Native Was Carried Away

Hey ho, folk!

Dave Thomas here, back from summer vacation, batteries totally recharged, tan firmly fading, underwear on backwards, and standing ready to delve once again into the history, myth, lore, facts, figures, and apochyphal nonsense pertaining to everyone’s favorite band that’s called Native!!

As we saw in the vast archive of rarities left behind in the vast Native vault (and compiled in Nativology Vols. 1-4), there are many hitherto unheard songs, untold tales, and unsung heroes & villains in this band’s legacy, and I, as curator of the vault, have the solemn duty to shine a light on the highs, explain the middles, and not be shy of exposing the low’s.

Today, I want to take us back to the storied year of 1994, when the Clinton in the Oval Office was a sax player named Bill, cars got 3 miles to the gallon, phones were the size of canteloupes, and the ink was still dry on Rudy Guiliani’s pact with Satan!

For some arcane reason, I, your humble narrator, was tapped as lyricist for the song that would serve as the opening number on our eponymous first album.

I filled it with wonderful angst-riddled wordplay and rhymes as I wrote about my favorite subject – myself. The suspicions in the pit I found myself in the middle of harked back to a previous band, a previous love, a previous job, and all the devilments found therein.

Even more incredibly, I was allowed to vent my frustrations in another song that would lead off side two of the cassette version! (Remember cassettes? Remember side twos?)

It was a task I quite enjoyed, so fittingly – I was not to do it again for quite some time, when Sweet Intensity appeared on our third album, Exhale On Spring Street.

But, in hindsight and to be utterly fair, my verbal misgivings would not long be needed as Mat Hutt and John Wood rose to the task of lyricification with great ease and alacrity. And after all, they were well-supplied with all the angst, and teeth-gnashing frustration required for great rock’n roll verbiage. And, they were soon joined by John Epstein and Michael Jaimes who penned their own opuses, which we will address in future missives.

What you are about to hear today is a much-improved, remastered version of this epic tune. Actually, ‘remastered’ might be a misnomer since the original album does not seem to have been mastered at all! Last year Jonathan Vergara, lord of the dark art of mastering, lent his touch to the album, and it bloomed like a perennial after a rainstorm.

Anyway, enough of these word-things, click the link below and wrap your earworms around what would be the opening salvo of Native’s claim to a seat among the heirarchy of toppermost of the poppermost talents in the Pantheon of A-listers.

I think I can safely say, you’ll be —

Carried Away

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The Long Road To ‘And Then What’ – pt 2 – Zozo

Why you want to be the one who comes and darks out all the sun?

Well, quite!

Who wants to be that person? You know, the one who shows up at a party and bums everybody out?

No one knows the answer to this timeless question. But, we do know that we had some timeless parties at Marmfington Farm – better known to friends and foes as The Loft.

No one is sure who Mat Hutt was talking about in this song, and so it’s probably safe to assume it’s you. Which is what many of us did. Certainly, I did.

I was always convinced was about me, as I could be rather thorny at times. But, the argument that it could be any of countless other folks is a cogent one. I can surely think of several other suspects.

Whoever it’s about, Mat has always kept it under his hat, in a closet, under a pile of old, embarrassing jumpers.

All I know for sure, is — this recording from Wetlands, in January 1999, is the first time we played it, and it’s a great song. (And if it’s about me – I take no offense.)

Or, as Groucho so touchingly put it —

It’s better to have loved and loft, than never to have loft at all.

Zozo (Wetlands 1-10-99)

Cornbread Wednesday

The Long Road To And Then What! Part One

If you are puzzled by this week’s blog title – it refers to Native’s biggest, most ambitious album project. The title, And Then What, was derived from something once said by Sam Hutt (Mat’s dad – better known as Hank Wangford), whilst on a visit during the early days of Native’s existence.

We were watching a serial (you know, the pre-television episodic cliffhangers that thrilled movie audiences in those days of yore when everything was better?), I believe it was Dick Tracy, starring the great Ralph Byrd, made by my favorite studio – Republic Pictures.

In the serial, there was a moment where the evil ringleader of The Spider Gang, tells a henchman something like this – “Go down there, catch that guy, then take him to the river and drown him.” The incredibly compliant henchman nods in obeiance, and off he goes on his murderous task.

Sam’s cogent question was, “Why do the henchmen never say ‘And then what?'”

We had not yet recorded our first record, but the long road to And Then What began at that moment.

Jump cut to early 1999, Native has been touring for a year in support of our second studio album, Exhale On Spring Street (on which we churlishly got Sam’s credit for Wild Atlantic Sea wrong!), Keyboardist and botany expert Chris Wyckoff had settled in as a full member of the band, Woody had built a spiffing studio for us to rehearse, and the often-acerbic John Fitzwater had outfitted that space with a Pro Tools set up.

We were now fully capable of producing our next album, and had built up a large reservoir of new material, so we immediately set to work with surprising alacrity and slothfulness.

One of the very first songs we undertook was written by your humble narrator, and played with great vigor by my bandmates.

I don’t remember writing it, but the lyrics are at variance with those on my own demo of the song, so there must have been an great deal of collaboration on it, which I assume I enjoyed.

Get ready for quite a few more oddities like this in the next few week’s thrilling chapters – we wrote way more than what ended up on the album, and like this submission, the material was very strong, and the henchmen were compliant, and unquestioning.

(Note: The vocals start out quiet, but get louder on this demo – there is nothing wrong with your system!)
Everyday

Cornbread Wednesday

One Way Or Another… This Darkness Has Got To Give

Last week, we served up a rare live track from a multi-track tape of an undated Native show at Wetlands.

We see no reason why we shouldn’t continue on with another stupendous Catherine Russell performance from the same night.

Native was not prone to do a lot of other folk’s material, but this tune just seems like it was made for us to play and for Catherine to sing. And, since the Grateful Dead hardly ever performed it in their shows, we can safely say that this is (in all humility) one of the best versions you’ll ever come across.

So, enjoy!

I (Dave) am off like a prom-dress, for a couple of weeks, to play some shows with my family band – The Blue Lick Victory Club – in Louisville, KY. As much fun as this blog is to do each week, I do sometimes have to pry myself away from the Davecave, see some sunshine & do some pickin’ & grinnin’.

So hang tight — we’ll pick up where we left off when we resume in July. There’s lots of Wyckoff-era Native rare goodies left in the vault that we will be exhuming for your listening pleasure.

Thanks to everyone who follows us, and who have made this blog so much fun to prepare. You are the reason we do this, and we love you!

See you soon!

New Speedway Boogie (Wetlands 1997)

Cornbread Wednesday

The John Watts Era Comes To A Close

It was a sad day, indeed, when John Watts took the decision to leave Native.

He loved the band, but the schedule was punishing. And, it has to be said that, at this time, there was a bit of friction in band – some of which is my fault, so I bear a piece of the blame for driving him out.

When I met John, I was chuffed and delighted to bring him in for an audition with the band, and when he joined the band kicked up another notch in tightness, and our sound became even more musical and rich.

He was our most joyous, upbeat member, and that’s saying something considering we had the sparkling Mike Jaimes in the band.

On a personal level, he encouraged me to take my writing more seriously (to the bemusement of other members, who, I think, would have rather well-preferred I take it a lot less seriously!)

One example of how he helped me, was when he championed my newest song, Sweet Intensity, over the disinterest it had received when I played it for the guys. I really don’t think it would have become a Native song without his support.

I’ll readily confess – my general displeasure over how my material was being judged led to a bit of a bad attitude on my part in the later days of 1996, but there was another music-related factor that led to some inner-band conflict which disturbed John a lot.

I had started to feel a pain in my hands, stemming from my vice-like grip on the drumsticks. My punk-rock drumming approach had been getting more streamlined and sophisticated, but I retained the too-tight grip that, after long gigs, was leading to an aching soreness in my thumb joints.

John suggested I see a drum teacher he knew, and I very quietly started to take instruction which gave me all kinds of insight into how my grip was defeating my intent – why my drum fills were heavy-handed and sloppy, and how it contributed to an overall laxness in my playing, despite my high energy-level. I was working twice as hard for half the effect! Finding a better grip not only transformed my style, but the lack of pain was an enormous relief.

The problem was, I didn’t tell anyone else in the group about my lessons, and rather than increase my ability, the immediate result of my new grip was a drop in precision. It was going to take some time to get used to it, and in the meantime, I was playing very sloppily.

Then came a big band meeting, where I was confronted about my playing. Having already made moves to up my technique, I was angered by the interference. I sort of reflexively reacted to being provoked in a very confrontational band meeting, and was appalled that my playing had obviously been the subject of discussion behind my back.

The tensions in all this ultimately pushed the always convivial John Watts away from the band, and his era came to a sad close. The following months were what Chris Wyckoff has dubbed, ‘The Scary Time’, where Native soldiered on as a 5-piece. Fortunately, the first six months of 1997 saw very little taping at our shows, so there is scant evidence of my progress with the new grip.

The good part of the story is that I got my drumming problems sorted, and Native went on to continue our schedule of a hundred or more gigs per year, constant song-writing (which I was able to be a larger part of, thanks to the success of Sweet Intensity), and the recording of our best album – Exhale On Spring Street. During the recording of that epic, the reserved and tranquil Mr. Wyckoff joined our ranks, and all was well in the little town of Inisfree, once again.

So, the ending was happy, but when it comes to the subject of John Watts’ departure – I can’t think of anything funny to say about it. I wish he had stayed, and lord knows how we might have evolved if he had.

Bottom line — today’s tune brings Nativology Vol. 3 full circle. It began the era with a brilliant demo tape, and ended the era with a masterful performance at our home base – McGoverns Bar. We were much better than we were giving ourselves credit for.

Digging Holes (McGoverns 11-09-96)

Cornbread Wednesday

Ladies & Gentlemen, Mister John Watts!

This weeks Nativology excavation is, as far as we can remember, the only song John Watts wrote and sang lead on in his entire amazing 2005-07 tenure. Our memories of those smokey, smokey, drinky, drinky days are hazy at best, so don’t quote us on that one. As drummer Dave ‘Hollywood‘ Thomas continues to unearth rarities from our vault, we may yet find another example of his way with a melody. We sure hope so.

John is very good at arranging, which was the great boon of having him in the studio when the songs were in their nascent stages. Things like the middle bits of as tune — the solo, the breakdown, the bridge, or just the good old bog-standard one-note jam — all these things and more were John’s stock in trade. For the most part, Mat Hutt & John Wood were the songwriting dynamos, with Dave bringing in a tune now and then. Every great once in a while Mike Jaimes would bring in a song, but that was becoming more and more infrequent – he, like John, loved to delve into the arrangements. And if all that talent was stymied for an idea, we could count on Matt Lyons for that crucial way out of a musical painted corner.

It was a hothouse atmosphere of creativity at Marmfington Farm in the year of 1996, when Native ever so briefly added this really great tune to our setlists.

Listen for the excellent harmonies, the metaphor-laden lyrics and playful vocal of Mr. Watts. And, don’t miss the show-stopping solo by Mike.

Most bands would kill to have a song like it in their repertoire, but with a songlist bursting with riches, today’s featured tune suffered a very short shelf life. So far, this is the only recording we have of it.

So, thank goodness it’s a fantastic recording made by the staff at Wetlands — Dave Nolan and John Laterza.

Ladies & Gents — here’s John Watts schooling us all about the beast within, the —

Tyrannosaurus

You Keep Me Running Smooth

Hey Native People!

Dave Thomas here (just back from my successful negotiation of a peace accord between Mongolia and Peru).

Just to bring the Novatates up to speed — when I’m not saving the world from itself, I’m the drummer in the band. Yeah, by day I’m Mister My Brain’s Larger Than Yours, and I speak only in Minutiae; by night, I’m Animal from The Muppets with an I.Q. like a black hole. In between, I harness the music that lies dormant and petulant in the Native Vault, located far below Fort Knox, Switzerland.

As curator of this vast rubble, it has been my solemn task to present a rare Native performance each week in this blog which you now hold between your sweaty thumb and aorta.

We are currently up to Volume 3 of the epic Nativology series, wherein we investigate the mysteries of Native’s oeuvre by making new mixes from these things humans once called cassette tapes, some of which have been unplayed for tens of years.

Usually, we have put forth recordings that emanated from multi-track tapes, produced in our luxurious studio, Marmfington Farm in sunny Mid-Town Manhattan. All the previous tracks in Vol. 3 have been the product of overdubs and weed.

Now, we sadly bid adieu or orderve to that era. All our mighty, unfocused super powers would be slightly more focused on preparing for the recording of a proper album. But, we also were reminded from time-to-time by that wonderful Leprechaun, Gigs O’Plenty, that we had to go play music in public, and it had to be good, and it was!

But, live gig tapes can be a frustrating menace to endure. The first song is almost always going like a flesh freight train, full steam ahead, before the record button was finally engaged. And get ready for vast sea-changes in volume thoughout the next three to ten songs. Bemusedly, I’ve lost count of the face-palms I’ve made as my and Woody’s carefully unscripted drum solo ends mid-cowbell-triplet with the premature end of side one. Side two, yep, we’ve lost the beginning of that song, too.

DAT tapes came along eventually, and ended the practice of making sure we had no complete drum solos (except one – found on Live From Marmfington Farm Vol.1), but these tiny VHS-like tapes had their own set of peculiarities — brittle, digital sound, and the life-expectancy of an ant with a low white blood-cell count.

So, I’m concentrating on Cassettes for now, as we ease full-bore into the second half of Vol. 3, and the John Watts era is encapsulated by the abundance of what I call ‘orphan’ recordings — great performances found on tapes that are otherwise filled with cut songs, drop-outs, & other sound-related issues.

Here’s a tune from our first album, which stars the affable and bizarre John Watts, in a stirring exercise of ivory-tickling —

Running Smooth

Cornbread Wednesday