In 2019, the netlogx leadership challenged and incentivized the team to accomplish something on their bucket list. I spent most of the year debating what I was going to do for mine; I’ve been lucky to cross lots off my bucket list already. There has always been one thing, however, that for the past 10+ years I have wanted to commit to and for a few different reasons, just haven’t. The item I crossed off my bucket list this year was getting a tattoo. This might sound absurd to some, but for me this was an empowering exercise and one that has been years in the making.
2020 will be the 10-year mark for me playing music with bands and performing live. Music has been one of the constants between leaving high school, starting and finishing college, changing cities a few times, starting my first career, changing careers and starting at netlogx, and a whole laundry list of other changes that have made me question whether or not to get a tattoo. There were other things that convinced me to wait to get inked and so for this blog I thought it might be interesting to explore the “why” I want to get tattoos and why I now feel empowered at this point in my life to do so. So, for your entertainment, here is a brief history of my music career over the last 10 years, that has led to me getting a tattoo that, to me, represents all the experiences I’ve had.
To go all the way back, I started playing drums when I was 11 years old and I liken it to the first time a bird learns to fly. I was born to play the drums and it has been one of the primary elements of my life and identity. The title of this blog insinuates that I am a Rock n Roll drummer but that is not exactly the case, it’s just a play on a Moody Blues song. I primarily listen to and play heavy metal. Not like Metallica either, we’re talking about the really, really, extreme stuff. If you meet me in real life however, I don’t exactly look like the type of person who would listen to a band like Cattle Decapitation, who totally rule by the way. For this reason, I’ve always been attracted to tattoos as the mark of heavy metal music and the associated community that constitute “Metal Heads.”
My first serious band I played in when I was 16 was a five-piece melodic death metal band where I was the youngest member by roughly 10 years. I was still in high school (private catholic school at that) so I did not have long hair, or tattoos, or piercings, etc. I did not look like someone that would play in a band that heavy and my age made it difficult for us to play bars. Typically, a show would look like me setting up my drums then hanging outside until our set started, play the set, then unload back outside where I was left alone again. I certainly did not feel like I belonged in the metal community and I immediately started trying to grow my hair out to fit in more. Again, catholic school got in the way here due to dress code stipulations, so I never got to have a full mane of long hair for this project.
Eventually I got to college where I played with the Jazz Ensemble in addition to the metal band. It was tough work taking my drum kit in and out of the auditorium on weekends for the metal band’s rehearsal and I increasingly felt like I was on a different path than the band. I also accumulated a small fortune in parking tickets since I would drive my car on campus, leave it someplace I wasn’t supposed to in order to have my kit for Jazz band.
Eventually I quit the metal band and focused only on the jazz ensemble. By this point my hair was sufficiently long as the above photo shows but I was still receiving financial support from my parents, who told me several times that as long as I was on their dime, I wasn’t getting any tattoos. Out of respect (and fear) of them I decided that I wouldn’t get any ink until after college. At the time I did not realize that I wouldn’t play in a metal band for another 8 years and would spend a considerable effort trying to.
Music in college was never as consistent as I wanted it to be, there isn’t much of a metal scene in Bloomington, Indiana so most of my work was as a session player or temping for other bands that played locally. This was still fun for me though, and I got to sit in with some great groups like the Phunknasties and Rod Tuffcurls & The Benchpress. I got away from playing heavy metal because there just weren’t any places booking that kind of music, and it was equally tough to find performers interested in the genre. I eventually started working with a trio of musicians and we recorded what would be the second album I appear on simply called, The Nick Newman Project. Similar to netlogx, there were multiple Nicks in the outfit. This music was new territory for me and for once, sounded good enough to play live in Bloomington, unfortunately the only digital copy of this album has been lost so we we’re not able to release the music commercially.
After graduating, I moved downtown Indianapolis to an apartment, which greatly limited the amount of noise I am accustomed to making with drums. For the first year I was in Indy I did not really have the ability to practice or play with anyone and pretty much nobody in the local metal scene was willing to give me a chance. I had cut my long hair a few years before, worked a regular 9-5 in Law, had no tattoos or any kind of indicators that would lead people to think I was capable of playing in the types of groups I was seeking. I was getting pretty discouraged and eventually I decided I would take whatever I could get, as long as I could play and perform live. In early 2017, I stumbled upon an alternative rock group looking for a drummer. I did not know what I was in for at the time, but this group would fly me close to the sun and I would get a real look at what it would require of me to be a professional drummer.
The above photo is the lineup that would eventually come to be known as Ghost Town Glory and for the first time in my music career, I was working with the pros. Our sound was different from anything I had ever played or thought I would play, very similar to large alternative rock bands like Muse or The Killers. As soon as we nailed down enough songs we got into The Lodge, one of the top recording studios in Indianapolis, to work with Michael Graham who recorded the album “Ryze” the third album I appear on (only on 3/6 songs, though). This was one of the first times I had been in an A+ recording studio and the production was good enough that we even went to Chicago to work with Doug McBride of Gravity Studios. Doug made a name for himself in 1995 recording the third Smashing Pumpkins album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”. Doug’s mixes weren’t what we were looking for though, and we wound up in the hands of the one and only Mark Needham in Hollywood. Mark is the engineer who recorded the album “Hot Fuss” by The Killers and is a part of the team responsible for creating one of the most popular and bestselling songs of my generation, “Mr. Brightside.” Once word got out that there was a Ghost Town Glory working with Mark Needham, we got threatened with a lawsuit via Atlantic Records for copyright infringement with the band name. Due to creative differences and basically my own lack of motivation, I would eventually leave the band and give up my rights to royalties. I was burnt out trying to “make it big” and was losing the joy of playing. This was the right decision for everyone, and the band now goes by Graham the Empire.
While I was working with Graham the Empire, I had also stumbled upon another talented group of musicians. I found myself with a group that did not play anything remotely close to metal and I was now playing music that could be considered pop rock (we also had a cover set with some country). This was also the first time in my career that I was actively playing in two different bands, something I have maintained since 2017. I was initially recruited to be a session drummer for an in-studio recording and music video for a song that would be submitted in a contest to open for Bon Jovi at Ruoff Center (Deer Creek). While we did not win the contest, I immediately wanted to join the group full time just to be able to play with people that talented.
We found a bass player and backup singer and Sydney Paige & The Midnight Fire (SPMF) was born. I appear in the music video for the single “Visions” and I am the drummer on all songs for the album which has yet to be released.
I actually have no idea when it will be released, the other members are all finishing school so it may come out a few years from now. This group had the rare privilege of playing the Red Skelton theater at Vincennes University which is to date one of my favorite venues I’ve played. We also learned the hard way that stage lighting is brutally hot, and our front woman Sydney fainted as soon as the curtain came down. I think all of us now do a better job of staying hydrated for shows. SPMF is and was one of my favorite groups I’ve performed with, and I am always eager to perform with them when I can.
In Early 2019, I was approached by two members of the local metal scene to see if I would be interested in playing in a punk rock band. Punk rock has always been a genre I have enjoyed and appreciated so I immediately said yes and have been performing with the group Milquetoast all through 2019. My current band is in a lot of ways everything I have been looking for all these years in a band. In one year, we have been able to put together an album (not recorded yet), we have played roughly 12-14 shows between August and December, and we even made our own music video for a grand total of $0. We don’t take ourselves seriously and we play to have fun and put on a good show for the audience, which is apparently working.
For me this project represents a full circle of efforts in my endeavors in the Indianapolis music scene. Three years ago, I wasn’t given the chance to play in any groups that would appear at the venues Milquetoast plays, and now I play these places regularly and to my surprise, people like us.
Shortly after I joined Milquetoast, I was re-engaged by a group I had attempted to audition for in late 2018. This project is a balance of shoegaze and black metal, so I was immediately hooked. My new band E L S E VV H E R E is an emerging project, still in the early stages of development, but it is one of the most challenging and rewarding groups I have been included in to-date. An added bonus of this band is that my younger brother (an exceptionally talented guitarist) is the bassist, and this is the first serious band we have played in together.
This has been a lengthier blog than the normal netlogx content, so if you are still with me, thank you. I have enjoyed writing this. My bucket list tattoo is a symbol of my musical journey and I am excited to continue to add to it over time. A tremendous thank you to Audrey and Nick Taylor as well as the rest of netlogx leadership for empowering me to be who I am. I’m a just a singer drummer in some Rock n Roll Punk/Metal bands. \m/
*** If anyone is curious to watch or listen to what I’ve contributed to over the years below are some links and locations of music you can hear me drum on! ***
Graham the Empire – “Mask”, “Save Me”, “Nasty” – from the album Ryze https://open.spotify.com/artist/1LmcYvupgGvqvTk9hlpQRo?si=5IoLqnKiTw6hQVkxT0jgfA
Sydney Paige & The Midnight Fire – “Visions” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omHN1uuEwwI
Milquetoast – “Wall” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KKNpdUrtx0
E L S E VV H E R E – “Untitled 4” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CGZssTQ6Rg