The RemuS Years: Part V
When you voluntarily take on the responsibility of promoting your local and regional music scene as I did and as Rusty and Crystal both have, there’s one thing that has to happen otherwise you’re destined to fail miserably and that one thing is taking ownership.
You have to take it personal. You have to take it all to heart otherwise you won’t be able to gain credibility with anyone, namely the bands. In this role of music promoter, talent booker, music producer, live show producer etc., you have to believe that everything is possible and that the impossible is simply just waiting for your arrival so you can turn it all around and make it happen. You have to believe that everything that’s in your head has either never been thought of before or has been attempted already and failed because you weren’t there to make it happen. You have to be the positive thinker at all times; sometimes for yourself and sometimes for other people….band people more specifically.
There are times when your job is just to get bands excited about doing a show or get them excited about finishing their recording. You find yourself being a shrink sometimes as well as a friend or a booking agent or whatever. Okay, in short you’re a bartender – there I’ve said it. The music scene can be like your baby sister or maybe in some cases your whole family to you. You identify better with musicians than you do your own blood relatives and you hurt when they hurt, feel happy when they’re happy, cry when they cry.
You’ll find yourself wanting good things to happen for them more than they actually want it for themselves and that would be my own case in point right there. It has been stated by Mr. Jason P. Morgan himself on many occasions right from the stage that “Scott Deaver cares more for the local music scene than the musicians do” and that, historically has never been too far off the mark.
For my money, the fact that Jason said it makes it a sworn fact because that man never pulls punches, he never sugar coats anything and he’ll always give you the truth no matter how hard of a pill it may be to swallow. He is one of my best and dearest friends that I ever made in the salad days of this millennium and I’m proud to still call this man my friend to this very day.
He was my counsel on many occasions when I felt my back was against the wall with nowhere to turn or whenever I needed some words that could soothe whatever was binding my mind all up in any given situation. Jason always had a way to make things right in my head or as Melissa use to say to me – “Jason brings a balance into your life that nobody else can seem to manage” and if you know either of us, you’d know just how fucked up and scary that statement really is.
You have to take ownership of it, you have to belong to it and you have to be livin’ it every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year otherwise you’re going to fall and fall real hard. Everyone’s going to know what a fake you are and fake people…..there’s more than enough of them everywhere. The real people stand out and will make you take notice of them, one way or the other and this brings to mind a situation I got myself into when I took this “ownership” just a little bit too far and it ended up getting the best of me.
Back in 2002 I decided to buy a hand held tape recorder and start doing some interviews with local musicians. I thought it would be a nice feather in my cap to interview the elusive Mike Haaga [of dead horse from 1988 to 1994 or so] for starters and as it turned out, my friends Jason Morgan and Mike Pruneda of Hollister Fracus both worked with him at Southwest Wholesale. Southwest Wholesale use to be a big record distributor located on the Northwest side of Houston, they distributed my first compilation disc and got it on the shelves of a handful of retail outlets when music was still sold in retail outlets…..can you believe that we use to actually get into a car and drive to a store to buy music?
Ridiculousness, you hear me? Ridiculousness!!
Anyway, I had never met Haaga before and at that point had only seen him performing with dead horse once back on September 10th, 1994 with Man or God supporting. For me to say that the night in question was a blur would be the grossest understatement a human being could make….EVER! I had never been in a mosh pit before but by golly I was in one that night. I don’t remember a whole lot about the night in general but I can tell you this much; I had on a new pair of tan colored Red Wing steel toed boots that I had recently bought for work and the morning after that show, these new tan colored boots of mine were absolutely black from having so many other pairs of boot stepping on them.
So Mike Pruneda puts me in touch with Haaga and we talked about getting together for an interview and on June 12th, 2002 I was fortunate enough to have a two and a half hour sit down with Michael Haaga at Rudz to talk about whatever I wanted to talk to him about, and I did. The recording sounded cheesy as fuck because I sounded like a doofus asking him these questions and conversatin’[sic] with him. I was nervous and frankly, a little uncomfortable and intimidated by his presence there with me. You see, Mike Haaga is a God to a lot of us here in the local circles. The man is a musical genius and has the capability to make magic happen and has made an awful lot of magic here in H-town and to a lot of us, you can’t speak ill of this man and expect to still have your teeth when the conversation is over.
We obviously spoke at length about his time in dead horse and what an influence they’ve been to a lot of bands around Houston, the state of Texas and around the world even. I then spoke with him about his stint in the, then still underground Groove/Punk/Thrash Metal band Superjoint Ritual along with Phil Anselmo[Pantera, Down], Jimmy Bower[Corrosion of Conformity/EyeHateGod, Crowbar], Kevin Bond and Joe Fazzio. Mike played the bass and lent backing vocals in this band off and on between 1995 and 1997 when they had shows booked and spent a solid six months in Louisiana within the previous year of my interview with him, recording the fully produced tracks that were to go on their first legitimate release.
During my interview with Mike, he spoke to me about the demo recordings that had been floating around and how they were the very same rough, unproduced songs they had been giving out at their shows when the band had toured as a basically unsigned garage band. I knew this to be true and had no reason to believe he would be bullshitting me about any of it, and he wasn’t. At the time there was still more than enough evidence floating around from the garage days of the band and I had seen and saved all the pictures I could find already of these early performances.
Mike Haaga[left] performing with SJR at the Tattoo Bar in Dallas Texas in 1997
Superjoint Ritual has a pretty lengthy, fucked up and sorted history as far as writing songs, bringing them to various Texas and Louisiana bar stages over the course of a year or two and then, many years later….roughly five years to be mostly exact, finally releasing their first fully produced CD – Use Once and Destroy on May 21, 2002 and touring the larger global circuit (i.e.) like OzzFest and beyond.
The songs on the disc are dated to show you just how old some of this material is at the time of its release. Song Titles: It Takes No Guts, Stupid, Stupid Man, Creepy Crawl, Superjoint Ritual recorded in 1989, Messages recorded in 1993, Everyone Hates Everyone, Fuck Your Enemy, 4 Songs, Ozena recorded in 1995, The Introvert, The Alcoholik recorded in 1996 and All Our Lives Will Get Tried, Anti Faith, Drug Your Love recorded in 1997.
Haaga wasn’t the only local musician to lend their talents to this disc either, local nice guy and current guitar executioner for Phillip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, Marzi Montazeri had a piece of the early SJR demo action too. I’ve even seen some video tape that was shot with Marzi’s video camera while he was in LA recording demos with the band back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Believe it or not, Marzi was sporting a crew cut back then….it’s kind of a funny.
My understanding though is that the two demos(’95 & ’97) that were sold or given out at the early club shows are the same rough cuts that were floating around on Napster in the late 90’s/early 00’s before the walls finally came tumbling down around that first slice of peer-to-peer heaven. Anyway, for whatever reason Haaga didn’t stay with the band and I didn’t dig into that with him either. My understanding since that time is that he and Joe Fazzio had some kind of falling out and that was pretty much the end of it. I’ve never really asked Marzi why he didn’t stick it out with the band back then either but like most things; I’ve learned that there’s probably a lot more to it than I really need to know.
So anyway, given the closeness of these two local musicians to this band I took the investment of time they had in it rather seriously so once the CD came out I had all of these great expectations of props being given to these guys for what they had done over the years to contribute to the release of this record that was so long in coming to the retail shelf.
This being said, a week or so after the Haaga interview, Superjoint Ritual came to Houston and put on a great fuckin’ show at the Engine Room downtown. The week after the show I went and bought the CD as well as the first two releases from Phil’s other side project Down. I excitedly drove home and ripped open the packaging to the SJR CD and began to read the liner notes looking to see who all got mentions.
The top few lines said it all; Phil Anselmo: Guitar and vocals, Jimmy Bower: Guitar, Joe Fazzio: Drums, Kevin Bond: Touring guitar player, III: Touring Bass player and that was all that was listed. Dude, I was fuckin’ pissed and I mean majorly pissed. I kept reading though and reading and then finally I found it — 14 lines down below the musician’s credits, hidden under the photography credits was Michael Haaga: Bass and backing vocals. I couldn’t believe it, this was an insult to Mike Haaga and this guy[me] wasn’t going to stand for it. There were no nods or mentions for Marzi there anywhere either and that just sent me over the edge.
Haaga had spent six months with this band recording material and touring clubs and this was the thanks and respect that he was given? I couldn’t believe it. I then went to the SJR website and started a thread in their bulletin board area where I talked about Haaga having been in the band and how I thought it sucked the way his credit was buried on the CD. There was the odd supporter of this initial statement here and there but for the most part, it wasn’t well received in the band’s forums at all.
Did I mention that Jimmy, Kevin and Hank III routinely read and posted in there? Well they did and needless to say they weren’t too happy with the shit I started in there either. A lot of you people know me and know that I am not one to just go starting a bunch of unwarranted shit – I never have been. This time however, I just couldn’t help but say something about it. Fans of the band and band members alike were coming at me from all sides telling me how full of shit I was and how I needed to just shut the fuck up about it etc. and that it was none of my business
But then they began denying a lot of things that I knew to be true. Not stuff about Mike Haaga so much but about Marzi as well. The stories of these two guys involvement with Phil over the years is the stuff of local legend. I had heard about a lot of this stuff long before I ever met Marzi or Haaga. I didn’t go into those forums quoting anyone or speaking on anyone’s behalf, I was merely expressing my own opinions regarding the situation and recounting things that I knew to be fact.
During my interview with Haaga, he only spoke positively about his experience with the band. Not once did he ever say one bad thing about SJR or the members of the band and I never said otherwise either. He stated that he and the band had gotten their lawyers involved so that basically he could get paid, and he did and that was about all there was to it.
The only untrue statement I ever made in their forum was that Haaga had to take Phil to court to get paid, as well as to get the much-deserved credit on the disc. This was information that I had gotten from another source and it turned out to be an untrue statement and I had no one to blame at the time but myself for letting that falsehood out of the bag.
What I didn’t fully realize at the time was that I was trying to champion a fight that wasn’t my fight in the first place and by the time all of this occurred, it wasn’t even a fight at all. It was already a closed subject, old news[blah blah blah] and Marzi and Mike had long-since walked away from it already. I on the other hand, was stirring up a lot of very bad feelings amongst very old friends and was getting myself deeply buried in something I should have had no part in at all.
Within a couple of hours of all of this happening online, Haaga called me and told me in no uncertain terms to shut the fuck up on their website and then he asked me to remove his interview from RemuS Radio and I had to go back to the SJR web site and do whatever I could to make this thing right. I had really overstepped my bounds on every conceivable level in my position as Local Champion of the underappreciated Houston band and boy, was I paying the price for it almost immediately.
What I hadn’t realized at the time was that all my whining on there was making Mike and Marzi look like a bunch of crybabies or something and I never foresaw all the repercussions of what I was doing. You can’t imagine how bad I felt about the situation and you can also bet that I would’ve done anything to be able to turn back the clock and make the situation just go away. I thought I was going in there and enlightening people on some truth. I thought I was helping out the local musician by demanding proper credit for the work they had done. I was looking out for the local guys but just didn’t realize when I had gone too far. Friends of Haaga who were also in there were letting him in on all the shit I was stirring up in the SJR forums and he didn’t cotton to it much at all and who could blame him? Who the hell was this guy stirring up all this shit seemingly on his behalf?
Uhhh, that would be me right here……the guy who had begged him for an interview a month earlier and who was now tearing away at all that trust he had put in me by speaking with me about it in the first place. The same guy he rode around with after the interview and smoked a joint with and before I dropped him off at his car, he was nice enough to sign my Rock Against Cancer guitar I had bought a few months earlier at a charity auction. The same guitar that Lemmy signed the night I bought it, even.
In hindsight I will say one thing in my own defense about that whole deal, the things that some of these people were saying about Haaga were absolutely horrible. I’m not talking about the band fans either, I’m talking about the members of SJR that posted in this forum and the awful things they had to say about him and how they played down his contribution to the record. I know Haaga didn’t care but I was actually offended when Kevin Bond or Jimmy Bower referred to him as a retard and that’s what I took the most offense to so I lashed out at them and that was pretty much it.
It was a very exhausting period for me to say the least and yes, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that I didn’t really want to know everything that went on behind the curtain, so to speak. I realized that I was cool with being on the unknowing side of the stage when it came to these “Big Time” bands and if and when our local talent got involved, just enjoy it and take it for what it’s worth and don’t get caught up in all that “band drama.”
You know, they say that time heals all wounds and that is very fortunate for me because after a while, fuckin’ Haaga eventually forgave me. Not only that, the guy threw me a bone in 2005 when a new project he had spoken of during his interview with me finally finished up recording , released their CD and started playing out.
It was called The Plus and Minus Show and Mike asked me to shoot the bands promo shots…….on the new Metro train that had just started running through downtown recently. That photo shoot was an amazing night and a completely different adventurous story in itself that will just have to wait for another time.
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