In The Van On Comeback Road Part 17

date: 07/25/2006 category: features
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I spent three days walking and riding the bus and subway all over the Greater Toronto Area dropping off all the demos I had left, thirty five in all, hitting every bar, hotel and club that I could find that has bands in to play. On Wednesday night I meet up with Jason and Mark at the coffee shop across from the practice facility. It's half an hour before our time slot, and after the last show, we need to talk about our future plans. I ask them what they know about setting up websites, and Jason goes into a long routine about what kind of shit we would have to get together to make a site that didn't look like an elementary school kid's project. "We'd need a band logo, some photos (either snappy-looking promo shots or pictures of us performing), some media content so people could listen to song samples, merch info, upcoming dates, all sorts of stuff like that," Jason says. "There's not much point to putting up a website until we've got some content to put on it." "So we're not quite ready for it?" I ask. "Maybe not quite," he answers. "We could probably start with something simple and add more later, but there's not much point anyway until we've got some gigs lined up, right?" "We could do it any time," puts in Mark. "We could just do a myspace site. They're easy and they're free. My girlfriend has one." "That redheaded chick from the gig?" I ask. "The sloppy kisser?" "Yeah. Oh, hey mate, I'm sorry about what she said and all." I roll my eyes. Jason jumps back in. "I'm not sure about myspace. I heard that in the small print of the legal agreement you actually surrender all the copyrights of everything you put on your site to them." Mark shrugs. "I don't know about that, mate. Maybe." "Well, if that's the case we'll skip it," I say. "We can get a site some other way, can't we?" "Sure," says Jason. "We can pay for it. And we'd either have to learn how to build a site ourselves, or pay someone to do it." "Okay, maybe we can worry about it later," I say. "Like you said, we don't need it until we've got gigs to promote, right? For right now let's think about the show." "It was messy," says Jason. He looks at Mark. "That wasn't very cool getting that fucked up. I'm not straight-edge or anything man, but?" "Don't get all judgmental, Guitar-star," I say. "Remember puking in the alley before the Sarnia show?" He leans back and crosses his arms. "Yeah, okay, but I learned from that, right?" I shrug. "I guess. Anyway, I was thinking about the songs. We've got twelve pretty good tunes, three of which are covers, and we blasted through them in less than forty minutes. We'll need to add some more material." "Are we always going to play them that fast?" asks Mark. "Whether we do or we don't," I say, shaking my head, "we'll need more material either way. I know we went a bit fast because we were nervous, but I think the energy was good. We could probably use another five or six songs to push us closer to the hour mark." "We could use my song," says Jason. "Have you worked on singing it?" I ask. "Yeah, a bit. We could try it today." "Okay. We'll try it. I've got a few songs we could add as well, but we should go over them a few times at one of our places before wasting time in the paid rehearsal space trying to figure them out." They nod. "So," I say. "Are we ready to head over?" "There's one other thing," Jason says. He looks at Mark. Mark looks back at him, then down into his coffee. "Okay, well, it looks like it's up to me to say it," continues Jason. "We think you should dye your hair." I laugh. "Why, because of what Ginger said the other night?" "Her name's Sarah," says Mark. "We just think that if we're playing for a younger crowd, it wouldn't kill you to dye your hair. Nothing crazy of anything, but you are starting to get some grey. You know, just cover up the grey. That's all." I get a goofy grin on my face. "That's what you guys thought after the show. Terry needs to dye his hair. That's it. That's what is holding us back." "No Taz, it's no like that," says Mark, looking guilty. "Don't worry about it, Mark. You didn't hurt my feelings. Okay, you big babies, I'll dye my hair. Any color preferences? Purple? Green? What do you think?" Both of them say nothing, so I get up from the table. "Come on, let's get going." We get into the practice room and try and take a run through Jason's song, which he's called "Better Off Not Knowing." It's stone-cold simple, but catchy in an early Ramones album kind of way. I would consider it filler in the set, but we work through it, setting up a pattern of verse-verse-chorus-verse-verse-chorus-chorus. Jason seems satisfied with it, although he sings it at a volume barely above a whisper into the microphone. After running through it. Jason nods to us. "Sounds pretty good. I'll try and figure out an intro for it later." "Maybe we could add a bridge or middle eight?" says Mark. "It's no too long like, is it mate?" "We can figure that stuff out next week," I say. "Um, Jason, look. I know you want to sing this, what with it being your song and all, but I'm a bit?concerned about your voice." "Aye mate," interjects Mark. "I can't hear ye." "Maybe you and I should sing it together until you get a bit more confidence in your voice," I say. "It might help you." He looks at me for a second with distrusting eyes, but then shrugs and looks away. "We'll talk about it next week." We run through a bunch of our regular songs, stopping to work on parts that give us difficulty, trying to get the sound tighter. It takes us about an hour and a half, and it leaves us worn out and sweaty. Mark especially is over-heated, red in the face and wiping his forehead. The room has a standing fan, but no air conditioning. "Should we call that a night then?" he asks after we get through the last number. Jason and I look back and forth. He's shaking his hands, trying to loosen up clenched fingers. As we pause I can hear music penetrating the walls from the next practice room. Someone is going over David Bowie's old song "Heroes." I don't want to leave early when there are still others playing. I don't want to feel like I'm doing something half way. "We've got twenty more minutes," I say. "We've paid for it. We might as well use it." "What's left to play?" asks Jason. "Let's try something new," I tell Jason. "Let me use your guitar for a minute and I'll show you how a song goes." Jason takes his imitation Strat off and passes it to me. I set my bass down and sling his guitar over my shoulder. "Okay, I'll just run through this a bit for you," I say. The song is complicated. The lines run rapidly up and down the scales, and I admit it's not in my usual style of straight four chord rock progressions. I let them hear the opening, move into the verse, which doesn't back off, building to what I want to be a massive explosion of a chorus, a real anthem, and in my mind I can imagine a stadium of kids pumping their fists and chanting along. Mark begins banging along with me, just keeping time with one drumstick tapping the snare. I lose myself in it, running through another verse, another chorus before hitting the solo, which I'd been practicing for years, waiting for the perfect song to work it into. I go through the chorus again and finish. I look at them. "Well?" I ask. "What do you think?" "I think?" begins Jason, looking for the words, "I think it would take me quite a while to nail that." I nod silently, but inwardly I'm very impressed; it's the first time I've heard Jason acknowledge a short-coming in his abilities, and I think it shows some maturity. "It sounds bloody awesome," says Mark, "but, aye, I'm no sure if Jason could play it." "I could play it," Jason says defensively. "I just don't know if I could play it like that." We stand in silence for a moment, and I realize that I can still hear "Heroes" being played. "You should play that," says Mark definitely, pointing at me with a drum stick. "Yeah, and what am I supposed to do, bang a tambourine?" says Jason. "I can't play bass, you know." "Well fucking learn then, mate," he says. "It's no too hard, is it Taz?" I think for a moment, and then look at Jason. "I could show you. That song can use a pretty simple bass line." He doesn't look very impressed, so I shrug and say "We can think more about it. Maybe you could swing around my place some time this weekend and we could try to work on some songs, and if you want to try the bass, you can. Or I can try to teach you the guitar part for that song." "Naw, Taz mate," says Mark. "I think you should play guitar on that one." Jason gives him a death stare. "We'll worry about it later," I say. "Let's just do a run through of a couple more songs and call it a night." Mark counts us in and we run through "Knuckles" and "Rough Go," and then start putting our stuff away. Laying my bass down in its case, I realize that I can still hear the Bowie song. "Jesus," I say. "Are they still playing 'Heroes'? That must be twenty minutes now." "The original was pretty long," says Jason. "What, like six or seven minutes, wasn't it?" "Yeah. They must keep going over it." We get out of the room just as the door to the next rehearsal room opens. I peek inside and don't recognize the two guitarists, but I see that the guy behind the drums is the same drummer from Machine Within A Machine. And like every member of Machine Within A Machine excepting the lovely (but taken) Gina, I have no idea what his name is. While Mark and Jason slip away down the hall and out into the street, I poke my head inside. I nod to the drummer and say hello. "Oh, hey Terry. How's it going?" he says, running his hands over his sweaty mop of hair. "Good. You running in two bands now?" "Um, kind of. This is sort of a side project until we get a full band together. Were you practicing?" "Yeah, my band just left." "Well hang on a minute. I'm just going outside for a smoke." He gets out from behind his kit and the two of us head outside, while the two silent guitarists put their gear away. The drummer is a talkative kid, maybe early twenties but confident like someone who been playing for a long time. He's mature. I like that. "That was awesome when you and Bobby played with us at The Bovine last month," he tells me. "You're way better than our bassist. You should totally replace him in our band." "I assume you're kidding," I say. "What's wrong with your bass player anyway? He seems okay." "Yeah, he's okay, he just?I don't know, he just doesn't contribute that much, you know? He's an okay player, but he's just kind of blank, I guess. He's a good looking guy, and I know that helps, but he's a bit of an air-head. And he's always staring at Gina, and I know that pisses her off." "Oh yeah. Hey, I saw Gina last weekend. She showed up at The Bovine before our show. But I think she left with her boyfriend before we started playing." The drummer shakes his head. "Gina doesn't have a boyfriend." "They looked pretty close," I say. "She was touching his face and shit like that." "Well maybe," he says. "But I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a boyfriend. Anyway," he says, smiling, "I'm having a party this weekend. It's like a house-warming party. My girlfriend and I just moved into a new place. You should come around." I shrug. "That sounds cool." He writes down the address, and thankfully put his name on it as well (his name is Matt, before I forget again). I tell him good luck with his two bands and head home, wondering if this will be another chance to cross paths with Gina. 2006 Nolan Whyte
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