Brian Paone

Author // Musician

My very first released album is now old enough to drink ... Yellow #1's "Bottle of Rain" turns 21

My very first band that recorded and released an album, Yellow #1, gave the world our debut album, Bottle of Rain, 21 years ago this month.

I was in a thrash metal band called Vertical Smile for about a year (we only played 1 show and recorded a 2-song demo cassette), and I was way more into industrial and avant-garde music than thrash at the time. I was the drummer of Vertical Smile and really just wanted to be a singer, front man, and write quirky electronic music with a drum machine and synthesizer, with bits of real instruments thrown in here and there, accompanied by angst-driven lyrics and vocals. So, I quit Vertical Smile after our one and only show at Swampscott High School in Massachusetts in 1995 and bought about $2,000 worth of gear.

I didn't have a name yet for the band or even band members. I was at a Maids of Gravity concert in Boston, telling the singer, Ed Ruscha, about my nameless band while we were playing pool, and he hit the yellow #1 billiard ball into a pocket, stood, and said, "How about Yellow #1?" My first real band now had a name.

I started writing songs in my bedroom on an acoustic guitar and a drum machine (a Roland DR-5), while furiously writing lyrics. I wanted the music of the band to sound like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Mr. Bungle, with lyrics inspired by Korn and Quicksand.

Over the course of almost a year, I wrote 14 songs for the album, playing every instrument myself, except for the guitars on "A Summer Dream." That was written and played by the guitarist for the band Enuresis Burn, Matthew Diglio.

Yellow #1 was offered our first show in 1996: the Middle East downstairs in Cambridge, MA opening for Turkish Delight; probably my favorite local band at the time. We were only getting a 10-minute slot. But here was the real problem: I didn't have a live band! Yellow #1 had been 100% me for the past year, writing and playing every instrument in my bedroom.

So, I put together the first live incarnation of Yellow #1: Christine Kelley (keyboards), Mark Sieczkowski (drums), and Dave Ouellette (known as Dogboy in my novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, on percussion.) I played guitar and sang. My brother Paul was our first roadie.

After the show, I moved the band into a rehearsal space so we could practice like a real band, learning all 14 songs I had written for the album. Mark was also the singer of a local band called Tension and couldn't commit to drums fulltime, so after the first show, he left the band, and I recruited Dann Paciulan for drums, additional guitar, and additional keyboards. Dann became my multi-instrumentalist on stage. This lineup of Yellow #1 would continue throughout the next year.

After a handful of more shows, I felt the songs were ready to be recorded for the album. We recorded the album over the course of 4 months at Zigmo Studio, produced by Dan Tarlow. Dave and Christine wound up writing their own lyrics to 2 of the songs on the album, and everyone had vocal duties. Other guest vocalists included my mother; my stepsister, Lauren Sullivan; and the singer of Enuresis Burn, Mike Viccione. Because of how long it took to record the album, the studio was an open invite. We had friends and family in and out during the entire process.

The artwork was designed by Sean Carmichael (who also designed the front cover of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview), and Bottle of Rain was released in April, 1997. It received some interesting reviews in some national and local music magazines, and the song "Broken Eyes" was played on Boston radio station, WAAF.

Christine Kelley and Dann Paciulan left the band simultaneously, both being replaced by Jason Paul, who took over all the keyboard & synthesizer duties. We opted to eliminate live drums from the shows, so Yellow #1's new lineup was Dave Ouellette, Jason Paul, and myself.

Then we were asked to open for Godsmack. Dann was going to be in the area that weekend, so he returned to the band just for that one show, which allowed us to add live drums back into the set.

Eventually, Jason Paul left the band in 1998, and Yellow #1 was just myself and Dave Ouellette. We stopped playing shows and focused on recording 3 new songs for compilations we had been asked to submit songs to:

1) A Christmas compilation called A Drive-By Christmas, which we submitted a song titled "Dirt Blue Star's Third Christmas." I recruited bass player, Eric Park (who I would later be in the bands Drop Kick Jesus and The Grave Machine with), and Eric wrote and played keyboards and harmonica on the song, and I sang and played keyboards, and Dave and my mother sang the "Silver Bells" outro.

2) A Faith No More tribute CD called Tribute of the Year, which we submitted our cover of "As the Worm Turns." The incarnation of Yellow #1 on this recording was myself, Dave Ouellette, and Jenny Applebaum, who played electric guitar. (This would be the final thing Dave ever did with Yellow #1; he left the band shortly after recording this song. And this song was the only thing Jenny ever did as a member of Yellow #1.)

3) We were asked to record an instrumental piece for a compilation, and I wrote and recorded a song called "Peaceful Night." This incarnation of Yellow #1 was just myself playing a sequencer.

These 17 songs are what I consider to be the Bottle of Rain era of Yellow #1. Especially since our second album wasn't recorded for another 19 years in 2016.

Transpose's "Retribution" turns 7 years old

My band, Transpose, released our second album, Retribution, seven years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows within those four years where we really wore out that first album. It was time to not only have some new material to play live, but way past due to give the fans a new batch of songs.

This album was the most unique album I have ever been a part of. It is the only true concept album I have ever written. The songs can't be listened out of order; there are characters, dialogue, a plotline, a climax, and resolution. We began writing this album right around the time I was in the editing stages of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, and there was a part of that novel (which was eventually removed and did not appear in the published version) that was about 20 pages long and told the story of a man who knew his wife was cheating on him, so he follows her and spies on her meeting some random man at a hotel. When he confronts her the next morning, she won't tell him what happened, so he burns the hotel where the affair happened to the ground, killing everyone inside, but ultimately forgiving his wife in the process.

I removed this part from the book and instead rewrote the 20 pages into lyrics, keeping some of the dialogue to be sung in the songs. We were really going for a true concept album like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or The Who's Quadrophenia. An album that is really just one long song; a story put to music.

It was also the first album, of the now 7 albums I have written, where the lyrics were written first, and THEN the band put music to what was happening in the story. Up until Retribution, every other albums' songs had been finished musically first, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal pattern around the preexisting music. This time, as a band, we had to verbalize what was going on in the "scene" and then write the music to that action.

In the studio, we added sound effects to accent what was happening in the scene: alarm clocks, sounds of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. It was a lot of fun to drop those into the songs throughout. This was also the most amount of keyboards I had written/played on an album since Drop Kick Jesus' album Splatterguts, which came out in 1998, so it was also a lot of fun to get behind the keyboard and compose again.

As soon as the album was finished, it marked the birth of a totally new live show for Transpose. Gone were the random order of songs from the first album. Our shows were now Retribution from start to finish, and then our encore; which consisted of about three songs from the first album, A Delicate Impact. We moved the songs from the first album to the end of the show and performed the new album in its entirety as the meat of the live shows. We toured pretty extensively on the Retribution album for two years.

I even made a film to go along with the album; a visually journey of the story as the album plays. That film can be found here on my site under the MEDIA tab or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table on a TV during the tours and shows.

I have been a part of 7 albums in my musical career total, and Retribution, still to this day, is the album I am most proud of than any other album I have written. I don't know what the future will bring in regards to how I will feel about future albums, but this one will always be super special to me. It was one of those albums where I felt everything just clicked the whole way through. And not just because it was the first time one of my stories had been turned into an album that I could sing every night on stage.

Oh, and we also recorded a cover of Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" during the recording sessions and added it as a hidden bonus track on the album. Ha!

The Grave Machine album turns 13

*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003, we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three piece (something I had never done before). This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies and industrial / progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu,  Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit & The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.

I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had penned for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.

The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for ten weeks ... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt like an emotionless robot. Sure, I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.

That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album as a concept album, but the album takes the listener through a journey of those terrible ten weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics and vocal melodies that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style I had never written before. Both in Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus, all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "Because I hate you!" in one of the songs ... it literally meant, "Because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience without actually telling them about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.

After two years of writing, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded thirteen years ago this month, and even after more than a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified, so maybe, just maybe, The Grave Machine might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band and writing those songs and having that album as a part of my personal discography as a musician.

And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife ... so there's always that.

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