Brian Paone

Author // Musician

Filtering by Tag: Nine Inch Nails

Yellow #1's album, "Thanks for the Nostalgia," turns 2!

Waaaaay back in 1995, I started my first band, Yellow #1. We released one album in 1996 called Bottle of Rain. We played about three years worth of live shows all over New England; we even opened for Godsmack and had a song from the album ("Broken Eyes") played on Boston radio station WAAF. Oh, and a few music magazines reviewed the album. I approached the songwriting as a Mr. Bungle meets Nine Inch Nails. Then, in 1998, we played our last live show and broke up. I went on to front the bands Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose … never ever thinking Yellow #1 would ever see the light of day again.

Then, in 2014, while we were living in Japan (and Transpose had just come off its last tour), I decided it might be time to resurrect the band and see if we had another album of tunes in us after 19 years. Work on the second album began in 2014 with producer and hip-hop artist Darius Malloy (RedStryke). The difference from Bottle of Rain that I was most adamant about this album, was I did not want a single real instrument on the album. The first album, along with all the programming, synthesizers, and drum machines, still had live drums, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, harmonica, and tambourine. I knew I wanted this album to completely exist inside computer programs.

Darius worked with me on four songs, supplying beats and bass lines. I got to work on the other songs and filled in the gaps of what he left for me on his songs. In 2015, I had twelve songs completely written for the new album. All I had left was to write the lyrics.

Bottle of Rain had been built lyrically from the strife and angst of Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Quicksand. I was 20 years older and didn't quite carry the same frustrations with life or my inner demons anymore. BUT, I knew in order to assign the Yellow #1 moniker to the album, it still needed to FEEL like a Yellow #1 album. This was the first album of ANY of my bands' albums (this is the 7th album I have released throughout my 4 bands) where the lyrics were less introspective and more worldly. I put my own personal journal in the backseat and focused more on universal topics that still create a rise in me. I also hadn't written lyrics for an album since 2011, when Transpose had released our second album, Retribution, so there was some rust to shake off.

I entered the recording studio in Jacksonville, NC in June, 2016 and spent 6 weeks recording the 12 songs' vocals. In typical Yellow #1 style, we used a multitude of vocoders and layers of vocal effects to help make my voice sound different in every song. Just like we had done 20 years ago on Bottle of Rain. It was like wearing an old hat. All the old Yellow #1 atmosphere in the studio came back so effortlessly once I stepped into that vocal booth.

We named the album Thanks for the Nostalgia and used a beautiful picture of Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji, since the album was started there and the song "Kenritsudiagaku" is about what it was like to live in Japan as an American family. It was a very cathartic journey, making a second Yellow #1 album after two decades of silence. I can't even try to project when there might be a third Yellow #1 release, but I had so much fun making this album, I can promise it won't be another 20 years before there is new music from the Yellow #1 camp. 

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.

"Welcome to Parkview" turns 7 ... and how Billy Joel helped create my town.

My second novel, "Welcome to Parkview," was published 7 years ago this month. But what a long road it was to get this book in print and released for mass consumption. 19 years, to be exact.

I started "Welcome to Parkview" in 1991. The entire outline for the book was spawned in one night, while I was laying in my bed at 14 years old. I was on a Billy Joel kick and had been overdosing on all his cassettes that month, and there was something about the lyrics and musical overtones of his song "Piano Man" that resonated with me. The fact this 4-minute song could have so many believable characters (and within a single line of lyric, he gave the impression that each of these characters in the bar had an extensive backstory) was so intriguing to me as an aspiring author. I had started writing fiction in 1988 (3 years earlier) and had written around 30 short stories at this point. The thought to even attempt a novel had never crossed my mind ... until I started really thinking about "Piano Man."

Back to the night I was laying in bed: I rolled the lyrics around in my head, singing certain lines which contain specific descriptions of these characters, and my stepfather came home late from work. I heard my mother greet him at the front door, and from my bedroom, I was able to overhear him talk about driving past a local bar in my city that had, according to my stepfather, "something big going on outside because it took forever to drive by the bar." The bar he was talking about? A bar called Sneakers.

It was like the floodgates opened in my head. I heard him say the name of the bar, coupled with the lyrics of "Piano Man" so fresh in my ears, and I just knew there was a novel in there somewhere. I was going to congregate all these random people in a bar and just see what happens. Basically wanting the bar itself to be the main character of the book, and the people all secondary. I started working on my first novel that very next day, at 14 years old.

In the beginning, the novel was titled "A Bar Called Sneakers." It didn't change names until around 2004 (13 years after I started writing it.) But from 1991 - 1997, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Hours and hours. Weekends in high school and college, spent usually hanging out with friends, were traded in so I could stay home and write, write, write. I started writing in 1991 with a notebook and pen. Then my mother bought me a manual typewriter. I switched to the typewriter in 1992. Then, for Christmas in 1993, my mother bought me a Brother Word Processor, where I could save my writing on floppy discs.  Around 1997, I didn't quite know where I was going with the novel anymore. I hadn't written a single short story since 1991 -- I spent 6 years focusing every ounce of writing on the novel. I became discouraged with a stack of over 1,000 printed pages and no clear end in sight. So I shelved it.

In 2002 (5 years after boxing up the novel) I revisited what I had written up to that point and realized that I forgot how much I loved the characters and fictional town. I missed all those people and places. I forged onward, and between 2002 and 2008, I finished the novel. It was during this stretch where I changed the name of the novel to what it is now. Taking 5 years off really cleared my head, and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that I couldn't see when I was so far deep into the writing during those first 6 years.

Throughout the 19 years it took to create and destroy the town of Parkview, I had many more songs than just "Piano Man" helping to shape the characters and the ambiance of the town. Here is a small list of some of those songs, which without these songs, Parkview would not have become the town it did, nor would some of the characters have the personalities that they did: Neil Diamond – “I Am… I Said,” Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – “S’twisted,” Jesus Jones – “I’m Burning,” Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – “Cut Up,” REM – “World Leader Pretend,” Pigface – “Satellite,” Tool – “Bottom,” Pink Floyd – “Paranoid Eyes,” Nine Inch Nails – “The Becoming,” Faith No More – “Ricochet,” The The – “Bluer Than Midnight,” Front 242 – “Sacrifice,” The Mars Volta – “Televators,” Genesis – “Lilywhite Lilith,” Thirty Seconds to Mars – “Escape,” Blue October – “The End,” & Taco – “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

I finished the novel in 2008 at 246,000 words (give or take a few words.) I hired 3 separate editors, and between 2008 and 2010, I worked with these 3 editors vigorously. Keep in mind, by this point, I was already a published author, with my first book "Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts" being released in 2007 (I wrote that between 2006 - 2007). After "Welcome to Parkview" went through its 3 full edits, we whittled the 246,000 words to a more manageable 88,000 words. My first editor made me go back and not just edit or revise a lot of what I had written between 1991 - 1997, but physically rewrite a lot of scenes. Heck, they were originally written by a teenager, and if I wanted this to sound like it was written by a professional author, a lot of verbiage and dialogue and narrative needed to be rewritten in an adult's voice. So that took a few more months. Just to give you an example of how much was cut from the first 246,000 word draft, the first chapter in the published version of the book is around 10,000 words. In the original draft, the first chapter is around 70,000 words.

I will forever call "Welcome to Parkview" a labor of love. 19 years of my life and 246,000 words later, I was able to present a 88,000 word novel that I am very proud of, and 7 years after publication, seems to still be making an impression on readers.

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