Friday, January 24, 2014

All Roads Lead to Red Bank New Jersey!


By - Steve Mezo

A lot of thought went into this one because I was a little concerned how it would come across. Yeah it could easily be marked as a big old name drop, but hey I did know a lot of these people back then. And I don't want it taken as a boast because this site is partially a collection of my past experiences, and I was lucky enough to be here at the times I talk about instead of California. And a could have been life in California is a whole other story.

Now first I want to thank two very close friends of mine that I love like brothers to this day, Patrick Coy and Keith Perry for being the inspiration for this article your about to read. And I want to thank Keith Perry for supplying our Back in the day pictures.

It is also in memory of three friends that were lost over the past couple years... 
They are Bennett Camhi "Mr. B" (The Costume Shop), John Egan (Ritual Torment) and Matt Kerwin (Mass Psychosis)

And dedicated to those that made 1990 to 1992 insane!!!
by tearing the roofs off of Cafe Bar and The Fastlane every weekend.

And to Shawn T. Reich, Warren F. Disbrow, Tony Annunziata, Desiree Russo (Dee Best), The Skeleton Crew at The Costume Shop, Tony DeBartolis and The Mall Rats at Monmouth Mall, New Jersey for giving me my name "Tattooed Steve".

 And a very big thank you to Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet) for giving me a lot of sound advice from behind a comic book shop counter. 
He kept me from making some really stupid choices that would have lead to jail or a room at the Dirt Motel. 

So here's me back in 1990

Yup twenty years old and looking like one of The LoSt BoYs, but the girls were into it and that's all that counts. And I was in the middle of the what was the home of true DEATH METAL and what was going to become known as the ASKEWNIVERSE. 
And it was all happening in Red Bank, New Jersey when it was still the center for anything to with Entertainment, Art and Music.

Little did I know that the dude that worked the counter at RST Video was going to max out some credit card and make a movie, the guy that ran Fantasy Zone Comics in The Red Bank Mini Mall was going to be on MTV a lot and I would be involved in a movie called MIDNIGHT SHOW with my friend Tony DeBartolis and other F/X artist from The Costume Shop twenty five years later.

And I really had no idea that the bands I mentioned would go on to varying levels of fame. Which is really cool considering it's been over twenty years and people in their late teens and early twenties are still listening to all of them!

The Costume Shop was slowing down a little thanks to the economy back then, so I had to take on a part time manager job at Supercade in Monmouth Mall and this is where I met the crew.

Let's start this tour with Patrick Coy

This dude is more Metal than you could hope to be in four lifetimes and got me into a band called GWAR with their album "Scumdogs of The Universe". And I had no idea that I had a huge part of a year to work with and be friends with Slymenstra Hymen herself waiting for me!

And Patrick Coy is the man that gave me the name "TATTOOED STEVE"

We had a blast in The Costume Shop doing things that the guys from JACKASS were getting on video and getting paid for. Like the time Pat put on a Crash Test Dummy costume and ran into everything in site. We were laughing hard enough, but then this lady screamed "There's a crash test dummy running through town!!!"  to a cop. He already saw Pat run by before and got a laugh out of it, so he just looked at the lady and said "So what?"

And he was there when Bennett and me burned The Costume Shop ceiling when we were trying out Zel Gel on my hand. 

The best though is when he ran through the mall in a straight jacket and pajama pants. It's a good thing we were friends with security back then, or we would have been explaining our prank to the cops. 

There were a lot of perks at The Costume Shop like getting to hang out with comedians like Bob Nelson, The Amazing Johnathan and Paul Veneer. We were in driving distance of the old Rascals Comedy Club in Eatontown, New Jersey so they would stop by to buy props for their acts. Then were cool enough to introduce us to the owner and would get us free passes to see them.  

And then Pat introduced me to Keith Perry

The three of us were fueled with Mad Dog 20/20 on the weekends and living in "Cafe Bar" in Long Branch and "The Fastlane" in Asbury Park.

And that's where I met Doug and Tom from "MASS PSYCHOSIS" and went to school with Matt Kerwin. The band's Artist "FITZ" became a close friend of mine and the only tattoo artist I go to now. 

I had grown up with John Egan of "RITUAL TORMENT" and went to high school with the founding members of "RIPPING CORPSE" Shaune Kelly and Scott Ruth. 

And Keith had introduced me to "DAMONACY" and "GRIM LEGION". And just recently I found out that Walter Flanagan did the artwork for DAMONACY, Keith is wearing one of the shirts with Walt's design on it. And Jay Mews is sporting a DAMONACY shirt in a school picture going around and in Chasing Amy.

If we weren't catching shows at the Rock Clubs we got to catch DAMONACY's rehearsals at a place in Red Bank called "The Shop".

The thing that set these bands apart is they were all about the sound! The music was going through a huge change back then, and it wasn't for the better as far as I was concerned.
Heavy Metal was turning Glam, Glam was on it's way out because of Grunge, Speed Metal was becoming more commercial with the exception of SLAYER and Death was splintering off in all kinds of directions. 

But the bands I've been talking about didn't care about image or any of the other nonsense. They had the drive of bands like "MAYHEM" that were all about the sound of their music. And that's what made me respect them.


When we weren't at the shows, I got to see Keith almost blow out the picture tube of his Television trying out his compound bow from six feet away! 

And how can we forget the time a nervous cop pulled his handgun out on the three of us when I was driving us home. Yeah, it's funny now but that night I was trying to keep my brain off of Keith's shirt.

Now that I have you caught up with that this is where Pat, Keith and me worked together to make our own Wile E. Coyote rocket sled to try to get famous.
Pat is a phenomenal painter and was getting into F/X and prop building with me at The Costume Shop. And we decided to approach Bennett about forming a business through the shop. We were going to call it The Monster Doctors and see if we could get Keith and Tony Debartolis in on it too.   
It was a great idea, but with the lack of something called "The Internet" and Indie Horror Makers loosing Mom and Pop video stores to distribute through it didn't last. 

Then Keith had the idea of forming a band called "MALIGNANT DEATH" where he would be lead guitar and I would be bass and vocals. But we couldn't find a drummer on a money bet...
It almost looked like the end of that road too, but I had an idea that just might have been the plan we needed. 

I was going to a magazine and found an article about Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin when they co - founded Def Jam Recordings in Rick Rubens dorm room in NYU. And it hit me like a lightning bolt. Keith, Pat and me could do the same thing with the death metal bands that we knew. 
They could continue what they were doing, but they would have a backer they could trust that understood them. And we could handle tours, shows, merchandising and promotions. Everybody gets paid and everybody wins. 

We told a couple of the bands about this idea and they thought it was cool, but they needed proof that we could promote. So that's what we did. 
We took the MALIGNANT DEATH name and made all kids of insane looking flyers with clip art and Pat's original work. Then we made sure that they always had a spot at any and every music store around. Since the artwork was top notch and had some subtle humor to them the store owners and workers started to look forward to the next one. Then the big question came up "What do they sound like?"

And that's how the singles "Dinner With Dahmer" and "Pogo's Playhouse" were talked about and allegedly heard. Keith, Pat and me used our F/X knowledge to create fictitious demo covers and ads for the release of the demos in Europe which were banned. 

The best part was when Keith's mom found some of the pictures and thought we were part of some cult! HA HA HA HA

Word kept getting back to our friends about the band MALIGNANT DEATH and the Dinner With Dahmer single. And it would just about take everything they had to keep from cracking up about our experiment. 
Once we saw how good it worked, we decided to set out sights on California and try it there. Then we would get established, secure investors and made a return after that we would be able to hook up our friends in Jersey.    

We were all set to make our move out there. Then I was pulled over for my license plate light being out the week before we were going to leave. Now normally this would have been no big deal, but my car insurance was lapse by one day. And it was only one day because the office was closed and all I had to do was give the check to the agent the next day. 

But on computer I was uninsured the night I was pulled over with the check in my glove compartment with my insurance card! So my car was impounded right then and there and I had to walk home with Keith. 
And it got even better from there on... I lost my license for a year  because it's mandatory if you don't have insurance. And I was out three hundred bucks for then policy I paid for the next day and had proof of in court the following day after. But the law is the law and since I didn't have the night I was pulled over I didn't have it. Then DMV nailed me twice with a fine at the beginning of the year and again at the end when my license was reinstated. 
Sooooo that pretty much ended that Rocket Sled Trip pretty quick and scattered the three of us for a while. 

There were a lot of times where I kept thinking about what could have been if we made it there, but then I really realized what I would have missed out on here. And besides there was absolutely no way of knowing if it would have worked. We could have hit the wall at a thousand miles an hour after all of that plotting and planning. 

But at least I can sit here with a smile and say that I have no regrets from that time at all. There's a lot of experiences I can't type about but not a single regret.