Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Morgan Q+A about my music "career"

I did an interview with my friend Mia Torres for a project of hers and thought 'd repost the Q+A here and on my Walking Bombs page for anyone interested.

When did you get into music and start singing/playing music? How’d it happen? What was it like? ...

Music has always been there for me. I came from a musical family and played trombone for years at an early age. I was in a very high seating in my county for trombone and also did choral work before seeing The Guns N’ Roses video for “Sweet Child Of Mine” at an old Sears store and starting to ruin my life. I also incidentally heard George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” for the first time that day while looking at a purple light globe that pulsated along with the “huh!” in that song. I think the combination of those two influences really made a mark on me!
I was asked to be in a band by a drummer, Pat Howland, in high school for a battle of the bands. He was a very funny, large and goofy dude who when he sat behind a kit suddenly became the Tasmanian Devil. He is sadly no longer alive, but was a true friend and got me started playing rock. My first band was from Woodstock and was called Melancholy. This was about 1993.
There are no words to describe how liberating that time was.
Some of the bands we played with every weekend are now fairly well known, namely Shabutie (now Coheed and Cambria) and Three, and there was just boundless creativity and friendship. Cambria is actually my younger sisters name.
Later on I learned the sadder side of things when I got way too far into hard drugs and barely survived, only to have the many of my friends from the scene succumb to something they had seen ravage my life and kill Pat, only they fell prey to it ten years later when I was clean from heroin and they were either successful and should’ve known better or were struggling and had so much to lose. Many people have died in my vicinity over the years. It’s been the dark, bane of my existence.
I’m not against partying, but am against having a crippled perspective or seriously harming others with your actions. I also am guilty of having done both earlier on.
So it hasn’t all been a tea party, but there are so many amazing stories. I wrote a book on fifteen years (and then some) of growing up in the 90’s to present day Kingston/Woodstock, NY music scene called I WILL BE SCENE (named after a Melancholy song) which is available on for a free download. It explains better than I can here the thrills and spills.
The first time I performed a real rock show was nerve wracking, but now I hardy ever get nervous. I remember the first version of Melancholy covered Black Sabbath and some other songs and stunk, but when we finally got a good bassist we began to slowly kick ass and develop our own style. A lot of bands fail to do that these days. It was so liberating to have this community of freaky artist types growing up who all were trying to do different yet conducive and complimentary things. Three played funk/folk/alternative and my bands were always crazy punk influenced, weird groups.
There is no way to describe how cool the early 90’s energy was, because “alternative” was becoming a buzzword. Gaudy a term though it was, people were embracing the underground and being from Woodstock, NY, it was cool to have a punk spirit merge with the older, embedded historical region I come from. Granted, a lot of old hippies didn’t like the racket we were all making, but there were lots of creative people (if not enough venues).
I realized from growing up in Woodstock at that time, the early 90’s, that there was still life in the spirit of 60’s activism, which led me to set up countless concerts in my local community. I felt that kids needed our own outlet, and was deadest on providing it for bands and kids I thought were cooler. Out of this I ended up winning an award for all the benefit shows and concerts I set up with local centers and clubs, and in 1998 was flown to Philly to be a part of a Rock The Vote campaign and I got to help introduce the hip hop group Roots. That was pretty frickin’ great.
The other aspect that has stuck with me is the friends I have made along the way. Though there have been ups and downs with many of them, others have been great and will be with me for life.
I love helping people and discovering new bands. Spreading the word on bands like The Casket Architects, The Arkhams, Nightmares For A Week, Dead Unicorn or Tiger Piss and exposing people to different sounds is great. Exposing myself to people is great!
Also, I could never have imagined the sociology I would learn from taking this path. Giving myself to music wasn’t the most rewarding financial move (hopefully that will change someday), but I ended up learning all about different cities and movements all across the country. I learned to navigate NYC from going there for shows and studying the bands on the scene. I learned better math skills from songwriting with time signature obsessive drummers.
Becoming so engrossed in music also has fueled my other love, writing, and due to a lack of coverage of bands the way I would like to see, it has led me to be involved in music journalism my whole life as well. I love interviewing bands, from when I did controversial high school ‘zines, up to the present where I have been lucky enough to write for national outlets about what I love and talk to some great artists like Filter, Baroness, Saosin, Devin Townsend or Down (to name a few).
Best of all, music gave me the strength to conquer my own demons and to never underestimate music’s ability to heal. It can be used to divide or bridge gaps, and that is magical. I also think it is so important for music scenes to be truly documented for historical context.

-- What’s the craziest/weirdest thing that's happened to you or one of your bands while performing?

One of the greatest live shows I was ever a part of was when an early version of DIVEST played at CBGB’s shortly after 9/11. We were still called Bleed Theory at the time and it was just a week or two after the towers went down. I had just come back from the West Coast, where I was when the tragedy happened, and had traveled the whole way back across the country by bus seeing people’s reactions in different states. It made me think of how humanity is so often these clusters of people across the globe trying to stave off darkness. We create these ideologies to protect ourselves or to feel less afraid at the uncertainty of the Universe, but this sometimes ends up creating irreconcilable barriers between different cultures and religions.
New York clubs had been shut for a week or so after the attacks and people were cautious but still were starting to come outdoors again. The crowd at CBGB’s that night was so grateful to be seeing a live band and participating again in the creative sway of Rock N’ Roll. It was so cathartic to be on that stage that night and feel tapped into that, to be blessed enough in a small way to try and make people feel a little better for a half hour and to channel my own depression as well. It helped stave off some of the grief that was going on in the outside world and my own life at the time.
The wonderful part of playing live is creating these environments where you are literally interacting with people’s lives, like a soundtrack to threads of personalities meeting in some strange club or bar. That to me is “crazy”. There’s no feeling like suddenly realizing you are at the epicenter of a room full of energy. A lot of people don’t respect that enough but it is something you can’t take for granted if you have any platform. Not to be preachy on stage, necessarily, but to use it to try and create a cooler space and open minds. That and/or antagonizing the audience if you feel like it and grabbing people’s drinks from them or giving people’s girlfriends sneaker wedgies and then fighting their boyfriends. That’s the best part.
The actually craziest thing? I don’t know. I threw up in a piano once. I played in a youth center while the ceiling caught fire. Of course lots of stories of kids going crazy and slam dancing. One time my old band DIVEST was playing an Irish bar way up in the Upstate, NY mountains and we covered Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” and one of the guitarists, Dave Parker (now of Weerd Science), was so excited and was jumping around and slipped. He flew several feet through the air like a flying squirrel and had all his amps and guitar case fall on top of him. That was pretty rad.
I dunno, I used to try to kill my band mates sometimes when I was really manic depressive, before I’d learned to deal with my problems. I’d try and make us crash the mini-van in DIVEST and stuff and then wouldn’t remember. That went over well.
On the bright side, DIVEST also opened for some great bands like Unearth and Boysetsfire and worked with the some of the Bad Brains, heroes of mine. It was certainly a crazy feeling to open up for them in New Haven, CT one time. The Bad Brains are legends, Rastas who invented a whole genre of music (hardcore punk).
Another time an early version of DIVEST played this festival benefit where no one came and we were playing this super heavy song “Atlas” and if you watch he footage you see us being idiots and thrashing and then, since it was in a big field, a very little girl in a sun dress skips across the screen blowing bubbles. Not our best show.
I played a Burton snowboards sponsored party with a band I was in called Fuse (before DIVEST/after Melancholy) and that was madness. We got free Jagermeister and Newcastle all night and there were strippers. Orange 9mm was headlining but we somehow played after them. I got broken glass in my foot and didn’t know because I was blacked out in my underwear and so the stage got covered in blood.
I had quite a few seriously drunken gigs which are all in my I WILL BE SCENE book. I got a whole bar shut down four hours early one notorious night. But the best part is the moments where you are playing with your friends and feel free.
My most recent band (that lasted 4 years) was called Pontius Pilate Sales Pitch, with my best fiend Nate Kelley (the original Shabutie/Coheed drummer). We really started that band in a dark time as a way to stand up against some bad communication stuff that was going on with other people and also to underscore the long friendship between Nate and I. Writing in that band (a lot of which was conceptual) and performing those songs live, it was an amazing, liberating feeling of having the ability to extend yourself outside the boundaries of your own pain and affect your world through story.

-- What are your hopes for the future of Morgan Evans/Walking Bombs/etc? Where do you hope to go/be/do/see, etc.?

Well, my hopes for myself are health and prosperity and happiness! I have been through a lot and so appreciate every victory however small, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Life as a musician isn’t easy, it is often terrifying and you wonder why you keep doing it. I have never been more than average at a lot of other things, though I apply myself. Music comes naturally and sustains me in important ways. I am lucky to still be alive.
WALKING BOMBS is basically a project that I have set up while in between bands. I decided to stay busy, since I have been interviewing every band in the world for AMP/ and Hails and Horns, but had no project (since Pontius Pilate Sales Pitch broke up) that was active enough for me. The name is about how the bomb is the modern fruit of temptation, like the “Apple of Discord” from Greek mythology. We all have stresses in our lives and beliefs but how we handle them (and differences with others) means strife or co-existence. It also means being able to deal with blood pressure problems!
WALKING BOMBS is me collaborating with different people I have always admired on a song at a time. It is almost like returning back to the idea of singles, like early rock n’ roll days or how Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins is going to do their next record as an 11 volume series of 4 song EP’s!
I wanted to do a song at a time with different people and show my versatility. When we hit ten songs, that’s one record. The first one is called GOOD MORNING, JAVELIN and has collaborations with people like Brain Goss (Dripping Goss/The Duke and The King) and David Bodie (Kayo Dot/Divest). I put the songs up on Myspace as they are completed. It also helps because I am totally broke and so can trick people into recording me (“Hey, wanna collaborate”?). Ha, the truth is that I wanted to work with the people chosen anyway. The main difficulty is consistency in recording quality when working in so many different studios or off someone’s 16 track. It creates spontaneous and unforeseen experiences though.
I am going to keep doing that as my own thing, but also try and find a new, full time band. Writing and making music will always be my chosen route, though I also currently need to find a new job so I can survive. Yay.