ddc case

Here’s a snippet from an early chapter of {R}evolve; a book about the history of Dark Disco Club. Enjoy.
I spent about a year or so playing in a band that I named 13 Even. I had already played in bands with a few of the guys while we were in high school (John Bozzuto, Greg Thompson, Jack Wood). Originally the band was calling itself Mr. Joshua, which I completely hated. Luckily I was able to come up with a name that everyone liked better. My role in that band was playing keyboards and triggering pre-recorded samples. When it started, my vision for the band was more or less to be a heavy, slightly electrofied version of Faith No More. It didn’t take long to realize that we weren’t going to be anything close to that. The music took a sharp turn toward more typical heavy metal, and as the head-butting within band became more serious and frequent, I was let go. To be honest, I was on the verge of quitting anyway. Apparently they wanted me gone just as bad as I wanted to be gone, and I think they just happened to start the conversation first. By the time I got home that night, I had decided that my focus would be on Dark Disco Club from now on.

It was December of 2001 when I got my first Pro Tools system; the Digi 001. For as long as I’ve been making music, new gear has always provided me with a fresh burst of creative energy. I learned the basics of Pro Tools while earning a Multimedia Degree at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and I really enjoyed using it. It was unobtrusive, and for the most part it allowed me to focus on making music, rather than feeling like I need to be some kind of rocket scientist to make it work. And after the nightmarish recording studio experiences I had in 13 Even, I was hell-bent on recording my own music from that moment forward. Wasting no time, I began creating new music immediately.

Along with Anthony Orsino, I completed 3 or 4 instrumental demos. At one point, I recorded my half-brother Chip singing (more like screaming, actually) over one of the tracks. I don’t think I ever planned on having him in the band, but I was just anxious to hear the songs in a more complete way. I didn’t have anyone in mind for the position, but I knew I wanted one permanent lead singer, rather than random people on various songs. I knew of a kid named Eric Rosso, who was a fan of 13 Even. He was familiar with the music I had made in the past, and I heard that he might be interested in the position. I also knew he’d been in a band or 2, but he was always too shy to actually sing in front on anyone. One night, I went out to a 13 Even show at a little spot called The Grapevine. I knew Eric would be there, so I made sure to bring a 3-song demo CD for him. When I saw him at the show, we talked for a bit, and I gave him the disc.

Something else happened that night… 13 Even rocked. A bit of time had passed since my exit from the band, and my saltiness toward the whole situation had faded significantly. This was the first time I was able to see the band and just view it as a member of the crowd. They put on a particularly inspired show that night, and I felt the need to make some kind of a gesture. After the show I pulled a couple of the guys aside to have a little chat (it was John, Kevin, and maybe Greg I think). I told them that I genuinely enjoyed the energy of the show and that I wanted to give them the web domain name that I still owned and controlled; 13even.com. That domain was a source of negativity between us, and I just wanted to be done with it and move forward.

As expected, the guys in 13 Even seemed pretty happy about my decision to give up the domain, but Kevin took it a step further. By the end of that night, he approached me and said “So, when do you want me to sing on some tracks?”. Say what? Was he serious? I was plenty familiar and impressed with Kevin’s abilities as a singer, but I had no reason to consider him for the job since he was still an active member of my former band. I wasn’t sure if he was serious about it, but I was certainly interested. And for everyone that doesn’t know Kevin, I guess the word to describe him would be… eccentric. Actually, the word I would use most often is “wacky”. Kevin Healey is wacky. I mean that in the best possible way. Like I said, Kev is a very capable singer, and he’s a generally a pretty nice guy. But like so many artistic types, he’s a little off in his own way. He’s a bit flakey on occasion, and his ideas sometimes have a way of running completely wild. But there is a genuine, almost child-like excitement toward his craft that is all too rare these days. He also has a certain DIY-ethic in him that I relate to and appreciate very much.

Anyway, as a few weeks passed, Eric seemingly dropped the ball while Kevin’s interest persisted. The choice to move forward with Kevin was an easy one. Probably a bit naive, but easy. Writing and recording moved along quickly, as did our discussions and plans for the band. It was clear early on that Kevin’s role in 13 Even would be somewhat of an obstacle, but we weren’t sure just how much. As for the music itself, it was perfect. It was rocking enough, but it was my kind of rocking. The riffs were simple and abrupt, and had just enough of that Helmet-esque staccato to keep me from going into withdraw. The drums were all programmed of course (as opposed to recording an acoustic drum kit), and the synths were kept pretty simple and inoffensive. The songs and production were very minimal, and much of that came from simply being so anxious to crank out some new music and get it out there as soon as possible.

Interacting with Kevin for these sessions proved to be a drastically different experience than anything we’d done in 13 Even. With Dark Disco Club, it was my hands on the wheel, but I made it very clear to him that he should do whatever he wants on the mic. I wanted him to flex his creative muscle in ways that were impossible for him to do within the confines of his other bands format. I think we accomplished that mission. We bounced ideas back and forth, and overall it was a very easy, rewarding process for all of us. The songs that ended up on that CD were “Calm As Icarus”, “Honey”, and “Antarchy”; which was named by my friend Kelly Graf when I called her on the phone and asked “What should I use as a title for a song about a whole gang of ants that rise up against a big controlling caterpillar and kill it?”. She came out with it almost immediately, and we never even questioned it. That song has been played live more times than any other DDC song to date. Around the time that initial CD was completed, we finished up a fourth song called “Beautiful Mutation” that was inspired by all the great music released in the early Nineties (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, etc.).

With a group of songs completed, the next logical step was to rehearse and play live. Well, that never happened. As it turned out, the politics of Kevin being in 2 bands at once was just too much. Understandably, his other band was a bit protective of their unique front-man, and there may have been some pressure on him (direct or indirect) to not let this whole “side project” of his get too involved. While it was very disappointing, I can’t say it came as a surprise. Orsino and I stopped pushing the issue, and we knew it was time to find a new singer.

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