Drums, acoustic and electronic; lifetime engagement. Begin in early childhood for optimal malleability. Transfer piano lessons into percussion. Play all styles in search of the hidden, next-level thing. Program drum tracks, program brain. Fuse. Send to Earth.
Adroit, angular movement derives rhythm, dramatizing the state of molecular dislocation. It compels a drummer to throw something eyebrow-raising into the hierarchy of percussion, e-drums and audio samples. These enjoin with other sonic explorers, but only after the beats become socially acceptable from thousands of hours of solo concentration.
Even friendly, supportive audiences are quietly unforgiving, and fret over wasted time. The artist who vies for their attention has undergone a sort-of boot camp codified from a duty to wade through months—years—of throwaways that lead to cogent songwriting, layering and composition of original tracks. Navel-gazing pet projects are time-wasters…seeking out “the chemistry” is an absolute necessity. Or why bother?
In joining or forming bands of varying discipline, the like-minded magnetically arrange themselves to obsess in the studio. They seek a sound signature that resonates through all instruments, and cultivate their willpower on formidable test beds. Our story began with New York City and New Jersey, Miami, San Francisco and elsewhere, nationwide and throughout Europe.
If you trap lightning, record it under label contract, and ally with reputable and connected management, suddenly a tiny door cracks open in the corner of a green room. It’s there to show us a glimpse of “almost famous.” We produced, engineered, and mastered EPs and an album with alt-rock luminary Mark Kramer of Shimmy Disc + Second Shimmy (Galaxie 500, Sonic Youth, Ween, Yo La Tengo, Urge Overkill, Gwar, Low, Half Japanese, Jon Spencer, “Pulp Fiction” Grammy-winning soundtrack, etc.). The quality and quantity of the bookings starts to ramp up—enough to place a firmament under the esprit de corps on tour. Suddenly it’s something sold-out on a Friday night, critics in the wings. This is really a lot of fun, when the velvet rope suddenly drops as you approach Limelight because you’re in residency and your lead singer is strangely adored by legendary club owners. Spanning that chasm requires gigs at reputable and scene-making venues with locally-, nationally- and internationally-recognized acts (full listing appears below). In hindsight, this probably all started in the ancient formula: Repeat, sparkle and fade until the wheels fall off and it’s dust in the wind.
We discovered how not to underestimate the intensity of sonic competition, nor the outer limits of risk-takers in the genre. Far beyond mere dabbling in the nurturing-yet-unforgiving New York City arts crucible, the lessons pour in at light-speed. Mocking our efforts were constant reminders that validate cliches such as “sands in the hourglass” and “sword of Damocles,” burnished in adaptation to the logistics of recording, time-warped studio hours, touring under nascent contracts to invoke demos and showcases. All funded primarily by post-university day jobs, indeed.
Evolving through concerts as the come-up, the headliner and the support for several well-known British and American bands over a blistering two-year span, we obtained proper label-supported distribution through both indie record stores and chains (Tower Records, Virgin, etc.). Radio airplay was widely tracked, charted and logged to the guild of ASCAP, as legitimacy requires royalties, taxing and FCC approval.
There were fleeting Top-10 and isolated #1s on indie alt-rock FM stations and college radio (including UC Berkeley, Athens GA, etc.), with 20,000+ albums sold/distributed mostly in the US and western Europe (with transaction data showing they’re still out there, circulating and occasionally trading among collectors).
Outside Dandelion Fire’s (DF) core repertoire, we produced special vinyl LP editions of techno tracks minted for the global DJ set (spun by A-listers of the age such as Josh Wink, Carlos “Soul Slinger,” Keoki and other NASA DJs, DJ Dara, Sound Factory DJs, Caffeine DJs, etc.), and stargazed through odd bookings with a wide range of bands. There was a crossover sound meshing indie rock with techno, early adopter of a generational shift. This inflamed the sensibilities of NME and Melody Maker (reviews of DF’s music across all media channels were generally mixed; if combined/graded, likely a C+). From the outset to the finish, DF management was overseen by alt-rock mastermind and MTV/120Minutes’ legend Matt Pinfield.
Dandelion Fire’s final recording/involvement was a version of Frank Sinatra’s “I Won’t Dance” (the band’s only cover song), produced by Kramer for Grass Records’ (since sold to Wind-Up Records) 2-Disc “Chairman of the Board” tribute album (also released on two translucent blue-vinyl LPs). This was accomplished in collaboration with The Flaming Lips, Girls Against Boys, Lotion, Jawbox, Samiam, Whirling Dervishes, Down by Law, Screeching Weasel and 20+ other indie-rock groups. Before this, we also provided two tracks on a well-received compilation called American Independence — The New York Underground which went out on Eurostar Records (Germany) for release in the European market.
In the 1990s, Dandelion Fire (signed to Kokopop / Shimmy-Disc Records) developed an anthology of about 20 originals and was consistently booked with alternative rock, Manchester-sound, Brit-pop, shoe-gaze and occasionally purely techno groups—essentially approximated by the “120 Minutes” milieu of that era. The audio range and style were an ambitious blend: hard indie- and garage-rock gestures of a former age washed over novel fluid expressions an effects processing. This is a way to bend acoustic sounds into the digital simulacra, the technologic playground. There were moments that called for energy-filled floor-movers layered with skip-beats or syncopated bug-out beats containing a rare element known to connoisseurs as “bounce,” infused with electronics and tricky sonic processing tweaks, all of which was delivered along a slightly psychedelic edge.
Mostly human, little bit machine. The soundscape followed along a similar blueprint as Stone Roses, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Pixies, yet also heavily influenced by Primal Scream, The Smiths, Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, The Cure, New York’s NASA/Liquid Sky techno underground. Geographically, this took us from New Jersey’s alt-rock havens (beginning with New Brunswick and alt-rock jewel WHTG, the seminal station) to New York City’s finest and beyond as the bookings increased.
Unfortunately, Kokopop Records crashed and burned due to litigation misadventures at the top, and just a mere month or two after completing our debut album. A desired lift-off or crossover moment never quite arrived, and a substantive indie-rock label died, sending all concerned parties scurrying for the cover of day jobs at the salt mine and the repellent resumption of life’s ordinary pursuits.
From 1996 to 2000 I provided drum and percussion tracks to several artists, bands and studio projects in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Northern California. This is also when I began experimenting more with e-drums, beat layering/mixing and production.
In 2003 and 2004, Olympia Center vaguely approximated the sounds of Luna or The Velvet Underground. Its short-lived, detached and mellow countenance surfaced in SF’s SoMa art party circuit, and a clean-sounding four-song EP was produced from a roughly eight-song repertoire.
From 2004 to 2008 Black Box Recorder / What X is Trying to Say emerged as a trio with no discernible penchant for label-hunting, yet were able to secure gigs at a choice selection of coastal California venues based on 14 songs — only four of which were properly produced and pressed into an EP. The band played live shows and parties in San Francisco, was booked as a supporting act in Los Angeles and San Diego, and recorded at the Death Star-like Center of the Mile studio in SF’s Mission District using gear that was originally commissioned by George Lucas at Skywalker Sound, before the cinema scene went completely digital.
Since 2009 I’ve meaningfully dabbled with several other bands (or singer-songwriters) and did some independent recording sessions with Echodrone, Butcher Bird and Boy in the Bubble, Bay Area acts with highly divergent sounds.
With all former projects now dissolved, I maintain a dedicated studio in San Francisco and collaborate with various musicians, fill time with solo experimentation and seek future formation under the auspices of a sonic entity dubbed Lights in Satellites.