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Entry date: 3-10-2022 - Sure, You Know About The Name but What About the Band? Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

The trip down memory lane thinking about how the name Hillbilly Devilspeak came to be got me thinking about a lot of things. I’ve alluded to the early days of Hillbilly in previous blogs, especially the one from January 23, but I haven’t really gotten into the history of the band. This might be another three-to-ten-part story. Who knows…?

In 1992 I was ready to be in a band again. I’d had a few misses since the end of Religious Skid in 1989 and wanted, badly, to be part of a band again. I would watch the ads in the back of the New Times for people who needed a singer or collaborator each week, but nothing ever popped up that made me want to reach out to anyone until Terry Ciarlino posted something that year.

The ad said something along the lines of: “Guitarist looking for band. Do you want to play music influenced by Ministry, Bauhaus, and Sonic Youth?” I was like, “Hell yes, I do” and answered the ad. Terry and I spoke on the phone and agreed to meet at the Tower Records in Tempe to talk. It was an awkward meeting, for sure, because Terry was an awkward dude, but we hit it off enough to set a time to get together and see what we could come up with the following Saturday.

I told him to pick me up at Easy Street around 2:30pm and he showed up in his parents Buick Skylark or something like that. A blue, four-door sedan that looked like everything else on the road. We talked music for awhile as I closed things up and headed to the condo I shared with my girlfriend, Alexa. Instantly I started to realize that Terry was not the average person.

First, he had that habit of driving like an elderly person, and he was all of 26 or 27 at the time. He would accelerate and then coast, accelerate then coast. I was never sure if this was just the way he drove or if he purposely did it to irritate whoever was riding with him. I’m guessing it was the way his father drove, too, but I never got to ride with his dad, who he was living with when we met.

It could have been his memory of a bad car accident, too. He had been living in the Dallas area and got t boned, I think, and was pretty jacked up for a while. He talked about on that first drive we took together, and I could tell it had fucked him up a bit. We also talked about his days in the band, Hash Palace, who had put out a record and a 7” during their time in the Dallas scene. They had some real success and even played with Nirvana at one point, so I was impressed.

We started writing songs in the spare room at the condo I lived in and getting together on just about every Saturday. Terry had a four-track recorder, and we would put down his guitar parts and my vocals and we had a good number of songs in a few months of writing together. I need to bust out my box of old, handwritten lyrics to remember some of the names of them. One, “Salvation,” had this great opening stanza:

“I sent away from magic powers, and I’ll got were rocks. I think I’ll throw them at somebody, maybe some big dumb old cowboy. People suck, pretty much, with all their ignorance and fear. (They) Hide behind their flags and gods wishing they weren’t queer.”

We never ended up putting that on anything that came out, but we were digging what was going on. We would make these demo recordings and then take them into the bedroom I shared with Alexa and listen to them on her stereo, which was one of those Sony all-in-one things. This is where I discovered that he could not stop himself from looking at his reflection if he happened to catch it in something. This happened a lot over the years I knew Terry and was always a bit distracting to me. I’m sure it was to him, too.

Over these months of working on songs and slowly integrating him into my life, Terry and I did become friends, too. He did have excellent taste in music, leaning towards things that were dark and weird and heavy, and he was a helluva guitar player. He had taken lessons for something like 20 years, he told me (a lot), and could play anything. When he was not motivated by his inner rage, he often sounded like one of the dudes in Pearl Jam. When he was irked, though, or challenged in some way, he would go off and play the most killer, crazy, wild guitar.

The guy was a master with the slide. Perhaps it was a Texas thing, but he made some of our early Hillbilly Devilspeak songs just sing with that slide. I wasn’t even playing bass at the very beginning. I would occasionally try to add some sort of rhythm guitar part and I think those attempts would just annoy him. He wanted to be the only guitar player in the band, and he was right about that. My chops would have just held him back.

After about six months, we decided to put another add in New Times to find a drummer and bass player. It seems so strange to type that now, but there we were in early 1993. I still wanted to be a guitar player/singer. We got several hits on our add, which read something along the lines of:

Bass player and drummer needed for noisy punk project. Think Ministry, Butthole Surfers, and Hammerhead.

Ciarlino insisted on including Ministry, which was fine, but the other two were all me. I was starting to stockpile rack mount and pedal effects to sing through like Gibby Haynes from the Surfers and I had bought a PA, too. Actually, I ended up buying two PA systems. The first one was a Kustom PA with the tuck and roll on the speaker towers. It was pretty lousy, but it did the trick a little bit. Then I found out that the dudes from Response/Chatterbox were selling their Peavey PA, so I bought that, too. I was happy to keep it in the family somewhat (and I still have it).

But I digress… I’m out of words for today. More to come.

See you tomorrow.

There is no Hillbilly Devilspeak available on Spotify but you can find some early stuff here:

That song is one of the oldest ones recorded in some fashion.

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