Monday, September 8, 2008

On a Thought Crusade with Gavin Oglesby

A couple weeks back, NFAA axeman Gavin Oglesby talked about doing the classic cover artwork for the legendary Screaming For Change album. We went back and asked him some NFAA questions. Get comfortable for this one, there will be much more coming your way soon on all things NFAA.

-Gordo DCXX

My best friend in high school was a guy named John Bruce. Together, we'd venture into the worst areas of Los Angeles, the valley, Orange County, and sometimes even San Diego to see just about any punk band that was able to talk their way onto a nine band bill. Sometimes there were girlfriends or peripheral people who drove, but John was always there. If we were lucky, we'd have a short drive into Santa Ana, but for the most part, we lived in too nice an area to see punk close up. On these drives and the fast food fiestas that followed the shows, John would often talk about bands and the other punks at his school. A disproportionate amount of guys named Pat (Dubar and Longrie), John Mastropaulo, Dave Therieot, and one in particular, that had the most aggressively Irish name I had ever heard, Dan O'Mahony. Danny? Mahony? Anything else and O'Mahony, sure, but Dan O'Mahony? It was kind of obnoxious. He also sounded like the most punk guy at his school. I remember hearing a story of Dan throwing the school principal out of his office. It seems like he would have been expelled for that, but I don't remember, it was before we knew each other.

Anyway, John always thought it strange we had never met. He also used to say, upon meeting we would either kill each other or take over the world. Inevitably, we found ourselves in the same car going to see some show. I was driving and he sat in the middle of my back seat with John and maybe Casey Jones. Again, I don't remember. As you can imagine, Dan in such a small space dominates it. He was intimidating, but funny and engaging at the same time. I remember comparing his personality to heavy grit sand paper. He was pretty much my exact opposite in how he carried himself. Some years later, a mutual friend commented that by combining the two of us, you might actually be able to make a normal person. It might still be true.

It was the summer Dag Nasty's "Can I Say" was finally released. Dan had also been in a real band at that time while John and I had only pretended. Eventually John and I bought instruments and pretended a little bit more convincingly. He was always suggesting Dan should be our singer, but I was reluctant. I had only been around Dan once at the time and while I liked him, it was exhausting. Eventually I relented and we practiced in John's garage with some guy from my high school (playing drums) who had absolutely no idea why we were into what we were into. Dan had bought what we considered the legendary PA and tall speaker cabinets Pat Dubar had used in early Uniform Choice, and we were off. Unfortunately, the PA cut in and out while we practiced but you could still hear Dan. That still impresses me.

Since the fire in my amplifier didn't burn down the garage, our first practice was a success. We opened the garage door and found the neighborhood kids had egged the garage while we played. We were obviously onto something. Within about two or three weeks Dan and I decided John wasn't right for what we were doing and started practicing without him. I might not have been John's best friend. This line up was referred to as the original "Carry Nation" even though the only constants were Dan and I. During that time we played with Big Frank Harrison, Dave Mello, Steve Insted, and a variety of infinitely more talented musicians than us. I like to think we weren't interested in playing with them, but in reality if just about any one of those guys stayed, we would have been better off. No For an Answer was born soon after this.

Having already burned some bridges, we were happy to have Jeff and Vadim from Half-Off offer(?) to play with us. Half-Off was a real band and those guys had played together for some time by then. Jeff taught me how to play fast which was good because Vadim could play really fast. Vadim left relatively soon after our first few songs and was replaced by Casey. Casey was another mutual friend of Dan and I before we knew each other. I don't remember if he played drums before joining, but he was a good friend, fun to be around and we were happy to have him (sorry again, John). We had committed to the name and began writing songs. Dan being Dan meant we would be playing shows and soon. Playing shows wasn't even on my radar. I had probably been playing less than six months and I was suddenly in a band band. I'm not the type of guy who wanted to play shows. Practices were always fun with Dan and Casey.

Jeff was a bit of a character we didn't quite understand. Maybe it was just a Long Beach thing being different than Orange County, maybe it was us. Jeff was very enthusiastic and responsible for a lot, if not most of our early development. Jeff, being a better guitar player than me, always wanted to play guitar too and get another bass player. I'm hoping this was to thicken our sound and not because I was that bad, but who knows? I'm hoping the former. For whatever reason, we were resistant and Jeff eventually quit. Curiously, when Jeff was replaced by John Mastropaulo, (another one of John Bruce's friends from high school), Jeff had sold all of his bass equipment, bought a Les Paul and Marshall half stack and was still willing to come back. Dan and I thought that was kind of funny. "No" was our answer.

Jeff briefly reemerged in a band called "Straight Arm" with John and Walt Coyle that, I thought was pretty good. I think this was probably the origin of Outspoken, though I'm not sure. Jeff pretty much disappeared after that. We tried to lure John by citing Government Issue and Stalag 13 as influences to our "mid-tempo hardcore" sound. We didn't realize we were that fast. John's reaction was "okay then..." John's era was my favorite era for the band. He used to make fun of the songs as we were writing them. He just didn't care and I don't think he even liked the band. When we went in the studio to record our demo, we soon realized he was playing different songs. Again, I don't think he cared or thought the songs were worth learning and, for whatever reason, I respected that. He never faked it. John did his time with us and later joined Uniform Choice. I think Uniform Choice is what we all would have liked to be our sound, but it was as good as we could be at the time. The only consolation for me was, he joined the later, sort of discredited UC.

The demo I referred to earlier was initially designed to get us shows. I just wanted proof that I was in a band, but for the band, it was to get us shows. Somehow that demo became our first 7"...


DennisCrivits said...

Great story,hope this story will continue. NFAA was and still is one of my favourite bands

Ben Edge said...

Is there a Straight Arm demo?

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