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The History Of Wildside


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Has anyone checked out the 6-part series written by Benny Rhynedance? It's up on the band's Wildside Facebook page. Started months ago and released monthly, this is a nice very in depth story of the how the band was born and all through the recording of Under The Influence. And of course, the fall of Wildside.

 

I will copy and paste here. It's a long story so I will post each part separately. Enjoy the read!!

 

Part 1

 

The History of WildSide... Part 1
WILDSIDE·THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2016

 

“Welcome to L.A. - You’re Fucked.”

 

Hey all, this is Benny Rhynedance here. As a founding member of WildSide, and official band historian, I get lots of requests as to how WildSide started as a band, how we got a record deal, and questions about what it was like to be a part of the Sunset Strip Hollwood Hair Metal Scene at its peak, back in the 80’s. Well, here’s Part 1 of 5 - A peek inside WildSide’s role in Hollywood hard rock hair metal history... :)

 

The origins of WildSide start way back in 1982 in Seattle, Washington. Singer Drew Hannah and I went to high school together in a little town just outside of Seattle, called Issaquah. I had grown up there my whole childhood, but Drew was a teenage Seattle area transplant from Studio City, CA. He was playing some guitar and singing in a local rock cover band called Crossfire, and they played here and there. I thought they were good, and I really wanted in on it, but there was no room for me. I knew I could get Drew to go with me if we could get the right thing going. He and I had jammed a few times at his house, and aside from being waterskiing, Iron Maiden loving, girl chasing, fishing buddies, we had mutual musical tastes as well. The two of us were in the same AC/DC, Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Halen, Motley Crue mindset, and suited to be in a band together.

 

After high school graduation in ‘83 at Issaquah , and a year of college at a military academy, I decided to leave college to become a rockstar. <gulp!> I came back to Seattle, found Drew and we started a top 40 cover band called NuProphet. We played high school dances, and opened up for various bands in Seattle bars, as underage teens. Not exactly rock stardom. It was cool, and our first taste at what being in front of a crowd and playing onstage was like. We wanted to be like Van Halen, Ratt, Motley Crue, etc. Problem was, we were playing Flock of Seagulls, and Kajagoogoo. It wasn’t working. We looked like metal but were playing new wave and pop music. We worked very hard, rehearsed a lot, honed our craft for 2 years, got a booking agency, and played a decent amount of shows. In all actuality, we had aquired a fair bit of seasoning for such a young band of teen dudes.

 

By 1986, many years before grunge had its day, we knew we weren’t going to get anywhere just playing cover gigs in Seattle. We had lofty ambitions and had outgrown the city. We figured out that we needed to be where the bands were getting signed if we wanted a shot at a real music career. Los Angeles was in the midst of a metal explosion, where it was all happening, the metal mecca, and we wanted to be a part of it. We replaced a member or two, became more hard rock, wrote some original songs, and changed the band name to ROGUE. (which people ALWAYS mispronounced as Rouge! Nooo! lol) We decided to pack up our Datsun’s and high tail it to Hollywood in May of 1986.

 

Showing up in L.A. was a total shock. We were broke, and suddenly without any safety net. Welcome to adulthood the hard way! All five of us guys in ROGUE stayed in a one bedroom apartment in Northridge, out in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. The summer of 1986 was sweltering hot, and we spent almost every day at Zuma Beach, north of Malibu, boogie boarding, tanning, chasing Valley girls, and planning our rock assault on the world. (lol)

 

The competition between bands for record company interest in L.A. was fierce, and that itself is an understatement. Bands were all over the place trying to do the same thing we were trying to do. It was crazy. We’d never seen anything like it. The Sunset Strip from N. Clark St. at The Whisky, past The Roxy and The Rainbow, to N. Doheny Dr. at Gil Turner’s, just past Gazzarri’s, was standing room only every single night. Scantily clad girls were everywhere and hair-sprayed rocker dudes were in full force. These were the famous, most nightly foot traffic’d three blocks on W. Sunset Blvd. Poison, Warrant, Guns-N-Roses, L.A. Guns and many more were all out on the strip many nights, and you would end up walking past these guys a few times a night on Sunset as you passed out your band flyers promoting your own upcoming shows. Anything and everything happened during those nights on the Strip. It was whatever your imagination thinks it was, times ten. We spent a lot of time inside The Rainbow bumming pizza off people, and the occasional free beer. It was WILD, to say the least!

 

Our band ROGUE had assimilated into Hollywood fairly well, and was gaining a little ground on the Hollywood scene. We endured the famous Hollywood clubs Pay-To-Play promoter rip-off, and built a small local following in the process. Drew and I both knew it wasn’t going to last though. Lost in Hollywood hair metal obscurity, ROGUE broke up with two of the guys leaving in late 1987, followed by the third in early ‘88. Setback. That left just Drew and I - and then there were two. Now what?

 

Not backing down, the two of us forged ahead and decided to start a new band and add another guitarist to the mix. I met Brent Woods one of the first days after we arrived in L.A., meeting at a mutual Reseda rehearsal place in the valley. Brent was a friend of ours, someone we saw a few times a week, and in a competing band. Brent and I used to shop on Melrose Ave. for stage clothes. He was the only guy I knew in 1987 that had a cell phone! (It was HUGE and it cost like $10/min to use it! lol) He drove a brand new black Celica Supra. Impressive. He was totally cool.

 

We asked Brent if he would be interested in jamming with us. He was down, but he was also in like 3 bands at the time. We started jamming a bit with a new drummer, a great bassist named Kevin Hillary (went on to Quiet Riot - RIP Kevin/Kenny), myself and Brent on guitar, and Drew, of course, on lead vocals. We all hit it off immediately, and wrote some exciting new riffs as a unit. It felt like a great start, like it was something serious. There was some definite magic happening between us all and a renewed hope that maybe there was still a chance. We called ourselves THE BOYZ for about 5 minutes, until we found out that George Lynch had a band called that in the late 70’s. Then it was YOUNGBLOOD. Naw, that wouldn’t work either. We decided on YOUNG GUNNS (before the movie was ever out) and started the process of becoming a pro band striving for a recording contract...

 

Differing Opinion Disclaimer : “The History of WildSide written here is MY point of view on how things happened for my band. Others in the band may have seen it differently and experienced different things, and I can respect their interpretations of our history. This however, is how I saw it, and what I experienced. Rock on.” - Benny Rhynedance

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The History of WildSide... Part 2
WILDSIDE·FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016

 

“So Ya Wanna Be A Rock Star…”

Part 2 of 5 begins… Benny Rhynedance here again. Let’s recap. Myself, and high school bud & metal music mate Drew Hannah, played all over Seattle as teenagers during the earlier 80’s, in our cover band NuProphet. In 1986 we decided we wanted to move to L.A. and become rich and famous rock stars. We got this! Yeah, right. Ha! Our Seattle band ROGUE made a very little dent on the Sunset Strip metal mayhem music scene. By 1988, ROGUE had broken up completely, and it was just Drew and I starting all over again from square one. Noooo! We recruited Brent Woods and started a new project in a new direction. Here’s where things started to get interesting. In the end of ‘87, early ’88, Drew and I made a series of decisions together that put us on the right track to where we originally wanted go. Thank God, after so many wrong turns and screw ups since arriving in L.A. two years prior… Enter YOUNG GUNNS 1988…

Drew, Brent and I were really tearing it up as far as songwriting was concerned, and just getting along as mutual artists, bandmates and rock-n-roll buddies. In ROGUE, I would write all the music, and Drew would add lyrics. In the new project it was three of us. Brent wrote some good musical riffs. I would add on to those riffs and ideas with either musical verse ideas or Chorus hooks/riffs. Drew would drive around Hollywood at night in his Suzuki Samurai writing lyrics to our musical demos. I’d help him finish lyrics if he got writer’s block, got stumped, or couldn’t finish rhymes. In the beginning times, the three of us were a good team when it came to songwriting.

Things had taken on a new purpose, and there was a truly different feel to what we were doing as YOUNG GUNNS. The songs had become more “rock-like” and were sounding like professionally written and arranged material that you’d hear on the radio. All of us could hear it and feel it when we rehearsed. It was an interesting dynamic to experience. Lots of inspiration. I think it was our Eureka! moment/breakthrough. We had stopped worrying about playing The Whisky, Roxy, Gazzarri’s, or The Country Club. Stopped worrying about handing out flyers. Less partying and Valley girl chasing. We put down the hair spray cans, and wiped off the guy-liner. The focus became about writing really well-crafted head banging rock anthems, and becoming tuned into getting a recording contract with a major label. We rehearsed about 5X a week. It was like a second job.

It seemed as if record execs were signing metal bands nightly. The second wave of metal from the Sunset Strip had arrived. Poison, GNR, L.A. Guns, Warrant etc. were already signed and super successful. Each of us in the band had been around L.A. and knew what the game was about. This was the reason Drew and I came to Los Angeles in 1986. Record companies were here, and A&R reps and VP’s were in the audience every single night, with the company check book in hand, looking for the next big thing.

Throughout 1988 and into 1989, YOUNG GUNNS rehearsed like mad men. Brent still played in 2 other bands, and drove Drew and I crazy with his ability to spread himself around. We wanted him to be 100% in our gang. That situation was starting to get a little testy. Drummers were coming and going. Musical chairs! Our bass player Kevin Hillary who started out in Mickey Knight, then joined us after MK broke up, decided one day, along with the input of his then current g/f, that YG “weren’t going anywhere.” He announced one day, out of the blue, after rehearsal was over, that he was quitting effective immediately. That one shocked me. We all liked Kevin a lot. He was a cool guy, played great, and had the look. We tried talking him back in, but he was adamant that he was out. Kevin went on a few years later to join up with Kevin DuBrow from QUIET RIOT, changed his name to Kenny, and played in HEAT and the early 90’s return of QUIET RIOT. Kevin passed away in 1996. Too soon. RIP Kevin Hillary. Great guy.

Drew and I were living together in this run down $400/mo. One room jr. studio apt. in North Hollywood (NoHo). Drew slept on a twin mattress in the kitchen area. Hilariousness. That dusty cockroach hole was our base of operations for the empire. “YOUNG GUNNS Mansion West” is what we called it. We began looking for a new bassist. Of course we had been through about three different drummers already. Drummer changes happening every few months. Ugh! We used a local paper called The Recycler. Every musician picked it up and read it all the time. Mick Mars got into Motley Crue this way. You could sell/buy gear and see who was looking for a band or was available in the music section. We met and auditioned a few guys at YG Mansion West. Then one day this skinny guy with long brown curly hair showed up, carrying a briefcase, wearing a Miami Vice type 80’s suitcoat and matching pants, looking like a Colombian drug lord and driving a kick ass red convertible Corvette. WTF? This guy was Marc Simon, and he was cool as all get out. Formerly the bassist of super glam Strip band St. Valentine, Marc was looking to join a hard rockin band with no hairspray or makeup. I saw the Vette, and I immediately thought HELL YES, HE’S IN! Turns out Marc could play, had killer bass gear, and a warehouse to rehearse in! Cha ching! Done.

Now that Marc was in the band, things went up another notch. We had a new place to rehearse in Burbank that we shared with TUFF, LEGS DIAMOND, and ST. THOMAS (Marc’s old singer from St. Valentine). The place was a giant warehouse with everyone’s gear all set up 24/7. It was totally killer. No more hauling around Marshall stacks in our Datsun trucks! Yes!

Brent Woods was still moonlighting with his other band projects, much to the chagrin of Drew and I. He was hedging his bets. If YOUNG GUNNS sucked/failed, Brent would still have something else to continue on with. We understood his thinking, didn’t like it, but understood it. I think the new rehearsal space opened Brent’s eyes a bit. YG went up another level. We just kept getting more and more professional as time went on. Brent finally came around after one of his other side projects crapped out. I think Drew might have threatened to kick his ass if Brent didn’t go “all in” with us. Lol. We were looking like the one band that was gonna go all the way. The vibe was there. You could smell it.

We finally locked into a good drummer. This guy named Johnny Dean met up with Drew and I at a little music club in NoHo that everyone hung out at during the week, called FM Station. Johnny was a David Lee Roth kind of character to a tee, but also resembled Axl Rose. Total rock star. He was missing his back molar teeth, which I found odd. Johnny had a real street sense to him, big time swagger and a huge, fun personality. You couldn’t not love this guy. He made us all laugh every few minutes. He seemed very mature, yet he was a ton of fun. His drumming style was real loose and trashy and fit into our sleazy Hollywood style of anthem rock.

YOUNG GUNNS was ready to test our brand of hard rock back out in the clubs on Sunset Blvd. We had rehearsed forever. We had written some strong material, plus we all had the itch to go back out and be onstage to see the crowd reaction and attempt to have our blossoming egos stroked. 1989 had us playing all over the place. We became regulars on Monday nights at The Whisky when they held their “No Bozos Jam Night.” Somebody at The Whisky thought we were cool, and had us playing there all the time. Fine by us. That tiny corner stage was/is legendary. Jim Morrison stood on that stage. Hendrix rocked that place. Most of rock-n-roll’s legendary figures went through the Sunset Strip at some point on the timeline. We began to develop a following, or rather, people started to hear our name around and thought we were going someplace.

As 1990 began, we had recorded a decent quality demo tape and had that ready to go for record company consideration. It wasn’t album quality or perfect in any sense, but it had the essence of what we were about. Thing was, we didn’t have a way to get it accepted by anyone at any major label. You couldn’t just walk into a record label and hand them your tape. They were already getting thousands upon thousands of tapes and packages every month from hopeful bands around the country. Rarely would any single one of those tapes be heard by anyone. Most went straight into the dumpster. That’s what they meant by NO UNSOLICITED MATERIAL. What we needed was to be solicited by someone! Ah Ha! That was when we figured out it’s not how great you are in Hollywood, it’s about who you know. Did anyone have an uncle or cousin that was head of a record label? Any receptionist girlfriends at Geffen? Nope! Dang.

After another No Bozo Monday Night jam night at The Whisky in February of 1990, this guy named Tony came backstage and introduced himself as a scout for a “manager” that was looking for a good band to take on. Tony thought we were definitely that band. Cool. This got us excited. Interest. Good! Tony was legit, unlike the endless psychos that would claim to be this or that, then try and get you to take naked pictures for them or some other crazy scenario (there were always lots of those nutballs around in Los Angeles). Lol. The manager Tony worked for was a guy named Barry Levine. Barry was a semi-famous gifted photographer in the 70’s who exclusively photographed KISS and many celebrities. He was originally a guy from Brooklyn, tough, and resembled a Robert De Niro type. His area of expertise was shooting in a way that made the photo look as if it was airbrushed, when it wasn’t. He did a great shot of a half-naked Cher that looked awesome.

By 1990, in his late 40’s, Barry had turned to management and music supervision for films to make a living. We all had a meeting with Barry at his “office” in Hollywood, which was actually a small one-bedroom apt. where he lived. Things seemed fairly normal as we all shook hands and sat down on his old ratty couch. As he began to spin his vision for us, something seemed weird with Barry. He was a talker. He was really slick. He was missing teeth and had dentures up top. Hmm. There was that used car salesman vibe with him. He had the gift of gab, but I could tell he had never managed anyone before. I wasn’t buying it. I was thinking, “Oh great, another Hollywood weirdo…” Then, Barry uttered the famous phrase : “Guys, I will get you a record deal in six months and I guarantee it.” At that moment, Barry was our manager. Legitimacy concerns or not, this guy was telling us he could deliver the band our dreams in six months. We had to give him that shot. Besides all that, Barry was personal friends with KISS!

Within Barry’s first month of managing us, he turned an eye towards Johnny Dean. He didn’t like Johnny and thought he was a weak link. Barry knew what we didn’t… that Johnny was an addict and much older than he told us he was. Johnny had flaked out on us before at a few rehearsals and he almost missed a show once, but after Barry started in on him, Johnny just fell off the deep end. Missing rehearsal after rehearsal, and disappearing for days, even a week or more at a time. It wasn’t until I tracked him down in a seedy motel on Ventura Blvd. during one of his disappearing acts, exactly what the severity of his problems were. Barry was dead set on having Johnny gone, and told us Johnny would slow us down and possibly derail our plans. JD was a great guy when he was clean and sober, but he wouldn’t accept anyone’s help to get straightened out. Bad timing for him to have all his hidden demons exposed. Once again, YOUNG GUNNS was without a drummer.

After two or three drummer auditions, Jim Darby from San Bernardino drove up to our rehearsal warehouse in his brand new Nissan Pathfinder. Good entrance. Behind it was a 16’ trailer. Wtf? All of his drum gear was inside it. Jimmy jumped out, looking like a Sammy Hagar doppelganger, and shook all our hands like a boss, while his drum tech set up his drum kit and gear. Drum tech? WHAT? He was IN right there! Jimmy had a drum endorsement deal already, and had his own small P.A. system for just his drums, as he triggered each single drum. We’d never had a drummer like this. The guy sounded like Rick Allen from Def Leppard and looked like a surfer with wild super curly sun-bleached hair. We were beyond impressed and basically floored at how pro Jimmy was. About 2 seconds into the first song we played, it was obvious that Jim was THE SHIT. He had impeccable timing. Didn’t waiver and was rock solid and fluid. Marc and Jimmy locked into delivering a thunderous foundation. The songs sounded better than ever. Jimmy’s drum fills were awesome. Drew, myself, Brent and Marc all had gigantic grins on our faces. We couldn’t stop smiling. Jimmy sounded ridiculously killer, and made the whole band sound tight and very big. I think it was Marc or Brent that decided to call Jimmy “Father Time” because of how perfect he was with his tempo. Up another notch! Turns out Jimmy had been in a signed band called NRG, and had been working with Kane Roberts from Alice Cooper. Jimmy fit right in with us. Here it was…YOUNG GUNNS perfected.

All of us felt like the line up was perfect, and that YOUNG GUNNS was firing on all 8 cylinders. Morale was huge. We had a manager using his industry connections, (what connections??) and making calls on our behalf. We were on the highest Hollywood level any of us had ever been on. Movin and shakin! The buzz on YOUNG GUNNS was growing. That’s what you need in Hollywood, a buzz, the “Perception of Greatness,” and Who You Know. Barry Levine had about 5 months or a little less to make good on his promise and get us a major label recording contract… It was starting to feel like it just might happen...

 

Differing Opinion Disclaimer : “The History of WildSide written here is MY point of view on how things happened for my band. Others in the band may have seen it differently and experienced different things, and I can respect their interpretations of our history. This however, is how I saw it, and what I experienced. Rock on.” - Benny Rhynedance

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The History of WildSide... Part 3
WILDSIDE·MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2016

 

“The VAN HALEN connection, Record-Breaking Record Deals, and peeing next to an Icon...”

Part 3 of 5 or 6 begins… Benny here… Let’s keep it rollin… This is where it gets interesting. So, the year is 1990 now. Drew and I have been plugging away in the music game for six years. We’ve been in Hollywood together for four years, and Brent Woods, finally committed to us, has been a triad partner in crime with YOUNG GUNNS for the last year and a half. Life is good. We got “low end specialist” Marc Simon on bass, and Jimmy D on drums and “heavy artillery.” It is the complete ass kicking Hollywood rock band line up. We aren’t WildSide quite yet, but we’re getting awfully close. Individually and collectively, all five of us have played all the clubs you can play in Hollywood, and been 100% immersed in the total 80’s Sunset Strip scene, from top to bottom - Sunset Strip veterans. We’ve all lived the L.A. scene lifestyle to the max for years. YOUNG GUNNS has a decent Sunset Strip following and a buzz is going around town, and we’ve just secured a “management team” working on our behalf to make us “rock superstars.” It is definitely happening. Enter CAPITOL RECORDS…

By March of 1990, our new manager Barry Levine was working hard for the band to get some record company recognition. We’d been playing a variety of shows around Hollywood, including The Roxy, Gazzarri’s and The Whisky, regularly on Monday nights, and other newer clubs like Xposeur on Santa Monica Blvd. and Spice Club on Hollywood Blvd. We were really busy. Barry had us do a photo shoot with William Hames, who was a great Hollywood photographer, and a guy that had shot some really good photos for our friends in TUFF. (they always had great band photos that everyone envied) I think it was Stevie Rachelle who had suggested we go see William, as Stevie knew everybody. Seeing the finished photos from the shoot with Hames was the first time I looked at a band pic I was in, and said, “Yeah man, this looks legit, this is pro!” We’d shot a session or two with the legendary Neil Zlozower, (early Van Halen fame) and the pics were great, but they were only quick location shoots in Hollywood alleys and such, so we hadn’t really received the full in-studio Zlozower treatment yet. (Neil would later go on to be our go-to-guy for band photos, magazines, gear ads etc. – awesome dude!)

After a particularly good night on a Monday No Bozo Jam Night at The Whisky, a well-dressed older guy in a suit came upstairs into our dressing room. As we sat around drinking beers and looking down on Sunset Boulevard from the top floor of the Whisky, this distinguished gentleman introduced himself as Dennis Rider, Attorney At Law. Dennis was an entertainment lawyer and kind of resembled Richard Gere from that movie Primal Fear. He knew Brent from one of Brent’s other band projects, had heard we were at The Whisky on Mondays, caught YOUNG GUNNS buzz gossip, and came down to check us out. Dennis liked what he heard. We explained to him that we had a manager and that the two of them should get together and form a “record deal think tank” for us. Smelling money, and being the smart guy that he was, that is exactly what Dennis did.

With our new band pics, and a recent demo tape of a few tunes including Just Another Night, Hair of The Dog, and the YOUNG GUNNS hits, Dance Swing and City of Love that Brent, myself, and Drew had written, Dennis hit the pavement. He knew a lot of the VP’s of A&R at some of the largest record companies around. This is what we needed. Fresh off the heels of negotiating the Love/Hate band record contract with Columbia, Dennis made his way into A&R departments all over Hollywood. Before we knew it, Polygram, Capitol, Columbia, and MCA were interested in YOUNG GUNNS. Our heads were spinning. From not being able to get arrested in Hollywood, to major interest, almost overnight. Things were moving pretty quick here. Dennis Rider made it look so simple. He’d walk in, say hi to the receptionist, glad hand a VP, hand over our press kit and take the guy to lunch. Dennis was smooth and could sell ice to eskimos. Shortly after the lunch meetings around Hollywood, our manager Barry Levine would follow up by phone about how we were received by the record company. After another live show, Columbia bowed out. We still had three labels interested and the news about this was everywhere. YOUNG GUNNS were in play and about to be bought up. Thank you sweet baby Jesus!

Just a side note here : When it came to writing the songs on UTI, I think we have to be honest here. The songwriters for UTI were singer Drew Hannah, myself, and fellow guitarist Brent Woods. Drew and I wrote the lyrics on many tunes together. Brent wrote strictly music to all the tunes, never lyrics. Sometimes I had musical ideas and so did Brent. Those ideas would melt together, as is the case with Hang On Lucy and Just Another Night. Sometimes Drew wrote all the lyrics and melodies to songs by himself. I wrote all the lyrics and melodies to Kiss This Love Goodbye as well as a musical bridge passage. Drew and Brent wrote a few of the songs together. Drew and I wrote the lyrics to a few songs together. We had a celebrity cowriter or two on the album. It was all a mish mash. I don’t care how anyone slices it or puts their spin on it, this is how it went. The songwriting duties on various songs in WildSide were a three-way collaboration for Under The Influence, and that includes the B-sides and a few tunes on The Wasted Years. If any one of the three of us wasn’t involved, the UTI record wouldn’t have been even close to the same. Neither of the ballads would have existed, nor So Far Away, or even Lad In Sin. That’s a fact. We were a triad of writers. I don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers, because I like Drew and Brent and have admiration for them to this day, both great songwriters, but it’s time to give credit where credit is due. Done with sidenote.

We had to do showcases for all the labels at local high end rehearsal studios. None of us liked the sound of this. It meant we were going under the microscope. No where to hide. We went to Joe’s Garage in North Hollywood, which was owned by Frank Zappa’s family. It was a really nice pro facility that cost bigger bucks to jam there, and was set up for mega bands to tour prep like Motley, Van Halen and the like. We were psyched to be able to rehearse there, and play our 3-song pretend shows for record labels. Basically, we would set up all our live show gear on the big stage in the studio, with a killer big P.A. system, put on our stage garb and play a show for 4 people sitting on a couch. This was showcasing. It was very nerve wracking and hard to look relaxed. We’d pretend we were playing at some enormodome for 20,000 people. It must’ve looked hilarious, with us five guys rocking out like madmen and just a few people in suits sitting there watching us and looking at their watches every 20 seconds. Sometimes after 2 songs, the label reps would just get up and walk out in the middle of what we were doing, followed by our manager Barry. We made sure it was blazingly LOUD! They would talk about us outside the studio with their ears ringing for sure. We didn’t know what to do. We’d just keep going and finish the songs, laughing at how weird it was, and then fake like there was mega crowd applause at the end. Brent would even get on his mic and make the big crowd roar sound. Although we ended up having some fun with it, that whole “showcasing for labels” thing was a really big pain. Something you had to do, but it was sterile as hell.

So after most record companies had heard about YOUNG GUNNS, seen us play live, then attended a showcase or two at Joe’s Garage, the negotiations began, and the phones started ringing. Our newly appointed attorney Dennis Rider started the task of going to bat for us with three different record companies that wanted to sign us. Of course, each company wanted to get the band for the cheapest deal possible, so over the course of the summer of 1990, Dennis was fielding calls and building our offer requirements. Dennis ruled when it came to writing up awesome contracts. We knew MCA was a label that we didn’t want to go with. Guys in town called MCA the “Musical Cemetery of America.” Too many bands had been signed there and not done well. We didn’t wanna go there. Then Polygram said flat out, “We want this band on our label, period.” Dennis said, “Let’s see an outstanding offer!” Polygram came back with a very large offer and a FREE huge signing bonus/advance that we didn’t ever have to pay back. Sounded almost too good to be true. (Turned out it was!) Very tempting, and we wanted it badly, as the focus in the band was for all of us to be able to quit our day jobs and just be signed artists doing what we love. Just as we were about to shake hands with Polygram and make it official for the FREE money, the President of Capitol Records, Hale Milgrim, called and asked if we would come down to the Capitol Tower for a meeting, prior to signing with anyone. Hey, that sounded good. The President of the label wanted to hang with us, eat a catered lunch, and discuss what he could do? Uh, yeah… we’ll take that meeting!

The whole band, Dennis Rider and Barry Levine all went down to Capitol and spent the day touring the whole building, meeting the many different people, VP’s and heads in all the different departments, secretaries, security, and learning how Capitol Records operates. Hale Milgrim spent a lot of time with us and explained what Capitol’s vision for YOUNG GUNNS would be. They kept pushing that it was like a family, and there were in the music of making super stars. That sounded good to us. Sounded like what we were looking for! When Hale said, “We want you guys to be OUR Guns N Roses.” That was it. Signed sealed and delivered. Where do we sign? Polygram who? Capitol Records officially had their next big rock band. We still didn’t quit our day jobs yet.

Barry Levine, while somewhat inept in most of our minds, and possessing a certain level of uncertainty with the label, became a hero. The guy delivered on his promise of a recording contract with a major label in six months. Gotta hand it to him. He did what all of us had been trying to do for nearly a decade, since the early 80’s! In all actuality, even though we celebrated Barry for making good on his promise, it truly was Dennis Rider that got the band and our music in front of the right people, at the labels. It was all him, his clout and his connections in Hollywood that got us the recording contract. It’s not how wonderful you are in Hollywood, it’s WHO you know, and how much hype you have around you.

After another long month of contract negotiations back and forth, we finally got to go down to Dennis Rider’s office and sign our inch-thick recording contract. Each one of us were now Capitol Recording Artists! It was a monumental moment and victorious day. All that time slugging it out in Seattle with Drew in a cover band, coming to L.A. and learning our trade, working ridiculously hard and grinding it out on the Sunset Strip. Being in all the different bands, passing out band flyers night after night, endless rehearsals and songwriting, all of it paid off in a single moment for each one of us. Time was beginning to accelerate at a blinding rate.

By October of 1990, we were playing our “Signing Party” at the legendary and prestigious Roxy Theater on Sunset Boulevard, right next to The Rainbow. We sold out and played to an overflowing audience. We brought in extra P.A. and lights to absolutely annihilate the crowd with. Paul Gilbert from Mr. Big joined us onstage for our encore. YOUNG GUNNS was the biggest Hollywood record deal signing for a rock band since Capitol had signed W.A.S.P. in 1984. We were given a “career recording contract” of 7 albums and nearly 2 million dollars of budget for said records. It was huge. We couldn’t fathom what we had signed. We just knew we could finally quit our day jobs and start recording our debut record. This was going to be a long career as “the next Guns N Roses,” for Capitol Records, well, or so we thought…

By the beginning of 1991, as Seattle GRUNGE music was starting to quietly appear on the radar, (Grunge? What was that?) we began the process of picking a producer to record our debut with. All sorts of names were thrown around. Mutt Lange, Michael Wagner, Beau Hill… you name it we wanted the best. Turns out the best came at a very high price, so much so, that we couldn’t make any money as a band until the third or fourth album, had we gone that route. Then Andy Johns came into the picture. He was a British guy from the UK that was around for Led Zeppelin. He had set up mics on John Bonham’s drum kit. He engineered almost every Led Zeppelin record from 1969 to 1982. Then there were the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Autograph, Cinderella and the Killer Dwarfs records that Andy produced. The guy was already a rock legend. He had a great track record with hard rock bands like us. Plus, at the time in 1991, he was producing Van Halen: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge up at Ed Van Halen’s 5150. Done! Andy was our guy. He was all about staying “old school” and “keeping it analog.” We liked that vibe. We met up with Andy, shook hands, thought he was very cool, wrote up a five-page contract and he was in for $45K and a small percentage of our sales.

Soon after, recording began at A&M Studios in Hollywood. The basic tracks of drums and bass were cut in Studio A at A&M, which was an incredibly famous place. Some of the greatest hit recordings ever made were done at A&M. Studio A is the largest of all the rooms, and famous for the 1985 We Are The World recording produced by Quincy Jones. We were in awesome company at A&M. You could feel the magic in the air. It was a big deal to record there, and it sure wasn’t cheap.

After starting the recording process, it became apparent that this was going to be a slow deal. Andy Johns was finishing up Van Halen’s record, and also recording ours. He was doing double duty on some days, and you could tell his ears would be fried after producing Van Halen all day. Andy was a totally hilarious guy, with a real jovial personality. He was a very British man, and looked like a bigger, Rugby player type version of Joe Elliott from Def Leppard. Aside from being a very talented engineer and producer, Andy had a way with comedy. He loved to tell stories and lots of jokes. The problem was, Andy would enjoy many “frosty beverages,” as he called them, first, before telling all the fun stories. Many times, the day would start out great and lots of work would be getting done. But then there would be a lunch break and a trip to The Cat & Fiddle English Pub for “refreshments.” After lunch, not a lot of work would get done, but lots of storytelling went on, followed by a large English fellow sleeping very soundly on the studio’s black leather couch.

Most times at A&M there were music super stars walking around. Metallica had just finished recording in Studio A, before we got there. KISS were in Studios B and C, recording their Revenge album. Bruce Springsteen was in Studio E mixing his Human Touch record. Many days we would eat $20 Chinese chicken salads from Chin Chin at lunch time, in the “fish lounge,” and shoot the shit with Gene Simmons from KISS. Gene told incredible stories, and loved holding court for the new upstarts. Paul Stanley would join in some days. My mind was blown. Sitting around with KISS? Wtf? While taking a piss in the men’s room, a guy walked in and moseyed up to the urinal next to me. I could tell he had it hanging, and was waiting for flow, or maybe he had some stage fright. He was quietly picking his nose. I discreetly looked over to my right and noticed that the guy was Bruce Springsteen. The Boss! What universe was I in? My gawd…

Although we were having a blast at A&M, the band was spending Capitol’s money hand over fist at a premium price. We rented very expensive acoustic guitars and old Marshall heads to record with. We had pinball and video games brought in for us to play around on upstairs in our lounge. We had strippers from The Body Shop or mud wrestler girls from the The Hollywood Tropicana on call, and lap dancing everyone when things would get stale, and we needed some excitement and spirits to be lifted. The whole thing was becoming bedlam. It was a blurred-line 24/7 party, happening daily. The partying would begin as soon as the recording started. All this was being charged to Capitol Records, and it was pure debt the band would have to repay through debut album sales. Uh oh.

Also, during this time, the movie company for YOUNG GUNS that starred Emilio Esteves, sent us a Cease & Desist letter. We couldn’t use YOUNG GUNNS any longer, two N’s or not. No difference. We wracked our brains for a month, along with the label, with about nine different band name ideas. We tried Aladinn Sane, Toe Popper, Brent’s famous “War Breed” complete with Viking image theme (lol), and a few really worse names. We ended up “borrowing” WILDSIDE from a local band that opened for us at our signing party. The lead singer was Jeff Wild, and it was his band. We asked him if we could have it, and he begrudgingly said it was cool. There was another WildSide on the East Coast. They didn’t say it was cool, and they got a check for $35,000. Add this on to the increasing debt we’d have to pay back.

After the basic drum tracks were done, as well as bass and some guitars and vocals, we got an accounting from Capitol in regards to how much we were spending. It was out of control. We couldn’t stay at A&M in Studio A and keep paying the couture prices. We dilly-dallied around Hollywood at a few smaller studios at a much more reasonable price and got more vocal tracks and guitar work recorded. Andy was still being Andy, and we had figured out a way to get the most out of him during the day, and keep the “frosty beverages” and partying down to minimum, which was a lot, compared to everyone else’s standards. It was then that Andy said, “Boys, why don’t we all go up to Ed’s house and finish the album there, right mates?” This sounded like a great idea! Recording at 5150? Are you kidding me? Hanging out at Eddie’s? Van Halen? That was the dream of all dreams. What we didn’t know was that Andy just lived around the corner from Ed, so Andy could live it up all day and night with the “frosty bevs” at 5150 without anyone watching, and only have to navigate his way a few blocks to get home in his old convertible Cadillac at 1am. Ah ha! Andy had a plan!

After working out a fairly decent bargain payment deal with Eddie Van Halen for recording, we got the green light to go to 5150 and finish recording our record. The one caveat was that it had to be a big secret. We couldn’t tell anyone. I never understood why. On Under The Influence we credited 5150 as “House Of Pain” Studios (a song title from VH’s 1984 record) The secret had something to do with business zoning in Coldwater Canyon, and some kind of deal with all the Hollywood studios getting pissed off at EVH if they all found out he was taking business away from them. Fuck that. We told everyone to the high heavens where we were recording! Eddie Van Fuckin Halen’s house! EVH! 5150! Extra, extra! Read all about it!

It was now May of ‘91 and WILDSIDE had been recording since February. The debut should have been mixed and off to mastering by now, and slated for a late summer ’91 release. We were way behind schedule, but at least we were starting at 5150 and hanging out every single day up the hill above Ed’s mansion! This was crazy.

We met Ed and Alex on the first day we were there, and got to hear a final mix of Poundcake in the 5150 control room. During playback, Alex kind of snapped at Drew and said, “Hey man don’t stand too close to that tape machine!” I guess Al was afraid Drew might touch a button or something. Nothing like that would have happened as we knew wtf we were doing. Drew wasn’t happy about Al’s comment, and shot me a look that said, “Fuck this fuckin guy!” I nervously smiled back. Al wasn’t the friendliest of dudes, right off the bat. Eddie on the other hand was very friendly. In Ed’s workshop area on the backside of the control room, Ed handed me a Wolfgang prototype and said, “Hey dude, check this out… whatdya think?” I held it like a trophy, slightly shaking, and muttered something utterly senseless.

Edward Van Halen was the reason I got really into guitar in 1978, just like a couple million other guys. He was my hero. To be at 5150, small talking Ed now and again, when he was around (which wasn’t often), and to have the band recording there with Andy Johns was almost too much for any of us to take in. This was the motherload of all motherloads. How in the heck did we end up there? Holy cannoli?! I was mentally overloaded, and it took a few times of being there, and around Ed before I could speak in complete sentences. This whole thing at 5150 was gonna be a trip… an understatement to say the least.

After recording at 5150 for a few months with Andy, Van Halen was preparing for their upcoming tour. They were gone rehearsing every day. The idea was being considered to have WildSide open for VH on the tour, as long as we could get our album out soon. YES! This prospect was insane. Opening for Van Halen? Omg. It was happening! We had to finish the record first. Go, go, go!

Well, I guess we didn’t finish our record in time. Van Halen picked up some new unheard of band called Alice In Chains who’s record had just come out, and took them out on tour. While we were sitting around an empty 5150 enjoying frosty beverages, (cricket sounds) our wonderful gigantic luxurious cruise ship had left the harbor without us. Fuck! Would the recording of UTI ever end? How many parts could be recorded, then re-recorded over, all in the name of feeding an ego? Mistakes galore. Selfishness. Stupidity.

Unforseen, and ridiculous delays in recording had us finished by September of 1991, followed by a refreshing month of mixing the complete record, back at A&M Studios, with the super professional Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. These two guys were awesome, and had golden ears that could hear a pin drop twenty feet away. They had done every hard rock band we ever loved, Dokken, Tesla, Metallica, GNR Appetite, and about 90 others. These two guys were the best and had done it all. We had our celebratory “Under The Influence album finished” party/soire at the famous and historic Hollywood landmark Japanese restaurant, Yamashiro’s.

As I sat there overlooking Hollywood at night, the view of the beautiful Japanese gardens, and enjoying my high-priced sashimi boat dinner, paid for by Capitol (actually added to our debt to be paid back - gulp!), I couldn’t help but question everything we had done as a band over the last year. Our dreams had started to become a reality. We had gone farther than 99% of guys in any band anywhere. What we had acheived was significant, and it only took 8 years of blind faith and delusional self-belief.

We signed one of the biggest record deals in Hollywood for an 80’s hard rock band. The President of one of the most famous records labels signed us. We had the complete support of that label and big budgets to help us go big. We had a legendary producer. The songs we wrote were solid. Paul Stanley from KISS co-wrote Clock Strikes. Hit maker Jim Vallance co-wrote Monkey See Monkey Do. We recorded at A&M and at Eddie Van Halen’s house. (one of only two bands to ever record there) Thompson/Barbiero mixed us. The product was killer. Certainly we were going to become everything we had always dreamed of becoming? UTI was going to sell 5X Platinum. There was no way it couldn’t, right? There really was NO WAY WE COULD FAIL, right?

 

Differing Opinion Disclaimer : “The History of WildSide written here is MY point of view on how things happened for my band. Others in the band may have seen it differently and experienced different things, and I can respect their interpretations of our history. This however, is how I saw it, and what I experienced. Rock on.” - Benny Rhynedance

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The History of WildSide... Part 4
WILDSIDE·FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2016

 

 

 

In late 1991, around town in Hollywood, people were talking about a new term or label in the music industry. The words “Alternative Rock” and “Grunge” started to creep into public consciousness. What was grunge? Never heard of it. What was the “alternative” of rock? Disco? No one really understood what these terms meant. Geffen records had recently signed and released this new band from Seattle called Nirvana, in late September of 1991. They had a song called, Smells Like Teen Spirit that was getting massive airplay as well as heavy rotation on MTV. They were being pushed hard. This was what everyone was talking about. Seattle grunge music. What the hell was this shit? I personally had never heard of grunge music, and I was a Seattle local from way back in my childhood in the early 1970’s. I had heard Nirvana’s song and watched the video. I didn’t get it, not one bit. The musicianship seemed elementary and really loose, there was no image, and the vibe of the music was dark and very depressing. I didn’t understand it, but the record buying public outside of Hollywood was sure understanding it! Nirvana was flying up the charts at the speed of light. Their sales were going through the roof!

 

Grunge was quietly executing all long hair rock bands with stealthy precision. More grunge bands were surfacing from Seattle. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Alice In Chains. Each were selling CD’s like hotcakes. Seattle became the hotbed and new place to go find bands. Grunge music was resonating with new record buyers. Kids that were coming of age, that were too young to know about flashy, long haired, Marshall-stacked guitar bands were gravitating to this new, angry, angst-filled music that record companies were beginning to ram down everyone’s throat. Grunge seemed like the right play for a new audience. It was hugely rebellious music. It was depressing, dark, and just what a freshly turned thirteen-year-old kid wanted to hear. Actually stemming from an early 80’s Seattle punk scene, grunge had evolved over time into a hybrid style of punk, folk, and organic rock.

 

As far as grunge music ruining hard rock and hair metal bands, the record companies are truly the ones to blame. They had followed a template for years and replicated it over and over again, never deviating from that business model. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Find a band that has some talent and some decent songs. Hopefully they’re a bunch of good looking guys with really long hair, and a blonde haired lead singer. Get their picture all over the place. Release a hard rock single, followed immediately by a ballad. Make videos of the band playing live on a big stage, with scantily clad girls running around, climbing all over the band and get it rotating on MTV. Push this party lifestyle of excess and sex. Party, party, good times! After ten years of this template, it became a parody of itself. Record companies cashed in on it for a decade plus, but it ran for too long. The hair metal audience grew up over ten years, and actually figured out what the record companies had been doing. A new audience rejected what they were being given from their older brothers and sisters. Alternative was exactly that, an alternative to the same shit record companies had been churning out over and over. Idol worship of rock bands became thought of as idiotic. Almost overnight, the hard rock scene was turned on its ear. Only a handful of big bands would weather the grunge storm, and they would do it by hiding out from 1991 to 1995.

While grunge was systematically annihilating hard rock, WildSide was about to take our box of Ampex mixed tapes, all nine months-worth of drama and cost overruns, and head to Vancouver, British Columbia to have Bruce Fairbairn master UTI to perfection. Bruce was one of the best producers around. He’d done up some great rock heavyweights in his career – Loverboy, Krokus, Black-N-Blue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, AC/DC , Van Halen… just to name a few. When Bruce touched something, it went BIG. Adding Bruce Fairbairn into the mix, along with what Andy Johns and Thompson/Barbiero had already done, was going to be the game winning field goal. With this CD, there really was no doubt that WildSide would have a shot at what Capitol Record’s President Hale Milgrim said we’d become - “their own Guns N Roses.” No doubt about it. Everything was just too perfect. The biggest names in rock had helped us complete a very solid debut record that would stand the test of time.

 

So, fast forward to Vancouver in November of 1991, and Brent Woods walking through the airport, heading to Baggage Claim to pick up our tapes and escort them to Fairbairn’s studio. While picking up the box, Canadian Customs officials got involved and asked what it was. Brent answered that they were tapes of recorded material and that he was taking them to a local studio to be mastered. Customs officers then said “Oh, so you’re from USA and doing some work here?” Brent says, “Well, yeah, we’re gonna work on mastering our record here.” Then they said, “Really… Alright then, we’ll just need to see your work visa, and all your paperwork.” Brent says, “Work visa, paperwork?” Done. Brent was backroomed and detained. The tapes were confiscated by Canadian Customs and put in a dungeon somewhere at the Vancouver airport. Noooo! Of course no one saw this coming on our end, or Capitol’s, nor were we provided with the proper documentation to do work in Canada. We got “WildSide’d.” Just put a guitar player on a plane with $600K worth of work on some tapes. No need to be sure whether or not we have the proper paperwork to work in Canada, right? Wrong. This sure wasn’t Brent’s fault. He was just the messenger. Our tapes sat in Vancouver Customs from November 1991 through January 1992, while lawyers for Capitol had to fight to get the tapes back and pay a fine. More precious time was lost. Wtf…

 

After the Canadian Customs fiasco, WildSide signed with Creative Artist Agency (one of the biggest talent agencies in the world). CAA immediately booked us our first tour, to go out and pre-promote the release of Under The Influence. It was the beginning of February 1992, and we were to start off in Montreal or some frozen tundra somewhere, opening up for Geffen’s, The Four Horsemen (TFH) and their album “Nobody Said It Was Easy.” They were a bluesy AC/DC vibe band produced by Rick Rubin. They seemed like a decent match. We spent 2 months with TFH and played night after night. Exactly what we always wanted to do. TOUR! As the opening act, we weren’t thought of as much, we had to earn it, and the TFH didn’t really pay any attention to us. After about five shows though, it became apparent that we were kicking a little bit of ass and crowds were liking what we were doing. The Four Horsemen guys became a bit friendlier, except for one guy in the band who was the founder of the group. This guy named “Haggis” (yeah, I didn’t get the name either) from London, was formerly a bassist for The Cult at one time, for about 2 hours, and he was the leader of the group and their rhythm guitarist. Man, this guy was difficult and acted like he was John Lennon or something. Unfriendly as hell. Maybe because we were killing them every night with only limited P.A. and a few lights, or maybe the fact that we were younger guys and were getting all the girls after the shows. Whatever it was, Haggis was just not a fun guy. Regardless, we were glad to be out on the road and playing show after show and giving audiences a preview of Under The Influence. The true pay off was hearing from the fans every night and what they thought about our music.

 

Throwing the band out on the road with no product available, in the dead of winter, in a rental van, for a band no one wanted to open for, was really a test put on us by Capitol Records. Would we suck, could we handle the traveling, would the band get along, would audiences dig us? They wanted to see how we’d do. We passed their test with flying colors. The reviews from the road were stellar. Capitol was excited. Hell, we’d been signed nearly a year and a half prior, and been cooped up in dark Hollywood recording studios ever since. Going on the road was a vacation for us! Snow flurries, -15* in Chicago? No problem, we’ll play there! We were all stoked to play night after night. Touring was what we had been dreaming about since childhood. It was like a long, fun camping trip. I found it better than real life.

 

Since the age of about five, when I first watched “The Partridge Family” TV show, about a family band that played shows, and drove around in a whacky school bus, and all the daily hi-jinx that ensued, I knew that strapping on a guitar and standing on a stage was something I wanted to try. Luckily for me, my parents were cool enough to let me go to rock concerts as a very young kid. I got to see what it was really like to be in a crowd of 10,000 or more going nuts for David Cassidy from The Partridge Family in 1971, or Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, Boston or Paul McCartney & Wings. Smelling marijuana smoke, seeing people passed out, hugging empty Southern Comfort bottles, with puke all over them, hearing loud drums, bass, and guitar kicking in through 50,000 watts of P.A. system was all pure heaven for me. The live show was my obsession and those stacks of Marshall 4x12 cabinets got my attention. I was mesmerized by guitar players of the day in the 1970’s - then there was the life changing Eddie Van Halen phenomenon. Watching these early guitar heroes was the exact path I knew I wanted to travel. Man, I tell you, be careful what you wish for…

 

The tour with The Four Horsemen went well. We survived blizzards, wild groupies, numerous RV breakdowns, equipment problems, and even bouts of influenza. What a blast! Coming home to Hollywood was somewhat of a letdown though. Everyone wanted to stay out on the road. Fantasy life on a rock stage was much better than hanging around in L.A. Back home, we had to pay bills, be faceless, take out the garbage, fight boredom, be yelled at by our stripper girlfriends, and try to STAY OUT OF TROUBLE.

 

Under The Influence (UTI) was about ready to drop in early May of 1992, so the fanfare leading up to it was really exciting. We did a ton of interviews. We participated in celebrity softball tournaments for MTV. We did photo sessions with legendary photographer Neil Zlozower. (coolest guy ever!) We partied every night… and here’s where that got dangerous…

 

Los Angeles is such a strange place. It’s so beautiful and yet so ugly all at the same time. So many good things about it, as well as so many bad. Anyone that has ever lived there knows the meaning of this ( I spent 13 years there). Hollywood has the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and the ability to swallow up people’s souls. I always called it a Vortex of Badness. Whatever weakness you possess, Hollywood demons would always find a way to show you your flaws, if you let them.

 

I can’t comment on any other guys in WildSide and what their partying habits were or weren’t like. Common courtesy dictates that I remain neutral. I can only share MY OWN personal story here. My party habits were... well, a recipe for total destruction. The line between partying and real life became blurred to where it was a party 24 hours a day for me.

 

As a kid growing up in Seattle, I was raised in a middle class loving family. I was the last of 4 kids, a momma’s boy, and I was a bit farther down the chain from all my siblings. My nearest sister was 5 years older. I spent almost every waking moment with my mother, as my Dad was working all day in a suit, kicking butt for the family. We were your typical old school, 1950’s “Leave It to Beaver” style atomic family. Dinner at 6pm every night, no exceptions, everyone present. We had a neighbor that grew some weed in his garden, but that was it as far as being exposed to any drug stuff. The neighbor was somewhat of a hippie, so it was okay with everyone. (pretty sure he was passing out joints on the sly to keep people quiet!) I was your typical shaggy haired 70’s kid, all about music, sports, motorcycle dirt bikes, BMX, skateboarding, fishing, homework, trumpet playing and guitar rock.

 

That was it. I’d like to think I was brought up with a level head, a good moral standard and a magical drama free youth full of wonder. As I turned into a testosterone filled heavy metal teen with an attitude, I was still a good kid, respectful of my parents, as always, and responsible about keeping my grades up. I never smoked, and I never drank. It didn’t interest me. Van Halen was my drug of choice. The 1980 Invasion was happening and I was front and center hearing the Eddie Van Halen call. Sounds good, right? Now… cut to ten years later in 1990 in L.A., and I’m snorting cocaine off the fake boobs of a runaway stripper from Ohio, in the “Champagne Court” of a dank Hollywood strip club. WTF? What the hell happened to me? How the hell did I get here?

 

Just after the debut release, CAA got WildSide, Roxy Blue, and Babylon A.D. on a summer rock tour for 1992. It would run from June through early September. All of us were really excited to tour some more, but on a bigger level. Personally, I was still praying for a final hour Van Halen miracle and getting a last leg for a week or two on the tail end of their World F.U.C.K. Tour… we’d say yes to anyefthing! Didn’t happen. We were slated to share a 45 foot Prevost Custom, 12-man sleeper luxury coach with Geffen Records artist Roxy Blue. Our bus was massive. We’d never met the guys in Roxy Blue or even heard of ‘em, but when we met up in Phoenix, it was clear they were totally cool and going to be a riot to be around. We were West Coast surfer dudes, and they were good ol’ boys from Memphis. Big differences, but metal brought us together. All of them were just super friendly guys, and we were all excited to kick some ass out on the road. Then we got to meet Babylon A.D., and they weren’t excited.

 

When Roxy Blue walked onto the mega bus, each guy introduced himself and shook all of our hands. Great impression. Excellent manners. Living with these guys was going to be easy. Babylon on the other hand didn’t even make an attempt to meet any of us. It was weird. The vibe was, WS/RB guys against Babylon A.D. They were the headliner, and we were just the “shitty support acts.” Whatever it was, they didn’t care enough to even say hello. They had a nasty attitude. Was it because they were from San Francisco, and we were from L.A.? The classic North/South California turf rivalry? Who knows. Maybe it was the fact that they needed two other hot new bands that had just been released, to help them sell tickets and pull in crowds for their shows. I personally think it was because we were in Motley’s Crue’s Dr. Feelgood tour bus, and Babylon had a really old beat up MCI coach, spray painted dark blue, converted from a 70’s passenger coach, that smelled like rat piss. Any way you slice it, they had a huge chip on their collective shoulders. All, with the exception of guitarist Ron Freschi who was pretty cool to us, when none of the other B.A.D. guys were around. Right on, Ron. Cool guy.

 

After the first three or four shows, fans were telling us that Babylon A.D. should be opening the show, and that Roxy Blue and WildSide should take turns headlining. As it stood, we were on first, followed by Roxy Blue. I never understood why we never traded off with Roxy, like one night we would go first, the next night, they would open. Nope. We had to open. WildSide goes first! All of us felt like we could go on second, maybe now and again, but it never happened. Make no mistake, Roxy Blue was definitely a no-slouch band. They were killing it as much as we were every night and giving us a run for our money. Also, because we liked them so much as regular guys, we just left it alone. This formula worked for the whole tour into September. We never hung out with Babylon A.D. Some nights we would finish our set and leave back to our bus with a third of the audience. Then Roxy Blue would go on, do their set, and bring another third of the fans back with them. There were many nights B.A.D. played to a sparse audience. Was this why they pretended we didn’t exist? Half the club would be out back hanging out with us and Roxy Blue! Police cars were often there soon after as there were tons of people hanging around in the streets. Pure mayhem. Hey, we knew how to party! “Does anyone have any coke or know anywhere I can buy some?”

 

As weird as that first tour was, it was good for WildSide. We gained a bigger audience, which is what was supposed to happen. Capitol Records sales reports showed were we selling a lot of product in the Midwest and the East Coast. Coming back to L.A., the first thing we said was, “When do we go back out on the road again?” None of us wanted to stay home for very long. We wanted UTI to take off and be a 5 million seller. Sitting at home wasn’t going to make that happen.

 

We shot a video for the song How Many Lies, in Salt Lake City shortly after returning from tour. What I wanted to know was when were we going to shoot the “Just Another Night” ballad video? Wasn’t that the exact reason why Capitol signed us, as they were sure it was a #1 smash hit? Was Capitol records still working our record? Grunge had taken off like a space shuttle and was now everywhere. I still didn’t understand it. How can we stop this grunge machine?

 

Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog… why were people buying this stuff? Why were long-haired guys in hard rock bands being thought of as uncool? It was almost overnight that the audiences for most bands of the rock genre, just up and disappeared. Like most guys, we were trading in our custom leather stage clothes for flannel shirts and clam digger shorts with combat boots. None of it made any sense to any of us. How was grunge music becoming the greatest thing since sliced bread? Simple answer? It could have been any type of music. Record labels wore out their welcome by reusing the same formula over and over again since 1982. The market was oversaturated with hair bands by the early 1990’s. Fans were tiring of the mundane rehash that was continuously being fed to them. Metal Edge magazine was turning into an inch-thick book trying to accommodate all the full page color band pics. It had become hard to keep up with who was who as far as new bands went. Too much competition. The market was flooded. Some were good, and a majority were mediocre. As a result, some really talented groups went unnoticed, WildSide being at the top of that list was criminally overlooked. Add in a recession of sorts, and a new set of up and coming music fans who weren’t really that aware of Van Halen, Aerosmith, or even KISS. They sure knew Kurt Cobain though! He became the new music messiah by default, and he certainly never wanted that at all.

 

Sidenote : I did like Alice In Chains. Layne’s voice was so interesting. Their songs were great. Jerry Cantrell has always been a metal guitarist and tone chaser from way back, plus we knew one of his early bands from back in Seattle. Jerry = coolness.

WildSide carried on into 1993 and toured on our own, as usual, in the dead of winter. January? Let’s go straight to Montreal! Canada was always a good time though. French Canadians loved to rock. The problem with Canada was the border crossing. If there was anything illegal on the bus, it had to be used up or thrown out. Who the hell would throw out perfectly good drugs, anyways? Border guards would see the rock-n-roll circus rolling through in a big tour bus with equipment truck at 1am and immediately bring out the drug sniffing German Shepherd’s. Our luck finally ran out there, though. One guard told us that it was “the first time in his 20-year career that he had ever seen a ‘canine officer’ just look at a suspect vehicle and sit down or ‘hit on it’ without even going inside.” I guess it was that bad. Thanks for the memories Canada! Go big or go home. We did both that time.

 

In the Spring of 1993, Capitol Records began a restructuring of almost every department within the company. Things were changing fast at our label. People were being fired left and right. The recession, and the recent shift in musical tastes had left some companies scrambling to turn a profit. Stockholders wanted answers, and that usually meant to completely replace key management fixtures. This basically put a stranglehold on all departments. Our record was basically left to die a slow and tragic death. No one told us this at the time, but this is what was happening. No more singles released. No one working radio. No one calling us. No more tour support. Even our A&R guy Tim Devine and President Hale Milgrim became distant… like Pluto distant.

We decided we would book our own shows and keep it alive by ourselves. Still a signed act on a major label, we went back out and toured through the Midwest and the South where our sales were the highest. The grunge plague hadn’t spread to these areas yet, so these places were basically “grunge-zombie free zones,” and still ready to rock. The vibe between all of us guys in WildSide was becoming one of frustration and strain. We couldn’t figure out how to plug the holes in our sinking ship, and were trying hard not to implode. We each had so many questions. How was this happening? Why isn’t this easier? Why aren’t we Platinum by now? We had every single thing in our corner almost guaranteeing our success. Why is this grunge shit completely washing over us like a fucking tidal wave? How can we fail? This is impossible. We didn’t have the answers, but, we sure as hell weren’t going to give up.

 

April 3rd 1993 in Dallas, Texas. Big night playing The Basement. It was a great show. I had a head cold and a stuffed up nose. Didn’t feel well. Over the course of the day, I had some Thera-Flu cold medicine, some antibiotics, a couple of Tylenol, some blow in the later afternoon (‘cause I was in control and wasn’t an addict, right?) followed up with a shot or two of Jack Daniels to try and burn out the goo in my sinus. Little hair of the dog, you know… Right there was the mistake. Mixing cocaine and all the over-the-counter cold remedy stuff was, and IS a deadly cocktail. Sudden accidental death in a nice and neat, shameful little toxic package. Plus, I had antibiotics in there as well. All this stuff I had ingested, would create a toxic soup inside my body, start shutting down organ functions, including the heart, and ultimately an acute heart attack, followed by sudden death. Your heart rate goes way up, and your blood pressure plummets to the floor. You just fall asleep and die. I wasn’t thinking straight. I wasn’t straight in any way, shape or form. I was a cocaine addict since 1989 and I wasn’t in control of anything and hadn’t been for years. The tail was wagging the dog.

 

After the show, I had the usual celebratory line or two of cocaine to keep the energy up, (another great idea) although I wasn’t feeling right. I was unusually tired and felt lethargic. Cocaine cures everything, right? Wrong. This was the nail in my coffin. While sitting on the bus, everything around me got dark, other people’s voices became fuzzy sounding. I had sudden and severe pain in my upper back, and my hands. Something was really wrong with my body and its functions. Strangest sensation I had ever experienced. My left leg went numb. My heart rate shot to the moon in an instant. Adrenalin. Oh great, just what I needed on top of everything else. It automatically stood me up instantly in the front lounge of the tour bus. I grabbed onto Drew’s back and shoulders with a “death grip” to hold myself up, and muttered, “Help me.” Drew looked at me in horror and froze. He knew something wasn’t right with me. Some guys thought I was being funny and laughed. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I calmly staggered off the tour bus at our LaQuinta Inn, and decided that I would die alone under a manicured green bush next to the bus. Amazing how nonchalantly I came to this conclusion.

 

This was not a good situation. I had finally discovered the limit line where my human body would fail, and I was perilously teetering on the edge of that line. Man, still 27, I certainly didn’t want to be part of the magic “27 Club.” Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and many more, all died at 27 years old. Great company to be in, but I sure as hell didn’t want to be a part of that club!

 

As I sat down on the grass, our friend, security guy, and long-time tour manager Greg Vaughn saw what was happening, scooped me up, literally flew me up some stairs in his arms and sat me down in one of our hotel rooms. Drenched in sweat, and slightly foaming at the mouth, I was falling out of my chair and begging Greg to call a hospital. He was telling me why he couldn’t do that, how I’d be arrested, and how the police would... I totally phased out… the next thing I know, I was on my back, staring at the ceiling, and Greg was slapping the shit out of me while yelling, “Stay with me Benny, stay with me now, boy!” I didn’t want Greg to wail on me again, because he nailed me pretty good in my right ear, so I decided I would fight the overwhelming wave of feeling I had to go to sleep. I could see Greg’s face now in focus because he was very close. He looked scared, and Greg wasn’t afraid of anything. The guy was an old school tough guy and part of the inspiration for the lyrics to Lad In Sin. If Greg was looking scared, then I was truly fucked. He picked me up and dropped me into the shower, as I was turning really white and kinda blue, and turned on the cold water. Boy, was that water cold. It was numbingly cold. Surprisingly, it felt nice on my face, but sounded thunderous inside my head

I went in and out of the cold shower, sometimes crawling, sometimes just laying on the bathroom tile while Greg sat next to me on the floor, and kept on talking, keeping me awake, telling funny stories about his sordid past. All the while, I kept seeing my mother’s face and thinking how pissed off she was going to be at me if I died from an accidental drug overdose, next to a hotel room toilet. Just like Elvis, this wasn’t the most glamorous of ways to go. The thought of the mere wrath coming from the disappointment and heartbreak of my mother turned out to be the catalyst in changing the outcome of this event. No way, I was going to go out like that. Once I decided that I wasn’t going to shame, disgrace and short change my mother, father, and siblings, that’s when it all turned around. My will to live kicked in. I began to feel better, like my life wasn’t hanging in the balance. I asked Greg to call my mother. He said, “Benny, (in his deep Texas drawl) if I call your momma, we are BOTH gonna be dead for sure, no matter what!” The two of us laughed. It took about 6 hours more for all the toxicity levels in my body and organs to metabolize and dissipate. With shaky knees, I got back on the tour bus around 6:30am and ate a Snickers bar. I had dodged the proverbial bullet, or rather a rocket propelled coke grenade. “Does anyone have any orange juice, or know where I can buy some?”

I’ve never shared this story before in detail. This was my shameful and pathetic rock bottom. I had seen the light though. I never did any drugs of any kind ever again after the “Dallas Situation.” I was scared straight. This event was almost 23 years ago, yet remains very vivid in my memory.

 

Heed this warning, my friends : The shit you’re messing with WILL kill you sooner than later. You can't, and never will be the master of it. The drugs will always win and have their way with you. Take a different path. I’ve been down this road to the very end... there’s nothing there but heartache and despair. You can change, and it can start now.

 

Greg, if you ever read this… no words, man. You saved my life, which allowed me to go on and complete a task later on in my life that ended up being very important. But I guess this was the way it was meant to happen. Thank you Big Greg, and God bless you.

 

“Get busy livin, or get busy dyin.” We had some rock-n-roll shows to do! Ain’t no visit from the grim reaper was gonna slow me down. I was reborn hard, and it was time to ROCK! “Don’t get caught by the Hair Of The Dog, That Bites You!”

 

The final installment, Part 5, of “The History of WildSide” will continue on with the demise of hard rock, the death of The Sunset Strip music scene, the implosion of Capitol Records, the exit of Brent Woods, and what a person does when they are heralded as a B-level rock star one day, then basically homeless the next. Stay tuned.

 

Differing Opinion Disclaimer : “The History of WildSide written here is MY point of view on how things happened for my band. Others in the band may have seen it differently and experienced different things, and I can respect their interpretations of our history. This however, is how I saw it, and what I experienced. Rock on.” - Benny Rhynedance

 

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The History of WildSide... Part 5
WILDSIDE·FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2016

 

"From pre-Grunge Seattle Zero to Hollywood Hair Metal Hero, and Back…”

Here we start the final installment in the History of WildSide Series. So far, Drew Hannah and I have come from Seattle to L.A. in 1986, rocked hard four straight years in Hollywood during the middle of The Sunset Strip hard rock metal scene, met up with Brent Woods, conquered Hollywood as “Kings of The Sunset Strip,” and added talented bassist Marc Simon and the killer Jimmy D on drums. We attained a massive, true rock star, career recording contract with Capitol Records, recorded our debut with the legendary Andy Johns at Eddie Van Halen’s house, released Under The Influence worldwide in 1992, and went on the road for two years. We persevered over blizzards, hurricanes, endless groupies, copious amounts of Jack Daniels, cocaine, economic downturns, changing musical tastes, yet brought our rock show all across the US and Canada. I personally survived an accidental multi-drug overdose and was reborn hard. It’s now the summer of 1993 and grunge has completely taken over the musical landscape. Enter flannel shirts, and the demise of corporate hair metal… oh yeah, and WildSide.

In 1991, we were hiding out in the Coldwater Canyon Van Halen bunker, recording our debut at Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 recording studio. While we weren’t looking, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and the like had seemingly come from nowhere and instantly made flashy, good time, rockers with leather, long hair, explosions, rock anthems, and big amp stacks obsolete and uncool. This happened so fast, it was hard for anyone to really understand.

Since the early 80’s when Quiet Riot blew up the Sunset Strip and brought L.A. metal into everyone’s bedroom, the norm of the musical landscape was always hard rock, loud guitar, killer riffs, party theme, and bad boy, bad behavior rock-n-roll swagger. Excess and hedonism had always been what the 80’s scene was all about. This new grunge-style music from Seattle, and the thought of depressing rock, made up serious themes, no image, thrift store clothing, elementary, low quality instruments and junky, beat up gear was just unthinkable. Who would buy this shit? Nothing like that could ever succeed, could it? Well, it became huge and a runaway success in a few months after appearing in late 1991. People say Kurt Cobain killed rock. I say, “Not really.”

After 10 years of corporate hair metal and repeated release formulas, rock fans were ready for a change. Idol worshipping of rock stars was over. The same formula in the music business for hard rock had been played out too many times. More importantly, the music lovers of the later 70’s and throughout the 80’s that bought and supported the Sunset Strip rock style had grown up, moved on, were now in their late 20’s, early 30’s, had gotten married, started careers and become mature adults. New record buying young people, little brothers and sisters, had shown up. They weren’t programmed into the corporate hard rock formula, like their older siblings had been, and were very open to any new ideas and music genres that were presented. The circle of choices had grown in the music business. Rap had emerged. Grunge had emerged. Pop stars were being made. The infancy of the boy band had been born. It wasn’t just hard rock, metal or radio friendly pop any longer. Being a hard rock band coming out in the early 90’s was the worst timing.

After WildSide had released our debut in 1992, we toured regularly for a year, into the summer of 1993, By this time we were playing bigger venues. It felt like we were progressing, slowly but surely. We headlined the rock stage at the Milwaukee Summerfest. We played to some large crowds. Grunge had soured our audiences on both coasts, but rock fans were still in the middle of the country. So we would just tour in a circle through the Midwest. We would play these bigger shows, and people would love us. It felt awesome. Rock couldn’t be dead? How could it be? We weren’t giving up on our debut, Under The Influence, even though Capitol Records sure had. We used up all of our touring budgets with the label, and were on our own as far as road jaunts went. Our sales had dropped off. Regardless of fans telling us how great we were, the numbers just weren’t there, and were dropping off fast. Grunge was winning. We initially shipped 50,000 units to record stores, which was a higher standard back then. (In the early 2000’s, companies would ship 1 million of shitty artists! Instant platinum plaque before the first gig!) Secondary orders for Under The Influence numbered somewhere around half the first order. Additional third orders from record stores were sparse. WildSide wasn’t on the radio very much any longer as we weren’t being pushed by the radio dept. at the label. We were left flailing in the wind. No matter how good UTI had turned out and all the heavy weight people that had been involved in the process, it could not be saved. Music tastes had drastically changed. Music fans had changed. Economic climates were tight. The planets had not aligned. Timing was not on our side. In essence, as much as no one wanted to admit it… WildSide and our “All Killer No Filler” UTI debut record were a dead stick.

 

Meanwhile, and unfortunately for us, Capitol Records was in the midst of a company crisis. New management was hired because of concerning lower profit margins, and label president Hale Milgrim, the guy who signed us, the guy who said we’d be his own personal Guns N Roses, was offered a $16 million-dollar severance package. He took it in a heartbeat. “Bye WildSide! … Bye Hale!” Then, almost every single department at Capitol Hollywood experienced major changes, especially in leadership roles. All the people that liked WildSide and believed in us were gone in an afternoon. POOF! We were fresh outta friends. Not a good position to be in.

As the new president was brought in, he asked for a list of all the bands that Hale Milgrim had personally signed. WildSide was on that small list and at the top of it. Anything that Hale had been involved in was to potentially go with him - out the door. Typical executive personal vendetta bullshit stuff. Our death warrant at Capitol Records had been drafted up and was about to be signed.

Prior to the big Capitol Records shake up, the A&R department called and said, “Hey guys, c’mon in off the road, and let’s start album number two.” WTF? Didn’t we just start all this? It wasn’t platinum yet. It wasn’t gold yet. Hell UTI hadn’t even gone Iron Pyrite in Kazakhstan! Second record? Were they kidding us? UTI is over? We took this as a major slap in the face. Album #2? C’mon! UTI wasn’t a failure in our eyes at that time. How could Capitol Records just give up on Under The Influence? Second record?! No way! They spent over a half a million dollars on the first CD, to set us up for a long career. We were slated to become rock stars. There’s no way they were going to just let that go, right? We’re supposed to be the next Guns N Roses, remember?! Hale said! We couldn’t just be some tax write off, or 1993 loss for the company, could we? Was it that simple? Our debut had barely been out for a year, yet fans were just buying it, people were singing our songs at shows en masse, questionable women were throwing themselves at us 24/7, people were telling us how wonderful we were. We had good free drugs and large egos. Everywhere we went, everything was free, it was all meat-n-cheese platters, no brown M&M’s, pats on the back, and yanks on the crotch. We could get away with almost anything. We were conquering pirates. We’d show up, turn the town upside down, get the gold, steal the women, and leave town in the middle of the night. We were like royalty. Can you see where I’m going with all this nonsense? All that constant unhealthy false adulation provided a high level of false confidence, ego bolstering for some, and tended to cloud our better judgement. All this and we were really only about C-level rockstars in 1993. Sure, we were in some big rock magazines, and lots of people knew of us, but we weren’t huge yet in any sense, but in our minds we were! I can’t imagine what being Motley Crue, Van Halen, Scorpions, Priest, etc. must have been like. Well, yes I can, as a matter of fact…I’d already tasted a bit of that life.

A famous saying in the music business goes like this, “You have your whole life to write and record your first record, and two weeks to do your second, and it must be better than the first.” Boy, is that ever a true statement. The second record you have to crank out fast, and it better be a step up from the first one. I know all of us guys felt like we had just finished writing and recording these UTI tunes that we had cultivated and nurtured for a few years in Hollywood on the Sunset Strip. The thought of having to sit down and write 12 new songs, good ones, and do it quickly, was unthinkable. So what did we do? We said, “FUCK YOU Capitol!” Ugh. Another famously great WildSide decision! We weren’t coming back in off the road. We weren’t writing or recording anything new. We were going to tour until the apocalypse and we were going to make Under The Influence a platinum record, or die trying. “Stick and stay and make it pay.” This wasn’t the best way to go about things. Here we had the label offering us another round of advances for another record, and Virgin Music Publishing doing the same. Why would we turn that down? Lack of logical thinking, maybe? At least we’d have a second record, and still be employed for another year or so, and maybe get to tour again. Who knew? Maybe weather through the grunge storm? But hey, people were telling us how great we were in the Midwest. We were rock stars for God’s sakes! Weren’t we? No one was going to tell US what to do! No one is the boss of US! We knew better, right? Uh…wrong, Bunch of ego-blinded rock-n-roll buffoons. :)

Coming in off the road for a small two week break in July of 1993, the state of WildSide at Capitol Records was frail at best. Our team at the label was 90% gone. New A&R execs wanted to focus on money making grunge and alternative music, and dump all those “old dinosaur long hair L.A. metal poseur bands.” If there was a guitar solo anywhere on your record, you were out. No one was returning calls to us or our lame/worthless commission driven management.

That late summer of 1993, two WS band members (ain’t sayin…) ended up doing an interview with L.A. Weekly magazine, which a lot of industry people in Hollywood read. During the interview, things got emotional and the tone took a turn and things got a little nasty with some negative comments being spewed towards our record label and how the business had changed etc. In retrospect, I can understand the anger – we were losing our grip on our future, and we had zero control over it. The L.A. Weekly interview was an angry bitchfest. I’m sure the interviewer was super excited to have some juicy mud-slinging happening. The piece came out a week later, and shit hit the fan. Being on very thin ice as it was, this was all Capitol needed to terminate our career contract. They didn’t need some “played-out hair metal band” on their roster running around talking smack in the press. That’s biting the hand that feeds you. Never a good thing. Regardless if you are unhappy as an artist, sometimes you have to put the ego aside, take a breath, play the game, and keep your mouth shut. It didn’t work out like that. The label got a hold of our manager, who was completely foolish, got in a pissing contest over the phone, and our guy Barry Levine says, “Lose our fucking number, you fucking assholes!” Done. They did exactly what he told them to do. We were officially unsigned again. It was that quick. Having an iron clad, one-inch thick contract for seven albums, worth two million dollars wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. They tore it up and said, “Have a nice life guys!” Our attorney Dennis Rider, the guy that got us the deal, got us out of the deal. We didn’t owe any money to Capitol Records, and they played nice and paid us a small severance package to boot. It was that simple. It was that heartbreaking.

It wasn’t long after that, we decided to go back out on the road again for another round of ego stroking and pretend stardom tour dates. Hell, we had nothing better to do! It was either surfing or hanging out at the beach. Our fans were still out there wondering what the heck, so we went out and gave them more. Playing out every night for the people that loved us became a great way to be able to swallow the fact that our dreams, everything we had worked so hard for, all of our young adult life, back into our late teens, was coming to an end. It was our fans that lifted our spirits every night for the 75 minutes that we were with them.

BRENT WOODS QUITS WILDSIDE. This was a headline in Metal Edge in December of 1993. I remember how bad it looked. After that last round of shows in the Fall of 1993, it was clear that all of us were angry at the hand we had been dealt in the music business. We missed the mark in so many different ways, but not because of our own doing. We provided an awesome product for Capitol to sell. The music business, and the business of becoming a rock star in the 80’s and early 90’s, was a much different game than any of us could have ever imagined. As MTV raised teens, our perception of what a true rock star was, was definitely NOT in line with what the actual reality of the scenario truly was. Wasn’t it supposed to be like Van Halen David Lee Roth craziness in 1984? We just knew it had to be like Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee with Ozzy, snorting up lines of wayward ants at some random truck stop. It had to be about groupie girls doing unimaginable sexual things, and begging to do it. It had to be about Lambo’s and Ferrari’s, big houses (Cribs) in the canyons, stacks of cash, parties, mega stages, amp stacks to the roof, free stuff… This was the perception on MTV in the mid 80’s, (when there were actual videos on MTV!) and the exact reason why Drew Hannah and I moved to Los Angeles. We wanted to be a part of this crazy Sunset Strip scene. This is where it was all happening. This was where we had a real shot at trying to join this never ending rock-n-roll party.

Brent Woods was becoming distant with all of us in the band. During our last tour together in 1993, he would disappear after shows and hole up in a hotel room with some girl. He was making himself scarce. I didn’t understand this. I knew he was pissed about things, but didn’t know exactly how much. One night after we finished the set in Colorado Springs, and were preparing to do our encore of Balls To The Wall by Accept (we loved that song and always did it as an encore), Brent announced his fingers were sore and bleeding, and that he was done. He turned his back and immediately walked out of the building to the tour bus. All of us went from smiling, sweaty and excitedly jumping around, to stone face and like, “WHAT?” The crowd was cheering and chanting, and we were ready to go back out. Now, we could have just called it a night and been fine. No big deal. One of our guys was messed up. But, I think it was the fact that Brent just walked away from us, no regrets and bad attitude, that pissed everyone off (preview of things to come). It seemed out of character for him. We were finishing off a show here. You gotta suck it up and finish no matter what. When we played the famous Harpo’s in Detroit and I was deathly ill from some sort of nasty flu bug, puking and shitting side stage in a bucket between songs, I would still run back out there, play guitar, and sing into the mic with chunky puke breath. Bassist Marc Simon, my mic-stand mate, must’ve enjoyed that! Ew!

As Brent strolled out the back and the crowd was chanting “Wi-ld-Side, Wi-ld-Side, Wi-ld-Side,” Drew looked at me and said, “Fuck it, let’s GO!” “Benny, you got this?” I said, “HELL YES!” set my wireless transmitter to STUN, and ran out on stage and started Balls To The Wall, with amps at 11. The crowd went wild. ONE MORE SONG! We were slicing their heads off with the volume. Meanwhile, the worst had happened for Brent. He was already on the bus eyeballing the meat-n-cheese platter, then heard us starting to rip into it, inside the venue. OH SHIT! He realized we had went on without him. This was a first, and the only time something like this ever occurred. He was pissed off I’m sure, but he ran back inside real fast, and got back on the stage just in time to play his solo, and finish the show. Afterwards wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of yelling going on. Things got heated. It wasn’t the normal squabble. This particular incident had a different tone. Brent’s face had a different look. He wasn’t the same guy anymore. Even a lot of Brent’s newer musical ideas that he brought to the table in 1993, like Hemi-Cuda, Killing Machine, and Six Feet Under had taken a different musical tone. It was really industrial, drum machines, way heavier, darker, and not really similar at all to the hook-laden Under The influence anthem sound we had crafted.

I think what Brent was going through was heavy duty grief from the death of our record and our failure with Capitol Records. Honestly, it was hard to fathom what was happening to us. We were losing everything and it was going away fast. All of us felt the loss of it.

 

Brent took the recording of the music very seriously, just as I did. We both enjoyed the whole process of recording and being in the studio until all hours. He worked particularly hard on his big part of the songwriting, and I know he spent a lot of time recording his guitar parts to get them just right. In all actuality, probably too much late night time was spent alone with an impaired Andy Johns at 5150, as the whole process went somewhat sideways. Brent decided to RE-RECORD over MY guitar parts, and allegedly RE-CUT (Woods recently announced this on the FB page) the bass guitar parts on the record as well, and didn’t tell anyone about it. Just did it. To me, that move was unconscionable. It’s not like you can run right back in and record again. Once the time is gone and the parts are erased, that’s it. Your turn is up.

In my opinion, and as common sense dictated, Brent was heavily emotionally invested in seeing Under The Influence be a success. I’m sure, in his mind, he felt UTI was HIS album. He did spend the most time in the recording chair, after all. Fact is, it was ALL of our album that we ALL were a part of. We were a band and a team of 5 guys, each with a valuable and unique contribution. When it was clear it wasn’t going to be a platinum seller, and how times had changed, he became distant. I can understand his disappointment. We were all beyond disappointed, but Brent took it extremely hard, and he did it silently. After we were done touring, he and I spent a last night in some Phoenix hotel room, as we were both catching a flight the next day. He didn’t say a word to me about quitting WildSide. Zero. We B.S.’d a bit that night, and I went to a hang out with some fans. He didn’t want to go.

 

The next morning, he got up early and took off. I never saw Brent Woods, or talked to my friend Brent Woods again after that. That was late September of 1993. It’s been 23 years. I don’t have a clue if/why he has any beef with me about anything. Wish I knew, and I wish he would return an email…

In talking with other guys in the band just recently, it turns out that two or three days after Brent and I parted ways in Phoenix, and after getting back to Los Angeles, Drew and Brent got into a knock-down, drag-out fist fight, and Brent announced he was quitting. I never knew any of this happened. So that solves that mystery. Aside from Drew and I, Brent was the first guy to join us in WildSide, and the first guy to quit WildSide. Not too long after, Brent hooked up with notorious Hollywood bass player Robbie Crane, and the two were playing for Vince Neil on the Carved In Stone tour. Brent spent about 5 or 6 years with Vince. BRENT WOODS QUITS WILDSIDE.

So, after spending five years in the band with us, Brent quit after a little more than a year of UTI being released on Capitol. Drew and I, along with Marc and Jimmy decided to continue on and write new music. We thought for sure another record label would pick us up. Surely WildSide was a valuable commodity, already having a fan base and been “in the club” and on a major record label. Wishful thinking. NOBODY wanted anything to do with rock bands at all. Now, if we wore lots of flannel shirts, ripped up shorts, grandma’s old sweater, scuffed combat boots, never showered and wrote depressing songs, we might’ve had a shot. Fact is, our style of hard rock was amazingly not really desired any longer at that time.

We looked for another guitar player and ended up auditioning Jon E. Love from Love/Hate, but it didn’t work out. We had a few rehearsals, but he was not in line with us musically. We wanted to get Dave Lizmi from The Four Horsemen, but he declined. Jimmy knew Bruce Draper from Geffen’s Records Graveyard Train, and we decided to jam with him. Bruce was a cool guy, and played a black Les Paul, just like Brent did. Bruce had shoulder length brown hair just like Brent had. If you squinted a little bit, Bruce was a semi-ringer for Brent. Perfect. He was in.

We had a two night sold out concert event booked in Salt Lake City in January of 1994, so having Bruce aboard worked out great. Bruce was a lot like a Jimi Page guitarist with a little bit of Keith Richards mixed in. He learned all our tunes really quick and we headed off out of town for our “pretend rock star” set of gigs. I didn’t know Bruce very well, and he was a bit older than us. The two of us really hadn’t spent much time together. He was a different musical guy than the rest of us. He was very blues oriented, and not really a Van Halen-esque, big rock player. He had a Black Crowes vibe, and that was the best way to describe him.

 

When we got to Salt Lake City, things went well. The first night was sold out and fans didn’t seem to really know Brent was gone. Just as I thought. Semi-ringer. Bruce was getting it done. Not as flashy as Brent, but a different flavor. Before the second night at a different venue, called The Power Plant, a place we’d never played before, they sent a limo over to the hotel to pick us up. This gigantic titanic of a white Cadillac limo pulled up, and Bruce and I jumped in. None of the other guys were around, so I told the driver to take off. It was 20 minutes to the venue. Bruce and I didn’t say one word to each other. We just sat in pure silence the whole way. I’ll never forget that ride. It was surreal. I looked out the window at the snow in the mountains surrounding SLC, and I knew this was probably the last time this band was going to play together. It was the last time we would get the rock star treatment. I could feel it. Or maybe the truth of it all was that it was actually going to be ME that wasn’t going to play with these guys ever again.

Our gigs in Salt Lake went great. We came home and went into a weird hiatus. Drew met a girl from Louisiana, and fell madly in love with her, which was a first for Drew. He was really smitten by this gal. She was going to Australia for some temporary job offer or something the spring of 1994. Drew announced he would follow her there and surprise her. All of us said, “Uh dude… what about WildSide getting another record deal, and working on new music?” Drew said, “I think if we tell the record companies that the singer of WildSide lives in Australia, it will be a really cool mystique type of thing for the band…” UH, WHAT? There was no talking Drew out of this. I didn’t agree with the thinking. We needed to keep the WildSide fires burning if we were going to jump onto another major label and keep our career alive. It was going to be hard to write killer new songs and come up with the follow up to UTI if Drew wasn’t around to write with. Already, Drew and I had messed around with the beginning ideas to Looking To Move, The Grave, and Company Of Users (these songs would later end up on that next CD that Drew did, the 1995 Lizard record, but they ended up turning into full blown Alice In Chains reject grunge songs – nothing like WildSide UTI).

So, off Drew went to Australia, to go after his love interest. Good for him, bad for us. Myself, Marc Simon, Jimmy D. and Bruce Draper rarely got together at all, and it felt like the band had broken up. We were in limbo and doing nothing. Grunge music was at its peak. Kurt Cobain had just been found dead a month earlier, and all hell was about break loose with the grunge movement that had dominated the music scene for the past 2 years.

 

I certainly didn’t like the new direction our songwriting was going. It felt like were going grunge. Bruce was suggesting stuff that was very weird grunge sounding. Drew was liking the ideas. I wasn’t having it. It felt like we were bandwagon jumping. None of the stuff we were coming up with was sounding like WildSide to my ears. It sounded like a different band completely. When Drew finally returned from Australia, I didn’t even get a chance to hook up with him and talk about our next move. We had a phone conversation that turned ugly. I was pissed about the whole abandonment of the band, him running off to the other side of the world, the writing of the bad grunge reject music, and just the state we were all left in. I unloaded on him over the phone. Of course, he said “Fuck you!” then I said, “No, fuck you!” and that was that. I never saw Drew Hannah again after this conversation in June of 1994. I still haven’t. (doesn’t that seem so silly?)

BENNY RHYNEDANCE QUITS WILDSIDE.

Drew went on with Marc, Jimmy and Bruce and did the grunge record on a private indie label, and they released it in 1995. Fans were shocked at what they heard. It wasn’t the WildSide they knew and loved. It was a bad grunge band called Wildside. I used to say I hated that CD. But a few years ago, I really listened to it backwards and forward, and I figured out what it was all about. Drew did a good job at attempting to stay relevant in what was then a very hostile musical landscape and an impossible music business to survive in. That couldn’t have been easy. Grunge had run its course, obliterated hard rock, and Hootie & The Blowfish and MatchBox Twenty were about to start their run. What rocker dudes could survive this? Very few were successful during this time. Van Halen had a #1 album in 1995 but only after they went silent for 4 years.

All of us guys went our separate ways. I’ve stayed friends with Marc Simon over the years. Brent? Never talked to him after 1993. Nothing. Why? Couldn’t tell you. I’ve emailed him and messaged him as of late but get no response. Jimmy D.? Could never locate him. Just recently began speaking with him again via email, and he sounds great. Drew? We talked via email a few times in 2009. That didn’t last long. Things went south fairly quickly. Old wounds still hadn’t healed. Just recently Drew and I have had some phone conversations and shared some fun talks about our old days together in Seattle with NuProphet, our band ROGUE that went to L.A., YOUNG GUNNS, and us starting WildSide, etc. Overall, Drew and I seem to have aged long enough to get past whatever goofy shit went down more than twenty years ago when we were just boys. I’d say two decades is long enough to hold any kind of baggage. Drew and I started this whole rock stardom journey together as teenagers, sacrificed our college educations, gambled with our lives together, and lived through an incredible experience together over a ten year period. From watching Van Halen in Seattle on the 1984 tour, to recording at Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 studio in 1991, to living out of a suitcase and touring everywhere for years, and achieving almost all of our rock-n-roll dreams. That is something that no one can ever take away. It all happened, and it was a fucking awesome adventure. Each of us guys in the band lived the life of ten men before we were 30. Not many can claim that.

Over the years, WildSide has gotten back together for a one off show, here and there. Once in 2004 in Salt Lake City, and twice for local Hollywood gigs in 2010. It's always been without me participating. Granted, they all live in L.A. and I left Hollywood in 1998, so I’ve never been around there, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of the shows. Now, there will be another show this year on September 3rd, in Golden, Colorado for a local promoter and their annual Wolf Fest show at a club called The Buffalo Rose. Will it be a complete and legit UTI Capitol band reunion with all of us five guys?

 

Who’s to say? I know I want to do it. I know the fan base wants to see it. I know Marc, Jimmy and Drew have expressed interest in bringing me back onboard. Would I like to be onstage with these four guys again? Absolutely. Would our fans enjoy it? Totally. So many never got the chance to see us back then, or just recently discovered our music and want to see it now. There is something to be said for an old group that gets it together and comes back for the fans. I hope it can happen. It certainly would be for all the right reasons this time around. Besides, it just feels like the right time now. It’s been long enough. Two decades is more than enough time to hold a grudge.

I think I’m gonna need a Bonus Part 6 to happen here…this WildSide story isn’t really over quite yet.

Differing Opinion Disclaimer : I’ve put this disclaimer here on the end of all my chapters of “The History of WildSide,” mainly as a courtesy to my other band mates. Saying that everything here is, “MY point of view on how things happened for my band and that others may have seen it differently and experienced different things,” is, well, in all honesty, just a nice way of me saying, “Hey guys, sorry if I’m airing any perceived soiled laundry, but this is what the truth is.” What I’ve written down in ALL five chapters is completely factual, and a firsthand eye witness account of what happened in WildSide - no filters, no revisionist history, no alternate universe, no bullshit. If others can’t remember stuff from the early 90’s, that certainly doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed. This IS what happened, and what WAS experienced.

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The History of WildSide... Part 6 by Benny Rhynedance
WILDSIDE·FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016

 

“It Aint Over, ‘Til It’s Over…”

Here we start the final installment in The History of WildSide. Just a footnote really, but a fitting end to the WildSide saga. In the first five chapters we’ve watched Drew Rosenfeld and myself bring the WildSide foundation from Seattle to L.A. in 1986. We conquered the Sunset Strip music scene with now infamous road guitarist Brent Woods. We garnered a giant recording contract with Capitol Records, released a timeless hard rock debut, and got set for rock super stardom. We did it all, only to have it abruptly end as musical climates, and business models changed drastically in 1992 - The death of The Sunset Strip… and a few friendships too.

Arriving in L.A. in the mid 80’s was just an awesome time to be in a hard rock band and going 100% in for a real career as a musician. Since the 60’s, Hollywood had a really exciting rock-n-roll music scene and it just got better and better into the 70’s and 80’s with the different music genres coming and going. With the advent of the flashy heavy metal explosion in Los Angeles in the very early 1980’s, the Sunset Strip and all the music venues that were already infamous for more than a decade, had now reached stratospheric legendary status. Being able to arrive in the middle of that explosion was lucky timing for myself and Drew Rosenfeld (Hannah). In all actuality, we were late to the scene. 1980-82 would have been the years to show up in L.A., like the guys in Poison, but not 1986. It wasn’t our fault though, we were just born about 5 years too late.

The Sunset Strip in the 80’s was everything you think it might have been and about 100X more. You had to be there and live it every day. It was bedlam every single moment. Being immersed, and a true part of it, as it was unfolding was just such a privilege and a stroke of luck for me personally. Those were some magical times on Sunset Boulevard. Times that will never be re-created. That scene from the mid 80’s on Sunset Blvd. was a once in a lifetime event that will never happen again anywhere. Consider yourself lucky if you got to be anywhere near it for a few minutes.

In 1984 Seattle, I had long hair as a later teenager, and I walked around dressed like I was about to go onstage with the Scorpions. I guess you could say my fashion sense was a little on the whacky side. Hey, what can I say, I was “all in” as far as living the part. All I knew was what I saw in Circus or Hit Parader magazines. The bands were always in their stage clothes. What I didn’t understand was they were always interviewed right after their shows and had their pictures taken, or they were at a photo shoot. I was so dumb I actually thought they walked around like that every day, in their striped spandex with spiked studded belts and bracelets! Seattle people looked at me funny on a daily basis. My mother and father were saints to be so supportive. Oh man, talk about a disappointment! LOL. “Have you seen junior’s grades…” Trying to get a job, let alone a girlfriend, was not easy with the badly home-bleached orange/blonde hair all sprayed up to the sky, and walking around wearing a day-glow dyed orange trench coat. Hot!

In Seattle, I was a freak and couldn’t get laid in a morgue, even though I truly believed I was cool as hell. When I got to L.A., people didn’t bat an eye lash. Working an office job, and wearing a tie during the day with my “metal look” was no big deal either. The boss took a look at me and said, “Musician, right?” He knew. Southern California was used to people looking weird, and it had become the norm down there. My kind of place! To top it all off, the girls were way into financially destitute rocker guys with long hair and an Aqua Net can in the back pocket. This was too easy. I was a hit in Hollywood!

We really thought we had reached the promised land in Los Angeles. For Drew and I, everything we had read about the Sunset Strip was more than true. It was fantastic. We lived at Zuma Beach during the day, north of Malibu, and down on the Sunset Strip at night passing out our band flyers, along with 5000 other bands that were streaming in and out of L.A. from around the country.

The status quo back then for a lucky band to “make it” was around 5 years. “Making it” meaning starting a band, writing decent songs, performing on a club circuit, honing the craft, starting a buzz, gaining a local following, having promoters and bookers wanting you to play wherever, and getting interest from a major record label. It takes time. Drew and I did 2 years in Seattle, then 4 years in Hollywood on The Strip before Capitol Records came calling. It was a 6-year commitment before any kind of success began to show up, yet neither of us ever waivered. If someone ever said, “So, what will you fall back on if you don’t make it in music?” Our stock answer was always, “Oh, but we will make it.” Blind faith for sure.

Look at Van Halen. Ed and Al were playing backyard parties and city parks as young teens in the late 60’s, then the Sunset Strip clubs in the earlier to mid-70’s after reluctantly letting Roth join the band. They hit big in 1978.

Look at Quiet Riot. Kevin DuBrow and Randy Rhoads were on The Strip in the mid 70’s. Randy went with Ozzy in 1979. Quiet Riot finally broke out in 1983 and really brought the whole 80’s Sunset Strip vibe to everyone around the world.

Nikki Sixx got to L.A. in 1975 at 17. 1975! He was in a band with Blackie Lawless called Sister, then he formed London, and in 1981 formed Motley Crue. They went ginormous by 1983. Nikki was at it for 8 years prior! No overnight success there.

How about RATT? They were Mickey Ratt in 1976 on the Sunset Strip. Various line-up changes over the years, all except Stephen Pearcy, but they finally solidified and hit the big time in 1984.

The mid and late 1970’s in Hollywood had unknown, one day to be HUGE, rock bands that were marinating in their own musical juices and poised to become super stars. Hell, I was still in grade school, going into junior high at that time, and loving Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Led Zep, Eagles, Peter Frampton, Boston, Styx, and AC/DC. All the Sunset Strip bands in Hollywood are what really inspired me to want to get down to Los Angeles from Seattle. I felt like I was missing out on something big. Seattle felt like Mars compared to sunny SoCal with all the palm trees, the waves breaking, and the “swimmin’ pools and movie stars!”

All of us in the band put in the time, made the commitment, and chased our dreams, all while our high school peers had gone on to college, graduated college, received their degrees, started their careers, and/or gotten married and started families. We chose the path less traveled, the one we thought was an easy shortcut. Problem was, we actually chose the hardest path possible, the one that is rarely conquered, and the path that breaks people into a million pieces. The path of dreams is less traveled for a very good reason!

"Being in a band is like being in a bad marriage…”

Whoever said that was so right! Exactly like a bad marriage. After all the record labels had fought over us in 1990, we chose to sign with Capitol Records. This is where “the changes” began taking place for certain guys in the band. Up until this point, it was all fun and games. For the most part, we all got along as friends, and we generally enjoyed being around each other. We rehearsed 5 nights a week sometimes. By then, we were all Strip scene veterans, we’d played all the clubs on Sunset so many times for years, and had so much fun on our musical journey together. As soon as we got signed, and contracts, advances and publishing money began flying around, people became “difficult.” It was like night and day. Even simple credit for this, that and every little detail began being scrutinized. There was a lot of emphasis on who did what, who wrote what exactly, and who was exactly creating what we were playing. This was confusing because it was obvious who wrote what. Brent Woods wrote music and that was that. Drew Hannah wrote lyrics, and that was that. I wrote music and lyrics. Done. Marc and Jimmy provided a solid foundation for us to create on and they kicked ass at what they did. It was pretty simple who did what. Drew, myself, and Brent created all the content on Under The Influence. We’d been writing music together since Brent Woods finally joined up with us in 1988. For some reason, all of a sudden, an alternate universe was being created where it was basically just one guy who was magically the reason for ALL the songs. Uh, what? No. There are three band members from WildSide in the song credits for UTI. I wasn’t buying the bullshit that any single guy was responsible for our sound, even after there was all the talk of band member’s parts secretly being erased, and re-recorded during the recording process of our debut up at Ed Van Halen’s house. That was a shady thing, and a selfish, self-serving, despicable act. Do I care now? Naw. Who gives a shit, that was 25 years ago. Did I care then? Looking back today? I should have cared more and not been afraid to rock the boat. Had I known it was happening at the time, there might have been a different outcome up at 5150. History is history. You can’t change it.

Was I too high back then? Were my personal expectations on what kind of band I thought we were, not based in reality? I thought YOUNG GUNNS/WildSide was a gang of 5 guys, 5 buddies, a rock-n-roll team ready to go out and kick the metal world’s ass. We were a tight bunch of friends when we were playing The Whisky on Monday nights for a free $40 beer tab. Those were actually the best of times. It was the record deal, publishing deal, guitar endorsement deals, and hype from other people circling around us like buzzards that started messing with people’s heads. It’s easy to start believing how GREAT you are when all these people around you are you telling you that you are “the shit!” This is when you have to step back, check yourself, and be who you really are. Problem is, no one tells you this beforehand. There is no handbook on how to NOT be an asshole when you get a little money, power, and fame. That’s the thing about “celebrity” and getting to the higher levels of the Hollywood meat grinder. It can easily expose a person’s weaknesses and character flaws.

“Two of the Coolest Guys around, and one of the tightest Rhythm sections”

Marc Simon was always a great dude. From day one he was just plain cool. Marc and I shared Stage Right together and a mic stand as well. I can honestly say that I cannot recall a time that Marc was ever pissed off at anyone. He was a pleasure to be around. We were always laughing, and having a good time. His bass playing was smooth and unwavering. Marc was always able to lock in with any drummer, and his integration abilities made him a guy that you never were concerned about. It was a given that Marc would find the low end and deliver the thunder no matter what. Over the years, the two of us have stayed in touch and shared stories and stock tips. (some good some bad! Ha!) I have the utmost respect for Marc, he never did me dirty. Marc is now a successful wine vintner in Santa Barbara, CA with his own label called DV8 cellars. Check him out at www.dv8cellars.com . His wines are award winning and top sellers at many wine shows in Southern California. Viva Marc & Dominique Simon.

Jimmy D (Jim Darby) saved WildSide. Jim was our final addition to YOUNG GUNNS and the reason we went up to the higher band levels to be on the playing field for record company interest. Jimbo was the missing piece that we needed. We auditioned so many L.A. drummers. Some good, not great, most weak. That day Jimmy drove up and unloaded that mega drum kit that I swear Tommy Aldridge from Whitesnake was playing, I knew he was our guy. When he plugged in a giant rack of effects and power amps, with his own drum monitor, mics inside his drums so he could trigger them with Def Leppard-esque drum samples mixed with his acoustic sounds, I knew he was our guy. The minute Jimmy started playing he was in. The day he auditioned still sticks with me, but more than that, Jim’s playing was unforgettable. I never knew a drummer that could play at 133 beats per minute by just using his mind. No click track, just his brain. “Hey Jimmy, we need 72bpm for Just Another Night… GO!” Perfect every time. It was uncanny. We nicknamed him “father time” because he was so steady and could provide instant metronome. Jimmy took us from Sunset Strip band to national act in about 5 minutes at our rehearsal warehouse. It was obvious he was the link the band needed, and we were lucky to find him and vice versa. Another nice guy. Hanging around with JD was easy. Jimmy was a fierce and loyal friend and the kind of guy that had your back no matter what. I am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with him recently and tell him my thoughts. Jim is a talented film special effects and post production guy, who is now in real estate, and is also a restauranteur. Best drummer I ever played with, hands down, and a great guy to boot. Cheers JD.

“The Brent Diaries…”

Brent Woods was the first guitar player I met in L.A. in 1986. We were in competing bands, but we rehearsed at the same place on the same days. I thought he looked and sounded EXACTLY like George Lynch with his playing style. We were fast friends with the same interests. I hung out with Brent many times, talked gear all the time, would borrow some of his stuff, and even checked out his band whenever they would play out. We used to go down to Melrose Ave. and look for cool sequined suit jackets for stage wear. (gulp! Lol, it was the 80’s!) I always thought it would be cool to have Brent in our band. What I didn’t know was that Brent had ZERO interest in ever sharing any spotlight with any other guitarists, friends or not. I always imagined us as the Scorpions. I would be Rudolph Schenker, and he would be Mathius Jabs, a good guitar team. What I failed to see was that Brent was imagining himself as George Lynch with Dokken, with me out back loading in his 4X12 cabinets! Our visions apparently weren’t on the same page. Ha! Drew and I did a great job of finally convincing Brent to join up with us in 1988. It really was the right move for everyone involved.

Right away when Brent joined the band, and we were calling it THE BOYS, he took over on guitar and began what I called “the ball-hogging era.” He’d never pass the ball around to give anyone else a shot at the basket. This was a concern for me. We were supposed to be a guitar team together, but it wasn’t turning out that way. As we started writing songs, it was leaning that way as well. Brent wanted to write ALL the music, with no outside help. Anything Drew and I had written prior, Brent didn’t want anything to do with, and Drew and I had a few tunes together from ROGUE that were hits. Nope, he didn’t want to go near them. I couldn’t understand why.

One cool thing that happened immediately from Brent joining up with us was I got exposed to his “Randy Rhoads/George Lynch lessons” style of playing. Apparently, Brent took lessons at Delores Rhoads’ Musonia School of Music in No. Hollywood when he was a teenager in the late 70’s, early 80’s. I never understood why he didn’t ever speak about Randy Rhoads, or what it was like taking lessons from Randy Rhoads, or what he learned from Randy Rhoads. George Lynch took over some of Randy’s students after the accident in 1982, so Brent even got some “Lynch-time” as well. I spent 5 years playing alongside Brent and there was never one single story from Musonia. Nothing. Never understood that. No stories for a fellow guitarist that loved Randy? Nope. Nada. I had posters of Randy from Circus magazine, playing the white Les Paul with the snakeskin strap, on my wall when I was in high school. I would’ve found those stories really interesting.

One thing about me is that I am an ear player, a trumpet player, a trained music reader/writer, and can pick up parts and styles just by listening. In every band I was ever in, I was always the only guitar player, just like Brent was. Now I was hearing another guy, and all his stuff, on the other side of the stage. Brent’s playing style got into my head, and I began to pick up and incorporate many of his personal intricacies into my own playing. I soaked up his style like Bounty paper towels, and made it my own. THAT alone was worth the price of admission of having Brent, and all that came with him, in the band.

As WildSide came into fruition, I was resigned to the fact that Brent was going to be Brent and he wanted to be THE GUY. Fine. I accepted it. There was no way he was going to change. I figured it all out. Even after we got the Capitol Records recording contract and signed the deal, and Brent tried to get me thrown out, and he tried to rename the band WARBREED, I didn’t hate the guy. Brent had his own ideas. His problem was that he would never convey his ideas to the rest of us. He would just try to implement them, then everyone would say, “Whoa! Hang on a second here, we ain’t doin’ that!” then the drama would ensue. No matter how you sliced it, I was up there onstage too, and magazines were taking my picture and publishing it.

 

This drove Brent mad. He wanted me gone before any of it started and that fact never sat well with me. I couldn’t get why he didn’t want to collaborate together as a team and be the tightest/best we could possibly be musically. We could have been a much better band because of it, in every aspect. Regardless, whether Brent wanted me out or not, you couldn’t miss me onstage, nor not hear my backing vocal duets with Drew. That was something Drew and I had a lot of pride about. When we played live in the early 90’s we used sampled backing tracks of me singing all the background vocals, and would blend them in with the live mics. I think the guys still use these vocal samples for live shows! Where’s Benny? Ha.

Brent quitting WildSide in later 1993, really was the catalyst for the whole thing to fall apart. All of us always said, “If one guy quits, that’s it!” just like that old Nikki Sixx quote. Unfortunately, we were right about that. I quit a year later in the summer of ’94. I never understood why Brent quit. One day he was in, the next he was gone and his phone number changed. Shortly after that he was with Vince Neil. WildSide who?

Because of this History of WildSide series here on Facebook, I finally had the chance to reach out to Brent as he had heard of my writings. (of course he hated all of it and thinks it’s all bullshit… lol) I decided that since I had spoken to all the guys in the band recently, had made up somewhat with Drew, and we started to throw around the idea about me possibly playing the September show in Colorado, I really wanted to put things to rest with Brent Woods and offer up an olive branch of sorts. Since Brent finally got online in 2014 or so, he’s still been hard to reach. Drew gave me his email address. I wrote Brent a very long and very heartfelt message conveying my desire to be his friend on some level that was good for him, apologize for any way that I ever upset him, how much I respected him, and to let the past be the past. My hope was to be acquaintances at least, and be able to give the fan base, or what’s left of it, a taste of the original Capitol Records UTI band from the Sunset Strip coming up in September. In my mind, I was satisfied with the honest outlay of my feelings. It made sense. It felt good. It was real and very sincere. There was no way Brent could NOT understand me and what I was offering up to him. Pure atonement. Pure humble apologetic remorse for our falling out 2 and a half decades ago. Gig coming up, or no gig coming up, I just really wanted to make things right with him. The badness has gone on long enough and I feel like we are too old for this kind of grudge holding. There’s just no need for it.

Well… a week went by. Then two weeks, then a month. Nothing. Drew was working on it. Marc was working on it, good bud Stevie Rachelle from TUFF/Metal Sludge was working it. People out on the road were asking Brent about Benny. THEN… he spoke. It was an exciting moment. Finally I would be in contact with Brent and be able to open a dialogue between us. In a text to Drew to relay to me, Brent said…

“You tell Benny to NEVER email me, or contact me again in any way!”

Oh shit! Hmm. Well, that sure didn’t go the way I planned it. Thanks for playing, and GAME OVER, son! Denied. I was pretty much stunned. Here I had made good with Jimmy D, somewhat patched up a gaping hole with Drew, both of which I felt great about, and was sure that what I sent to Brent would help us reconnect in some capacity. There was no way he could not sense my sincerity in the message. Boy was I dead ass wrong. Cue the music: “Waa, Waa, Waa…” Nope, Brent isn’t having it. I’m toast in his mind. Pure burnt toast. The kind that you can’t even scrape the bad part off and still butter up and use. It’s “So bad, so sad…” I wish he could have more positive/rational thoughts about me 24 years since the last time I saw/spoke to him.

As much as I don’t understand Brent Woods, or where the long standing anger truly stems from, regardless, I have history with this guy that goes way back to 1986 and plenty of metal mayhem on the Sunset Strip when we were young dudes. That can’t be erased. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a lot of the root styles in my playing that I copped from his early Rhoads/Lynch lessons. I have a lot of respect that Brent made the decision in his life to be a guitar player forever, and to make a career of it. No side jobs, no p/t shifts at Lowes or Home Depot, just guitar every day. Not many guys have done that. That’s a real musician for you. He’s played with many of the greats, and by sticking with it in L.A. for over two decades, he’s built up quite a resume as a studio musician, a producer, and a tour player for hire. For that, my hat is completely off to Brent Woods, and I’m a true fan. No matter what it is now between us, and no matter how disappointed I might be in our lack of abilities to reconnect, deep down I still like Brent Woods. When it’s all said and done, I will always carry fond memories from the positive times of going through that rare journey for a band, of getting a record contract and making it to the big time together. Rock on Brent, keep rockin on.

“My Scarecrow”

Well, what can I say about Drew Hannah, or rather Drew Rosenfeld, or Drew Rose. Oh hell, I don’t know what he’s going with now, so I’ll just stick with DREW. My high school buddy from back in 1982. The guy I fished for bass with, took waterskiing before class with, went to concerts with, worshipped Van Halen, Judas Priest, AC/DC. Scorpions and Iron Maiden with… Drew and I started our first band NuProphet in 1984 in Seattle. We grew up together as young men chasing a foolish rock-n-roll dream. We learned how to be musicians together. We learned how to write music together, sing together, how to perform onstage together and how to be members of a band together. The two of us started this journey 32 years ago. To me, that’s insane. That’s a long time.

Finally fleeing the gloomy grey, rainy and depressing Seattle, and getting to sunny, warm Los Angeles in 1986 with our band ROGUE was a turning point in my life. What a wild ride it was! We had no business going to “Hell-Lay” at 20 yrs old with only $300 in our pockets, and Marshall stacks in the back of our Datsun trucks. Somehow we survived and flourished within the 80’s Sunset Strip music scene and beat the odds by getting a real, big time recording contract. Sometimes I forget that this is the crux of what really happened. Now and again I get caught up in the pointless drama that came and went when we were in the midst of trying be “the next GNR” for Capitol Records. Neither Drew or myself could ever give ourselves a break. We did truly make it and achieved more than most bands can imagine, starting from a local level.

For Drew and I, we were always friends, even if things weren’t going well. Whether we lived together in some roach infested, ratt hole apartment in No. Hollywood, or if his vocals weren’t going his way in the studio. We always had that connection that spanned back to Seattle storage space rehearsals in 38* weather, when I had contagious Hepatitis A. There’s something about starting with nothing, building it up and up, then actually achieving a dream. The thing is, when you make your goal, then you forget that you made it, and a whole new set of goals and levels appear and have to be achieved. It’s never ending in the Hollywood meat grinder. That was our case. All those years on the Sunset Strip, getting a manager, an attorney, a big record deal with Capitol, recording our debut at Eddie Van Halen’s house, making a hard rock record that has actually stood the test of time over nearly 25 years – yeah man, I think we did what we set out to do.

Drew and I stopped being friends when grunge took over and killed the hard rock music buyer landscape along with our career. I quit the band in 1994. He went one way, and I went another. It didn’t end well. We didn’t talk for a long time. After a few of my History Series went up online, Stevie Rachelle facilitated a reconnection between the two of us. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but surprisingly he and I talked like it was 1989 all over again. Had a few fun phone calls all about the old days from Seattle etc. It felt good to revisit some of our early history. I would say he and I are friends. I certainly have definitely replaced whatever thoughts I had in my head about him. I know that I never wanted to go to my grave one day wondering why Drew and I were pissed at each other. In our talks, neither of us could actually pinpoint why we were mad in the first place. I guess in this case, time does heal all wounds. I hope Drew and I stay friends and can continue to shoot the breeze now and again, although I do understand how much of a busy Hollywood film/TV producer he is, as well as a Dad these days with a wife and two daughters. Who knows, maybe we’ll do something again in music down the road.

If I had to choose a character from Wizard of Oz that Drew would mean to me, I would choose... Drew was definitely the Scarecrow for me. (that’s a compliment btw)

“WildSide 2016”

September 3rd in Golden, CO. at the Buffalo Rose will mark the 4th time in 20 years that 4/5 of the original UTI WildSide has played a show. Drew, Marc, Jimmy and Brent (plays guitar for Sebastian Bach these days) will be there opening for Lynch Mob. Me? Nope. No Benny, once again. But NOW, I see that Don Dokken and George Lynch and original Dokken are going to reunite and play shows, so I have hope that I STILL might have a shot at it one day! :)

Gotta say Thanks…

I’d like to thank Stevie Rachelle from TUFF and www.metalsludge.tv for supporting my History of WildSide Series and putting it up on Metal Sludge. Stevie is a class act, and fellow Sunset Strip Ambassador. Thanks bud! Good job at getting all of us back to the table, even if it wasn’t what we hoped for. Totally appreciate it. I owe you one complimentary black hooker…

Appreciation and gratitude also to Andrew “The Axeman” Babcock and his Hair Metal Mansion for putting me on the front page. Andrew interviewed me 6 years ago! Wow! The best, man! Rock brutha! hairbangersradio.ning.com/

I must express a very big THANK YOU! to all the fans that have read my History of WildSide Parts 1-6. The messages, Likes, comments and overwhelming positivity have been so satisfying. This was all for you.

Writing these mini-novels about the history of this band wasn’t easy at times. Some of it was painful, some of it was downright ugly, other parts were glorious and jubilant. Reliving the past has been rewarding and personally, at age 51, has changed my feelings as to what was accomplished in Los Angeles with WildSide.

For those of you that have our Capitol Records debut CD, maybe bought it off eBay, listen off YouTube, or have downloaded Under The Influence somewhere, I am truly honored, elated, and humbled that you STILL love our songs and our style of L.A. hard rock. What you are listening to is a moment in time from 80’s Hollywood California, on the Sunset Strip music scene. Our highs, lows, failures, and ultimate triumphs. All the songs were written as we participated in daily life on The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.

Stay Under The Influence and never stop ROCKING!

Benny Rhynedance

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Oh wow mate, that's awesome. I will copy and paste and print that out, and hope I get a moment of peace during my upcoming break. Can't wait to read it. Thanks heaps!!

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I have it printed out and if the children sleep on the plane I will get it read asap. Looking forward to it.

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Thanks for posting Alpha.

 

I had been reading along at Metal Sludge and kept waiting and waiting for Part 6. Super cool read. I'm sure it's a classic case of three sides to every story but Benny comes off as being a well written and entertaining individual. Stevie Rachelle should be pursuing more of these mini autobiographies from back in tha day Sunset Strippers.

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Thanks for sharing. Really cool story.

I remember seeing "Hang on Lucy" on Headbanger's Ball, actually it was quite a few years after its release, as it was an old VHS tape my brother had.

I hunted for the cd for years, and finally got it in (I think it was) 2002.

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  • 2 months later...

I read this in the few minutes I had available to read stuff on my recent vacation and I loved it. Such an interesting story. Sad and kinda depressing, but very interesting.

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