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L.A. Story part 1…By Jonathan Brown

Hey everybody! When Jambon and Terry extended they’re Rockstar invitation to me to ‘guest blog’ I literally (almost) did a cartwheel! But let me back up. My name is Jonathan Brown and like Terry and Steve I was born and raised in Vancouver. In fact, we all came up in the Vancouver music scene together. I should point out that for us the first ‘scene’ was Queen Mary elementary school and then Lord Byng and U-hill high school battle of the bands contests. Terry was always a good buddy but also a rival drummer back then. (I say rival because he was better than me…thanks Ter’). And Steve was a cool cat that was either laughing, making you laugh or both.

Ok, why ask me to blog? Good question. Jambon asked that I talk about the L.A. scene so allow me to share my little story(s). I moved to L.A. in 1994 and studied at The Musicians Institute of Technology (M.I.). At the time the school had a one year percussion diploma program. I’m happy to say I completed the course and missed honors by 3% points. But I said then and still today, “Does a guy need an honors di-fu**ing-ploma to ROCK?” I think not.

When I left M.I. I hit the ground running, as David Lee Roth once said. I worked part-time at a rehearsal studio and got tons of gigs from it. Why? Because bands would show up and after 3 months they’d inevitably lose their drummer. (It was very Spinal Tap-esque) Well, sh** I’d heard their set for 3 months, “I got this,” I’d say. So I subbed a ton. At one point I was in 6 bands at once…never making over $50/ show. But hey I was gigging in L.A. Dude, I was living the dream! Later I was introduced to “pay to play.” Now here’s how it worked. I was in a band called Crash, let’s say. The band was offered a gig at the Roxy. ‘Cool,’ I thought. So they told us to come down to the club and BUY our tickets. Immediately I made that ‘huh’ noise that Scooby-Doo used to make. Yeah, the deal was come down and buy 100 tickets @ 3 bucks a piece. (That’s $300 right?) But, when you sell them to your friends you can charge whatever you want. So, the bandleader tells me not to worry because we can sell them at $10 a piece to our friends. I politely pointed out that my friends were broke musicians like me and they aint paying’ no $10 to see me on a friggin’ Monday night! (They could stay home with a $10-18 pack of Miller in those days fer gawd sakes!)

Well, the boys assured me that they knew tons o’ dudes that would come check us out. (Can you guess where this is going people?) You guessed it: maybe 12 people showed. Lucky for me, or so I thought, that I had an agreement with the band that I would NEVER pay to play…not one penny. So, the band was now in the hole. But wait, it gets worse. I go to our rehearsal lockout two days later to practice and the place is dead-bolted–locked up tighter than Tito Puente’s fave timbale. I call the guys. No answer. I call the landlord and he informs me that the guys couldn’t pay the rent due to some show ‘you guys had in Hollywood’. I almost crushed my cell phone in my hand. I was broke and when you’re a broke musician not only is there nothing more pathetic but all we have is our gear…it is everything! So I SNAP…which got me nowhere. So, I then put my ‘bad cop’ away and introduced my ‘good Canadian cop’. After twenty minutes of begging he agreed to meet me at the studio and let me have my drums back.

When I spoke to the members of Crash they were amazed that I got my stuff back…oh and then they apologized. I should point out that none of them returned my calls during the days when my kit, Sweet Louise, was held hostage…poor girl. They were also surprised that I quit the band. So, they begged, pleaded and made empty promises to get me to return to the band. Finally, I did. At the first rehearsal (of which I did not bring my drums, they found a different kit ‘somehow’) I laid out the new ground rules. Or, ground rule rather and it was as follows: “if you guys ever do anything so stupid as to come between me and my drums  again I will personally kick the living shit out of each and every one of you.” They laughed nervously at first until they realized I was serious. Hey, I was 28 years old and fully believed in the piss and vinegar that I was full of–waddayagonnado?

 

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