History, Music, Mine

I am known by some as a hard rock vocalist.

Pictured: I am fronting Riotgod at Sauzipf Rocks in Austria, in 2012.

To begin, I had no musical lessons at all as a youth and the rest of life has been trial and error, hands on experience.

My parents had it in their mind that I was going to be an visual artist when I grew up and that was that. For the record: except for my now all but forgotten involvement in Cub Scouts and Little League long, long ago, I was offered no major extracurricular activities to explore or try.

Very early on though, I developed a broad based musical appreciation.

I learned my first music fascinations through 70s AM / FM radio, later from exposure to music via friends and importantly through cassette tapes and LPs my Dad would bring home from his job in New York City. Incidentally — why he brought them home is still a mystery to me. Both my parents never listened to Demis Roussos or Bonnie Bramlett let alone their own collection of vinyl. For me, their albums became a explorational focus as well as learning resource. I do wish I had the box vinyl set of the Supremes live from Vegas that I scribbled all over with green crayon.

An example of how the music my Dad would bring home would influence me:

In 1976 kids thought Peter Criss ( drummer for Kiss ) was the greatest.

  • My Dad though had brought home Rush’s “All the World’s a Stage”, so I thought the Peter Kriss hype was b*llsh*t — having heard Neil Peart. Rush, were a mystery to most 9 year olds back then — not as well known in the US as they would become in the ’80s.

Speaking of the ’80s

  • when Afrika Bambaata was making use of Kraftwerk via sampling Trans-Europe Express, I knew exactly his source because I was well familiar via some crazy Maxell C45 cassette my Dad had brought home. BTW — those cassettes were awful for recording — simply because they were SO short — 20 minutes on each side!

So how did I get where I am today — what set me on the path?

After my time at the School of Visual Arts, influenced by a fellow student Andy, I was led to believe I might be good as a drummer. I REALLY took that to heart and found a way to purchase a brand new Pearl kit up at Manny’s in New York. It was shipped down, arriving via an 18 wheeler! I didn’t even know how to put the kit together, a friend’s cousin helped.

In the basement of the family house, in the back storage room, I taught myself the basics of drumming and for a while it was exciting. I jammed with other friends.

However, crazed as I was, after a little while, I was smart enough to realize that — at 19 — I was a bit late to the game. As well, my parents were not thrilled with my choice of instrument and my grandparents who lived with us, even less so.

I sold the drum set for a loss.

I failed to mention —  I was a fairly recent convert to heavy metal.

  • Time Warp:  For some ordinary, primarily white high school students in my area, Classic Rock was the main musical format,  still playing a wide variety of music from the late 60’s. “Burnouts” were the only ones who were into metal or harder rock.

No — my father did not bring home any ( I can’t say Nazareth really counts ) heavy metal albums.

  • From the late 70s until high school I experienced musical exposures  that would spice up my normal (deeper home vinyl exploration, common radio and cultural trends) musical reality.

By 1981 I was totally immersed in the music of Hendrix and to a lesser extent the Doors but that would change the summer of ’82. To make a long story short, during an excursion my parent’s had sent me on, I met a fellow from Long Island who would introduce me to Priest and Maiden, and that was that. Summertime, an Aiwa cassette player, Prodigal Son from Iron Maiden’s “Killers” and the streets of New Orleans will forever remain burned in my mind. By 1984 I was heavily into Judas Priest and Maiden with a bit of Deep Purple to bridge the realities. Eventually I found Metallica and my road toward music creation and performance had a powerfully defining set of influences.

Firstly — I had been growing my hair and recall wanting to keep my hair long ( as practically most guys at the time did ) for a musician certainly needed long hair! Surprisingly — it was that simple. I could not imagine playing guitar or doing anything that would require major investment in gear. As free as possible was my unspoken rule.

I cannot recall ever saying to myself “You have to be a singer.”  but that is what I chose and that choice, while less noisy than drumming was fraught with inconveniences all its own.

I did not have any real support or interest from my family and I believe the avenue for communicating such a choice was non-existent. I was 19 going on __.

My earliest practice sessions were in my father’s car, later at night, while it was pulled out of the garage. During the day I would sometimes sing inside the house– my grandparents kept the television on so loud and my new pursuit did not upset them nearly as much as the drum set.

I really don’t know how much time I gave myself before I started investigating ads in the local musician newspaper, the East Coast Rocker. I do not have a richly detailed memory of my inspirations, driving force or events overall. I recall practicing in my sisters room from time to time. How many ads did I look into and call?

Eventually I convinced a guitarist to let me try out for his band. I was a really persistent, crazed  guy with no PA, mike or experience.

I did not make it into that group —  but that first action set into motion my career as a performer as well as the bifurcation of my life into one concerning art AND music.

My journey started out in metal, would lead to prog-funk infused metal, then to alt.rock influenced music and most recently back to hard rock/stoner rock.

The earliest years were the most undefined.

I would rehearse for more than a year in a basement in Middletown NJ, with a band featuring a guitarist who couldn’t be satisfied with a solo, a group that would never reach a proper club stage.

Connections began to develop slowly. I migrated to join a band in Old Bridge, NJ: Elysium. That band gave me my first real gig experience, our first show at the old Fastlane in Asbury Park and future shows at several clubs now long gone. I kept learning and practicing and recording. Music, would dominate my day to day, eclipsing my art “pursuits.” Elysium would open for more than a few national acts, such as Pantera, Suicidal Tendencies, Savatage, Trouble and others — does anyone remember Wrathchild America?

I went on to front other bands and endured some periods where my musical activity slowed to a stand-still. I jammed in more than a few garage bands. For a while I was relegated to home recording or jamming locally with friends, some of whom played in “cover bands.” I have never chosen the “cover band” route. In the Tri-State US — the players in a cover band can make a good living, playing the songs of other bands, week in and week out at clubs at the Jersey Shore and other bars across the area catering to such entertainment. Original music is a harder road to take for some and for others an exercise in total futility. I played in some one-off situations, like that one gig at the Brighton with A Thousand Knives of Fire that no one remembers.

My most recent band was Riotgod, one that provided a few Euro-mini-tours, a few albums and eventual implosion. That band stood a better than average chance of seriously moving up before differences in professional direction and other barriers proved insurmountable. I am working on a page for just that experience, which will be linked to in the future from the Riotgod page.