MY LIFE IN MUSIC
AN OVERVIEW OF MY CONTINUING PATH…
First, let me say thank you to all the people I have worked with in the past. Everyone I have played with has shared a part of themselves with me and all of it adds up to who I am now—thank you all!
Since moving to Los Angeles, I have been energized by the atmosphere and the proximity to the talent pool I have taken lessons with Gergo Borlai, and Matt Johnson. Drumming has never been more important to me and I feel that I have a lot to offer people who want to learn more about the instrument, overcome personal and creative impediments, and improve their musicality. It’s easy to go back over your life and career and wonder how it would arc differently if this-or-that happened, but most importantly, I'm happy that I approach the drums, guitar, bass, singing, and songwriting with a fire in the belly.
I started playing drums at 11. I originally wanted to play saxophone, but was encouraged by the 6th grade band teacher to take up percussion instead after displaying some natural ability. I started jamming with some friends, and took up learning some guitar as well. As a freshman in high school, I became a member of the Oklahoma Youth Orchestra. Through the OYO, I got to perform on TV, back up notable performers like Paul Tobias, Victor Borge, and go on a tour of Scandinavia.
While in high school, I started playing with some classmates, forming a Dixieland band that performed all summer at an Oklahoma City amusement park. I had aspirations of going to University of North Texas (f.k.a North Texas State University), but money was short, so I stayed in Norman for a little while. Frustrated and bored, I moved away to St. Louis, Missouri where my family often vacationed. My aunt and uncle there offered to let me stay for a little while—I think they had a few days in mind—but I would up staying for good. My first night there, I secured an audition with a working, touring band called Morgantown that happened to live just two blocks away and they hired me a few days later.
We played lounges, hotels, dives, country clubs, private parties, steakhouses, state & county fairs, union halls—you name it. The repertoire was varied as well: classic rock. country, country/southern rock, oldies, blues, current Top 40 hits…we were the classic “human jukebox” band. Morgantown had some original tunes in a country-rock vein. For a while the band attempted to make some Nashville connections, which gave me the opportunity to record at the legendary Bennett House in Franklin, TN, later that year, we got to open for Dwight Yoakam at the Fox Theater in St. Louis.
After about a year and half, I grew tired of the circuit. Despite getting paid pretty well (we steadily played 3-6 nights a week), I had developed my own musical tastes, purchased a Fender Squire Bullet Stratocaster to keep myself occupied in my hotel room, and even started writing songs. Eventually, I quit in order to pursue playing in an original rock band. It was a bit traumatic for me as Morgantown had become like a family to me, not to mention was my source of income. I decided I’d rather work a regular day job and try to make an artistic statement than just crank out someone else’s old hits.
I took a job as a day laborer and answered an ad for a band that sounded like something I’d be be interested in. That band became known as Cain is Abel—a reference to the two brothers in the band. We eventually worked up about 50/50 covers and originals and started in on the bar scene. We did all the usual stuff: recorded a demo, opened for the hot local acts at the time, tried to get local press, gain fans, chase the record contract dream, etc. After a couple of years, the band folded with little fanfare, but in the process, I had gained the attention of other musicians in the scene.
While I was in Cain is Abel, I had gotten into playing guitar and writing even more, and I wanted to be more than “just a drummer”. I was already a strong harmony vocalist and had become comfortable enough with my voice that I felt compelled to front a band. I tried for a while to get a band of my own together, and jammed as a second guitarist with a couple of other groups looking for another member. Nothing ever came of these attempts, and meanwhile, I felt like I was missing out. I wanted to get back on the stage.
One of the bands Cain is Abel played with a lot, The Finns, started breaking out. They were looking for a drummer and called me pretty regularly, persuading me to join. I eventually did. We recorded an album, JuCo, and garnered airplay on the burgeoning “Commercial Alternative” station, 105.7 The Point. We achieved enough notoriety to open for national acts at Mississippi Nights, the main concert club in St. Louis. We played SXSW in 1995, and we appeared on a couple of power-pop compilation CDs.
The Finns disbanded in 1996 and I started working at Drum Headquarters. I also decided to go college to study Graphic Design. Ex-Finns bassist, Jonny, took up with a fun, elastic Honky-Tonk/Blues-Rock band, Liquid Prairie, that had a rotating cast of members, led by former John Cougar Mellencamp bassist, Robert “Ferd” Frank. They invited me to join their weekly gigs at the legendary Venice Cafe. It was a relief to play music just for the fun of it, and the variety of it reminded me of the Morgantown days.
It was the first time I realized how instructive that first gig was: if I was unfamiliar with a song they wanted to do, they just told me what kind of feel and style it was, and off we went. Dominic, the guitarist/saxophonist recruited me to play on a demo recording of his which proved to be a fun, productive affair, recorded at a southern Illinois farmhouse-turned-studio. I got called for other little one-off gigs, and fill-ins and it felt good to be a known quantity in that way, that I was dependable, I’d show up ready to play, got good sounds from my gear, and played with purpose, intent on making the band sound as good as it can.
All this time, I’d been writing and recording songs by myself, searching for band members to carry out my brand of melodic, heartfelt power-pop. While working at Drum Headquarters I befriended one of the other guys there and we started jamming to gather along with a buddy of his on bass. Eventually, we coalesced into Citrus Mod—naming the band after a rare drum covering once offered by the Ludwig Drum Co. It was my intention to find a great lead guitarist to fill out the band, but it never happened. The benefit of this was that my guitar playing improved a great deal and I taught myself how to do enough lead playing to stylistically accomplish what I wanted to do for the most part.
Citrus Mod was relatively short-lived, and despite having a cool job at the drum shop and enjoying the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the city and the scene were changing away from live, original bands. 10 years after I arrived, It was time for a change. I’d always been fascinated with Seattle and the Northwest. Seattle had already become a ‘90s cliche, musically and as a destination, but my friend and roommate at the time—a very talented singer/songwriter—and I were ready to start a new life and we moved to Seattle in April of 1998.
I was energized and inspired to be in the city of one of my favorite bands of all time, The Posies, and in a place of more progressive politics (a first for me at the point in my life). I started writing more, and I fell into the Belltown night club scene, working as a doorman at the Lava Lounge and Shorty’s, two venerable, hip watering holes on the same block as the Crocodile Cafe concert venue. I jammed with some former members of Green Apple Quick Step in their Belltown practice place (where Pearl Jam used to rehearse as well), and a few other people in that clique. One of those bands was called The Ya-Yas. I played with them just long enough to do an opening slot for The Supersuckers at the Crocodile. Right after that, a couple of the members of that band broke away to start The Briefs. I felt like I was on the verge of getting in with some people who had seen some success in a town that—while it was repelling and recovering from the double-edged sword of media attention—had established a bonafide rock n’ roll pedigree.
I set about fronting my own band again and through ads in the local alternative newsweekly/music papers found some good guys with similar musical luminaries. Thus, Victory Lap was formed. Concurrently, the singer from the Ya-Ya’s and I started recording some songs in a basement studio near the University of Washington. That project was tentatively called The Tijuana Bibles and I got to do a good deal of writing and arranging along with the drumming duties. The studio was in the home of the Bibles’ bassist, and it was right after these sessions that Victory Lap started recording an album. The Tijuana Bibles gelled just long enough to play two shows. As it became clearer that The Bibles weren’t going to continue on in any substantial way, I poured my energy into Victory Lap.
We played a few shows, continued working on new material. Victory Lap’s drummer, Kelly, was a very good songwriter as well, and I welcomed his contributions. One of the highlights of Victory Lap was opening for The Posies’ Jon Auer at the Showbox. We continued to work on the album, but it had to moved out of the basement studio into a large, professional one. Despite securing a release for the record, I abruptly pulled the plug on Victory Lap, basically quitting my own band. It was handled poorly by me in every way, and there were—deservedly—some hard feelings toward me for a while. The record that we had all put so much into just kind of evaporated. The digital files went missing for several years. After we had all moved on and reconciled we discussed the record and that we’d all still like to see it come to light. After trying to find the original files for all the tracks, I discovered that I had them all along (of course!). In May of 2012, I enlisted The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow to help me finish the record (more on that later as this website develops).
Around the time of the fallout of my band, my old friend that I had moved to Seattle with a couple years prior reconnected with me and invited me to play with his band, Rural Pictures. It felt natural and nourishing to get back to the instrument that was the beginning for me. I knew what kind of music he wrote, and we had a good synergy. We started gigging and recorded an album, Sweethearts from Everywhere.
The record garnered some play on KEXP, got some good press in CMJ, No Depression, and other music mags, we opened for touring acts at the Tractor Tavern. There was some ironic enjoyment of the fact that our St. Louis roots were kind of an enviable commodity in the Alt-Country/Americana scene we positioned ourselves in. A live, in-studio performance on KEXP was another highlight of the band’s life. After Rural Pictures folded, the toll of band dynamics started to gnaw at me. Another time and money-hungry pursuit—vintage motorcycles and motorcycle road racing—became a focal point for me.
I had become heavily involved in the motorcycle scene and taken a job at a dealership, uncrating and assembling motorcycles. I would later become a BMW/Ducati certified motorcycle technician. Racing motorcycles started to supplant my desire to play music, and it was invigorating to have a new pursuit that didn’t rely on other people as much. I enjoyed the self-reliance and self-satisfaction of working on and racing my vintage motorcycle, improving my performance, and eventually getting good and consistent enough to win a class championship in our racing organization.
I was still playing some gigs, but nothing that was aimed careerist goals. I became a regular player with the Haggis Brothers, a country/folk/skiffle act that had frequent festival gigs and a few residencies at Belltown bars like the Lava Lounge, The Whiskey Bar, and The Pioneer Room. It was a rollicking, unrehearsed act that taught me how to pull all sorts of tones out of just a snare drum and a few traps like a splash cymbal, wood block, ratchet, an ashtray, beer bottles, the concrete floor, etc. Another gig I took for a while was playing bass for Mama Tried, mostly a Merle Haggard tribute act, but we also did a few gigs backing up an Elvis impersonator. It did wonders for my bass chops, of course, and it also helped me really “live” the drummer/bass player connection, heightening my sensitivity to the inner workings and nuances of groove and songs’ rhythmic architecture.
In 2009, I had a very bad racing accident that I was lucky to survive, and left me with some nerve damage to my right leg and foot, as well as titanium rods permanently installed in my back. Fortunately, I could still play, but I had to work on my bass drum technique. Life changes, getting laid off from my job, going back to school, etc. took me out of the loop for a few years, but in 2013, one of my old Victory Lap bandmates asked me to man the drum chair for a copycat/tribute act contest for Halloween, night performing “in the style of” The Replacements. We didn’t win, but the crowd ate it up; I realized how much my soul missed playing and performing.
Weeks later, I found out about a band, The Pop Cycle, that had similar musical tastes and was in need of a drummer. We gigged pretty regularly for the remainder of my time in Seattle. I also briefly played and recorded with noise-punks Kid Leather before leaving the Northwest for Los Angeles in October of 2015. My farewell performance with The Pop Cycle occurred at the Blue Moon Tavern on NE 45th St., we loaded the moving trucks and split town the following day.
Once in settled LA, I made myself available and was contacted by a member of Readership Hostile, a post-punk, goth band that needed a drummer. I auditioned and accepted that drum chair and we recorded an EP, Toll of the Rattle 4 months later with producer Paul Roessler (45 Grave, Nina Hagen, Screamers) and did a European tour in the fall of 2016. 2017 saw the band perform numerous shows locally/regionally as well as festival appearances in New York City and Mexico City. In early 2018, we released a single “Who Buried God?” b/w “Laughed Like a Symphony” in advance of our appearance at the Wave Gotik Treffen (WGT), the largest goth festival in Europe, held every spring in Leipzig, Germany. In February 2019 we returned to Mexico City for another festival show and later that fall, did another European tour.