Coast to Coast Truck and Trailer
It’s the end of summer, 1985, and I’m
standing in the doorway of an old horse stall that I’ve converted into a
rehearsal space. I got a black Ibanez Artist hanging on my shoulder and a
bottle of Molson in my hand. The room’s dimly lit and smells of old carpet and
stale beer. Empty cans and bottles are piled over the rim of a 50-gallon trash
can, several are scattered on the floor. It’s a Friday night and I’m anxiously
waiting for Uwe to get here so we can practice some new songs. 50/50 chance
it’ll happen. I’m proud of this space I’ve made for the band. Put a lot of hard
work into it. It’s not ideal, but it beats not practicing at all, and besides,
we didn’t have much of a choice. I recently had a birthday and spent the first
24 hours of my 21st year in bed, sick from all the Kamikazes and
Budweiser’s someone else was paying for.… READ MORE...
Sex, Drugs, and Kenny Rogers
About halfway through 1984, I found myself in an exam room with my pants around my ankles, while a young female doctor inspected my nether region with a tiny flashlight. She told me in a calm and non-judgmental tone that if I was to lead a promiscuous lifestyle that I would need to practice safe sex. All I wanted to know is if it was curable and would I live. It didn’t help that I had been prone to death anxiety and hypochondria since 7th grade. Just to get the nerve to go to the clinic was like asking an acrophobic to climb a rock face. Looking back, I wonder how someone with such fixations could become so flagrantly irresponsible. Most of it could be attributed, no doubt, to amateur drinking. Everybody knows, (and at the risk of being a rock and roll cliché) the instant karma for a drunken Lothario is the STI.… READ MORE...
I watched Mike’s tiny silhouette come in and out of shadows and moonlight of the practice field. He was 200 feet away pushing the ramp as I waited by the truck on the other side of a chain-link fence. I lost sight of him for a few minutes but I could here his labored breathing and the hushed sliding of wood on grass getting closer. I was surprised by the enormity of the thing when he and the ramp materialized out of the dark in front of me. He lifted the low end of the ramp and leaned it on the fence. “Alright Kev, watch it. Don’t let it fall on Dick’s truck.” He pushed and grunted until it teeter-tottered over and landed on my side. “Mike, this is crazy! No way we can get both of them on the truck.” I said, guiding it to the ground.… READ MORE...
Homeruns and Heartbreaks
Then we hit the bigtime. Not really … but it was a big time.
The Rohnert Park chamber of commerce promised us an opening slot for a big show at Pioneer Baseball Stadium in exchange for playing 2 shows at Founders Day, the towns annual birthday bash, for free. Before we even knew who the headliner was, we said yes. We ended up playing all three shows for free. Even back then, art was worthless. But an added incentive was that the city would pay for band t-shirts. So Stacie’s brother Chris, who designed our posters, drew up a graphic of the red and white Japanese sunrise bursting out of ONE. We finally had some merchandize!
A few weeks later, almost a year to the day that Jeff and I headed west, I’m in black and gold moto-cross pants with my sunburst Les Paul playing to 2000 faces spread across the diamond.… READ MORE...
Good gigs, Bad gigs
Not all, but several of my early performances were nerve racking. It was a mixture of stage fright, which is normal, and self-consciousness. And I learned the hard way that, for me, smoking pot beforehand resulted in an unnatural amount of both. If things weren’t sounding right, or if I was playing sloppy, negative thoughts would loop in my head and I would forget to breathe and freeze up. Bob said I needed to loosen up. He tried to help me with my stage presence. He showed me some kicks, jumps, and gestures; Pete Townsend style moves. I wanted to come across as impulsive; a natural born performer, and believed you didn’t work on such things. Jeff called me “the perfectionist.” It pissed me off because deep down I knew he was right. I generally concentrated on playing precise. I wish I had known that perfection is rock and roll’s enemy, and that thinking about what you’re doing is the worst thing you can do.… READ MORE...
Couch Surfing 101, Nick Stumbles Out
We were always on the move. I was starting to lose track of which phone numbers I had given my parents. We knew if I could find a place to crash, Jeff could go to Stacy’s. We weren’t a package deal at her place, and he didn’t want to abandon me, which I appreciated. What I really needed was to find work. It had been the longest stretch of unemployment since I was 11. I had never applied for a job because I grew up working for the family business. I knew it required an address and a phone number and I didn’t have either. And as rock and roll as it was to be a vagabond, I was tired of walking. I missed my car. My dad was sending me $40 cash in the mail about every 6 weeks.… READ MORE...
New Friends, New Culture
Keith and I were in his Buick Regal winding toward the coast and blaring Y&T. His JVC stereo was the loudest in Sonoma County. There were cows and goats grazing on both sides of the narrow road that reminded me of Tennessee, except the landscape was treeless, green and balding like an Ireland countryside. We dipped and crested for several miles until the horizon opened up to nothing but sky and ocean, high above sea level. The view was unexpected and breath taking. You got the feeling God was showing off. The coast was only 30 minutes from Rohnert Park. I’d been once but it was at night. We made our descent down the side of the bluff and headed up the coastal highway towards Salmon Creek State Park. Waves crashed against massive rock formations jutting from the coastline. Stuff I’d only seen in the movies.… READ MORE...
Barn Days, Hot Songs, and MTV
Before Jeff left for Tennessee, his and Uwe’s roommate stiffed them on rent, so the cool band house on the beach was history. He called his mom from the motel room shortly after we arrived and learned that she sold his car while he was in Tennessee. He was infuriated. Apparently, she didn’t think he would come back; especially with me in tow. We had planned to stay with her, but they got in an argument and she kicked us out before we even unpacked a toothbrush. I called my parents and told them I made it, and the people are nice.
Cotati and Rohnert Park were neighboring towns; you cross a line and you’re in one or the other. Cotati had a hippie vibe leftover from the 60’s whereas Rohnert Park seemed like a displaced middle class suburb of San Francisco, but with a 50-mile commute.… READ MORE...
Jeff Koji Giles
At the beginning of eleventh grade, my friend Barry told me there was a new kid in school and he was from somewhere in California, and that he played the guitar. I was at once excited and intimidated. Excited because The Golden state was where Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads lived and was where I wanted to be, and intimidated because the new kid must be good on guitar if he hailed from that same magical land of my heroes. (Having a world renowned inferiority complex didn’t help the intimidation factor either). Knowing I was bashful, Barry introduced us.
“This is Kevin; he plays guitar too.”
“Cool, I’m Jeff, we should jam sometime.”
“Okay, I said.”
My face turned red and I scurried down the hallway.
In no way did Jeff fit the California image. … READ MORE...
1976 – Madisonville, TN
Me and my buddies are downing sugar packets in a booth at Wilson’s drugstore. Afterwards we go outside and start punching each other in the arm. My friend Keith says, “I made you flinch.” He draws an X on my arm and hits it with his middle knuckle poking out. My muscle pops out for a split second where his knuckle landed. “Frog!” he says laughing. I play along, biding my time, waiting for them to head home, then I go back in to the magazine rack at the front of the store. I’m hoping no one else is at the rack. I prefer to read alone, if I read at all. The pictures are the best part. The magazine rack is my private space; my hideout; my imaginary friend. The big clock on the wall says 4:05, which doesn’t leave much time before I walk to my dad’s gas station where Mom picks me up at 4:30.… READ MORE...