Around 1986, I met Walter Charchuk who was the bass player for a local Phoenix band, Nuvo West. I had been writing and recording original music since high school but had never really played the live band thing out in clubs, which Walter had been doing. I think I admired that in him, and he seemed to admire my style of writing.
Shortly after Walter and I met, we began writing songs together with the hope of one day recording them. We purchased a Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder around 1987 and made some pretty cool demo tapes under the name Ordinary Boys. Walter mentioned taking the tapes to a guy named Fred North who had produced two of the Nuvo West releases from his bedroom studio. We took the tapes and played them for Fred who liked them enough to offer to produce our demo with his Teac 8-track reel to reel recorder. For us, it was like a giant leap forward with the prospect of recording in Fred’s home studio.
Fred and I hit it off from the beginning. Though we are several years apart in age, Fred and I went to the same high school and grew up in the same neighborhood which really helped in the initial stages of our meeting. Fred had already been venturing into the home recording and cassette culture scene. Fred is a long time friend of Al Perry, and Al had covered some of his tunes. Fred soon became the unofficial third member of Ordinary Boys and provided backing keyboard arrangements and was our resident guru for anything musically related. It was some fun times for sure.
I remember picking up a Sound Choice magazine and also an Option magazine around 1988. Dino Dimuro had some great reviews and also was reviewing tapes for Option. I decided to write him because I wanted to make contact with someone I thought was the best at doing the whole home taping thing. I still have a copy of that first letter. Dino was the first person I ever traded with, and he set the bar amazingly high. His cassettes sounded so well put together that I knew I had written to the right person. On top of that, his songs are funny, and Dino is a gifted musician who is still one of my favorite artists to this day. I was thrilled when he asked me to provide some drum machine backing tracks on a couple of his releases.
After receiving some good reviews in fanzines like Factsheet Five and Gajoob, we started writing and trading more and more with other artists. Ray Carmen and I wrote so many letters, that to this day, I still think of him as more than just a musician. He’s been a great friend and pen pal. We still correspond on Myspace. Ken Clinger is also a totally talented and prolific recorder. I was fortunate enough to do some collaborations with him as well. Ken’s arrangements can make anyone sound better.
I remember also sending a home taped video to Hermanos Guzanos who played it on their cable access show and sent us a copy of the show. It was a riot!! Those certainly were fun times. I think finding other artists by mail, pre-internet, not only made the whole thing more challenging but ultimately more rewarding too.