Every once in a while I get the opportunity to mention that I was in a band in high school. This usually provokes mild interest because the immediate assumption is that Monster Zero was like that standard high school band that was doing covers of classic rock or Bob Marley or something similar that everyone heard once or twice during their secondary school career while drinking cheap beer out of red keg cups in someone’s backyard. But when I mention details like “we had a full horn section”, “seven to eight members rocking original ska and funk”, and “covered the likes of Fishbone, Bad Manners, The English Beat, and The Specials” — well, that’s usually when eyes go wide and I get full attention. Ska was perfect for Point Loma High School at the end of the 80′s as a decade: rambunctious, feel-good, jump around, hyperkinetic party music balanced out with a healthy dose of dirty, filthy, get-yo-hips-innit funk as a chaser.
MZ was truly a labor of love; we worked hard to cover covers as faithfully as we could and we poured our best efforts into writing originals that would rock a party. I can’t even recall how many hours were spent in the epic soundproof room built in Alex’s basement under the stern but approving eyes of George Kohrt trying to organize, focus, and practice while figuring out marketing, our next gig, and how on earth we might get paid a little bit for loading 1000 lbs of gear into multiple vehicles and showing up to play somewhere on the spur of the moment. What is amazing is that 20 years out, I STILL fuckin’ love these tracks and cherish the memories:
- Early on we played a gig for some classmate’s birthday party at the Kona Kai Club; we had no lead singer so I had to sing while playing all of the horns and organ on my keyboard — this is the only time that I fronted the band vocally, and the trumpet solo on Ackee 1, 2, 3, is NOT easy to play
- MZ played a gig at my (then) girlfriend Jamie Peterson’s house while her dad was away; somebody was so inspired that they climbed on to the roof and stage dived into the mosh pit — unlike Coolio he was caught and I don’t think the band missed a beat
- Monster Zero had some influence in the subsequent phreshness that was Ed’s Cat [citation / link needed], The Unsteady when sister Sian White was fronting that shiznits, and just setting the bar high for PLHS talent in general
I even remember the early days of formulating Monster Zero — big love to Tyler Lusk (drums), Frank the PLHS TA (bass), and the lovely Adrianna (vocals). I have always regretted never being able to pull off Fishbone’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch when we didn’t have Ms Lazzarini as the centerpiece of the band. I have to acknowledge that even though I had a lot to do with convincing people to give this concept ska-funk revue a try, most of the critical effort came from three planets-are-aligning events:
- Imploring friend and Arkanoid-crusher (at Brown Bag Deli, no less) Chris McGee to take a shot at fronting the band with his incredible charisma and vocal chops — McGinty has gone on to his own spectacularity with outfits like 008 and Brass, Beats, and Bows
- Putting out an ad in the back of the Reader for horn players, from which we encountered the sax-rocking sexual tyrannosaurus known as John Roy — JR went on to continue keeping it real to this day on the San Diego music scene — and introduced us to Steve Pratchner, our trombonist
- Getting awesome volunteer support from fans, friends, and classmates; examples include Security by T. Charman and roadie / sound tech / speaker-schlepping-sherpa Chad Gautier
This goes along with my theme of Press Record; it amazes me that we — Galstefus, actually — spent the time to actually record what we were doing at that time, and that I can actually post these recordings 20 years later…and they still sound good and bring back all those memories. Every time a Monster Zero reunion is mentioned, we all get hordes of messages that people would fly in from other continents and bring their SO’s and / or their whole family including their children and requests for “Camel Jack” or “play Party at Ground Zero!” or “I will throw my panties on stage if you sing me Naked Ladies while looking deep into my eyes”. This sort of behavior can be chalked up to cheesy reminiscence of high school and the end of the eighties, but I put a win in the column of love: that’s why I have spent this Saturday rebuilding the Monster Zero tribute page out on my blog.
I’d be interested in hearing any tales that you have to tell about the rise and fall of Monster Zero in 1989-1990 if you have them. Even if you don’t, check out the page, download the tracks, and play them to your family, friends, and progeny so they subconsciously develop a love for ska and funk music, Godzilla movies, learning to play an instrument beyond Rock Band, and insuring that illicit backyard high school keg parties entertained by cover bands continues to be part of the fabric of growing up, wherever you are in the world.