Monday, December 23, 2013

13 Halloweens - A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir

While trying to think about a topic to blog about, I thought it would be fun to listen to each song from our first album, "13 Halloweens" and write down all the thoughts and memories that would come to me.  As a way to kill time on our drive to our Las Vegas, I also played the CD for Bobby and Davey to see what they remembered as well.  So hit play on your CD player and join us as we go back to the future where it all began!

When you hear "13 Halloweens," you probably think that’s exactly how we wanted it to sound -- dual rectifier guitars, triggered drums, massive wall of vocals, etc., but in actuality, we just showed up and the project took off on its own.   The studio had better equipment than we did so we just used what we had access to. We had an idea of what we wanted but we didn't know how to achieve it or how to properly explain it. Having said all that, I love how our first full length album eventually turned out and it was mostly due to the engineer, Aaron Cary. We just showed up and he turned the knobs. I know when we went into the studio we wanted a more raw sound like the early Misfits recordings but I remember Aaron explaining that they got that sound 'cause that’s all they could afford.  I also think Aaron didn’t want to put his name on a crappy sounding recording!  Either way, he did a great job capturing "the sound of Calabrese" at that time period. On a side note, I feel our album "Dayglo Necros" is closer to our original vision as to what we wanted our sound to be.

We recorded this at Studio Z in 2004 and the place was a house converted into a studio which was managed by Jimmy Z (a totally cool guy who used to party with the band Korn and loved to mention it whenever we saw him) and ran by Aaron. I think we went to check out the studio once Aaron e-mailed us after finding our 4 track demo we posted on the internet. He had the same influences we did so we knew it would be a good match.  Plus, the place was affordable. Every time we enter a studio we get to learn all the tips and tricks the engineer has picked up from all the other musicians they've met. I love the studio not only for the recording process but for all the great stuff you learn and great people you meet.

We never took any photos during our time recording "13 Halloweens," or if we did we don’t know where they are. I do remember there used to be some weirdo crackheads who lived next door and they would wander over sniffing around. They were constantly fixing their cars and since Aaron was a gear head he’d talk to them about how to fix their shit. Since the studio was all digital we were able to record and mix the album over many weekends since Davey was still in school and Bobby and I were working. I also remember we held a contest to name the CD, and while we were sitting in the studio we read all the title submissions. The best title by far was the one we went with -- "13 Halloweens" by our first fan, Nil Failstorm. He came to our very first show at the Modified Arts after seeing a flyer we left somewhere. He was the only person at the show that wasn't a friend or immediate family. He was literally our first fan!

Nil with a homemade Calabrese shirt!

After playing the CD for Bobby while driving he looked off into the Nevada sunset deep in thought. “I remember it was very, very boring during editing process. Now in the studio the time flies by. I remember Davey would sleep the entire time on the ratty old couch cause he hated it. I remember never wanting to be there during the editing too. I just wanted to go home. It was our first time in the studio so I didn’t have any suggestions. I was like ‘whatever, it all sounds good to me, I guess’. But now in the studio we get so nitpicky we can spend a month in there. Vocals were very hard to record. I probably still don’t know how to sing but back then I extra-extra didn’t know how to sing. Singing was very hard for me and my voice was always blowing out. I didn’t know how to sing in key, I didn’t understand that. Aaron would play back a portion of the song over, and over, and over and I still couldn’t sing it correctly. I couldn’t understand why I was not in key. I don’t know how you pick up how to sing in key but I guess you do. I was very nervous singing.”

Bobby adjusted himself in the passenger seat and continued. “It was the first time someone telling me what would sound cool on guitar at certain parts, I was probably pissed about it because I didn’t like people telling me what to do. But it sounds fine. It was my second time in the studio, and the studio was kinda like you would think it would be from the movies. It was definitely skuzzier but what it had was a Hollywood type scum, like porno magazines, marijuana roaches on the floor, empty beer cans. It was actually kinda dirty, which was pretty cool at the time as long as everything got done, but wow it was real life in old Studio Z! I remember that Aaron Carey loved soda or Mountain Dew cause he would suck on a 2 liter all day long and would smoke the entire time. And he really liked Hawaiian BBQ, he’s Hawaiian so that probably explains why he wore sandals all the time.”

After 13 Halloweens came out we won some local punk awards. It was like we received instant acceptance from the cool kids, something I never felt before with any other band I was in.

Best Album from the Ska Punk Awards, I believe.

Davey laughing at the cobwebbed memories, spoke up from the back bench seat. “After the recording of '13 Halloweens,' Bobby just graduated from high school and I was still in high school and I was very proud of the band. It turned out that my school was putting on a battle of the bands, so I was like ‘let's be a part of this.' So I went to the person in charge of putting on the show and she said ‘no, you can’t do it’. I was like ‘why not?’ ‘Well two of the members are not part of the school.' I was like ‘one of the members just graduated and I’m here. What’s the problem?’ ‘We’ll you just can’t do it.' I was really mad. The day of the battle, I finally convinced them to let us play but not as contestants but more as guest players. So we got to play the show and we sold our 2 t-shirts on a little table. I really wanted to show off at high school. I wanted to let people know who they were walking near. Everyone wants to show off when they are in high school.”

The infamous battle of the bands!
Davey and his buddy made a poster for the show. I still have that poster hanging in my garage!

I also remember at that battle of the bands show we needed to borrow someone’s PA. They forgot to mention to Davey that each band had to bring their own PA. So I asked one of the kids in another band if we could borrow theirs and he said “Umm, no it’s my dad's and he’s not here.” Luckily, a different band let us use their PA. And as it turned out the same kid who rejected our request ran up to me and asked if he could borrow a cable and with a smirk I said “Sorry man, it’s my dad’s and he’s not here.” In your face!

No wonder Davey wanted to show off at school.

Davey also reminded us that around this time we played a show at the Phoenix YMCA on the floor of the gym. “It might have been another battle of the bands or just some weird random show. I just remember waiting for us to play and I had my sticks in my hand clicking them on the basketball court wood floor and a friend or someone said ‘Don’t do that, everyone can hear that, you don’t want someone to do that when you’re playing, do you?’ I guess the clicks were really loud bouncing off the walls. I also remember at this time I was wearing a lot of wife beaters and sweat bands – we really didn’t have our look down then.”

Davey trying out his wife beater and sweat band combo.
The random YMCA show.

I remember at that YMCA show it was our first time we had people standing in front of us to watch us play.  It felt really cool to have people standing that close to us when we played.

I have to admit I thought I’d remember a lot more about these songs especially stuff that has happened at shows but after many years of playing these songs all the shows start to melt together like a gooey pizza topping -- delicious but hard to pick apart.

1. Zombie I   - When this song first came out, girls would ask what the line, “But the pressure was too much, and the girl she gave it up” meant. What also comes to mind was playing in a basement on Halloween with our friends and when we would play the opening sample people would scream.

Davey remembered that we brought in a big old box TV and a VCR to capture the movie sample clips. We plugged the VCR directly into the board and Aaron hit record on the studio console.

2. Resurrection   - Now listening to the bass intro sounds it sounds so weak I think we just plugged it direct into the board but at the time it sounded great. The guitars were played through a dual rectifier giving the album a “metal” sound and we really layered the vocals for the chorus (we really liked that).

3. Death of Me   - Reminds me that we took out some business size ads in Rue Morgue and local music magazines, which seemed to help get the word out about the band. Our super fan, Kristen Symons, was the first to get some of the lyrics from this song tattooed. I was blown away that she did that!

4. One of Us   - I remember listening back to this song and being amazed that Davey could play the kick drum so fast. It sounds like a real punk song! My favorite line “I pull the wings off little souls, only I say only goes.”

5. Midnight Spookshow   - Still one of the fan favorites! So many great times playing this song live. I like how Bobby and I help sing the end of each other lines in the verse. The album was mastered in New Zealand at Edgewood Studios and I thought that was cool because Peter Jackson is from New Zealand and he made "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive" (my favorite splatter comedies!).

6. Backseat of My Hearse   - One of my favorite surf riffs. People at shows always scream out the lines “like a horror movie on a Friday night” and “why do you act like everybody.” I remember that the mastering had a hard time getting the album to sound good he kept adding too much high end and mids. We mastered it as least 3 or 4 times 'til we got it right.

Outside of Jugheads, one of the few bars that would let Davey play since he was so young!

7. Eyes Down   - I love how we matched the movie sample to the guitars on the intro. It was all by accident but it somehow fit so perfectly. A match made in hell? Bobby was having a real hard time singing the chorus on this song for some reason. “Anything can happen and it probably has” always gets a great response live, people love to scream that with me. I love it. This song was originally going to be played really slow like a Type-O-Negative song, but we’ve always had the need for speed. It was so easy to write these songs 'cause everything was still new and open...we had a TON of spooky word combination we never used yet. I remember playing this song at some show in Texas and some drunk lady was rubbing her beer bottle against my strings from the stage as we played, and she spilled beer all over me. I appreciated the enthusiasm but not getting my bass and shoes soaked in Lone Star beer.

8. Shrunken Head Kids   - While in the studio the intern (a man who looked like he was 40 years old) said he took the songs with him over the weekend and listened to Shrunken Head Kids on his buddy’s boat. He swore the chorus to this song was “drunk and reckless.” Yes, sir, you are correct. For you, in the chorus we sing “drunk and reckless.” Davey used a tambourine in the bridge on this song, cause we used a lot of different techniques on the album to get different sounds when they were starting out. After that Davey didn’t have much use for the tambourine so he set it aside and completely forgot he had it. It got buried in a corner under a pile of fan mail. And years later when we were writing the song “Evil Inside” (from our new album Born With A Scorpion’s Touch) which has a very bare-bones drum beat with just the kick and the snare it sounded kinda empty and he rediscovered his tambourine - the same exact one - from this "13 Halloweens" album. It was just sitting in a corner for years waiting.

9. Evening   - Still one of my favorite songs, I really like my bass line and how the guitars play off the riff. But I’m still fuming that in one of our first reviews someone said this song was a “fumble” on the record. How dare he use a football analogy to review our music!

10. Blood In my Eyes   - Gotta love the tambourine at the start. I thought this was a pretty “rock 'n' roll” song. It’s so simple and catchy I can’t believe I wrote the main riff on a broken mini ukulele guitar.

Bobby mastering the deathrock look.

11. Every Day's a Funeral   - All I can say is that the sample we used at the start of the song is a classic fit.

12. Crizila   - We recorded Aaron’s muscle car in the front of the studio trying to get the sound of tires squealing. It was on gravel and the wheels shot a rock into the studio's window breaking it. He quickly parked his car, put a piece of cardboard in front of the window to hide the broken glass and we never talked about it again. Especially not to Jimmy Z the owner! In the end, we just used a combination of car sounds found on the internet and a sound effect from a movie instead.

13. Phantasmagoria – We thought this song would be the “big hit” off the record but it didn’t take off quite like we expected. In one of the first reviews of the album they mentioned my controversial line, “through the Ouija board you said you were family, so I slit my writs to follow you” – we were shocking!

One of our first promo photos.


  1. This was great to read..I remember seeing you guys at club 111 in Flagstaff in 2006? Maybe? After the show, my daughter was sitting on stage with Davey..while my husband and I talked to you and Bobby and buying merch. Later, I asked my daughter what her and Davey where talking about..she said that they were annoyed because we were taking to long and they both had school the next day!

  2. My daughter was in middle school at that time..Davey was in high school..

  3. So cool to read! I hope you do this for all the albums! Also, though I knew or unintentionally discovered several over the years, I would love a list of all the movie sound bites used on ur albums and what u thought of those movies and/or why u chose them...

    1. Yeah, we plan on doing this with the rest of the albums.

  4. Very cool to read indeed ! Thank you !