The year is 1998, the place is an old office above my drummers work (later dubbed: “Toxic Music Studios” or simply just “The Studio”); then known as superior pool supply in an industrial complex in El Cajon which we rented out every month. A place where we practiced and recorded, for the band that was astutely named “Intoxicated”. The name stuck from playing around pubs near San Diego State University, as the students would often give us their enthusiastic salutations under the influence of their favorite pints. Thus the name “Intoxicated” became somewhat of a Trademark for us. The “studio” we practiced in was across from a trolley station which enabled us to play as loud as we wished at all hours of the night due to the lack of anyone complaining about the music from the street below. We would sometimes get visitors from the trolley station patrons that entered the stairwell below and walk up to peer into an opened door where we played and get a glimpse of where the music was coming from. Our musical sets were diverse for that time, sometimes playing very loud as mentioned, but many times we had a quieter side, a melodic side that did not need a large volume of amplification. It wasn’t the standard list of songs bands would do during those years. We took some risks, but stayed mainly close to the songs we thought we could do fairly well. We played what we liked, and really the “top 40” that commercial bands at the time would play, as we diverged by playing songs that many bands did not play.
Part of the fun was playing loud. It is something that cannot easily be accomplished these days due to the places where a band can play. Unless you have a sound-proofed garage, a studio that you rent in a sound proof complex(expensive), or some other remote area to perform (without any objections from neighbors), then you could bust loose and play without fear of noise pollution. The amount of time to set up and break down takes effort, and if you rented a place you wanted to make sure it was secure, that you did not have to move any equipment every time you wanted to play, and that you had no restrictions to play after regular business hours. So the idea of playing in a converted office above a commercial building in a remote area with no residential inhabitants sounded like the perfect place to set up. Even if it was only once a week, we had a great time.
We had gone through several band member changes for the years we were together. Some moved out-of-town, got new jobs and could not commit to the time any longer, and others just moved on to different things. But overall we just loved to play. When recruiting for other players we lost, I found other friends that also had a passion for playing music. Personally I became a better guitar player, a better songwriter, and a better singer after playing with these guys. From the beginning we may not have been the best at our instruments at the time, but we all showed a great deal of improvement through the years. I think that has something to do with our passion and love of playing. Having quality instruments was also huge. The instruments we accumulated also seemed to trend with our enthusiasm. At one time we had a complete organ, not just a keyboard that could emulate the organ sounds, but an actual Hammond B-3 organ. Man that was a pain in the ass trying to move this from gig to gig, or even up and down the stairwell of our studio every time we had to move it. I can say it did start some controversial conversations between why we needed a Hammond B-3! I started with an Ibanez Artist hollow-body guitar, only to buy a Gibson ES335 studio, a Paul Reed Smith custom 22 top, and finally an American Fender Fat Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan pickups. Not to mention all the guitar effects, P.A. equipment and sound system effects along with my Peavy 212 renown and finally my Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp. Man I guess I was in it for the endorphin release. My favorite outlet was music. It was how I could express myself.
We were a democratic band, but I must admit that if one of us wanted to do something, we all usually just went along. Playing a particular song for instance, or playing a party gig we would usually support. We started with some very modest means in terms of the equipment we used. We slowly upgraded through the years that we were active. We never really made any money when we played in public, but we were able to drink all we could drink along with a fair cash payment on services rendered for bringing in patrons to the local bar we happened to play in at the time. I have to say that somebody suggested we call ourselves “In it for the P*#@y”! A name we laughed at but did not employ.
Its interesting when you think of a band and the influences they have on you. Playing songs that others would suggest that you wouldn’t have thought to play without their comments. Or maybe its the politics that develop over a time when a band of people come together to perform a united love and past-time. Sharing musical influences that you like with influences they like doesn’t always sync together without some discussion of what we should play and what we should not play. Thought must be placed in these decisions. Just because we liked a song doesn’t mean we could necessarily pull it off given our talent level and our equipment limitations to emulate it, or even give it our own spin. We found that after we became a tighter band, we were able to read each other better musically, and we could put our own “sound” upon a standard classic. But there were times that we did not do the song any justice at all, even though the song itself was a great song. Bands have to be their own critic’s before they try to perform a song that may not be right for them. What would be a crowd pleaser and what would be very questionable for us to try had to be decided. Could one of us sing it like them, or would we sing out of range? It took some time to develop just what kind of band we would be.
My vision narrowed us down to playing more originals and the ranges when we did do covers, and for the most part I wrote original songs that I was happy to play with the band because they became our songs! They defined us in more ways than just being able to play a popular song well, but playing a song we wrote ourselves. Most of the influential music I liked was blues-rock based and had a huge impact on me when performing. I was very passionate about some of the material we played. Simply because I was proud of it. Sometimes Clarke my keyboardist and rhythm guitar player begin a riff that he used while trying to do a blues jam, I would spontaneously come up with lyrics while jamming to it, and later we would turn it into an original song. Other times I would introduce a song I had written playing it alone for them while they got the idea. We would then all come together with our parts on the song as it took shape and form. A team effort with everyone including the Bassist Dan, and the drummer Tony filling in with their parts they created.
Lord knows I’ve tried
It’s an awful awakenin’
In a country boy’s life
To look in the mirror
In total surprise
At the hair on your shoulders
And the age in your eyes.
Fate should have made you a gentle man’s wife
Amanda light of my life
Fate should have made you a gentle man’s wife.Well the measure of people
The pleasures of life
In a hillbilly band
I got my first guitar
When I was fourteen
Now I’m crowding thirty
And stillwearin’ jeans.[Chorus]
The commitment to play under these conditions can be taxing on one’s life. Sometimes we could not arrange schedules to play that week. But when we made it, we made it. We were hobbyist’s anyway. There is nothing like performing for other people. Playing songs you enjoy as well as others, seeing them appreciate what you play is second to none.