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.