The mad ambition of this weekend's Wilmore 9 Festival is nearly impossible to grasp. Over three days, dozens of films will be screened, including From the Heart of Brahma, a documentary about Cambodian Classican dancer, teacher, and queer performance artist, Prumsodun Ok, and the much anticipated premiere of The Game Don't Change (Just The Players). There will be pro skateboarders in a pop up skate park, theater, comedy, live art, an art gallery exhibition, and scads of food trucks.
There will also be lots of music, spread out over three stages. The ever popular Dovelles and Matteran Ghost will be performing at Shea Newkirk's LB Independent stage, and So Many Wizards will rock the Beer Garden. One band that caught my eye, though, is Dumb Love, who will be playing in the MADhaus on Saturday at 2:55PM.
Bassist Gregory Coates was an important part of the Long Beach music scene for many years, playing in many significant local bands, helping to support the community, and was a key member of the sadly defunct World of Strings repair team. Greg is one of those massively talented guys who works steadily, doing in-studio tech work for Gene Simmons, for example, and in demand as a session player.
Dumb Love arose from the ashes of Bangkok Five, where Greg and guitarist Brian Murphy had worked together. He envisioned it as a power trio, completed by drummer Nick Lucero, who's currently on tour with Peter Murphy. Greg's friend, Thinking Aloud singer/guitarist Mark Lira, had material he thought would fit the group.
"It kinda progressed from a trio that was really spacy and vibey, into a quartet that had a bit more punk/street edge. We rolled into a studio in East LA that was all analog and were ready to throw down, essentially capturing our template for the Dumb Love sound.
"Incidentally, our very first gig was booked by Mark Bixby for the bicycle race/fest downtown in 2010. Love Mark. What a guy. I really feel for Brett and his family.
"Later that night we played to a packed crowd at The Prospector, an interesting mix of Thinking Aloud, Bangkok Five fans and LB luminaries."
As the band began to coalese, playing shows all over Southern California, Nick's touring schedule with Peter Murphy began to hint at his impending departure.
"We recorded more and more songs but, because Nick didn't seem to "see" what we had like the rest of us did, we naturally drifted and had to get a dedicated drummer, Kevin Kapler, who I found from my years of jamming in Hollywood jam sessions. He's the baby of the band, but he was raised by Bruce Kapler, a 28 year veteran of the Letterman/CBS Orchestra. Needless to say, Kevin grew up around the hottest session players in NYC, and it shows. It was like seeing a great, over-qualified high school football player play, then plucking him out, and sending him directly to the NFL.
"It's been much more aggressive and energetic since then. Don't get me wrong. Nick Lucero is one of the most creative and musical rock drummers on the planet. I've seen Queens of the Stone Age drummers, including Grohl, struggle with wrapping their heads around Lucero's unorthodox and left-field drum parts."
Greg describes Dumb Love's sound as approaching a mix of mid-80s Seattle, Pixies, and Failure. Their live, in studio, demo has found love on KXLU, and fans at KCRW. Still, they're waiting to "pull the trigger."
"Brian had to move to Hawaii to be a good father to his - now - 5 year old son, and run a Live Nation venue in Honolulu, so it's kind of become a bit more of a sporadic kind of band. We played the Queen Mary last Halloween, which got us a nice spot on KTLA, as a trio. It's a bit different, but Brian supports it in an effort to push the music.
"Brian is returning to us in September, permanently, and we will ramp things up then. Pulling the trigger implies having all of your assets available on line, probably a booking agent and a real concentrated effort to focus on our demographic, which I see as college radio Coachella types. While we are a bit heavy handed for the hipsters, who I really couldn't care less about, there is a musicality that could pull in bigger ears. We will continue with Brian as soon as he returns. Brian has been racking up the miles flying back and forth, but this is, initially, his and my baby."
Greg grew up in Michigan, in a town called Vicksburg.
"I was a long haired, athletic farm boy who had an ultimately cool older sister who took me to definitive rock shows like Van Halen, AC/DC, and all of the early 80's iconic rock shows. My interest in playing started when I first put on the vinyl disc of Woodstock and heard Hendrix play "The Star Spangled Banner" about 100 times in a row. It freaked me out so hard. Then, I heard The Who and it was over.
"The first thing I remember playing was drums along with Tommy at a family friend's house. My family had no idea where I got my abilities from, since I'm the only musician in my entire extended family. Later on, my sister Tina sold me my first guitar.
"Honestly, the first song I ever learned was Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast,' which established me instantly as a hot shot, a shredder, phenom, whatever. I just really liked Iron Maiden. That got me into Steve Harris' influences, such as John Entwhistle, John Paul Jones, Geezer Butler, and Geddy Lee. All of that brought me to 'classic rock' and into cover bands almost over night. Solid, barely proficient bassists are in demand but, when you are viewed as a 'prodigy,' then weird rock dudes start showing up at your house to see if you wanna join their working bands and make some money, which I did. Kinda freaked my parents out a little bit...
"I had no idea, but my ears and hands did. Honestly, I feel like a very subconscious musician. It wouldn't be until High School Band, marching band, orchestra and Jazz Band that I would grasp theory and the 'rules' of music, which didn't really matter because I was already out there gigging, making money, and writing as well as recording originals with my best buddy at the time. There's a lot if time to woodshed in Michigan during the winter months, especially due to the existence of basements!!! Such a gift they were...
"Luckily, my band director was a drummer and a jazz fan. He gave me a stack of Mingus records and told me to play upright bass. He gave me my own private practice room and let me use the school amp to gig with. What a cool, nurturing fellow he was. Thanks, Mr. Ohrt!
"The upright really captivated me. It was - and is - a challenge and it made my electric playing supernatural, technically speaking. I see them as totally and completely separate entities.
"Going from straight 'ear' playing to reading was awkward because it affected my playing. After a while I got it, but I focused on the chord symbols more, because they gave me the outline of the melodies, so I could make my own! This is why I left the relatively 'dead' form of classical music and went deep end into the living art of Jazz.
"I ended up winning the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award from my school, and the Rotary as well the local Lions Club honored me, but gave me not one penny to pursue musical studies. It's safe to say, even with the Presidentially awarded schools I attended, music and art weren't treated like respectable careers unless you were going to be an educator. I could 'do,' so I wasn't going to teach. Then I moved to California with my family in 1989, right after high school and a year of dulldrums."
Partly out of sheer bordom, Greg, and his life long friend Dave Hathaway (aka Potroast), began to explore other kinds of music
"We really got into The Art of Noise, sampling, Thomas Dolby, a mutual lust for the first five Van Halen records, and copious amounts of weed, LSD, booze, flannel and partying while recording original music. I realized, early on, that playing other people's music is rewarding only on a monetary level. I needed to create and make my music. I heard that in Hendrix,who took blues and shook everyone's foundations like no one since.
"I started really getting turned on to progressive musicians. Mingus, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, and a Japanese bootleg entitled 'Unpronounceable' from a 1984 King Crimson show in Japan. That was a major paradigm shift for me, and a second wave of inspiration [that led to] mad woodshedding. This occurred right before I moved to Northern California. One of my friends, no longer with us, turned me on to Bowie, The Stooges, MC5, Roxy Music and all of the alternative gems out there. It launched me to Cali."
Greg soon discovered that Redding was not quite in alignment with the image of California he had imagined.
"I made the move to lovely scorching hot, meth-ed out redneck Christian fundamentalist, separatist-minded Redding with my family. Ugh. That's where I met Ken Bebensee, who was a luthier in the works, much like myself. I had learned, while being a young gigging musician, how to tweak guitars and basses from one if the top luthiers from Gibson/Heritage, who had a shop in my little burg. We started building and jamming, Which led me to San Luis Obispo and two of the most Bohemian, creative, and totally self-sufficient years of my life, which I had to give up,in order to move to Huntington Beach when my sister, Tina, to whom I owe a lot of my musical experience and inspiration, needed financial help. This is where the Twelvehourmary story begins, as well as my descent into the scumbag ridden world of the music industry."
Twelvehourmary was the brain child of Brett Bixby, the freakishly talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and masterful wordsmith who is currently touring with AM & Shawn Lee. Shortly after moving to Southern California, Greg found an ad in Guitar Center.
"The ad read, 'Looking for a bass player, influences: Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden (YES!!!!! My favorite band by this time, early'95) Janes Addiction and YOU.' It seemed to speak to me, so I called and spoke to Brett Bixby.
"Bear in mind that I left the central coast with a custom fretless bass, a huge Trace Elliot stack, a sampler, and a bunch of pedals that I was using to play my Peter-Gabriel-by-way-of-Primus-and-Miles-Davis acid rock. I immediately figured out the dropped D tuning, Helmet-meets-Sunny-Day-Real-Estate heavy melody of the Twelvehourmary gang. I dug the music, but what really got me was Brett's lyrics, and the masterful musicianship of Stu Richardson and Mark Romans. They weren't so sure about my Bohemian jam/improv head, so Brett took some convincing to let me join.
"That seemed to be the seed of the soon-to-be post-Sublime rock scene in Long Beach. Largely, credit should go to Liz Dilts for creating an amazing scene out of the Que Sera, along with Benz and Mo. All the while, Bong Leach was happening a few blocks away.
I got a job at World of Strings after playing with 12HM for a bit. I met Chris Hanlin through my band and seeing National People's Gang, as well as Bourbon Jones. It seemed like a perfect storm scenario... After getting the job at WOS, I felt like I had a finger on the pulse of everything happening musically in LB, OC, and some of LA.
"I was gifted an upright bass by Brett - which I paid back - because we were playing a lot of acoustic shows, which I felt was a really strong representation of that music. That led to me playing with Mickey Way, Eric Binkley, The Dibs, and Robert Deeble, then a bunch of recording sessions in LB and LA. At one point I was involved in seven acts, and it wasn't unheard of for me to play a show in LB, one in Pedro, then another in LA all in one night!"
By this time, Twelvehourmary had played the local Chili Cookoff, the Day of Music, and had a residency at The Roxbury.
"We had management out of New York and it looked like we were going to make a run for it. At the same time, I'm rocking with Mickey's Big Mouth, which had expanded to include Stu from 12HM, and Chris Hanlin, with whom I had formed The Dibs. Labels were sniffing all over the buzz that was Long Beach, and our forays into LA.
"My first deal was with Epic/Sony for Mickey's "Miller Genuine Draft party band," as it was described in the OC Weekly. This put a lot of stress on 12HM because Brett and Mark were watching half of their band go into the studio with Andy Johns, supposedly to make a record. I know that Stu and I had no intention of sabotaging 12HM because, other than Speaker, we were THE rock band in town that everyone else would have to measure up to. Needless to say, Andy was a great story teller and a legendary producer, but not the right guy for the organic soul-funk-folk stew that was Mickey's Big Mouth. When he plugged my upright bass in and mic'd my amp I knew we were in trouble. To this day I still haven't heard any of that Cherokee Studios recording."
The buzz surrounding Twelvehourmary was increasing and, with Greg playing in multiple bands, it was nearly impossible to go to a music show in Long Beach and not find him on stage. He also received some rather impressive accolades.
"I had just been named 'Sexiest Man In Long Beach' by the OC Weekly, which is truly hilarious to me. Scott Devours still calls me 'creamy skinned Coates' to bust my nuts once in a while. My stock was high and I started getting a number of calls to move into the LA scene, where I was told I should be.
"During one of Johnny Jones' Overhead Projector shows at Jillian's - now The Federal Bar - I was approached by Maverick Records, as well as a successful business type who said he wanted to get me in the studio and record some songs where I would do it all... because I can, I guess. He asked me what I wanted to do. Knowing Soundgarden had recently broke up, I said: 'I need to play with Chris Cornell.' He said, 'I know Susan very well.' So, here I am, about to go to New York to showcase for labels with 12HM and this guy is basically telling me that he can get my demo, an introduction, as well as an audition with Cornell.
"This is the pivotal point in my career, and one I reflect on daily, especially after having my career totally fucked by smaller minds and lesser talents. Loyalty. It's important. It's also a fine line you must walk in order to promote yourself. I've never mentioned this to Brett, Mark or Stu, but I chose them and our baby over a gig that I absolutely would've had. I know this. It was confirmed when I saw on Chris tour, and the lackluster turd he had on bass. I did it because of what I said earlier. I wanted to make my music, not someone else's.
"[If I had known] that the 12HM showcase would've produced nothing, which it did, I would've changed my mind and pursued my career. I'd be in a completely different place at this point. I think this was the tipping point for me and, soon after, I would leave 12HM because I didn't want to resent my beautiful, talented brothers in that band."
Greg rewinds a bit, here, and begins to wax nostalgiac about the Long Beach scene, and the evolution of what was known as the Bong Leach Collective.
"Being from a very industrial area ,between Detroit and Chicago, I really dug the blue collar, gritty vibe when I started lurking around the clubs, bars and local haunts of Long Beach. This is probably why I've spent the lion's share of my time in SoCal, living and working there. It was the bridge between the California I'd seen on tv and film, what was really there, and my blue collar/college town roots. It's also the reason I adopted the level of pride and D.I.Y. that the people have there."
In 1998 Greg was in the midst of a maelstrom of activity. He worked every day at World of Strings and, after that, there was non- stop gigging, practicing, recording, and drinking.
"During this time Mickey's Big Mouth played a packed showcase at The Mint on Pico, and some coked-out roid-head of a bouncer literally chucks my upright bass outside after the show. Johnny Jones, a good friend from my living at Mambo Studios where he worked, realized that my broken upright would be a serious detriment to the burgeoning music scene we were all cultivating, threw me a benefit to help raise money for the repair of my rather new bass.
"This is when I really started to see my impact on the scene that was blowing up. This is also when Matt Jacovides and Scott Devours of Speaker and The Bong Leach Collective stuck out their hands to say hello.
"So we go to their building on Orizaba, and they show us the stage and where they throw their shows, exhibitions of art, practice and basically crash, beer fridge and all. Brett, Scott, Matt and myself started talking, hanging out and decided we need to do some shows together, since we were both big, fat rock machines and we'd compliment each other well. The Que Sera would have a line around the block at times when we'd bring in a sub-woofer and serious p.a. to supplement the punk rock set-up they had.
"All of the bands I was in would play at these shows, obviously Twelvehourmary, often times MBM, and very often a version of the Dibs would play, as well as LA bands like Theodore, later The Inclined, and sometimes Shave, whom I loved. Blue Dot, Lisa Lonzello, Lili de la Mora and a slew of locals would do their thing.
"It became obvious that we needed to "do our own thing" if we were having to bring in a proper p.a. to get our Oh-So-Large Rock music across to a literally steaming room full of drunk and drugged sweaty, sexy people...
"12HM was practicing there, and we were joined at the proverbial hip with Speaker and gang. Speaker was working on their record for Capricorn at the time with Uber talented Rich Mouser, and they needed one more song to complete it, which resulted in Brett and Matt penning a song together that had me on bass, doing my best Tony Levin impersonation, and Brett on the Rhodes and backing vocals.
"[The Bong Leach space on] Orizaba got shut down because it was just too tempting for the cops to roll by and see someone hanging outside, smoking, drinking, and puking. Shortly thereafter, the building was condemned. So our friend, Deyo Glines of National People's Gang and the Fuz, found us this building over in no-man's-land on the west side of the 710.
"I remember walking into this greasy cavern covered with machinery run-off and rat hair, with nasty-ass spiders all over, and setting up for our very first Twelvehourmary rehearsal there. Spiders were driven out of the ceiling tiles and the dust was eaten by the slick humidity of the wasteland beneath our feet. My bass cabs still have some of that filth on the bottom of them to this day.
"A large moving truck pulled up in front of Mambo studios, which had been somewhat resurrected by the efforts of Twelvehourmary and Dave "Potroast" Hathaway, resulting in The Mambo Sessions and a parade of other bands following suit with the same 'live' recording ethos that the groovy old wooden room provided.
"Little did I know that Matt had plans for me. Everyone grabbed my humble belongings and we moved me out of the building where Potroast and Chris Hanlin shared our separate living quarters with Mambo Recording and Live Sound. My first real loft living experience! It was pretty cool, except for the three murders across the street, and a tweaker who lurked about at times.
"So I grabbed the upper corner room since I didn't have much in the way of furniture, and settled into the building that legendary Long Beach percussionist Stephen Hodges defined as 'that place where they used to shoot porn and throw weird parties at in the '70's.' It was kinda cold, nearing the end of the year, and every time a truck drove by on the way to the docks, or maybe to the ultra-seedy strip joint, Angels, a huge gust of cold air would burst through the walls and shiver me to my bones.
"It was dark and dank and spooky, but it was my new home and the beginning of the coolest musical enclave outside of the Seattle scene, minus the fame and Hollywood-ization of the last great movement in music."
The MADhaus is located at 624 Pacific Avenue. Tickets and information about the Wilmore 9 Festival can be found at Wilmore9.com. Follow Dumb Love on Facebook.