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April 09, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

t'
When I first saw the band together, the aura
theyprojected said "rock'n'roll." (It was agood
thing I couldn't see the drummer, because his
said something closer to "Graduate Library.")
The three guys I did see - the guys everyone in
the audience would see - all had long hair that
begs the question, "What instrument do you
play?" Two guys with guitars and a guy with a
huge black bass. Heavy metal was more like it.
Very MTV Headbangers' Ball. For a short-
haired, musically talentless would-bejoumalist,
it was pretty damn scary.
This is the story of that band: the way their
separate paths converged to form the band, the
inspirations thathelped them along that path, the
sparks of creative genius that produced the killer
riffs and funky bass lines, and the divine inter-
ention that brought about the breakup of the
and.
* In the beginning, there was Dave. Dave
Iingorany, Engineering first-year student. Just
'ave, his bass, a five-CD disc player and that
little something that makeshim want to perform
┬░for everyone he meets.
Dave came to the University from a small
t6wn near Boston - "historic Concord, Mass."
,,At first (and in recurring waves since) the Uni-
versity didn't agree with him. "I don't like
sports, and I think there's a lot of bureaucracy
,,here. It's impossible to get anything done.....
;}he people in general are very unfriendly.... I
walk down the street ... and people hide their
r babies," he laments. Nothing made him want to
,stay. Except maybe getting a band together.
Sohe started looking.When he saw someone
-with long hair, he'd ask, "Do you play an instru-
mnent?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Mostly
he'd just sit in his room and play his bass, or
'jinmerse himself in the music of D.A.D.,
Soundgarden and Journey.
Dave started playing bass his sophomore
year in high school. Before that he played drums
-with little success. "I suck," he says. "I never
practiced." Bass seemed like a good idea. He
oplayed a lot in high school, with schoolmates
and with friends from elementary and junior
:.high school. Nothing big. Mostly talent shows,
class fundraisers, small jam sessions. It was fun,
but it didn't seem that important at the time.
-: But when he got out to Michigan, Dave
realized how much he missedplaying. When he
1 met Jim the search began.
Jim Priest, Engineering sophomore from
*Pontiac - "a typical hick town," as he calls it.
'Jim has played the skins since junior high. He
says he originally wanted toplay the saxophone,
but his orthodontist told him not to, fearing Jim
awould rip off his braces. His mother urged him
to play drums, and Jim went out for his school
band where he learned the basics of drumming.
_He was one of those guys you see with the huge
drum ornamenting their chests. But a drummer
with one large drum strapped to his body is not

The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 9,1993 - Page 5

.- -
^- ' '
J Q
'
,,

..........

IZWILL McCAHILm

a common element in a
rock'n'roll band.
So Jim taught himself how
to play drums. Plural. Many
drums in sequence. Cymbals,..
too. "I would sit in my room
andlearnRush,"Jimsays. With-
out a set, of course, just air- '
drumming. A lot of people air- *k
drum, tapping their fingers and
slapping their thighs to the beat
of their favorite tunes. Not Jim.
Jim knows of whathe taps. Jim
means business.
Jim's drumming careercon-
tinued at Cranbrook-
Kingswood Upper School in
Bloomfield Hills, wherehe used
the school's drum set to try out
his air-drumming techniques.
He played in bands at school
talent shows. It was at
CranbrookthatJimmetBravin,
the guitarist to be.
Jim came to Michigan last
year. "Loved it,"hesays. "Ijust
couldn't imagine myself going
anywhere else."
He's not ashigh (in the metaphoric sense) on
the student body at large. "The general attitude
on this campus is ... a lot of people don't seem to
want to get to know you." Which is why he was
so happy to find such an amiable group of guys
to play with.
Bravin Neff, LSA first-year student. Bravin
is guitars. Not plays. Is. Bravin has a mere four
years of guitar experience under his belt. This is
pretty hard to believe. After talking to him, I
thoughthe was thesecondcoming of Beethoven,
a guitar-wielding genius.
And watching him play his instrument, one
might well believe he is Beethoven. He loses
himself in the chords and scales, becoming
immersed in the music, eyes closed, expression-
less - for all you know, he's deaf to the music,
playing by feel.
Bravin is from Milford - a small town 20
miles from Ann Arbor - which he likens to
John Cougar Mellencamp's early-80's "Jack
and Diane" video -"a perfect hick town ... but
it's turning R&B," as the suburbs expand out-
wards from Detroit.
Bravin metJim at Cranbrook, a place where
he felt very uncomfortable because of the dis-
parity between the affluence of many students
and his own background. He left after only a
year and went to the public high school in
Milford. He didn't like it there too much either,
shutting himself in the library during lunch to
read philosophy.
He wasn't any happier with Ann Arbor.
"I don't mind the school but ... I'm really
starting to get resentful of Ann Arbor, because
everything
is costing
me every-
thing ... this
place is a
fucking
crock."

One more to go. Gotta have the rhythm.
Doug Franzen, LSA sophomore, also on guitar.
Doug was Dave's lab partner in a physics class
last fall. Says Dave, "We talked all the time
about random things ... one day I'm like, 'He's
got long hair,' so I asked him, 'You don't play an
instrument, do you?' So he's like 'Oh, I've been
playing guitar for four years."'
Except for a few little jam sessions, that was
about it until one night in February. Doug got a
call from Dave, who wanted to know if he'd be
interested in playing in a band. Sure, Doug said.
Oh yeah, Dave added in passing, we're playing
a talent show next Thursday. Still interested?
Doug was up to the challenge. He'd played
in bands all through high school in his home-
town of Westlake, Ohio, not far from Cleveland,
and he'd really missed it since coming to Michi-
gan. For a brief, shining moment last fall, he was
in a band, and even lugged all his equipment up
from home. But then the drummer in that band
decided he didn't have the time, so things kind
of fizzled out. Doug jumped at the chance.
And so it started.
The bands that influence the guys are pretty
varied, spanning the spectrum from death-metal
to the Beatles. Dave was into the Seattle scene
-bands like PearlJam, Soundgarden and Alice
in Chains -before it was "raped," as he calls it,
by Top-40 culture. Jim's been into Rush for
years, butdabblesinPanteraandAnthrax. Bravin
also includes Rush and Pantera on his list of
mentors, but that's just the start. Again, Rush is
at the top of Doug's list, accompanied by Bob
Dylan and Edie Brickell. He likes Chopin and
Bach, too - remnants of 10 years of classical
piano lessons.
Everyone has some degree of Led Zeppelin
in his makeup, and that's sort of where the band
began.
They knew that any effort to "make it" onto
the Ann Arbor music scene would take a large
repertoire of covers - their versions of popular
songs by other bands. Yet the fonts of creativity
still bubbled within them, so they set out to craft
some tunes of their own.
Of the four songs the band performed at the
South Quad talent show in February, one of
them was an original, known only as the "F-
sharp tune," with no lyrics, just the music. That
one came from Bravin. "I just started hearing
riffs in my head," he explained. He recorded it at
home, and brought it over for Dave to hear. At
the next practice session, Bravin played it for the
rest of the band.
I asked them to describe the process of
constructing songs. Dave: "Someone will come
up with something, like Bravin's riffs, and then
everybody else adds in."
Jim: "The thing is, we all kind of collaborate
. like myself, I don't really have the talent to
write a song ... they write some song, some
rhythm, andI try to fill it in (with the drums)."
Dave came up with a couple funky bass lines
for the group to build on. His creative process is
slightly different, at least this time around. He
says the grinding rhythm that is still nameless
and lyricless came to him during a trip to the

bathroom. "I guess in this instance you could say
it came not out of my heart, but out of my butt."
Onenightthebandwas trying to workoutthe
fills - the guitar and drum accompaniments to
the bass line. Nobody was quite getting the
bridge that connected the two distinct parts of
the songs.
"Wait a bar or two," Dave said. "I think the
key thing in it is the gulag feeling ... you're like
..." - he played a chord on the bass - "...
escape is on the horizon!" - a higher chord -
"it's right there! ..." (pause - a space where the
average listener would expect another chord)
"... shit!"
Jim groans. Jim is a devout Christian, a
frequent visitor to His House. Capital "H," as in
God. Swearing doesn't go over too well with
him. One of the names the band considered was
"We're All Going to Hell Except Jim." And it
sometimes seems like God rewarded Jim for his
devotion by giving him the talent for playing the
drums.
For an outsider, watching the group work
together is fascinating. Dave is the most outgo-
ing of the four, and will often burst out scream-
ing to some song they happen to be working on.
At the time, he and Doug were sharing the
singing duties, something neither had done be-
fore, and with which neither was overly com-
fortable. Both, however, are overly modest about
their singing abilities.
Dave likes to poke fun at the other guys.
Usually they don't take it lying down. Jim will
often just shake his head with a playful frown,
deflecting Dave's wit. But sometimes he will
give Dave a brief (but to-the-point) tongue-
lashing, though his retortis more likelyjustto be
along the lines of "Awww," or "Shut up."
Bravin and Doug are apt to takeDave on with
their own quick tongues, although it's pretty
hard to shut Dave down once he gets rolling.
In fact, it's pretty hard to stop any of them
once they get going. On their instruments, that
is. When they launch into a song, especially a
song they know, or one they can improvise on,
they stay up there in the nether regions of the
music-making process for quite some time.
Usually it's not all of them at the same time.
Sometimes it's Dave, but more often it's Bravin
or Jim. When Jim picks up momentum, it's hard
to bring him to a screeching halt. That's because
he's loud. If you've ever been in an eight-by-ten
foot room with thick concrete walls, you'd
know that it only takes about 10 minutes of
serious drummery before your ears start to ring
louder than Big Ben. So even getting Jim's
attention is difficult, much less stopping him
when he's in the groove.
Bravin is another story. Hejustshutshis eyes
and lets his fingers do the talking. He looks like
he's having the most amazing dream possible, a
little peaceful grin on his face. Then you look at
his fingers and see that they're moving a mile a
minute. Of course the sound is pretty hard to
ignore. Even if you're not into heavy metal and
big loud guitars, anyone who can make an
instrument make that kind of noise that fast is
nothing short of spellbinding.

But don't think each guy's fascination with
his own instrument stops the creative and coop-
erative processes from flowing. Even though
I've never spent long periods of time with a
"real" band, somehow I just know that this is
about as real as it gets.
Then there was the gig. That should have
been the beginning of it all. A springboard to
greater things. But it wasn't. The band foundout
on a Wednesday night they had a gig at a
fraternity party that Friday . After frantic prepa-
rations and a nerve-racking last-minute search
for a singer, they played. It wasn't quite what
they expected - pretty small crowd, not too
much attention until the alcohol began to kickin.
A pretty anticlimactic conclusion to a lengthy
process full of hopes and dreams. Not that they
expected to sign a multimillion dollar record
deal after the first gig, but, the show seemed like
it was kind of a letdown.
And then it was over. Just like that, Jim quit.
"In essence what happened was, after I played,
I was convinced in my heart that God said 'Well
now look ...'He was telling me to holdoffon this
... it isn't good for you. God's will for me is not
to (play drums)."
"I felt relieved, I felt more peaceful, I was
happier after I quit because I knew I was doing
what God wanted me to do."
The guys weren't too pleased with this turn
of events. They understand Jim's decision on
some level, but don't really agree with it.It
became apparent that they all really loved doing
it and that they really liked Jim and wanted him
to keep playing.
"I think God and Jesus are stylin' guys and I
think they'd be cool aboutJimplaying drums in
our band," Dave says. Looking up at the ceiling,
his hands clasped, he wails, "Give him back to
us, please."
Even though the guys are all still friends,
jokes about cults often come up in conversation
about the band. The guys like to ask Jim when
he's going down to Waco, Texas (the site of a
standoff between armed religious fanatics and
federal agents).
Bravin, Dave and Doug are at a loss as to the
fate of the band and their own musical futures.
"Honestly, the biggest thing I was looking
forward to coming to school was getting into a
band," Bravin says. "Next thing I know, Jim
quits ..."
What really becomes apparent in the discus-
sion of Jim's departure and the band's future is
that these guys are really smart, really with it,
andextremely well-spoken.Notsomething you'd
expect of long-haired musician types.
"I'd really like to stay with these guys, espe-
cially Jim," Doug says.
Bravin agrees, but admits that if he were to
get another offer over the summer and began to
go somewhere, he'd probably leave Dave and
Doug looking for anew lead guitarist, too. "You
gotta look out for yourself," he says.
"I dunno," says Dave. "We worked. Still do.
Present tense."
And they did. And they still do. Present
tense. Heavy metal.

He says
he hates the
fact that he
can't sup-
port himself
and be astu-
dent in a
town full of
students be-
cause of the
jacked-up
prices the
captive mar-
ket entails.
Playing
guitar and
being in the
band, how-
ever,
brought so-
lace and
shelter from
the world
outside.

W t

K

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