Now any right-thinking band would put out their first official record (we had 3 EP’s under our belt at that point, all home recorded). It generally works well if you go with the songs that you know best, that have received the biggest applause. GG was never right thinking so consequently we wrote a whole new set of songs. Then started sending them to musicians who came into our orbit.
And when it came to where we would record, I had only one thought: The Scamp.
Chris was a drummer, but seemed to be able to play any instrument he laid his hands on. He kept time with the art rock extravaganza that was The Bud Collins Trio (at last count, 6 or 7 members). I had read their name when I lived down in Fairfield constantly in the New Haven Advocate, so they were sort of Stars to me.
Flash forward 10 years or so and there is me, freshly laid off by the Insurance company du jour and had 401 K money burning a hole in my pocket. I had a retirement plan already: Be a rock star and die young. So that money was slated to record my first solo album, The Jason Drug Reaction ‘Down On The Pharmacy.’
Yes, I was Jason Drug for some years. Yes, my Mom HATED it.
After playing with bands I decided to follow my muse and see where it would lead. I was effectively playing with the Houses’ money. I went studio shopping.
I came across a spot not that far from my near Hartford address and took a ride out to see what it was about. I met Chris and his engineer Finch and liked them immediately.
I booked a week to do the tracks, practiced up with the recently pilfered band mates, brought along some friends to add flair. We had a good time. It was excessive and exactly as I dreamed it would be, cocaine and late Sunday night strip club included (note: if you go to a strip club late on a Sunday, no one will be happy to see you).
It was a good record. I had a pretty hard Ziggy Stardust era obsession at that time (which still stays with me) and it was pretty obvious. My partner at the time was the irrepressible and mysterious ‘Fetcho’ who played guitar, was brilliant at creating melody and was cooler than everyone you know piled up on top of each other.
With my solo record out, I marketed myself. Pre Internet. So, this was a hard copy promotion (printed on paper! For real!), stickers, a Bio and the printed CD. I sent them everywhere I could for reviews, for press, for acknowledgement.
When that did not work, I created a fake charity tour named CARMA with myself and friends from Gigglejuice. The idea behind the tour was to ‘raise awareness about homelessness’ which was as empty of a sentiment that I could come up with. I did not want something trackable…because it was a scam.
It was not a good scam because it was not very successful. I don’t believe we made a dime and likely lost a bit of money. But we did receive a ship load of press.
Recording ‘Down on The Pharmacy’ was fun and I always appreciated The Scamp. We kept in touch, even did some sessions afterwards, on the house. By now, social media was starting to grip the World so we fell back in touch. So, when CC and I were looking for a studio, he was my first and last call.
He was available, built a new studio at his house in the woods of Storrs and was less expensive as we were friends.
The recording of the first GG record ‘The Last Record Party’ was madcap. Because The Scamp got weird in delightful ways, he also knew how to record interesting off the cuff stuff that made the record fall into place, which was convenient as we came loaded for bear.
We brought Dave Hogan on guitar, 2 drummers, 2 bass players, 1 trumpet player and courtesy of some Bud Collins Trio members hanging around, keyboards and guitar. The Bud Collins keyboardist played on just about every track and I believe I was in the same room with him absolutely. We asked him to add color and he was cool and said ‘Sure.’
Each session ended with Chris The Scamp saying ‘OK, that was good. Let’s hope my computer doesn’t crash and everything disappears…’. Every. Single. Session.
It was a beautiful out in the woods spot to make a record. Meanwhile The Grimm Generation brought about 18 songs, but were switching them up constantly as a new 7 songs had been written since we started.
The record we made was The Grimm Generation’s ‘The Last Record Party’ which came with one of my favorite record jackets of all time: Black white and red photo realism image of a plane about to crash right on top of the House Of Grimm. Pop did not fuck around and took this vague idea of mine and created something lasting.
The record kicked off with electric guitar and trumpets in ‘Sometimes I’m Subtle (Sometimes I’m Drunk)’ which was Carmen’s creation. I still remember when she presented the words to me and I saw it almost all at once. The crashing bits and fanfare and a killer hook that stuck in your brain. Mike was the trumpet player who we hooked up with from Craigslist. He was an ebullient guy, a lot of fun and was the singer and trumpet in his own cover band that did really well around here. Sitting to play with him that first session, just CC me and Mike at the Table was surreal. I had never played with a trumpet player before and he was excellent. Not simply skill, but trying things to fit around and into the sound which he did brilliantly.
Next up was more muted trumpet magic on CC’s ‘The Definition Of Love.’ These were the songs we had been playing with The GG3 so Dave Hogan had time to build the perfect guitar parts for these songs. This was a lovely sort of noir take on our favorite subject. This was a popular song for us. People dug it pretty hard.
My first pass at the big singers’ microphone was ‘Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick’ and it was a beast. Lyrically, one of my personal favorites but I do wish it had more distortion on the record. This was a quick study of a relationship approaching the precipice of a high cliff. I wrote a lot of songs on this subject at the time (versus the sad boy breakup songs) because this was the life I was living at the time.
A beautiful GG3 version of ‘Hovering’ and ‘Keep It’ were next. What The GG3 lacked in membership was made up with ingenuity. Since we started as a stompy 2-piece, melody was not something we were paying much service to. It was the song. The song shared a particular point of view that we hoped would crawl through primal arrangements. Once Dave was in the fold, he laid beautifully poignant lines on top of that made it feel closer to conversation between lovers than crying in your beer. ‘Keep It’ was a song that came to me whole in another romantic misadventure and I remember those words just whole. I recorded the very first demo on a pre smartphone voicemail and think that version captured it better than any of the other 4 or so times I recorded.
‘I Fall For Everyone’ was next and we already thought this would be the first GG video so we were focused on getting this one just right. A killer lyric by CC that was funny and terrifying and just plain honest.
Followed by ‘The End of The World’ from the first EP, this time given a more royal treatment and baritone guitar. One of the things I loved most about GG was our harmonies that came from raw experimentation. My natural singing voice was a bit higher than Carmen’s so I would often swoop between the low and high harmony in a single song. Our harmonies on the chorus of this gave me goosebumps. I had worked vocal harmonies with bands before. I would not say I was particularly good at it, but faced with this arrangement, I had to be. We were two people and a guitar, so any flourish would need to come out via vocal work.
Next up was one of my best performances and maybe best songs, ‘Slow Language.’ And it hurt me. Because I meant it. This was one of Dave’s favorite songs of ours and when we played this as a trio, his guitar soared and spouted actual tears.
For a bit there I was writing songs that made hay with Biblical imagery and from that came ‘The Book Of Day Job.’ It was one of the funnest live songs we ever played because it was speed metal fast with Carmen and I croaking out a note for note harmony throughout the whole song. On top of that Dave Hogan used one of his sharpest tools: the slide guitar. He whooped and wheeled all over this and the result is just pure mania.
Followed by Carmen’s most direct song about sex ‘Pull The Trigger.’ Men in particular went crazy for this song and it was not difficult to see why. Raw, bordering on dirty but always on the angels’ side.
And then came ‘Forward Ho.’ Lyrically the song meant quite a bit to me as I wrote it after a grand disappointment in the Grimm camp. The point was ‘Fuck it…. let’s move on.’ I should have recorded that and saved the record from including this song. The best memory I have if this song is recording this session with Kerry and trying to keep up with him. He could play fast. And we wanted fast. But Christ. I remember feeling like that classic Maxell Tape ad where the guy was sitting in his chair and everything was blown away behind him. It was a personal victory that my guitar track was spot on, but this was not a great song.
As opposed to this one, which was a great song. CC’s ‘Toy Girl.’ Always a lyrical favorite of mine and just too fun to sing the chorus in that weird harmony. I always remember this track because we had a lot of hand percussion on it and I clearly remember The Scamp, Dennis the drummer, Dave and myself playing all kinds of weird hand instruments and just laughing like loonies. It’s likely the best and has the most trumpet than any other song on the record.
An early version of this was our first video. In the burgeoning Facebook Universe, there were a lot of people shopping their creative wares. We found one such cat named Dan who showed up and drove around Windsor with us, filming us posing around Windsor. The video came out quite good but it was before we had this version of ‘Toy Girl.’
One more thing about ‘Toy Girl.’ This style of writing that Carmen was pulling off was genuinely impressive because she had attitudes I never could. She discussed being a woman in ways I never heard anyone else address. She was all bluster but a real sense of naïveté in her style. She had a way of saying things that opened me up to what it was being a woman in this modern world. She was cool and distant. But she was real and talked about that distance. Songs like ‘The Definition Of Love,’ ‘The End Of The World,’ and ‘Hovering’ were stark and scene setting. She wrote in cinema.
Next up was my creation ‘Blue Eyed and Black Hearted’ which became our theme song. We also filmed a video for this which was strange. An older gentleman from the region reached out to us when we were looking for anyone with a pulse and a camera. We showed up at his place which had a garage. It was an August afternoon in Connecticut so the average temperature was about 1200 degrees. We performed in front of a green screen with CC wearing her usual array of fashion flair, me wearing a smart vintage (but thread worn) suit. It was diabolical. The video came out alright.
My song ‘Nothing Astral’ was next, which was previously featured on our ‘The Book Of Love’ EP. Simple arrangement of The GG3 with Dave bringing some sweet melody and Carmen really owning the song vocally. This was my paean to Tunxis Hill Park, a place where we used to congregate as teens. I imagined it as a dirty bit of suburban sex that I am not convinced I ever had in that Park. Followed by CC’s ‘Why Wouldn’t You?’ We loved this song when we wrote it with its vaguely psychedelic lyric and a reggaeish groove. It was really groundbreaking in our songwriting. Unfortunately, by the time we recorded this, we did not love it so much. We were already writing better songs at this point.
Next up was ‘Hipster + 10’ and we utilized members of the Scamps’ musical combo The Bud Collins Trio. We used their keyboard player Ziggy all over this record and you can hear how it helps. A thing I learned about from Grimm was to ask people if they want to participate and make something amazing. Of course, ‘amazing’ is in the eye of the beholder, but it was a type of marketing.
CC and Me were musing on how cool a keyboard would sound on ‘The Book of Day Job’ and Chris said he would call Ziggy and see if he is game. We met absolutely once and he played on near every song. We gave him practically no directions. Just play something cool. And he did. About 18 times.
We also had BC3 guitar maven Chris play on this as well as Les Scamps on the drums. This was rife with irony, by the way. The song itself was written after playing a gig with The Bud Collins Trio and was a song about themselves. I never told them that part.
‘Fire and Gasoline’ was written about 6 days before we recorded it. Lyrically, I love it. The final version was not great though Kerry’s crazy beat almost makes up for the overall lack of flourish on it. This song was best served as an acoustic duo oddly. CC and I did a show on WPKN and played this fast pile up as a ballad. It was one of the best recordings we ever did, the one time acoustic vocal version. Lyrically, the thing I like about it is it said exactly what I wanted it to say: Fuccccck You.
And finished up that record with the title track ‘The Last Record Party.’ Here is what I remember. I was pissed at Carmen. Why? No idea. Nevertheless, pissed. This is about Us. And she knew it. She knew I was pissed and knew it was about her. And she sang it with me which had 2 effects:
1) Impressed the Hell out of me.
2) Made me not pissed anymore.
This was the simple cause and effect of my song writing. If something gets me good and riled, a song generally comes from that. Not happy. Not go lucky. Just raging pissed. I spit out the words on a pad, less than interested about what type of tune would go to it. As I said before, this was therapy. Once I finished the song and calmed down a bit, I would look at what I wrote and think ‘Man. Thank God I’m not that guy.’
We had ourselves a real live Rock and Roll Grimm Record which was our plan from the start. And as social media grew more substantial, we needed a video.
GG was always lucky in meeting the right people at the right time. Enter The Director, Zach.
CC and I came up with the concept, which was a send up about looking for musicians for a new band and how similar it was to dating sites. This video, like all of the Grimm videos was filmed at the House of Grimm. When we met Zach, it felt strange…he was very young, or seemed so to us, who were no longer very young. He had good ideas and a steady cam. Notes flew back and forth between us.
When we finally came together some Saturday with camera in place, we had a ball. You did not have to convince Carmen or me to pose. It was really all we did. We did as the director wanted, helped him follow his vision as he was helping us achieve ours. It was a good partnership and we ended up working with him again a few times.
The video turned out excellent. It looked amazing based on Zack’s skill, and it was just plain funny. It did exactly what we wanted it to do, ending with a knock at the front door and when we opened it, a real live bass player awaiting us (Brian who also played on the record).
Another video we made with Zack was a full production for the song ‘Nothing Astral.’ This involved actors which was of course new to us.
We reached out to Killer Kerry to play the creepy guy peeping through a telescope at a young couple making out. Zack had some friends with an acting background to play the previously mentioned horny teens. It was genuinely surreal watching the kids making out in the car while Zack craned his camera around. It seemed dirty and it genuinely was. When I saw the footage from the car scene…it was pretty hot and maybe would not be allowed on network television. We also asked a friend Ginger to play a psychotic angry woman placing signs on street signs.
The central spot of the video was Dave and us playing in the Grimm garage while these stories wound all around us. Carmen and Pop did up the garage into something absolutely dreamy with a lot of sparkling tinges. The way Zack caught that garage footage, based on his taste, spun it into pure Garage Rock fantasy.
It was the three of us playing with a lot of close ups and beauty shots. Dave impressed me. He was not the poser that CC and I were. He brought out a genuine world weariness just in the way he looked, something with true gravity. CC looked killer in her Elvis Costello shirt and I did what I always did: wore blue, because of my eyes.
The value of this video has grown within me. In a Dave Hogan less Universe, it is a fitting tribute.
We were proud and excited of what we did and started sharing it everywhere in the cyber verse. And we did make some mistakes.
We stuck with Facebook, mainly because the site was so friendly. And at the time we were there anyway. The benefit of Facebook at the time was it was a free market. You can post gigs and videos of gigs, start conversations and network through Messenger. We did not at that point know the narrow reach we were really dealing with. We started a Twitter account, but we could not be limited in terms of how many characters we could post. Aside from YouTube there were not many other options at the time. Instagram would not come out for a few years yet.
We had a record, something we were proud of so we did follow up with the accepted logic of the time: get on tour and sell some records. We enlisted Dave Hogan and the GG3 hit the road.
Now…when I say on tour, we were not traveling the country. We all had jobs we had to get to the next morning. Despite our ego, we were not so confident that we could succeed, cash wise.
So, we set out for any venue that would have us, regionally. That was bars, clubs, coffee houses, multiband bills, yards and festivals. At one particularly prestigious Film Fest in Mystic we met Bill Clinton. OK a professional Bill Clinton imitator.
We hawked CD’s from every stage trying to recoup some of the money spent in making ‘The Last Record Party.’ We played some super fun gigs but mostly to empty rooms. It did not even matter at the time. We were having a ball. Every gig ended with a long ride home and a too late night up with CC and me listening to the recording of the gig. These were the Grimm Parties. This tradition continued till the end and brings me great joy to reflect on how hard we were laughing at our poor audience attendance but excellent performance.
We played a club in Belchertown, MA that was straight from a horror movie except usually in horror movies there is some kind of cast. This gig contained one elderly couple who danced to every song we played.
We played a Coffee House in New London to an absolutely empty room. A Saturday night too. And they charged me for the coffee.
We played a female centric arts festival that hated us but kept booking.
Despite our best efforts or directly because of those efforts, GG carried drama around like a PA.
I think that both CC and I forged into one massive ego who we took slights pretty easily. A band that we promoted but did not promote us. A venue that was not promoting and unprepared to hold a gig.
This particular brand of band drama was flourishing in the Social Media world where you could never lose the thread of what some like minded band was doing, with better or worse than us. It was immature of us but we convinced each other it was not.
We wanted a certain antagonism to be present in what we did. We never intended to be everyone’s cup of tea. We were definitely the black coffee with 2 espresso route, and usually that was my beverage of choice. Which may explain a lot. We did not want to upset people but were certainly not going to bore them.
Love and Hate are similar emotions. We were OK with a little of both. As long as you were paying attention. This did keep us out of some rooms, off of some collaborations. We resented that as well and the circle wound around.
This factored into our personal lives as well, though mainly mine. Understand that I had never had a real single life. I was married to my high school girlfriend at 22. Then married again at 27. At 40, I was single for the first time, which brought me to Match.Com, which brought me to The Grimm Generation.
There were a lot of gigs where I was watching the door with a real trepidation for fear that someone might walk through it at an inopportune time. Like when I had someone there. This happened a lot. There were many tears shed in the passenger seats of cars right outside the Grimm gigs.
I had ascended to be something that I could never be before: the mythical JpK. This was a name given to me by CC and when that name was used, I was more than human but less than pleasant. I was irresponsible and rationalized any number of questionable acts as ‘doing it for a song.’ I played fast and loose with hearts. As ‘JpK’ I was in complete control of all things, confident in every action.
It felt good to be a god. I was a false idol at best but it felt pretty fine.
Another more significant gig we did was during the great Snowmageddon storm here in CT where we had about 4 feet of snow on the ground and most of the state was completely out of power. On Halloween.
Someone who played that night would become a big player in The Grimm Generation. The Lil Cowgirl Lys Guillorn. She wrote lovely dark folk songs, played guitar and a plethora of other stringed things and was an accomplished visual artist as well.
I am not sure if Lys remembered when she and I first met. I came across her in one of the alternative weeklies and heard her songs and really liked what she was doing. I read that she was going to show up at a Rock and Roll Flea Market and decided to drop by. When I saw her and asked if she was Lys, she looked at me like I was going to lay a summons on her. I think I scared her. I was acting my least monster-y. Which is still a little monster-y.
I think both CC and Me had a sort of crush on Lys. She was so cool, so talented, so much the artist we were aping to be. We wanted her in Grimm. Though doing what we never even considered.
So, picture this: we are driving to this gig Halloween night, not a single electric light the entire trip. Gas lines fed back on the highway exits as only 6 approximate gas stations in the whole of Connecticut were operating. CC and me and her SUV tagged The Slounge after one particular misadventure. It was spooky, truly.
Nobody in the World would have blinked an eye if we cancelled considering the circumstances. We had a record to push and this was an avenue, so we found our way to Waterbury, CT. Of course, no one came out to see it considering the healthy dose of apocalypse all around but the bands came and we supported each other quite vigorously.
And we met Lys in person who was part of this multi band bill with her mate Ken. She was shy and smart and just plain ole’ cool. We all got on quite well. After we played, we suggested that maybe she should come up to Windsor some time and jam. She was game.
We did not have a clear role for her yet, but we also did not know how many instruments she played.
After sending her a few tracks …. Nothing off of the record just released, we were already writing a new set based on the sound CC and I were mining. She came with a mandola and a lap steel. We dug the lap steel big. It had an almost timeless howl to it and that appealed to us. She was also a hotshit guitar player but we would not discover that for a little while longer.
Hooking up with Lys came at a perfect creative time for GG songwriting. Carmen was coming in to her own lyrically and was really nailing the mood, the tone of our songs, which was slowly changing from the basic foot stomp raw Rawk sound into something that was a bit more open, more honest. I was using the basic chords I knew and throwing on a capo for these I did not know, and our sound expanded.
With Lys engaged with GG and playing a couple of different instruments, we decided to invite Dave over to play with the three of us. Both Dave and Lys were noted songwriters and performers in Connecticut so we were just pinching ourselves that they would travel to play with us. We called these the LAND Sessions, for Lys and Dave. We were always attempting flagrant wittiness.
It was a Sunday I would remember. Both Lys and Dave, who lived in the same are but had not met each other. And they watched each other with a wary eye. The thing was both Lys and Dave had personalities that would not be called ‘effervescent.’ They were both a bit shy, a bit quiet and we thought they would get on like a house on fire … and in time they did, forming a true and real friendship aided by a deep personal admiration of Gram Parsons.
That Sunday, though, they were not there yet. Being seasoned performers and genuine folk, no one was nasty, no one spoke out of line…but a general vibe around the room was sullen.
Despite that, the practice tapes were strong. There was something here with Dave playing with his warm Les Paul and Lys with her lap steel. Both Dave and Lys sang, and there was something about the vocals going between CC and Lys that was engaging. Carmen still had that lower sultry register and Lys knew exactly where to place her voice in that mix. Dave and I had practiced our harmony singing from the bands we played in together, dating back to our teens.
After they both left, Carmen and I just looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.
The LAND GG set up played a couple of gigs with the 4 of us including a beautiful day at the Meriden Daffodil Fest. This was a big local festival and THE place to be seen. Plus, they paid well. The Grimm Generation was not used to being paid at all, so paying well was a step up.
This was the place to meet all of the CT musicians you ever wanted too. The whole event was organized by Robbie (who also hosted our first gig and ran the Homegrown Radio show for CT Music) and we took the stage on a glorious Saturday afternoon and tore it up.
Another gig the LAND set up made was one of the stranger ones (though paid even better…. we were socking away money for the next record) was at a Science Museum in Hartford. We were everywhere online at the time. New record, new video and we updated information every day or just made something up. Gigs were coming to us too quickly to count.
A Science Museum downtown during a Thursday Cocktail Party for the donors and we came dressed to the nines. Carmen in particular was done up as a version of the killer robot chick from Mars Attacks. Her hair was higher than the stars and she looked amazing. To counter, I painted myself green and wore attached antenna.
The room was a sonic nightmare. High ceilings, a lot of chatter (to be expected) and despite the costuming, not many people came near. Or maybe because of the costuming. This was the first time I heard Lys and Dave do their Gram Parsons set. It was beautiful, if not inaudible.
The alien gear and high hair had the intended effect and The Grimm Generation received press, which was the point.
Not long after that, Dave sent me a private note and said that due to his obligations with his own popular band, he would have to step back from GG. I understood. And suspected we would meet again.
With Lys in place and our writing expanding to include more stringy, less stompy sounds we kept gigging just the three of us. The hot rock sound of the GG3 started to take a back step into something more open, and we barely played any of the songs off the records we made. We were writing a new record and one we expected would be Our Statement record. I believed in all of that stuff, like CC did as well.