My band Drop Kick Jesus' album "Splatterguts" turns 21

My second band, Drop Kick Jesus, released our debut album, Splatterguts, 21 years ago this week. I was still playing shows and writing with my first band, Yellow #1, but I knew Yellow #1 was going on hiatus around this time, since Drop Kick Jesus was taking off like a freight train that couldn't be stopped.

This album is the only album, of the 7 total albums I have released with all my bands cumulatively, where I am NOT the singer. When Drop Kick Jesus started in 1997, I was the last to join the band (partly due to my obligation to Yellow #1), and they already had a singer. I joined the band as the keyboard player, and it was definitely a different experience for me, not only writing an album where I didn't have to write any lyrics or sing any vocals, but also live. Not having a microphone for the first time and being stuck behind a stationary instrument was an adjustment. However, it proved just as fun and fulfilling.

We recorded this album with Ken Cmar, who had also recorded and produced Staind, Scissorfight, Sam Black Church, Tree, and Godsmack; a lot of the heavy hitters at that time. We got lumped into the whole "Boston Hardcore" scene, but we were a lot more metal than those guys. We were also the only hardcore band with keyboards and horror movie samples, which made a lot of people like us more but also turned away some of the purists in the local hardcore scene. But when we had released the album, we had carved our own niche, and for the next 5 years, we were pretty much unstoppable.

Being in the studio and recording an album where I had zero vocal duties was also an alien experience for me. All I had to do was track my keyboard parts and I was done. I didn't have to worry about overlays, overdubs, double tracking, effects, or the mix.

I think the album still stands the test of time, and I am very proud of it and have the same love for it (even if it is the only album in my personal discography where I am not the singer) as I do with all the other albums I wrote.

After completing the touring cycle for the album, we parted ways with the singer, and I was moved from keyboards to vocals. We started writing what would be our second album, Depress the Heart, but I had to do something I had never done before: learn all the lyrics on Splatterguts so we could play them live. I was now singing someone else's lyrics on stage, which I had also never done before. Thankfully, we started incorporating the new songs we were writing into our live shows, so the Splatterguts songs became less and less in our set list. Splatterguts has 12 songs, and I think we only continued playing about 4 of them live after we finished writing the second album. But in the beginning, when I took over on vocals, we were playing almost the entire album at every show; me singing the old singer's lyrics and singing in his vocal style. Thankfully, I was allowed to "be myself" on the second album, since I was now the band's singer and lyricist.

I don't think there will ever be another album like Splatterguts for me again -- an album where I am not the singer. But damn, it's still a great album! *The album is available for FREE from this site!

"Yours Truly, 2095" turns 4 years old!

My third published novel, Yours Truly, 2095, turned four years old this month. I can't believe it has been four full years now since its been published, especially since it took me three full years to research, outline, write, and edit.

Starting off as an idea to take one of my favorite albums of all time, Electric Light Orchestra's concept album Time, and try to adapt it into a direct novelization was something I had been tossing around in my head since high school, almost twenty-five years ago. The concept album--which follows a man who awakens in the year 2095 with a robot for a wife, not knowing how he got there, and trying to return to his real wife in 1981--had always intrigued me, not only as song lyrics, but as a stand-alone storyline.

It took almost nine months to dissect every single song so I could write an outline and find enough story arcs, plot lines, and character developments within the lyrics to where I felt comfortable writing a 90k-word novel based around a 16-track album that clocks in at approximately 55 minutes long.

Writing the novel during the four years I lived in Japan (2011-2015), I initially approached it as a Michael Crichton-style sci-fi story; I wanted the technology to be so steeped in science fact that the reader would never be required to suspend their disbelief (even when the characters have to travel to the moon). I really wanted an organic-feeling story that didn't have whirling time machines and far-fetched technology. What I never expected was that I would wind up with a time-travel romance novel.

Staying true to every single lyric of the Time album (heck, even the front cover of the book is an adaptation of the front-cover art of the album), I found I had a lot of holes that needed to be filled with my own literary license. Even though it IS a concept album, it's not as concrete as, say, Pink Floyd's The Wall or The Who's Tommy, where there is no mistaking what is happening, what everyone is thinking, and what everyone is saying.

I realized, after my editor had submitted the book's final draft, I had a novel anyone could read. My biggest concern while writing was that people who had never heard of Electric Light Orchestra wouldn't even try to read the book. Why should they? Especially if its a novelization of an album they'd never heard? But I was able to write a straight-forward time-travel romance novel that works twofold: 1) if you are an Electric Light Orchestra fan, you will "see the storyline" of the Time album in every piece of action and dialogue, or 2) if you have no idea who Electric Light Orchestra is, this book is a stand-alone time-travel romance novel full of mystery, action, and suspense. You do not need to know anything about the source material to enjoy the book or for it to make sense. In fact, most of the positive reviews I have received are from people who only found out afterward that the book is based on an album. And the positive reviews from Electric Light Orchestra fans have applauded me for taking a revered album and turning it into a novel that stayed true to the tone and storyline of Time.

Yours Truly, 2095 was suggested for a Hugo Award in 2016, however, it did not make the finalists.

(my band) Yellow #1's "Bottle of Rain" turns 22

My very first band that recorded and released an album, Yellow #1, gave the world our debut album, Bottle of Rain, 22 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.

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