New Recording: So much going on right now and not sure where to begin. We’ve been in the studio again finishing up the new material with Adam Rossi, and had the honor of adding some of the Bay Area’s best to some of the tracks. Earlier in the month we had the one and only Vicki Randle & Loralee Christensen add some back ground vocals to 2 tracks, and my lord what a pair of “Screaming Angels” and that’s what we decided to call them. These 2 had never recorded together before and was damn honored to make it happen. We had more fun than should have been legal. Then to top it off we squired the immense talent and wonder that is Ralph Carney to add some horns to the proceedings. No one like that guy and great person to kick it with as well.
Pollo Elastico Sept 5th Hotel Congress: Before that on Sept 5th Saturday is the return of Pollo Elastico and the boys to Tucson, AZ for for the 30th anniversary of Club Congress and HoCo Fest 2015. We’re completely honored and blown away that we’ve been asked to join this incredible collection of past & present awesomeness from Tucson’s vast & varied past and can’t wait to see some of the bands that inspired us over the years, including Camper Van Beethoven, Gentlemen After Dark, River Roses, The Sidewinders, Al Perry, Gila Bend, Friends of Dean Martinez, Billy Sedlmayer, Broken Horse. It’s a full weekend long affair and we go on at 10:30 inside Congress and promise to funk up your face! I’ll also be jumping up there with Gila Bend to recreate their master piece Kim Chee Cowboy around 8:30 as well. Check out the Pollo Elastico Band camp page for streaming from the past. Pollo Elastico “Live @ 7 & 7 Studios”
Benefit for the Riptide at The Makeout Room Sept 27th: With all thats going on here in the Bay Area with the greed and insanity of housing in SF, any time a music venue goes down for any reason, is a call for action. The Riptide out in the Sunset district has been an institution for all types of live music and local flare. It’s owner Les James has been a damn good friend for longer than I can remember and played drums of my first record. He also happens to play in the country king & queens band Red Meat. The Riptide caught on fire and was gutted on Aug 18th and there has been an outcry to help out our brother Lester. On Sunday Sept 27th is an epic cast of SF’s finest coming to together at the Make Out Room to put on an incredible show with the proceeds going to support the Riptides reopening. It’s a sliding scale based door starting at $10. The line-up is epic with my full band, Red Meat, Sweat Chariot, Tom Heyman, Joe Goldmark & The Seducers, Chris Von Sneidern & Praire Prince tribute to the Who titled “Who Grass”
CD4Hope Oct 17th Breast Cancer Benefit: Also was able to record an acoustic version with strings of one of the new songs titled “Do The Same” with Pie Fiorentino, Patty Espeseth, and a beautiful string arrangement by Laela Peterson-Stolen. This song is going to be released on a compilation benefiting breast cancer titled CD4Hope sponsored by Notes4Hope with all the proceeds going to breast cancer prevention through the Breast Cancer Fund. There’s also big fundraising event on Oct 17th hosted by comedian Jake Johannsen at the Cal Shakespeare Amphitheater in Orinda with performances by myself & most of the artist on the compilation, including Luce, Painbirds, Patrick Winningham, Jackson Rohm, Megan Slankard & Jeff Campbell, Andrew Griffin (from Felsen)
SF City Hall Centennial Celebration from June 19th: Got the call from Chuck Prophet. “Do you wanna sing the Journey song “Lights” with the Mission Express for the huge party the city of San Francisco is putting on for the 100th anniversary?”
Chuck had only one request. “Ya gotta sound like the loneliest guy in San Francisco” I wore the first suit I ever bought when I moved here in 90′ and was on day 7 of radiation. If it had been a week later I couldn’t have done it. Was honored to be asked and appreciate all the good things that have happened along the broken trail this year. This show and the rehearsals were unspeakably inspiring. Everyone was on their game. The core band was Chuck Prophet, Stephanie Finch, James Deprado, Vicente Rodriguez, Kevin White, Praire Prince, Danny Eisenberg, there was Nona Brown and the IMC choir, Brad Jones conducting the strings, Ben Fong-Torres MCing, guests The Kingston Trio, Bill Kirchen, Roy Lonney, Sal Valentino, Jello Biafra, Deborah Iyall, Tim Bluhm, Kelly Stoltz, Mark Kozelek, Rogue Wave, Bob Reed, Spike Slawson, Karina Denike. Holy shit what an evening! Here’s the video…………
My Cancer Story:
When your told that you have cancer, the last thing you want to do is talk about it.
What you really want to do is fast forward to the time that your free of it, or at least feeling like a normal person with energy.
The facts are that in Feb of this year I went to the dentist for a routine check up, which I hadn’t done in over a year. and during the neck exam they noticed a lump in my neck. Thank god for the incredible person who noticed it, who always will be an angel to me, and our family.
I went and got it checked out immediately and when the fine needle biopsy result came in, the results were squamous cell carcinoma. After the core needle biopsy, results were confirmed that I had stage 4 HPV positive related oropharyngeal cancer. A form of head & neck cancer related to the HPV virus. Most strands of HPV do not cause cancer and the body usually fights it off within a year, but in a minority of cases, perhaps 10%, it resides for decades and then manifests itself in cancer growth.
To say I was shocked, isn’t the right word. I was devastated!
After learning more about this type of cancer, I was happy to learn that there is a 90% success rate, but that I would need to have surgery, as well as go through 6 weeks of radiation & possible chemo. To complicate all my fears about wanting & needing to live for my young family, incredible wife, and oldest daughter, is that fact that I sing for a living, and my voice is my livelihood.
I’ve been lucky, blessed, and occasionally tortured with the ability to sing for over 30 years, starting in Tucson, and then in the SF Bay Area. I’ve never taken it for granted and always felt like its what I was meant to do. But now what was I going to have left?
I had scheduled a couple of recording sessions prior to finding all of this out, and we went into the studio in March with Adam Rossi and my band to start recording my 4th record. I needed to make sure that we had all the basics done and that I was able to get my vocals finished before going under the knife, just in case. We had been working on the songs for months and I was excited to record with this amazing group of musicians who had been playing live with me for over 3 years. For me this recording was a chance to get everyone in the room and play it live, warts and all. I had about 4 songs and one in particular kept coming up, but I couldn’t seem to finish it called “Do The Same”
The song is about some one who is witnessing someone else go through difficult times, yet doesn’t know how to talk to them about it, or even if they should, but the main line in the song that I couldn’t seem to get away from was “Do the Same for me” which didn’t quite make sense to me in the context of the song, until the doctor says “you have cancer”
Ah yes. Song as pain & medicine!
The surgery in April was supposed to technically be 2 surgeries in one, with one recovery time and after going back & forth they we’re able to make that happen which I am grateful for. After 7 hours I awoke to a lovely J shaped neck scar, and the removal of 86 lymph nodes, 2 or which were cancerous, as well as the origin area which was a small portion in the back of my tongue. The surgery went extremely well, but why did my arm hurt? It turns out that they have to stretch your arm out slightly above your head in order to get the neck muscles to bulge in the right spot. It also was extremely hard to swallow, but that’s what I needed to do in order to recover fully. Prior to the surgery there were a couple of good omens that I clung too. First of all the surgeon was a bad ass and a character to boot. When he walked in the operating room in clogs, I had to call him out on it. “Are those fucking clogs?” On top of that most folks don’t realize that while they’re cutting you open, their probably listing to music. When they wheeled me in, they were playing Bohemian Rhapsody which as it turns out was the last song that I had sung the week before. At that point I felt I was in good hands. Gimme the gas!
The recovery from the surgery was very difficult at first because I had to take the pain meds in order to swallow enough without pain in order to drink fluids, and then eat. There also was the matter of the neck drain which is a tube sticking out of bottom of your scar which allows fluid to drain into a suction cup which you get the pleasure of dumping every 8 hours or so.
The neck drain lasts only about 4 days and then they rip the 4 inch perforated thing out of your neck drain hole. “This might hurt for a second” Rippppppp’. I think I said “fuck you” and then I apologized.
It took me about a week of being in bed, getting up every 4 hours to walk around on morphine before I was able to have solid food. It also was extremely hard to be around the kids because everything fucking hurt, and when they cried, that hurt too. After one week I was able to eat a burrito and from there things were much easier and gradually each day was progressively better than the next. I had lost some weight but was starting to put some back on. By the end of 6 weeks I was ready to get back to signing and was able to start up and get going again.
The radiation portion of this journey has been probably the most difficult as it has a cumulative affect on your whole neck area, which once again is how you eat, chew, talk, sing. They’re essentially sun burning the inside and outside of your neck. Because the cancer had only transferred from 1 lymph node to another, I was lucky that I haven’t had to include chemo in the radiation process. They start by fitting you in a mask that is about as claustrophobic as it gets. Once they make it, you’ll be bolted on to the table for 30 treatments Monday-Friday, which generally last about 10 minutes each. The affects are gradual but no picnic. Your saliva becomes thick as molasses, the inside or your mouth is raw and any cuts that you acquire take awhile to heal, your taste buds go, tongue becomes discolored and food not only tastes like shit, but is difficult to swallow. The outside of your neck becomes leathery and your energy is harder & harder to maintain. At one point I didn’t think I could do it. What keeps you together is your family & friends whom have been so supportive, understanding, helpful, and occasionally let me bitch. I’ve tried successfully to stay as positive as I can throughout this difficult time and it hasn’t always been easy, and being away from both of my bands has been incredibly hard as it’s the thing that has always made me the happiest, which is the ability to play music. One of the last shows that I got to do before shutting it down till August was playing the SF City Hall Centennial with Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express, with a vocal choir & strings. If it had been a week later, I’m not sure I could have done it. Not playing with my bands has been killing me every weekend and I’m super blessed to have such a supportive group of folks to call friends and cohorts.
Currently I’m in recovery mode and today is my last day of the 30 treatments. If things go well I should be back to singing mid August. My family has been the rock on which I stand on and cling to. When someone gets diagnosed with cancer, it’s always hardest on the spouse, and with 3 amazing kids they are what I live for. My oldest daughter and her husband have been a huge help as well as my wife’s family and her Aunt, as well as my folks. I’m also not a particularly religious sort, but all the prayers & love that I’ve received from family & friends have really been felt and I’m looking forward to not only getting back to a normal life, but a better one.
I shall sing again, and with more heart and soul then ever.
Lastly this type of cancer is coming up more and more in recent years and this article talks in more detail about it, and anyone who is going through this type of cancer can feel free to contact me about it.
Thank you for listening, loving, and all your thoughts & prayers