Much has been made of life on the road. Some people like to play up how hard the road can be, like in Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" video, but it's hard to feel sorry for Jon and the boys when they're staying in five-star hotels and don't even tune their own guitars.
As much as I've seen the road unravel people and reduce them to shells of their former selves, I try not to romanticize the harshness it sometimes brings. Nobody back home will sympathize with your plight mainly because of what they've already seen in Bon Jovi videos. Plus, no matter how shit it can be, it's still the greatest job in the world.
After 17 years of being in a band, being surrounded by people who deem you the soundtrack to their night out every night of your life messes with your reality and screws with your head very fast. It leaves most wanting a breather. That's why a large amount of people in the music biz end up acquiring drug and alcohol habits to cope. The Rock 'n' Roll High School roll call of casualties and dropouts far outnumber its valedictorians.
One of the things that keeps the craziness at bay, at least for me, are the fleeting but memorable moments that happen every once in a while on tour; the kind of moments that stay with you for a lifetime. For some, it's seeing the sights -- the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower etc. For me, it's chance meetings with people that inspired me to do this rock 'n' roll band thingy in the first place. Even if 90 per cent of the time it's with sharpie and albums in hand for a quick autograph and perhaps a hi-five, I love mentally collecting these encounters. And while touring musician casual encounters happily end with an autograph or a smartphone pic, I've recently crossed the threshold into artful dodging fanaticism -- I have a podcast.
I've had a podcast now for two years. When I'm at home my friend Nick Flanagan, stand-up comedian and former singer of Brutal Knights and Teen Crud Combo, joins me as co-host on episodes where we hold open-ended, freeform discussions with different guests. When I'm on the road, I procure podcasts on my own. The goal of the podcast is to kindle a hang out that wouldn't naturally happen in forced circumstances. Mainly, though, the grand scheme is to use it as an excuse to meet people I admire. I've had moderate to great success at this. Episodes with Henry Rollins, Duff McKagan, Scott Thompson (Kids In The Hall), Damian Abraham, Gordon Korman, Mikael Akerfeldt, George Pettit, Jason Rouse and Marty Friedman can all attest to it. But the episode with Tad Doyle was something else.
If the name is unfamiliar, Doyle fronted his eponymously-named Seattle heavy rock band from '88 to '99. While the world had a torrid love affair with other Seattle bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, the rest of us were left scratching our head why Tad wasn't vaunted as high, if not higher. Tad remains one of the greatest bands in the history of rock and their album, 8-Way Santa is one of the greatest unsung albums of modern music. Of course, a pair of threatening lawsuits presiding over the album's release (unauthorized use of cover photo/using the word "Pepsi" in a song title referencing drunk driving) may have had something to do with 8-Way Santa stalling and the band never breaking even though they went on to put out three more albums. They were the classic example of a band too brazen and too smart to be wedged into the major label construct.
Tad was also the first band I saw "of age" and I watched them open for Primus at Lee's Palace in Toronto. I had originally attended only to watch Tad, but ended up staying to get floored by Primus, too. Tad and I even shared a quick moment of eye-contact in the now-renovated front foyer of Lee's, but I was too shy to hold his gaze and tell him how awesome I thought he was. I kept my "edge" that night, but watched Tad and Primus sandwiched between Dave Navarro and Eric Avery of Jane's Addiction, who were in town to play on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour the day after. So, in the course of 48 hours I watched Tad, Primus, Jane's Addiction, Rollins Band and the Butthole Surfers. Not bad, huh?
Time moves on and despite Tad's disbandment in '99, Doyle has kept busy with several projects like Hog Molly and Hoof but his most recent outfit, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, had me salivating like a rabid puppy. It's reassuring when musicians continue on an upward creative trajectory and their upcoming album tentatively titled, Empires Of Dust, has me just as enthused as I was when I discovered 8-Way Santa.
When I ventured a search on Twitter last year and found his handle -- @TadDoyle_Tad -- tweeting out into the ether yielded a surprising reply back from the man himself. It made my month, especially when he tweeted back saying he had all our albums, too.
This past March, while on tour, we had a day off in Seattle and under normal circumstances I would've only invited him out to the show, said my "hellos" and that would've been that. Now armed guilefully with a podcast, I once again used it as an excuse to hang out, captured all on episode #46. I was noticeably nervous but held my ground and true enough we continued our hang after I put the mics away. For that little kid in me, too shy to approach him all those years ago, it was momentous.
Backstage the next night at The Showbox nightclub, before I stepped on stage, Tad softly said to me, "This must feel full circle, me coming to see you after you came to see me all those years ago." Although I almost felt like bursting into tears at that moment, I kept my stoic front and played my heart out. It remains one of the greatest reasons why this hard, harsh road everyone loves and hates remains the greatest window of opportunity. I can curse it, loathe it and berate it to death, but in the end, I am its bitch.