Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tanked - A Redux

CD in Play: Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians.

I reprinted this post since friends were unable to comment on the initial posting. I also noticed some really glaring erroors and decided to re-write portions..

For some time I have been trying to write the story of a band that went nowhere, that tanked. Two of my friends started a band while we were in school in Saskatchewan in the early 90's as a way to alleviate some of the boredom. They weren't very serious about at first, calling the band Cheesepickles. At first, they did mock covers of The Stones and Eric Clapton ("Toe Jam Action" in place of "Satisfaction" - "Propane" in place of "Cocaine") and they did one pseudo-original called "Socks". (which did a riff at the intro on Helix's "Rock You")The Pickles (the accepted abbreviation) started out as a two piece, Greg Fast (vocals and a Cassio keyboard with a drum machine) and Ken "Zeke" Goudswaard. (vocals and bass) Greg had grade eight in Conservatory piano, so he was quite skilled on the keys. Around this time he had also begun teaching himself the guitar and a had a solid grasp on the fundamentals of music and pop songcraft. Greg had played in bands in high school, including one called Philip Habib. Ken was a more than able bass player and a fountain of odd and creative ideas. The year before he had done a recording project with a tuba player (tubist?) named Dion Wahl called Obnoxious Missionaries. I think they recorded two songs, one of which was a very long, lo-fi piece called "Psycho-Chicken".The more they played together the more serious they became about it. They really clicked as songwriters and began writing music that was moving them beyond being a novelty College act. They rented a Fostex four track (which curiously had no pause button) and began recording the "Mr. O'Riley's Magic Cellar" EP. They pulled in some of their other friends to play drums and fill in guitar parts and add extra vocals. I think it took a week or two weeks. The end result was a muddy sounding, but ear grabbing cassette that they were selling all around campus for $5.00. It was a hit and started a micro recording boom around campus. People were putting together garage bands to play and record. I was in one of those bands - Death Warmed Over, a funny but dreadful hardcore band that did irreverent covers of Church choruses. We didn't last long but the guitarist (Trent, who was/is actually a drummer) and I ended up playing together in two other bands that went nowhere, Mobius and Hypernode. Upon returning to British Columbia, Greg and Ken started the arduous task of auditioning for a drummer. After a deluge of wanna-be's and disgruntled metal drummers, they settled on Ken's cousin - Andrew - who was into the music and actually quite good. Ken and Greg began writing at a pretty steady pace and were piling up a healthy number of songs. They played live shows that were memorable and were beginning to grab a faithful core of listeners from outside their own circles. They weren't for everybody. Greg did a sort sing-speak voice along the lines of Lou Reed and Robbie Robertson, since he wasn't a very good singer. Ken didn't have a particularly strong voice, but I always felt that his earnestness made up for that. The music was pretty solid, though Ken would make mistakes - often very cool ones if they were ever actually noticed by the audience at all. They changed the name to 32toBase so people might take them more seriously.Things began to fall apart as Greg had become very serious about the band and started putting a lot of effort into it. Ken was serious in his own way, but also seemed dead set against working hard to achieve it. Tensions grew from there, as could be expected and got worse as Ken began devouting more time to his girlfriend. (now wife) Ken left the band after a few unfocused performances and Greg tried to carry on without him. Greg auditioned for new band members and tried to unload some of the baggage that the name 32toBase brought with it. He changed the name to Sometimes Y and began a lengthy run trying kick start the music again, but to no avail. Ken went on to play with me and Trent in Mobius and Hypernode. (Greg played on the first Hypernode EP and on a song from our third session) Ken has had other bands since then and records music under the name of The Goat Island Extrapolation. Greg continues to record music in his home studio and has worked under the name Damage. So why do I want to write their story, you ask? They never went anywhere, and unless you were there you will probably never have heard of them. That is the point, the stories of bands like 32toBase (and Mobius) are commonplace, but no one really talks about them. Failure is a very real fact of the music world and one that should be discussed. The people who "make it" or at least do it as a career have their stories out there, but what about the people who try (or not) but never get anywhere? I guess I have always had a thing for the underdog. I also understand a thing a or two about failure and I find it an interesting subject. How do people cope with it? Why do people cope so differently? This was just a brief sum up of 32to Base's story, there is a lot more meat on these bones. Anyhow, I wrote this because I have been thinking about the story again and been angry at my own inability to write it.


Anonymous Trent said...

Aww. Thanks.

24 August, 2005 23:56  
Blogger ken goudswaard said...

Hey Mag,
Well at least you won't have to write an article about your inability to write an article about your inability to write the 32 to Base story!
Seriously though, yeah, I'm glad you wrote that. Puts a different perspective on things. I would make one rather major point though. You approach it as a story of failure, which I respect and understand, but to me, the band was a success. We acheived what I felt we wanted to do, that is, BE a band, write good tunes, play shows, record an album, have a lot of fun, and just rock out! Not only that, but, at least for myself, it made me a musician, it was my first band which did not consist of members who only fictitously played instruments. I allowed me to move on to play in no less than 16 other bands since then, and record a lot of material along the way. I don't think we ever really expected to become rich and famous. Personally, I am very happy with my musical 'career'. Could we have done more? To be sure, we could have. I really had no concept at the time of what was truly possible. I could go into a long tirade along the lines of "If I'd known then, what I know now" but that's experience, and so is a person's first band. I could apply the "If I'd knowm..." argument ten times more strongy to Hypernode. We all knew we were ten years ahead of our time, but none of knew what to do about it. But that's another story, eh buddy?

25 August, 2005 13:04  
Blogger Magnus said...

"You approach it as a story of failure, which I respect and understand, but to me, the band was a success. We acheived what I felt we wanted to do, that is, BE a band, write good tunes, play shows, record an album, have a lot of fun, and just rock out!"

That in the end is what matters, really. I, of course, am looking at from the outside as a friend and No.1 booster of the band. I see the lost potential of the Pickels/32toBase because I really believed in it.
The Pickles were an inspiration to so many of us, whether we had bands going or not. Mobius, Hypernode even Redside (and other bands, jam sessions, recording attempts, etc) would not have existed without what you and Greg did that semester. Love the bands or hate the bands, our individual lives would have been poorer in some ways without them.

25 August, 2005 16:20  
Anonymous Adam said...

Are there any copies of this ep you mentioned? Was it transferred to CD or MP3? I like lo-fi indie stuff.

26 August, 2005 00:33  
Blogger ken goudswaard said...

adam, send an email to
and we'll talk about the EP

26 August, 2005 10:18  
Blogger Magnus said...

I'm glad I posted this, I was a bit hesitant. However, Ken's response and Trent's private feedback have helped me to take another look at my take and re-evaluate my approach. Thanks guys.

26 August, 2005 22:31  
Blogger DJD1138 said...

A good start. This will be an interesting development. As you comment, Mag, this is your perspective on the success/failure of the various bands that have come out of the Caronport days. As a wise Jedi once said, "You'll find that many of the truths we cling to rely greatly on our own point of view."

07 September, 2005 09:27  
Blogger DJD1138 said...

Don't forget Pachanga! The YQ1990 band of Lionel, Larry, Greg, Doug and Terry Friesen. We got together after a quick jam session in the Lounge at BBC. The music was mostly original and accompanied a drama. We also played "Run from the Darkness" by Daniel Band. We were set-up in the top of the choir loft to one side. I still recall the spectacle of Greg, long hair and tall, hunched over his Casio mini-key synth!

08 September, 2005 11:05  

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