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Entry date: 3-12-2022 - Mind over Matter (An auxiliary HD story) - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


As I was writing yesterday, I realized there was something I should have mentioned about the early days of Hillbilly Devilspeak that I did not discuss and that is this: I didn’t know how to play bass.


I had messed around with my older brother from another mother Tom’s bass a lot during the Religious Skid days. I’d also always wanted to play bass but had somehow decided to try and learn guitar first. I bought my first guitar in 1988, which was an acoustic (previously mentioned in a prior blog), and then got my first electric in 1992(ish). Several friends taught me things, mostly Bill, and I played guitar a lot. Literally until my fingers would bleed.


I got good enough to come up with basic riffs. Very rarely, in fact, do I write songs on the bass. I write almost every song I write on a guitar to this day and that’s a lot of songs, riffs, etc. One thing, though, that was very difficult for me in those days was the idea of singing and playing guitar or bass at the same time. It seemed so difficult, and I was super frustrated by it.


I really struggled to get my head wrapped around it. I would try to sing and play at home, alone, and just beat myself up because I couldn’t get my mouth to form words and my vocal cords to push them out and keep my hands doing what I wanted them to do. I watched videos of musicians doing what I wanted to do and try and see if there was a technique they used. It didn’t help. There was no internet yet that I had access to so I couldn’t watch a YouTube video and learn anything. I was kind of fucked.


One day, though, I was driving home from Easy Street which was on 24th Street and Osborn heading north on 24th street to Missouri where I would go west at around 4:30pm. Traffic was just starting to get going, but I knew that once I got on Missouri and headed to 19th avenue, I would be fine. In those days, Missouri was a bit of a forgotten street during rush hour, and you could get across midtown really fast, especially when you hit the lights just right. Some urban planners had done a great job with that, so kudos to them. Of course, though, now people know about this and Missouri sucks to drive on like all the rest of the streets at rush hour.


So, I’m driving down the road and listening to something on my cassette player in my truck or the radio and I’m singing along, and it hit me. I have my life in my hands when I’m driving. My hands are doing one thing, my feet are doing another (and my truck was a standard transmission, so there was shifting involved), and I’m singing. If I can do that, I can certainly sing and play bass. My life is not at risk when I do that, right?


This relieved the mental block almost instantly and I began to see a lot of improvement in my ability to sing and play. It still wasn’t very good, but I felt better. Then one day at practice at Easy Street, Terry said, “You’re struggling with that one. I think I’ll try and sing it.”


He might as well as whipped his dick out and pissed on my parade right there. I have a small, no, large competitive streak in me. If I am challenged by someone who wants to take my job, position, role, whatever, I step up. I got pissed and said, “Fine, go ahead” but I was seething. I respected Terry’s guitar prowess, for sure, and he had done way more than I had done musically, but in my head, I knew that was a bad idea. EJ was looking at me like, “Oh no” but I moved the mic over to him let him have a go.


It didn’t go well, and he never sang another note in the band. I took the mic back after his attempt and proceeded to knock it out of the park on our next go at the song. From that point forward, my confidence only grew as a bassist/singer/shouter. Sure, I was hiding behind effects a lot of the time in those early days of the band. I could get my weird noises going or put some crazy reverb/delay/distortion mix on there, but as my confidence grew, I used my own voice more and more.


I will say that Terry and EJ were super supportive of me and part of the reason why we practiced so much is that we all wanted to start doing gigs and I needed to get my sea legs underneath me. If we would have gotten another singer or another bass player, I’m sure we would have been playing out way before we did. EJ and Terry and I were a band for over a year before we played a show. In fact, I think only a few people actually saw us play together prior to April of 1994 when we played did our first live performance. Probably only my friend Alex, my girlfriend Alexa, a few of our neighbors down at the practice room (what’s up, Funnelneck?), and maybe a few other friends of mine.


As I mentioned yesterday, we were down there rocking at full volume every other day. Some of the songs we were doing then made it to our first 7” and our first CD, but most of them are probably lost t the music universe at this point. I have a few cassettes somewhere, I think, that have some of our earliest demos recorded on Terry’s four-track, but I have no idea where they are or if they would even play at this point. I don’t even have a cassette player anymore.


We were about ready, though, to play some shows and then Alex offered to record us.


See you tomorrow.


Just wanted to stop posting pics of myself for at least a day.

This is a live set with us a four-piece. Still pretty early on....I'll tell you about "Mr. Smith" soon.

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