1996 was a big year. We got a van, made a terrible CD, changed our name and moved across the country. Each of these items in a story in itself, so I’ll try to make it quick.
Contrary to popular belief the van was not purchased with the layer of topsoil and mold many of you are accustomed to seeing. It was incredibly clean, did not have the roof extension and was actually Dave’s daily driver for quite a while. This made out of town shows far more comfortable that the two door jeep and minivan combination we were used to. We’d arrive places and actually feel like a real band. The van, which donned many titles including “the crib”, “the aviary”, and “the procreational vehicle”, was purchased with only a couple thousand miles on it. When we finally parted ways I believe it was close to 170,000. If you include time sleeping, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a year of my life in that rattling, foul-odored, sticker covered cage.
I mentioned that the first CD is terrible. It really is. The logos were made by a stranger and to this day I wonder if they are actually the result of a cruel and ultimately unfunny joke. I can vividly recall the first time I saw the CDs in front of Dave’s house. I opened the box like a kid on Christmas, saw the front cover and smiled with approval. Then I flipped it over, saw the back “artwork”, swore loudly and put it back in the box. Sometime later I suppressed my anger, removed the shrink wrap, saw the disc art and put it the box again fuming with disgust. A short while after that I played it on a car stereo and sure enough, it sounded as bad as it looked. The volume levels were impossibly low and we are still fairly sure the final recording was slowed down on the DAT to CD transfer since the demos sound better than the final product. The real tragedy is that we spent more time in the studio on that album that we did on any other album. We had a full month of unlimited studio time. For comparison The Kelvis was done in 3.5 days and it was infinitely better. There is a reason we buried half of those things under a slab of concrete in Dave’s back yard.
On a positive note, that first studio experience was a blast. I have fond memories of many things. The most ridiculous memory was making Bryan record a chicken egg shaker track over and over again only to see how long it would take to agitate him. I can also recall inviting all of our friends down to sing gang vocals on a song, which was awesome to witness and still makes me smile. Perhaps the least appropriate bit of trivia about the album is that at least one half of the songs were mixed while the engineer watched pornography. I may be misremembering this, but I could swear one video featured a hermaphrodite. Inexplicably, he had videos in the studio, but no VCR so we drove to a Blockbuster and rented one just so he could mix in style. When we eventually returned the VCR we felt a bit unclean knowing about the unspeakable filth that had just spewed from its analog heads. Speaking of porn, the album actually got its name from a selection contained within the large stash of adult reading in the studio. ‘Swank’ was the winning title since the runner up, ‘Meat People’ wasn’t going to cut it.
With the album release we accepted the realization that there were two other bands called Hoss and one of them actually had a record out. So, we decided to change the band name. We liked Octane. Not wanting to endure another name change we decided to make it unique and attached a number to it. 800 Octane just had a ring to it. It was that simple. I liked the name until the first time we saw a flyer with 1-800-Octane on it, then I started to question the decision. I’m glad we changed it though, since a year or two later Lagwagon released their album called Hoss, which is still one of my all-time favorite albums.
As for moving across the country? That’s actually not a quick story at all.
1994 was a long time ago. Clinton was in office, OJ was relevant and grunge was winding down. It was also the year Dave, Bryan, Paul and I decided to start a band.
Dave, Bryan and I were all mutual friends who lived in the same dorm in school. We spent that first year driving all over the place to go to shows. If we weren’t driving to see live music, we were listening to music, talking about music or arguing about music. We met Paul the following year and he immediately fit right it. Aside from listening it turned out Dave and Bryan had actually played music in bands before. I don’t recall if Paul was ever in a band previously, but he was a naturally talented guitarist. I was the odd man out since I had never played any music. All I knew was the dozen Misfits songs that Dave taught me on the crappy guitar I bought in Lenoir. Motivated? Yes. Talented? Definitely not. We all got together in various configurations playing covers and for open mic events here and there.
In the summer of ‘94, we were all in town and found ourselves with access to a practice space. It was a pay by the month storage unit attached to an alternator repair shop. I can’t recall the first practices specifically, but I do know something seemed to click pretty quickly. We were able to kick out a batch of songs in a few weeks and just like that we decided to become a band. We quickly and easily settled on the name Hoss. Living in rural North Carolina it was a name you heard from time to time and it seemed to fit with what we were playing. With a name and a new found mission we kept writing. The songs were short, fast, a little quirky and all over the place lyrically. Songs about movies, songs about girls, songs about growing up. I think it’s safe to say we haven’t strayed too far from that formula.
After practicing all summer the next milestone was to actually play some shows. Even at this relatively obscure college town in what could be best be described as a culturally neglected part of the state, there was actually a bit of a music scene. Local bands included Sticky, The Husbians, Smartbomb, Damage Done (“the metal guys”), Silly, Pink Collar Jobs and several more. There were good bands making good music, and despite being such a small town, it had a pretty diverse and positive thing happening. Later that year we finally played shows. For many years our first shows held a nearly magical quality in my mind. I believed this strongly until a few years ago when I copied them from VHS to a computer and witnessed the horror firsthand. We were not rock gods bursting out of a scene that couldn’t contain us, but rather four nerdy looking dudes barely holding the attention of anyone in attendance. Yes, there were a few good shows, but I assure you there were even more terrible ones. We had to experience all of the stuff that new bands go through; equipment problems, travel problems, overly long set lists, a lack of banter between songs and just general sucking on stage. We were paying dues, thankfully to a small and somewhat merciful audience.
As we started to get better we followed the lead of our friends and later started to play some out of town shows. Hickory, Johnson City, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Wilmington, etc. Eventually we did get to open for a few headliners. The show that seemed like the high water mark for us was when we got to open for Antiseen. I presumed that would be as good as it got for us. We kept playing and I figured that when we all got done with school we’d call it quits and go our separate ways. Wow, was I wrong.
Rise Again was released 10 years ago this week, which brings back a number of random thoughts about the album.
In typical 800 Octane fashion, Dave didn’t have lyrics to most of the songs when we walked in the studio door. I’m pretty sure Dave wrote Lost At Sea first, in one pass in about 5 minutes. Never Sleep Again went pretty quickly as well. The strong songs always seem to write themselves. Other songs like Roads Less Traveled had lyrics being scribbled while being performed. Go For Broke was tough because the music was written at the last practice before recording. Paging Mr. Bronson almost got cut, while we were certain Now Or Never would be the most popular song. Totally incorrect. We did multiple takes of the spaceship noise in Destination:Space, however the howl in Bloodline only took one. Most people don’t know this, but the feedback in the middle of Dead Air is morse code for S.O.S. Subtle, but I love it. We also spent more than two hours discussing whether or not we should include Waving Goodbye on the album. Although factually correct, the song is still totally ridiculous.
As for the physical album, that was a labor of love and hate as well. Like all three of the ‘R’ albums the artwork and layout was hammered out by our friends Kevin and Robert in Seattle. Navigating the design electronically between people with good taste (them) and people with poor taste (us) took a long time. Another fun fact is that many of the pictures from the album were taken at a real mortuary (thank you Brent), while others were taken at an office building. Knowing that, it’s easy to tell which is which. The DVD was excruciating to create. Knowing nothing about how to author a DVD, we decided to author a DVD. With the assistance of Bryan, the former sound guy from the Paris Theater, we all stumbled through it one hard lesson at a time. At one point nearing completion the computer with the project crashed. The data was recoverable, but upon inspection we did find the computer had cockroaches in it. To say the DVD process was sketchy is an understatement.
Those are just a few things that come to mind. Every time I listen to it, something comes back to me. Hopefully if you liked the album you have your own memories associated with it. If you want to hear it again, or for the first time, we just made the album a free download at Bandcamp. Of course we still have physical copies for sale as well.
It just dawned on us that this spring will mark 20 years of mediocrity. That is all.
God dammit GoDaddy is awful. Good riddance. Dear BlueHost, please don’t screw up our site.
That was a lot of rock packed into one show. The Thorntown Tallboys were up first and played with some noisy rock and roll swagger. We were up second and man, it was sort of a mess. On the first verse of the first song, Dave breaks a bass string. Dave never breaks strings so we had to scrape the cobwebs off his spare bass that literally hasn’t seen the light of day in over a year. It only took two minutes but it felt like an hour. Perhaps more disappointing was that Justin was left to “entertain” the crowd. There is probably a correlation there. Then again, I wasn’t rushing up there to say anything. We started up again and three songs later we get to ‘Lost at Sea’ and I break the A string in the first verse. Fail. Trying to learn how to play a song of a different part of the guitar after so many years is a challenge, especially with an audience watching you suck. There is also a part in the song where it’s just me playing for 20 seconds and I was desperately trying to remember where on the fret board to play it. We muddled through it I swapped guitars and we moved on. To complete the holy trinity of frustration, during the last song, Justin broke a string as well. Eleven songs, three broken strings. Very unusual. Very annoying. Despite all that guitar nonsense the set was actually pretty good. Normally I write how people up front knew the words and sang along. Not the case tonight at all. We knew maybe 6 people in the crowd at best. The first few songs ended with chirping crickets, but by the end people seemed to dig it so that was a plus. The Spittin’ Cobras were up next and after 5 seconds it became obvious why we received such a tepid response. They were energetic, fast, gnarly rock with a touch of thrash metal. Motorhead meets AC/DC in a modern sounding package. They had the look, the gear, the moves and even the roadie. Very, very, very impressive set. Last up was The Independents. Sadly the influx of people that arrived for the Cobras bailed, the remaining folks were what I would call an intimate crowd. Predictably they won over everyone that remained and half way through their set they had a very, very stoked crowd watching them. All in all a very good night. Thanks to the Ash Street for having us. Best of luck to The Independents on the rest of their tour.
Longview. Thursday. Bar show. Given the criteria, I was expecting about 10 people and to my surprise there was probably 30. This may sound like a bad night in the making, but given the tiny room and the fact that everyone knows each other it was not too bad of a night. I still maintain we have more history with people in Longview than in Portland. Unfortunately, we missed the first band perform because Justin can’t tell time. Thankfully, we did arrive in time to see the Independents play. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them play and I always forget how good they are live. They can rock it live in just about any situation, which is impressive. Whenever we play with them I also can’t help but compare notes. We’re almost the same age (they started 1-2 years before us) and they have been full time touring musicians from the start. To say I’m jealous of them is an understatement. They aren’t selling out every town or playing on TV, but they get to play with tone of great bands, have very loyal fans all over the place, get to see the country and play music most nights. Invariably, I have that moment where I think, wow, what if we would have played our cards differently and gone full time? That dream is short lived though, because the answer is we would have imploded and given up years ago. The fact we’re all still friends and get to play music isn’t half bad. I’ve digressed. We played last, which was intimidating. We can keep up on energy, but how do you follow a band with a bubble machine? You don’t. You just hope people forget and don’t hold it against you for not providing some soothing ambiance. We did bust out a few oldies including Berserker, which hasn’t seen the light of day in many, many years. After the show we headed out to a 24 hour Jack in the Box, reveled in the artery hardening goodness of the Munchie Meal (seriously, “exploding chicken?”) and with the Independents following behind pressed on back to Dave’s compound. Small crowd, but a very fun night. Thanks to all of those who came out on a weeknight and stayed late!
Totally stoked to play with our homies in the Independents in October. Flyer is up!
The guys from The Punk Rock Demonstration have been playing our music for several years now. We haven’t thanked them in quite some time, so here’s a plug. If you like your music free and streaming check ’em out at punkrockdemo.com. Clearly they have excellent taste in music.
It’s been awhile since we’ve played a big show. Big venue. Big stage. Big sound system. Big headliner. No disrespect to the bars and dives we normally frequent, but this was a nice change. The best part about the evening was the fact I didn’t feel old at a show. For the past few years we’ve been more and more frequently the oldest people in the club. Tonight? Not the case at all. D.O.A. has been at it since 1978. For the mathematically un-inclined that’s 35 years. That’s older than two of our band members. It was great seeing people ranging from their 20’s to their 50’s getting rowdy at a show. The Clackamas Baby Killers were up first and I thought they were awesome. Very fast, super energetic and just on the edge of out of control. Circle pit during the opening band? Yes, please. Absent Minds played second and had a range of fun, catchy songs. More rowdiness ensued. It turns out we had played with them once before at a house show, however due to the tiny room I never actually knew what they looked like. We were up third. Pretty lively bunch of people up front, which was awesome to see. Nothing too unusual happened tonight, except for the performance of New Song #2, which came out of its 5 year hibernation. Highlight of the set? Dave taking a song request via phone and then denying that request publicly. Low point? Dustin starting Requiem at half speed for our second to last song. I only mention this detail because he was so ashamed of his actions. He should be. D.O.A. was up last and although I’d never seen them before I thought they were great. Everyone joked that if I played music for another 20 years I’d probably look like the singer. Black shirt, camo pants, red SG guitar, white hair and a slightly poor posture. I can see that. However, it would all be an illusion because he was a badass at guitar and I am not. In fact, it was kind of inspiring see a band of that generation rock it so hard. Most bands from the 80’s are phoning it in and these guys are still belting it out like it’s the most important thing in the world. I’m so stoked we got to play this show. Thanks to Thrasher Presents and the Hawthorne Theater!