We're a sum of our parts, don't you agree?
I’m originally from Long Island and I have been writing songs since I was seven, when there was little life experience to inform my material, other than dealing with childhood epilepsy and maybe Bugs Bunny. I would watch my father play our family upright piano and it hit something in me that said “you can do that too”. So I poked, single-fingered on the piano and found my first primitive melody. We would spend summers on my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin, where I would feed chickens, get chased by cows and listen to the curious music the 1960’s midwest would listen to; Johnny Cash, Bobby Gentry, Charlie Rich. Music that sounded rusty and full of weeds. As much as I liked playing in the corn field, I was always impatient to get back to that piano.
Meanwhile, back at home, my surfer brother formed a band and that lit sparks in my head. They played songs by The Rascals, The Beach Boys and other 60’s bands that made sounds I didn’t understand but wanted to. A truly terrible guitar followed and so did terrible songs. An annoying amount of them. They kept coming. When the city’s punk scene blossomed, I would absorb every issue of Creem Magazine and discovered the noise made by the NY Dolls, Television, the Ramones and ultimately the Velvet Underground.
Lots of bands followed, as did lots of towns and instruments. By 1995, my band Through the Woods was voted Band of the Year by the National Academy of Songwriters. We were a five-piece band that would use 19 instruments on stage - things like bicycle wheels, bowed guitars, tuba, glockenspiel, hurdy gurdy, squeezebox, banjo, hubcaps, sax, clarinet and on and on. Described in local magazines as “Dixeland Deathrock” and “The closest thing to vaudeville Los Angeles has”, the songs reached back to the 1800’s, 1930’s and 1960’s AM radio. We were playing what is now called “Dark Americana”.
I disappeared from performing for two years, returning with a new improv musical called "Life = Choices" that ran briefly in Los Angeles. The songs started pouring down in buckets. So I started performing around Los Angeles restaurants and coffee houses, using a Slinky, a cymbal-playing toy monkey (Carlos), remote controlled toys, accordion, hurdy gurdy and other plastic things to cover hip hop and metal songs. I ended up performing on the Taste of Chaos and Warped tours and decided to get serious again.
So after more years of writing better songs I have come full circle and am now releasing “Dark Americana: Stories and Songs” with the help of lyricist Hunter Lowry, the good people at Hollywood Trax and Manhattan Production Music. It’s a collection of sepia-toned, dog-eared vistas of America’s struggles with sin and redemption. It’s part Andrew Wyeth and part Edward Hopper that jumps cobwebbed eras from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. Yeah, I was full of myself when I wrote that last bit, but it’s kinda true anyway. Click on the links below to give it a listen.