Tell me the story of how you got in to punk rock and met the guys in Gameface?
It was early in high school and I was a metal kid, but then I met some guys that turned me on to some hardcore and from there it kind of led me to The Descendents and stuff that really spoke to me. I kind of discovered that sort of music as I was going to high school with Todd, our guitar player. We had a couple of bands in high school and we pretty much didn’t play anywhere except for the garage and maybe at lunchtime at the amphitheater at our high school.
We certainly weren’t playing ‘punk rock.’ It was this sorta power pop, and it wasn’t even really where Gameface ended up. It was the best that we could do because we weren’t very good, but we loved music. Towards the end of high I sort of stumbled into this music scene. That’s where we met our original bassist and drummer, Paul Martin and Bob Binkley. We met them at a Big Drill Car show of all places.
So, we had seen them around. Whoever is at a show and whoever is in the front row, at that moment they’re your best friends. Turned out we lived maybe 20-30 miles apart and we were always seeing them at the same shows and so it was pretty clear that they were in to the same kind of stuff. It really wasn’t long after we met them that Bob and Paul had heard of one of my previous band, No Such Thing.
I think in 1988 we [NST] pressed a 7 inch and we thought we were hot shit. The reason they heard of us wasn’t because of the 7 inch or because we knew what we were doing, but it was because our bass player’s dad was a teacher at the same high school that Paul and Bob went to. He had the 7 inch like on his desk or on his bulletin board, and I guess he gave a copy to one of them. It was funny because they were like “Wow, I’ve heard of your band” and I thought “Oh shit! This is already awesome” We hung-out and it wasn’t too long after we said “Hey! Next weekend we’ll come up and see you guys and we’ll just start playing and see what happens.” and we started it – We practiced for five or six weekends in a row and ended up with our first demo not too long after that. So it was – two guys from South Orange County and then two guys form North Orange County. We started playing pretty quickly after that.
They were a little bit more ‘scene savvy’ than we were. We came from like Straightedge-ville where it was like No For An Answer, Hard Stance, Inside Out, you know Farside was also playing at that time too. Up north was the “straight edge” too, but Bob and Paul were also friends with like No Doubt…it was little more broad up there. We started playing shows up there and we just started playing a lot.
At that point were you just singing or were you playing guitar and singing?
Oh yeah, yeah I was just singing. We really kind of modeled our band after The Descendents and Big Drill Car and all those sort of really melodic bands. You know, I have somewhat of a 7 Seconds kind of attitude [on stage.] I just wanted to run around and hold the mic and act like a fool. It was exactly what I wanted to do early on. Later on I just felt like “Okay. Now we are a serious band and we’re serious musicians and I’m going to play guitar because its going to add a lot to our sound.”
Did you always play guitar or and just decided to sing? Were you writing at that time too?
Oh yeah, I had always played. Even in the little bands in high school, I was playing guitar for that. When Gameface started it was like “This our model and this is exactly what we’re doing.”
Did you record the guitar on any albums?
Yeah, there were a few things here and there. If there’s a part that I wanted to lay down or if there was something that Todd wasn’t getting; I would kind of step in and do it. Nothing major, but I always said “Let’s not record anything that’s going to be too ambitious that we cant pull off live. Lets try to keep it as ‘one guitar friendly’ as possibly and not overdo our recordings.” I think we pretty much stayed true to that for the most part.
I found it interesting because when I was talking to Popeye about it he said it was a singer’s job to run around and get the crowd involved. I feel like just being a ‘front man’ is out of the ordinary now a days.
…back in the 80’s early 90’s that if you didn’t have a front man you were weird…and you were boring. Just musical wallpaper. Nothing to look at, you know? Those were times when every band had something to say and some bands took 15 minutes between each song to say it.
Was it your choice to be a singer or were you tossed into that position?
No, I wanted it. I always saw myself as a singer. Which was kind of weird, as you know I’m not the most social…not the most outgoing guy. But on stage it’s different. I kind of ‘turn it on’ a little bit. The singing and performing thing, that was going to happen for sure, whether I could sing or not. The singing kinda came later on…I grew into it. I actually learned how to do it, but the desire – I mean, when you’re at that age and in that scene…the desire is more important than the ability.
And you formed your talent to that.
Exactly yes, yes…
You guys started playing technically as a band in ’90? I think I read?
Yes in ’90. Todd and I graduated high school in ’89 and it was just really right after that – that’s when things started really happening. We were just playing around home for a year or so and then and we made the 7 inch and I’m thinking that was ’90, maybe ’91.
We went on our first tour in ’92 and we did it the old fashioned way, we put an ad in Maximum Rock and Roll and it was like this – “This is our band! This is what we sound like! You can get a 7 inch here, but if anyone likes this kind of music, give us a call.” We booked our first tour just from people who read Maximum Rock and Roll. We’d get calls from people and then we’d go play with their band in Houston or Arkansas or wherever.
I’m looking at the discography and its seem like once a year you guys will come out with a record or 7 inch and then would you just continue to tour…
No, not exactly. We would try to schedule something in the summer – it would seem like every June 1st we would take off. That’s why the song is called “A Day in June” because it seems like we were always on tour then and there was a couple years in the mid 90’s where we did a couple tours in the same year, but usually it was an annual thing. We were never the band that was ‘always on the road.’
I can hear a difference between every records you guys did and one of the biggest jumps for me was when you guys signed to Dr. Strange Records. Tell me a little bit about that recording process and “Three To Get Ready.”
Well, we had a new drummer because our original drummer Bob committed suicide in 1994 and so, we kind of had this new fire and with Dr. Strange. I remember actually talking with Bill from Dr. Strange he said “Look dude, take as much time as you want” or you know, “You do what you need to do, I love your band and I want you guys to make an amazing album.” I think we just felt like we needed to do something awesome, or do nothing at all.
We certainly spent a pretty decent amount of time in the studio…well, more than we were ever used to. I think we recorded it in like three weeks. It was also a big deal for us personally, emotionally, musically and if you ask most Gameface fans…that’s gonna be the record they are really going to connect with…still connect with. And I think a lot of it is because of that time in everyone’s life. Yeah, it was definitely a very emotional time there. So, that’s what makes “Three To Get Ready” stand out.
Was being on Dr. Strange like ‘hitting the big time’ for you guys?
No, but it was certainly a step up. We really didn’t feel like it was exactly our scene. Dr. Strange had a lot of different type of bands. They had stuff that was certainly more punk, they were doing that ska-punk thing at the time too. It didn’t exactly feel like ‘hitting at the big time.’ We knew that it was going to be a step in the right direction for sure.
Is Bob is on that record at all?
He is not. He’s all over it [the recording] in spirit, but he did not play on it. We split that recording up in the two halves, but it wasn’t for that reason at all. I mean, I remember recording on four-track cassette, four track demos of the entire album post Bob’s death. We obviously took a lot of time off, but in that time I recorded a lot of stuff at home.
Was it hard for you guys to record and write songs after he had died? Was there a point where it felt like you shouldn’t be Gameface without him or was it more of a feeling of he would want you to continue?
We certainly thought that for a moment because we said something when we recorded ‘Good.‘ Something like, “These are the four guys in Gameface. If, for any reason, one of us leaves it just wouldn’t be Gameface.” And I do remember saying that. I remember feeling that when I heard he died. When the three of us got together we started talking about it that’s when we decided, “You know what…this has to continue and this would be a good way for us to keep Bob’s spirit alive.” It was a way to sorta pay our respects and deal with some really fucked up, crazy emotions and get it out in music. So that’s how we dealt with it.
Do you still feel weird when you hear “Three To Get Ready,” “Good” or “Is Enough Time?”
I wouldn’t say weird. I mean, I definitely I feel nostalgic for the time, but I don’t really get that weird feeling that I used to. Instead I just really intently listen to the drums on “Good” or really listen to the lyrics on “Three To Get Ready.” It’s very apparent to what we’re talking about on that record. “Three To Get Ready” has a lot of Gameface ‘anthems’ on it. I’m really directly speaking to Bob and to the idea of loosing someone too early. Like the song “The Only Chance We Get” is pretty much saying how fucking lucky we are to have this music and still have this band to run to. “Three” I still can really not even speak about without kind of welling up. We used to play it, but it was always a hard one to get through.
There’s also moments on that tour we did right after “Three To Get Ready” where people were just amazing. I just felt like people understood and there was a lot of moments where you could just hear people singing along. It definitely was a feeling like you’re amongst friends and you’re amongst people who get it. It was a pretty magical time. It was tragic, but it is where a lot of the brightest memories come from and also serves like motivation for doing it in the first place. I mean, I wouldn’t wish that sort of story on anyone, but it definitely gave us this really deep meaning and a bond between the three of us.
On that tour…Was it hard to go a new city and basically have to re-live Bob’s death every night?
I don’t remember a feeling ‘on the spot’ or overwhelmed by it and I never remember feeling like people weren’t anything but completely supportive and cool. You know, there was times where I would think, “Are we assholes for continuing this band and do we appear insensitive?” I don’t know how we could have honestly thought that, but those are the things that run through your mind because it’s definitely a touchy subject. Sometimes you just run the gamut of what people could be thinking and the ‘How dare you” scenario did cross in my mind every once in while. For me the conclusion was always ‘How could we not?’
Take us through the next two records in 1999 and 2001.
We did a lot of touring on “Three To Get Ready” and unfortunately there was a personality difference with our drummer Phil who really is a great guy but just didn’t really ‘jive’ enough with the band. Eventually, we’re like “Fuck it! Let’s just get another drummer and keep on moving.” And so when we got Steve. It was just sorta another rebirth. Steve is great dude to be in band with. He’s on the ball, super motivated and fucking plays like a monster.
That was about the time of a shift in my personality towards of the band too. I guess, all the time you’re growing up and you’re kind of figuring shit out. Not everyone’s going at the same pace and not everyone is going in the same direction, so none of us really realized what was happening. I’m getting ahead of myself….We got Steve, we pretty much immediately recorded the 7″ “Cupcakes.” We recorded just to start fresh and go back out and play. At that point we also had fulfilled our time with Dr. Strange.
We felt a little more like ‘adults’ at that time. We didn’t want to be thought of as a pop-punk band. It was at that point I said “I think this is what we’re going to do…I’m going to start playing guitar and we’re going to be a serious rock band.” And for good or bad I guess I’ll always stand by that being a good decision, but there was definitely a small change in personality or perception of the band once we signed with Revelation.
That was the time when I thought we ‘hit it big.’ It mighta been 16 years too late, but I had always wanted to be on Rev or a similar label. The label that had that kind of reputation…something that people looked at as a ‘real’ label.
So it was basically…We’re on Rev and I want to play guitar and we’re going to write a monster rock record. Nothing too ambitious, but I also wanted to write more of the music. I wrote mostly all the lyrics up until then, but I think once I started playing guitar, that’s when I just started kind of kicking in into higher gear and ended up writing a great deal of it. From that point on I wrote a great deal of the music and lyrics.
We recorded “Every Last Time” at the same studio that the Foo Fighters recorded the “The Colour and the Shape”. We also wanted Jim Monroe to produce. He was doing the Farside album and a few other Revelation bands. So we got him and he was awesome to work with. We thought that it would be ‘the one.’ We thought it would solidify us as ‘one of those bands.’ At that moment we thought we were making what would be the definitive Gameface album and actually to this day I feel like that – “Every Last Time” is our peak. You know, if the building was on fire and someone said you have a chance to run in and grab one Gameface album, that’s the one I’d grab for sure.
…but I think that was the top of the arc in the band creatively, musically, and as friends. That album was the pinnacle. After that it was kind of a steady decline and pretty much everything…relationships within the band, interest in the band.
After that I would just write and try to squeeze out 10 songs, because that was the minimum amount of songs for an album. In between we did do, “What’s up Bro?” that was just pretty much just adrenaline from touring with Errortype 11.
Then came “Always On.” Paul, our original bass player, recorded “Always On” with us, but was seldom there in the room or there mentally there with us. He was drifting pretty hard and we didn’t get along at all. By the end of touring there were some pretty gnarly times with Paul. Like I said before, sometimes you just grow at different rates, and me and Paul were certainly moving at different speeds and directions.
Was that because you had taken more of a leadership role?
I don’t know, well the thing is with Paul – everything he ever brought to Gameface I fucking loved and I feel like he started to contribute less and I don’t know if that was because I was contributing more or I was contributing more because he was contributing less. I can’t really tell if he was like, “Fuck this guy. He’s going to run the band into the ground. This is a fucking melancholy pop jam” but at the same time I think Paul wanted to be something a little different. A little noisier, and less squeaky clean then where we were heading. I think he had a different vision of what he wanted Gameface to turn into. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he had this really shitty way of trying to convey that to us.
It seems like you did more of a rock record with Every Last Time but with Always On my first thought was…and I’m not trying to offend you or anything…
No not at all…I’ve heard it all.
When I first heard ‘Always On’ I felt like you were going back towards the pop-punk thing.
I guess the way I see it is…’Every Last Time’ I feel like we definitely came together. I think we all kind of came out feeling like we wrote and recorded the album that we wanted to. With ‘Always On,’ I don’t feel like anyone cared what kind of record we made at that point. There was a lack of interest in what we were doing and so I just wrote the kind of record, the only kind of record, that I knew how to write. And I think that essentially that’s kind of the beginning of the solo stuff.
That’s why after ten years I just recorded it again you know, acoustically really just for fun, but that record was pretty much 99% of just me writing and sort of directing it.
‘Always On’ certainly isn’t as exciting or solid as ‘Every Last Time’ and maybe not deliberately, but it really was like “Okay, we got to come up with ten songs and I have these ten ideas and so this is what it’s going to be.” But also that’s when things were really getting dysfunctional as far as the friendships. I cared more about keeping the band together than I did about like keeping the friendships. I just think that we never talked about those types of things. We’d always put the ‘legacy’ of Gameface before anything and I think maybe we all had this similar attitude of “Whatever we can do to keep the band going will be enough to keep us happy”. I mean, we never really had like crazy arguments or any ‘real’ fights. It was more like we were just vibe-ing each other to death and that’s more irritating than getting in a fist fight. It got to a point where no one wanted to do it and no one really knew how to talk about how they’re feeling.
Ten years in and it was the dysfunction that sort of killed us. So at the point Paul walked away. The record was done and he was like “I don’t give a fuck.” I called him up the day before we were going to make a video for “Laughable” and I said “Hey we’re making a video for one of the songs in the album and if you want to be a part of it, you could come down, but if not I totally get it.” He was just like “Yeah, fuck this band” and it was just as simple as that.
I actually haven’t seen or talked to him until a year or two. We exchanged an e-mail or two which was actually really quite nice because it puts a lot of things to rest. We didn’t air all kinds of grievances, but I think we’ve recognize that there are grievances and we just agreed to let those go since it’s really not that serious.
So Paul was just gone and we recruited another friend, the same place we got with Steve years before. At this point we had half of Brown Lobster Tank in the band. We’re on the fucking operating table and we were almost gone and so, you know, Guy really allowed us to live for another record [Four To Go]. Bullshit aside and under complete opposite circumstances I think our last album is a really fucking good one. The reasons why that album exists in the first place is kind of bullshit. It really was, “Let’s just try to go out on a respectable note.”
So, you were in like into that record knowing it was going to be the last?
Well I did for sure. I was writing it knowing that it’s very possibly for this to be ‘it.’ Maybe subconsciously I just wanted it to be the last one. Not everyone had that mind set, but because of the dysfunctionality of the band and not being able to talk – we rarely talked about what our expectations and goals were.
About the same time I started my design career and became more realistic about the band. I was realistic about how much time and effort I could put in to it. I always wanted to make quality music and be a musician, but I also wanted to be a father and all that. A lot of ‘Four To Go’ was revolving around the time when me and my wife were desperately trying to get pregnant and it was frustrating. Everyone else in the band had kids, but they also wanted the band to turn in to this sort of full time business. I knew it was a fucking dead horse, but to the others, I think that they still thought that there was that shot where we could’ve turned it in to more of a full time thing. I was the one saying “I’ll do this, but I’m not really expecting anything to happen.” To me it wasn’t the train that everyone thought it was going to be and, at that point, I just thought we should get off gracefully. Even that turned into a problem because no one really had the courage to say anything. Everyone just kind of went on with what was in their mind and no one really talked about it…until it just completely imploded…
Before ‘Four To Go’ came out we did a few shows out here and then I remember we went to Belgium and a couple shows in Europe and then came home and did a couple of shows on East Coast. By the time we got home and the record came out, we still weren’t talking about our expectations and that led to Steve leaving. He called me up and said he’s not going to do it anymore if it’s not going to be full time thing. At the time I couldn’t even be mad I was just like “You know what? Fuck it. It’s done.” I know that Todd will probably blame to me for not saying “Let’s just get another drummer” but looking back it was a blessing in disguise because I know that I never would’ve had the courage to be the one to pull the plug. Everyone knows this now – I feel like Steve doing that gave me a way to get out without it being my fault or without it being like, “You know, that’s painful for me,” because I can always say “Oh well he’s quitting and he fucked everything up”…
It was lame because Doghouse Records spent a bunch of money on us, had a radio single ready to be sent out. They’d spent thousands of dollars on radio promos and stuff and I had to call and say that we were done. They were pissed and it was just ugly.
It was weird because the four of us didn’t sit in a room and talk and say “This is done.” It was all hearsay. Someone would talk to someone else. “So-and-so’s pissed” or “So-and-so’s done.” The whole thing was bad. It was probably four years until we all talked again. I would exchange an e-mail with Todd, or I’d run into him, but it was certainly icy and because – none of us had just like an – I mean we just didn’t know how to sit down and actually talk in to each other.
So everyone was ‘into it’ and ‘not into it’ but nobody wanted to pull the trigger…
Totally. It got really messy and it’s definitely not the way I wanted it to go down. The last show we played was opening for Bowling For Soup at this stupid fucking radio event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Had I known it was our last show, it would have gone a little bit differently, but yeah at the time it was just like “Oh, here’s another – show.” It was lackluster.
A part of it was that everything in my life at that point was pretty fucking crappy anyway. Me and my wife were going through all kinds of tests to try to get pregnant and I was just being a douche bag. It was really a kind of a weird moment in time so I didn’t even know if ‘Four To Go’ was any good. I don’t even know if people would’ve cared if we would’ve continued playing and I kind of feel like they wouldn’t have. It didn’t happened how I wanted to, but it was a good thing that it was over one way or another because it would’ve gotten more sad as it got dragged out.
So after that ended you did you solo thing and then Your Favorite Trainwreck happened. So you still had the passion to want to make music?
Oh completely. Not taking anything away from what Gameface had or at least what we had at the beginning, but the idea of a band acting like a family…I love the idea of that when you’re 20. You can sort of live like that, but when you’re 30 and 40 it’s – a band doesn’t replace your real family. It doesn’t really fill that space anymore.
It was scary and liberating to not be a member of Gameface anymore and to know that I could go out and I could play with whoever I wanted. It might not have that deep meaning that it had with Gameface, but it was still a hell a lot of fun and without these emotional ties. I might have been able to stumble across some really cool experiences musically that I wouldn’t have had if I just held myself to Gameface and the memory of Gameface. So, like I said it was kind of liberating. I’m still relatively young, and so with Your Favorite Trainwreck it’s a different mentality. There isn’t any, “We can’t have your birthday party then because I have a band practice” or ” You’re going to have to move your graduation date or your school play because I think I have an interview to do.” The priorities have moved. What also helps is we all have other musical endeavors that we’re doing and that’s an known thing. That was a weird problem I had in the mid 90’s because I did try to do a solo project or another band called March and the members of the Gameface were up in arms about that. They felt it was almost like cheating on your girlfriend or wife and I understand where they were coming from. I didn’t agree at the time, but I completely understood…
What’s your greatest memory of Gameface and what’s your biggest regret?
There’s a lot of em. It’s really a culmination of all the small moments. There’s no huge moments of validation, but more like, “Holy shit, we’re in Poland right now!” I think about a lot of those moments where you look back and I remember thinking “How did this happen” or, “How did I get here.” Looking back on those moments I feel so fortunate and proud to have had the life that I’ve had. To me, that’s half the reason why you do it. That’s the reason I’m still doing it…and so what if fucking New Found Glory and the Get Up Kids made all the money, [Chuckles] whatever, I don’t care.
To illustrate the kind of stuff that makes it worth it…more worth it than all the bullshit…We were in Philadelphia and we were playing a show at the First Unitarian Church and it was an amazing show. It was us, Lifetime, Texas Is The Reason…and The Promise Ring, but they ended up having van troubles and didn’t make it. Even if I wasn’t playing I would’ve been there because those were my favorite bands at that time. Like if someone would have said, “You’re 24 years old what do you want to do right now?” I would say “I want to see the Promise Ring, Lifetime and Texas Is The Reason play in a church.”
So when we played the show, I remember it was really one of those emotional moments in a show where I knew that everyone was kind of on our side and everyone knew what was going on (after Bob had died.) We played the song “Only Chance We Get” – I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it – but there’s a moment where it’s very quiet and the vocals come back in, but at this time the microphone got knocked off the stand, and as I reached down to find the microphone where the vocals come in…everyone… [Pause] everyone is fucking singing the song…I wanted to just stand there and have that moment for long as I could.
That was the same tour where we played in Massachusetts in this big like gym…I don’t know why no one had the idea earlier in the show, but I was the guy that when we started playing jumped up and hang upside down on a basketball hoop. Yeah, and we have some classic pictures of us from that are the ones that I’m going to show my grandkids and go “Look, this is what kind of a badass your grandfather is.”
Where does your motivation for writing and making music come from?
Well… When it comes to Gameface it was really my way of like navigating what was going on in my life, growing up and making sense of the things that were happening. I really tried to play it out in a way where other people could apply it to their lives. There’s so many parallels in all of our lives, and I like to think that some of it is for support. Like, “Don’t worry. This shit happens to all of us.” The best compliment I get now is from people who saw Gameface back in the day and say that it was part of the soundtrack to their life and like they were kinda growing up along side the songs. Especially for me, Gameface it’s an autobiography and you can really follow a good decade of my life.
It was also a big form of therapy for me. There was rarely a time where I just like wrote a bullshit song or make a fake story or whatever. Sometimes I do that now just as a form of exercise, and because I’m sick of writing about my life. I mean, I’ve written a couple of solo records that are just so sickeningly sweet. No one wants to hear about how much fun I’m having with my family [laughs].
It’s the anxiety of those 20-something years where you’re figuring shit out. I didn’t keep a diary, but I have this stack of albums that take me through those years. I’m a bit of a private guy and this was my outlet. It was like a gift for me being able to tell to strangers what the hell is going on with me. I hope that that – I hope that translates to something interesting somehow.