After getting situated in Woodland Hills (about 15 minutes outside of Hollywood) in the Spring of '93, I contacted a friend who hooked me up with what has probably been the oddest gig I've ever played. It was a one shot deal, but too bizarre to turn down. I worked with a blues singer/keyboard player named Billy Ferrick who was backing up a tap dance group. We played a show at Prince's club in Los Angeles (I think it was called Glam Slam.) The tap dancers had a special platform designed with sensors so that every time their taps contacted the floor, it would trigger different colored lights to go off. Glam Slam was gaudy, all purple and gold in an Egyptian motif, pretty awesome. It was cool that my first gig in LA was at Prince's club playing blues tunes backing up these high tech tap dancers. (This was pre-Michael Flatley/RiverDance stuff.) Unfortunately, I don't have any photos documenting the event.
I had been in town for less than a month when I ran into two intriguing characters - vocalist Xavier Sky and guitarist Billy Hamilton, who had written some really great songs. Xavier was a tall gangly Sebastian Bach type, and Billy was a smoking left handed Les Paul guitarist from New York.
Looking for a drummer: Me, Xavier, and Billy in '93 behind the Chinese Theater.
We had great chemistry together and we made some demo tapes that attracted the attention of drummer Jamie Michaels who joined the band later that year. Xavier and Billy were genuine street rats, the real deal, the genuine article. These guys just kicked around the streets of Hollywood and slept wherever they could. Their lifestyle had me perpetually amused/concerned. If we had ever made it big, they would have had great stories for Rolling Stone interviews and no one would ever question their street credibility. The band was appropriately named To The Curb.
The Curb: Billy Hamilton, Xavier Sky, me, and Jamie Michaels.
At one time, there was about seven or eight people, including Billy and Xavier, living in this beat up one room ground floor apartment just behind Grauman's Chinese Theater between Hollywood Blvd. and Franklin on Orchid. The windows were broken out so you could walk right off the sidewalk into their living room through the window, which was the customary way to go about it. People were sleeping on the floor. Some we knew, some we didn't. The sink had been torn off the bathroom wall in some late night drunken rowdiness. It was a shit hole and I was continually fascinated by the dichotomy of such total musical genius being created in this dank disgusting atmosphere. But then again, what better place to create it I suppose. This crash pad was the sort of squalor that would typify Billy and Xavier's dwellings for the entire time we were together in Hollywood, however this apartment was in one of the better locations. At some of their other crash pads, (the corner of Yucca and Las Palmas comes to mind) we would be rehearsing and hear the occasional gun shot being popped off just outside our window. I would have plenty of time in the coming years to meet many responsible guys from nice neighborhoods with day jobs and lots of equipment and cars, etc. But none could write a solid song to save their lives. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't concerned about pushing my material because the stuff Xavier and Billy were coming up with was just plain better and I had no writer's ego interfering with admitting it. I was happy to be playing their material and their songs worked with my bass style perfectly. The band sounded like some hybrid cross between Mother Lovebone, Guns and Roses, Aerosmith, and Skid Row. It was truly a great powerful band with good musical chemistry. The only downside was that we found ourselves slightly behind the curve again as far as contemporary style goes. Melodic metal was on it's way out at the time we were playing it. There's always a local audience for it, but you won't get a good record deal unless you are doing what's happening right now on the international music scene. But we were doing what we loved to do and the songs were so damn good, we plowed forward. We started playing all the usual clubs on the Sunset Strip and then some - The Whisky, The Coconut Teaszer, FM Station, etc.
To The Curb bustin' loose at FM Station in North Hollywood.
Xavier was far beyond what you might call a "free spirit" on stage, he was just plain out of control at the time. He was a ball of pent up passion, angst and anger exploding all over the audience when he sang. One time we were doing a heavily attended show at the Whisky and, in a true Axel Rose style rage, he smashed a microphone and mic stand at the end of a song. The only problem was, it wasn't our microphone and mic stand. The staff was pissed but the audience loved it. We had only gotten two or three songs into the set at the time and the on-stage power was pulled. It would seem that the club owners frown on bands destroying their equipment. ;-) After the club shut us down and told the people to leave, the crowd slowly filed into the street chanting "Whisky Sucks! Whisky Sucks!" The closed down show was the talk of the town for the next week. The next day, Xavier called the club and asked the girl on the other end of the phone what the status of things was. She thumbed through their booking calendar and said "Aaah, here it is in big bold print - "Never book this band again!"" I had a long discussion with Xavier about breaking other people's stuff and he replied telling me we were in good company because The Doors were banned from the Whisky too! It wasn't what you call perfect logic, but at the same time, I couldn't argue with it. We briefly toyed with the idea of having the band T-shirt read "To The Curb - Banned From The Whisky Tour '94", but settled for the more politically correct slogan "Time To Get A Gun."
The guys all had drug habits which weren't so pleasant. It interfered with the band moving forward on every level. The band's blessing and curse was Billy and Xavier's lifestyle. Being the self-admitted street rats they were lent itself toward the creation of some incredibly heartfelt soulful lyrics and genuine ballsy street music. The downside was the "lifestyle" getting in the way of the band's overall functionality. All Billy had was his guitar, so we had to borrow an amp from someone every time we had a gig, which was actually the least of our problems. The cycle the band would repeatedly go through generally went like this - We would do a string of gigs over the course of a few months, start a local buzz about the group, and just as we were getting some momentum building, Billy would go to jail. (One time, Billy was arraigned in front of Judge Ito of O.J. trial fame, who was lenient on him and wound up talking about guitar playing as it turned out Ito also played.) Everything would grind to a halt as we waited for Billy to get out of jail, and when he got out, we'd have to start all over again. Of course all my friends would ask me the expected question - "Why are you bothering with these guys?" My only answer, and I still stand by it, is that I really loved the music and I felt that there was something real happening with it. I would occasionally go on auditions when I got overly frustrated, but other band's music was just a joke in comparison with what Xavier and Billy were writing. I simply lived with the hope that, in time, they could pull their shit together and the band could move forward as it should have. The Curb continued to rock into '95.
Billy, me, and Jamie in front of the Coconut Teaszer on Sunset.
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