Two Thuds and a Lamb – An Introspective by Dave Kerzner (As told to Debbie Miller)
I first heard of Kevin on the radio with the Toy Matinee songs Last Plane Out and Ballad of Jenny Ledge. I was glad to hear some music like this being played on the radio so I went out and bought the album. I didn’t realize how funny and cool he was until my friend Mark McCrite turned me on to all sorts of stuff from Giraffe and various things.
So, one day I got a phone call from Kevin because he had heard I had a studio filled with vintage keyboards. He wanted to see the various Mellotrons and Chamberlins I had, so I invited him over to our "studio on stilts" up on Laurel Canyon and Mullholland Drive in Los Angeles. An energetic youthful "Johnny Virgil" is how I would describe him.
We talked, and I played him some tunes I was working on at the time. One of them was about ghosts had this low "aaaaaaahhhh" vocal sound, and he just looked at me and said "So, you like The Lamb then I can see." He knew I got the idea for that straight from In the Cage off the album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway from Genesis. Of course, he had commented earlier about how he knew I must be into Tony Banks because I had every keyboard Tony ever used. At the end of our first "hang," he said "You know, we should get a bunch of guys together and play The Lamb!" I just looked at him in disbelief and said "Sure, that would be awesome!"
I talked to Kevin here and there over the following couple of years, but I had a lot of my own things going on. I always wondered if I would get the chance to work with him. Then I got the phone call with the invitation to come down and "audition" for his solo band at his Lawnmower & Garden Supplies Studio. He was funny on the phone, too. He said "Look, you pretty much have the gig because I’m not even trying anyone else out on keyboards." In a way, that was comforting, but at the same time, I knew that playing keyboards for a guy who is a really good keyboard player himself can be quite a challenge. He already had Toss Panos in mind for drums and was really only trying out a few guitarists. When he couldn’t find a bass player, he just decided he would play the bass.
He picked Corky James on guitar, and the jam sessions the four of us had at the time were really intense. This was before the album Thud came out and before the band was even called Thud. Our first gig was at Molly Malones. We played Shadow Self and a Beatles cover, I Want You (She’s So Heavy) as well as other songs from the upcoming Thud album. At various gigs, we tried out songs from the record like All Fall Down and a song we worked on as a band called Leaving Mrs. Broadway.
A particular highlight for me was performing Joytown where I helped change the arrangement of the song into a swirling ascending progressive monster- and then back to the slinky groovy joyful feel. It also sounded great when we had Satnum join us on Tabla later. With this incarnation of the band Thud we recorded Kashmir with the thought that it would end up on Enconium, the Led Zeppelin tribute record. But when it got dropped from the record, we shelved it and later dug out the tape for the Mark & Brian Show. They loved it so much they played it all day long on KLOS.
When we drove back from the radio station, we couldn’t believe they were still talking about it and playing the song two times every hour. Of course, KLOS loved Kevin. Kevin’s record label, PRA, decided to release it as a single bundled with Thud.
When I joined up with Kevin for his solo stuff, he had already recorded most of Thud and most of Shaming of the True. He played it for me, and I was blown away. It’s a shame that we never played any of the Rock Opera stuff as I think back. I would have liked to have played A Long Days Life, which is one of my favorite songs he’s written. We did play most of the Thud album.
During a break period at the end of 1994, Kevin came to me and said "Dave, still want to play The Lamb? I know the perfect place to do it. It’s called ProgFest." So I said, "Yeah, I am totally up for the challenge but who else can we get to do this?" Kevin explained to me that he had played with a drummer named Nick D’Virgilio who was a huge Phil Collins fan. He was very confident that Nick could pull it off. His friend Dan Hancock was the reincarnation of Steve Hackett so the only missing link was the Mike Rutherford part. Kevin said "I know someone who could do it, I just don’t know if he’d want to."
He was speaking of ex-Giraffe member Stan Cotey. I took that as an opportunity to encourage some mending of the past, and when I met Stan, I think I helped convince him that it would be great to do it. I feel good that I helped those guys play again after all of those years.
The thing I feel even better about is that we all got to play one of our favorite records of all time in front of a crowd of several thousand screaming prog fans that knew every note! And most of all, I am happy we were able to provide the background for one of Kevin’s fantasies, to play the part of "Rael". I think it meant a lot to him that Bill Botrell came down to mix the live sound for this silly gig. It meant a lot to me too.
This concert was a big highlight for me because not only was it the most challenging gig I ever played, but the best feeling I ever had on stage was at the end of Watcher of The Skies with that big grandiose ending along with the crowd reaction after. What a feeling that was!
After we did the one-off performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, we took a break. We were, of all things, working on a Sheryl Crow song for a soundtrack called Pompetus of Love. She asked Kevin if he could produce the backing track. They had a strange relationship.
I think with the month spent on The Lamb and other things, Toss and Corky must have gotten busy with other projects. They’re not going to sit around and wait while we pretend to be Genesis for a while. So Kevin decided to change the line up. He kept me on keyboards but got Nick D’ Virgilio on drums and Russ Parish on guitar. I actually knew Russ for years so when I saw him show up one day, I was surprised. Apparently they had worked together before on a very embarrassing acting and music gig for the movie Angel 4: Undercover.
This second Thud band played more gigs around L.A. and various places outside of California. We recorded the Live at the Troubadourshow that is available on CD (and soon to be on DVD). We worked out some new tunes that would eventually be on the Shaming of the True. One of them was Smash. I thought that the middle "rap" section that his friend Cintra Wilson had helped write was funny. The crowd seemed to like it. That was a fun song to do. Unfortunately, we had stopped playing Shadow Self with this second Thud band. That was also a fun one – and challenging as well – because I had to fly in vocal samples while I played Clav and Wurlitzer parts at the SAME TIME! I had to do that on Waiting as well.
After playing with Kevin for close to two years, I started to feel like I could do more. I had done some high profile gigs that pay really well, and this gig was still my favorite, although the pay was very low. It was strange working for someone who can do what you do as good or better than you. I always wondered how much I was needed as a keyboard player- especially in the studio.
When Kevin did Back in N.Y.C. without me, that is when I knew that I would miss out on some fun stuff because Kevin likes to play keyboards and every other instrument, too. I wasn’t sure if the gig was really going anywhere for me. If it had turned into something where we wrote more as a band, or if I had gotten to play on some really cool new recordings, then it might have been different.
For a while, Kevin and I were very close. We were roommates in a place in Eagle Rock called "The Castle" with Cintra and a long-time friend of Kevin’s, Sherry Sarto. After I had moved to Santa Monica, driving all the way to Pasadena for low pay and feeling a little under appreciated was starting to lose its appeal. I was kind of depressed.
We parted amicably, and they continued Thud as a three piece. I heard some of the tapes of shows later on just out of curiosity. To me, it sounded empty without the keyboards. If he had once asked me to come back, I probably would have because I definitely missed it. I realized that even if I didn’t get to play on every record or write enough on his projects, it was still the coolest music gig around for my tastes.
Sadly, I think there was a chance this was going to happen but it was just too late. We had gotten together to see our friend, Nick D’ Virgilio, play with Tears For Fears. It was a great reunion of friends. I told him I missed playing with him, and he said I should come by the studio and listen to the new stuff he’d been working on. I was supposed to see him the next week, but before I could, I got the dreadful phone call from my friend Mark McCrite. Ironically, the friend who got me into Kevin’s music in the first place was the one who told me the really, really bad news. I was in complete shock and probably still am. What a shame he isn’t still around making new music.
Now I look back and cherish all the good times we had: John, our manager, carting us around and Kevin getting lost; the scary subsequent Pooh Bear poem; Kevin’s obscene incoming phone messages; joking around with lyrics and imitations; Kevin walking in for the first time as a Slipperman; Dagney Dog and the rubber skunk fetus; playing an acoustic show in between two heavy metal bands! What an experience that all was. I was really glad that I got to play The Lamb and with two Thud bands. What I wouldn’t give to play with a third
Dave’s keyboard set up on THUD:
Kurzweil K2000- with samples of Mellotrons, Chamberlins and funny noises as well as background vocal parts. Wurlitzer 200A through Univibe, Vox Wah Wah pedals. Clavinet D6 with a wammy bar though MXR Dynacomp, MXR Phase 90 pedals.
Dave’s "octopus" keyboard set up for The LAMB:
Yamaha CP70 through Boss CE 1 Chorus pedal; RMI Electric Piano through an MXR Phase 100 pedal; Novatron (a Melltron built into an anvil case) ; Arp Pro Soloist ; Hammond C3 .
Plus…a volume pedal on each keyboard for our own live fades!