The "Supergroup" I put together after Wasted Angel disbanded was to be a big frustrating two year pain in my ass, though it started with the best of intentions. In January of '89, I started jamming with guitarist Frank Pereggo, formerly of the Sutton Thomas Band who enjoyed some local notoriety. (Rob Affuso, drummer of Skid Row, was also a Sutton Thomas alumni.) We wrote a good number of tunes together and recruited Joe Gareri (of local group Arakis and later Vibe Tribe) for second guitar, and Dave Goodrich for the drummer slot.
around during an early Trajic Hero photo session before we found our
Dave Goodrich, Joe Gareri, me, and Frank Pereggo.
We had recruited Dave Goodrich from his band Worlds Within. When his guitarist, Ronnie, found out he was leaving the group, he punched Dave in the face, so Dave decided to stay with Worlds Within... to avoid further abuse I guess. It's a strange world. Anyway, we then got my old Wasted Angel drummer, Pat O'Connor, to fill the drummer position and soon found Vince Roddy for vocals. I came up with the name Trajic Hero and created the band logo. This band was my baby and was to be the culmination of everything I had ever wanted in a rock group, talent, looks, songs with commercial potential and most importantly, the ability to pass beyond the "local sensation" stigma and on to the big time. Every member of the band was driven, so driven in fact that, though none of us had ever done the trick before, we were all sure we knew exactly how to become rock stars. Unfortunately, not one of us could agree with another on exactly how that was done, which led to some hard core infighting and a boat load of negativity. Adding to the negativity was our "manager." There are two kinds of band managers out there - the first has genuine experience and pull in the business and is sincerely looking out for the good of the band. The second kind are self-glorified booking agents that latch onto a band that has something going on to try to steal some glory. I'm a little bitter about this story because unfortunately, we had that second kind of manager. Though the band was my brain child and had started off on the right foot, things started going off course almost immediately. Perhaps I should have kept the band as a one guitar player band, and then I wouldn't have lost my democratic influence within the group, but I had underestimated the influence of two like-minded guitarists and this was just the beginning of my troubles. Vince was a good singer on power ballads and the like, but he lacked the guts in his voice for heavy rock so he was eventually voted out. Pat O'Connor was also voted out by the guitarists and was replaced by Jimmy Criffo (brother of Joey Criffo from Arena.) Frank and I wound up having the typical musician's creative differences as well and he eventually quit the group. He was replaced by John Donnelly from the band Toxic who had an independently released album out.
In our search for new singers, we went to see a local group called Hott Shot fronted by an energetic singer named Steve Hott. He had great stage presence, was good looking and had a great commercial rock voice. We didn't want to pressure him into leaving his group because they were doing relatively well and we didn't want him to just say no, so we wound up talking him into doing Trajic Hero as a side project. If it worked out, great. If it didn't, he would always have his other band.
Trajic Hero: Jimmy Criffo (top left), Steve E. Ojane (top right), John Donelly (seated left), Steve Hott (middle), and Joe Gareri (seated right.)
This lineup of Steve Hott on vocals, Joe Gareri on guitar, John Donelly on guitar, Jimmy Criffo on drums, and myself on bass, truly had it all going on. We possessed that elusive x-factor, or star quality, or whatever you want to call it, but we had that indescribable something that gives a band the potential to go all the way. We hadn't even performed live yet and there was already a strong buzz going around about the group just based on people's knowledge of the current band members. The band at this point was everything I had hoped for. There was a lot of energy surrounding the group and the potential was undeniable. We did several shows with Steve, the most notable was a packed show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie on June 29, 1990. The music was tight, Steve was an exceptional frontman, and the crowd loved it.
I was feeling great about Trajic, but behind the scenes, storm clouds were brewing. Two major events occurred that signaled to me we were not all on the same team. I had sent a Trajic Hero demo tape to a major entertainment lawyer in Woodstock, my only real connection that I wanted to pursue. This guy was for real and was seriously connected, he handled Woodstock II and represented such locals as Todd Rundgren and MeatLoaf. He liked the tape and wanted to come down and meet the band. I was exuberant and proceeded to tell the band and our "manager" about this great opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, our "manager" never really had our best interests at heart. When band members argued, rather than being a healing agent to help bring everyone back into the fold, he would escalate the negativity by pitting one faction against another, taking sides, and ultimately destroying the band from the inside out. He had no real experience or pull. In short, he was the complete embodiment of everything that sucks about a bad manger. His only claim to fame was that he was a friend of Rob Affuso (drummer of Skid Row, who were at the peak of their popularity at this time.) We all casually knew Rob ourselves because he was from the area, however our "manager" was supposed to be a "personal" friend. Subsequently, all my bandmates, with the exception of Steve Hott who had a little more sense, were hanging all their hopes on this fantasy that Rob, through our "manager", was going to get us a record deal. I continually told the guys that Rob had his own career to worry about and probably couldn't help us that much anyway, that we were going to have to do this on our own. But it all fell on deaf ears. To this end, when I told our "manager" about this prospective connection visiting to hear us in person, our "manager" told us flat out "no." I was speechless. Although I should have expected it would be an affront to his ego, it just never occurred to me that anyone connected with the band wouldn't want what was best for the band, to look into every possibility regarding someone who could truly help us, someone who was on the inside of the business - someone who had heard the music and was actually interested! But "no" it was, and the rest of the guys (except for Steve) nodded in robotic agreement. I was outvoted and shot down. I was in a state of disbelief and my heart sank. I could barely bring myself to make the phone call to tell my only real connection to forget it, that we (they) weren't interested. This missed opportunity was followed by the next bomb drop.
After we had done these first shows with Steve, the guys decided to vote him out of the group. (This fucking band was like the TV show Survivor for Christ's sake!) One of their reasons being that he wore too much hair spray. I figured telling him to wear less hair spray might have solved the problem, but kicking him out was their solution. (sarcasm intended.) His voice had been a little shaky on our demos also, but I knew it was a fluke that could be worked out given a little time. All his other tapes and live performances were outstanding. Steve was a jewel in the rough and I knew it. We had barely begun working with him and hadn't gotten a chance to really meld yet, but the guys had a bug up their collective butts and were ready to be done with him. I knew canning Steve was the beginning of the end because there really was no one around who could replace a frontman of his caliber. After Steve's unfortunate departure from the group, Jimmy Criffo left as well. As Trajic Hero's revolving door of musicians continued, we recruited drummer Chris Malello to replace Jimmy, and from local band Big Guns, we acquired vocalist John Booth. John was OK, but couldn't really compare to Steve when it came to stage presence. His heart was never really into the band, but at this point I was a beaten man with little or no influence in the band's decisions, so I just went along with whatever. The band was no longer my own and it was on it's way down.
We did one more show at the Chance on November 9th, 1990, but things were doomed and both John Booth and John Donelly quit shortly thereafter. There was really nothing to carry on so I, along with the remaining bandmembers, went our separate ways and Trajic Hero was no more. I was the only consistent band member during Trajic Hero's tumultuous two year run in which we went through four drummers, three singers, and three guitar players. Trajic Hero was one of the greatest collective groups of talent I would ever work with, but also the biggest, most frustrating pain in the ass. At its peak, Trajic Hero had incredible potential, but was undermined by it's inability to come together under one united vision. As a footnote I should mention that Steve Hott went on to do a ton of work in the music business. He sang on tunes for artists from Nashville to Los Angeles, including the likes of Bobby Blotzer and Juan Croucier from Ratt and others. I think this goes a long way to defend that maybe I had a clue about Steve, among other things, and perhaps the guys should have listened to me a little more. Am I bitter about Trajic's tragic story? Just a tad.
Immediately after the demise of Trajic Hero, I answered an ad in the paper for a Hanoi Rocks style band seeking a bassist and drummer. I auditioned for the Queens-based glam band Shanghai Lilli (the self-professed "Gangstas of Glam") and brought in a friend, Tim Wyskida, to fill the drummer position. The lineup consisted of Tim, Brandy Rouge (a guy) on vocals, DT Shakes on guitar, and myself. We played all originals written mostly by Brandy, a few by me.
The not-so-glam version of the Shanghai Lilli rhythm section: Tim Wyskida, D.T. (Doug) Shakes, and me. The very glam version of Brandy Rouge.
The band sounded good with just the four of us, but Brandy wanted another guitarist so we spent an entire year rehearsing and looking for a second guitarist. I was tired of waiting for something to happen and, feeling the project was going nowhere, I bailed in November of '91.
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