Monday, February 22, 2010


"Stay Real". It's a phrase I say to my friends all the time. It seems so simple on the surface, but it can actually be most difficult, especially in this industry that chose me. That's right. It chose ME, not the other way around like many think. I'll hit on that in a bit. But it has become so commonplace for guys in bands to try to live out their own version of "Behind The Music" by getting wasted, trying to snort ants or whatever the fuck stupid shit Motley Crue talked about in "The Dirt." I have seen the biggest and the smallest act a fool just because it's what's expected. Rock Stars. So predictable. My friend Fat Mike always puts things the best:

Kill The Rockstars.

I would never sit here and try to act like I have never been this way. I have done my fair share of insane, rockstar-ish things and wouldn't change a thing about it. If you're in a band, we all have our moments and are allowed to have said moments. It's one of the "perks", so to speak. But when the act blurs into reality is when you need to step back and re-evaluate. Too often by the time the "rockstar" realizes how fucked he or she really is, it's too late. Enter rehab. A great idea, especially for the chemical dependents. It helps people to "get clean" usually in a short period of time. The real problem isn't with chemicals you ingest. It's in your DNA. Look at how many of the people living in mansions on the hill, the rich and famous type, go into rehab. Not just once, but multiple times. My question is with all that money and free time, how come they can't figure it out? Maybe they're just not that smart to begin with.

Now if you're living on that hill and representing that "side" and reading this you're're DEFINITELY a lot richer than I am, so take that to heart. That kind of thing usually makes your type feel better. I really don't like you. Not you, the person because I'm certain you may be quite pleasant. It's your given lifestyle I don't like. The privilege you were born into. It pisses me off. Perhaps it's jealousy, but I feel all good things should be earned, not handed down. If you earned it, good for you and accept my apologies; I'm a dick and keep working hard. But 90% of you didn't. You earned your money "the old fashioned way": you inherited it. I could say "in a fair world it would be that way for me", but the world is actually quite fair in it's own way. Because I do not like those kind of people and, as life is fair, I am not one of those people. At all. I have had to earn everything I have. I live a fairly normal, middle class lifestyle and I thank my parents for that. They challenged me to work for what I want and earn it. The right way. I tried. I failed. A lot. At times succeeded. But ALWAYS worked.

Still do.

There is no job I won't do. Last week, I actually cleaned up human shit for the first time in about 15 years. Yes. I have cleaned up human shit multiple times. And no. It was NOT my own. I don't care if you're disgusted. I was the one cleaning up the shit; not you. I did it for my uncle. And no, he didn't shit on the floor. The sewer backed up. He lives a very simple life and is a very proud man. He hates asking for help but I think he realized awhile ago he may go blind some day. Just like his father, my grandfather, had. He reminds me a lot of my grandfather. I have very faint, but clear memories of my grandfather, so figure this man, is who I'm supposed to be here for right now. For that particular day, I mean. I am lucky to have been blessed with a profession that has offered me the time to spend with him. Even if it's spent cleaning up his shit.

In September, my father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I have spoken about it on my blog and with friends. It's not a weird thing for me to talk about. He is living with cancer. But, here is my male role mode. I know that though he is slowly fighting this horrible disease (and winning!). It's tough for him to be tired and feel so weak. It's tough for me to see him like that. I again, have been blessed. I have been here at home with him: Going to every chemotherapy appointment, making sure he's taking care of himself, and just hanging out with my Dad. I have to say, he's pretty good about taking care of himself. My mom is getting older too, but don't tell her that! Just kidding. She is in very good health, though she will tell me CONSTANTLY how her hip and hand hurts. I tell her my ears hurt from hearing her bitch about her hip and hand. I know. I'm an asshole. Even to my mom. But I love her. It's always good to spend time with her, even if she makes me crazy.

My grandmother is the best. Every other Thursday after my Dad has he chemotherapy session, she cooks dinner for us. And man, this is not just some soup and a sandwich. It's a feast fit for kings. It's also probably the reason I've gained weight, but I'll do some more sit ups. She's about to turn 89 and can't walk very well, but she still gets around the kitchen and cooks up a storm. She is incredible. It's not really hard to talk about my family. These are MY stars and I am their biggest fan. They taught me how to appreciate what I have been offered in life. They taught me that the measure of a person is not based on their possessions, but on their goodwill and their kindness to others. I was taught to treat people as you want to be treated. Be kind. Kindness will follow.

What an amazing concept, huh?


It seems even life's simple tasks have become nearly impossible for today's "stream lined society". There are times my mom says things and I blabber in my thickest douche-bag-laden tone, "It's 2010, Ma, not 1965." I should punch myself for being such a schmuck. Think about it: something as simple as a man holding a door open for a lady is all but extinct. Do you say "thank you" when that door is held open for you? Do you smile at the person? Even make eye contact at all? I think Politeness needs to be taught in school like English or mathematics. It's like we've been trained to show no emotion out of fear that someone wants something from you.

People that are considered "celebrities" are even more on their guard. They have every right to be. To the normal citizen, these celebrities are just pictures in a magazine or an image on their TV or computer screen. To the layman, these people are not "real" and the image that they portray are who YOU think these "stars" are. You can read every blog, fan site, and interview that they do but no matter what you may convince yourself YOU DO NOT KNOW THEM. You know WHO THEY WANT YOU TO SEE. I have heard or read so many times "So and so is such a dick because he wouldn't..." Just fill in the blank. Sign this or that, talk to my friend on my cell phone, give me a hug, stop and talk to me about this or that. Fans put such high expectations on their heroes that a lot of times they are unachievable. Here's the truth, kids:


They make mistakes. They make bad choices. They say stupid things. A good majority want to live "normal lives" when they are not working and would really rather not be bothered when they are out to dinner with their families. But they are "public figures", are they not? They should be held to a "higher moral standard" because they are under the spotlight all the time, right? Because YOU spend your money on them, they should be at your disposal if they are in eye-shot, right? WRONG. If you think this way, you are FAR worse than the celebs who think their shit doesn't stink. Again, life is fair and if you're a hater, hate will always come back around on you.

Staying Real is a concept for everyone.

I have a friend who recently had a fan park outside his home, take pictures of his house, dogs, and then after he got home, went up to the house, knocked on the door and ASKED FOR PICTURES! THEN the fan blogged about it, posted the pictures and after reading her blog, seeming thought it was no big deal. I'm sorry but that is just FUCKED FUCKED FUCKED!! I know that people can get crazy about their favorite "star", but give me a fucking break! If someone was camped outside of my house, I'd bring them a cup of coffee and ask them to kindly be on their way. Thank God no one cares enough about my band to do that, but privacy is important to everyone. How would you like it if someone came to your house and harassed the shit out of you? You'd call the cops. For celebrities this can be a daily occurrence.

This is a two way street, folks. Some of my friends are more well known than others, but I was always told to treat everyone THE SAME. That's what I do. I don't care if you sing for a Grammy award winning group or pump gas; if you are a good person and treat me as such, we can hang out. I don't freak around "celebs" because they are just people like you and me. I'm not saying don't ask for autographs and pictures! By all means, most celebs in the right setting will be more than happy to sign whatever you have or take a picture. But if you get a weird vibe from them if you approach them to do as such while they are eating dinner, understand why. Don't be a lurker.

To you "stars" that give a shit, remember: THIS LIFE CHOSE YOU. If you are self aware, you may think you're good enough and deserve it, but you also know in the back of your mind that there is always someone smarter, faster and better at what you do. YOU are blessed and it is because of your fans that you are allowed to continue to do what you love. Don't take them for granted and shut them out. Don't feel like you "deserve" things just because you're face was on Perez Hilton's blog or whatever. Try to maintain some sense of normality.

But both sides, here's the most important thing: CHILL THE FUCK OUT. If you just do that, I bet life will get easier for everyone. But what the hell do I know?

I'm just a sax player in a ska band.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Remember My First Day...

May 4, 1996.

I can't really recall how I got to Dave's house, but I got there. I brought one of my brother's old hockey bag's as my suitcase and my horn. That was it. I remember pulling in to Dave's driveway and seeing the van sitting there. We had just bought it for about $2500. It was a 1986 grey 15 passenger van. Red, vinyl seats, an AM radio...dial, not digital, no air conditioner and about 60,000+ miles on it. This vessel was about to take us on our first tour of these United States. And I was STOKED! This is what I always wanted. I couldn't wait to get out of this shitty state where I had lived my whole life and see what laid beyond it's borders.

We didn't have a trailer because we couldn't afford one, so we packed all the gear, all the bags, and all of us into the van and got ready to back out of the driveway. I remember Dave's dad standing out in the driveway waving goodbye. He had this look on his face that I could never properly describe: it was a look of concern, blended with fear, confusion and just a little bit of disgust. It never quite sat properly to me, especially since I was sitting shotgun. We waved goodbye and pulled down the street and headed towards the highway.

This was it, man!

Mike took that left and we were off! This was great! The open road! It really was a beautiful spring afternoon. We were all laughing, telling jokes, singing along to whatever song we could tune into on the AM dial. This was AWESOME! Destination: Wilmington, NC. The Mad Monk. That's where we were meeting The Toasters to start our first national tour in support of our new record. We were living the dream, man!

We were moving along great, but, as anyone who has driven in the northeast can tell you, we suddenly hit traffic. Out of nowhere. As a newer driver (I was 18 at the time) one of my newest pet peeves is other people driving. Especially when they tailgate, break fast and stop short. I didn't realize just how nervous this made me until right at this moment. We were carrying a lot of weight and when Mike hit the breaks, we didn't quite stop when we were supposed to. Up to this point I was feeling so care-free and awesome, I had my foot on the dashboard just chillin'. We stopped so fast that I nervously pressed my foot against the windshield and cracked it as we came to a screeching hault. It got deadly quiet. Everyone looked at the crack, then looked at me. Shit. Was this some sort of sign? We're not even 20 miles from where we started and we already cracked the wind shield? This can't be good.

It was about to get worse.

We were in stop and go traffic all the way into New York. This, apparently, isn't very good for your engine. For the record, some other things that are not good for your engine are bad fuel filters. Another bad thing for your engine is carrying a group of 18-22 year olds that have no idea how to take care of an engine or know how to figure out that it has a bad fuel filter on it.

As we were approaching the George Washington Bridge, the van begins to buck. You would feel the engine rev up, then stop, like it wasn't getting fuel. It did this about 4 times then....nothing. The engine is dead. Stalled out. It's 5pm on a Friday. We're about 300 yards from the GW Bridge and the engine is NOT starting. To say the stress level increased would be the understatement of a lifetime. I'm pretty sure the idea of getting out of the van was thrown around, but with all the horns blaring and middle fingers we were getting from motorists trapped behind us, we figured it would be a better choice to stay in the van. People outside the van were pissed. People inside the van were pissed. So we just sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Silently.

Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe we should go home. We're not that far. But just as those thoughts seemed like the right thing to do, Mike turned the key and the van started. Whether we kept going or turned around, we had to go over the bridge. We saw a sign for a service plaza...more specifically the Vince Lombardi Service Plaza. We could stop there and "check it out!" My only experience with cars was from what my father had told me: Check the fluids, change the fluids, bring it to a mechanic! My first thought was maybe there was condensation in the gas line. Now how ridiculous does that sound? Sounded valid, I thought. I think my dad had said dry gas would fix it. So I bought a shitload of fluids: transmission fluid, engine coolant, dry gas (which is a gas additive), and an air freshener because then van already smelled like shit.

I called Dave over and handed him the fluids and said "Hey man, I'm gonna grab a bite to eat. Put a bottle of the dry gas into the gas tank. Maybe it will help." He says OK and heads out to the van. I grab a burger and head back out. Dave comes walking up to me looking a little crazy. I noticed he was holding two small bottles. He holds one bottle up and says, "Pete, look at this bottle." Quickly he puts it down and holds up the other bottle; "Now, look at this bottle!"

"OK, Dave. What about the bottles." He looks at me and says "The bottles! They look EXACTLY the same, right?" I replied, "Yes, Dave, They do...except for the fact that one says DRY GAS and one says AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID. Why are you showing me this?"

If you didn't figure it out yet, don't worry. Neither did I. Apparently, he put a bottle of transmission fluid into the gas tank. What a fucking nightmare. We probably should have followed our instincts and headed home, but after talking to a mechanic two bottles of dry gas would neutralize the transmission fluid. Remember that the next time YOU pour transmission fluid in your gas tank. We had the mechanic take a look at the van. He was a nice guy and he didn't charge us anything to take a look. He said he didn't see anything wrong and it was "probably condensation in the gas tank." Yes!! I was right! But I wasn't right.

As we pulled away, there was still a lot of tension, but we laughed about it. That was the only way we dealt with any kind of adversity: laugh at it. As we continued down I-95 and hit the Jersey Turnpike, we again felt that familiar buck-buck-buck before the van stalled out on the highway. This happened every hour or so on the normal 12 hour drive from CT to NC. We'd have to pull off on the side of the highway and wait about 30 minutes until the van would start up again. By the end of that week, we would have spent well over $1,000 trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with the van.

Fuckin Fuel Filter. Son of a bitch!

We made it to the show, though. And made it through the entire tour. By the end of it, we were convinced we were bullet proof. In most cases, if you're a band and you can make it through your first national tour without any fist fights, accidents or breaking up, you can pretty much do anything.

I was just at Mike's house last night and we were talking about this first day of tour and how we all wanted to murder that van. The same van we named "Jolene". The same van we sat outside of in the sun waiting to cool down so we could drive. The van we penned the song "Jolene" about and the same van we used in the video we shot for that song. Funny side note, we filmed that video in New York City and had to drive Jolene one last time back and forth. The entire drive back, the van was bucking in it's oh too familiar way. Mike pulled it into his driveway, jumped out of the van and just then the engine started steaming. It was like reliving the nightmare all over. He ran into the house and turned the TV on to try to forget about it. We eventually sold that pile of shit to a church. Their problem now. And probably one of the many reason's bad luck seemed to follow us.

When we got in that van to tour all we had was a road atlas, a beeper, calling card and the 7 of us. No cell phone, laptop, internet card, blackberry or directions to the first venue. We just got in the van and left. No more planning than that. It seemed so pure, in retrospect. It seemed so terrifying when it was happening, but at the same time it felt right. Now a days when I'm on the tour bus, surfing the web and microwaving some nacho's, I think back to that first day. My life now was a dream that became a reality. I never lose sight of what I have been afforded and how lucky I am. Those early day were important. We all start somewhere and we are all "green" at some point. What was your first day like?

Monday, February 1, 2010


In December of 1995 I was living in Boston, MA. I had recently quit the band that I had been in for 2+ years (J.C. Superska for those of you keeping score at home) and was a full-time student at Berklee College of Music. I was in my dorm room one day and the phone rang. It was my buddy Dave Karcich.

Dave played drums for the "other ska band" in CT at the time, Spring Heeled Jack. The Jack was a little more ska/punk than Superska. From afar, I had always been a little envious of Spring Heeled Jack. They were a great live band, had fun songs, they seemed to get really cool opening slots for bands like The Toasters and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and were everything that I really thought a band should be.

I was a fan.

So Dave calls and says, "Hey man. Our sax player left the band and we need someone to fill in for us at the Bosstones's Hometown Throwdown at The Middle East. It's the 2nd one they're doing and we're playing. Can you do it?" That was the first gig with the band that would become the band I would spend the next 5 years of my life in. It was the first touring I ever did, the first record contract I ever signed, the first song I ever wrote for a record. I had a lot of firsts with Mike, Ron, Rick, Dave, Tyler and Chris.

In 2000 we decided it was time to call it a day. No regrets. It was time. We played a "farewell" show at Toad's Place in New Haven, CT in May. Unfortunately, Chris couldn't be there because his new band, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, were playing on The David Letterman Show that night. We asked the club if they would turn The Letterman Show on in the main room. When we saw the Bosstones start performing, we stopped in the middle of a song to watch him play on the big screen at Toad's. We called Chris from stage, congratulated him and then went into a cover of "Where'd You Go" with the new, more appropriate lyric, 'Where is Chris Rhodes?" It didn't matter the band was breaking up. We were family. We were brothers. We were each other's biggest fans. Even though endings are always sad, it was the beginning of a new chapter in all of our lives that night:

I went on to play with Less Than Jake. I'm still there to this day and loving every damn minute of it. Chris is still with the Bosstones. Tyler went on and did a stint with Reel Big Fish. Ron was in The Lost City Angels for years and has recently stared a new band called The Murder Mile. Rick, up until recently, ran a very successful indie night at BAR in New Haven for nearly 10 years, as well as playing in Crooked Hook and The Mountian Movers. Mike played in Cenzo with our friend Vinnie Nobile (Bim Skala Bim, The Pilfers), Lord Fowl and also with Ron in The Murder Mile and Lost City Angels. Dave went on to play with The Pilfers and Avoid One Thing.

In 2002, I was on tour in Albuquerque, NM when I was woken by my tour manager who said that Rick was trying to get in touch with me. In a daze, I looked at my cell phone and saw he had called several times. He answered the phone and proceeded to tell me that Dave was in the hospital. He had suffered a brain aneurysm and was in a coma. When I asked Rick what his chances of coming out of it were, he told me it wasn't good. Dave was basically brain dead. Even if he came out of it he would never be the same Dave we all knew and loved. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I didn't want to believe what was happening. And I sure as hell wasn't going to loose hope that Dave was gonna make it. I believed in miracles. And I was praying for one to happen in this case.

I hung up the phone and started running around asking Jeb, our tour manager, to book me a flight out of there to New York so I could be with my brother in the hospital. I had to be there. My phone kept ringing. It seemed every one of my closest friends were all in a similar state of shock and numbness. In all the running around and phones calls, finally I sat down to try to think. I tried to make some sense of all this insanity. The realization finally hit: There is NOTHING I can do. I felt helpless. Why Dave? He was too young. This was total bullshit. I was a sobbing mess and didn't even realize it. I had never felt a pain like this is my life. I played the show that night, but I didn't even know what I was doing. I couldn't tell you anything about that show because my mind was anywhere but there.

A few days later I got news Dave had passed away. I couldn't tell you exactly how many days because between self medicating and not sleeping, I was lost. I headed back to Connecticut for the funeral. I was a complete emotional disaster. I kept thinking I was going to have a brain aneurysm. I was having massive panic attacks. I never thought I would feel normal again. I lost my brother. We had a banner that we would hang at every show. As the now surviving members of Spring Heeled Jack, we decided that the banner and the band would rest in peace with Dave. As I write this, I'm realizing how much I still miss Dave. Those that knew him know he was a great man. We also know that we are all better people for having had him in our lives. We did a small reunion at the end of 2002 at Toad's Place and raised over $8,000 for a scholarship fund that was set up in his name. At the end of that performance, we were all pretty certain that was the last time Spring Heeled Jack, in any form, would play a live show.

Until Last Week.

We decided that we need one more chance. I always hated when people would "come out of retirement". I had some very harsh things to say about Brett Farve making his comebacks. Same with Michael Jordan. We had always talked in the van how lame the Kiss reunions were and that if and when we ever broke up we would never EVER do a reunion. Well, at this point we've already done one, but that was very last minute and very thrown together, but for a good cause. The ends more than justified the means.

We all discussed it and decided that we would do one more show. Maybe two. But one show, for sure. We are in the process of booking it now. I can't really tell you anything more than that, but for those of you who didn't know of my life before Less Than Jake, there is the history. We are going to re-release both of our full length records (Static World View and Songs From Suburbia) on vinyl for this show and will also have some new and classic merchandise available online soon. You can check back here for updates on this, but I am very excited to get together with this talented group of friends of mine and play some songs that I hold very dear to my heart. Hope to maybe see you there.

OH! And let me be the first to officially say it: