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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Days of the Living Dead

My sister Tricia, the closest to me in age, bought a beat up old drum set when I was about 12, and I learned to play some basic rock beats.  Dad played the accordion, so there were always microphones and amplifiers laying around.  My two best friends and I pooled a few bucks together and got a Fender  knock-off electric guitar, and ordered a generic bass guitar from the Sears catalog, and I also got a high hat and some cheap cymbals for my sister's drums through Sears, and we played in my basement and garage on and off from eighth grade until we graduated high school. We landed a gig somehow at a short lived youth center that started out of a former strip club called the Spider's Web.  That bass came in the mail two days before the show.  We didn't know about tuning guitars, how to properly utilize an amp, nothing.  We just choked songs out of our instruments however we could.  At first we used our home stereos as guitar amps, any dirty rocker worth his salt knows how to pull that off.
This will be the only time I go here, at the risk of sounding trite;  When we were kids, it was hard to contact people that you wanted to contact.  Hard to get a specific part for a guitar, bike or skateboard, or to get your feet into some real skate shoes.  Hard to have any idea how a rock band works, because there is simply no one around to explain it to you, as far as you knew.   Any object that was considered “some kind of band equipment” was worth it's weight in gold to us.  We traveled hours to go to shitty music stores.  We traveled hours just to get our hands on good music to listen too.  We made broken skateboard decks work for another week, we repaired drum heads and shoes with duct tape until all they were anymore was duct tape.   Any and all equipment was repaired ten times over before you would consider buying a new one. I want to say we appreciated everything we had, but the truth is we ruined everything we touched..  We thought it was the worst of times, never realizing we had it all.
In the beginning, I don't remember us ever talking about song structure, we were of a hive mind, and we would just make up songs off the top of our head, hitting all the changes together without discussion, just basic rock structure.  We knew nothing about properly tuning an instrument, but we figured out a way to tune a guitar so you could just lay one finger across all of the strings, and it sounded like a proper chord.  I can never recall working these things out, they just happened.  Later on we would consciously write some songs, and that all happened really easily, too.  We were absolutely full of ideas, energy and creativity.  We had to pick and choose from the many, to use only the best ideas.  We would often record our rehearsals, and I still have many of the tapes. One day I figured out how to record vocals over a tape of a song my buddy and I had recorded on to a cassette, and so was born my fascination with multi track recording.  The school faculty eventually let our band, “The Living Dead”, and later “Sixtyseconds”  play at the homecoming pep rally every year through high school.  I think we hated school too much to appreciate the gesture.  I was always bummed out about something when I was that age, just mad at the world.  I would never have thought at the time, just how how fondly I would one day look back upon those days.

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