Sunday, March 8, 2015

Napster, 1999, and FUZZ45 Bedroom Band or Prank and 15 Seconds of Fame

Recently a ghost of sorts from my past resurfaced as someone on Instagram asked me, "Is this FUZZ45 Robb?" Quite frankly, I took a couple of hours to answer as the whole FUZZ45 thing hovered in my past like something between a true musical project and a prank. In 1999, the same year that Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker released Napster, the peer to peer sharing platform were MP3 files were easily traded I started doing bedroom recordings at my best friend Mark Dicken's house in Whittier, California. It was nothing well conceived but directly inspired by Napster and the ability to put out your own music and get instant feedback. I had been in real bands well over a decade earlier, had sold my gear, guitars, drum kits and all and only owned a crappola guitar purchased from a garage sale.

I had fully given up playing and writing and was pulled and or pushed by Mark into getting back into music. I went kicking and screaming. The whole band thing had left me battle scarred. For me writing songs had been more like therapy sessions than fun and my control freak nature cause the entire recording process to be super stressful. This time around there were no band members to contend with except Marco, no deadlines or preparing for gigs. Just putting your music out for the world to hear or not.

I purchased an old version of Cakewalk (recording software) from a Fullerton College student, Marco had guitars, my brother had a proto Phantom bass and we had a Roland Tr505. The calendar was soon going to flip into the 2000's soon so FUZZ45 was officially born on October 1999. Of course, recording at home was nothing new and it was being replicated in thousands and thousands of bedrooms and garages across the country, across the world. It just so happened that it was becoming easier to publish your songs.

While FUZZ45 was strictly a social thing, a way to have fun and be creative with my buddy Marco I also wanted to construct a fictional band. I don't know why. At the time, I thought making people think their were 4 players instead of two or one would be more interesting. I thought it would make FUZZ45 more legitimate in a way. Looking back it was just stupid but that is how I framed it at the time. On line, the band was Robb Donker on guitar and vocals, Mark Dickens on lead guitar, Sandra Van Horst on Bass and Al Dib on Drums in reality, Marco was primarily the lead player on all the songs that I didn't solo record. He also played bass on a song called Lotus. I played guitar, bass and sounds courtesy of the TR505. I cannot program drum machines so I tapped out the beats live. As a drummer, not playing a real kit was frustrating and the sound suffered.

On Napster, FUZZ45 did have a loyal following albeit a very small one. It was, in some way, rewarding to hear feedback from those who liked the songs. I haven't listened to some of the songs for years and, in fact, it was difficult for me to locate the songs at all. I found some on lline on the Internet Archive and eventually found them on an old external hard drive. Listening back, some of the songs are, to me, pretty cool, some are ok and some are downright horrible. For anyone making music in a solo sort of way, or with friends as recording projects it is, in the end, not really important whether the songs achieve some sort of notoriety on line or not. I used to think that it was important if the songs became big or sold or whatever but the older I get I think the important part of doing bedroom recordings is the process of doing it. It is about the laughs, sharing drinks and each others company, achieving that sound you wanted to achieve or that exact feeling you felt. It is that text or email or Instagram message from a stranger who love "that" song. It is the journey not the final destination and it is, of course, the memories.

Robb Donker

NOTES: I went ahead and posted a few FUZZ45 songs, I may post up more over time.

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