“Bring us into your world. What is something about your work (past or present) that outsiders typically don’t understand? It can be something required by the job, something that happens on the job, something you feel about the job—but whatever it is, do not exceed 800 words.”
I have always had two parallel careers. My day job pays the bills, but I have been an amateur/semi-professional musician for over 30 years. I grew up in Nevada, and for several years I made $100 a night several nights a week playing bass guitar for a Psycho-Surfabilly group called “the Pods.” It wasn’t enough to let me quit my job, but I was able to supplement my income while also recording, getting some radio airplay and taking small tours to Northern California. I was in my early 30s then. When I look at what motivated me, it was the attention I received from fans, especially female fans and the adrenaline high I received every time we got on stage. We were a hard drinking, irreverent dance band from Nevada, and we just assumed people were going to love us when we started playing. We were usually right.
When I came to Seattle, I was intimidated by the musicianship here. Nevada musicians were good, but I had been a big fish in a small pond and I realized I was going to have to up my game. I took lessons from Steve Kim, a Seattle bass player/instructor, and played with a couple of bands while I released a solo EP under my Alt-Country moniker, “downward facing dude.”
In the fall of 2011, I put an ad in The Stranger’s Musicians Available section and I included MP3 clips from a few songs I had played bass guitar on. I received responses from a dozen bands, but I didn’t like any of the music. At this point in my life, I play for fun, so I have to really like the music to invest my time in it. A guy named Angelo DelSenno called me up, and he said he was playing with a drummer that I knew of by reputation. When I heard who was playing drums on the project, without even listening to the music I said, “I’m in.” I auditioned and got the gig.
The progression since then has been familiar. Angelo and I put several bands together and watched them fall apart spectacularly or die a slow death. We found a couple of young local musicians who wanted to rehearse and gig and we started hitting our stride as a live band. I invested about $4K in a new bass rig, realizing I hadn’t upgraded my gear since the turn of the 90s. We recorded nine songs with a number of stellar Seattle musicians, including Davis Martin, Mathew Singler, Shane Rossmiller, Daniel Walker and Thadeus Turner with Geoff Ott at London Bridge Studios in Shoreline.
A few months ago, we decided to enlist the crew at Owl House Productions to shoot a video of one of the songs recorded at London Bridge, “Old Horse.” We rented the Tractor Tavern out for the live shots and a seedy motel on Aurora for the story line, which involved Angelo and a young Seattle model/actress. We dropped the video on YouTube on May 1, 2013 and watched with awe as it crept up to 100,000 views. It seemed as if it might stall out there, but soon thereafter, the count started going up like the screen of a pinball machine. Before the month was over, we had amassed a million views. The YouTube attention brought some interesting consequences. Since the video was tied into the band website, Angelo started receiving thousands of emails, which fell into several categories: (1) female fans who wanted to meet him or the drummer, (2) Seattle musicians who were hateful and critical because of the band’s success, (3) foreign viewers of the video who LOVED the sound and asked when we were going to tour their country, and (4) people claiming to be industry insiders who could help us out.
I no longer play music for female attention. I have a daughter in her twenties and a head full of grey hair. I record and perform music because it continues to be the most satisfying and pleasurable thing I have ever done. It feeds my soul in ways that my day job doesn’t, even though I am fortunate to do work that I love.
Where is this headed? I really am not sure. Most of the people I know in my day job don’t even know I play in a rock band. Angelo has played our demo tracks to some of his friends who have been successful in the industry. They all say we are going to get signed by a label eventually. What would this 52-year-old Civil Servant say if he was told he could finally quit his day job and play bass guitar for a living, even if there were no guarantees of long term success? I’d say “I’m in.”