| I ask then what
kind of a track the guys were on career-wise before deciding to commit themselves
to this band and music as a profession.
This time Clif answers first. “I just decided that I never wanted to work in a cubicle, so I was just doing the service industry thing, which is…I don’t know. The way I saw it is you’re almost your own boss in the service industry. Of course, you have your crappy managers and whatnot but at least you’re responsible for your own thing. You’re standing, you’re walking –“
“You take off whenever you want,” Jim says, to which Clif replies, “Yeah, exactly.”
“You’re beholden to no man – that kind of thing,” I offer.
“Yeah! So I was just basically treading water, knowing what I didn’t want to do but just hoping to find the thing that I did want to do. I worked with Jim – we waited tables at the same place in Chicago, this deep-dish pizza place.” The memory gets the guys laughing, and Clif continues. “But it was cool because the guy who taught me how to play the drums, Mike, got me the job there and that’s how I met Jim so…thank god for Mike!”
I turn to Steve and Jim, “What about you? Did you go to college specifically to do something and then end up doing something else, namely Helen Stellar?”
Steve says, “Yeah, I think everybody ended up doing something else. I thought I had a career. I was twenty-five and I was thinking about where I was at compared to all of my friends and stuff like that. And then it just got to a point where this group was getting closer and everyone was supporting all of our efforts. Then it was very difficult for me to live that life and also this one…and, uh, I ended up getting fired.”
The laughter gets more raucous as Jim recalls, “He used to come to practice in this shirt and tie with this big watch on, like total business. It was great. And then right when he got to practice we’d all get high and he’d rip the tie off, roll up his sleeves and all of a sudden, like he was in rock mode!”
Clif says to Steve, “I like to think I’m responsible for you getting fired. To this day I still like to think that I dragged you down,” and I interject, “You saved him is what you did!” which provokes more laughs and vigorous nods.
It’s back to Q&A mode after everyone settles down. “Last night you were talking about Chicago and how it’s not the way you remember it being when you were starting out there. What was the music scene like when you started and what’s your take on it now?”
“When we started it was cool because it seemed like it was something,” Jim recalls. “We thought, wow, we could actually be a part of a scene, period – not to mention in a pretty major city, one that Smashing Pumpkins used to be atop! I thought at that point it was really a cool thing. We’ve experienced it but we’ve never been in the mainstream of it at all. And it doesn’t seem like that much of really a scene to me. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s just not clicking yet with Chicago.”
Steve says, “There’s an in-crowd in Chicago, just like there’s an in crowd here. And even though we claim ourselves a Chicago band, we’re not in that in crowd in Chicago.” “Sort of on purpose,” Jim chimes in with more laughs.
“What’s that in-crowd
“It’s about business,” I say, “not about what you can play.”