(This is the 12th chapter in this semi-autobiographical series. This chapter was initially in the form of an email sent to my music fan email list on July 19, 2020. It has been edited for this blog. All the previous chapters in this series can be found on the column to the right. Go here to start at the beginning.)
Soon after releasing The Other Side of Nowhere in December, 2012, I met Sam Caston at my neighborhood bar. I immediately detected the southern accent, and found out he was from my home state of Mississippi. We talked music, and he said he was a percussionist and played congas in a salsa band. I had hired studio musician Daren Hahn to play hand drums on The Other Side of Nowhere and liked how it fit with my songs, so I invited Sam to join my band. He did, turning the duo of violinist Paul Ermisch and I into a trio.
We played several gigs on the Colorado Front Range in 2013 under my name, but I wanted to adopt a bandname to give Sam and Paul credit for their contributions. I also thought a band might be more appealing to the people who book venues than an individual name. We each proposed ideas, but settled on Sam’s idea of Scupanon, a wild grape that he used to pick as a young boy in Mississippi. We continued to play as a trio, now Scupanon, in 2014. Then Sam decided to move to Fort Collins where his salsa bandmates were based, so he had to leave the band. In the last couple of years, however, Sam has rejoined us a few times, especially when we play gigs in northern Colorado. I have uploaded several live recordings of Scupanon during these years to The Misfit Club site, and will continue to sort through all the ones I have and upload more.
After Sam left, Paul and I decided to keep the name Scupanon, and we went throught a couple of percussionists and upright bass players, but mainly played as a duo the next couple of years. Meanwhile….
… I was itching to play rock music. My folk personality was being satisfied but my rock personality was not. What to do? I could have tried to form a rock band, but I was doing all the work for Scupanon– bookings, promotion, etc.– and knew that I didn’t have time to lead another band. I thought if I joined another band as just a role player– a guitar player– then I could get my rock thang on without too much extra work.
In the Spring of 2013, I replied to a Craigslist ad for a guitarist for a band in the style of The Smiths and The Cure, two bands whose guitar styles I like. The ad was placed by singer and lyricist Adrian Ritchey and bassist and songwriter Dave Bakulski. They had written one song together, Dave had written some songs for a previous band, and Adrian had some lyrics that I put music to. I also handed off music ideas to Adrian and he wrote lyrics for them. In other cases, songs came from the band jamming. I finished a song I had started back in 2005, “You Dug Your Grave,” and contributed that. We then found a drummer, Jon Cox. Adrian named the band “Dorian,” after Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey.
We would need demo recordings and a website to get gigs, so I recommended engineer Brian Hunter, who had recorded Me and The Other Side of Nowhere for me. We worked out of his Mousetrap Studio in Denver. I set up a Reverbnation site for us. That site is still up, and you can hear the 6 demos that we did there. We continued writing more songs together after the demo was made, but never recorded them. I have a few live recordings of them, which I will put on the Misfit Club website, as well as the 6 demos.
I said that I just wanted to be a role player in this band, but the work wasn’t getting done, so I did it, because I wanted to play! We played several gigs in the Denver area between July, 2014 and June, 2015, mostly as a result of my efforts. Meanwhile I was handling all the administrative work for Scupanon as well. That couldn’t go on. I couldn’t continue doing all the work for two bands, plus…
… I had decided to take on two more projects: I wanted make a record of the new rock songs I was writing, that were heavier than Dorian’s style. And I had decided to go back to school at Metro St. University in Denver to study music theory. (These two things will be the subject of the next email.) I had to cut something. So I met with the guys of Dorian in August, 2015 and told them I had to quit the band.
What I Learned from Dorian
Dorian was a good learning experience for me in many ways. It got me booking, and playing gigs at rock venues in Denver, as opposed to the acoustic venues I had been playing solo and with Scupanon. My songwriting improved. I learned how to write music for another person’s lyrics, or in some cases, lyrics with a melody. I had to improve my guitar skills to play in this band, and I’m quite proud of my work on these songs.
Next: Going music full-time, and Total Flower Chaos.