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Entry date: 4-28-2024 – Handy is Dandy – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I am handy, I guess. I mean, it took the majority of my Saturday, but I got cement board up in the bathroom, for the most part. This morning, I will make some built in shelves for shampoo and such. It will probably be a little bit of an adventure but, if I can get past these muscle aches, I’ll get it done.

 

***** 

 

I predict the Suns will lose by about 40 points tonight. Why wouldn’t they bow out by getting their collective asses kicked three years in a row. I also think the Timberwolves would enjoy destroying the Suns.

 

Part of me is really hoping this is it. Clearly, I can’t turn off my inner Suns fan. I have watched all three playoff games, but these were the first three games I have watched in their entirety this year. I believe I can turn off my inner fan during the offseason and this might be a good first step towards a more semi-permanent divorce.

 

I’m pretty sure I will always be somewhat interested in what they are doing, but I can see achieving casual fan status at some point. I also don’t think I will be following any other teams, either. I’d rather sit down and write than watch a game at this point.

 

***** 

 

During this time of listening to a lot of music and writing about it, it’s made me want to write more about the records I’ve made myself. So, in the spirit of local music Sundays, below some weirdness I need to share is the story of the first recording I ever made that was released to the public.

 

*****

 

I am pretty sure I saw a dead body yesterday at Fry’s on 19th Ave and Glendale. I stopped there around 5:15PM to pick up some drinks (needed some electrolytes) and such and noticed a Hyundai parked near me that was running. Ordinarily, this is not such a big deal, but something struck me about it.

 

I went in and did my shopping. I was probably there for about ten minutes, maybe 15, and went back out to the car. The Hyundai was still there and still running. I think it was one of the electric ones because it was super quiet. I had to walk right next to it to put my cart in the cart rack and I noticed there was an older lady in the driver seat slumped over in a way that did not say, “I’m having a nap.”

 

I didn’t want to scare the shit out of her in case she was just waiting for someone inside the store and had dozed off, but it freaked me out. My gut said, “She’s dead.” There is always a police office at Fry’s, so I walked over to the (I’m assuming) off-duty officer and told them what I had noticed and my concerns.

 

He kind of looked at me like I was a nut but said he would check it out. I’m pretty certain that he found a dead lady. I hope I’m wrong, though.

 

*****

 

The first time I ever went into a recording studio, it was with a version of Religious Skid that never even played a show together. My buddy, Paul, was taking audio engineering during his senior year of high school and asked us to be his final project. We got this dude, Colin, to play guitar, and had Steve Ady on drums. Tom Stewart was on bass, and I was singing.

 

I was so nervous. I ended up singing the song, “I Cried At Your Funeral” (which was a terrible name and definitely not one of the best Religious Skid songs) doing an impersonation of John Lydon. I did an awful job. One of the teachers said to Paul, “It’s strange. The singer sounds American when he talks but sings British.”

 

 

Fast forward about five years and I found myself at Blue Sky Studios in Mesa recording four songs for BGR Records out of Nottingham, England, UK. How this came about is really pretty simple, but it’s also pretty cool. We had gotten an offer to put the 7” out right about the same time we started playing out in public.

 

During 1993, EJ Trbovic, Terry Ciarlino, and I got pretty serious about Hillbilly Devilspeak, although we didn’t have that name yet. We were practicing at Easy Street for a bit on Saturday afternoons, but before long, it was time to get a practice room, so we rented a space at Francisco Studios on 23rd Avenue and Palm Lane. It’s hard to believe that I first went there over thirty years ago.

 

When we rented the room, we started practicing three or four times a week. I was going to ASU, working at Easy Street, and doing the band. I was living with Alexa, but I was probably not the best boyfriend. I was also sober, so playing loud, weird music was my drug. I was definitely substituting rock and roll for beer and weed.

 

We wrote so many songs. I think at one point between 1993 and 1995 I counted them up and we played about 50 different songs live in our first couple of years of playing out around town. I think we probably had about 25 more that we never tried in front of an audience. We were playing so much, and I was a new bass player that I was just a riff machine.

 

Terry had a four-track recorder that used cassettes, so somewhere I have some of these early songs on tapes, but I don’t have a cassette player anymore. I don’t even know where a lot of these tapes are. As I type, I think I may have tossed a bunch of them about ten years ago.

 

My best friend at the time, Alex, was in town for long periods of time not doing much and would come to our practices here and there. At some point towards the end of 1993 or early 1994, Alex said we should record a demo and he would twiddle the knobs for us. We jumped at the chance.

 

We rented an ADAT from the Les Payne dudes (James and Christopher) and Alex set up in the practice room early on a weekend morning when there would be no other bands playing. We knocked out about six songs, I think, and one of them was “Revenge of the Micronauts.”

 

I had come up with the main riff for “Revenge of the Micronauts” not too long before we made that demo. We were all pretty stoked on it. The song is basically the same riff played two slightly different ways. One way is the verse, and the other way is the chorus. Ciarlino put a cool harmonic riff on top of my bass line and some crazy guitar riffs and EJ played the perfect drum beat.

 

Alex was heading back to England soon to record the next Fudge Tunnel record, which I think was The Complicated Futility of Ignorance, and he took a copy of our demo with him. While he was there, he played it for his bandmate, Dave Ryley, who played bass in Fudge Tunnel and had a small label, BGR Records. Dave liked it a lot and said he wanted to put out a 7” of “Revenge of the Micronauts.”

 

Alex called me and asked if we were interested in doing a record for BGR. I flipped out. It was one of the coolest moments of my life at that point. He put Dave on the phone, and we talked about the plan. We would be able to record four songs and Alex would produce and engineer when he got back from doing the Fudge Tunnel record.

 

Dave gave us a small budget, too, which was great. We found Blue Sky, which was owned by this cool dude, Stu Baker, who is now a stand-up comedian. He was willing to let us have the studio for a weekend for pretty cheap. I think it was like $200 or something because Alex was going to be doing everything.

 

We went into Blue Sky over a weekend in the summer of 1994 and recorded the four songs that are on the 7”: “Revenge of the Micronauts,” “Hillbilly Devilspeak,” “Paedophile,” and “Restraining Order.”

 

The studio itself was in the garage of Stu’s home. You could park on the street and load gear and such through a door on the side. It was pretty decently sized with a vocal room and some hidey holes for the cabinets. There was a good amount of room for the drums and a nice sized control area and bathroom.

 

I enjoyed watching Alex work. He was still fairly new at the engineering thing, but he already seemed to know a lot about it from where I was sitting. I remember being so excited to play the songs. We were ready and the songs, if you’ve heard them, are pretty darn simple, but I like to think they are kinda catchy.

 

“Revenge of the Micronauts” was a lyric I came up with thinking about how Micronauts were kind of b-list toys when I was younger. I had a few Micronauts over the years and liked them and had started scatting over the riff, “Sell me some…” and  I would add different toys and things before screaming, “Sell me those…Mi-cro-nauts.”

 

The chorus is “Play with me, play with me/kill your friends and family/burn your home/revenge of the Micronauts.” It’s kind of a dark song, I suppose, but I really wasn’t trying to make any sort of comment here except that sometimes even the most innocuous things can be part of a greater good (or bad).

 

One of the verses is about Kurt Cobain whose death was super fresh on my mind at the time. “Sell me some heroin/sell me some Nirvana records/sell me some shot gun shells/revenge of the micronauts!” A little tribute, I suppose. I think Dave kind of liked the words, too, so that was a plus.

 

The second song on side one is one that became the name of the band. “Hillbilly Devilspeak” was a simple riff that Ciarino came up with that I put lyrics to and came up with a chorus part, as well. It was about a night I spent in San Franscisco after a Grateful Dead show in Oakland. I was super high and having some pretty severe audio hallucinations.

 

I described what I heard to EJ and Terry and called it “Hillbilly Devilspeak.” They both thought that was pretty cool. A song and a band were born. We decided to record it for BGR.

 

“Halloween in Oaktown/Grateful Dead acid clowns/Ridin’ back to Frisco/on the Bart, don’t you know/hallucinating country stars/I’m walking past those darkened bars/I’m all alone smoking opium/waitin’ for the devil to come for me.”

 

That’s the first verse. I honestly can’t quite remember the second and it’s not on the internet anywhere. I’d have to play the record. I’m lazy.

 

Side two is basically two songs that are one-riff on the bass each. “Paedophile” is one that we’ve revived in the last year. I play the same thing all the way through, but the drums and guitars change. The only lyrics are screams and the word, “Pedophile” said over and over during one part.

 

Dave spelled it the English way for the 7” cover. It goes right into a song called “Restraining Order.” It’s another one that I played the same thing all the way through and shouted, “Restraining Order” here and there. We haven’t played it, except for maybe at the first “final” show in 2005, in about 28 years.

 

At the end of “Restraining Order,” we put in a lock groove so that a bit of delayed noise would just loop forever until whoever was listening would get up and turn it off. The New Times reviewer said we did it so “people wouldn’t forget to take it off.” I think he was being cheeky.

 

We got some good reviews for it, though, and I was super proud of it. It also got one really bad review in Kerrang! Magazine. Alex was friends with a gal that worked there, but she didn’t end up getting the 7” and some dude who was a huge fan of Iron Maiden did the review. I have a copy in my box of Hillbilly treasure.

 

What a fun first record to make.

 

*****

See you tomorrow.



AI is fucking weird today.

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