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A few years into that I was approached by some guys from one of the bands Temper used to trade shows with. We started just jamming and recording demos at my place and eventually Byzantine got off the ground. A lot of people don’t remember that Byz played shows for nearly two years without a drummer. We couldn’t find a guy that could play the parts so we used a drum machine recorded to mini-disc. So this was really more of a hobby and probably would’ve gone no further than that except for two events: 1. We got a drummer. 2. Lamb of God just happened to hear our demo and liked it. Lamb of God put us in touch with their label (Prosthetic) and the rest as they say is history. In an ironic twist, I got laid off from my day job just as we were putting the finishing touches on our first album. I started teaching guitar at this time and that freed me up to tour. That whole Byzantine experience was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I got to tour the country several times, toured England, got a guitar endorsement, met a ton of cool people, and recorded some decent albums. That was the high-water mark really. But it was also horribly stressful. There is an awful price a thirty-something year old man has to pay for running around the country acting like a rock star. By the time the whole thing disintegrated in true VH1 “Behind the Music” fashion I was divorced, had lost the house, was living in a terrible little apartment, and ended up bankrupt. At that point I was done with music for quite a while. I moved back to my hometown of Weston WV and moved back in with my parents. I was determined to just be a redneck and live in the sticks and have a quiet rest-of-my life. But that was not meant to be either. It turns out I hate rednecks. And I hate being around them. And I really hate poor paying jobs. After about a year in my hometown I got sick of the whole damn thing, threw some stuff in my car, and moved to Charlotte NC. I’ve been here ever since. After being here for about a year and working (ironically in a call-center) I joined another band. But my heart just wasn’t in it and I ended up quitting. (The band, not the job.) It was then that I got the idea to record an instrumental album on my own just to see if I could do it and to keep my chops up. That’s what you’re hearing on my ReverbNation page. This project would have been finished by now but I had a massive heart attack in November of last year. It’s been a slow recovery and doing anything that I used to do requires a lot more effort now. I want more than anything to feel as good as I felt before the heart attack. I quit smoking and work out whenever I can so maybe it will happen one day. It’s funny, but writing this has really helped me put things in perspective. It’s a lifetime away from the four year old crying to Queen to where I am now. But not really. Not really at all. Something else I noticed is that as much as I hate rednecks, I really worked hard back in WV to play in good bands, write good songs, and play shows that rocked people. And although the rock/metal scene in WV is almost nonexistent, I would like to feel I contributed to it in some small way. Thanks.
This was also my first exposure to a recording studio which was a fantastic learning experience. We used to drive 3 hours to a recording workshop. This place needed bands to teach aspiring sound engineers and we needed free studio time because we were broke-ass musicians so it worked out great. This is all well before home studios by-the-way. If you wanted to record music you had to rent a studio which was very expensive. 4-track tape machines were just getting popular. We recorded nearly an albums worth of songs that I’ve not heard to this day as we broke up before it was done. And then the 90’s happened. Grunge. I was playing in a band wearing silk shirts and Lip Service stretch jeans. That stuff was out. Flannel was in. Change or die. The drummer and I quit and started a new band with some friends called Temper. Again, it’s another bad band name. Sorry. As I remember it Temper was quite and enigma. I mean it was heavy and I remember having a ton of fun. But we were all growing up and finishing college and the pressures of being an adult weighed on all of us in one way or another. We more-or-less broke up at a few points. Then got back together later with different people. Still it was a positive experience and lots of people still remember some of our shows. I think that to this day I still have several copies of our second demo tape (which is pretty damn good actually) back in my parent’s attic if anyone is interested. I ended up graduating from college with a BA Music/Business Management. It was then that I got a 4-track tape machine and started making demos on my own. The songs I wrote ended up being recorded on Temper’s third demo. That demo never saw the light of day though as it just didn’t sound great. I don’t think any of us were too happy with the result. Which is a shame, because I honestly feel like those tunes were the last batch of good songs I ever wrote. Now maybe I’m being too hard on myself there but in terms of just writing catchy head-bopping tunes, that was as good as it ever got in my opinion. There was a band we all loved at this time call Chum. They wrote amazing songs with great melodies. They needed a guitar player and I joined. And even if it was the third band in a row I’d played with that had a horrible name, they were/are a fantastic band. This was the first signed band I had ever played with as they had released an album on Century Media records called “Dead to the World”. That’s a great album. It didn’t bode well for me though that a few months after joining they got dropped. I came on board at the wrong time and ended up only playing with them for six months. But during that time I learned a hell of a lot and played some huge shows. We’re talking a few thousand people at outdoor shows and opening up for big-name artists like Jerry Cantrell and Candlebox. For the next few years after Chum, I didn’t play with anyone. I just stayed in and practiced, wrote songs, and concentrated on working. I got married, bought a house, and got some dogs. I got a job as a manager in a call center and went to work everyday with a shirt and tie.
My first musical memory was when I was four. The neighbors in the upstairs apartment had bought a Queen album. Upon hearing the chorus of “We Are the Champions” I started crying inconsolably. It really tore me up emotionally for some reason. A few years later I got the Muppet Movie soundtrack on cassette tape which made a deep impression on me. At the same time my cousins were buying 45s of all these early 80’s New Wave artists that I would listen to anytime I was hanging out with them. Yes 45’s. Vinyl. I’m really that old. My parents had some cool albums too from guys like Kiss, Ted Nugent, and ZZ Top. So while I’ve always been a big music fan, it wasn’t until I was 13 that I started playing guitar. I got a Quiet Riot tape and there was this unaccompanied guitar solo on there called “Battle Axe”. I would use a tennis racquet and air guitar to that song over and over and over until I was a sweaty mess. My folks figured it was a phase but got me a guitar anyway. It was a cheap $25 half-size acoustic from the JC Penny catalog. Now they said they would buy me an electric guitar if I learned two songs on that guitar. It came with a small book of chords and some folk tunes that I tried to learn but I really needed some help. My first guitar teacher was this retired music teacher who also taught piano, banjo, and fiddle. He was so old school he insisted that I put a wound G-string on all my guitars, acoustic and electric. For the next two years we worked straight through the “Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method”. I did all seven books, which really gave me a solid base in reading music and theory. There was no guitar tablature just then. You had to learn to read or play by ear. My music education was kind of backwards compared to a lot of guitarists. You see most people start out learning power chords and rocking out to their favorite bands. Later on, if their really interested, they’ll learn scales and theory. I started learning that stuff first but had no idea how to play rock riffs. So when I was 15 I got another teacher who knew Rock music, and then I found another who knew Classical and Spanish guitar. So at one point I had no less than three guitar teachers. My folks were very patient with me thankfully. It was about this time that I heard Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”. And although I’ve told this story many times, it was upon hearing that album that I knew I would be playing Metal for the rest of my life for better or worse. By this time, tab books had been invented and I ordered Master of Puppets. I still have that tab book and many of my students over the years worked out of it as well. When I was 19 I joined a local band called Brick Mistress. Yeah, it’s a very silly name. But we were actually a pretty good band. Brick Mistress was sort of like “Rock School” for me. There were some older guys in the band who knew the most efficient ways to rehearse. We worked hard, got stuff done, and played hard.