As I discuss throughout this site and elsewhere on the 'net, I spent a huge part of my teen and young adult years as a drummer in my home town of Kalamazoo, Michigan. As I grow longer in the tooth and the gray streaks in my hair and beard become ever-more resistant to the rejuvenating effects of Revlon ColorSilk, I'm slowly reloacting some of the folks with whom I crossed paths during that vital period of time.
A few of my old compadres have managed to shuffle off this mortal coil, most notably (that I know of) guitarist Jason Gentry of my mid-80's classic/hair metal band Axis. Others, like Matt Bogema, Dave Hoekstra, Dan Jager, and Chris Coville of Four Peace, Dave Batey and Chris Cole from my even earlier hairband Ucidian (later Push), live sound engineer and legendary connosieur of all things beer, the man who singlehandedly kept Tiffany's in business through the 80's recession Jimmy Black, one-step-over-the-edge best female friend Jenn Ladd, and other folks that I knew, jammed with, played in bands with, partied with, or otherwise just moved in the same circles as, like Matt from Worhead and later X's for Eyes/Eye Teeth, old friends from Star World who later moved on to or away from musicianship like Steve Spaeth, Darren Thomas, and Gary Alexander, assorted friends and roadies like John Peake, Opie, Heather Pierce, and even people I still can't stand like Mark Kellogg and Chris Altman, I still haven't been able to track down (and in some cases haven't tried).
(Edit: Understandably, a lot of folks who see me floating around various Kzoo-related sites have no idea who the hell I am, since I go by several different names and haven't put up pictures anywhere. See if this helps:
Just take off about 40 pounds and 15 years. How the hell I managed to fit into that leather again after so long, I have no idea.)
Now that I've got LowGenius.Net sortakinda up and moving again, I wanted to establish a section of the site devoted to nothing but linking to the vastly dispersed collection of individuals who were once a part of this strange collective of bohemians, punks, artistes d'metal, performance artists, legendary imbibers of inebriating substances, defilers of innocense, and in all seriousness, damn fine musicians and people (and even those who weren't such damn fine musicians or people, for that matter).
Of course we were all in our own little bubbles back then, everyone convinced that we were "the next LA" (and later "the next Athens," and then "the next Seattle" and so on), everyone convinced that only the band they were in at the moment really really got it, everyone throwing snarky comments about everyone else's bands behind each other's backs, etc. ad nauseam. Relationships and partnerships floated and merged and morphed like a slow-motion Roman orgy written by Cameron Crowe and John Hughes with a soundtrack by Henry Rollins channelling Yes with everyone from Dan Fogelberg to GG Allin providing accompaniment.
Eventually, sometime around 1994, it all kind of started unravelling, and we all started moving in different directions. Thought Industry core Brent Oberlin and Dustin Donaldson parted ways, mainstays like FAQ broke up, renamed, broke up again, and scattered. 4PDave moved to Florida to become a chef or something, and gradually the four winds captured most of us in a slow process of erosion that basically killed the whole thing.
People went to college (or finished college), got married, had kids, or overdosed. A few folks still cling tenaciously to the buttocks of stardom, a few others continue making music primarily for their own enjoyment, a few continue to carry the Kalamazoo torch (and I am to be among them in due time), and some of us...well, some of us find ourselves in a kind of surreal purgatory, wandering among the wreckage of our broken dreams, hating ourselves for the squandered potential lost to relationships, lifestyle poisoning, the imperatives of reality, and the relentless and never-ending struggle between normality and individuality.
A few of us, you may have even heard of. Thought Industry did all right for themselves as an underground art-metal phenom throughout the early-mid 90's, before Dustin went off to join Pansy Division and then form iamspoonbender and Brent started doing the Cosmonaut thing. The Verve Pipe, of course, had their one hit (allegedly about a girl most of us knew, but nobody seems to be certain who the hell she was) and the sweet opening spot on the KISS reunion tour. Kevin Farkas and Chris Simmonds have managed to become impressarios of some note in the control rooms and ivory towers of the wider business. Mike Hard of The God Bullies is undoubtedly aodrning a stage somewhere without his pants as Adam Berg provides cartoon percussion behind him. Doug Garnett is down in the Tennesee carrying on his lifelong battle vs. the Suct, and Overman's Overjef along with about half the scene, it seems, is now living in the Boston area.
There are literally hundreds of people I'm leaving out. Bill Clements, John Reimer, Geoff Halsey, that dude who replace Coville when Four Peace became Suiciety, Jim Rit., who sold gear to just about every yobbo that picked up a pair of drumstics over a twenty year period. Gary Green, Matt Moser, Mike MacIntosh, Joel Wick, Steve Chafin, Kirk Renker, The Sinatras, The Sleestacks, Tom Collins And The Cocktail Shakers, Killswitch, a barely-heard Gypsy Blue, and even our cheesy bar bands like ol' Saucy Jack were better than most of the "original" music being made in other towns/scenes at the time...the lists go on and on and on, and anyone I've forgotten has my apologies in advance and open invitation to contribute whatever they want here.
Those who may have followed after 1994, I personally have no knowledge of, because that's when I left town. Those who came before us...can surprise you sometimes. A few of us may remember Medieval, who appeared on one of the early Metal Blade compilations, but I'd be willing to bet that most of us never knew that Boogie Records (RIP) was a sort of cosmic analogue to Rykodisk (Don Rose, Rykodisk founder, is from Kalamazoo and used to work at the original Boogie Records; he later moved to Toledo with his Kalamazoo friend Pat O'Connor, who also 'founded' Boogie Records, but I'm unclear if this refers only to Boogie of Ohio, or if O'Connor had any relationship to the Boogie Records that the gang of miscreants in 'my era' knew and loved, one on Academy and even before that one on Westnedge. I'm trying to track down either Don or Pat for clarification.)
Most of us are very well aware (actually, most of us are probably about ten years past sick of hearing about it from ourselves, no slight to the man) that former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted grew up in the Gull Lake/Richland area (among other things, he was the fella responsible for hooking Thought Industry up with Warner/Metal Blade records, among dozens of other path-crossings and hookups in the area), but fewer are likely aware that Del Shannon is from just up the road in Battle Creek, and I'd be willing to bet that almost nobody has made the connection between a shy, cute young lady who used to live around the corner from Dave Hoekstra when him and Amy lived on South street and who attended quite a few local shows while she was a student at K-College, and the woman who the world now knows as Selma Blair. Many of us know that world-renowned producer and Grammy™ Award Winner Narada Michael Walden called Kalamazoo home, but far fewer ever knew, or likely cared, that Carl Sandberg did as well, and six decades earlier. We also have the dubious distinction of having been home to both Tim Allen and Robbie Van Winkle, a/k/a Vanilla Ice, when they were attending WMU (and both served some time in the area as well). A lot of folks know that one of the Righteous Brothers died at the Radisson a few years back, but most have forgotten that Elvis Presley is still living at the Colombia Hotel, right next door to the recently-deceased Club Soda. (Would that it were Elvis dead, and Soda still kicking!) Everybody knows about Gibson Guitars, but most folks outside of town never realized we had Pro-Co cables and Dean Markley strings, plus GHS Strings just down the road a few miles in Battle Creek.
There's...something magical about that town, even now. It pulls to me, and its roots have sprouted fine Michigan oaks that have proceeded to spread little nuts all across the world, each of them, in the little corners of their hearts, holding a special place for Bronson Park at Christmas, Club Soda on Saturday Night, skinny-dipping at Austin Lake, or hanging out in the student ghetto. It's a town founded by a madman, housing two huge nuthatches (one closed now), immortalized by both Glenn Miller and Primus - what other town can say THAT shit?! - and at one time there was more genuine raw talent and rock and roll there than I've been able to find on MTV or the radio in about a decade and a half.
So far as I know, that odd decade or so between maybe 1983 and 1995 is the closest Kalamazoo ever really came to finding it's collective artistic identity. Of course, none of us really think in those terms, how ridiculously self-indulgent would that be? But the facts are the facts, and the fact is that the only difference between bands and musicians of late Kalamazoo in the 80's and early 90's and every other famous artistic collective...is the fame.
So I've built this page, and will build on it elsewhere throughout the site as I have time, in the hopes of bringing some of that collective mad genius back into some kind of synchronization with itself. There's already a very nice collection of folks over at LeonsTemple.Com, owned and operated by the aforementioned Overjef, who are engaged in an informal process in much the same vein, and I don't want to distract, detract, or duplicate that effort.
I would, however, like to add to it.
So, I who come across this page to add their two cents via this blog entry. Submit your links, spread the word, pass it along, work together, and I'll do my part by collecting everything and assembling it at various places throughout the site so we can all find each other and others who we may not even know are looking can find us too.
The Sins of Kalamazoo, by Carl Sandburg
THE SINS of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson.
The sins of Kalamazoo are a convict gray, a dishwater drab.
And the people who sin the sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson.
They run to drabs and grays—and some of them sing they shall be washed whiter than snow—and some: We should worry.
Yes, Kalamazoo is a spot on the map
And the passenger trains stop there
And the factory smokestacks smoke
And the grocery stores are open Saturday nights
And the streets are free for citizens who vote
And inhabitants counted in the census.
Saturday night is the big night.
Listen with your ears on a Saturday night in Kalamazoo
And say to yourself: I hear America, I hear, what do I hear?
Main street there runs through the middle of the twon
And there is a dirty postoffice
And a dirty city hall
And a dirty railroad station
And the United States flag cries, cries the Stars and Stripes to the four winds on Lincoln’s birthday and the Fourth of July.
Kalamazoo kisses a hand to something far off.
Kalamazoo calls to a long horizon, to a shivering silver angel, to a creeping mystic what-is-it.
“We’re here because we’re here,” is the song of Kalamazoo.
“We don’t know where we’re going but we’re on our way,” are the words.
There are hound dogs of bronze on the public square, hound dogs looking far beyond the public square.
Sweethearts there in Kalamazoo
Go to the general delivery window of the postoffice
And speak their names and ask for letters
And ask again, “Are you sure there is nothing for me?
I wish you’d look again—there must be a letter for me.”
And sweethearts go to the city hall
And tell their names and say,“We want a license.”
And they go to an installment house and buy a bed on time and a clock
And the children grow up asking each other, “What can we do to kill time?”
They grow up and go to the railroad station and buy tickets for Texas, Pennsylvania, Alaska.
“Kalamazoo is all right,” they say. “But I want to see the world.”
And when they have looked the world over they come back saying it is all like Kalamazoo.
The trains come in from the east and hoot for the crossings,
And buzz away to the peach country and Chicago to the west
Or they come from the west and shoot on to the Battle Creek breakfast bazaars
And the speedbug heavens of Detroit.
“I hear America, I hear, what do I hear?”
Said a loafer lagging along on the sidewalks of Kalamazoo,
Lagging along and asking questions, reading signs.
Oh yes, there is a town named Kalamazoo,
A spot on the map where the trains hesitate.
I saw the sign of a five and ten cent store there
And the Standard Oil Company and the International Harvester
And a graveyard and a ball grounds
And a short order counter where a man can get a stack of wheats
And a pool hall where a rounder leered confidential like and said:
“Lookin’ for a quiet game?”
The loafer lagged along and asked,
“Do you make guitars here?
Do you make boxes the singing wood winds ask to sleep in?
Do you rig up strings the singing wood winds sift over and sing low?”
The answer: “We manufacture musical instruments here.”
Here I saw churches with steeples like hatpins,
Undertaking rooms with sample coffins in the show window
And signs everywhere satisfaction is guaranteed,
Shooting galleries where men kill imitation pigeons,
And there were doctors for the sick,
And lawyers for people waiting in jail,
And a dog catcher and a superintendent of streets,
And telephones, water-works, trolley cars,
And newspapers with a splatter of telegrams from sister cities of Kalamazoo the round world over.
And the loafer lagging along said:
Kalamazoo, you ain’t in a class by yourself;
I seen you before in a lot of places.
If you are nuts America is nuts.
And lagging along he said bitterly:
Before I came to Kalamazoo I was silent.
Now I am gabby, God help me, I am gabby.
Kalamazoo, both of us will do a fadeaway.
I will be carried out feet first
And time and the rain will chew you to dust
And the winds blow you away.
And an old, old mother will lay a green moss cover on my bones
And a green moss cover on the stones of your postoffice and city hall.
Best of all
I have loved your kiddies playing run-sheep-run
And cutting their initials on the ball ground fence.
They knew every time I fooled them who was fooled and how.
Best of all
I have loved the red gold smoke of your sunsets;
I have loved a moon with a ring around it
Floating over your public square;
I have loved the white dawn frost of early winter silver
And purple over your railroad tracks and lumber yards.
The wishing heart of you I loved, Kalamazoo.
I sang bye-lo, bye-lo to your dreams.
I sang bye-lo to your hopes and songs.
I wished to God there were hound dogs of bronze on your public square,
Hound dogs with bronze paws looking to a long horizon with a shivering silver angel, a creeping mystic what-is-it.