In 1995 or so I decided to start up a band, a high school band, the kind of shitty high school band we all have to pass through as a gauntlet to better things, but I loved it so and I love it still. I am embarrassed by the things I did, by the way I sang. The chords I settled on. Amt Winehouse is dead, for all of 24 hours, and she knew so much more than I did. I cannot blame age. I just didn't know.
I was in a band, which we eventually called Suckapunch, and I loved them like brothers. That, like everything, did not last. But I loved them at the time. I still, to be honest, would do anything for them if they asked.
Anyway, Wes Hughes, the lead guitarist for Suckapunch, just had a daughter. My son is almost six months old and Wes has a little girl named Lilly. It is the shit. It follows the two kids fathered by bassist Dominick, who is currently serving in Iraq.
In celebration of Wes's daughter, I pulled out the old Suckapunch CD from 1996 to give a listen. It's rotten, horrible fun. My voice was ruined by Kurt Cobain, but I figured out how to sing like myself ten years later.
And then I got curious. Whatever happened to Rick Sciaraffa, the producer of the album?
Holy shit. Rick is dead. And he has been for four years.
I have lately been watching a lot of Friday Night Lights, spurred by the rapturous outpouring from the series finale. They do an incredible job of creating, without farce, the inclement world of high school and all of the rigid echelons. Our Texas school was no different, but I had an ace in the hole: I played a mean guitar.
This is not to say that things were easy. We were all freaks; we got picked on all the time, but we more or less dealt with it on our own. Nothing special, the kind of thing that happens all over to truly weird kids. We got by. I had a fun time of it. I was full of myself, convinced of my own genius, and walked everywhere with that feeling gushing out of me. Some people bought it, others did it. I never did, for real, and I still don't. But it was nice while it lasted.
We had an annual talent show, and it was well-regarded throughout the city schools. Looking back, it was an incredible machine: so many talented dancers, comedians and musicians sharing the stage with the popular kids, and most of them would go on to some form of success or another.
I used to love talent show. I'd do as much as I could: four or five acts, whatever it came down to. I did Michael Jackson dance routines with a troupe led by a guy who now travels the world choreographing dance routines. I did comedy routines that were just word-for-word recreations of SNL routines. And, most importantly, I would do two or three original songs.
There was some turmoil (I always got booed, sometimes harshly, because a certain contingent of high school didn't care for me) and I didn't handle it well, but high school is for fun drama. Which is why I was shocked when one guy, who was a part of a very famous sports family, said that he had seen me at talent show and recommended me to his uncle. A meeting was planned.
I didn't know what to make of it, so I brought one of my best friends/bandmates, Dominick. We met with this mysterious "Rick" at a city park, where the whole family was barbecuing. The guy from our high school met us in the parking lot and escorted us in. It was my first schmooze.
We talked with Rick for a while and got a sense of what he wanted. It was good, smart, realistic. He had heard me sing, and thought I had a future. We decided to talk more.
Rick was an enormous creature; all wild hair with touches of grey, like there was a Most Dangerous Game session on Deadheads and Rick was the only one that survived. He was large, he was strong, his grip was tight and fierce, and he was so charming it made you question everything. But there was nothing to question: he was totally sincere.
It's been years, so the details are hazy, but I remember a lot of meetings with him back and forth while we tried to figure out what we were going to do and if he was into my band. We finally settled on a big meeting at a local coffee shop, but the band and I got waylaid by an inconveniently-scheduled street fight in a car wash. I mouthed off and got my head kicked in, and my bandmates had to carry me into the coffee shop, bloodied shirt and all. Rick, needless to say, was ecstatic. We were his rock band. I fucking loved him for this, for his enthusiasm. He had enthusiasm for miles. he basically taught me to be excited about rock at a time when everything else was telling me to be indifferent. He was always smiling.
He believed in me, and transferred that belief into my band as a whole. He spent God Knows How Much to produce our CD and print up thousands of copies that never got sold. Still, he was a good guy. He hooked us up with good producers for mastering after we recorded and mixed with my guys. He fed us and paid for everything. His only "demand" was that the CD be released on "Nina Records" in honor of the daughter he was neglecting while producing us.
He told me, in private conversations, that he would love to be my manager, just me, if I ever left the group. He said I was the next Augie Meyers. I was 17. I believed him.
The Suckapunch album eventually came out and we had a big release party at a local venue. I got my "big brother" Ruben to play with his band, and I will always remember the sight of Rick going up and handing them twenties to thank them for their time. Total class.
We fought with Rick and I don't even remember why. All I remember is that I bristled upon seeing him again when he took over the White Rabbit in San Antonio and booked us for a few shows. I was in Austin at this point, so OVER San Antonio and it's trappings. We were playing San Antonio as a favor or some shit.
I remember him egging me on about this and that and he tickled me in the side and I got really mad at him for touching me. If age has taught me anything it's that arguments don't last. I don't remember, or care to remember, why I was so mad at him. I just remember him trying to make peace and I appreciate it.
Rick was a really good guy and was the first person who ever encouraged me that I actually believed. From what I've read, he's been the same kind of inspiration to countless bands in San Antonio.
This may not mean much to some people, but it means a lot to a lot of others.
Amy Winehouse is dead, dead and gone, and Rick is dead and gone, and Rick was dead and gone before any of us knew about Amy Winehouse. Think about that. Rick has been dead for a while. I missed the boat.
Rick Sciaraffa has been dead for four years and I'm only now getting around to missing him.
It's things like this that make me wish I never left, that I stayed in contact with all the Important People. Rick didn't make me rich, and he didn't make me famous, and the poor asshole (if he died in his garage) collapsed on a pile of unsold Suckapunch CDs. But he believed, and he was good, and the odd thing is that I cried my eyes out tonight learning that he was gone. He is gone, long gone, but I am still in mourning. He was a good guy, and he was so young. He just inhaled too much of our idiot youth. It was just too much for him.
Anyway, this video pretty much says it all. Here's Rick: the businessman ans fan, doing all he could to support local talent while trying to create an economically viable beachhead. The bigger point is that he was always a fan, first and foremost, and he did all he could. I would have flown down to the funeral if I'd known. Instead I have to rely on computers, and computers don't know a goddamned thing.