No one knows exactly why or when Rude Awakening began. Perhaps it had always been there, an entity unto itself. A spirit howling through some drafty theater of chaos blowing open doors and raising the hair of the faint of heart, turning white and widening the eyes of strong men. Perhaps as a legacy to the heroes of rock and roll like Phil Lynott, Pete Townsend, Frank Zappa, and a host of others that beckon with the battle call and ring loudly in our consciences with chords of anger and words of love. Maybe it was the destiny of two young boys and the people that were enlisted by their passion for a dream. A dream all too deceiving, all too elusive but never the less compelling.
In the summer of 1976 Arlington, Virginia was on the brink, as the rest of the country, of the bicentennial of the nations birth. People were together and apart more than ever before in recent history. Bob Ryder and Joey Ballard were no exceptions. It was summer break when Bob and Joey met. Joey worked in a mall pizza establishment with his sister Micki and several of their peers for minimum wage. They were there two years before Bob signed up. They worked there for almost a month before they decided to meet over at Bob's and party. Well, to save you from a long story and them from certain incrimination, let's just say they had a slightly irregular adolescence involving petty to felonious criminal activity, heavy drinking, dope smoking, experimentation with more exotic substances, sexual situations, rock and roll and so on and so on and on and on and on.
Joey bought his first drum set with the money he earned delivering newspapers when he was twelve but they were long gone and never seriously approached. Bob took bass lessons at Fox Music for a while but he was more interested in chasing girls and smoking weed. Joey was working with a band called Front-runner, a local cover band that did the club circuit around D.C. playing Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and Pat Benetar since they had both a female and male singer. He started out as a roadie and ended up as the sound man/ roadie working for the band and writing poetry as he had off and on from the fourth grade. The band had several drummers during the three years that he worked for them, most notably T.C. Tolliver of the Plasmatics. He would practice on their kits when they would let him and even give a few pointers here and there. Although they had dabbled in rock and roll and creative thought in advance of the average teenager, they never really contemplated making anything serious out of it until they met Tony Taylor and Robert Kovalenko.
Tony and Robert had been party buddies, party meaning most or all of the earlier outlined, and one day they invited Bob over to one of their friends houses to listen to their newly formed band Electric Avenue which, by the way, pre-dates the Eddie Grant single. Bob was amazed. He said that until then he'd seen alot of concerts and heard alot of great music but somehow seeing two of his friends jamming and not doing so bad at it, he thought, why not me?. It wasn't long before both Bob and Joey were going over to watch Electric Avenue and even sit in once or twice. This situation quickly dissolved however and it began to slow down for a while. Joey and Bob would go over to Tony's or Robert's house to jam but nothing developed until Bob went to college at V.C.U. in Richmond, Virginia.
Richmond, at the time was home to several bands that later gained stature in the rock community. Gwar, Robin Thompson, Pat Benetar, House of Freaks, just to name a few.
Joey moved into Bob's dorm room during Bob's sophomore year sleeping wherever he could find space and working at a French restaurant as a salad chef and dishwasher. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade after being set back two years for attendance violations. He missed more than a hundred days both years. Bob was going to school trying to complete an English degree and partying in between or visa-versa. That's where they started publishing underground comics and jamming with different musicians around the campus. Dave Brockie of Gwar was one they both jammed with and hung around the same comics circles with. Some of their work was published together in different underground/ fantasy compilations in the area. Bob and Joey would stand on a corner in the middle of the campus and sell small fold-over copies of their work. Sometimes people would give them a quarter to just leave them alone. These works include the "Iconoclast" series which contained the now published "Legacy of the Hand" and " The Handicapped Dating Game" and several other sick and mentally deranged pieces. Some of them not finished to this day to the disappointment of Bob. He has to wait for Joey since Joey draws the illustrations and Bob will have no other, apparently. Soon the small dorm room became too much to take so Bob and Joey moved to the Fan area on Colonial Avenue where they rented a small downstairs flat in a townhouse about three miles from campus. Nothing changed for a while. The only means of transportation besides public busses and taxi cabs was Bob's beach cruiser bicycle. When they went to the campus to sell comics Joey would ride Bob on the handle bars all the way within ten minutes. One time they wrecked into the side of a parked car so hard that Bob's pant leg had the car's paint where the impact had been. Colonial avenue was where the first serious attempt to form a band took place.
Bob met Mark Moogalian at college and Mark started coming over a couple times a week to jam and the three started writing songs and planning gigs around the area. Joey met Steve Train at the submarine sandwich shop that Steve worked at part time while he went to V.C.U. as an art major. Mark was the lead guitar player and Steve played rhythm guitar although he originally wanted to play percussion which he ended up doing on occasion. Joey bought a drum set from a pawn shop across the street from the townhouse for four hundred bucks. It was yellow and old and was comprised of several makes of drums all painted with house paint. Mark played a Fender Bullet with vice grips in place of one broken tuning key. Mark played in a style that could be compared to Clapton or George Benson. Bluesy but sometimes funky.
Steve played in a style that is hard to explain. Very percussive, rhythm oriented but tonally spastic. Sometimes, by accident, Steve would break what we thought was very new ground because of his unusual approach. He was a big Grateful Dead fan and so was Mark. Bob and Joey never liked the Dead much but were thankful for the sometimes hour long continuous jams that they inspired in Mark and Steve. Tony and Robert came down from Arlington as guests once in a while but Mark and Steve were more accessible Mark more than Steve at first. At Colonial Avenue Mark, Steve, Bob and Joey wrote somewhere between twenty and thirty songs. "Death Row Questions" was one of these songs and it can be found on the " Act of God" demo recorded two years later. They soon outgrew the confines of the living room at Colonial Avenue and Bob and Joey rented a big house on Libby Avenue that ended up being the place where some of the more notorious Rude years were spent.
The house on Libby Avenue was a big old three bedroom house with a basement that was the size of the entire perimeter of the structure. Joey took pallets and stapled louan sheets to them to make a stage because the ceiling was too low for much else and the house leaked when it rained so there had to be some kind of barrier. The back yard was probably almost an acre in area and level. Joey and Bob started having parties there and they were so successful that the house became locally famous as the 709 Club, the name belying the address. They had parties every weekend sometimes two, all during the summer and into the fall. Sweaty, decadent beer bashes that turned the back yard into a muddy pasture and the house into an eyesore for some of the older and more conservative homeowners in the neighborhood. The police frequented the place more and more before they finally put a stop to their little " club" by threatening incarceration. There were more than three hundred in attendance at every event. Gwar played there, Fishbone and several other well known acts. By this time Rude Awakening had been firmly established in the underground music scene in Richmond and Mark had been kicked out of the line-up by Joey because he had what Joey called "timing problems". Mark went on to form a group called "Look Like Bamboo". Joey thought that he was much better with them. Mark was replaced with Roy Schneider, another of Bob's college buddies that he and Joey had jammed with as early as Colonial Avenue. Roy was much more advanced on guitar and leaned toward a more a "metal" style than did Mark or Steve and that's probably why Steve left the band soon after Mark. Roy opened up the band to more possibilities Bob and Joey thought because he was much stronger on his instrument and was already writing in a genre that Bob and Joey's listening tastes had begun to cultivate. Hard rock.
Before Roy the band really had no set musical direction. They just experimented with whatever they could pull off with their technical limitations which were many. It seemed a natural migration at the time. Roy was mainly into harder rock like Metallica, Megadeth and Suicidal Tendencies, and M.S.G., U.F.O., Thin Lizzy and Marillion for Bob. Joey liked hard rock but still leaned to the classic more well known bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Bad Company. Roy was probably the most instrumental member in inspiring the evolution of Rude Awakening to its present status. One day Roy took some lyrics both Bob and Joey had written home and came back a week later with six or seven complete songs. Bob and Joey knew they had the right guitar player for the moment and these songs marked a new era that lasted until the present day.
As time went on Bob, Joey and Roy became more and more adept as a writing team and played instrumentally as a three piece with no vocalist save for the muddled interjection of Roy and Joey now and then for about a year. After a year Tony and Robert started coming down once a week or so Tony singing and Robert on rhythm guitar and the music started to migrate back to a folkier more artsy style with Roy throwing in monstrous power chords over Tony's thin monotone meanderings. Some of the songs that came out of this line-up were the most original but because of their diversity they left many an audience perplexed and unwilling to invest the concentration required to follow a whole set. Roy being a metal skate rat had many reservations and sometimes outbursts of rage concerning the band's direction. These outbursts were partly due to the music but mostly due to his opinion of Robert's guitar playing. All of the members were aware of this but Robert until one night when Roy left in a fit of rage after one of Robert's bum chords screaming " It's either him or me!" Because Robert was Tony's ride they lost both Tony and Robert that same day. But not before the first half of "An Act of God" was recorded at Wally Cleaver's studios in Fredricksburg, Virginia. Tony missed the second half because he was on a drug binge and couldn't come up with his share of the studio costs. That's when the parade of singers began and would set the trend that caused Rude Awakening over the years to go through over thirty alumni to its present line-up (knock on wood).
Because of their large number and some of their names don't immediately come to mind we'll list them here. Sorry to those that go unmentioned; Dan Ruth, the operatic voice on "An Act of God", Randy Purdie, the author of the lyric "Death Fairies" inspired by the comics piece in Iconoclast #2. Some guy that Joey's brother John brought down from Alexandria who said "Holy shit Batman" at the end of "Batman is Dead". And many more.....
Bob and Joey took off to New York City to visit Tony Taylor. He was staying in John Cusack's apartment in Greenwich Village while Mr. Cusack was filming in Europe. Roy wouldn't come with them for exact reasons that are still unknown. When they got there they were asked by connections of Tony if they would like to record in one of the major recording studios for a free demo and possible consideration for a record deal. When Bob called Roy with an urgent plea to come right away Roy turned him down. Bob hung up the phone and Roy was out of the band and Bob and Joey went home two weeks later empty handed. That's when Tom Hirsch joined the band.
Tom was a wild man. He was probably more explosive a guitar player than Roy and blessed with a lot of talent as a song writer but his talent was unbridled and his playing unpredictable. He wasn't focused on his artistry or on his life in general. He was a lady's man and a heavy partier. Steve Train re-joined because he admired Tom's playing and obviously missed playing in the band. They started practicing in a carpet warehouse that Joey worked in. Playing among the many rolls of carpet in the huge room gave an almost concert hall effect to the sound of the music and allowed the band more room to run around and pretend they were playing some big show. Libby Avenue was no more. The police came over it seemed before they could strike a single chord. The neighbors wanted Bob out! Joey had been living with a girl and her two kids for a couple of years and started changing his lifestyle. He became more and more withdrawn from the band and spent most of his time laying carpet and paying bills. The girl was a drug addict in denial. With the culmination of Joey's new life and the neighbors at Libby pushing Bob out of the picture the band went sour and Bob left with Tom and Tony lock stock and barrel to Hollywood, California. They drove across the country and ended up at the Hollywood Hotel. Joey remained in Richmond with the girl and her kids promising he would escape and join them soon. He didn't make it for three years. When Bob, Tony and Tom got there the bleak reality of Hollywood and the personal weaknesses of some of the band members started to take their toll. Tony started binging on crack and was stealing money to support his habit from Bob. A credit card was all they had left when Bob ejected Tony from the hotel room at gun point. Needless to say Tony left town soon after and ended up going back and forth from Virginia to Chicago, Illinois where he lives today. He tried to form a band with Robert and Joey back in Richmond called the Foreheads but it never got off the ground for the same reasons as before. Tom stayed on for about six months and one day just up and left with his father and they saw him two years later with some girl trying to start a band in Hollywood.
Bob was disgusted to say the least. He soon moved into the maid's quarters in a house in the Hollywood Hills up a long steep staircase. Bob started holding auditions for drummers first and went on auditions himself as a bass player hoping to get in a band and change the direction if it didn't already match his own to that of the former Rude Awakening. He acquired a drummer by the name of Steve Bernardino and on one of his auditions as a bass player he found Frankie Chance who was auditioning for the same band. The band liked Bob but didn't want Frankie. Bob wanted Frankie but didn't want the band. Bob, Steve and Frankie found a guitar player named Pete Hinkle. Pete liked the band because they were willing to do improvisational material and long "space jams' and most of the bands in Hollywood were aiming for a specific kind of song or genre and were not interested in exploration as much as exploitation. Steve soon became a Christian /crack addict and went his own way. The guys remaining auditioned drummers and found Kai Ballard the drummer on "Wake Up and Smell the Pavement" the band's second album. Tony (Tiny Bubbles) Biuso had auditioned prior to Kai but had to leave town unexpectedly. When he returned he replaced Kai because Kai needed and already did make money as a session player. Tiny fit in more and the band was rolling again.
They started gigging as a band and wrote a lot of material that was to end up on subsequent demos. Pete Hinkle, an accomplished guitarist quit and went on to do a lot of session work including the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" soundtrack. Kai went on to do session work and a network television appearance with Snoop Doggy Dog on "Saturday Night Live". Next they got Jim Hill, a guitarist from Waterloo, New York that who went to G.I.T. and knew Tiny from P.I.T. Jim liked Pete Hinkel's guitar playing and Roy Schneider's songwriting very much. That's probably why he joined the band aside from his friendship with Tiny Bubbles. This lineup lasted two years. They did a national tour in a beat up mobile home that was designed to sleep two with a crazy road manager Chris the brother of their personal manager Lesa Arrey.
They played probably thirty gigs in forty five days ending back in Hollywood when things started to fall apart again. Frankie and some of the other band members started to get into drugs, hard drugs. Frankie was the only one it seemed to bother at least to the point of losing control and one night before a sold out show at the F.M. Station he could not be found. The band rule was and is that if you miss a gig without a life or death excuse you are out. As much as Bob and the others loved Frankie the decision had been made. Frankie was out.
They started auditioning vocalists again and went through a lot. Jim got in a fist fight with a singer named Chance because Jim didn't want him in the band and Chance wanted to be in the band. Chance threw one of his effect pedals out of a third story window and Jim jumped him and ended up having to be peeled off him before the cops arrived. They ended up settling on a singer named Eric who Jim didn't want to play with so Jim quit and went home to upstate New York to visit and while he was gone they found Bob 'Sage' Vantera. When Jim got back he went to see the band with Sage and Eric and after the gig was over they kicked Eric out of the band and took Jim back and now they were happy but back to square one in the singer category. Sage recommended one of his home town buddies Mike Place for the job and they flew him out from upstate New York where he, Jim and Sage by some coincidence came from.
It was magic from the start. Mike was a musical genius who they later found out had a full scholarship to Julliard and turned it down. He learned ten songs in three days having written lyrics to two during the same period. He was also a virtuoso guitar player and keyboardist with an I.Q. of over 170. The two weeks he was in the band came to a climax when they performed what Bob calls "the best gig ever" at Florentine Gardens where it was somehow completely packed and by the end of the show people were literally throwing money and going into convulsions. He left the next week because he missed his girlfriend who Sage had had along with the rest of the town musicians. They never saw him again. There is a four song demo that the band recorded with him that was so good that John Kalodner of Geffen records called their message service to congratulate them on being "almost there."
It wasn't long before the remaining band members were back on the trail auditioning singers. And it wasn't long before they found Robert Gaston and prepared another national tour. Bob sent the demo with Mike on it to Joey in Richmond where he was winding down from his seven year stint as a codependent provider and had been talking to Bob off and on about coming to Hollywood and starting his own band he was going to call Fleshrocket. Joey played the tape continuously for a month before he finally flew out to Hollywood. When he got to Hollywood he was angered to find out that Mike had left and that Robert was in the band. Robert was a good singer and very serious about his music but didn't quite live up to the likes of Mike Place. But Joey booked the 28 gig tour by phone. Within two weeks or so, they were off. They bought a Ford school bus and took out the seats and loaded the equipment and headed for New Mexico. Joey was the road manager. It was yet another bumpy budget tour and they barely made it back after a month and a half. The bus had only broken down once in Texas with a flat tire.
When they got back they finished up the "Bent to Our Will" demo and Lisa and Bob started shopping for a deal. Joey began auditioning as a song writer while auditioning people for his Fleshrocket project. After about six months Tiny started hanging with Del James, one of Guns 'n' Roses songwriters and going to Hollywood parties. Before long he hooked up with a group called "Bad Example" said to be backed by the Guns n' Roses clan. He left the band. Joey wanted back in but Jim was unsure because of the time Joey had spent out of the business and he really didn't like his drumming very much. But Joey borrowed a drum kit and practiced hours on end and finally auditioned for the same band he helped to start and barely got the job back.
A year later Lisa and Bob got the band a deal with an independent label called Statue Records. In the mean time Sage left the band and Bob and Joey went and auditioned John Goodwin, or he auditioned them. He was a seasoned guitar player and song writer having worked with x members of Megadeth before they were famous. They got some new material together and began recording the "Silent Cry" album at the Statue studio in Studio City. After the album was done they had high hopes for a couple of the songs and started doing a lot of shows to gain more recognition. They did a lot of great shows getting good reviews every time they were written up. Their following started to grow as the frequency of their shows increased but they were getting no help from the record company and started to doubt Statue's intent. They were holding up the master recordings and doing nothing with them so Lisa and Bob sued Statue for control of the masters and an undisclosed amount of money. During the same time MTV was airing a morning show called the "Rude Awakening Morning Show" so they sued MTV for an undisclosed amount of money to stop the broadcast since they had the federal and state trademark registered.
Although they were two for two in court they were no nearer to their goal except for the following they had developed. About a year since they had recorded the album they were playing on a jam night at the "Country Club" in Reseda and after the show Robert Gaston announced he's quitting to form his own band in San Diego called "Talisman". So they were once again in search of a singer. They auditioned several over a period of two or three months when they found Vinnie Black. He only lasted a month and he never really fit in anyway but they may have tried harder to hold onto him had they known that it would take eight more months to find another singer. Before they found him they worked with a singer named Jason. An excellent singer but deemed too commercial and not dark enough after a month and several trips to Signet Studios. Mike Simpson, a business relation of Bob, was a recording engineer at Signet Sound in Hollywood. During the time they were without a singer he took an interest in the band and started recording the many songs that they had written in the eight months following Gaston. This helped to keep the band in a productive mode during a crucial period and because of this relatively low cost and uninhibitive scenario the band went through its most prolific stage, inspired by a brief brush with success and the anger at the business itself. It was during that time that they found their present vocalist, Mitch Urban.
If you were to read a history of Mitch Urban and his life until Rude A. it would read much like you have read here. In and out but never quite giving up. He must have been the hundredth singer they had auditioned in the last eight months and patience was wearing thin. He was from Washington State and all over. The last serious band he was in was Tempest Fugit out of Florida but when they ran out of money in the middle of recording their last demo he left for Hollywood. In Hollywood he looked around half heartedly for over two years before he responded to an ad in a music rag. It didn't take long to make the decision after hearing Mitch. A no frills balls out singer with good writing ability.
They immediately took Mitch into Signet where they recorded their self produced E.P. "Headbutter" and put it out along with Silent Cry on compact disc and they are both available but not widely distributed yet.
After playing several shows with Mitch including a sold out show with Megadeth and Corrosion of Conformity to over six thousand people at the Orange Showgrounds, compliments of a connection Joe Schultz, that one of the Rude Roadies, Jeff " Lockneed" Grommitt knew from Orange County, they started getting bigger shows. They played a showcase for the industry at the Lakewood Hop in Lakewood, Ca. and attracted a producer named Lee Popa and an investor named Matt Kern. The band met with Popa about producing a record for them at the Foundations Forum rock convention. Lee saw the potential immediately. He went on to produce the band's current effort "Scaring the Paper People". Lee was instrumental in finding the new more up-to-date sound and for actually arranging 90% of the music on the album from the songs they had been playing most recently.
Now Rude Awakening along with Lee and Matt are forming a production company by the name of NIDUS to handle the band's career and license the album to record companies around the world. NIDUS also handles other artists and is a multimedia company comprised of entertainment industry veterans who in coming together hope to break new ground in the business. The future of Rude Awakening has never looked brighter and the band appreciates your interest and looks forward to jamming in your face very soon.
And that's how I see it!
Joey Ballard, Rude Drummer