I’m No Boss

By late summer 1996, Native was either gigging, recording, or rehearsing nearly every day of the week. We were on an incredible ride thanks to our manager’s, Paul Ducharme’s, growing contact list, and the various NYC clubs where we had built relationships where they just automatically booked the band on a monthly, bi-monthly, or (in the case of McGovern’s Bar on Spring Street, near the Hudson River) weekly residencies.

McGovern’s was such a special place for us. The owner, Steve Greenberg, had befriended Dave in the pre-Native days, and was soon to become a faithful comrade of everyone in and around Native, providing gigs in our earliest days, and support in ways that helped us survive those early days — indeed, both Mike Jaimes and Mat Hutt tended the bar, and John Fitzwater ran the sound system, when they needed cash to pay their bills and feed their faces.

In many ways, it was home base to us in the same way Marmfington Farm was, and it cannot be said strongly enough that without Steve’s belief in us, and all his good will, and support — we may not have been able to keep going.

Cornbread Wednesday

As it was, we were able to do more than keep going, we were developing new music at a mercurial pace, and it was during this period that we abandoned making demo tapes and just started playing the new stuff each Wednesday. We found that a positive audience reaction to a song was worth more than listening to the tapes a thousand times. Our night was soon dubbed ‘Cornbread Wednesday’ and it was almost always the highlight of our week (and, the tradition of showcasing new music continues to this day in

this very blog upon which you now gaze adoringly).

Another fixture of McGovern’s was an old-timer who sat at the end of the bar at each and every gig. His name escapes me now, but it doesn’t matter really…. every bar has an old guy like him. Sipping mixed drinks and scowling in a way that makes you think they are not enjoying themselves very much. And yet, next time you play that club, there he is, sitting in the same spot, telling stories about stuff that happened before you were born.

Today’s tune is Mat Hutt’s tribute to that old guy, and all the others like him. We had put it on the Live From Marmfington Farm, Vol. 1 album earlier that year in a version recorded at Wetlands, but this one is from the place were it originated — McGovern’s. I like to think that the old guy is still sitting at that bar, telling war stories, complaining about how awful everything is, and profanely proclaiming —

I’m No Boss

One hour of sleep, a one-lane road, and coffee – my co-pilot

I remember when I wrote that lyric. It’s emblazoned on my brain.

It was in the fall of 1996, and Native had been steeped in a period of heavy creativity. But, I had not contributed anything more than the three-year old Barefoot Girls, and I was bound and determined to rectify that situation.

Now, a cursory look back over the sheer number of new songs we’d recorded demos of in the previous year, is daunting. We had more first-class material with which to make an album than we needed. Rover, Digging Holes, Restless, 155 — pretty daunting competition, especially in light of the fact that I’d not brought a new song in during all the tumultuous period stretching back to John Epstein’s reign of benign terror.

Actually, my most recent composition was from ’94 — Missionary Man. A beautiful song, but preachy, and there turned out to be a big hit song with the same name by The Eurythmics. Native dutifully learned it, played it one or two times, and it was quietly dropped. In my embarrassment at that failure, I had foresworn to do better.

All through the next year, I regaled the band with a series of tunes that showed great development in the songwriting department, but they missed the mark in terms of being right for the band. Some were very pop-oriented, some hearkened back to the hard-rock Native of the Anthony Ballsley era, and some were just plain strange.

No wonder that my newest creation was met with a bit of skepticism and poorly-masked dread. I’ve often joked that a band’s worst fear is a drummer who writes, and that joke stems from this period. Nevertheless, I soldiered on in earnest effort. I had a lot of music in head, and it needed to come out or I was going to go crazy. Or, maybe I was crazy and was trying to work my way back to sanity, and music was my medium. I became fixed on the idea of coming up with a song that would put my yearnings into a palatable package.

Suddenly, I did just that. So, surprised was I at my breaking through the ice-field of my creative impasse, that I prematurely presented the new opus to our lead singer.

Mat Hutt was sat in the living room at Marmfington Farm, our loft on W. 26th Street, enjoying a bit of telly with his girlfriend, Rebecca Lyons. His initial reaction, upon being assaulted with this half-formed ditty, was non-committal and rightfully so — there had been a fair few clunkers already from my pen, and my scratchy guitar stylings coupled with a singing technique that could be likened to the sound of a chalkboard being massaged with barbed wire, didn’t help.

In desperation, keyboard-tickler John Watts suggested I demo the song on the trusty Tascam 8-track and try to hone the performance into something that doesn’t make people want to throw themselves off the nearest tall building.

This is precisely what I did. In the process, the song went from being called One Track Mind, to the more metaphorical-sounding One Lane Road. But, that didn’t work very well in the chorus, which required a repetitive rhythmic string of word-things. Suddenly, in a moment of clarity (or super-stonedness) I hit upon a unique combination of adjective and noun, and the chorus was in place. Matt Lyons did a session, laying down a bass track. And that was it. I mixed it with a ton of reverb, and that was that.

Hearing it again, after all this time, I’m struck by the things that are exactly the same – the guitar chords & its rhythmic pattern, the vocal melody & most of the harmonies; and, I’m equally struck by the things that went through a transformation into something better.

When John Watts heard the demo, he laughed heartily and said, “Here’s what I think you’re trying to do,” whereupon he played it on his piano with exactly the feel that I was shooting for. Mike Jaimes later added the distinctive roto-vibe guitar part that I can’t get out of my head to this day, such is its brilliance. Matt Lyons had a chance to build upon the structures of his bassline, adding the bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp that sends a shiver to the spine, and the mysterious driver of the song down that barren stretch of lonely highway.

When Mat & John Wood’s voices aligned with my lyrics, the rehearsal room erupted in smiles all around as they miraculously recreated the good parts of my vocal performance, and improved the less-than-good parts.

I had achieved my goal. The iceberg impasse was broken. And the demo I’d made was quickly set aside without benefit of Messers. Watts, Hutt, or Jaimes’ contribution. It lay dormant and forgotton, until today.

What you are about to hear is the very-rough demo that sparked Mr. Watts to leap into the fray and help it become a Native standard that graced every single gig we played in the aftermath of that hallowed, feverish period of late 1996.

I’ve made a lot of demos since then, but none more momentous for me personally than the one where I learned a bit of performance craft, and found that if you take two words that don’t go together, you might come up with a title that has some magic in it. Something like —

Sweet Intensity

Cornbread Wednesday

Thank You Lou Levy

‘WOODY, you just topped off six vodka on the rocks, at our VIP table, with water!” These were the first words uttered to me by my snarling, coked-up manager.

It was the summer of 1990 and I had landed a job as a busboy at a supper club in New York City! I was young, wide-eyed and innocent.  My only restaurant experience had been working the salad bar at Bonanza back home in Texas, and a famous restaurateur had taken me under his wing.

This supper club had marvelous jazz bands and served dinner into the wee hours. It played host to the likes of Frank Sinatra, too many famous actors to mention, and many wise guys including, every Thursday, John Gotti himself.

I was a complete failure as a busboy and the manager feared what my next blunder might be, so the owner promoted me to service bartender and hid me in the kitchen.

It wasn’t long before I was moved to the front bar when it got very busy. I would take over for the head bartender when he went home at 2 a.m.

This was a crazy shift! One evening I would find myself playing liars poker with Leslie Nielsen, the next I would be decanting ’77 Wares Port while Mr Gotti’s boys watched me VERY CLOSELY.

The owner would introduce me to every celebrity he could. I think he got a kick out of watching them squirm while I chatted them up with naive exuberance.

I would often come to work toting my guitar. I had only been playing for about a month and a music career had not ever crossed my mind.

One evening I was called away from the service bar. The owner wanted me to meet his good friend, a music publisher by the name of Lou Levy! I was introduced as an aspiring musician. Mr. Levy shook my hand and said; “Kid, if you write a song with the lyrics, ‘Tell me the truth and I’ll help you lie,’ you’ll have a million dollar tune on your hands.” I thanked him for the sage advice and went back to serving drinks.

When I would arrive home after work, usually when the sun was coming up, I would often find that my neighbor Dave Thomas was still awake watching The Prisoner or some old B-Western. He would hit the pause button on the VCR and I would regale him with the night’s adventures at the supper club. The night I told him I met Lou Levy his jaw dropped. He told me that Lou Levy was a music publisher during the Tin Pan Alley era of American popular music. That he was credited with the discoveries of Bob Dylan, Charles Strouse, Richard Adler, and Henry Mancini. How he had discovered, managed or developed the careers of numerous artists including Buddy Rich, The Andrews Sisters, Connie Francis, Steve Lawrence, The Ames Brothers and Les Paul. He had supplied numerous other singers with hit material: Frank Sinatra with “Strangers in the Night”; Petula Clark with “Downtown” and “Call Me”; Tom Jones with “It’s Not Unusual.” And he published the Beatles’ first American hit “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Dave’s history lesson made me appreciate the gravity of having received advice from such a legend and although I was only dabbling in writing music at the time, I vowed to myself that I would, one day, write this tune.

Years later, during a rehearsal break I started humming a melody to an inspiring bass line Matt Lyons was working on. The feel of the thing just screamed espionage, and those lyrics Lou had suggested to me, so many years before, came flooding back. Tell Me the Truth was born. I love the melody interplay with that bass line. It’s plain to see how that song just wrote itself.

Lou Levy passed away in 2001. I wish he could have heard the song. I would love to think he would have liked it. I didn’t make a million dollars but the memories are worth more than a million to me. Thank you Lou.

Tell Me the Truth

Cornbread Wednesday

Remembering Michael Jaimes (8/30/1967 – 10/13/2006)

Welcome to a special edition of our weekly Nativology blog.

Normally, we put up a song from our archives on Wednesdays, and, if you go to our Bandcamp page and see the albums-worth of gems from the Native Vault, you’ll see we did a lot of recording during our active years. Mainly, we endeavored to develop material for the band, but occasionally one of us took the step of working on tunes for strictly personal reasons.

Today’s tune is one Mike Jaimes started on in 1991, before Native was formed. Recorded in Dave Thomas’ room at The Clinton Arms Hotel (aka, The Hippie Hotel) on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, Mike was keen to make a demo of a song he’d written the music to, and which had beautiful, poignant lyrics by his good friend, Joe Rakha (5/2/1964 – 9/19/2002).

Years later, in 1998, Mike returned to the song. Dave did a really lousy mixdown from the 4-track to the 8-track Tascam that was used in all the recordings you hear in our weekly post. Mike then laid down a single vocal take, and there it remained in an unmixed state until today.

Dave has taken the instrument tracks from the earlier tape and combined them with the 1998 vocal to create a new mix.

We think it exemplifies a lot about Mike — his way with a melody, and his heartfelt delivery would be hard to match, even by the artists he admired the most.

We’ve long wrestled with the question of what to do with this singularity in our archive, and realized that today is the most fitting moment to share it.

We miss Mike more than could ever be expressed, but when October 13 rolls around it’s especially tough, and each of us finds that it’s been —

Rainin’ In My Heart

Should I compare thee to a summer’s day?

William Shakespeare was called ‘The honey-tongued bard of Avon’ for a good reason. Aside from his plays, Good Will was renowned for his sonnets, which he wrote throughout his illustrious career, mostly for a private readership, and, as incredible as his plays have proven to be – it is through the ‘sugered sonnets’ that he was able to, as Wordsworth put it, “unlock his heart.”

Not surprising then, that the lead singer of a twentieth century musical act called Native, a singer who had trod the stage himself at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, would turn to the Bard for inspiration.

Mat Hutt was really on a roll at this point in the band’s trajectory. By himself, or in collaboration with John Wood, he’d already written enough strong songs in the preceding year to fill an album, but the music was flowing out of him with such regularity that when the decision was made to invoke Shakespeare’s sonnets as lyrics, much time was afforded in carefully choosing the lines that would be quoted or paraphrased in this newest masterpiece.

The line in today’s title is from Sonnet 18, but careful examination shows that today’s featured tune culled lines from all around Mr. William’s canon. Long hours around the kitchen table were spent poring over the sonnets, plucking a line here or there and fitting them in place, like jewels in an ornate piece of jewelry.

As it took shape, Mike Jaimes contributed mightily to the construct, with more than a small influence on the utltra-rocking middle section. With the addition of the rhythm section and the Elizabethan stylings of John Watts, the song was a complete epic, soaring and majestic.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets in his time, but Native edited together fragments from those works, and invested them with such grace and furore that a seemingly new one was born. Which is why we called it —

155

Cornbread Wednesday

Diamonds are a girl’s best frenemy

The quest for economic security leads us all in strange directions. The question soon becomes, “How much of yourself are you willing to give away for that security?”

When Mat Hutt sat down and wrote this week’s featured tune, he would dig a bit deeper into his own experience, as he would do with all his songs from this period, and delve into issues that were gnawing at him in a way that he’d not previously done.

The subject of this song is not conveyed in the title, it’s about a girl who we all knew. A victim of the false quest.

Beautiful, poised, excellently coutured, and always perfect. A bit too perfect, as it turned out, for she was acting the whole time. She was leading a double life.

Her quest had been fulfilled — she had all the glitter, gold, and diamonds she wanted. But, they were empty baubles and trinkets. They were in no way any way a substitute for what she now knew she really wanted. Once you’ve given away your most precious possession – you – the accumulation of wealth and lies becomes an impossible-to-escape vortex.

When the truth came out, it was too late, the vortex would never let her go. The pearls and earrings were now shackles.

We all knew her, and we all felt the deep twinge one gets when remembering an absent and well-loved friend.

She hadn’t died. Her two lives had merely converged for a moment, only to wend away in opposing directions, leaving us wondering what might have been a better life for her.

A life with real love, real people, and nowhere in sight – the vain lure of —

Diamonds

Cornbread Wednesday

Digging Holes Again

Greetings Nativophiles! And, welcome back to our ongoing excursion through the musty corridors of the Native Tape Vault!`

Before we took a summer vacation (to work) we’d spent a year listening to the many splendid demos, rarities, and anomalies* found in our tape library, as curated, annotated, pixelated, and carbonated by our illustrious drummer, Dave Thomas, HBE**.

Back when Dave was what psychiatrists like to refer to, euphemistically, as “sane,” he undertook the massive task of going through the mountain of recordings we made in our salad years, when all we did was eat salad and make tapes in our studio that Woody built.Native Tapes Random

Under Dave HBE’s tyranny, Nativology has endured two iterations — Volumes 1 & 2. Now, the planet is faced with the even graver crisis of Vol. 3, and already the Untied Nations General Assembly has issued a statement saying, “Who needs salad when Nutella Hazlenut Spread can feed the world?”

Today’s example of John Fitzwater-engineered analogue-based goodness is a song we have visited already on Vol. 2, in a version from the John Epstein epoch which, much like the Jurassic era, ended in early 1995.

Following a brief, salad-munching summer, the effervescent John Watts joined the band, and a new round of demos were made on the trusty Tascam 8-track cassette recorder, which now sits enshrined in The Museum of Dave’s Storage Locker In Englewood, NJ.

Matt Hutt had come up with a dilly of a song that would eventually be the kick-off tune of our best-known album, Exhale On Spring Street. Woody collaborated on it, and Dave kicked in a line or two. Mike Jaimes and Matt Lyons kibutzed in the corner, and a landmark tune was regifted to the many varied nations of Midtown Manhattan, between Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, sorry, Clinton.

So, settle back with a quart of Sangria, a bowl of Nutella, and a big honking doobie! Click some keys on your favorite computer, and marvel at the majesty embodied in a little number called —

Digging Holes v.2

* A subtle reference to Dave’s current project, a graphic novel called ANOMALIES, which can be found here.

** Half-Baked Empire

Cornbread Wednesday

Sunned, Stunned & Zooted

How was everyone’s summer vacation?

Ours was fabulous, minus a cataclysm or two.

The main thing is — the keeper of our vaults, Drummer Dave Thomas (or, as he’s known semi-derisively — Hollywood Thomas) took the summer ensconced in his Dave Cave working fiendishly on all manner of mad things, including new music he’s preparing for a solo or band release. He can’t decide if he’s a band or not — it was that kind of existential summer for Dave!

Anyhoo, he’s back on the Native tip, and starting to sift through the tapes that will comprise Nativology Vol. 3. He hasn’t really given us a report on what’s available, but by the oohs and ahhs we hear emanating from the Dave Cave, he’s either on to some great stuff, or he’s found that online photo of Olivia Munn and ScarJo he’s been searching for!

What can we expect when these recordings find their way into our Bandcamp site?

Good question, Jasper from Omaha, Pennsylvania!

All Dave will say is that Vol. 3 will pick up where Vol. 2 left off — somewhere in the John Watts era, featuring more demos from our Exhale On Spring Street period. But, Dave has that shifty look in his eyes (okay, he always has that shifty look, but go with us here…), a shifty look that suggests something special is forthcoming, or fifthcoming, in addition to the Vault tracks that will turn up on Nativology Vol. 3.

Can it be that a new live Native album is in the works??

Great question, Tanya from Stalingrad, Ohio!

All we can do is wait until Dave gets that shifty look off his face and tells us. But, we’ve got next week’s new round of Nativology to look forward to, and that is excitement unparalleled in all of our accumulated human experience. (Edit: Dave: “Except for that online pic of Olivia Munn & ScarJo!“)

Before we say orderve, a big ol’ BTW — right now is a perfect time to go back to Volumes 1 & 2 of Nativology, which can be found here and here. You’ll find a treasure-trove of great unreleased Native goodness to warm the shackles of your heart!

So, welcome to Fall — it’s all downhill from here, except for the uphill parts!

Drinky, drinky, smoky, smoky!

The Wild Atlantic Sea

There are times in your life when you remember right where you were, and what you were doing when you first heard a bit of music. This is the case for me with the song we are featuring in this week’s edition of Nativology Vol. 2.

Mat Hutt’s dad, Sam Hutt, sometimes known as Hank Wangford strolled into the apartment Mat & I shared on 16th Street, told us he’d written a song on the flight over from the UK, picked up a guitar and played us this brilliant tune. It was full of wistful, faraway chords, haunting melodies, and the loveliest poetry.

I was sitting on our couch, quite probably with my mouth hanging open in sheer awe at the effortlessness Sam displayed in his performance, especially in light of the fact that he’d had no guitar on the plane. That moment forever defined the the long road I’d be on to be a real songwriter, not just somebody poking around with some chords and random words.

It was also at this the time of this visit that Sam asked a very cogent question as we viewed an old gangster serial — why do gangster’s henchmen simply accept their orders to go knock off an adversary? Or, as Sam put it, “How come nobody ever asks ‘And then what’?”

Years later, that question (sans question mark) would become the title of our third studio album.

I tell that story, not as a digression, but to illustrate how long we’d hang on to good ideas before incorporating them into our work.

It would be years before Native took up the song. But, once we did it became a tentpole of our shows, often popping up at the end. And there was little that could follow it.

When I produced the Exhale On Spring Street album, I somehow left off Sam’s writer credit — a fact that I regret every time I hear it. So, let me publicly apologize to Sam for the egregious oversight. It was not a slight, but rather a mistake made by someone just a bit over his head on his first album production. I’m truly sorry for it, Sam!!!

This version is our demo from 1996, featuring Mr. John Watts on keyboards. And, just as it served as a closer to our sets, the same is true today as it will be the final song in this volume of Nativology.

We will resume our scouring of the Native Tape Vault with Vol. 3 in the coming months. In the meantime, we are preparing a live album release, the details of which will be disclosed soon.

But, for now, sit back and enjoy a tour of the beautiful, rocky shores of —

The Wild Atlantic Sea

Twisting, turning, flying, burning…

Adding John Watts to the band had really paid off and, by the summer of 1996, the band was really running smooth on all cylinders. Constant, relentless rehearsal and gigging resulted in a band that was air-tight, confident, and armed with the largest playbook of our existence!

In the midst of all the chaos, we continued to write new material, and we were sure-enough of ourselves to play the new music in public, letting it grow and evolve before laying down the demo on our trusty Tascam 8-track recorder.

This week’s tune is a very impressive Mat Hutt composition, inspired by a comment made by our manager, Paul Ducharme.

Paul, ever vigilant against the incursion of fake-hippies into our real-hippies scene, had coined the term ‘krevelers’ to describe those who look, sound, and dress like hippies, but who were actually predators — taking advantage of the naiveté exhibited by so many of us flower children.

Paul’s comment came in the early hours of morning after a gig, when most folks have gone home, but there were a few still hanging around that seemed to have an awful lot of energy considering the hour. “It’s just another junkie sunrise.”

That was all Mat needed to put on his dramatist’s hat and put himself in the place of a lost soul, on the brink of destruction, living not from day-to-day, but score-to-score. He envisioned that soul having a moment of clarity, perhaps the only one of the day, as a stark colorless sun rises overhead.

I’m pretty sure he got some help from Woody and Paul along the way, but however it came about, and whoever helped develop it — it’s a Native masterpiece, in my opinion.

This version comes from August, 14, 1996 and, appropriately, it was the last song of a long set which puts it at the right hour — around four a.m.

Our good buddy and compatriot, Kregg Ajamu, can be heard trading off with Mat at the end.

The band would pack up, go home and sleep, but for some tortured souls in the room, what awaited was a —

Junkie Sunrise