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The monstrous amount of text below has been arranged in chronological order, and I recommend it be read in that fashion to enjoy the full, unfettered literary experience. But, if you must, you can skip ahead by using the page-marker links below. Go ahead. Be like that.

 
The Landlords Of Soul
Show #1: Cosmic Chicken
 
Show #2: The Revenge Of The Cosmic Chicken
 
Show #3: The Southern Friend Horns
 
Show #4: Cosmic Chicken Is Dead
 
Part 1: Space Rock
Show #5: The Righteous & The Wicked
 
Show #6: Senior Recital
 
Part 3: Hairpin Turn


Cosmic Chicken: The Berklee Recitals and Cafeteria Shows

Introduction

Berklee College Of Music was a very, very intense place to be when I was there, from the Fall of 1989 to the Spring of 1993. I'm sure it still is. Imagine thousands of aspiring musicians from not just all over the country, but all over the world, converging on a few buildings in the Back Bay area of Boston, doing whatever they can to get better and get noticed while doing so. Those who don't really want a career in professional music quickly discover that it's not a place for them. At the end of my freshman year, the dropout rate was 60%.

Those who stayed got divided into two camps: the players who were already so good that they stood out as instant celebrities.and everyone else. I was firmly in the latter group. Eventually I got noticed, for better or worse, because of the work I did on the projects listed on this page. (Remember-the "rap sheet" is a project history.)

If you want a brief (one-page) synopsis of my journey through Berklee, this is not the place for you. Instead, click here, and you'll be taken to the relevant section of a page called "why bass?". If you're more curious, read on, and taste a slice of life from Berklee College Of Music in the early '90s.

 

Show #1: Cosmic Chicken, 11/16/90

There were two places to play and be seen at Berklee: either in a recital hall during the day, or in the cafeteria at night. Of course, in order to get people to come see you-unless you were one of the "star" players, which I certainly wasn't-you had to promote. You needed a catchy name, a flashy sign, and you needed to hang those signs everywhere. Quaint, compared to the music business we now know and don't love, but simple.

Two kinds of players went to Berklee-those who played in shows organized by others, and those who organized. I was-surprise!-an organizer. It was by default, really; no one was asking me to play in their shows anyway. So I went ahead and organized my own, with the help of keyboardist Derek Phillips, and somehow a funk-based project we called "Cosmic Chicken" was born. Featuring "The Southern Fried Horns," we'd be a nine-piece, booty-shakin' funk machine comprised primarily of white guys from the northeastern suburbs.

I wanted our debut to be in the cafeteria (as opposed to a recital hall) because you could crank it up without fear of reprisal, but first you had to apply. If your demo tape was accepted, you got paired up with the leader of another show, and the two showleaders would organize the entire night. Our tape was accepted. And in a lottery that changed my life, I was paired with a guy named Joe Travers, who was leading a show called "Shredfest."

Joe, three years older and two years ahead of me in curriculum, was already a name player at Berklee. I'd heard of him, but I'd never actually seen him play. In any event, it was quickly decided that Shredfest would headline, and Cosmic Chicken would open.

There was a moment in soundcheck when our drummer was in the bathroom, and Joe-who'd been coveting his Yamaha Recording Custom kit from the moment he laid eyes on it-instantly volunteered his services to the front-of-house engineer. The groove he started playing was unreal. I ran and grabbed my bass, plugged in, and we jammed for about a minute. Afterwards, we just looked at each other.we knew something was up. Something special.

The show itself was a decent success. Shredfest drew a healthy crowd, much bigger than ours, but lots of their crowd saw us work through tunes like Living Colour's "Love Rears Its Ugly Head", John Scofield's "Otay" (a bass slapfest), and The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stone Cold Bush." We weren't the tightest band ever to play the Berklee cafeteria, but we did just fine. It put us on the map.

Plus, we had good fluorescent posters. And a great name, one that I took with me.



Show #2: The Revenge Of The Cosmic Chicken, 3/13/91

Berklee had two recital halls, 1A and 1W. 1W was smaller, and you had to play it first if you wanted to get into 1A. I figured it was better to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

I badly wanted Joe Travers on drums for this show, but when I approached him with the invitation.he declined, due to scheduling conflicts with other shows he'd booked. My ego was understandably bruised, but I took our now-good name, made better posters, and got another drummer named Frank Lombardi, a popular, outgoing, extremely positive guy who'd just placed second in a local Best Drummer contest. (He would have won it if he hadn't gotten drunk before he got called back up for a "drum-off" with the eventual winner.)

I was also more careful about choosing songs that suited a large band when necessary, and my own playing when not. Fishbone's "Bonin' In The Boneyard" featured a slap solo I could actually play. We arranged Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" for horns. We played Steve Vai's "For The Love Of God" to get the guitarists to stick around. Steve Morse's "Cruise Missile" and Living Colour's "Elvis Is Dead" provided plenty of fireworks to keep the chops-happy Berklee crowd satisfied.

It was a markedly better show than the first, both in performance and turnout. We were the only act that played. It wasn't a large room, but we filled it to capacity with standing room only out the door. Most importantly, Joe Travers was in the audience. I had a feeling he wouldn't be next time.



Show #3-The Southern Fried Horns, 7/23/91

The ball was rolling, and the horn players were becoming a section with name recognition of their own. Two of them-trumpeter Matt Bowman and Alto Sax player Jeff Hudgins-had been with me from the beginning, and wanted to do a summer show of horn-focused music. It would be "The Southern Fried Horns-with The Cosmic Chicken Band". We were marketing now, baby.

Having no desire to return to the musical wasteland that was Westfield, New Jersey, I decided to stay enrolled at Berklee in the summer of 1990. Joe stuck around as well, and this time he said yes. We also picked up another important piece of the puzzle-Joe's summer roommate, an eclectic, unpredictably brilliant guitarist named Jon Skibic. The band, including the full horn section and background singers, now numbered fourteen members.

Summer at Berklee was a lot more mellow than the regular year, and it gave us a chance to rehearse under less strenuous conditions. All of the songs were horn tunes, heavy on arrangement and light on chops, which I really enjoyed. We did songs like Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer", Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" (made possible by our chameleon-like vocalist, Scott Branston), Sly & The Family Stone's "Sing A Simple Song", Lenny Kravitz's "Always On The Run", and closed the show with a rowdy Fishbone tune called "Nasty Man," complete with the now requisite Beller slap solo (of which I was quickly tiring, but it worked).

It was in the cafeteria, and even though summer enrollment was far less than normal, we packed the place and it went nuts at the end. More importantly, two things were happening to the band. One, there was a maturity slipping into the performances, borne of experience, bonding, and the stabilizing force of Joe Travers behind the drumkit. Second, we were getting silly on stage; somehow we segued Pink Floyd's "Young Lust" into the Bugs Bunny theme, followed immediately by a Fishbone "song" called "Asswhippin'" which consisted mainly of whip noises and screams.

When stuff like that happens, and it works-most of the crowd somehow got it-you know something special is in the air.



Show #4-Cosmic Chicken Is Dead, 10/25/91

Enough with the practice runs. This was going to be the big one.

We had name recognition from the previous year, a huge, tight band, a night in the cafeteria reserved just for us, and Joe Travers on drums in the busy fall semester. Promotionally, I pulled out all the stops. I had two posters made-the first was a teaser, the second a show announcement with twenty names listed as band members. The band was now bass, drums, keys, two guitars, six horns, five singers, percussion, harmonica, and a guest saxophonist and acoustic bassist.

I was focused past the point of obsession. I hung over 300 signs, led eight rehearsals (not including horn and vocal sectionals), wrote horn charts, woke up three hours before classes to reserve the best rehearsal rooms.and the buzz was on. There were a couple of shows each semester that everyone seemed to go to. This was going to be one of them.

Musically, the challenge was more severe than I'd anticipated. Lead singer Scott Branston got nodes on his vocal chords less than four weeks before the show, and I was panicked enough to consider canceling until brash freshman Robb Vallier came around and literally saved the whole thing. (This same Robb Vallier would go on to live in L.A., where Travers and Keneally would play his original material; he also married Baywatch star Tracy Bingham!) The rehearsals were chaotic. Berklee's practice rooms just weren't equipped to handle a seventeen-piece band, and tensions exploded more than once between vocalists who couldn't hear themselves, guitarists who wouldn't turn down, drummers who couldn't play any quieter.and a bandleader stressed to the edge.

The thirteen-song set list was ambitious, perhaps recklessly so. Pete Townsend's "Face The Face"; Fishbone's manic "Fight The Youth" and "If I Were A.I'd!"; The Brand New Heavies' "Shakedown"; Stevie Wonder's "As"; The Average White Band's "Cut The Cake"; The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "If You Have To Ask"; Living Colour's "Funny Vibe"; the Elvis Presley "Las Vegas" arrangement of "C.C. Ryder"; Frank Zappa's "Andy", Morris Day & The Time's "Tricky"; Aerosmith's "Girl Keeps Coming Apart"; and finally, Prince's "Horny Pony."

I'm not sure I can even describe the show, except to say that it was truly electric. There were at least 250 people in the cafeteria that night, and more spilled out the side doors. Stuff happened on stage we didn't rehearse (unheard of at Berklee), like Robb Vallier coming out wearing Elvis muttonchop sideburns and doing an impersonation I hadn't yet seen; Derek Phillips running out with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken during Scott Branston's improvised rap in Morris Day's "Tricky" ("somebody get me a piece of chicken.awww."); a rapper coming up behind Joe, screaming that he had to be the drummer for his upcoming show-while we were in the middle of a song!; and, most improbably, during the show closer, the stage being overrun by people breaking out into spontaneous dancing, like some freakish outtake from the movie Fame. I'm not kidding-there was even a guy with long dreadlocks who jumped out in front of the stage and started doing splits. For my part, I wore these big chicken-feet slippers, and at the very end of the show, I yanked them off, threw them to the ground in disgust, and did the Nestea plunge flat on my back as if I'd been shot dead.

I hadn't done anything spectacular playing-wise, but the band was incredible. It was the biggest show of the semester, and everyone knew that I'd put it together. The confirmation was double-sweet after the show, when a party we'd intended for band members and friends became an out-of-control kegger attended by girls I didn't even know were enrolled at Berklee, all of whom suddenly wanted to meet me.

In other words, the plan worked. Funny thing is, only in retrospect does it seem like a plan at all. When we were in the midst of it, it all felt like so much desperate flailing and chaos. Ah, youth.

 


Show #5-The Righteous And The Wicked, 3/5/92

Freed of the burden of trying to gain notoriety, I put the funk concept and the large band aside, and did a show of classic and progressive rock tunes I'd always wanted to play.

You can see the songs on the program-they're all over the map. It was really a collection of guilty pleasures more than anything else. How else I can I justify wanting to do a live version of Yes' "Sound Chaser"? I had a good group of singers, especially Ian McGlynn, a freshman who stepped in and nailed a good Jon Anderson. Zeppelin's "Four Sticks" was graced by the presence of guest vocalist Holly Palmer, a sultry jazz-improv specialist who moaned and writhed her way through the tune so convincingly that she nearly brought Travers to orgasm on his drum throne. The right sax player for "One More Red Nightmare", a guest appearance by Berklee rock-guitar faculty member Jon Finn, and the brand name of "Dead Chicken Productions" helped pack a happening Room 1A (the large recital hall) that March afternoon.

Unfortunately I didn't play very well during this performance. I flubbed several lines in the Steve Morse tune, and for one reason or another, didn't have my usual focus. I blamed it on my instrument at the time-a five-string Alembic-and promptly put it on consignment. I didn't yet realize you couldn't hit a home run every time up to bat.

I should say one last thing about this show-the version of Pink Floyd's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" is my favorite performance by any band I ever led at Berklee. We had three guitarists, one of whom (Porter McLister) had a genuine talk box for the middle section, and when it came time for the searing David Gilmore outro solo, Jon Skibic performed as if he taught Gilmore how to play the blues. The tape still gives me chills.

 


Show #6-Senior Recital, 11/6/92

Joe Travers left Berklee for Los Angeles in the Fall of 1992, leaving me with a dilemma. I hadn't organized a show without him in the drum chair in over a year, and my senior recital was fast approaching. I had no desire to do it without him, so there was only one thing to do-fly him back out to Boston for a week.

This was undoubtedly the best band I ever had at Berklee. Joe Travers and The usual southern-fried horn players were there as always, but with better background singers, a future first-call pro keyboardist (Matt Rohde), and special, special guests.

First was Dylan Altman, the singer-songwriter/blues guitarist that, along Joe Travers, Jon Skibic and myself, made up the original lineup of 100 Proof, the blues band referred to in "why bass" and on this page as well. He swung both ways, playing SRV-influenced lead guitar on Albert Collins' "I'm Beginning To Wonder" and Robert Palmer's "Sneakin' Sally In The Alley", and then doing a 180-degree turn as James Hetfield in a campy cover of Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" (believe it or not, I tapped the arpeggios in the middle section while Altman and Skibic harmonized).

Second was Carlos Paucar, the guy who played Steve Vai in the "Classified" tribute band I mentioned in the Vai section of the "rap sheet." We decided to play a two-song Frank Zappa medley-"More Trouble Every Day" into "Cruisin' For Burgers"-and Carlos expertly took the "Trouble" solo straight into Vai-land (only to be outdone by Skibic's incredible Frank-like turn in "Burgers"). Needless to say, Joe Travers was instrumental in bringing these tunes to bear.

My third guest was another bassist: Wes Wehmiller. Wes and I were the two bassists in our little "scene," and we'd fostered diametrically opposed M.O.'s during our time at Berklee. I was the guy who organized these high-profile, big-name shows, whereas he was the guy you called to do your show. He freelanced with every hot rock player in the school, and did a million sessions while he was there as well. We'd become friends, I loved his playing for all the things he did that I couldn't do, and I wanted to collaborate with him because I thought this was the last chance I was ever going to get. (Years later, in Los Angeles, I was happily proven wrong.) We ended up doing a classical duet that segued into John Patitucci's "A Better Mousetrap," less a song than an excuse for a bass solo. He was always a better soloist than I was, and he proved it as we traded fours, but I was past the point of being self-conscious about it. (OK, maybe not then, but I am now.) It was a tremendous amount of fun. And besides, later on in the show, I redeemed myself with a passable solo in Jaco's arrangement of "The Chicken."

It was held in the large recital hall, Room 1A, and you couldn't get a seat. My entire immediate family was there, as well as my then-girlfriend's family, and just about everyone I'd ever met at school. The band-a "Berklee Dream Team" lineup, as far as I was concerned-performed beyond even my high expectations, especially considering we only had one week with Joe Travers in which to rehearse nine tunes.

After the last note of the show closer, the gospel-inflected Fishbone tune "Everyday Sunshine," I felt a small lump in my throat, for I knew that the days of picking and choosing tunes and musicians for shows with guaranteed student attendance were about to end for good. Not only that, but we were all either seniors or already graduated, and my senior recital was pretty much the last hurrah for a clique of about twenty musicians who'd done an incredible amount of school performances together (it wasn't like mine were the only ones for these folks). But it was great fun while it lasted, and I have video and audio of just about everything we ever did.

And, as you can see, I even saved the posters.

 



The Landlords Of Soul

It was like gigging out around Boston with the Cosmic Chicken band. Sort of. Well, not really.

In the Spring of 1991, I somehow got referred to the band's drummer, Rob (I forget just about all these guys' last names), who asked me if I was interested in playing some good old funk, blues and R&B with a steady gigging band for about $100. a pop. My eyes spun; you mean you can get paid for playing music? It's not just about Berklee recitals? Despite the busy schedule I was keeping for myself-after all, I was the one organizing the Berklee shows listed above-I said yes. So the Landlords Of Soul-with the Rent Control Horns, mind you-qualified as my first paying gig ever.

We played every watering hole in the greater Boston area (if you're local, you'll recognize these places): Harper's Ferry, the Sit 'n' Bull, T.T. The Bear's, Ed Burke's, The Commonwealth Brewery, The Ranch House, Cobblestone's, The Grog, Ginella's, The Bog Of Allen, The Midway Café.three sets a night, 9 PM to 1 AM or later. You can probably guess from the picture that the lead singer, Charles, did a pretty mean James Brown impersonation. In case you're wondering, that's me, third from the right.

Seeing as this was my first real gig, I had to learn all sorts of R&B standards for the first time. I didn't know "Mustang Sally", "Brick House", "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", or anything like it. I did after three months with these guys, believe me.

They also had some originals-decent ones, too-and I'm pretty damned sure I recorded a demo tape with them, but hell if I know where it is. In the end, I took two things away from my experience with the Landlords: one, I learned what playing in the real world was like, with its bars, club owners, drunken patrons, and subsequent thoughts about what I was doing with my life; two, I collected a list of clubs and contacts I'd later use to book our very own blues band, 100 Proof.




Kathouse

I've often said that I assiduously avoided the whole hair/shred/spandex movement that swept the muzo nation in the '80s and early '90s. This is as close as I ever came to violating that tenet.

I never pulled on the stretch pants, but I did join this hard rockin' five-piece band in 1991 at the invitation of Nate Siegel, a Berklee guitarist from the Boston area. Matter of fact, the whole band was from Berklee: drummer, Ben Sesar, keyboardist Jon Sherman, and a lead singer named Jesse, who embodied nearly every negative stereotype you could conjure up about a frontman for a band named Kathouse.

I'm not sure how many gigs we did. I'm thinking ten, tops, before the band disintegrated out of apathy. They were mostly at a bomb-shelter-like Allston club named Bunratty's, with (as you can see from the poster) 95-cent draft beer on off nights and free "food." My hair was in the "growing out" stage, so I didn't have that part of it together. I'd never so much as moved around on stage, so I didn't have the requisite "hard rock stage presence" either. I couldn't sing, I didn't have earrings, or feathers, or any other hair accessories, and I was kind of stocky even back then.you could say I was the odd man out in this group.

There were three part harmonies and unison licks galore; thinking back on it, we wanted to be Extreme more than anything else (you can have it all-heavy metal chicks and muzo respect!). Again, there's a demo tape somewhere, copied onto the 'B' side of one of my archive cassettes, but even I'm not sure I'm brave enough to listen to it. It was fun, though, and I have Nate to thank for introducing me to the girl who went on to become my college sweetheart for the next two years. See? Play hard rock, get the chicks. No wonder everyone was dressed so silly back then.





The Gary Schutt Project

Gary Schutt was a multi-talented, unreformed hard rocker who went out of his way to write difficult, chops-laden material stacked with beyond-Extreme vocal harmonies. I really liked his stuff, and thought it would be an interesting challenge to see how well I'd do in such a format. But how I ended up as the bass player in this trio is one of the enduring mysteries of this time period, because I was about as ill-suited for the job as you could imagine.

The band was basically Gary, Joe Travers and I, and it was my own little version of hell. I couldn't keep up with the lightning-fast riffs, and crash-landed several times onstage trying to do stuff I had no business doing. Adding to the embarrassment was the fact that Gary had recorded all of the bass himself on his numerous album-length demo tapes. There were some guys who couldn't get enough of this kind of material, and this kind of playing, but what it did for me was convince me that I would never-ever-end up becoming one of those bass players whose eye-popping chops would earn them press in publications like Bass Player or Musician.

Then again, I thought my life's work would be focused on an original blues-rock band based out of North Jersey. Looks like no psychic hotline for me.

Worth noting: Gary went on to play guitar in the corporate funk band Boogie Nights in the Florida area, and probably made more money than Tony Montana doing so.

 


100 Proof

Introduction

Had I not landed the gig with Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa's band Z in the summer of 1993, this band would have been the beginning of my post-Berklee professional career.

As I mentioned briefly in a section of "why bass?" (and if you're looking for a brief overview of this time period, you should go there; if not, read on), in early 1992 I began to realize that there was life outside Berklee College Of Music-and that my life in that world was coming sooner rather than later. How that thought developed into 100 Proof was an interesting story, involving some names you might recognize.

 

Part 1: Space Rock

In one of the few "freelance" Berklee shows I'd signed on for, I was slated to perform in the cafeteria as part of a Yes tribute show in December of 1991. Playing tunes like "Heart Of The Sunrise" and "Close To The Edge" had long been a dream of mine, and we'd been rehearsing like crazy. Our night in the cafeteria would be shared with another tribute-to The Allman Brothers. That band boasted an all-star lineup: Joe Travers on drums, Wes Wehmiller on bass, Jon Skibic on guitar, Marc Ziegenhagen on keyboards, and more. But the bandleader and main singer was the one who stood out the most: a South Jersey-bred, raspy-voiced, natural-born frontman and devotee of the blues by the name of Dylan Altman.

Dylan had no love for progressive music. He called it "space rock," deriding it with a smile and an infectious guffaw that you couldn't help but laugh along with. (When wearing a guitar, Altman would emphasize his point by playing a random series of major seventh chords and staring upwards as he said the words "space rock.") Ziegenhagen was another story. When it came time to negotiate who would go on when, and how long each band would play, somehow Ziegenhagen and I dug in our heels and got into a first class pissing contest. Dylan was there, trying to lighten the mood like a comedian: "Hey, where's the love.there's plenty of room for space rock in the world.can't we all just get along?" It was all worked out eventually, but for the record, it was my first extended conversation with Ziegenhagen of any kind.

We ended up going on first, and we gave the material a run for its money, but the results were mixed for a variety of reasons. Then the Allmans tribute took the stage and simply decimated the audience, me most of all. Aside from "Whipping Post" I was an Allman Brothers virgin, and I was totally floored by the passion, the ample opportunities for improv, and the simple structures in which musical magic could occur. Dylan was a commanding presence, leading the show like he'd been playing clubs his whole life. He was already bigger than Berklee in a way most aspiring musicians at the school couldn't even understand.

I'd already been gigging around Boston with The Landlords Of Soul, but wouldn't it be more fun if I was playing around town with this guy instead? I thought so.


The original 100 Proof lineup, from left to right:
Dylan Altman, Joe Travers, me, Jon Skibic

I pitched the idea of a Dylan-led blues band to Joe Travers and Jon Skibic. They seemed up for it, so I set out to convince Dylan. He was incredulous. "What do you know about the blues? You play space rock!" I admitted that I knew next to nothing, but I'd be willing to learn, and how about the four of us get together and at least jam? He agreed and made me a tape of old blues standards and Allman Brothers tunes, which I learned dutifully. The jam went well, the band was born, and I set out to try and book a gig.



Part 2: Beyond Boston

Dylan wrote original material as well-which leaned heavily on Stevie Ray Vaughan-and already had a demo tape he'd used to book gigs in high school. We took a band photo, sent the tape to a few local dive bars, and sure enough, they let us play. Our set was a combination of: Dylan's originals; Allman Brothers tunes like "Black Hearted Woman", "Dreams", "Ain't Wastin' Time No More", and (of course) "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed"; blues standards like "Sweet Little Angel", "Hootchie Cootchie Man" and "Wang Dang Doodle"; and modern blues-rock like SRV's "Tightrope" and "Couldn't Stand The Weather." Our Berklee friends who were old enough to get into a bar came out to see us regularly, we made a few Bostonian converts along the way, and by June of 1992 we'd done ten gigs, plus a live radio performance on Emerson College's WERS-FM.

By then the band was really tight. Dylan played a very traditional style of blues guitar, while Skibic came more from the Jeff Beck side of things-a perfect contrast. Joe Travers and I, our chops honed to a razor's edge, were having more fun than ever playing outside the Berklee cocoon for people who really appreciated music and weren't just there to critique your performance. Best of all, it was a great way to spend a night out on the town.

Problem was, Joe Travers had his sights set on bigger game. He was leaving for Los Angeles in August of 1992 to achieve his ultimate goal: the gig with Dweezil Zappa. He even tried to talk me into going with him, but it seemed unrealistic for me to leave Berklee just a few credits shy of graduation-and I doubt my parents would have let me even if I'd wanted to. It seemed crazy, just to set out for L.A. like that.I didn't see it in my future. I even went out and visited the place just to make sure I didn't want to go there, and after I got back, I was sure enough.


The new, more serious 100 Proof (l to r): Ben Sesar, me, Jon Skibic, Dylan Altman

So Joe left to find fame and fortune, and we picked drummer Ben Sesar-from Kathouse, of all bands-to take his place. Within a month he was fully worked in. Meanwhile, my time at Berklee was winding down, and as the band began focusing more and more on originals, it started to seem like a viable post-Berklee option. In a strange coincidence, all four band members were now New Jerseyans, and talk began about moving to the New York City area after graduation in May of 1993. We recorded a demo tape, took a new band photo, and got more serious about what we were doing.

Then, in February (if I recall correctly) of 1993, Joe Travers called me from Los Angeles with an incredible story. Through the persistent networking of a guy named Mike Keneally, he'd landed an audition with Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa's band Z.and passed it! It was like Babe Ruth calling his shot in the World Series-how do you explain such a thing? Suddenly I felt really dumb for not going to L.A. with him.but I had a band, I was booking it and sort-of-managing it, the music was fun, I liked the guys, I didn't think much of L.A., and.well, I just decided to put my head down and try and make 100 Proof work, at whatever cost.





Part 3: Hairpin Turn

By the summer of 1993, it was decided. We would all move to North Jersey, as close to New York City as we could afford, and get really serious about cracking the City scene. We'd get two apartments: Jon Skibic and I would share one, while Ben and Dylan would share the other. Somehow we'd get jobs and, once settled, start kicking up as much dust as we could.

Then, in early July, just two weeks before Jon and I were to begin apartment hunting, he dropped a bomb in my lap. He'd grown tired of the blues and the band, and was getting much more into alternative rock. Plus, he had a serious girlfriend in town. In short, he wasn't coming with us.

I didn't deal well with it. Here I was, a Berklee graduate, with three-quarters of a fledgling blues-rock band, no roommate, and six weeks until my apartment lease was up. My immediate solution was six consecutive shots of vodka and a drunken confessional to Skibic's girlfriend-who happened to be my Boston roommate of two years-that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

I swear that it wasn't more than two days later that Joe Travers, in the midst of a European tour with Dweezil, called me from Paris, and told me to get up to speed on their latest album because an audition was coming my way. If I got it, it was time to move to L.A.-but would I? For this gig, yes.

The details of this audition can be found in the Z section of the rap sheet, but in terms of how it affected 100 Proof, it wasn't pretty. I spent two weeks practicing the Z/Dweezil material, which Jon's girlfriend/my roommate noticed (of course). Pretty soon Jon figured out what was up, and I had to tell Dylan before I left about what might happen during my upcoming trip out of town-which now would be to Los Angeles instead of North Jersey. He wasn't thrilled about it, to say the least. He was even less thrilled when I got the gig and had a week to get my ass out of Boston.

Looking back on it, he had every right to be frustrated about how it all happened. Within three weeks, half the band bailed on him just a month before our big planned move to the NYC area. He was the kind of guy who would have had his own band regardless of what I did or didn't do, but I was the one who came up with the idea for 100 Proof in the first place, and he didn't hide his disappointment when I broke him the official news of my leaving town. Still, there was no way that I could turn down the opportunity Joe had provided me, and so I left the band-and a two-year relationship with my girlfriend-on a moment's notice. Sometimes, that's the way it works. Aren't there blues songs about this kind of stuff?

To their credit, Dylan and Ben left not for New York-but for Nashville, where they kept the band going for a couple of years before going their separate ways as well. Dylan now has a publishing deal, and still plays the Nashville circuit where he's well known and respected around town. Jon Skibic went on to record and tour with several notable alternative artists, such as The Gigolo Aunts, The Eels, and Juliana Hatfield, to name a few. I lost track of Ben, but we exchanged e-mails last year and he seems to be doing well.

As for me, it's impossible to know what would have happened had Joe Travers not gotten me that audition. Maybe we would have gone to New York, maybe Nashville. Maybe we would have been the next Black Crowes. Who knows? The hangover from my despondency over Skibic bailing was only just subsiding when Joe called. I never had time to think about what I really would have done.

The only sure thing is that you probably wouldn't be reading this if things had been different. In retrospect, it all seems eerily preordained.


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