Monday, May 12, 2008
Yes, I know, a bunch of you went "What the fuck?" after hearing Volume Two, especially when you compare it to Volume One. I can definitely understand that. What I will do is explain why this all came to be. Now let me just make clear that Dave and I had been writing songs since junior high and by the time Reagan Youth's first gig, we had a full set of songs ready to go. At that very first show, at A7, for an encore we played "One Holy Bible" though the drummer wanted to do the breakdown part of "Queen Babylon". Now they were called by different names back then, and they went through several name changes until they were finally recorded on Volume Two. So those songs were around at the exact same time as everything from "Youth Anthems For the New Order". But the tunes remained the same, and so did a few of the lyrics. But we continued to write songs, but some of the songs we wrote were not for Reagan Youth, so we reserved those tunes for our next band, which we called House of God. Three of us (Dave, Javier and I) were playing in House of God when recording we started recording Volume Two. But all the songs on Volume Two are in no way, shape or form House Of God songs, I mean shit, we played "Back To the Garden" back at Max's Kansas City and just look at the last time that place was open. Now that I got the fact that a majority of those songs we had from the beginning, let me explain what happened.
We started recording in the Spring of 1989, right after Reagan Youth had disbanded. We wanted to play that one last Reagan Youth show, in D.C., as our farewell, so I called up our bassist, Victor Venom, and asked him about playing it. Victor answers the phone and tells me that he never wants to see us, let alone play a gig with us, again. So that was the end of that. Javier, Dave and I were playing in a new band, House of God, with a new bassist, Chris Simunek, and we were ready to fuck with organized religion the way Reagan Youth fucked with right wing politics, and that wasn't going to be the only change. The music had became more complex, but it would still remain catchy as hell. So instead of two minute political punk rock songs, we were going to play 8 minute songs about the evils of organized religion. Around this time is when Dave and I met Nicky Garratt, the guitarist from the U.K. Subs.
Dave and I met Nicky at the Palllidium and he told us about his new label, "New Red Archives'. He offers to re-release our only record, a seven song e.p., under the condition that we add whatever songs were leftover from those 'Youth Anthems For The New order' sessions, making it album length. Dave and I had a condition of our own; we wanted to put out another album which would consist of all the other Reagan Youth songs that we never got around to recording. So we gave Nicky a demo tape of that stuff. Now the only other thing we ever did with that demo was bring it to Metal Blade (or was it Road Runner?) records. We were told that they only release metal, no punk, and that we should come back when we had House Of God ready. So we took home our complimentary King Diamond (or was it Mercyful Fate?) records and nothing more was ever done with the demo, until we gave it to Nicky Garratt. So Nicky ends up agreeing.
Now a whole year goes by when I finally gave Nicky a call. I told him "Alright, we're ready to do this" and he's like "But Paul, that was a year ago?". We end up having a discussion about Dave and his drug use and I ended up assuring Nicky that I'd be responsible for making sure the shit got done. What one has to understand putting out one last Reagan youth album, let alone re-releasing our first e.p. as a complete album was taking aback seat to our new band, House Of God. Our new band was so much more important to Dave and I because we had been developing these songs for the past two or three years. It wasn't that putting out some more Reagan Youth material was unimportant, it's just that House Of God was gonna be the band that I, and I can assume Dave, felt that we could actually make it in the music business. Reagan Youth was well known, but we were viewing House of God as being something that could be more than just well known; that we could actually become "big". Oh well, so much for that dream happening.
Mixing Volume I went smooth enough, with Dave choosing alternate versions of every song on "Youth Anthems for the New Order" and adding three new songs; "In nDog We Trust", "No Class" and "Anytown". But it was time now to record the songs for Volume II. I called Victor and asked him if he could put aside whatever bullshit there was and to 'just come in and play' bass. Victor said he'd do it so we were set going into the studio. Nicky books studio time at Saatchi & Saatchi, an advertising company who have a topof the line recording equipment so they can record all their jingles and shit. It was going to be real fuckin' sweet recording the rest of our songs there. Unfortunately, that would be our only visit to Saatchi Studios because the security & staff from the building told Nicky that Dave wasn't to be allowed back in there, not even allowed to walk through the front door into the lobby. It had everything to do with the way he looked, or more to the point, the way he smelled. Dave's addiction had made him 'tore up from the floor up' but at least at that time he was showin' up. So we went to record at Toxic studios instead, and first thing I did was borrow a Fender Precision for Victor to play. We always had to supply Victor with a bass when he played in the band, he considered himself a guitarist first, and soon he began playing bass like it was beneath him. And now when it was time to record, it was no different, but actually, way worse.
Now we hadn't seen, let alone played with, Victor in the longest time but I was certain of one thing, that Victor could play. The only thing was that Victor came in and played some real uninspired shit. I'm sure he thought he was keeping it punk and snotty but the only time Victor showed any real interest, at all, was when he asked me "So how does Nausea get the same record deal as Reagan Youth?". I pointed to Nicky, who was present in the studio at the time, and said "Well Nicky's right over there. I mean, he is the guy to ask, the label owner, not me". So Victor just shrugged his broad, lean, masculine shoulders and walked over to speak with Nicky. Well it was no more than a week before Victor tells us that he has to leave, that he can't record with us any more because he has to go on tour with Nausea. The record wasn't close to being finished but he just shrugged and said "too bad".
Right after he left I went and recorded an alternate bass track for "Get the Ruler Out". I told Dave and Nicky that Victor's bass playing wasn't worth shit, and they wanted to hear Vic's playing before any decisions were made. So I told the engineer, Jim Fourniadis, to play for them Vic's bass track so they could hear it for themselves. He plays them "Get The Ruler Out" and they immediately tell me "The bass sounds great" and "Vic's playing is fine, don't touch it, what are you crazy?". Now I'm listening to it along with them and I'm like "What the fuck?" because it didn't sound like this before. So I go and ask Jim "Is that the bass that Victor's playing?" and Jim tells me he's playing the bass track I recorded. So I went and explained to Dave and Nicky that Jim had played my bass track instead of Vic's and right away Dave said "You should play bass on the album"/ It would be extra work for me to record the bass on all of the songs but Dave wanted that and Nicky was cool with it immediately. On Volume II I'm listed as; Pusi Koorahtz, bassist.
Now when you go in a re-record the songs again, that means time is a wasting, and even bigger, money is being wasted. Dave would say "You're taking the costs out of the record sales, so what does it matter" but Nicky was uncomfortable, and how could he not be? But even more important, was the music itself. When you record songs without a full band being present, problems arise. For instance, on "One Holy Bible", the 'improved' part was to be played by all three musicians simultaneously. When Victor left, I had to focus on getting the arrangement right instead of playing the improvisation. On "Queen Babylon", during the 'breakdown' part, we mistakenly played it five times instead of the usual four, so I had to throw out what I usually did as a guitar solo and start from scratch. And when I said let's go record it again the engineer, Jim, told me "Nicky said no more of that, if it sounds decent, then we go to the next song". Now for the most part, we were able to get through it, but those songs and some others could have and should have been played much better, not to mention mixed down. So No Thanks To Victor the Sphincter for all the time and money
Another band member who also went missing, but for different reasons, was the most crucial one, the singer, the leader; Dave Insurgent. "Since I don't play an instrument, I really don't need to be here" was his excuse whenever he didn't show up for the basic track recordings but at least he would show up enough times. When the music was finished it was time for Dave's vocals. A block of time was booked for Dave to come in and sing but he doesn't show up. I called him up and asked "What happened?" and he comes up with some lame story about waiting the entire night for his superintendent to come by and fix his toilet. So another block of time was booked but Dave blows it off again. When I called him up this second time, he starts in with the nonsense about his super and his toilet. Well this goes on and on, again and again and Nicky and I begin to wonder if Dave is ever gonna show up. And just if you're wondering, yes, Dave knew he was welcomed to bring his drugs and paraphernalia into the studio. None of us were gonna bust his balls about pulling hits off his crack pipe in between singing his verses, we knew Dave was not ready to give up drugs, we just wanted him to come in and do what he did, sing Reagan youth songs.
So it got to the point where Nicky comes up with the idea of bouncing Dave's vocals from the band's demo onto the new recordings. I thought that would sound like shit so I came up with a better idea; I'd go down, find Dave, and personally escort him to the studio. I went to his place but he wasn't there so I left a note on his door, basically saying that he better show up tonight, and sing every fuckin' song, or I'd take giant shit on him like something fierce, you motherfucker, you better show up! Y'know, like that. It got his attention because he called me, pronto, and told me how fucked up my note was I'm was like "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now make sure you just show the fuck up.", and yes, he did.
That night Nicky and I met up with Dave at a deli that was near the studio. Nicky bought him a tea and some lozenges to soothe his throat and then we escorted Dave to the studio and explained to Jim, the engineer, that Dave could not leave, under no circumstances, the studio until he sand a take on every song. Nicky and I leave them alone to do their thing and I go home. The next time I see Jim I ask him how Dave's vocal session went. He told me that Dave sang two tracks on each song before he left, and that he said he'd come back to fix up all his weak spots, which were many, let's face it. But days went by and soon they turned to weeks and it became obvious that Dave wasn't in any rush to come by the studio. As the lead singer, laying down vocal tracks are important, but as the leader of the band, mixing down the record was just as, if not, more important. Nicky had been so patient with us but by this time his patience was just about gone. So Nicky asks me what should be done and I tell him "Just go use whatever we have" as I figured Dave would call up eventually, outraged that he didn't sort through and edit out all the bullshit. Basically, to come in and give it a final mix. I was pissed something fierce at the way Dave was behaving, so my thinking at that time was "Let Dave go bitch to Nicky about how it can't be released like that when he finally decides to show up". I knew in the back of my mind that Nicky would allow Dave to do that, but unfortunately, Dave never ever did show up at the studio.
Soon after that I get this phone call, but it's not from Dave or Nicky. Some police officer is calling to ask me what I know about Dave. I ask him "What happened?" and the cop says "You tell me" like some real wise ass. So I'm like "Okay, so Dave's in jail?" and the cop says "No, no, no. He's not in jail". Next I ask "Is he dead?" and the cop chuckles at that one as he says "Oh no, he's not dead". I take a moment to think what's left and I say "So he's in rehab?" and the cop says "Nope. He's not in rehab". At this point I'm all out of ideas so I'm like "I give up, so where is he?" and the cop tells me to "Go call his parents if you want to find out", and so I do. I get Dave's mom on the line and she tells me that "Someone beat David up with a baseball bat and he just came out of a coma".
The next day I visit Dave in the hospital and boy is it tough, he looks like hell. Dave's eye lid was swollen so much it reached all the way down to his upper lip. His parents were there and I find out that he needed a lobotomy to save his life. Eventually, he gets discharged from the hospital but Dave now has stitches going around his forehead from ear to ear. When Dave finally recovered, as best he could, I asked him what happened. Dave told me he couldn't remember anything. Neither Dave nor I insisted on getting back the tapes and giving it a real final mix. At that time, I was just hoping that Dave would be able to do the artwork for the album and the ensuing CD. I'm sure Dave could have convinced Nicky to get back the tapes, and allow him to re-mix it, but how could Dave even think about that stuff when life altering events, for the worse, had happened to him. Of course I wish I had actually taken home a cassette of the recordings, and dissected them, and then actually mixed it down, but I had assumed Dave would have eventually taken care of it. I remember when Nicky sent us the final mix on cassette, I kept telling Dave that I had put backing vocals throughout "Acid Rain" and boy did that freak him out. When he finally heard it, he was cool with the backing vocals, but not all those lead guitar tracks. The lead guitar track behind Dave's vocals on "Urban Savages" works just fine, on "Miss Teen America" and "Get The Ruler Out", it doesn't. It was too late to go back, just like it was too late for Dave to go back and live without having Frankenstein like stitches forever crowning his countenance. And so that is how Volume Two ended up sounding the way it did.
In retrospect, things just went from bad to worse from the time I called Victor to play on the record. So many sessions (weeks and weeks worth) were wasted because of his shit playing. Javier told us, afterwards, that Victor had told him the only reason he was going to do the record with us was because he knew the record would make money, and that's all he was doing it for. Too bad Victor didn't show up to play some bass that didn't suck instead. Then there was the time when Javier had brought his brand new motorcycle to the studio in order to show it to us. He parked it out front, on the street, and by the end of the session it had been stolen. Things were going like that and it didn't make things better, obviously. That it all culminated with Dave getting beaten an inch from his life just made it all pretty miserable. Do I hate Volume Two? No, I do not, but that my bass playing is way better than my guitar playing says a whole lot. I love the songs on it, I just wish we could've played them way better.