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Entry date: 3-14-2022 - First Gigs and Such - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned, Hillbilly Devilspeak was cranking out song after song in the early part of 1994. When you play together about 20 hours a week, you come up with a lot of stuff. In those days, I didn’t see the point of softening edges or adding lots of bells and whistles. I was into blunt, noisy, loud, and raw.

My friend, Alex, had some spare time before he headed back to England to make a record with his band, Fudge Tunnel, so he hung out with us a bit in the HD practice room. He offered to help us make a demo tape, so we got some mics together and recorded in the practice room early one weekend day. We did this so there would not be anyone else practicing and we could avoid other sound bleeding through the walls.

We recorded a few of the songs we were most excited about at the time. “Revenge of the Micronauts” being the most ‘polished’ and ready to go. I had made a recording only once before, back in the Religious Skid days, and it was fun to watch Alex work. Even though he was just working with Terry’s four-track, it felt like we were doing something real and having him help us was great.

I bet I listened to that demo 1000 times if I listened to it once. I liked it a lot and would have been happy with it if it never went anywhere other than our collective cassette players. That was not the case, though.

Around the time we were about to do our first public performance, Alex called me from England and said that Dave, his bass player, wanted to put out a 7” featuring “Revenge of the Micronauts” and he was going to pay for Alex to record us when he got back to Phoenix. Dave had a record label named BGR Records and he had put out a few things.

We were fucking floored. We hadn’t even played a show yet and we were going to have a record coming out later in the year. It did a number on my head. I thought all kinds of things about how we were going to go to Europe and tour and put out tons of records. I was stoked my friend was going to record us in a proper studio. I thought Hillbilly was going to be way bigger than we ever actually got.

It also put a little chip on my shoulder. I had an attitude after that. It was a learning experience, for sure. The competitive side in me wanted to rub it in people’s noses and we hadn’t even played a show yet. Luckily, Terry had done some of these things before and reigned me in. I think he liked that I got a little cocky, but he also wanted me to know that having a 7”, even one that someone else paid for, was not anything to get all uppity about in those days.

We started talking to bands we knew about getting shows. Our neighbors across the hall in the practice space, Funnelneck, suggested that we head out to the Atomic Café, which was sort of a live venue/dance bar at the time on Roosevelt and Hayden (now it is Pub Rock), and do their open mic with them on a Thursday. They said it was fun and would be a good way to play a show without the pressure of playing a “first show.”

The guys in Funnelneck ended up being really good friends to us. We hung out with them outside of the practice room a bit and it was a lot of fun getting to know them. Mike, their bass player, even did some recording with us, too, when he was going to classes at Glendale Community. I miss running into those guys. It’s been forever.

In early April of 1994, we loaded up our gear and headed out to the Atomic Café. We were allowed to play four songs, so we played “Revenge of the Micronauts,” “Hillbilly Devilspeak,” “Restraining Order,” and “Pedophile.” These were the four songs we had chosen to record in a month or so when Alex got back. We also thought these were kind of the best of our first batch of songs. We were always working on new things, but these were ‘ready.’

I was so nervous. I had never played an instrument in front of a crowd before. Luckily, we were well oiled from so much practicing and things went well. The worst part of the experience was that Atomic Café didn’t really have a stage, so it was a weird, uncomfortable set up. I’m glad we did it, though, because it broke the ice, and we were ready for a real show. A bunch of my friends showed up to support us, too, and that was great.

In those days, I was still playing the Rickenbacker I got at the Bass Place in Glendale. Alex had given me an “I heart Satan” sticker and I slapped it on there. People seemed to notice it, if I remember correctly, and I liked that. I also had an Ampeg 8x10 speaker cabinet to go with my SVTIII pro head, so I was loud. I liked that, too. We were punishingly loud. Ciarlino turned up his Marshall half-stack and EJ could really hit the drums. Once you added in the noise from my effects rack, it could get a little crazy.

Our next gig (and first real show) was at the Mason Jar with a band called The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. They were a bunch of NYC weirdos and I liked them instantly. Their singer dressed up like a weird, witchy version of Karen Black with wild make up and a rather strange hairline. They had this small, Asian dude on guitar who was kind of a shredder, too. Another local band called The Swooping Monkey Bats played and that was the night I met my friend, Brew. If I remember correctly, we played another show with them soon after.

My first gig at the Jar was finally under my belt and Franco started calling me a lot. We had a decent turn out for us, considering it was our first real show, so we kind of became his go to ‘weird’ band for shows with weird bands. That ended up being a really good thing for Hillbilly Devilspeak. Oddly enough, Franco and I share the same birthday, so we are kindred spirits in a way.

See you tomorrow.

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