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Entry date: 3-11-2022 - Early days of Hillbilly Pt. 2 - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

When we left off, we were looking for some bandmates. We had a few drummers reach out. One of which was Tom Coffeen from a band called Beats the Hell Out of Me. He played guitar in that band but was looking to get some drums going and we jammed together. It was not a fit, but I liked Tom a lot and wanted it to work out. I thought it would have been great to be in a band with him, but Terry wanted a more seasoned drummer.

We also jammed with Dan Clark of Feederz/Victory Acres notoriety. Dan saw our add and thought he could do the bass on a keyboard and add other sounds. I was blown away meeting he and Mary at their house in central Phoenix, but also got the vibe they were looking for a guitar player for a project for them and weren’t really into being in a band with me. It was cool to hang with them, though, but we kept looking. I later learned that Dan invited Terry to come back and jam and hang with them, but I was not included. I forgive him, though.

Then we found EJ Trbovic who would later be known only as “The Boy.” Well, that’s what we put on our eventual records. EJ was a ferocious hitter and self-taught, so he had a unique style. I loved it and really enjoyed getting to know him. EJ had been in a local band called Royce Union and liked a lot of the same music I do. We just needed a bass player.

I had been going to ASU and would often hang out at Eastside Records when my last class got out so I could avoid driving home in rush hour traffic. I bought a lot of music there and got to know Geoff Saari, who worked there in those days and steered me towards a ton of good stuff. I had been telling Geoff about my project and he said he played bass and was interested in jamming. If I remember correctly, Geoff and EJ knew each other, too.

We got together several times at Geoff’s house in Tempe and tried to make things work. At this point, Terry and I had a good handful of songs we were working on, so material was not an issue. There were two main issues: Geoff and Terry had very different visions of what the band should be, and they did not like each other. I also mentioned in a previous blog that I enjoyed playing Geoff’s Rickenbacker a lot during breaks. When it became very clear that Geoff was not a fit, and this was from both sides of the coin, I tossed out there the idea of me playing bass.

EJ and Terry were down for being a power trio and we all recognized we had some good chemistry. I bought a Rickenbacker 4001 series and the same model Ampeg bass amp I play today, and we got going. At first, we jammed at Easy Street on Saturday afternoons and eventually decided to get a practice room where we could keep our equipment and start getting serious about writing our songs. Of course, the name came, too, while we were still using the Easy Street dining room to jam. By the end of 1993, we were on our way to becoming a real band and #16 at the 23rd and Palm Lane Francisco Studios played a huge roll in that.

As 1993 turned to 1994, we moved into our practice room. It was a big space, and at the time, I think we paid $150 a month for it. On the west wall were giant mirrors. This became a bit of an issue for Terry as he had that condition related to not being able to look away when he would catch his own gaze in the mirror. Some people might call it a body dysmorphic disorder nowadays, but then we just thought it was funny and a little disconcerting when Terry did it.

At first, we practiced every other day. That seems like so much now. I didn’t really have a ton going on in 1994. I was going to ASU during the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays and working at Easy Street Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I was sober except for a budding caffeine addiction and Terry and the Boy didn’t really have a ton going on either outside of their day jobs, so it was a perfect storm. I was the only one with a girlfriend, but Alexa and I were really just roommates in those days.

Looking back, it was necessary in many ways for us to work so hard. Our practices would be three or four hours at a time. Sometimes we would jam for a few hours, go get some coffee and then jam another couple of hours. We liked the place on 3rd Ave and McDowell that looked like a little house. I’m sure the name will come to me eventually, but whatever. We liked to go there and talk about our band.

Practicing that much, we were prolific in our writing. We had so many songs. As with almost all Hillbilly stuff, most of these early songs were very simple with the goal of being heavy, brutal, and noisy. They had names like “Bouncy Ball,” “Rough Kitchen Sex,” and “Jebac Mozga” which was Serbian, I think, for “Brain fucker.” I got most of my lyric ideas from reading the news or just whatever weird stuff came from my head when we were playing. At some point we switched out the white lights in the practice room with a blue and red one and brought in a strobe light.

I remember playing so loud, at times, that it would start to feel like I was on a drug, even though I had been sober for several years by then. The room would start to tilt in the 3-D themed lighting and the strobe light would be doing its thing. I’d also have some crazy vocal effect repeating on my delay boxes and we would be thinking of how much we wanted to either annoy the fuck out of people or blow their minds or both.

See you tomorrow.

another old song...this one made it on to a cd.

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