Sunday, July 02, 2006

Since Nobody Reads These on Sundays


My old band Star Crunch, sponsored by Supercuts. That's me in the middle, I think I'm sitting on a dumpster. This is from our CD insert, circa 1994.

Duncan had the audacity to "tag" me yesterday, which was surprising since tagging usually seems to show up on blogs with way more emoticons. Instead of the standard "name 4 STD's you've had" and the like, he took it easy on me by asking only two questions-

1. How did you come up with the name for your band?
2. Is that you singing "Driftwood"?

For those of you who don't know or who haven't been paying attention, I used to be in a band. In fact, I was focused on "making it" as a musician from about age 17 to 30 (I'll turn 35 this month). Embarrassingly enough, it all started when I began listening to this guy and started writing my own parody songs. My first taste of fame came even earlier at age 15 when I co-wrote and recorded "You've Lost Your Skin From Peeling" to the tune of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" on a boombox with a Radio Shack microphone. I kid you not. It started with "I never touch your back anymore 'cause you throw a fit, your sunburn covers you from your nose to where you sit, you're trying hard not to show it (baby), but under those band-aids I know it...You've lost your skin from peeling" and on and on. It was played on KZZP in Phoenix as part of a "wacky tape" segment, and it was so bad that before it aired they decreed a new rule for these tapes...that they had to play at least a minute of them before taking them off the air. Needless to say, we didn't win the $100 offered for the best song, but I was hooked.

I taught myself to play guitar with chord books for Beatles songs, and soon I had started a band with three of my friends. I could sing on key and I enjoyed writing my own material (I'd moved beyond parodies at this point) so I became the singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist. We played a few gigs in high school and all moved into the same apartment in college so we could keep the band together and make it big. Of course this never happened and we eventually broke up.

After wandering around for awhile musically and even playing one gig in a cover band full of frat guys (not my crowd), I began a new band just for fun with my roommates when I was a junior at the University of Arizona. I was still living with our original bassist, but our other roommate was just starting to learn how to play drums. We were quite terrible, but the songs were decent and eventually we started playing out. Now naming a band is impossible, with everything sounding either too pretentious or too serious. It came down to the wire to make a flier for the show and we literally started looking around the house for a name when we saw a box of these in the pantry. It sounded kind of cosmic and cool, so we went with it (there's your first answer Duncan). Since we were kind of a joke at the time we would even bring a box or two to early gigs and throw them out to the audience. This stopped when people started beaning us with them when we sucked, which didn't take long.

The band improved, eventually recording a cassette (it was 1993) and touring for three weeks through the south. At this time we were approached by Tiffany's manager, this fellow, who wanted us to be his "next big thing". I had read about this guy being trouble, and he was a big "bubblegum pop" guy while we thought we were a rock band. He wanted a 5 year, 5 album deal, which included me giving up publishing rights to my works. In exchange an advance and salary were promised, as well as a full promotional machine. It smelled fishy and seemed like a huge commitment, so we worked out a trial deal instead, which included selling him the rights to one song. We flew to Los Angeles and recorded the song with him, and were shocked a week later when we were sent a cassette of the mixed version. Our drums had been replaced with synthesized beats, schmaltzy keyboards had been added...quite simply it just didn't sound like we wanted to sound. We had one week to decide to go forward and become "his" band, or to take the money (about 5 grand which was huge for us at the time) and run. This was probably my one shot at being heard as a musician, as this guy owned a radio station in Las Vegas and was very close with MCA records. He even figured we would be on the HORDE tour (you dinosaurs will remember it, it had Dave Matthews and others). We stuck to our principles and bailed on him. We had to unplug the phone for a week or so, and he even flew back out from Hollywood to get us to change our minds, but we stood firm.

My last call from him had him putting the phone up to a boombox that had a voice from the Animaniacs singing the song of ours he still owned. He said it was going to end up on the soundtrack to "Bye Bye Love", but that never happened when they decided on an oldies format. Weird.

We took the money and recorded our own CD, "Carbon Dated Smile" in 1994, and sold it on a 6 week tour around the U.S.. We continued on as a band until I decided to move to Portland in 1996, thinking it had a better music scene and would improve our chances of making it as a band. Only our bassist followed, and we never really broke into the scene there. I eventually gained about 30 pounds while staring out my window at the rain and drove myself deeper and deeper into debt with each passing day. I was lucky enough to meet Kiera, my future wife there, and I'm still convinced that she was the cosmic reason I ended up there in the first place.

When I (and later she) moved back to Tucson, I tried in vain to get the band going again. At this point our bassist was finishing his law degree at Georgetown, and while we continued without him we never really committed ourselves like we did in the past. I started doing triathlons, and the late nights of booze, smoke and music didn't work with the early morning training. When our new drummer quit we eventually called it a day.

...Until now. We've been asked to reunite for a show to celebrate some important birthday for Club Congress here in Tucson, and today is our first practice with our "true" line-up in about 10 years. I'm really looking forward to it. I still do the singing, guitar and songwriting, and this song, which Duncan asked about, will probably be in the line-up (there's answer number 2).

If you're still paying attention, I made it 22 miles today. I ran 5 miles in the dark at 4:15 so I could be back in time to meet Lucas for his 2 hours. The overall pace was 7:15, though I ran the last 17 at 7:11 pace. Almost 2 hours and 40 minutes with no breakfast or supplements. I'm getting tougher.

Training: 22 miles, 2:39:43, 7:15 pace

9 comments:

Duncan Larkin said...

Mike, first, nice run..second, thanks for answering my questions. I figured there were some good stories behind Starcrunch. Have a great holiday weekend.

edinburghrunner said...

Nice pic, and story!

Eric said...

Mike, we barely knew ye. So what part of that story explains the haircut?

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Wow. Pretty neat. I had been wondering who sang Driftwood...

the wife said...

I never knew about the 'Skin' song. That's a little creepy, if you ask me. Ah, the untapped depths of you.

stephen said...

Sweet. This post brings back some memories, however uninvited. My 90's hair metal glam band was "Eye Contact," and we covered everything from Poison to Bon Jovi. I used to be able to shred back in those guitar deity dayz... sigh, no longer.

Speaking of which, thank you for the insistence on no sustenance before the morning run. I tried it today and found it worked wonders. I imbibed a large mug of Guatemalan coffee, black, and that's it. Solid throughout 13 miles. I never would have thought it... I'm quite glad you and Eric duked it out, as it were, on this issue.

Thomas said...

Is there no end to your talents? Good luck with the comeback gig, and, most importantly, have a great time!

Mike said...

Thanks everyone. Eric, the "dutchboy" look was big back then...Wait, no it wasn't. What was I thinking? Kiera (see "the wife" above" has laughed at these photos and has mentioned she never would have gone out with me if I'd looked like this when I met her.

Stephen, good luck with the no breakfast thing. It's gotten much easier for me after doing it for a month. Like caveman Duncan, I think it's worth trying new things in order to get to new places in my running. I'm jealous you got to run the "double mountain loop".

Eric said...

I didn't know it was a throwdown. Does this mean I lost the 'Battle of Breakfast'?

Rematch.