Born in 1953 into a musical family, I was exposed - continually - to symphonic and other contemporary music including Wagner, Stravinsky, Delius, Gregorian Chant, Bartok, Donald Erb, Miles Davis, Gershwin, Karlheinz Stockhausen, etc., and a lot of other contemporary 20th Century music. My dad was 1/2 of the music "department" at the Evening Star back when Washington DC had a sort of credible newspaper. He also designed and played pipe organs, and taught music at Catholic University.
My mom was one hell of a singer. Gershwin her specialty. My First instrument, sometimes while tap dancing was the trumpet, but I dropped that for the autoharp, guitar and bass when the Beatles appeared; then concentrated on what was to become my main instrument, the drums after about 1966. Accidentally at my old friend Bruce Olivers' house I discovered I could somewhat play them better than most other kids in the neighborhood (Except Horacio El Negro Hernandez, more later) in 1968. I still play guitar, bass, trombone and saxophone from time to time, infuriating most. Go figure. I also used to get together with a "newer" Santana drummer (was my childhood junior high school neighbor, actually) Horacio Hernandez, whom I knew during the mid 1960s when he briefly lived in DC telling everyone he was Venezualen although I think he is Cuban. Being Cuban in 1968 was not an OK thing to say when you were in DC. Around this time, I started listening to lots of psychedelic and progressive European prog rock music, including The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, early Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, etc., and, during the early 1970s I was introduced to Henry Cow, Magma, and Canterbury music. I started playing in bands around 1970. Most of the groups I was in arranged a lot of their own stuff; Thanks Carl Peachey and many others..I only very occasionally played in Top 40 club cover groups. Worked in several DC area and east coast rock groups until 1975, then formed Magick Theatre with the jazz bassist Pepe Gonzalez and guitarist Ernesto "Caracuchie" Herrera. This was a bit of an early Weather Report-later Miles Davis-influenced band. It was the first gigging band I played in that free-improvised live. It was while I was with this group in the summer of 1976 that I was contacted by Michael Zentner about playing, (to this day we have never played together) through Pepe Gonzalez. Michael was also recently an ex Muffin. He even took me to see the Muffs while they were a trio with Tom, Billy, and Dave. A powerful show it was. We met and hit it off quite well. The rest is history.
TRUE HUMOR NOTES:
1. I knew Tom Fenwick from the Random Radar band Mars Everywhere a year or two before I met the Muffins, and for at least a year before I met them, he was telling me "you have to meet this band, you will really like them", (The Muffins) but could never recall their phone number or any other details while we were hanging out. Then Mike Zentner hooked us up, so, serendipity...
2. The Muffins lived and practiced in Gaithersburg, MD. I lived in DC. When Dave came to pick me up that first day in the summer of '76, his car was making this really weird gurgling/bubbling sound. After about 1/2 hour of driving and conversation, I had to say "wait a minute, Dave, what is UP with this car?" He had a broken 8 track tape player under the seat with Edgar Froese's "AQUA" playing continually, and did not know how to shut it off! Yes, even Matching Mole's Little Red Record was available on 8 track..
So, we got together and improvised through most of the summer of 1976. Dave and I worked up the arrangements that were to become "Amelia Earheart", our first tune together. We debuted this quartet with the band "Grits" at American University in DC on my birthday Oct 2, 1976. My parents even hosted a party celebrating all that night. The rest is well documented. Several events led to the demise of the Muffs, frustration and ennui had set in, the local gig scenario was changing - the severely insular hardcore punk scene in DC was starting up, Tom left, everyone had personal stuff to deal with, so the band split in 1981. I was the only one that stayed in the DC area.
We did not see each other at all until 1990, when we got together for an impromptu gathering at my house when Billy happened to be in town. Photos survive, but thankfully, no recording exists of that day. In 1994, we were inveigled, mostly by Steve Feigenbaum to contribute to the Cuneiform project "Unsettled Scores". So we got together for one day at my house, and our track on that record is the result. The basic tracks were recorded in my basement during a party. I think there was one overdub session. The result is amazing. By 1996-7, I had gotten heavily into the Internet, and was reading - quite surprisingly - A LOT OF POSITIVE STUFF about the Muffins. I really had no prior idea....It's not like we bought houses with Muffin royalties.. So, during 1998 after much effort I managed to con the guys into a doing a small gig in July at "Chief Ike's Mambo Room in Washington DC, just to *see if it would work*. It was rough, but it did. It was very tense for us. More so then our first gig. This club was also used in the movie "Enemy of the State", but was called "Captain Ike's". Great place to play. Several CD's were released; Bandwidth, Double Negative, Palindrome, Mother Tongue, then while working on the next CD (a Big Band) things sort of un-hinged.
As The Muffins disbanded (the actual disbanding took quite a bit of time) we were working on a Big Band CD and it made sense to me, to complete the work with Tom, Billy, and Mark... to finish up what we had started. And so, 4S'd Sears, Scott, Swann & Stanley rose from the ashes (I'm waxing poetic here as we are still all Muffins Brothers and life long friends) to continue the work and finish the CD 'Man or Muffin'.
SOME FAVORITES and INFLUENCES
Fred Frith and most of the HENRY COW clan, Tony Williams, Christian Vander, Rick Barse and GRITS, Buddy Rich, Billy Cobham, Dave Clark, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Jamie Muir, Ken Hyder, Jannick Top, Ginastera, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Robert Fripp at times, John McGlauglin, Prince, Iggy Pop, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Jimi Hendrix, AREA, BDB, Hugh Banton, Dzyan, Van der GRAFF, Guru Guru, Carl Orff, Blodwyn Pig, Howard Roberts, Bela Bartok....you get the idea..
Many people I have encountered throughout my life have been a tremendous help. First, my family....my dad was a music teacher, organist, and critic, my mom a classical and choir singer. And, I must acknowledge, without the help of Mark Klieger, Mike Odom, Geoffrey Wright, Kirk Degler, Bruce Oliver, and the wildy amusing Doug Mendelson, the drums would not be my primary instrument. These guys, all childhood friends, all let me play or actually lent me drumsets during the 1960s. I don't know how to reach all of them, so, if you read this: Thanks, gents.
More people I owe thanks to for various Muffin related and other reasons are Fred Frith, Giorgio Gomelsky, Al Jirikovic, Daevid Allen, Hardy Fox and RALPH Records, Mike Potter and ORION, Yochk'o Seffer, Bill Laswell, John Greaves, Bill Milkowski, Nick Didkovsky, Chris Cutler, Steve Feigenbaum, Joyce Nalewajk, Peter Blegvad, Francois Laizeau, Ken Newman, Katina Bovis, Brad Braden, Bruce Gallanter, The Knitting Factory, Bobby Rencher, Kevin Cosgrove, Carl Merson, and more. You know who you are.