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Entry date: 6-2-2024 – Sunday Morning Breakdown – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


It’s a tile day.


Yesterday I was riled up from working on the shed and posted some political thoughts. I said some not nice things about democrats and people were upset. I’m to the point, though, where I think all politicians are evil. Obviously, the Trumparians are a special lot, but I definitely opened a can of worms.


Maybe it was spill over from being an invisible man the night before at Guitar Wolf. It occurred to me that what my buddy Nick told me years ago about having one of those faces that the CIA would have loved is really true. People I’ve known for years walked right past me without saying hello.


Grow your hair and a beard and no one recognizes you.


I do feel invisible, though, as an American. Maybe that’s a good thing. We shall see.




Long record post today…




Part two of getting high on my own supply: Colorized.


After the relative obscurity that followed the Revenge of the Micronauts EP, my band, Hillbilly Devilspeak, focused on playing gigs for the next few years. Eventually we added a fourth member, Mr. Smith (AKA Trent Pittard), who played in a Chandler-based band, Unthinkables, that we really liked. We had become friends and it seemed like it would be a good thing to add him to the band.


For me, I was hoping Trent would help out with writing songs and add some extra vocals. As much as I loved the idea of the Speak being a power trio, I felt like we could be better as a four-piece. We had a shitload of songs, so recording a full-length album was inevitable. Trent helped make that happen.


As we got the songs together that we decided to record, we arranged for my pal, Alex Newport, to come back to town and twiddle the knobs again at Blue Sky Studios where we recorded the first EP. Because of limited time and funds, we knocked out the eight tracks that make up the CD pretty quickly.


We practiced a lot in those days, plus we played a lot of shows, so we were very tight. I think you can hear that on the CD. I have to say I’m really proud of this one. It’s my second full-length record and for the most part, I think it holds up pretty well.


It starts off with “Casa Bravo” which may be the best, true punk rock song I ever wrote. It got us our one gig at Gilman Street, and I still love playing to this day. The lyrics, unfortunately, are still true. I’ve always been keen on writing about politics and lies.



Tax the rich by granting opportunities

feed the poor with a mouthful of lies

I can’t be a part of your majority when real morality is what you despise


Chorus: Now, show your colors/ This is America/Land of opportunity/Home of the brave


When the government controls the class war by supporting those with more than they need

Our tax dollars pay for mediocrity

under the weight of so much greed




I live in America

so why should I complain?

I’m told I have the right to, but I do it in vain

So, I’ll question authority

until the day I cannot

If it’s blood they want

it’s blood they’ve got


Don’t look away when opposition faces you

Look those bastards right in the eye

Your opinion counts if you believe it’s true

Don’t follow others just so you get by


The drums and guitars on “Casa Bravo” turned out great. Trent and Terry “The Great” Ciarlino got really good at playing off each other. EJ Trbovic (AKA The Boy) did some incredible work in the studio over that first day where we tracked almost all of the songs.


Alex was big on recording things as live as possible and with our limited budget that’s what we could afford to do. Thanks to EJ for being on it. I haven’t thought about those days for a long time, but we were in there together doing our thing and it was great.


“Stemmed It” was next, and it is just a short, punk rock blast about suicide. I don’t remember it being about anyone in particular. I read a lot and, at the time, was watching a bunch of people I knew going through some rough stuff with drugs, so I was probably worried about the fact that I thought people I loved were committing some long form suicide. I remember Ciarlino being particularly fond of this one.


“Head Cleaner” is another favorite of mine that we still play. It’s simple and pretty brutal. I had watched the film, The Professional, with Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman, and liked that it referred to hitmen as “Cleaners.” I coupled that with the cassettes you would get to clean the heads of your cassette players, and voila! A song title was born.


The lyrics are about the struggle of being yourself in a sea of people that want you to be like them. I love how the guitars sound on it. Hat tip to Mr. Newport. EJ is also just killing it on the recording, too. Over the years, we’ve made a few minor tweaks to it here and there, but it sill remains pretty true to this recorded version.


“Brains” was one that we had been playing for a few years. Ciarlino had taped this great sermon off the TV about being “Brainwashed by the word of God.” He looped this part about needing to “be brainwashed” that went “But you know what we need sometimes, we need to be brainwashed. Our brains need to be washed.” It’s perfect.


Alex had given me an Alesis Quadraverb that he had used for guitar effects on one of the Fudge Tunnel records and I used one of the settings he made to get the gnarly vocal sounds. At the time, I had a whole rack of effects and I dialed in some crazy sounds and delays to use. It was really fun to manipulate the vocals in the studio there at Blue Sky. I went a little nutty. It’s another super simple riff, but it works. We still play this one a lot, too.


Track five is “Chew Well.” Oddly enough, a lot of people really liked this one. It was a little softer than most of our stuff and made for a nice palate cleanser on the CD and live. It was one that was inspired directly by a news story I read about a meth head who stayed up too long and thought he was a lion. The guy ended up attacking his mother and biting her enough to do some significant damage.


I enjoyed playing this one a lot. We have played it here and there in the last five years, but not recently. We could do it pretty well, I think, with Liam in the band. In typical Hillbilly fashion, it is basically one riff that we play loud and quiet and then speed up a bit while I tell the story of the “lion” stalking his prey.


“Glad” comes next. Trent sings the main vocal part on this one. It is a riff that we came up with after he joined the band and it is about my disappointment in not being selected to join a band I had tried out for so I wrote the lyrics, “I’m not bitter because I’m better than you.” Over time, though, it became about a lot more than just that disappointing experience and I added the speech over the noisy middle part.


That speech is another one aimed at some of the folks in my life who were struggling with various forms of addiction in those days. Trent sings it so well that I don’t miss singing it myself, but I still feel a great deal of emotional release when we play it. Liam has been playing The Great Ciarlino’s part lately and doing a great job of it.


“Glad” is a song that a lot of people have come up to me over the years and said how they could identify with it, too. That’s been very gratifying. I think all of us have felt this way many times, probably…but I’m not bitter at all anymore.


“Polanski” is about Roman Polanski. I think it came from talking about the acclaimed/reviled director at practice one time and I just started scat singing about him when we were working on the riff. I always liked the riff because it is not super easy to play, but it allowed me to stretch my fingers out a little bit.


“Rosemary’s Baby’s so nice/You can’t do that one twice.”


I’ve always been proud of that particular lyric. The Great Ciarlino is on fire here, too.



The last ‘official’ song on the CD is “Mistake” and that’s one that Trent and I collaborated on. I don’t think we’ve played it more than a couple times live, if at all. Maybe at the CD release show. Lyrically, I like it a lot. I remember sitting at the kitchen table in the apartment I lived in with my ex-wife in Ahwatukee with Trent figuring out the lyrics.


We figured out a pretty nifty way to sing it together and have a little call and response on the chorus. We tried to get philosophical with the lyrics and when I’m listening now, I don’t remember what we were trying to say here. It’s a pretty cool riff, though.


The eight songs that we recorded at Blue Sky go by pretty fast, so we decided to add a few demos that Alex had recorded with us previously that sounded pretty good. The first of the four is “Koresh.”


I had written “Koresh” in 95 or 96 after Waco had happened and I saw a news thing on the national news about a young lady who had gotten pulled out of the Branch Davidian compound by her father prior to the assault. She was interviewed or testified before congress, and it was a pretty harrowing story.


Sure, there were a few liberties taken with the lyrics, but it is pretty true to what she shared on the TV. It’s another simple, yet effective song. Ironically, even though I sing “You want to finger my pussy,” in the song, a lot of women really like it. I think maybe because I sing from the young lady’s perspective and people aren’t used to a male doing that.


It’s a powerful song, too, in its way and we still play it.


The next ‘bonus’ track is “Second Cousin.” This one was kind of a joke song at the time that I would not be super comfortable playing now. It’s about a man having sex with his black second cousin. I suppose I would get cancelled for it now, but it was actually a running joke between Alex and I about this whacked out doll he got for me on tour when Fudge Tunnel was somewhere in the south.


At the time, though, I thought I was being outrageous, and I probably was. We played “Second Cousin” live a lot. Ciarlino’s guitar work on it is pretty bad ass, as is the Boy’s drums. We were weird dudes and we played weird music.


Track 11 on the CD is “Rodman Vs. Soul.” I had a dream about Dennis Rodman and David Soul one night and it became a song. I also inserted a bunch of stuff about the film, Blue Velvet, and some other basketball references. What I really like about the song is the bass riff. It was noisy and cool.


I had a pretty cool reverb on my voice for that one. It’s funny, as I listen to these songs for the purpose of telling you this story, I can remember how I had all the different settings on my effects for each song. This one was a combination of a couple of reverbs, and I think a little bit of gate.


EJ played a pretty cool beat on “Rodman Vs. Soul,” too. I feel a lot of love for him and Ciarlino for being willing to go on these dark journeys with me. At the time I wrote this one, I was in the midst of years of sobriety. As I take the sober journey again, I find my desire to get weird with music coming back. What does that mean?


The last track is called, “Karen…You’re Lip-syncing Again.” It’s about Karen Carpenter and it is not particularly nice. It’s kind of a blatant Butthole Surfer rip off, but I love it, too. It’s this big noisy bass riff with some killer drums and guitar over it. We played it live a good number of times. It was part of a period in the early days of Hillbilly where I had a lot of songs that were people’s names.


We had “Adrienne Barbeau” which I don’t remember at all but was a crowd pleaser. We also had one called “Junius Wilson” that I remember liking a lot, too. I had watched a video of The Carpenters where they were blatantly lip-syncing, and the lyrics just grew from there. They are pretty mean.


Damn. I was horrible on this one. What was I so pissed off about? In reality, many things, but I also have a pretty dark sense of humor a lot of the time. Just another reason I could get cancelled, I suppose.


After we had it all done, I knew what I wanted the cover to be. I had gotten this 9x13 black and white photograph of an old vaudeville performer who was a blond woman with blue eyes who did blackface. Today, I don’t think I would have used it for the cover, but we were weird and kind of fucked up, so we figured, why not. There were only a few comments about it, too, back then.


The back cover art is from a book I got in the 80s that I can’t seem to find now, but it was called Taboo or something like that. It had a bunch of weird stuff in it and I stole images from it a lot. It looks like something Winston Smith might have drawn, but I don’t think it was his.


My friend, Blake, was making CDS in those days and he manufactured them for us but didn’t get them to us in time for our CD release party at Hollywood Alley, so we had a show that was celebrating the CD without there being any CDs there. Typical Hillbilly.


I am proud of it, though.




See you tomorrow.

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