When I Googled myself recently, I found my name listed on the blog for the Walt Mink documentary. If you don’t know the band Walt Mink, this won’t be so interesting, but it was strange and good to be transported to the past. I dropped out of college after my freshman year spent in Portland, OR at Lewis and Clark College (Monica Lewinsky’s alma mater, though I think she arrived the year after I left.) A friend of mine was going to college at Macalaster and playing music in Minneapolis, MN so I thought I’d try it there.
He was my brother’s friend really, and he went on to be one of the best drummers in the known universe, playing for Beck, REM, and other records you’ve probably heard. His name’s Joey Waronker and I went to his wedding with my then girlfriend and I actually got to share a cab with Beck! After that, my star-struck girlfriend called it the "Beck wedding." Sounds like I’m name dropping, and maybe I am, but these celebrity moments are few and far between.
So I moved in Minneapolis and lived a slacker’s dream. 100 dollar rent, cheap used music stores, many other slackers. If it wasn’t for the snow it would be one of the best cities to live. When I lived there, there was a blizzard on Halloween and it didn’t stop until May.
I lived in a house with a bunch of other musicians. I played bass in a band of my own. All told I think this was one of the best times of my life. 1991, the year punk broke. I remember "Nevermind" coming out. I got to see them at a 1000 seat venue for the "Nevermind" tour. Chris Novaselic did all the talking. I actually saw them for the "Bleach" tour as well.
Walt Mink were the band in the house that were destined to be rock stars. It seems in my life that I have been close to bands that were destined to be the next big thing. Walt Mink sounded like the Smashing Pumpkins before they existed. Beatle-esque with big guitars, incredible amazing guitar riffs. I remember being with John Kimbrough, the lead guitarist/singer/songwriter, when he listened to the Smashing Pumpkins for the first time, and him saying, "He beat me to it." That was probably one of the most depressing moments of his life. Billy Corgan was asked what songs should go on Walt Mink’s CD. He told the record company to leave off the two best songs. I guess he was threatened, which means I don’t trust Billy Corgan. He basically sabotaged his rival.
But this was JK’s fault as well. He let the record company decide what songs should be on the record, what the record cover should be--he was so eager to be a rock star. Maybe people could read this. He also had this chipmunk-like voice--like the chorus of "Ziggy Stardust" except more so, a lot more so. It didn’t sound like it came from his macho gut like Eddie Veder or Chris Cornell. "Walt Mink" isn’t the greatest band name either.
The band I was in, The Delores Haze (Lolita’s real name), had the same problem. The lead songwriter, Eve, was so eager to be successful when she started a band in NYC that she turned the distortion way up because it was radio-friendly. It ran totally counter to her songwriting. She’s another person who’s immensely talented who never made it. Finally, I was in a band called Montag led by a songwriter who really should be the next Lou Reed and Elvis Costello. I’m not just saying that. I’m serious. Again, our band never got a break. There was also an issue with drugs and fear-of-success which wasn’t so helpful. Perhaps there are thousands of stories like this.
Just getting down this moment from my life. Walt Mink are a good story for a documentary: the band that should have been rock stars. My second novel, "Dishwasher," is about washing dishes at a cheap Italian restaurant and living in that house.
When I Google myself I also find gravestones and some guy who loves fireworks.
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