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Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Life of a Shitty Metal Band, pt. 3

The summer of 2000 was a very bad one.  I started out the year by attending Amadon's wedding with a massive hangover.  That February I was robbed at the motel I worked at, and had trouble dealing with it for a few months.  Personal relationship problems persisted throughout summer, also a falling-out with Amadon, leading to a complete hault musically.  My only saving grace was the Type O Negative CDs I listened to obsessively.

It would be another 4 years before I would practice with a band again.  In the 4 years, I moved to Grand Forks, got divorced, got a new girlfriend (Karissa), and mended fences with Amadon.  I was still in some denial that he was not the friend I knew in high school.  Amadon, Kevin and I were sitting together drinking at Derek and Tab's wedding one night in June when Matt Person walked up and asked us when a Dusk reunion was going to happen. We all looked at eachother, saw a little spark of interest, and shortly after decided to get together again.

I had drifted a bit from Derek at that point, and didn't think he'd be interested in joining us.  In retrospect, I feel bad about that.  It was just Kevin, Amadon and me playing in the basement of Amadon's cellphone store.  we got some good pictures from our practices, but little else. 

In early 2006, Amadon was evicted, and we had to get our equipment the hell out of there before the landlord took possession.  As Kevin and I gathered our equipment, we noticed the Dean sitting there, unstrung and neglected.  I turned to Kevin and said "Fuck it, I'm taking it with us."  When I informed Amadon that I got it out of there, he replied, "You were the only one who really owned it anyway."  A couple months later, he and I had a severe falling out.  We have not talked to each other to this day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Life of a Shitty Metal Band, pt. 2

It was Spring of 1998 before we really started to evolve as a band.  We were practicing in my basement in a little 12x14 room.  On one wall I put up posters and pictures cut out of every guitar magazine I owned, to inspire us while we played.  Kevin, Amadon and I had our respective corners while Derek sat on his amp by a wall.  We all looked like we couldn't agree on a visual theme for the band.  Kevin looked like a college slob, I looked angelic with my golden parted hair, Amadon was goth with his dyed-black hair and clothes, Derek a punk with his spiky dyed-red hair and orange jumpsuit.

Practices were slowly productive.  That May we got our first gig playing with DKP (Dean Kotaska's Penis) and another band (name eludes me) at the Spring Days concert.  All bands were high-school, we were the most green.  I remember clearly the moment Mike Anderson (dead now) anounced into the mic, "Will the members of Dusk please report to the stage?" and feeling butterflies.  We got three songs.  Starting out with For Whom the Bell Tolls, an overly ambitious attempt at the easiest Metallica song ever to play, we were surprised to hear the audience clap for us.  Next we played Dead Forest, an original ripping of Dante but with a cool tribal durmbeat which has gone through numerous rewrites before being scrapped due to being just too cheesy.  Amadon couldn't hear Kevin and vice versa, so we got horrendously off-time.  Last we played the Happy Song, done originally by Kevin's old band (who turned into DKP and Kevin ended up drumming for them that night as well as with us), sung by Kevin. 

Having received a good respone to this show, we were feeling much better about our place in the high school music scene.  We set to practicing every wednesday about 7pm.  our girlfriends all hung out in my bedroom while we played, and we actually started to sound a little better.  We set up an outside show during Crazy Days behind Cellblock '94, a crappy little teen club located in the basement of the Memorial building in Devils Lake.  We practiced every day for a week leading up to it, were feeling very confident about things.  Unfortunately we didn't realize just how different the acoustics are outside.  We had no monitors, we didn't seem loud enough, and we only advertised the show the day it was going on, so attendance was horseshit. 

We didn't do another gig until New Years Eve of '98.  Amadon had become friends with members of a band called Iron Root Tree Folk, who wanted us to play the show wih them.  I remember the soundcheck going really well, and we got to try out a couple songs that we had worked on.  Unfortunately, we kept getting our set cut short until we only had 3-4 songs.  One them was the Three Little Pigs by Green Jelly. 

I don't think we had any gigs after that.  We still got together to practice, but not as frequently. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

RIP Dime, 7 years

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Life of a Shitty Metal Band Pt.1

We always used to hang out at Amadon's house after school.  We'd spend hours there, listening to music, cuddling with girlfriends, watching Amadon get baked on Ritalin.  Kevin was in a band at that time, called Catalyst or Toy Army, I forget which.  He had practice every week, and every week seemed to grow more frustrated with the band's leader. 

One night, we were hanging out at Amadon's as was our routine, and Kevin had to leave for band practice.  I joked with him as he was leaving, saying we'd steal him and make our own band.  After he left, I turned to Amadon and confessed that I wasn't really joking.  I had been thinking about it for some time now, and wanted to start a band.  Amadon in turn confessed he wanted to learn guitar for that same reason.  My original intention was just to sing, but Amadon suggested I learn guitar with him.

I had a couple songs written by that point, and decided to sing for him, after which he demanded I learn guitar as well.  We brought it up to Kevin the next night, and I sang for him and April.  What a humbling experience that was!  April replied, "That was...interesting".  No joke, she said those very words, and I knew exactly what they meant. Kevin, however, was on board with the idea and soon joined us.

Amadon bought his first guitar about a month later from a classmate who was in another band called Alien Underground.  It was a Dean Firecrackle with a stained wood finish, standard body.  Every time Amadon got up to go to the bathroom, I grabbed the guitar and fooled around with it.  Soon after, he bought a black Epiphone SG and let me use the Dean. 

Trying to think up a name was not very easy.  Amadon and I, both goths to varying degrees, agreed on Dark Harvest.  Kevin did not.  He thought it sounded like and evil loaf of bread.  Looking back, he was right.  We eventually settled on Dusk.  Not terribly original, but dark and brooding nonetheless, so we liked it. 

Finding a bassist was, and would continue to be, the most daunting task we've ever faced.  Our first bassist was Adam, a skater who got me into The Misfits.  He and I would jam at his house every now and then, though we never played the same song at the same time.  He broke his leg skating, and for about 2-3 months, I drove him about.  He had a lot of spirit and always seemed happy (and high).  Once I came to his house to find him lying in the doorway.  I asked if he was ok, and he replied he fell off his crutch, but was so comfortable in the sunspot he fell asleep (to this day it makes me chuckle).

Adam moved to California before our senior year, before we ever had a chance to practice with him.  We cycled through about 3 or 4 prospects, including a Scottish kid with a glass eye who never told the truth, before finding another skater, about 3 years younger than me.  His name was Derek, and we met him on Halloween night my senior year.  He was with a friend of mine and was making fun of her the whole time.  The first time I saw him, his head was shaved and he was wearing an orange jumpsuit with an "X" on his forehead. 

Derek was also a skater kid who liked punk and metal, and was into cars and antique planes.  Though younger, he would turn out to be a huge musical influence on me, and not in a way I expected.  A few months later, Derek, Kevin and I had our first practice.  We had taken riffs that Amadon and I had written and managed to make them resemble a song.  I was very excited, and the next time we were able to practice, we showed Amadon what we had come up with.  Our band had actually begun to come together.

To be continued...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Show

I'm allowing myself some inflated pride right now. 
I decided about three months ago to throw a Halloween show in Grand Forks.  I wanted a costume contest, bands, and I wanted to prove that it could be done right.  I had planned a few shows already, and it's been hit-and-miss.  One show turned out with the same attendance and success as any at that same venue, one was done with 2 weeks' notice, resulting in less-than-adequate attendance. 

I love learning how this process works, even when it bites me in the ass.  For the Halloween show, I needed help, and I thought about where to get it.  A fundraiser would work well, the Derby girls always managed to raise money for their league--a derby fundraiser!  And who to help?  One derby girl did amazing posters for the team's bouts, would she be willing to do a poster for us?  One served as marketing director, could she use her experience to help out?

In short:  Poster was designed by a derby girl, a venue was found and posters printed by a derby girl, tickets were sold by bands and a local business, links were repeatedly updated.  Promotion was in full swing.  The Mecan'tiKs were able to get on a local radio station for an interview and managed to get frequent plugs for the show from a very supportive DJ.  I even sent weekly messages to virtually every band member, just to keep them all updated on every change possible.

It's one of the first major (I consider it major) business projects I oversaw from start to finish.  I learned an incredible amount along the way, and hope to be able to do this again as soon as fucking possible.  I was so happy with the result--a great turnout, a significant amount of profit to pay off the bands and contribute to the Forx Derby league, and bands who enjoyed the experience so much that by the end of the night we, in our entirely exhausted states, could barely contain our happiness.

It was many times a headache, to be sure.  But it was one I would absolutely do again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Good Night

Last Saturday was an example of how a concert should play out. 

I got there before the other guys and chatted with the manager about details.  Soon after the boys from Rotting Thought showed up, so I helped them move their equipment in.  Cody showed up soon after, then Kevin.  Some minor hiccups (misplaced mic stands and us forgetting the bass amp), but we got everything going and both bands came out sounding great. 

The turnout was great, and afterward while I was getting paid, the manager asked if we'd be interested in coming out every other month to do a show there.  Hopefully we can keep people's interest long enough to get them out to the bar every couple months to see us. 

The whole experience is incredible to me.  I don't feel a need for roadies, I like moving the equipment in and out on my own, I like it when the bands themselves are setting up the PA.  I like interacting with the audience while we're setting up, and I fucking LOVE the feeling I get when I'm standing up there in front of the microphone with a guitar strapped on.  The only better feeling is when I make that guitar make noise.

I love when the crowd gets into it, but it doesn't matter much a few seconds into the song, I forget about everyone else.  Sigh, if only I could do this 40 hours a week with decent pay...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Unfurling the Creative Process

I'm starting to fall into a comfortable groove with drawing.  My work area is set up as I like it, in an 8x10 room in the basement, with a little TV/VCR setup so I can let movies play in the background while I work.  It's a tiny room (more like a cell with walls of old wood and concrete, and I share it with some small old appliances and a white stove from the 1950s), but it doesn't really feel confining at all.  Everything I need is typically at arm's reach or a few steps away in the basement proper.  Every couple nights (hopefully every night when I stop pulling 12-hour days), I come down to my "cell" and draw for up to about an hour.  I feel good about my time spent down there, even if I didn't get much done. 

The Halloween show is coming along slowly but surely.  Things are getting done, and I'm very happy about that.  We just got our poster designed, The tickets have been printed and dispersed to the bands to sell--though I still need to find some derby girls willing to sell them as well--and I got a good radio plug during our interview at the Thief River Falls radio station.  The next couple weeks will be devoted to finding prizes for the costume contest and drawings, making sure my bands have what they need and are properly updated, and promoting the hell out of this thing.