Home | Info | Music | Live | Multimedia | Links
News | Bio | Members | History | Reviews |
Thanks for being interested in this rather extensive history of The Comrades. Why have I decided to include this on our web page? I don't know. (A little self-aggrandizement never hurt anyone! See, here on the internet, Andy Warhol's proclaimation that anyone can be a superstar comes to life!) Seriously, I guess I just felt it to be a little unfair not to mention some of the older members who, in a way, helped The Comrades get to where they are today, and that I have not forgotten them. If there are any die-hard fans who are at all interested in this, or if you are doing a research paper on The Comrades (yeah, sure!), please read on. If you only are interested in what the Comrades are doing today, you will probably find this extremely boring and tedious.
Where to start? Actually, the seeds of The Comrades were planted sometime around 1980. At that point, I was a fairly accomplished classical organist, but my father picked up an electric guitar and amp at a yard sale, and that changed everything. This, coupled with my exposure to previously-unknown bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, and The Plasmatics, sealed my fate as an organist and opened the doors to becoming a songwriter. Before The Comrades even formed, I had already written a few songs, some of which we later used.
Enter one Randy Gaston, a friend of mine since the third grade. We had lost touch for a little while, but after running into each other again, discovered our mutual love of music and desire to write our own. One day, we got together to play some music, and discovered that our rudimentary skills just didn't cut it. We used to just tinker around with Beatles songs and the like, but eventually started to write our own stuff. The fact that it was punk rock at all resulted mainly from the fact that the only thing we knew how to play was chords, and had a penchant for distortion boxes and turning our amps up as loud as they could go. (as my father put it, "they just turn up the volume and whack away.")
Still, there was no band at all, although we wanted to have one, and any members would do. In our circle of friends, we had Andy Goulbourn and Mike Strickland. Since we always hung out and knew each other anyway, why not form a band? It didn't matter that neither of them even had instruments. Andy had played the snare drum once in a school band, so he would be the drummer. Mike also had a school band stint as a saxophonist, so he would play bass (eventually).
The band still only existed as an idea. Before we even had our instruments, we wanted to pick a name. Some names we tossed around were the Electric Candy Bar, the Psychedelic Seahorses, and The Outcasts. We settled on The Outcasts, and considered that to be the name of the non-existent band for a while, but soon discovered that the name was used by a punk group from the 1960s. So, we picked a similar name, The Rejects.
The Rejects actually recorded a tape in the basement of one Gary Palamone, a friend of mine from high school who also played bass with us. Mike still played the saxophone. We recorded four old rock and roll cover songs, which bore absolutely no resemblence to the originals. Cacaphony is putting it mildly. It was at least a start. Gary soon wisely bailed out of the project, so we had to teach Mike to play the bass.
The band name was also an issue again. Being incredibly cliche, the guys wanted to pick yet another name that had more relevance to what we were doing. I had a habit of referring to my friends as "comrade," so they decided that that was a good enough name. We were all friends and comrades, so it made sense. At the time, I don't think some of them realized my ideological reasons for calling them "comrade," but we all know the story now!
So, now we were The Comrades, so what to do? We decided that we would write all our own stuff. There were no rules; anyone could write anything about anything. It was 1983, and there was a lot to write about. Of course, we wrote about the typical teenage personal things, but we also were influenced by various social, political, etc. things that were going on at the time. There were military conflicts going on in Lebanon, Granada, and Central America, and no one seemed to care or question the idea. Sometimes, we would sit around and get all philosophical about this stuff (like teenagers do), so why not write about it?
Randy and I began writing most of the band's material, although rarely together as we would do later. For the most part, each sang lead on their respective songs. (I must point out that Randy's deficient vocabulary at the time resulted in some hilariously misused words.) I sang any songs the others wrote, which would come later on. The band's writing was mostly influenced by the various punk and "new wave" bands of that time and earlier. Some of our favorites (collectively) were Adam and the Ants, U2, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and even stuff like A Flock of Seagulls! We still managed to sound like none of these bands, and whether our stuff was music at all is debatable.
In October 1983, the band entered the studios of the late John Troy (who would later produce The Comrades), a friend of my father. He had a studio in his basement, and had worked in New York studios for many years. The Comrades recorded six songs, which were barely listenable. Regardless, the tape landed them airplay and an interview on local radio station WMSC. Throughout the next year, the band continued to write and practice, but personal and musical differences soon began taking their toll on the band.
For a brief time, the band added Bob Grisanti on second guitar, and Randy was simply the lead singer on every song. This lineup didn't last long, since by this time it was barely possible to get the original four members in the same room. Randy and Mike were not speaking to each other at all, and one would simply leave when the other showed up for practice. Also, the band could no longer agree on a direction. Mike was getting into heavy metal, Randy's material was becoming more meandering and introspective, and I was starting to go more hard-core (which I would later regret!). Only Andy was trying to follow the original punk/new wave roots of the band, but even he would describe the band as a "rock" band as to not alienate fans of that music.
That audience was the witness to the only public performance by the original Comrades, a house party at a friend of Andy's. It was a nightmare, and I had to deal with people asking us to play Quiet Riot and Scorprions. They just didn't get it at all. I felt that not even the band members understood what the band was supposed to be about. We soon simply stopped playing after being repeatedly asked to turn down the volume and play something more mellow.
Finally, Mike left to join Razor Riot, a metal cover band. The three remaining members tried to carry on, but Randy soon lost interest as well. Andy switched to bass and got his friend Dave Link to play drums, but this lineup soon folded. All parties involved accepted the fact that The Comrades were finished. In the end, the band had writen over 25 songs, which I later pieced together onto one tape from jam session recordings (now found on the CD called Embryonic Cacophony if you can find a copy). Not bad for a bunch of teenagers who could have been doing far worse things with their time, but a disappointment nontheless. (Despite this, The Comrades still play three of these songs, "I Don't Care", "I Hated You" and "Victory," to this day.)
In 1987, 2 years after the acrimonious split, the original four Comrades did get together one final time to rehearse because Randy wanted the band to play at his birthday party. It was obvious that certain members still couldn't stand each other at all, and there never was any party. Too bad, because we actually sounded pretty good. The original four members were never to play together again.
In 1990, Randy and I decided to start writing together again, this time fully collaborating with each other. To practice the songs, we enlisted my roomate at the time, Robert Robertson, to play drums, while I played bass. By 1991, we had several songs written (six of which ended up on the A Spectrum of Light tape released in 1994). Randy then enlisted with the Marines, his anti-military lyrics notwithstanding. He got injured in training just in time to avoid that damn Gulf War. We continued to write when he got back. By that time, I was living somewhere else, so we were back to just recording without a performing lineup. We put all of our stuff on A Spectrum of Light, and assembled the first real performing lineup of The Comrades that evolved into the band as it is today.
Well, that's the extended history of The Comrades. The story continues as outlined in the bio. I never would have imagined that The Comrades would have survived in any form for this long. Now, I can't imagine life without The Comrades.
Gary Palamone: After his brief stint with us (then)-sub-par musicians, Gary became an accomplished musician, and played in New Jersey bands The Jefferson Sleeves, Twisted World View, and Popsicle Is Here among others. He continues to play and write. garypal AT webspan DOT net.
Mike Strickland: Mike continued to play in various metal/cover bands. Strangely enough, he eventually started jamming with Randy again and also with Greg Matwijiszyn, who would eventually take his place in the new Comrades. To the best of my knowledge, he is no longer playing music.
Andy Goulbourn: After the original Comrades first split in 1985, Andy played bass in the first lineup of hardcore band The Politburo with me. Andy gave up music altogether shortly after the original Comrades last rehearsed in 1987. Sadly, Andy passed away in February 2008.
Bob Grisanti and Dave Link: I really didn't keep in touch with them, so I have no idea whatever happend to them. Hope they're doing well.
Robert Robertson: Robert had played keyboards in The Jefferson Sleeves and Twisted World View, and later went on to play with Sunshine Blind, Salvador Disney, and several other bands. He evantually moved to Seattle and is still a writer and musician. robert_robertson AT msn DOT com
Randy Gaston: Randy did work with me on some songs he wrote a few months after the original breakup. I played drums and bass and recorded them on a 4-track, but the tape was accidentally recorded over by my brother (of the band Snag, but that's another story!). Randy continued to play guitar and write. After re-forming The Comrades with me, he moved to Maryland and got married. Retired from music, he still lives there with his wife and 3 children.
Jimmy Williams: Shortly after the original Comrades broke up, I played drums in hardcore band The Politburo, and later guitar in a different lineup of that band. I assisted in writing some songs, mostly just putting any bunch of chords that could be played really fast to the singer's lyrics. That band eventually became Positive Alternative when our original singer left, and I took over on vocals. It is an absolutely embarrasing time I would rather forget, so there! I also played briefly in several other bands, including an industrial noise project called Sounds Of Ruins. In the early 90s, after Randy and I started writing again, I also played bass in an alternative band called Casual Voodoo (which included Pete Quilla who also played in Vigilante Cowboys and is now in Dark Marbles) and played drums in the psychedelic band Popsicle Is Here (with Gary).