December 13, 2004
Out of the blue comes an Email from brother Miles saying:
“All confirmed. Rehearsals are next Friday, and your show with Andy Summers and INCUBUS at the KROQ weenie roast will be on Sunday.”
Whaaaat? I dimly remember Miles mentioning something about this, months ago. At the time I said “Wow cool” and then forgot about it.
So I’m thinking about it now (a little panicked) and figure, what the heck? They’re a cool group, they were nice to my boy Jordan when he interviewed them for his belly-dancing documentary, so why not?
Of course I had better dig out my drums and try to get some life into my wrists. I remember too vividly getting my ass whupped by young Brain of Primus when I jammed with them some time ago, after not addressing my kit for years. After a long lay-off I can still play, but the tiny little muscles that provide the finesse, that enables the cool persnickety stuff that the folks like, are only good for a few squirts before they quit. Actually, it’s nice to have an excuse to blast away on my long-suffering tom toms.
I get a phone number and call up Mike, INCUBUS’ guitarist, to see what they have in mind. He proposes that we play ROXANNE and MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (from THE POLICE) and PARDON ME and MEGLOMANIAC (from INCUBUS).
Andy and I have been trying for years to think of a way of playing POLICE songs together that doesn’t stink to high heaven. We like the songs and we like playing together but Sting don’t wanna, so what can we do? Of course anything we do isn’t THE POLICE unless it includes Sting but how do we get to play with our toys (our oeuvre)?
We once had an idea to go out with Ziggy Marley and play Bob Marley songs as well as POLICE tunes but Ziggy, sweet as he is, gives whole new meaning to the expression “Trust-afarian” and new space to the word “vague”. So nothing came of that. We were even considering playing a festival in Hanoi with the cream of Asian singerdom singing for us. So far away that no one would ever hear of it. I was still a little queasy though and fortunately the festival organizers were arrested for international shystering and the whole thing fell through.
Mike suggests that we meet up for dinner the following night at a fancy restaurant in Santa Monica. When I get there at the appointed hour, I find Andy regaling the INCUBUS guys with his vast repertoire of road stories. They are a fun crew and we have a riotous evening trading notes and tales. We haven’t met their singer Brandon yet since he is off with a flu but the rest of this cheerful gang seems to be led by Mike, who has an easy confident air that relaxes me. Ben, Jose and Chris each have their own vibe though. In fact they are like the United Colours of Benetton. Black scratcher, Latin drummer, Jewish guitarist, Mulatto bassist and Scottish/Native American/Mexican singer. They seem very close. Maybe because they have been playing together for fifteen years!
After dinner, as we climb into our cars everybody admires my brand new conveyance which is the newly modelled Jeep Grand Cherokee. Since I suspect that I may be amongst Liberals, I tell them all that it’s the new Jeep Hybrid.
Next day we meet again for rehearsals way over in Glendale. I get there early to tinker with my kit. I’ve got my boy Scott in tow and he is very impressed to be hanging out with a band that many of his friends are into. His ole Hall Of Famer dad is just a dad but ICUBUS, like Wow!
Andy arrives at the crack of 2:00 (the agreed upon downbeat) but there is no sign of our new young friends for another hour. While we wait we remember with joy the glorious anarchy of young players.
We also get a chance to inspect their gear. The first thing that an old seventies rocker like me notices is how small it is. Speaker cabinets are now so efficient that no one needs the huge stack-ups that I used to fantasize about as a kid. Mike just has a couple of small two speaker enclosures with a classic Marshall amp and Bens’ bass rig is similarly un-intimidating. What they have a lot of, is effect pedals. Andy walks straight over to Mike’s collection clustered on the floor next to his mike stand. He is muttering: “Got that one and that one, sold that, and…what’s that?”
Even the drums are small and oddly shaped. Jose has everybody’s (except mine) new favourite brand of kit called “DW”. He has them tuned way tight like a jazz kit (so do I, but neither of us play jazz). Kids these days have it all figured out. I used to be the only drummer who knew how to get a heavy sound from high-pitched drums. Kids today start out knowing everything that we had to learn.
The most elaborate corner is the DJ rig. It’s a row of turntables, rack mounted FX boxes and odd retro synthesizers. He even has a Theremin, that strange squeaky instrument of the sixties.
When the band shows up they are all business. We go straight into ROXANNE and everybody seems to get it pretty quickly, so with time to fool around, Ben suggests that we could go into the Marley song “WAR” during the bridge. Veerrry cool idea.
Jose is fun to play with. He clearly has my chops completely figured out. Like I say, kids these days start where we left off. Having two drummers means that each of us can occasionally depart from our sacred mission of steady groove. We can indulge in flights of fancy while the other guy holds it down.
Over on my left all kinds of strange noises are coming out of Chris. I’ve never even seen a DJ in a band context before and it’s a whole new thing to hear odd snatches of music and sound design while we play. It’s sort of like live overdubs.
Brandon is keeping a low profile. Like all pro singers, he saves his voice during rehearsals (it’s called “marking”) but he gives us the cues we need so we know where we are in the songs.
Andy and Mike have their heads together, staring intently at each other’s fingers on their fret boards as we play through our combined repertoire. By six o’clock we have knocked some semblance of order into the material and call it a day.
Walking out into the parking lot I see Chris climbing into an enormous tricked out black Cadillac Escalade SUV. Thing must weigh three tons. He looks over his shoulder at me, flicks a dreadlock out of his face, says: “It’s the new hybrid” and then roars off into the night.