|Anand Ajgaonkar||drums, alto sax, vocals, talking||lyrics|
|Travis Emmitt||Casio CT-310, Yamaha PSS-470, Yamaha SY55, mellophone, cornet, drums, vocals, talking||music, lyrics|
|Allen Foster||alto sax, bari sax, vocals, talking|
|Jon Friesen||sax, vocals, talking||lyrics, transcription|
|Luke Marshall||Yamaha DX21, vocals, talking|
Jon Friesen and I (Travis Emmitt) had been doing IPECAC for several months. We enjoyed playing together, but were getting tired of the "electronic" sound of our setup. We wanted to see what it'd be like to play the same sort of songs with real people (and real drums).
We knew Anand Ajgaonkar and Allen Foster from the high school bands, and met Luke Marshall through Anand. We all loved playing computer games (with the except of Allen, who had girlfriends instead) and would spend hours on the phone talking about NetHack and other Roguelikes. At some point we decided to try play music together.
Our very first practice was actually with some other guys. I remember Allen Rein, Josh Joseph, and Ian Gilliam. I think we played in Allen Rein's or Josh's house. I don't remember who else was there. I do remember feeling outclassed technically and a bit put off by the idea of having to play blues, blues, and more blues. [Josh and Ian ended up playing in a very successful blues band together and Ian still performs professionally today.]
Pretty soon (in early March) the five of us (Anand, Allen Foster, Luke, Jon, and I) "ditched" the other guys and started our own group. We quickly picked Anand's house as our favorite practice location because:
- Anand's drums were there, and they were hard to move
- Anand's parents were usually gone during the weekends
- Anand had lots of yummy food
I think Anand is the one who picked "Master Anchovies" as a band name. He and Luke were into surreal stories which made absolutely no sense (at least to me). I still don't know what "Master Anchovies" means. It's easy to remember, though.
For Jon and me, the Master Anchovies were like a "sequel" to IPECAC. Instead of using sequencers and overdubs, we now had a backing band (with real drums!). We still wrote and transcribed all the songs, and ended up performing all the vocals and solos. Anand, Allen, and Luke seemed content to simply play what they were told. In the beginning, Luke was hopelessly out of sync with the rest of us, since he had never played in a school band and wasn't yet good at keeping time.
Slowly we gained competence and confidence. Luke learned how to keep in time and contributed some really cool sounds on his synthesizer. Anand and Allen started coming up with their own sax parts and got much more into their drum fills. Jon's soloing improved a million percent and he took it upon himself to transcribe several jazz classics for us. My own writing had improved drastically since IPECAC, and musically I was performing better than ever... So it was an encouraging time, at least in those early months after we had gotten going.
However, these improvements weren't substantial enough to make Jon happy. He wanted the other guys to take more active roles; he wanted to create with them, not for them. Jon didn't seem comfortable with having to take the initiative all the time, pushing the others to practice and learn songs and not goof of all the timef.
I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy to "conduct" the Anchovies. I liked hearing them play my compositions. I enjoying making tapes, videos, sheet music, and instructions for them. Plus, I got to hang out with my friends on a regular basis!
As for Anand, Luke, and Allen, I have no idea what they thought or felt. They didn't appear to take the music seriously at all. They seemed more interested in pizza breaks, tv breaks, and computer game breaks. But that's okay; I never expected them to be as into the music as Jon and me, and I was thankful for whatever little attention they gave it (and me).
By December 1989, we were juniors in high school. We were considered "cool" by a lot of the freshmen in the school bands. Well, maybe not cool, but at least they treated us likes "equals"... Well, maybe not equals, but at least they talked to us...
I'd been pushing the Master Anchovies to enter a "Battle of the Bands" competition, but none of the other guys wanted to do it. They did, however, agree to play at a couple of parties (in my basement).
The first party was in October. I don't remember anything about it. The only clues I have are a party invitation and a comment in the second concert's recording which suggests that we had played "How Ya Is'n" for some of the audience before.
The second party was right before Christmas (21 December). We decided to record it. In an attempt to get enthusiastic audience sounds, we invited as many as possible from our "freshman fanclub". We didn't really like some of them, but we wanted lots of hands clapping.
And it worked... kinda.
As you can hear on The Party, our "cheering section" started off polite (though not very enthusiastic). However, they quickly became bored, irritated, and anxious for the music to stop. They were quite vocal about wanting us to cease playing towards the end.
I did host other parties after that, but I had to promise that we wouldn't play. Sigh.
After the parties, Jon apparently lost all hope in the Anchovies as a performing vehicle. He redirected his attention to IPECAC for a while (allowing us to record Live at Carnegie Hall), but then he started looking for other, more "professional" bands.
I joined Jon at a "fake book" session one time. It was with a bunch of jazz fanatics; they took everything very seriously. I didn't really like them, and I didn't enjoy playing an endless succession of jazz standards. I prefered playing my own music, and being in control, and I couldn't get that outside the Anchovies. So I convinced Jon to give the Anchovies another shot.
Jon reluctantly agreed. He continued to play with us for the first half of 1990, and we managed to record three more practices with him. He transcribed a couple more songs for us, but we didn't bother learning them because they were too hard.
Jon generously brought his 4-track and reverb box to help us perfect our sound, but we goofed off and focused on making silly skits rather than practicing the music. I don't think we learned any new songs in 1990
Eventually, Jon got so frustrated with our lack of process that he quit again, this time for good. I was in France for a month so I couldn't convince him to reconsider. I didn't try very hard, because I could see why Jon was frustrated. He wrote me a letter telling me how much he hated playing with the Anchovies (even though he loved hanging out with us). He said he'd rather go back to doing IPECAC. That never happened.
I bought myself a new keyboard (a Yamaha SY55). It was a workstation, which means I could program an entire band's parts and not have to play with anybody. This consoled me. And soon consumed me. I stopped bugging the Anchovies to practice and retreated into my own music world.
I played a few more times with the rest of the Anchovies (Allen, Anand, and Luke). When it became clear that Jon wasn't coming back, we (or at least I) renamed ourselves the Dead Anchovies.
At one practice we invited girls. It devolved into some sort of weird emotional drama, with crying and kissing and yelling. I wrote a long journal entry about it, which I might someday post. It shows how girls were ruining our ability to concentrate on the music (or anything else for that matter). Lots of ups and downs. We were now acting like typical teenagers (rather than creation-obsessed geeks).
Allen, Anand, Luke, and I managed to record one more practice in high school. It was June 1991. Luke brought his guitar. We improvised mean-spirited lyrics about being betrayed by Jon. Not very nice or funny. But it was cool hearing that guitar.
In August we all left for college. Jon and I happened to both go to William and Mary (in Virginia) but we never played together again. Jon joined funk and jazz bands. I focused on making music with my Yamaha SY55.
During summer break of 1992, I managed to coax the Dead Anchovies into several more practices. We set up everything my parents' basement. Anand had sold his drum set by that point, but we still had Allen's. We also had my keyboard's drum sounds and my drum machine, which I programmed prior to our practices.
I composed some new songs for them. We also watered down old ones. We completely abandoned the cover tunes that Jon had transcribed ("All Blues", "Canon", and "Qwerty"). Musically, we veered away from traditional jazz (which had been Jon's preference) and focused more on loud, electronic rock (my preference).
I really enjoyed hearing my own songs being played by the group. My solo versions were better (in my opinion), but it was fun to play them live. We were able to record four practices before we had to go back to college.
The last thing we recorded that summer was The Floor Gig, which ended with my continuing to play by myself while everyone else left. I played continuously for almost 15 minutes after they had left, completely indulging myself in my own creation. In my opinion (then and now), the music that I was creating by myself (after the other guys had left) was more interesting than anything the Anchovies had created all summer.
Rather than try to kick the other guys into gear, I decided to focus on my own stuff.
After I got back to college, I was starting to hit my songwriting stride. Musically, 1993 was a peak year for me. I finished two solo albums, both full of catchy pop tunes. I thoroughly enjoyed being a one-man band. I missed the live drums, though.
I called a practice in January (during Christmas break). Allen, Anand, and Luke showed up. It was rare to have all of us there at once, so this was a treat. Also, Allen brought his drum set. This was the last thing we recorded with real drums.
Musically it was sloppy but lively. We played the only live-drum version of "Drizzle" and then launched into a vocal (!) version of "Anchovy Rock". The music actually groove for a while there, before turning moody and experimental. Then I got on the drums (yay!) and our practice devolved into stand-up jokes (boo!).
We didn't bother recording together that summer. I'm pretty sure Allen had gotten rid of his drum set, and I was immersed in my solo music; that was the year that I created both College Collage and The Hermit.
Our final recording session was a bit of joke. The other Anchovies barely played their instruments at all. I programmed a song into my keyboard and then Anand and Luke improvised a rap over it.
Later, as I polished the music, the other guys wrote some silly lyrics. We then rapped together, using my 4-track to record. The result was "Super Studs". Although it has funny/catchy moments, "Super Studs" was essentially a Tripecac song with guest vocals. There wasn't any real musical collaboration.
I didn't see the point in continuing with the Anchovies after that. I was having much more creative success by myself, as Tripecac. Maybe things would have changed if we had gotten some drums again. But we never did.
1995 - present
So where are we now?
Jon's still trying to make it as a jazz side-man (in Philadelphia). I don't know if he's written any songs or made any recordings under his own name. I haven't heard from him since 1995. You can spy on him at PitchPhork.com.
Meanwhile, I (Travis) keep churning out songs as (Tripecac and Trex). Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2001, I've been finishing four or five albums a year. I'm still happy making music (doing everything myself) and don't mind the fact that I have a very small audience (my girlfriend and my family).
As for Allen, Anand, and Luke. I have no idea what they're up to. Maybe they'll read this and write me something that I can post an update. That would make me happy.