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Entry date: 3-16-2022 - A Mishmash of Hillbilly Stuff - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Being around world class musicians can sometimes be really inspiring and sometimes be completely deflating. I’m guessing it’s like that for just about anyone who occasionally gets to rub shoulders with their heroes. For example, I can’t imagine what it must be like for a rookie in the NBA to find themselves guarding Lebron James.

When I got into writing for the New Times, I had no idea it would become what it has become. Sometimes I’ll be listening to the radio while driving somewhere and realize, I interviewed that person. Between opening for great bands and doing interviews, I’ve been really fortunate to meet a lot of my heroes and the vast majority of them have been really cool.

I’ve been telling you the story of the early days of Hillbilly Devilspeak and where I left off a couple days ago was the beginning of a great run we had in the mid-90s of playing a lot of supporting slots for bands I like or even love. I used to have a pretty long list of all the national and international acts we played with on the HD myspace page. Thinking back to the first year, I think we opened for Greg Ginn at the Mason Jar fairly early on. I would pester Franco for a slot on all the shows I wanted to play or get to see for free.

Ginn was kind of an asshole. When we got to the Jar, he was finishing up his soundcheck. He had these massive amps and drums on the stage that left us with not a whole lot of room to put our gear, but whatever. We were stoked to be playing with him. I introduced myself and he was not exactly friendly, but he stood there and watched our whole set. I felt like we were doing something right.

During that first year as a live band, our 7” came out and it helped us get some better gigs and a few reviews, as well. The New Times review was sort of favorable, I think, but in a backhanded snarky way. We got shredded in Kerrang! Magazine by a writer who was probably a huge Iron Maiden fan. It was a lot of fun seeing people react to us having a 7” and being a brand-new band. We got our first gig at Boston’s, if I remember correctly, due to having a record to share with them, although I can’t remember who we played with now.

We recorded the four songs that were on the Micronauts 7” at Blue Sky in Mesa. It was owned by a really cool guy, Stu Baker, and he was cool with us bringing our own engineer, which was Alex, to the recording. BGR had given us a small budget, I think $400, and we were able to get three days, I think, for that since Stu was just opening the door for us. Stu had some sort of a handicap and struggled to walk a bit, but he had built a nice little studio in his garage. It was plenty big enough for us to make a racket in there and I think he got a kick out of what we did. It was great fun to work with Alex, too. When the person at the knobs is one you trust, it makes the studio time so much better.

We recorded “Revenge of the Micronauts,” “Hillbilly Devilspeak,” “Restraining Order,” and “Paedophile” (which apparently is the British spelling), with the first two being the A-side and the second on the B-side. We also put a noisy bit on the end of “Paedophile” that found its way into a locked groove so it would just repeat over and over until you turned it off. I’d like to think some people listened to it for a long time before realizing it was just repeating the same thing over and over.

“Micronauts” was just a weird riff that I came up with one day and the boys liked it. Very angular with starts and stops and I sort of chant the lyrics about selling me things like frozen bananas or matchbox cars before I would yell, “Sell me those Micronauts.” There was one verse about Kurt Cobain where I said to sell me some heroin, shotgun shells, and Nirvana records before the Micronauts line. That was probably the most popular song we had for a long time.

“Hillbilly Devilspeak” was about the Grateful Dead trip in 1991. The lyrics were something like, “Halloween in Oaktown/Grateful Dead acid clowns/riding back to Frisco/On the BART, don’t you know/Hallucinating country stars/walking past those darkened bars/I’m all alone smoking opium/waiting for the devil to come for me….” It was another riff that I came up with that was sort of a tribute to the first riff I ever played on the guitar for another person. It revolved around G, and I can still sort of remember how to play it even though I haven’t played it in almost 20 years.

“Restraining Order” and “Paedophile” were just heavy riffs that I chanted the song titles over. Super obnoxious, really, but kind of fun riffs to play. Reviewers were not particularly kind about them, but we didn’t care. We were doing what we wanted to do. Sure, I would have loved to have gotten some better reviews, but for a first record out there in the world, it was cool.

That first year, we only played the Jar, Boston’s, and the Pussycat Pharmacy, which was a space run by my friend, Amy. That show was called Arizona’s most hated bands and it was us, Captain Crust and The Supernaturals, Fork, and Unthinkables. Fork was the best of the heavy, noisy bands in town in those days and I was stoked to play with them. They got to play all the cool shows, especially the good ones that Medical Records was putting on, but eventually we started getting some of those shows, too.

The guys in Captain Crust and Unthinkables ended up being good friends of ours and still are. Trent, who would join us as the second guitar player in HD was in Unthinkables and Jx from Captain Crust became my eventual bandmate in Bourbon Witch. We also played together in an early version of Mouthbreather, too. I think I only practiced with them a few times, though.

1995 was a game changer, though.

See you tomorrow.

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