I called Jamie up and told him that I had bought a drum machine. I asked him if he wanted to come over and give it a whirl. He came over to my house and we set up in the basement. He brought his bass and amp and I plugged my guitar and the drum machine both into my amp. I had the reverb turned to a medium level and so it made the drums and my guitar both echoey. We played our song “Nirvana” that was a rip off of Play For Today by The Cure; the one that we had been doing with Kate. But since there was no more Kate, there were no more lyrics. It sounded cool because even though The Cure had a drummer, it kind of sounds like a drum machine on their second, third and fourth albums. We tried a few other things. It sounded cool for medium tempo, soft rock or pop songs. We played our reggae/rock A minor thing that we had been doin’ and it was pretty mediocre sounding. I showed Jamie how to work the thing. He cranked it all the way up to punk rock speed. We ripped along with some of the heavier, more aggressive things we’d messed with, but it kinda sounded crappy.
He kept telling me it sounded like Foetus, but I didn’t know what that meant. He said it was kinda like Big Black too, but I hadn’t heard them yet either. It may seem silly, but part of what was getting on my nerves so bad was that when I wanted to end a song, I had no way of getting the drum machine to stop when we stopped. It kept playing until I reached over and hit the stop button. Looking back, I could have bought a pedal that you plug in that starts and stops it, I could have hooked it up to a volume pedal, I could have learned to program whole songs with endings instead of just programming patterns. As we already established, I was kind of a half ass at life and there was no internet yet so everything seemed about two or three times harder than it is.
Overall, It was kind of a drag. Like I said, if it was medium tempo and not trying to be too heavy, it was cool. We did a run through of Kick In The Eye by Bauhaus and Floorshow by The Sisters Of Mercy and they sounded great. It woulda been cooler with reverb drenched sexy Kate vocals, but nobody had heard from her since our last get together at the insulation warehouse a few weeks prior. To me, it sounded alright. However, every time we tried to rock out a bit, it sounded stupid and limp. I was afraid to even turn the thing up too loud because I didn’t want to destroy my guitar amp. I probably could have made it a LOT louder. It was a Peavey. They’re like Toyotas, friggin’ indestructible. I knew by the end of the session that this was no way to have a band. If I was in sync with the New Jack Swing that was dominating every facet of American pop life at that time, I might have been on to something. If I understood the Manchester based Acid House thing that was at that very moment breaking out and kicking off a whole new wave of Brit-Pop, I might have started down the road to something relevant, but I didn’t and I wasn’t.
In order to have the kind of experience I was after, I’d have to find a drummer. The drummer is the goblet the entire band gets poured into. Shitty goblet-shitty band. No goblet at all? No band, really. You could maybe practice that way, but you can’t get on a stage with a goddamned drum machine. What was I thinking?
A few weeks later, my girlfriend, Stacey Marbles told me that her dad, who was a school teacher at Northeast High, got us some tickets to see their school’s production of Little Shop Of Horrors. I thought that sounded great. I had seen the original movie with Jack Nicolson a few years earlier and dug it in it’s dingy B-movie splendor. Then, when they re-made it as a musical with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, I saw that too and thought it was silly and fun. Plus, I liked high school theater. My all boy high school had so little interest in drama because it was so homophobic, that when they tried to stage a play, they had to do Wait Until Dark because it only has 3 people in the whole thing, and the lead had to be trucked in from our sister school, Little Flower!
Their Little Shop Of Horrors production was fabulous! All the actors were really good. They sang really well and you could hear them perfectly. It was funny, but not corny. The killer plant was a giant puppet and really well done. Top notch all around. The MUSIC was really amazing. It was a live band down in the orchestra pit playing the rolling rock and roll score. The music from Little Shop Of Horrors is that throwback 50’s sound like Sha Na Na, and The Grease Band or early Blondie and Fun Boy Three. It was drums, bass, guitar, and piano and it was perfect, It was crisp and loud and clear, but it didn’t over power the actors singing onstage. I think they were all mic’d with some kind of wireless, clip on jammies.
I sat there thinking to myself, Man, if I could only get a drummer like that guy. He gets it totally. I’d be able to make the most well loved, sophisticated, yet accessible and instantly lovable pop music. Not this garbage they’re playing on MTV. Not this Unskinny Bop, or this goddamned C&C Music factory that won’t go away. Not this Stevie B or this Tony! Toni! Tone!. Not this Keith Sweat or goddamned Marky Mark and the fuckin Funky Bunch, but something real, something that came from what I felt about myself and the world, as well as all the rock and roll that I had loved up until that point.
I decided that I was gonna talk to the drummer after the show. I had it in my head for a moment that maybe it was all adults down there in the pit, like maybe the school had brought in pro musicians to accompany the show. They were that good that I had that ridiculous thought. Then I came to my senses and remembered that Northeast High had an awesome music program. Why the hell would they hire anybody. Duh.
I thought, man if only Erik could have played the drums like that and not have been a nazi skinhead, we’d have been set. If only. I imagined all of the dreamy Phil Spector Shan Gri La sounding shit I could write. Surely a drummer this good could also play like Bauhaus and The Police and Crimpshrine.
The show ended and Mr. Marbles was wandering around talking to some of his students and their parents and congratulating the cast members on their fine work. I told Stacey that I wanted to go introduce myself to the band and try to poach their drummer. She shrugged and sat in her seat sulking.
As I approached the orchestra pit I literally could not believe what I saw. Packing up the drum kit was Erik. I stood in disbelief. He was wearing a blue bomber jacket and black Doc Martins (with black laces). Incongruously, he was wearing wire framed book worm glasses and he had grown a little elvish beatnik, commie mustache and beard.
Then he introduced me to his Puerto Rican girlfriend, Lauren.