Friday, February 27, 2009

SPIEL BOX - "Rehearsal" 1992?

(this above image has nothing to do with the band)

I always consider myself lucky to have "learned" how to play bass the way I did. I use the word "learned" loosely, as what little formal training I had didn't stay with me. I bought my first bass guitar in either 1991 or 1992. I can't remember exactly which year now, but I think I was a sophmore in High School. Either way, it was a late start for learning an instrument. Certainly, if I wanted to be any good at playing an instrument I would need a lot of practice and/or determination. I had neither. I've never considered myself to be a musician, but more of a fan of music who wanted to be involved in music. Becoming a fluent player has never entered my mind, not once.

After buying my bass (a Fender Jazz model 4 string, black with white pick guard) I decided I should take lessons. I started taking lessons from Chris Hunter at Richardson's Music Center. Each session $15 for 30 minutes. Chris tried to teach me scales, arpeggios, common chord progressions, etc but I never practiced them after I left my lessons. I listened to 90% heavy metal, 10% punk rock, had zero interest in classic rock music and couldn't see how any of the shit Chris was teaching me would apply to the kind of music I wanted to play (I can see it now). Eventually Chris asked me why I was paying for lessons when I wasn't putting any effort into learning anything, so I just started bringing in tapes and asking him to teach me how to play songs I liked until I eventually gave up on taking lessons all together. So much for that idea...

I had known Mike Hoff since my freshman year, but it wasn't until Jake Allee moved here from Cedar Rapids that we started playing music together. Jake was a skinny, mouthy, punk kid who's "fuck what you think" attitude got him beat up more than a couple of times at school. This dude fucking LOVED Primus, like they were the only band he ever talked about, and that's all I can remember my first impression of him. Mike introduced me to Jake and we got along okay (I think?), and shortly after we decided to start playing together.

My real musical training began when I started playing with Mike and Jake. At that time, all three of us sucked about the same. None of us had any experience and together we learned to play as a group. There was no shame in not being able to play your instrument because none of us could, really. This enviroment was completely nuturing and we all made progress, some progressed faster than others. It didn't take Jake long to emerge as the best musician of the group, but he put in the hours of practice to do so. Me....? Not so much. I did okay, that's all I wanted.

I don't think SPIEL BOX ever wrote any songs. When we got together, one of us would start playing something and the others would join in and we'd jam on it for a few minutes before running out of steam and moving on to another jam. There wasn't a whole lot of fancy fingerwork done on my part, but it was here that I learned how to play along with a drummer, how to stay on time and how to anticipate chord changes. The recordings we did were done during these jam sessions and, for the most part, these songs were only played once. There were a couple of songs I had lyrics written for in advance because I had to record something for a science project at school (yup, songs about cytoplasm and paramecium... good shit!), but the music was all written on the day of recording. Before SPIEL BOX stopped playing and we went our seperate ways we had a full tape of stuff recorded, but copies were never made and it remains unreleased to this day.

The 4 songs on this recording were done right before we split up. Recorded on a hand held tape recorder in Mike's basement, they sound suprizingly good. There are two cover versions of URINAL's "Ack, Ack, Ack!" (one slow, one fast), an improvised jam with lyrics loosely based on "Ack, Ack, Ack!" and a jam that eventually evolved into a UNISEX song, "I Like Breakfast". I can't remember why we stopped playing with Jake, but soon after this Mike and I formed UNISEX with Brian and Spence.



photonez said...

I remember these times. The house on Elm Street with a half pipe in the back yard. Jake had his Tama drum set. Your first time practicing at our place was the first time I met you Andy.


gamma693 said...

Man, I can only remember playing at that house once or twice before moving it over to Mike's basement. I remember the first time there, Jake was at least an hour late and I ended up standing in the kitchen with your dad talking about Mojo Nixon and King Crimson until he finally showed up. Most of my memories from those days reside in Mike's basement and, later on, in Jake's bedroom on Woodland that could easily have been featured in Hoarders. What a fucking mess that was....

How have you been, Ez? Where are you living now?