After performing with Skipline in early 1998, I started considering singing more seriously than I had before. I anxiously awaited the weekly Scene magazine, which had band member wanted ads near the back of each issue. I found reasons not to call most of them, and didn’t hear back from the ones I did want to pursue. This was a meandering, weird time, and I don’t blame you if you decide to skip ahead to part three of my journey 🙂
I bought a PA system with a powered amp and two speakers. I set up a keyboard, a drum machine, a microphone, rack mounted effects, and a fostex four track recorder in my parent’s basement. I made random noise and tested out my limited vocal range. I spent hours sampling dumb tv and movie clips and then running them through echo, delay, and distortion until they were unrecognizable. I brought over friends to add their two cents and the project was eventually called Maslar, named after a prank phone call I made from a pizza shop in town.
I don’t recommend listening, but: (Also there is swearing, so maybe don’t play it at work or school or your house or your car or in public)
It was a fun, safe place to test out how well I could communicate what I heard in my head to the outside world. It was a great excuse to be obnoxious:
In late 1998 my buddy Pooch was trying out to play guitar in a band. He asked me to come along to one of his auditions. He knew the bassist of the band who came from our town, but the other guys were from around the west side of Cleveland. We met the singer and bassist at the singer’s place and the three of them started discussing songs and style and sound, while I read old Nintendo power magazines and whispering vocal ideas I got from the riffs. At one point Pooch was messing around with his guitar, so the guys asked if I wanted to try singing and the singer would play drums. I ran through a few songs ad-libbing lyrics from the Nintendo Power magazine I had been reading. Metroid, Super Mario brothers, and Zelda were the main ones I recall. The music was a mix of metal and hardcore and the PA wasn’t really powerful enough to compete with the loud music in the tiny room, so nothing I did could really stand out. They did like that I tried mixing yelling with singing rather than just yelling and screaming all the time. The singer, Eric, thought maybe the band could use two singers.
We played one of the songs several times and I had a melodic chorus where I repeated a land from one of the Nintendo games, over and over. The place was called Indoria. I don’t recall which of the games had it though. I liked the word and the peaceful landscape, so it stuck with me. Afterward Pooch, the bassist, Adam, and I went to Applebees and bonded over all you can eat riblets.
The band fizzled without much more progress being made as the drummer dropped out and Eric had another project going, but Adam and I stayed in touch and eventually I played him some of the Maslar stuff. He and I collaborated on a few more noise things and also dabbled in some hip hop-ish tracks.
We used the Indoria refrain for an intro to a song and we came up with another tune that used a sample of The A-Team as the hook. Adam had sampled it from a spoken word part in the theme song where the guy says, “they survive as soldiers of fortune.”
Adam was in a female fronted pop/rock band called Cat5 at the time and their main songwriter recorded at his house. One night we took my beat, his sample, some keyboard ideas, and some shoddy lyrics to the studio, along with Eric to try and cobble something together. The first version of Soldier of Fortune was born. I don’t have a recording of it anymore, so I’ll just assure you that it sounded amazing. The one thing that became clear that night was Eric, for as charismatic and cool to hang out with as he was, he wasn’t really into what we were trying. I think that was the last time we included him in our project.
After that Adam and I retreated back to my parents basement to attempt cobbling a few more things together, but nothing came of them. Well, we had a lot of incomplete demos and ideas, but as far as I know it was all lost.
At the end of 1998 I went to go see Snapcase, Quicksand, and The Deftones at the Agora in Cleveland. It was the only time I’ve ever been jumped and beaten up…
All through the night there were weird electrical currents running through the crowd, like someone had forgotten to ground a wire properly or something, so as you were in the pit you’d get mini shocks out of nowhere. During the Deftones’ set Chino jumped out in the crowd and I helped catch him. We held him up and pushed him back toward the stage, but at some point he reached down toward me and started screaming at me. I couldn’t understand why. When he got back onstage he explained that someone had tried to steal his shoe. I guess he thought it was me. It wasn’t. Shortly after pointing in my direction I got jumped by a swarm of shirtless frat boys. They took out my leg and my knee dislocated. when I hit the ground the guys quickly surrounded me and started punching as fast as they could. All I could do was hold up my hands and take it.
Luckily, my friend saw me on the ground and he did his best to beat the guys back…moments later he was laying next to me getting it just as bad. Security came in and dragged me to the edge of the pit. I popped my knee back in place and allowed two guys in the crowd to help me up. They said I looked familiar and asked if I was a singer. I nodded as I caught my breath.
It was Sean, the drummer from the first band I had tried out for the previous year, and his buddy, Chris. I knew Chris’ older brother from other shows as a dude with a million bootleg tapes. In fact, I had a VHS tape he gave me of an Incubus show from earlier that year. They had a new project, but needed a singer. I agreed to come try out and I vowed not to chicken out this time.
Now, I know this chapter was a little dry and bland without more music and photos, but as far as I can tell, I don’t have any photos from this era, and the less amount of Maslar stuff, the better it will be for my reputation. Here is something Adam and I did mixing our various goofball stuff together: