Monday, December 22, 2008

The Greatest Cover Band Ever!

I became divorced from my 2nd wife in 1995 after she abandoned our 2 year old son and I to take up residence with a cocaine dealer who had been our mechanic! I knew nothing of his background other than his excellent work on cars and later my wife! He had been recommended by the ex-bassist of Pentagram Marty Swaney! He knew nothing of his background either other than his reputation as a mechanic!

My son Joe Jr. was devastated as was I but my sorrow was for my son's loss of his mother and not for me! I would have to deal with that at another time as I was too busy raising my beautiful boy!

I moved back to my mother's home as she was getting on in years and the cost for rent on my townhouse was too high for me to pay on my small salary from the dye casting factory where I worked! Besides, I needed a female figure to help in Joe Jr.'s growth as a child!

At first things were difficult as you should never move back home with your parents after living on your own! But I saw that my mother needed help with normal every day things that we young and healthy people take for granted. So it was a hard thing to do but in many ways it worked out to be the best idea for all involved especially for my son as he loved his Grandma!

After settling in to my new life and new job I began to feel the emotional pain of the break up! I was also hearing terrible things about my ex-wife and finally reading a public interest piece in a local paper provided by the A.P.I. about an incident involving my ex-wife and her new baby that she had with the drug dealer! I won't go into the specifics but it was such a terrible child neglect case that the A.P.I thought it notable enough to be published in hundreds of newspapers nationwide! My son and I were so lucky that a judge had ruled in my favor for custody because this easily could have been little Joe's fate!

At this point it was time to let it all go, start living a little, checking in with old friends and maybe sitting in with a band or two in town! That is when I came to an open mike night at an establishment called "Sully's" near Dulles airport in Chantilly , Virginia. My old friend from the Jack Starr days in Long Island , Ned Meloni had moved to the Washington D.C. area and had gone through a similar divorce himself and was now the M.C. for the said open mike night!

I came down not expecting much when Ned asked me to come up and play some Ted Nugent songs on the drums and also wanted me to play guitar on two old British glam rock songs as well! Ned remembered that I had played guitar on "Devil Childe" , "Phantom Lord" and my solo album "Lady-Killer" and was hoping to bring a little life to the party as some of the so called musicians at this weekly event were horrendous!

What Ned didn't know was that I had only played guitar in front of a live audience 5 times in my life and only considered it a hobby! I thought, "What the hell, why not? What have I got to lose after almost losing it all?" I got up on stage and strapped on a Les Paul Junior and was accompanied by Ned and his good friend Terry Arnold who also played the guitar! Ned asked me if I knew David Bowie's "Suffragette City and Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" . I told him that I did and the drummer counted off the beat and we were off and running!

Playing guitar in front of an audience and playing the songs I loved best was a healing experience after all the courtroom drama I had encountered in my divorce!

Right away Terry's style and mine clicked and this huge signature sound came out not unlike Kiss or Judas Priest once had! My sound was full of low end and mids as Terry's was more on the thin, high end side and he also played an octave higher than me on most of the parts! This gave our sound a tremendous studio album feel! We were all amazed afterwards and agreed to do it again the following week!

Terry Arnold's guitar playing was a perfect foil for my deep electric cello fiasco's on the Gibson SG!

The next week came and this time loads of people showed up to see us do it again as the word had gotten out about our previous rocked out showing! The crowd loved it and showed it with wild applause! I later told Ned that we ought to brush up on some other glam rock classics from that era as they were all dead simple yet authoritative! He agreed and we all went home later and learned "Children Of The Revolution", "Twentieth Century Boy" by T.Rex. and "Mama We're All Crazee Now" by Slade!

Pretty soon we were learning 3 songs a week and amassing a huge song list! Enough for 2 sets! The best part of it all was the fact that I was being healed of the pain of divorce! I finally had something to do outside of my fatherly duties at home and it was making me happier around my kid! My mother and Joe Jr. started to see the difference in me and we all started getting along much better! Who says music can't save your life? I got my "Mojo" back!

Ned rang me up one day and proposed that we actually try forming a band around what we were doing! He had a drummer in mind for the job, Dale Russell who had played with Ned in "Ghost", a band formed by U.F.O. guitarist, Paul Chapman! Ned was also playing bass for Kix's ex-vocalist , Steve Whiteman in his solo band "Funny Money". Ned told me that we would have to work around Steve's schedule which later became a huge drawback to what we could achieve but for now, I just wanted to do that first gig to test the waters! I also had my own duties with Raven playing festivals around the world but business had been a little slow and I was always open to try something new and crazy!

Dale came down to Virginia to Ned's house in Centerville from his hometown of Philadelphia and discussed over much Seagram's 7 the possibility of forming a glam rock tribute band called "Electric Warrior" named after the 1971 hit record by Marc Bolan and T. Rex.. We knew that we would have to put on the glitter and the make up for the show and also sport the crazy outfits! We even made up ridiculous stage names for ourselves parodying the very musicians who's music we were celebrating! I was "Quartz Boulder" named after Trevor Bolder, Dale was simply "Gone Bolan" after Marc Bolan, Ned was "Over Ten Watts" named after the legendary Overend Watts of Mott and Terry was now "Ariel Blender" instead of Mott's Ariel Bender! The only thing we left out of the mix was the platform heels!

Dale dons the "clown white" in order to give the audience more bang for their buck!

Two porcelain china dolls ready for the shock rock arena! Dale Russell and Joe Hasselvander

We found out very soon in rehearsals that Dale was going to be perfect as a drummer and showman! He led the charge to put on the clown white make up which we all were hesitant to do but once that happened we found our identity as a shock rock band!

This was at a time when "grunge" was "in "and we were about to venture into the complete opposite end of the current contemporary music spectrum. The bands of the mid '90's were trying to dress down and their hair was worn straight with the beards and all that! Nirvana, Sound Garden and Pearl Jam were ruling the roost back then. This was going to be a hard sell! We were one of the very first "tribute bands" that you now see everywhere these days making a pile of money! All we seemed to get though in 1995 was a pile of shit!

It took a lot for me to get used to the idea of playing cover songs again as I vowed that I would never stoop that low! I made that promise to myself in 1987 when I exited a band called Monarch. I only took that job because it was steady work, travel and chicks! Besides, it beat going back to construction work after I came home from my 3 year stint playing drums for Savoy Brown!
Electric Warrior's cover songs though were ultimate show stoppers and never gave me that embarrassing feeling that makes you hope and pray that no one you know discovers the venue where you are playing!

This was our set list as best as I can remember:

  • "Suffragette City", Moonage Daydream" "The Man who Sold The World" - (David Bowie)
  • "We Will Rock You" (Live Rocker Version) - (Queen)
  • "Fox On The Run", "Action" - (Sweet )
  • "Baby Strange", "Children Of The Revolution" "Twentieth Century Boy" "Jeepster" "Bang a Gong" - (T.Rex )
  • "Goodbye To Jane" - (Slade )
  • "Rock & Roll Queen", "All The Young Dudes" "One Of The Boys" - (Mott The Hoople)
  • "Eighteen", "School's Out" "Be My Lover" - (Alice Cooper)
  • "Rock & Roll Part II - (Gary Glitter)

    We had all the bells and whistles you would need to pull this off , trip lights, fog machines, glitter sparkled cloth to line the drum riser, chrome fringed mike stand sleaves and loads of large sized TV sets all over the stage playing glam rock videos with everyone from T. Rex to Mott The Hoople on the screens! We were shocked to find out that people liked us a lot. I remember our first hard core fans. It was Skull and Hillel of the Doom Metal band Black Manta! They loved what we were trying to do and came out to most all of our shows bringing more and more people with them each time!

    Electric Warrior at Jaxx 1996!

    The local concert rock club Jaxx decided to give us a whirl and we soon found ourselves opening for Leslie West. We did our sound check first and Leslie walked up to the stage and said "I'm going on before you guys!" "You 've got too much going on their, you headline". We begged him to change his mind as it was his show, but he refused again! It turned out to be a great night as Leslie's fans all stayed for our gig out of curiosity and we were thankful. At that point everything started rolling out! More bookings and our reputation was becoming bigger than us! Everything was peachy except the money! We kept at it anyway!

    Joe Hasselvander AKA "QuartzBoulder"! I was always a Marc Bolan fanatic from the first time I saw him play on the "Electric Warrior" Tour of 1971!

    Booking gigs around Steve Whiteman's band was becoming difficult as he increased his work load! I saw that Ned was not real happy with what he was doing musically with Steve but Ned felt it all important to be in a cock rock band in order to keep a huge female following and to keep his $100 a night payment! Funny Money was basically living off the Kix albums and it was no different in that respect than what Electric Warrior was doing. The only difference was that we were covering the greatest songs of all time that other bands were afraid to cover and we smoked them with our extreme volume and conviction! I never saw the attraction to playing in Steve's band as I had played drums with them for 4 shows and immediatly wanted out of their deal! Steve was not a cool person to work with either. He was on a Napoleonic trip and had serious control issues. He also fancied himself as a drummer and drove every drummer he had ever hired right out of the band, including me! All of this being said, Electric Warrior was having to turn down show after show because of Neds situation. It was a shame because in my experience in doing a band from the ground up, when you get a steady growing audience and steady job offers your are on your way to bigger money and bigger noteriety! You just have to keep doing what you're doing and eventually it pays off!

    Down deep Ned loved our little band. It gave him as well as the rest of us a strange type of freedom that you just can't describe! We were able to feel a little of what our childhood music heroes must have felt as we played their songs loud and authentic to the original compositions.

    Electric Warrior backstage with "Pino" from Black Widow Records(Italy) The Zu 1996 Dundalk, Md.

    We managed to squeeze out a modest amount of shows for the next 3 years in between Funny Money gigs and my one off concerts with Raven when we were asked to open fo Blue Oyster Cult at Jaxx. I remember Jay Nedry the owner screaming at me 2 minutes before we started our show that if I didn't turn my amp down that he would personally pull the plug on me in front of the now packed house and would throw us bodily out of the club! He said, "Hasselvender, if you play as loud as you normally do in here you will give these old people that are fans of B.O.C. a heart attack!" So I unplugged my 100 watt Marshall head and plugged in to a 50 watt Pierce amplifier that sounded great but didn't have the bulldozer effect that I prefer. The gig went great and Blue Oyster Cult were standing at the side of the stage watching us for our whole set! They loved our song choices and I'm sure it took them back to the days when they were fans. They told us that we were the best cover band that they had ever seen and to keep up the good work!

    Electric Warrior at Jaxx Night Club in Sprinfield , Va. 1996

    A month later we were back at Jaxx and again playing with Leslie West and again he forced us to play after him! This time he stuck around for the show to sign autographs and watched our set and seemed to enjoy himself!

    Enter my highschool friend Tracey Mentiply! Tracey was the epitome of the whiskey drinking , beer swilling, overall wearing, construction working, truck driving redneck class! I loved him all the same! He loved heavy rock and the louder and the wilder the better! Alice Cooper was one of his favorites as was Grand Funk Railroad and even The Sex Pistols! As long as it rocked he was in! I brought him to his first Electric Warrior show and within 10 minutes his shirt was off in the club of course signaling to the club security that someone was getting ready to start a fight! The paranoid bouncers were there in seconds and made him put his shirt back on! It wasn't a pretty sight either as Tracey weighed almost 400 pounds! He later went to work that morning at the town rock quarry and showed up with glitter nail polish on and bits of glitter in his hair! His redneck boss and co-workers asked him what this was all about and he replied "You don't want to know!"
    Tracey came to every show after that albeit, drunk as a skunk! But for some reason he seemed to compliment our very strange circus like ontourage! Sometimes he would show up with a crazy South African party girl named "Soda Pop" and they would take over the dance floor in our set and actually get applause from the audience over their tactless spectacle!
    Joe Hasselvander, Tracey Mentiply & Dale Russell backstage at The Zu - Dundalk, Maryland 1996

    Tracey was finally invited to one of our infamous after gig "tea parties" when he got a bit lude with Ned's new girlfriend and future wife! That pretty much sealed his fate with the rest of the band but Dale and I continued being his friend anyway as he didn't mean any harm he was just polluted!
    Ned started getting on his high horse about being the leader of "our" band which no one was aware of. He was also getting in the habbit of barking orders at us as if he was the boss! Ned was becoming the classic "Ziggy Stardust" that David Bowie had sung about 20 some years before and like the song's lyrics "He broke up the band"! I think that Steve Whiteman, Electric Warrior and it's full blown alcoholic tea parties had taken it's tole on Ned! Suddenly he decided to move to Florida where he had once lived when he was in a band with Paul Chapman. His mother -in-law had in fact married Paul Chapman. Ned was also now starting a family. Ned and his wife were probably doing the right thing to insure the well being of their new daughter. Being the parent I am, I helped him renovate his house to sell on the market!

    Ned Meloni - self appointed leader of Electric Warrior! In the end he fired himself!

    After Ned moved, Terry our other guitarist and I kept in touch and had dinner at his house many times with his wonderful wife and we played lots of records and talked about the enigma of Electric Warrior for hours! That band was so fun to be in and was such a close bonding of friends that it was very emotional to admit that it was all over! The upside to this was that I learned my stage craft on the guitar and found my limitations and my strengths in a very deserving band that most people could only dream about being in! Terry was the only one who really got the raw deal as it was his first ever band and I don't know that he ever recovered from the loss. Also, Ned his best friend had now moved 1400 miles away to Florida! Dale and I continued working on different projects including a live gig with Pentagram! We are still in touch on a weekly basis to this day! Ned and I also later recorded another album in Florida with Jack Starr like we did in the old days of Long Island called "Under Savage Skies" which is an upcoming story in a future blog.

    Tragedy struck though in the fall of 2003 when our biggest fan, Tracey Mentiply died in his sleep at his home in Woodbridge , Va. . He had just been at my house the night before and I made him listen to The Yardbird's song "Mister Your A Better Man Than I". He hugged me real tight before he left my house and said "Brother , You know I will always love you and don't you ever think anything different!" He got up to leave and I didn't want him to go , but I had things to do. That was the last time I ever saw him. 2 months later my mother Lucy Hasselvander also passed away. This was a very sad time of death and a changing of the guard that still effects my life today!
    The photos of Tracey and Electric Warrior provided here by Dale Russel through a wonderful Christmas e-mail, influenced me to write this story that is totally true and has given me pause to think of all the small blessings that make a person's life worth living!

    Happy New Year To All! May 2009 bring togetherness, love, care and Rock & Roll!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    The Little Drummer Boy

    My family dates way back through European history with some significant figures present. My father's family came to this country via the Port of New Orleans as simple cabinet makers from France and even further back they had fought by Napoleon's side in the battle for Moscow and Waterloo. My mother's side of the family came from France and Scotland and Sir William Boyer (my 6th Great Grandfather) had partnered the London Company and then later the Virginia Company with John Smith which brought the first colonists to America in the 1500's. Another one of my direct ancestors was Patrick Henry who coined the phrase "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!"which is evident when I visit my parent's graves among the hundreds of Henry graves surrounding theirs in southwestern Virginia!

    Christmas has always been the most important time of the year for both sides of my family! My Great Grandmother Steiner was Jewish. She converted to Christianity and celebrated her first Christmas here in America. She gave birth to my Grandfather Peter Paul Hasselvander who became a witness for Christ as a preacher in West Virginia and saved many a soul. He later moved on to erect The First Christian Church Of Radford, Va.. A church by the way that he built with his bare hands along with the parishioner's help! It still stands today with the oldest wing of the church now called "Hasselvander Hall"! A huge touched up photo of him hangs in the sanctuary and dominates the view as if he's still looking over his handiwork

    Peter Paul Hasselvander was my grandfather. He was a preacher and built The First Christian Church Of Radford , Va.

    Very few people are aware that I got my start in music in the church! My first paying gigs were held there and my first life lessons about people's jealousy towards real God given talent were shown to me under those sacred timbers! Something I face on a daily basis even today!

    The rules of my musical life were laid out plain and simple before me under God's watchful eye! God has always steered my career one way or the other in order to keep me in the game! I fully credit my beginnings in Christ's church for my success and longevity in the music business! I have escaped drugs and alcohol when it looked like the end! I have been led down the path that suits me most as a musician and a humble servant of God! This is why I credit Jesus on every album that I play on or produce!

    I feel sorry for those people who want to take a hard line as an atheist or agnostic only because they are afraid of being called wimpy or cornball! It is only their insecurity of being exposed as normal flawed human beings that makes people posture in this way! Society nerves them out and they want to be viewed as invincible which we all know is bull! You came from dirt and you'll go back to dirt but your spirit will live on in one of 2 places! One of those places is definitely not user friendly!

    I don't care what people think, I just do what the Lord tells me! It's nice to be able to communicate directly and freely with the one who created the universe, one on one! It is a privilege to celebrate his greatest work and triumph on Christmas day which leads me to my story!

    My Father watched me grow up in my brother's shadow and saw my horizons broadening ever more each day! He took me to the New York World's Fair in 1964 which opened my mind to all the possibilities of advanced technology and outer space! But throughout all the Jetson's -like future world resonance there was one thing that stood out the most and that was seeing The Benny Goodman Orchestra perform at the fair! My dad saw the enthusiasm in my face over this swing jazz event and secretly knew that I would be a musician from that time on!

    My Mom and Dad always wanted the best for me even if it meant playing Rock & Roll!

    As I described in my first blog my brother was instrumental in furthering my interest in music.
    My parents new that I could already play the drums as I had learned from listening to the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts and Dave Clarke. My dad told my mom that it was time to buy me a drum set and best of all it would be a Christmas present!

    I know that he must have gone into hock to afford these drums as they were quite expensive in those days. My father was an english teacher at Lee High School in Springfield, Va. and I know that his salary alone was hardly enough to feed our family much less buy a drum kit!

    One of his students was a rowdy, big mouthed, trouble maker named Jay Nedry. Jay today own's the premier concert venue of the Washington, D.C. area called Jaxx! He's had every major label act or members of, in his club at one time or another! He still likes to tell the story though of how little Joey Hasselvander got his first drum set!

    Jay Nedry was a problem child in my dad's English class who got so out of hand that he had to put his desk up by my dad's facing the classroom! He later went on to open Jaxx night club which is everybody's venue of choice!

    My father came home from work one day a few weeks before Christmas in 1965 mad as hell about some young kid that disrupted class and asked him so many questions that he had to permanently pull his desk up along side of his facing the class so that he could keep a closer eye on his shenanigans! Every day he also had to be kept after class for punishments of various classroom crimes. My mother always said to my father that Jay acted that way because he admired my father. That was his twisted way to get attention from him as later I found out to be true!

    Jay told me that after class my father told him "Well, I bought my boy a drum set! It's red sparkle and I can't wait to see his face on Christmas morning!" Jay said "You mean Phil? I thought he played guitar?" "No", my dad said, "This is for little Joey my youngest! He's the best drummer you've ever heard!"

    I was a happy kid in 1965 and I could play drums as good as any adult!

    So every day up until Christmas break he would talk and brag to Jay about the drum kit that I was getting! Funny thing was , it actually helped Jay's attention deficit problems and his behavior changed dramatically allowing him to finally take his place with the rest of the class facing the blackboard!
    Jay Nedry, owner of the D.C. area's premier rock venue Jaxx was one of my father's high school students who was in on the secret of my first drum kit!

    The first time I met Jay Nedry was at a club called Route One South where I was playing drums for Leslie West and Mountain in 1976 and this is where I first heard the story about my dad and his special Christmas present to me! Even when Raven played at Jaxx with Udo Dirkshneider in 2000, Jay got on stage before we played our set and told the whole story exactly the way I'm telling it now! I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud! I think it was a little of both! Anyway, this was the part of the story that put the whole puzzle together about my father who passed away when I was 13. Jay's account helped me to know my dad better and to help me see him through the eyes of an adult!

    The first time that I met Jay Nedry was at Rt. One South, a small rock club in Alexandria, Va. the night I played drums for Leslie west! This is a photo from the gig! Jay told me many things about my dad that I never knew!

    On Christmas Eve 1965 I knew something great was going to happen! I could just feel it in the air! I had poured over one of those Sears wish books so many times that it had become a ragged, dog eared mess especially on the page with the musical instruments! All I could do was focus on that red sparkle 4 piece trap kit right next to the Dan Electro Guitar with the amp built in the case! I'm getting that feeling all over again just writing this!

    Needless to say there was no sleep to be had and I could hear the sounds of metal things clanging around and being snapped together and things being taken out of plastic bags and boxes with my dad cursing all the way! He wanted this to be perfect and for me to wake up with the drum kit set up like in a showroom!

    Christmas came and there they were! I stared at them for hours and didn't much care for the socks, shirts and pants my mother had gotten me! Bless her heart, she understood! We later brought the drums down to the basement and the torture began and didn't let up until 1983!

    Christmas was always the most anticipated event of the year in my family going back for centuries! This one had to have gone down in the record books in our family's history!

    In the 1960's "The Little Drummer Boy" was a big Christmas hit on TV and radio and you couldn't escape it! I know what the song represents but I always identified with it because I have pounded out the drum rolls for the procession of God's will on earth and his only begotten son for 44 years!

    God Bless All Of You! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
    From Joe Hasselvander