Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Random: Music You Can Trust

In the early 1990s, I had a band with a guy named Kevin Kemper. I played drums, and he played guitar and sang lead on most songs. I did sing and play guitar on a few tunes, but usually stayed safely behind my drum kit. We tried a few different bass players, but none stayed much past a rehearsal or two, so we were usually a duo. We played mostly original material, though I do recall us covering Bob Dylan’s “Quinn The Eskimo,” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and (once) Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.”

We had to create our own gigs, and just the other day I was reminded of one of them. I live in an apartment the size of a personal storage unit, and so I’m constantly trying to create space by tossing out shit I’m fairly confident I won’t want later (I’ve made a few mistakes). Lately I’ve been going through old videocassettes, some of which aren’t labeled, with the intention of tossing them after viewing them. The other night I popped in a tape and saw a 21-year-old version of myself playing drums. The footage was shot by my friend Stacey Wallace, and on the tape I could hear her telling two police officers that she wasn’t in charge of our little concert. I don’t think we had permission to play there. I had just gotten into acting, and thought the theatre would be a great place to put on a concert. I even made up fliers advertising it, and encouraging people to bring their own instruments. That was something we did, encourage people to join us if they wished, sometimes with awful results, usually with no results, and once with a fantastic result. We also encouraged general weirdness, perhaps even suggesting people take hallucinogens, as we sometimes did ourselves. We wanted it to be a memorable night. And it was. We were shut down after only like five or six songs, and we moved the party to Stacey’s house. Somehow we picked up a larger audience on the way, and had a great time. Anyway, that is one video cassette I won’t be tossing out.

I also recently found a box of T-shirts. Our band was named Random. We tried coming up with a second word, toying with the idea of Random Universe at one point, but not liking it. My favorite was Random Surgery. We could never settle on it, though, and so remained – for the band’s brief life – Random. A friend in another band thought we were named after a character in Roger Zelazny’s Amber series. That was fine. We had T-shirts made up. On the front it said, “Random: Music You Can Trust.” On the back, it said “Like us or die trying.” I still think that’s funny. I’m not sure we sold a single shirt. If I remember correctly, we broke up soon after the shirts were made.

By the way, the one time our inviting people to join us resulted in something excellent was at another party at Stacey’s house. At one point, Kevin and I started a groove, and Stacey and our friend Mara began improvising lyrics. The resulting song was “Sex In The Morning,” probably the best song we ever performed. All of us were on acid that night, but fortunately we had the whole show on audio tape, which we needed to reconstruct the song later so we could perform it again.

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