Monday, June 27, 2011

Introducing... the members of the band: Page and Sully

Skunk Baxter is a 5-piece band, with two guitars, keys, bass, and drums.  We have one lead singer (me), the drummer can sing backup very well, and the lead guitarist can sing backup too but is quite shy about it.  Now let me introduce you to the members of the band.  In this post, you will meet Page and Sully. 

Trey from Phish

Known as "the man you should all get to know," Page is our resident keyboardist.  Page has a certain way he likes to play, and a certain style of music wherein he resides.  Page likes Phish and the Grateful Dead.  He loves that kind of scene - where the music is the gathering point for a large amount of like-minded travelers through life to come together and celebrate.  Page is a great guy to have in the band because he is our cheerleader, our biggest fan, our champion, and our historian - and that is before he even plays a note.  As a player, he lays down a foundation - an atmosphere of sound beneath the cacophony going on with the guitars & drums.  He keeps things light and calm within the band - always looking for subtle ways to keep the simmering tensions within the band at arm's length.  He has often slipped me emails with quotes from the Dalai Lama or the Bible, intended to keep me from blowing up (a valuable contribution to say the least).  Page brings the spirituality and culture of East Asia into our collective consciousness as a band - and I am very grateful for that.  Page is Fillipino, and Fillipinos are known as the greatest musicians in all East Asia. 

What he lacks in technique he more than makes up for in his emotional feel for the music.  Any doubts I ever had in the past about Page as a player have been quickly put to rest whenever we have entered the studio.  Never in my life have I witnessed a guy who totally nails a take on the first pass - every time.  It is always shocking to me how he can do that.  He is especially adept at acoustic piano, particularly in the studio, which has added that needed light touch to quite a few of our recordings.  Indeed, our most popular song to date, "Shine", the key that opened doors to all our awards and success, would not have been a hit without his acoustic piano way out in front of the recording. 

Carter Beauford from DMB
 Sully is our drummer.  He plays the drums in a way that honors his heroes - Neil Peart, Mike Portnoy, and Carter Beauford.  Imagine a combination of those three... and you pretty much get the idea.  He is an entertainer behind the kit.  He loves to interact with the crowd with his eyes, his body language, and his beats.  He spins the sticks, breaks sticks, drops them... yet manages to keep going nonetheless.  He has a very good feel for the ebb and flow of crowds during a set.  He is also very funny - no one can make me laugh like Sully can.  Much of his humor is difficult to describe in words.  You have to be there.  At practices he loves to emulate Steve Perry while Page plays the keys for "Don't Stop Believing" (imagine if you will an opera singer attempting Steve Perry...that's how he sounds... yet he refuses to do it live even though he rocks it).  He will spend 15 minutes on the mic performing fart noises with amazing dexterity.  He is the best air drummer I've ever seen.  He is also a wizard at fake karate moves, which Page, who actually knows martial arts, can hilariously diffuse in two seconds of real moves.  He has more CDs than anyone I know - there are 8,000 songs on his iPod.  That's more songs than most radio stations have.  Of the band members, he is the biggest fan of music - his CD collection alone is proof of it.  On many a tense moment in the band, it was Sully who stepped in and lightened the mood with a joke or a laugh or a smile that always seems to say "Lighten up, we're playing music and getting paid for it.  What could be better?  Pass me another Miller Lite." 

Sully knows how to rise to the occasion when needed.  The bigger the gig, the larger the crowd, the better he plays.  Now, his theatrics live, while essential to our live  performances, do not always translate well in the studio.  My greatest disagreements with him have been over having to "tone down" his dramatic fills and flights of fancy, which have been deemed by recording cognoscenti as excessive.  Many times I can recall telling him to "play for the song" as opposed to playing for himself or just fooling around.  But that style of play is an extension of who he is.  Asking him to play like Ringo or Levon is like asking Derek Jeter to be a home run hitter.  Know thyself, as the oracle says.  Sully knows who he is - as an Irishman and as a drummer - and he plays drums his way. 

Sully and I go back the longest.  We met because we sat next to each other while working as collectors at a credit card bank, one which was partly the inspiration for the writer of Fight Club, I heard.  It was both of ours' first job after college.  We spent a lot of time talking about music, and discovered we both liked DMB.  I had never met anyone who could play like Carter, and he had never met anyone who could sing & play like Dave.  So we started to jam together after work.  Next thing you know, I was the new lead singer in this band Murph and Page were in.  They kicked out their old lead singer and replaced him with me. 

Page, and Sully and me have been together the longest as a band.  When we first started out we were playing Wednesday nights for free beer ($50 tab only of course) at this pool table bar in a suburban strip mall that has had 3 different names since we started playing there.  We played covers, and I was the bass player back then.  It was about as low on the totem pole as you can go in terms of starting out as a band.  Yet we always had fun together, we found a way to agree on the music we played, and we kept plugging away at it - like the turtle racing after the hare.  Sometimes the turtle wins. 

Mahalo ;)=~

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