EXUDE (continued) return to previous

There's one particular sound that piece drums made that you'll hear on a lot of early 80s records, which became a bit of a cliché-which is a shame because they could do a lot of different tones. The only problem was I should be done him with a drum stick it would rattle the internal parts into dust. Nothing in the electronic music world was very durable or predictable at this time. If you found a great sound on a synthesizer it might be hard to re-create 10 minutes later. The oscillators would go out out of tune easily and equipment was quite unpredictable. I had access to Oberheim and Mini Moog synths the year before when I, staying with relatives in California for a few months, attended Long Beach City College and took an electronic music class and learn my way around a synths and a recording studio.  Those synths were definitely out of our budget, so we struggled on.  The one piece of equipment I could afford was a 3340 Teach  4 channel reel to reel tape recorder that I had learned how to operate at LBCC.

Early T-shirts and artwork exclaimed Exude “The Earth's First All Electronic Band .“   We tried rehearsing at our families campground in our new park store, but, no matter what we tried it only seemed to be too loud for the guests. We were living in a village of about 800 people, so it seemed like going to a big city when we moved downstate that winter into a huge farmhouse in Hastings Michigan. We briefly rented a house on the river in the same area but our rehearsals were too loud for the neighbors. The farmhouse was a bit more isolated. It was big, old about 100 years old and very drafty and cold. I brother Vince was only 16 years old, and I don't think that the basketball team ever forgave me for taking him away from Mackinaw that winter. A couple of other local characters moved in with us and we later found out that they were actually on the lam, having run away from home. It was a big house, and it worked for a while until we realized that we were the only ones paying rent. We tried looking and playing some local shows that we lacked a consistent drummer and local musicians that we tried working with were a bit more interested in being petty criminals than artists, so despite some promising collaborations we ended up returning to Mackinaw and moving into a big empty house on the campground property that next summer.

We did play one notable show in Mackinaw at one of the schools. We played along with tape tracks and had great response from the locals.

The turning point for us was finding an LP called "Drum Drops." This was a record that had great studio drummers just playing different beats in a traditional song structure. One that I think was called "rock shuffle" we use to record a modern version of Chattanooga Choo Choo.  

At the urging of my relatives and my wife, I went back to California to see if I could make inroads into the music business. I'd only planned to stay a couple weeks, so I was sleeping in a spare room at my aunts house and driving into Hollywood kind of aimlessly. I went to Tower Records on Sunset  (which doesn't exist anymore) because I had heard that was where Elton John bought records. On the way in I picked up a free paper (LA Weekly) and was surprised when I got home to find an ad in it from a producer looking for bands. I didn't have any experience at creating demo tapes, though I had brought a reel to reel with me all the songs I have been working on back in Michigan. Luckily my uncle had a reel to reel deck that played at the same speed so I was able to make a cassette which I mailed in.

I returned to Michigan and within a few days after getting back received a call from the producers. They loved the tape and it wasn't quite like anything else they had heard. They said they had been through about 300 tapes (which I later found out included demos from the The Go Gos, and The Blasters). The producers had a record deal with Casablanca and one of them was an artist that I had seen him in appearance on the Merv Griffin show.   The producers seemed very disappointed that we were back in Michigan, but I convinced them that it was no problem and that we were on our way.

It was only a week or two later, in the dead of winter in Michigan when Vince and I filled a trailer with our band equipment and headed for California.  When we pulled off the first exit ramp to fill up the car, we noticed something out of corner of our eye and then recognize that it was the wheel from our trailer passing us as we slowed down. Vince had done something with tires and forgotten to tighten the lugs on that wheel.   The rim was shot because he did rolled around on the lugs without nuts, so it was lucky that we had packed a spare tire for the trailer before we left.

We all ended up moving into a one-bedroom apartment and awaited a call from the producers. Since it was only Vince and I had come, we were missing our keyboard player. Our original keyboard player, Carol Dundas had parted ways amicably and remained in Michigan when I moved to California have become inevitable.  The producers told us that if we could find a keyboard player and a drummer that things would move a bit quicker for us.  We ran an ad in a musician exchange and that was how we met Robin Canada.  I remember Robin walking into the apartment and within about 10 seconds of the start of each song we played for him he was nodding his and smiling. We had a chance to see him play we were stunned to find that he was not only a competent keyboard player but a very Jerry Lee Lewis type of wild keyboard player.  He also had excellent pitch and a natural knack for singing backup vocals. Finding a drummer and bass player was not so easy.  The producers, Mike Rox (Bellotti) and Sandy (Sha Sha) Ross (Longo), taught us the importance of a solid drummer. They were working with studio pros that they had on the payroll. We did use some of the tracks that our drummer played on, but it was not something the producers were ultimately very happy about it  They did substitute their bass player for ours.   That bass player ended up being legendary Hollywood session man Doug Lund and his wife Vita sang backup vocals on a few numbers.  Our original bass player took this very hard and got some professional lessons and ended up being an excellent player, though we never ended up working together again.

The studio was Rusk Studios on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Elton John was recording his ill-fated "Victim of Love" disco album there. Chuck Mangioni , Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder and the Village People had just finished records there.  So here we were, the small-town boys, in a studio on Sunset Blvd. recording in a place with Elton John in the next room.

The engineer was Roman Olearczuk and I think we drove him crazy asking him 1000 questions about the recording console, the effects, the microphones, the room, etc.

After recording about an EP’s worth of songs, we stopped hearing from the producers. We later found out that Casablanca Records had, after the death of its founder Neil Bogart, evaporated. Along with Casablanca records so went our producers deal and their clout in the business.

So here we were 3000 miles away from home, no deal, no money, no record -what to do? We got minimum-wage jobs, found a new drummer and bass player and started over. LA was not our hometown, and it was no easy task getting booked into the LA clubs.  The promoters only five of the recipe and went at it is that it only records the following a this verse is excited know anything you don't have it shipped so that programming is a subtext that a care about one thing and that was bodies through the door, since we didn't know anybody here that was difficult for us.  We print up flyers in which the beaches and hand them out, we walk down Hollywood Boulevard and headed up flyers we went to the club weeks in advance of the show and handed out flyers.  Eventually the word was that EXUDE “draws” or in other words you could count on an audience if you booked us.  We were still depending on flaky electronic instruments that were fairly unpredictable, but the worst part was that club soundman never mixed us right.  For us a keyboard was a lead instrument and we didn't even have a guitar on stage. Most of them didn't give a crap and would sit and zone out while we played our brains out with only half of the music being audible.  Worse yet, LA was in the midst of a “punk” Renaissance and punk rock audiences did not “get” us. We were an American version of Durand Durand.  We played what was called "techno- rock" which was melodic, had structure and chops.  The punk audiences were vocal and nasty and more than once I had to stop my wife from squaring off with some mouthy punk chick in the audience who was screaming "you suck!"

There was a club in Anaheim called Radio City run by a guy whose name I remember was Jerry Roach   a Canadian version) ) ))wwdigitally..  They treated us like crap, even though we've always drew a decent crowd. They've even do stuff to us like book us to open for a name act that didn't draw, the audience was ours and would leave after our show and yet the only one who got paid was the "name."

KROQ was a huge disruptive force in radio and pop culture at that time. They were the only thing on the air that played music that sounded like.  We made it our business to know their DJs because they possessed a very valuable asset. Every DJ at that time was allowed to play one record every hour of their own choosing.  Sadly, this is no longer the case. Many acts that might have never seen the light of day were broken because DJs were able to play their songs.  Some DJs like Freddie Snakeskin would abuse the privilege and play the same song “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage” practically every day during drive time. I don't know if he really thought that song was great or he was messing with people.

The Poorman, who had risen to prominence from a guide he had created to point out inexpensive places to eat, had a slot on the morning show. He had place on the beach in Newport and was very accessible. We hired him to emcee the show at Radio City and though he played it like early version of an Andy Kaufman routine, he was an endearing and warm personality which was really an anomaly at KROQ.  Hanging out with him we saw how the morning drive time DJs were raided and treated him like a dog  not only on the air but in everyday life as well.  He was a bit of a fuck up but so is most of Howard Stern’s staff except that he has the genius to make radio gold out of their foibles.

We tried to put some money together to do some recordings on our own but sessions that we had to rush through at Skip Saylor and local studios never seen to sound right.  I heard a mix from a Skip Saylor session that we had done years ago just recently, and knowing what I know now, the engineer should have been shot.

Recording in studios had made us infamous with engineers because we fought like dogs. For us it was like a pressure cooker. We had very little money so decisions had to be made fast, but we had a lot of ideas between us and it was always a fight as to what we would try.  When semi professional tape recorders like 8-track TEAC real to reels became affordable, we immediately started doing garage recordings.

It was during this period that the band spent the new year is eve together in our bass player, Mike Wozniak’s house (we were rehearsing  and recording in his garage).  It was one of the early MTV New Year's Eve shows and when Cyndi Lauper hit this stage we were transfixed.  It was obvious that she was going to be a huge star. When she launched into her megahit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" my oppositional ADHD mind immediately processed… “and Boys Just Want To Have Sex.”  The bass player and I thought this was hilarious and immediately went into the garage and started recording a half ass version of the song. We didn't even have a copy of the original to listen to.   We made a quick mix a day or two later and somehow were inspired at about 3 AM to drive down to Newport Beach and tape it to the Poor Man's door.

I slept in and went into work late the next day.  By the time I got to the industrial park where I was working the song was already on several radio stations. Not able to get a copy, radio stations were actually taping it off the air from KROQ .   I found out later that some stations were flying copies across the country to their sister stations. It had been all fun and games for us at the time, but we were actually working on a very serious album and now this novelty song was on fire with our name on it.

In those days, it was an infringement of copyright to do a parody of a song.  I immediately looked up the publisher of the song, which at the time was called Heroic Music.  I called to apologize to them and to explain what had happened. The publisher said, "yet we heard about it, just keep us informed of what you're doing with it."  I was happy that he wasn't upset and didn't seem interested in suing us. A friend of ours (Laurie Schiff, now a successful Newport Beach, CA attorney) had taken up managing us and she started calling up record labels.  Greenworld  was a record distribution company which at the time made most of its money by exporting or importing records. They were wanting to start a label and when there sales manager picked up the phone and heard that we were available; they signed a quick deal with us.

Greenworld  agreed to advance us money to pay for studio time so that we could do a decent version of the song before it was released. We had recorded it and put a couple of the Rusk Studio tracks on it along with one or two that we had done since then.   I made see now iconic album cover on my kitchen table in my apartment. To simulate rock (it was to look like a cave painting) I crumpled up some brown paper and then sprayed with a black spray can from one angle to bring out the texture. I have been playing a lot with this technique, draping fabric can spring from one angle and then spreading it out to reveal what looked like a three-dimensional design. I drew the figures in pencil on a piece of paper and then copied it onto a piece of clear plastic. I got press on letters from a graphic store to create titles. To keep things simple and fast we just took scraps of paper made to look like memos discussing the layout of the album cover, and supposedly inadvertently becoming the actual credits, and things like our manager’s card and photos and lay them all down as if they had been randomly left on the table, photographed it and it became the back cover.   with a The record was manufactured and on its way to record stores when I dropped in at the label one day.  The phone rang with two calls, literally on one line was the president of A&M Records Canada, who wanted to record and on the other line was Heroic Music.

At this point the people at Greenworld  just assumed that I had scammed them when I told them that I had spoken to the publisher.   Of course when I got him on the phone he acted like we had never talked and that he was going to sue us into tomorrow.  Label already had thousands of dollars into the first pressing.   It was a bad situation.  Ultimately, made a deal that paid him the highest mechanical royalty rate ever paid to a publisher in the history of music.   I think the normal mechanical rate at that time was 3 1/2 cents a song, we ended up paying $.25.  The Guinness Book of World Records actually confirmed that it was a world record but said that it was not the type of record that they would publish.

When you are a young person with very little experience in the entertainment business you depend on the people around you for advice and guidance.  I still regret the consultation I had with entertainment attorney Gerald B. Weiner, Esq. at his Century City office.  He had a "jokey" mirror with fake cocaine on a sitting on his desk. His most noted client at the time was Graham Nash of Crosby stills Nash and Young. When I told him what had happened with the publisher from Heroic Music he just threw up his hands and said you're screwed you have to do whatever he wants.

Had Mr. Weiner had any backbone he could've ended up being the attorney in the history books that took the "parody as fair use" legal challenge to the Supreme Court and won on behalf of musical artists everywhere, instead of sitting on his ass and letting us get completely screwed by the publisher. A year or two later 2 Live Crew did just that after they were challenged when they did an R rated cover of "Pretty Woman."  They won and history was changed.  It's a good thing their attorney had a mind of his own, courage, foresight and didn't sit on his ass.  My lazy dumb ass attorney meter was not as sophisticated as it is now or I would have gotten a second opinion on a matter.

Music attorneys during this period were very suspect as there was no oversight on who they took as clients. On one hand they would represent artists and on the other hand they would represent labels. No one seemed to understand that this was a huge conflict of interest. If your attorney was billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a label that you had to negotiate with, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to understand that as an artist, your best interests might not be put first.

One high point of this whole "Boys Just Want to Have Sex" episode was being invited to breakfast at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills by the president of A&M Records Canada.

If I had known how big this record was I would have looked for an agent and booked us on a worldwide tour. The record entered the charts at number two and stayed on the top 200 of the international dance charts for five years straight.  It was licensed to Venezuela, the Philippines, Australia, Canada and on and on. 

I had to endure the experience of getting a phone call from a top producer at MTV asking for a video for the song. Visions of what we would have done for a video would through my head at night, however I knew better than to bother asking for sync rights (sync rights are licensed that you need in order to video or film of any kind together with music) from the publisher.

For a band trying to make a serious name for itself, it was a bit of a mixed blessing. In hindsight I can see how I could have made lemonade out of the lemon but at the time it was all a bit overwhelming for a couple of kids from northern Michigan.   There was no precedent in our family or something like this. My mom was a farm girl. My dad was a carpenter. No one in our family had anything to do with the entertainment business.   TO BE CONTINUED !!