(With tongue firmly planted in cheek)
Last Saturday, James played his last show behind the kit with Division. His family and he are moving to Ohio to begin the next part of their lives, and we wish them all well. Well, we wish his family well; to hell with James, I hope he gets hit by a car and dies. If you’re reading this, James, frankly I’m surprised, since I thought you were too stupid to read. I wish Melinda and Hazel well with their new, improved husband/father, and I hope he plays a real instrument, like guitar.
It is a strange feeling to look back on nearly a decade in the same band, watching everyone else change around you. It seems only yesterday that I stood in the damp, cramped front room at Barco Rebar, auditioning through the shittiest Marshall JCM900 in existence, ultimately replacing founding guitarist Matt Crooks. That was a band at a crossroads; a principal writer was leaving, the local music scene was shifting in a new direction, and tunes were being penned for the first album to fully feature 7-string guitars. I won’t go into details, but there was a lot of tension and doubt in the band at the time, and it felt like a slow climb out of a hazy pit. Gigging helped, and as James, Mike, Nick, Ron, and myself slowly gelled as a live act, we became tighter, both musically and as friends. We had a lot of fun times opening for some of our heroes at Jaxx, and several very entertaining road trips, parts of which we barely remember. Playing with those guys made me a better guitarist, more knowledgeable of gear, and a better live performer. Ultimately, those days wouldn’t last, as Ron’s wife Meghan moved out of the area to pursue a new career. We sure do miss Meghan, and wish her all the best of luck in her future endeavors, and are delighted she took Ron with her. I hope he chokes on a burrito, stupid pasty-faced, prepubescent-looking hack, since bass is for people without enough talent to play guitar. He was obviously compensating for something, and we all feel real bad for Meghan on that count.
We picked up Tim, and soldiered on. Tim mainly played guitar before joining Division, realized he didn’t have enough talent for it, and made the switch to the big strings (I guess they’re easier for a tall goofy guy to grab onto). Tim joined during another transitional period, as we started playing more small clubs and bars. We got to watch Jaxx destroyed by the soul-sucking leaches at Outerloop, and discovered a truly awesome scene out in Loudoun County Tim banged away with us for a year, got married, joined fifty-seven other bands, took on a demanding new job, and quit like the quitty quitter he is. Your hair is falling out, loser, and we take pity on your wife for being stuck with a widow’s peak and your job working on boats. With sailors. I think we all know where I’m going with this.
Nick, who didn’t want to be showed up, also quit. I’m in two bands with Nick, so I’m waiting for him to quit that one, too, so I never have spend another waking moment with that egotistical, no-talent assclown. Maybe a stray meteorite will take care of that for me. Enter Scott and Dan, on lead prima dona and big dumb guy guitar, respectively. Having run out of talented people in the area to turn to, we were stuck with the retreads. This was obviously too much for James to bear, since he’s moving hundreds of miles away to Cleveland. You know people suck when you move to Cleveland to get away from them. It must be the bald quotient in the band or something.
After eight years, Mike is the only person left from the four guys staring at me in that grungy rehearsal room in Falls Church. Mike is like dirt, though: old, crusty, and around for the long haul. I’m still looking for the broom that works on Mike, but I guess he is punishments for the sins of a former life. All joking aside, I’ve shared some times, both good and bad, with everyone whom I’ve been lucky enough to play metal with in this band. Every single one of them brought something different to the band, as reflected in the gigs we played and the music we wrote. Now, we stand once again at a crossroads, replacing another member on the eve of writing and recording the next album. Who knows what direction the next FNG will take us, but I’m equal parts excited and trepiditious, just as I was when I was the FNG.
As many of you may have heard by now, this Saturday’s gig with Fiakra sets the stage for what will be my last gig with DIVISION. In a sense, I’m lifting my anchor to the D.C.-Baltimore region and preparing for a move. This transition brings to an end what has been a most-rewarding ten-year musical experience. Of course a long history such as this would be filled with many memories and amusing stories; but if I may be a little forthcoming, on my own I’m not the best at recalling such things. In fact, the band likes to have a little fun with that small fault of mine – but we won’t get into that! However, with certainty I will never forget this – Division’s persistent and unflinching mantra of high expectations and hard work in the rehearsal room.
Like many bands, we may not be the biggest marketing machine, and the output of new releases may come to a slow crawl at times…. But as we all have other lives and important responsibilities, sometimes things have to give. However, that was all fine with me, because what mattered most to me was that we never compromised our expectations in that dank and sweaty rehearsal room. The members of Division both past and present have long stated that this is one hard working outfit in the rehearsal room. That was Nick Kelly’s first heads-up to me when he recruited me to audition for the band in the fall of 2003. Tim Regan spoke in detail of it when he left in early 2012. I swear we rehearse as hard – if not harder – as we gig…. and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Like most metal musicians, I love the struggle of maximizing and balancing what are often conflicting goals – aggression verses dynamics; power with speed and endurance; complexity verses support; showmanship with precision, etc. I’m far from the best at all of those – unless you consider dropping sticks or a painful facial expression to be showmanship! Regardless, for me the beauty of Division is not that all involved share a similar approach or understanding, but that the feedback, both positive and constructive, was always immediate and honest. Throw in some talent, a little forgiving patience, and plenty of humbling honesty and you have the balanced and hyper-functional team that has motivated me to stay in the D.C.-Baltimore region for this long. Looking forward, If I can find a group of pros like this who share this ultra-combination of musical taste, work ethic, professionalism, and band expectations at even half-power, I’ll consider myself lucky.
With that, just a few short words of gratitude. First and foremost, Mike Blevins. I remember vividly how much of a humbling struggle rehearsals and gigs were during my first three years with Division. It turns out that my hardcore fitness routines were the culprit, believe it or not, and it was only coincidence and circumstance that led to realize this over what was a long and gradual process of elimination. Anyway, If any of you know how critical and honest Mike’s ears are, you’ll understand how appreciative I am of the zero-pressure patience he granted me during this learning and adjustment phase. A lesson to you young drummers out there: if your legs aren’t doing what you want them to do for some reason, always showing up early to rehearsal and always knowing the material just might earn you some more time to figure things out!
Of course, thanks to all of the others I’ve shared the experience with – Division bandmates Matt, Dan, Nick, Ron, Dave, Tim, Scott; band friends and fans; my bros in Cab Ride Home, Iris Divine, Pharaoh, and any others we gig with; and Toby at “Monthly Metal” Balls Bluff Tavern and Jay at Jaxx (r.i.p.). Finally the most important thanks goes to my beautiful wife Melinda. Your support has been unbound, without obligation, and far beyond measure.
Please join me this Saturday, June 15, at Monthly Metal at “The Underground” at Balls Bluff Tavern. Cover is a cheap $5, the beer is good, and the MM crew is always a blast!
…life is full of them, as we all know. We had quite a few changes in the Division family last year, with the departure of Tim and Nick and the return of Scott and Dan. Changes are simply the way of things.
It pains me to say it, but James Goetz will be leaving the band in June. James has been playing with us since 2003, which makes him the drummer with by far the longest tenure in the band. Everything is amicable – James and his family will be leaving the area – and wherever he ends up, some band will get a hell of a drummer.
So it is with a heavy heart that I wish my friend and bandmate well, and begin the search for a replacement. In the meantime, you can catch James’ last two shows with us on May 24th (with fellow Nighmare alumni Dark Empire and A Sound of Thunder) and June 15th (with Axenstar, Trihexyn and Burning Shadows).
Interested drummers can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.