For two weeks in a row now something unprecedented has happened the day before I send this out—the insurrection last week and Trump’s second impeachment this week. Is anyone else ready to get back to precedented times like I am? I have no idea when that might actually happen, but bring it on. Please.
Anyway, here’s the part where I ask new readers to subscribe. Pretty please ⬇️
Okay, let’s get on with it then, shall we?
“So you guys can do this one of two ways,” our manager Bill said.
My band Pressure 4-5 was meeting with our new managers Bill and Joe at their office on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles for the first time in early 2000. Still to this day, they run an indie record label called SideOneDummy. We were the first band they took on as managers.
“You can go the indie route like the bands on our label and spend years slowly building up a loyal fanbase, or you can go with a major label and try to swing for the fences and go big or go home.”
We all looked at each other briefly and didn’t say a word. We already knew our answer. “We want to go big,” I responded.
Because, of course, we wanted to go big. Our buddies in Papa Roach signed a deal with DreamWorks just before we met Bill and Joe. Their song “Last Resort” came out later in September 2000 and blew up. They eventually sold over five million albums, mostly off the success of that song.
“It’s like they released the single, right?” our other manager Joe said to us backstage at one of our shows. “And then it’s getting played all over the place on radio and shit. It’s taking off super fast, right? So then their manager goes up to them and says, ‘Hey guys, you should probably put on this spacesuit and helmet.’ And they’re like, ‘What the hell are you talking about, man? Why would we ever wear these? These are fucking lame, bro.’ And their manager says, ‘Just trust me, guys.’” Joe mimicked putting a helmet on slowly and then all of a sudden he jumped up on a table onto his tiptoes. “And then out of nowhere they fucking blast off like a rocket and it’s been the craziest ride they’ve ever been on since!”
We saw the rocket ride they were on and thought, Yeah, we want to do that.
Never in my life have I felt as amped about the future as I did on November 22nd, 2000, the day we signed our record deal. That date is etched in my memory forever—and not only because 11/22/00 is so easy to remember. Fame and fortune felt like an inevitability.
We’re in the future now and you’ve likely never heard of my band’s name before reading it above. But you almost did.
On the surface, it might seem like I’m writing and putting myself out there publicly to try to become famous as I tried back then. Sure, some of the things I’m working on now might lead to that over a long timeframe. And sure, it would be great to have adoring fans and the money that comes with it. But that’s not what it’s about for me.
I came to a realization the other day. Now I know what I’ve been missing for all these decades since I was in the band.
But first, indulge me as I digress for a bit.
My brother Owen shared this video with me recently:
It’s the story of how Papa Roach’s song “Last Resort” came to be. But it’s also the story of how things became dark for them after their breakout success.
We were friends with the guys in Papa Roach. We played shows together before either band was signed to a record deal. They signed a deal with DreamWorks Records. Then later we signed a deal with DreamWorks. They recorded their album at NRG Studios with Jay Baumgardner as their producer. And we did the same.
DreamWorks did an initial print run of 80,000 of our CDs and shipped them to record stores around the U.S., which is unheard of these days. They put north of $1M behind our album recording, video, touring, and promotional efforts leading up to the album release.
To cut to the chase, our first single for our song “Beat the World” hit radio only a few days before 9/11, which bungled our promotional efforts and completely changed the trajectory of our lives. Within weeks, it was clear we weren’t going to need those spacesuits.
All these years later, our lack of commercial success still haunts me and I think about what could have been way too frequently.
When I’m in a positive mindset, I’m thankful for the experience. It was unique after all. Not many people can say they recorded an album in a legit studio, played live music on stage in front of thousands of people, and appeared on MTV. For all of that, I’m thankful.
But when I’m feeling down, it feels like I came oh so close to realizing my dreams, only to have the rug slipped out from underneath me. There were myriad factors that contributed to our lack of success, not the least of which was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, yet sometimes I feel like it was somehow my fault.
This is one of the reasons why I named this publication Just Enough To Get Me In Trouble. I experienced just enough of the life I dreamed of, only to have those plans dashed, and I’ve been dealing with the emotional fallout ever since.
At times, I’ve even had trouble going to concerts. I’ll be in the crowd watching a performance and think, I should be up there on that stage. The feeling of being on stage is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
I remember Justin Boreta, one of the members of the group The Glitch Mob, on the Tim Ferriss podcast describe performing on stage in front of 90,000 people like this:
“So you know the feeling with skydiving where you jump out of the airplane and it’s so crazy, you almost aren’t even scared, it’s so fucking surreal, you’re like, ‘Wow, okay, I’m just experiencing this right now?’ That’s kind of the feeling of being on stage...There’s like a terminal velocity with the amount of people, that once it gets so big it just feels like you’re in a dream...There’s something really fascinating that happens in crowds that big, where you can feel, even with that many people, you can feel the way that the energy of the music can affect people. And as you’re riding the ups and downs and the waves of the crowd, there’s some sort of primal interaction that happens. And with that many people, it’s really intense.”
We played on the Ozzfest tour in front of tens of thousands of people and I can relate to the feeling he described—even though I’ve never skydived in my life. And most of the people we played in front of had no idea who we were. I could only imagine how much more intense it would be if the entire crowd of 90,000 people knew our music.
So, you might be wondering, is that what you’ve been missing for decades?
Yes and no.
Yes, I do miss being on stage. I haven’t felt any other feeling like it since. That’s certainly part of what I miss.
No, what I miss most is how we moved people on an emotional level with the music we created.
It’s coming up on twenty years since our album was released, which is an insane thing to write down. Ever since becoming active on social media, I’ve had countless people reach out to me to tell me how much they loved our music. How it got them through a difficult period in their life. How it was the soundtrack to a formative time for them.
Reading the comments on a video of an unreleased second album of ours (again, that Owen somehow found) reminded me of how much our music moved people.
“The fact this band didn’t get to do more is criminal.”
“I've been waiting 17 years to hear this.”
“This was a very underrated band.”
“Amazing! I'm 18 again!”
And those are just from this latest video. There are dozens of other videos with similarly positive comments—truly a rarity online these days.
I’ve only been publishing these weekly stories for four months and I’ve already had many comparable comments from readers about my writing. I’m taking a piece of my humanity, putting it into words on the page, and (hopefully) getting you to feel and relate to those universal human feelings. It’s all about making a human connection.
That’s why I’m doing it. That’s my purpose. That’s my north star.
Now, if we could get this pesky pandemic over with so I could work on reading some of my stories in front of a live audience one of these days, that would be great.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you spending some of your valuable time with my words.
Special thanks to Amber Williams and Steven Ovadia for their edits. This piece was made roughly 100% better with their help.
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I didn’t know about your band. But it seems so cool to me you knew the guys from Pap Roach and basically played for the same crowd as them. I grew up with those guys, and I still listen to their old albums sometimes. When I listened to your band’s “Melt Me Down” and watched the video, it transported me back to those early days. I thought, man I would have loved this in eighth grade. If I’d know about you, I might have been one of those guys who mourned your band. But sadly, and I do mean that, it never reached Romania :(
don't be discouraged about the past. so many of us have pasts where we felt like we were pouring our souls out on the road that was getting us to what we wanted and believed in. for me, like some others, it fell apart so badly as we approached a prized juncture, leaving repercussions reverberating to this day and into the foreseeable future. recognize that the external glory that you missed can not compare with how you have the power to shape yourself in perpetuity. You have skill way beyond the stage and limelight. A lot of people who we see as successful, famous, are hollow, mere caricatures. do what you do and touch the people that matter the most to you.