Wednesday, 28 March 2007
05:19:32 AM (GMT)
It was sophomore year at U.S.C. and our self-titled debut album "Tom o' Bedlam
presents.... Tom o' Bedlam" was getting a lot of play on the college circuit and even
catching some early label interest. This was a critical juncture in the evolution of
Our core was solid with me, David, Felix, and Luke. John Jackson had just joined us
and Rochelle and Sarah were brought on to fill in the sound with backing vocals. Up
to this point, I was handling the lead vocals with John starting to take the lead in
a few of our hip-hop and more soulful creations that we were exploring. But for me
the heavy demand of alternating between our alternative set, the punk-rock stuff and
then screaming out some of our more heavier laden tunes was already taking its toll.
It would be a few more years before I learned to preserve my voice by both mixing it
up, not pushing too hard, and of course by bringing in Liz and the others helped a
So anyway, it was about this time when we thought maybe it might be good to consider
bringing in another vocalist just to share the load with me. We then embarked on a
search for months looking for someone we could bring in. We posted flyers on the
bulletin boards around campus, we got the word out, we even spent weekends checking
out every club in LA from the Whiskey to the Troubadour to I swear a few
bar-mitzvahs...anywhere we got a tip about a singer that could work. It was pretty
much a dead issue cause even though we came across a lot of fabulous singers and a
lot of them were interested in joining us..as a band we never felt like anyone was
just right. We were looking for an awesome singer, with front-man charisma but who
would be humble enough to know that this was mine and David's band and that I was the
It had to be almost four months after we had started our search that we got a tip
about this freshman who might be what we were looking for. Our mutual friend set it
up and so David and I went over to Mark Taper Hall to meet him. His name was Mark
McGrath. The guy was tall, had GQ looks and looked more like a senior than a
freshman. He was cool though. We sat in his dorm room. He was majoring in business
but David and I just looked at each other at some point in the conversation and just
kind of laughed. I think we both thought, there is no way this guy is ever going to
be cooped up in some office somewhere. We asked if he would be willing to sing a bit
on the spot and he hit us with a little bit of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which was
all over the radio at the time. We were blown away actually. The dude could sing!
We invited him to come meet the rest of the band on that Saturday and to listen to us
jam and maybe join in a bit to give the rest of the band a chance to hear him. Mark
agreed and he showed up on time that Saturday afternoon. As usual we tightened up our
old stuff and worked on some of our new material until late Saturday night. Mark fell
right into place. He really was talented. It took him just a few minutes to learn the
words to "Dark Days" and man..he sung that like he had written it himself. It was
beautiful. I was really happy when we cracked open a few beers at the end of the
session. It was pretty much a consensus that he was in. Only Rochelle didn't get
along with him for some reason.
We had some studio time reserved the following Sunday from 7 am to 4 pm and I asked
if it would be possible to rehearse every night that week leading up to it. Everyone
agreed and that's what we did and man the tapes from those jam sessions are amazing.
Between me and Mark blowing out the songs and everyone else working it we were
feeling really good going into the recording session. On Saturday we decided to give
everyone a break. I wanted to go see the Trojans play Notre Dame anyway and I thought
the band could use a rest after pushing so hard all week.
We lost. It sucked. Anyway on Sunday, I was a bit late getting to the studio. When I
arrived at 7:30 everyone else was ready to go. John and Felix were working on some
last minute revisions to "Kelly" and they sounded good. Where the hell was Mark?
I couldn't believe it. We tried beeping him but he wasn't answering his pager. We
decided to press on cause we were already late in rolling and this was costing us big
bucks in studio time. But without Mark, we were all a bit flummoxed and we just
couldnt' get our shit together. Finally, Mark rolls in at 10 a.m. David was pretty
pissed I could tell but I just tried to keep it all professonal. I didn't even say
anything about him being so damn late. We decided to reset and see if we could record
the main tracks for "Summerland" and they seemed to go down fine. I wasn't entirely
happy with it but I figured we could fix some problems in mixing. Then it was time
for vocals. Mark and I got in the booth to lay down the vocals. He reeked of alcohol
and cigarettes. We started laying in the vocals and he was just floating around..it
was totally unbelievable. I was like hold it. I took him aside..his eyes were
bloodshot. It was so evident that the guy was higher than flagpole. I was like "what
Mark just laughed he was like, "Dude its all good. I can do it."
I was like, "Look man this isn't a joke here. We have money invested in this shit,
not too mention our time and everything else..."
Mark just shook his head and seemed a bit abashed at least.
I told Mark, "Hey here's what I need to know right now. Can you do this shit or
"I can do it," he said after a very long pause.
"Let's do it then," I said.
So we started laying in the vocals again and for a few minutes there it seemed like
it was going to work..but then he missed his lyrics just after the bridge and I was
like "what the?" and the dude just started cracking up. It was totally unbelievable.
I just looked at him and said go home man and that's what he did. He didn't even say
We tried salvaging what we could from the session but the whole thing was such a
disaster by that time that it just didn't happen. On our way home, David and I talked
about what we should do about Mark and despite the fact that we were furious with him
we thought we should give him another chance, maybe reflecting upon the amazing week
we had just had. But when we got back to the apartment, Mark had left us a message
on our machine saying that he was quitting the band. He said something about him just
wanting to have fun right now. David and I just looked at each other. Later, when we
were talking, I was like, "if Mark ever gets his shit together he could go far in
this biz.." David was like "yeah."
I suppose he did figure out that music is what he wanted to do cause it was about a
year later that he became the frontman for the Shrinky Dinks, which as you probably
know, changed its name to Sugar Ray. It took him a year or two more after that but
they exploded when "Fly" took off. We wanted to mend the fences in the sake of good
ol' Trojan Family spirt so we let Sugar Ray open for us on our "Hard Ballz" tour. It
was all good in the end.