Archive for January, 2014

“mikelewismusic” – the song

Posted in Blogs, Music on January 17, 2014 by mikelewismusic

I have my own theme song

Yes I do.  It’s a catchy little number (if I do say so myself) called “mikelewismusic”.  Why it’s spelled in lower case and all one word, I can’t really say.  I guess you could say that it looked kind of cool all bunched together like that, and maybe sort of trendy with the lower case spelling.  I’m not exactly sure, I guess it just came about sort of like it had a mind of it’s own, it kind of birthed itself to be honest.

I was just messing around on my guitar one night, rehearsing and writing, when I noticed my name “Mike Lewis” spelled out perfectly over several measures of a riff I was working on.  It was kind of neat, the riff coupled with the perfectly placed spelling of my name was too irresistible to set aside, so I spent the next hour or so composing the song.  It came that quickly.

The lyrics revolved around my musical life up until that point in 2004. I thought long and hard of all the people that had touched my life musically.  Surprisingly, it was very easy to tell that story through verse within the confines of the riff.  As mentioned before, it seemed to have a mind of it’s own – when writing I have found that the better ones that “I” write are often the ones that seem to flow through me supernaturally, as if I were the vessel that guided the force from the pen to paper.

Breakdown of the song 

I was born with a song in my head, under the clouds and the skies were red

Played my guitar til’ my fingers bled, never worrying what the neighbors said…

I always loved music.  I always saw myself doing something in music.  I didn’t start with any talent, hell, I don’t really have much talent anyway, my lot in music has always come down to ambition and luck.  But even as I struggled to improve as a musician I kept at it.  And I always admired the songwriters.  Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Pete Townshend, Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Bob Dylan, that’s what really drew me to music.  The song.  Learning the guitar – a means to an end to attain the ability to create “the song” –  was hard for me.  Although I was lacking in ability, I never stopped working at it, and I never stopped hoping.  The line, under the clouds and the skies were red, signified the struggles I had trying to become a musician – it seemed dark and maddening sometimes, but I knew there was a payoff down that winding road.

…Traveling down this winding road, it started with my friend Joe Mode

He gave me a start that I really need, don’t forget ol’ Thomas Sneed…

Joe Mode is Cliff Jomuad.

My first foray into any kind of an organized musical situation was with my good friend Clifford M. Jomuad, aka Joe Mode. We started a group called The Radical Molesters and I was allowed to bring my ham-fisted talents into a band situation for the first time as a bass player.  So, it started out with him.  Here we are at our first gig on May 22, 1982:

RADICAL MOLESTERS - 1st gig 5/22/82

Cliff Jomuad on guitar, Mike Lewis on bass. 1982, Radical Molesters.

I played bass with Cliff in The Radical Molesters (two stints in the 80s), The USSR, NEIN, and in 2011 Cliff and I were part of The Magic Montgomery Brothers, the all-star band that consisted of ex-Montgomery High School musicians.  On top of his extraordinary musical talents (Cliff is a prolific multi-instrumentalist and songwriter), Cliff is also a great artist, easily the best I’ve ever known.  Without Cliff Jomuad leading the way for me, there is no mikelewismusic.  Without him giving me the chance to actually be a part of a band, I’m not here writing this little blog – it is really that simple.

Thomas Sneed is my lifelong friend Tom Sneed.

Started with my friend Joe Mode (left)...don't forget ol' Thomas Sneed (right)...

Started with my friend Joe Mode (left)…don’t forget ol’ Thomas Sneed (right)…

Tom and I grew up together on Blackwood Drive in San Diego, CA, and although he has moved around to various places around this country, we remain friends to this day.  Tom was there both with the Radical Molesters and the subsequent power trio Cliff formed called NEIN.  Tom served as a photographer, videographer, aide-de-camp, and inspiration; he was virtually a fourth member in both the Radical Molesters and NEIN.

…Fred and Roger and Steve and Jim…

Fred is Fred Allee.

Fred Allee - with the Magic Montgomery Brothers

Fred Allee – with the Magic Montgomery Brothers

A master drummer, he kept the backbeat in The USSR, the follow-on band to the Radical Molesters.  Fred is an accomplished musician who plays all over San Diego – he is a former member of N-E-1, best known for their local hit “1-2-3”, a staple of 91x radio back in the early 80s.  Today Fred plays for the Dixieland Jazz group The South Bay Jazz Ramblers, as well as a performs for the San Diego Concert Band.  Fred also plays all over town in thematic groups that celebrate Oktoberfest, commemorate the Civil War, and as an alumnus of Montgomery High School, Fred also played in our little “all-star” rock band The Magic Montgomery Brothers.

Roger is Roger DeLong.

Roger DeLong of The USSR

Roger DeLong of The USSR

Roger was the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist (and occasional drummer) of The USSR.  Roger served as the main songwriter with The USSR, and he was quite prolific – his songs often had a dark humorous side.  After The USSR, Roger became a full-time drummer and ended up playing drums for the L.A. rock band Pet Piranha, and these days he pounds the skins with the popular L.A. rock band Death on the Radio.

Steve is Steve Kelly, hailing from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan.  He played drums for The USSR for several months before Fred Allee joined the band.  Steve started out as a fan, he would attend our shows and eventually joined in on the fun.  Steve got us a gig in Cardiff opening for the infamous Claude Coma and the IVs – this gig occurred on the same night in 1984 that Steve Garvey hit the home run for the San Diego Padres against the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Jim is James Apodaca, guitar virtuoso.

James Apodaca performing with The Magic Montgomery Brothers

James Apodaca performing with The Magic Montgomery Brothers

James is also a Montgomery High School alumnus and has been a virtuoso as long as I’ve known him – though I have no firsthand knowledge of this, I would venture to say he’s been a virtuoso his entire life.  James served in The USSR, and later on performed with the L.A. rock band Pet Piranha with Roger DeLong.  James was also a member of our all-star band The Magic Montgomery Brothers.  There’s so much I can say about this man’s talent, but I’ll just sum it up this way – being in a band with James provided me with a musical education that is immeasurable.  I learned a lot from him just by osmosis.

…Lloyd Ladrillono and my friend Chris Crim…

Lloyd Ladrillono was the drummer for The Radical Molesters.

Lloyd Ladrillono - "The Lad"

Lloyd Ladrillono – “The Lad”

The Radical Molesters were essentially a power trio which also included Cliff Jomuad and myself (although there were times we expanded to a foursome with both Roger DeLong and James Apodaca).  An accomplished musician and singer also hailing from Montgomery High School, Lloyd had an intangible feel for the music  – the innate feel for music he possesses seems to run through his veins.  They say a drummer will make or break a band, and Lloyd most definitely made us; as Cliff once confided to me, “Lad knew just what to do in every song” – indeed he did!  Lloyd also briefly drummed for The USSR, and was also one of the lead vocalists for The Magic Montgomery Brothers.

My friend Chris Crim was our drummer in NEIN.

Chris Crim pounds the drums for NEIN

Chris Crim pounds the drums for NEIN

NEIN was also a power trio which also included Cliff and myself.  Chris was an energetic power drummer that also possessed a great feel for the music and an ability to apply finesse when necessary.  Chris was also an accomplished artist, one that Cliff respected so much that he allowed Chris to design the artwork for the sleeve to NEIN’s 45 of “Upside Down”/”Who Breaks a Wheel of a Butterfly”.

…Radicals and The USSR, just say NEIN we never went far…

A nod to the bands and the shared experiences we had.  One thing that was common to these bands is we never got far.  Music is a tough business.  You not only have to have talent and vision, but you need thick skin (to fight off both external and internal pressures) and the wherewithal to actually move forward.  It was hard to move ahead in the 80s, but we had our share of successes too – there were recording sessions and gigs in prominent venues.  We had a lot of fun, but we never really got on the map in the music scene, which was a shame because each of these bands were fantastic, each had their own unique sound and vision.

…CenterAisle and With Intent, those were precious moments spent

Harry and Brian and my good friend Ed…

In 1989 I took an extended hiatus from music.  In 2001 I resumed my musical career and joined a band called CenterAisle.  CenterAisle consisted of four musicians who worked together at the same company.  Harry was Harry Brandon (lead guitar), Brian was Brian Baxter (rhythm guitar), and my good friend Ed was Ed De Caro (drums).  We started out as four guys who wanted to get together and jam, but as we made music we found that we had good chemistry and had a desire to go out and play some gigs.  For three years we played around town, mostly covers but we added some original music as well.  At the beginning of 2004, CenterAisle broke up.  Harry and Brian left to join another covers band, and Ed formed his own group called With Intent.

CenterAisle, live at The Rhythm Lounge.  L-R: Brian Baxter, Ed De Caro, Harry Brandon, Mike Lewis

CenterAisle, live at The Rhythm Lounge. L-R: Brian Baxter, Ed De Caro, Harry Brandon, Mike Lewis

With Intent at The Metaphor Cafe - L-R: Mark Schlaefli, Ed De Caro, Mike Lewis, Dan Stuart

With Intent at The Metaphor Cafe – L-R: Mark Schlaefli, Ed De Caro, Mike Lewis, Dan Stuart

Ed, who made the switch from drums to lead vocals/rhythm guitar, recruited me to be his bass player in With Intent.  We started out as a duo and in time we added two more members, lead guitarist Dan Stuart and drummer Mark Schlaefli.  With Intent lasted for about six months before both Dan and Mark left the band.  We had several substitute drummers and guitarists in the band after that, but it wasn’t too long thereafter that I left the band too.  I had three young kids and I needed to scale back my band time to tend to their needs.

…some things are better left unsaid…

Well, I was never completely satisfied that I was able to present my original material.  I was allowed to submit a few songs in both CenterAisle and With Intent, but I had a pretty decent backlog that I never thought would fully see the light of day.  So it was just as well that the band thing ended and…

…Now I’m standing here alone, I find myself here on my own, look around this empty stage, now’s the time to turn the page…

The final lines signified my transition into a solo artist.  Something I never really thought I’d pursue although I did play a few open mics in the late 80s.  I resigned myself to forever be a bass player in a band with no real outlet to share my songs.  My whole life’s situation sort of shoehorned me into the situation that I always dreamed of having – an outlet to write and perform my original compositions.  I not only was able to write, I performed publicly and recorded two albums.

"mikelewismusic" - the album.  Released in 2006.

“mikelewismusic” – the album. Released in 2006.

I became very adept in playing guitar in the Vestapol tuning – essentially the Open D tuning, though I often tuned up to Open E.  “mikelewismusic” was written in Open E, which allowed me to play those bluegrassy fiddle-inspired licks throughout the song.

"m...i...k...e..."

“m…i…k…e…”

Yes, turning the page turned out to be a fortuitous thing for me.  It also taught me a pretty valuable lesson – sometimes if you just go with the flow of life, the things you want will come right to you.  Stepping back away from life in a band allowed me a situation that I really wanted – to write, record, and perform my own original songs.

“mikelewismusic” is a very personal song, but the theme is universal – we live our lives, we reach out for the stars to attain our dreams, and it doesn’t occur on an island – there is a fabric called life and the material that weaves it together are the people you encounter in your life.  Whether they remain or move on, they are always present in the fabric.  And life flows like a river, and if you allow yourself to bask in the mighty flow, just floating along downstream in beautiful harmony, you do indeed end up with the fruits of life – good friends, good experiences, and a full and satisfying life.  

And the song in question?  Well, here it is:

m-i-k-e-l-e-w-i-s….music…mikelewismusic…mikelewismusic…

The Gear

Posted in Blogs, Instruments, Music on January 10, 2014 by mikelewismusic

Ah, gear.  If you’re a musician or music fan, chances are you have an obsession with gear.  I know I do.  Over the years I have owned and played many pieces of gear.  Fortunately, I have many pictures of the pieces I have owned over the years.  This piece is a chronicle of those precious instruments that have made it up on stage with me.  Some are dearly departed, and some I still own.

The Avila P-Bass and the Avila Les Paul

These two instruments were the second and third instruments I owned.  The first instrument I owned was a cheap Sears Les Paul copy, but I upgraded to a Black Beauty Les Paul Custom replica made by Avila.  I bought it at Bonavero’s Music in Chula Vista.  Bonavero, the owner of the store, was notorious for showing the handgun in his pocket to kids who frequented the store, myself included.  He seemed like a grump, especially since he despised the more popular Harper’s Music Store up the street.  Harper’s had all of the name brands like Fender, and I made the mistake of asking Bonavero if he had any Fender basses.  Because all he sold were cheap copies of the name brands, he felt I was being a smart-ass (I was not, I sincerely was asking if he had Fenders and I did not know the nature of his shop at that time). Thus, he promptly chased me away.  However, because of lack of funds I eventually found myself back at Bonavero’s and eventually ended up buying the black Les Paul copy.  Soon thereafter, I needed a bass so back to Bonavero I went and bought a Candy Apple Red P-Bass copy, also made by Avila.  Because I made these purchases, Bonavero started treating me very nicely but I kept my distance – with the gun in his pocket and the aforementioned Fender incident, I always remained wary of the guy. I used the bass with The Radical Molesters.  Cliff Jomuad, the leader of the group, needed a guitar so I loaned him the Les Paul copy.  We played our first gig at the Town and Country Convention Center in Mission Valley (San Diego), CA, and both instruments were used for the gig.  Here is a shot of us with the instruments.

RADICAL MOLESTERS - 1st gig 5/22/82

RADICAL MOLESTERS – 1st gig Mission Valley (San Diego), CA 5/22/82 – L-R – Cliff Jomuad with my Avila Les Paul copy; me with my Avila P-Bass copy

Cliff customized the Les Paul with the Pete Townshend-inspired “5” at the bottom.  Cliff used that guitar for several months until he bought his own Gibson SG copy, a guitar he used for several years.  As for myself…

The Black Rickenbacker 4001 I saved up money from my day job working as a security guard in a hospital, and soon I had enough for a new bass.  I had always dug the Rickenbacker basses, mostly because of Geddy Lee of Rush, and I also dug Prescott Niles of The Knack.  They looked really cool and had a nice tone.  I spotted two used ones for sale, both black, at a local guitar shop called Freedom Guitar.  I played both, and ended up settling for the one that was less dinged up.  Paid all of $400 for the Ricky, and this bass served me for a couple of years.  Played quite a few gigs with this one with both The Radical Molesters and their follow-on band, The USSR.

Mike playing in the USSR

Rehearsal with The USSR – Roger Delong’s garage, Imperial Beach, CA

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Playing with The USSR – Private Party, Chula Vista, CA.

The Blond Rickenbacker 4003 In 1984 I upgraded to a brand new Rickenbacker 4003.  I bought it at Guitar Center for a measly sum of $600, but foolishly traded in the black Ricky 4001.  I never even bothered to figure out the year of the 4001, I wasn’t that into gear at the time.  And also foolishly, I thought “new is better than old”, never anticipating the vintage aspect of the older black 4001. The blonde was a solid instrument, and served me throughout the rest of the 80s, up until my hiatus in the 90s.  This bass was mostly my main instrument throughout the time period, and it made it’s way onstage at many venues and parties.

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1989 – with The Radical Molesters – Spirit Nightclub, San Diego, CA

Mike with The RADICAL MOLESTERS, Del Mar Fair, Del Mar, CA, 6/29/89

Mike with The RADICAL MOLESTERS, Del Mar Fair, Del Mar, CA, 6/29/89

The Steinberger In 1985 I purchased a Steinberger XP-2 headless bass.  The Steinberger was all the rage and I managed to locate one in San Diego, although not the all-graphite XL-2 model.  This one had the graphite neck attached to a wood body, and the body was shaped in a V pattern, not like the oar paddle shape of the all-graphite XL-2.   I liked this bass well enough to gig with it during most of my tenure with the band NEIN.  This bass notably made it onstage at the Holiday Bowl Parade held downtown – we played right across the street from the Star of India.  Alas, the pictures and film footage is long gone, but we have the rehearsal pictures from our downtown studio; it will have to suffice.

NEIN Rehearsal - Posing with the Steinberger

NEIN Rehearsal – Posing with the Steinberger

NEIN Rehearsal - Bunnell Studios, Downtown San Diego

NEIN Rehearsal – Bunnell Studios, Downtown San Diego

Sea Green Rickenbacker In 1991 I took a long hiatus from music.  In 2000 I started up again, and in 2001 joined a band called CenterAisle.  I used a few basses in this band, the first one was a Sea Green Rickenbacker I purchased online.  This bass is very rare – Rickenbacker would make a select few instruments in something they called “Color of the Year”.  The first year was 2000, and the company chose this custom color, which is a version of Fender’s custom color “Sea Foam Green”.  Rickenbacker owner John Hall has publicly stated how he disliked this color (probably because it looked so “Fender” in color), so not many models were produced.  I managed to get one.  I used it on and off with CenterAisle and recently used it with The Magic Montgomery Brothers in 2011.  Because of it’s rarity I prefer not to gig with it publicly, but it is a very nice playing instrument.  So far, miraculously, I have not put one ding on this instrument!  I hope to keep it like that.

With CenterAisle - Private Party, 2002, San Diego, CA.

With CenterAisle – Private Party, 2002, San Diego, CA.

Mike playing as "Mick Montgomery" in the Magic Montgomery Brothers. Holy Family Festival, San Diego, CA. October 1, 2011.

Mike playing as “Mick Montgomery” in the Magic Montgomery Brothers. Holy Family Festival, San Diego, CA. October 1, 2011.

The Hofner While in CenterAisle I procured a new Hofner V62 violin bass.  This was in 2002, and I gigged with it a few times.  I also recorded a demo session with this bass as well.  It was a nice little bass, had very hot humbucker pickups  that produced a nice Beatle tone.

Mike with CenterAisle - Rhythm Lounge, San Diego, CA.  1/18/03

Mike with CenterAisle – Rhythm Lounge, San Diego, CA. 1/18/03

Precision Bass Mania I procured several Fender P-Basses while in CenterAisle as well. A white FSR (Fender Special Run – made exclusively for local (San Diego) music store Guitar Trader) “70’s” Precision bass with rosewood fretboard and the cool giant 70’s headstock logo.  Used this in both CenterAisle and the offshoot band With Intent.

CenterAisle - Playing onboard the USS Peleliu, July 4, 2003.

CenterAisle – Playing onboard the USS Peleliu, July 4, 2003.

Playing for With Intent - Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA, March 2004

Playing for With Intent – Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA, March 2004

Another P-Bass I procured was a 1982 ’57 reissue in the rare custom color of Fiesta Red.  I bought this from a little store in Hollywood called Voltage Guitars.  According to the shop owner, this bass was being sold on consignment from Poison Ivy, the guitarist of The Cramps.  I never got any paperwork to prove it’s province, but it was a cool story nonetheless.  

Mike playing for With Intent - Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA, July 24, 2004

Mike playing for With Intent – Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA, July 24, 2004

Mike playing for With Intent - Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA July 24, 2004

Mike playing for With Intent – Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA July 24, 2004

An unusual one I had was one done up in Pink Paisley.  The Pink Paisley finish was made famous by Elvis Presley’s touring guitarist James Burton, who played a Fender Telecaster in Pink Paisley.  This finish was not popular back in it’s original timeframe of 1968, but in the 90s it had a renaissance during the budding popularity of the “reissue” market.  Fender made a version of the “Telecaster Bass” with the Pink Paisley finish back in 1968, and they decided to have a limited run of reissues made in 2002.  Made in Japan, I bought this one at Guitar Trader in San Diego, CA, and gigged with it quite a few times.

Playing with CenterAisle - Metaphor Cafe, October 17, 2003

Playing with CenterAisle – Metaphor Cafe, October 17, 2003

mikelewismusic – The Acoustics In 2004 I went solo to feature my original songs, and I mainly used two acoustic guitars.  My 2004 Gibson Hummingbird, and a 2002 Martin D-28.  Both are fantastic instruments.  The Gibson is a sweet, yet gritty sounding guitar, perfect for the singer-songwriter.  The Martin had a deep, rich tone due to it’s rosewood body.  The Gibson Hummingbird was the only guitar used on my debut album “mikelewismusic”.

Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA - March 2005

Metaphor Cafe, Escondido, CA – March 2005

Mike - San Diego County Fair, 7/4/06

Mike – San Diego County Fair, 7/4/06

Using the Martin D-28 - Holy Family Festival, October 4, 2008

Using the Martin D-28 – Holy Family Festival, October 4, 2008

I briefly owned a Martin D-41 as well – this guitar is notable for it’s abalone trim.  A beautiful instrument.  

Portugalia Restaurant - Ocean Beach, CA February 2007

Portugalia Restaurant – Ocean Beach, CA February 2007

Hope you enjoyed this little foray into some of the gear I have used onstage in my past career!  Keep on rocking! ~mikelewismusic