. It was cool. I got a crash course in everything that happened in the punk scene from the 70s and 80s, glam metal, and then found myself sort of rediscovering some of those seminal bands for me, like Guns N’ Roses and early Van Halen.
I played around with the flash and vocal range of those 80s metal guys before getting bored with how contrived so many of those songs and hairdos were. Metal never really did it for me anyway. I always loved blues-based rock n’ roll and the more blues-based punk. It had this grit that a lot of the bloated 70s rock shit just didn’t have.
What got me into punk, I’d say, was mostly our bass player, Bo, putting it on everywhere we fucking went, but it also came from checking out the influences of some of the bands that were my biggest heroes, and seeing so many of those classic punk influences in their music. Like I said, when I was into a band, I’d dive in deep and find out all the guys that influenced them, see what everyone I could talk to was saying about them, or even just hear what their fans had to say about the state of music in general.
This was the early 2000s, the era of completely generic rock bands. I’m not going to name names, but you guys all know the sound that I’m talking about. It was like they were able to take all the worst stuff from previous decades and put it all together…the 80s lack of substance, the 90s sheer boredom, and the early 2000s lack of musical ability. Everyone I talked to hated modern rock radio, and everything I read from fans of the bands that I liked echoed that sentiment. That was the state music was in when we started Crash Midnight.
Bo was in the same boat as me. We were both fed up with disappointing bullshit. You just had band after band writing compromised garbage about absolutely nothing and everything all at the same time. It was like these songs were written by a committee of people in some goddamn board room saying…
“What’s the most generic, non-offensive, non-confrontational, phony crap we can put out, with only a loose dedication to even being here in the first place?”
We’d just had enough of bands coming out and not being anything close to what we wanted to hear, so finally, we were like, fuck it! If nobody else is going to make music we want to listen to then we’ll fucking do it ourselves!
That’s how this shit started. We were on a complete rip, ready to go take on anything we could find, and leave a scar on this bland thing that the rock music industry had become. We put up an ad for a guitarist, and that’s when this kid named Alex split from his hometown in Ohio and took off for the east coast. He arrived in Boston, 18 years old and without a clue about what he was walking into…
Stay tuned for chapter 2 of “My Rock and Roll Journey” – Alex Donaldson…A Cautionary Tale Of Misspent Youth