I was born in 1971 to Richard Hayes Brown and Cheri LaVonne Brown in LaMirada California. My full name is Richard Willie Hayes Brown. ‘Hayes’ for my father and ‘Willie’ for his father. I used to be terribly embarresed by my middle names but now, after having been once arrested and twice detained at customs for being the wrong ‘Richard Brown’, I am enjoying their uniquely identifying properties :)
For some reason I have always had a fascination with drumming. I wanted to join band as early as 4th grade and was set to play the snare drum in 5th grade marching band at Shell Beach Elementary School. Unfortunately we could not afford to rent the snare drum and so I was unable to join band (I went to a so-called ‘basic school’ where the curriculum consisted in just the so-called Three R’s reading, writing and arithmetic. Music and science were optional. They also practiced corporal punishment which is another story altogether!) …my fascination with drumming persisted none the less.
My Misspent Youth
I ran away from home when I was 13 (in 1985), stole a motorcycle, got caught, arrested and spent the next five years going from Juvenile Hall to various Group Homes up and down California (I would be sent some place, run away, get into a fight, get arrested, back to Juvenile Hall and then to a new group home).
I was released from Fresno Treatment Center (a large multi-home group home) in Fresno, CA when I turned 18 (September 1989). I had acquired a pair of drumsticks (caught at various death metal concerts when thrown by drummers) and I used to pound my pillow along to the likes of Slayer, Carcass and Napalm Death. I lived in Fresno, working at McDonald’s for about a year mostly because I did not know what else to do.
Around the time I was 19 I decided to move to Morro Bay CA. I had fond memories of the Central Coast from before I was arrested and a girl I had known in Fresno had just moved out there. Shortly after I moved out there I saw a used drum set for sale at the Swap Meet and decided to buy it. I don’t remember how much it was, but I was pretty broke so it must have been cheap. I don’t even rightly recall the kind of drum set it was. By that time I was sharing a house in Arroyo Grande and me and my then roommate started my very first band. We were called Distraction and we recorded one demo entitled “Eternal Vigilance”. I had read somewhere that Benjamin Franklin said “Democracy requires eternal vigilance” and I was very moved by it. As far as I know there are no surviving copies.
Mutilation was formed when I met Mike Shirley and Kurt Martini just after I moved to Morro Bay. We recorded our demo under that name but when we found out that there was another band with that name in Texas we changed it to Cannibalistic Mutilation.
- Deceased Visions from Molesting the Remains recorded in 1992
These next three were recorded on a four-track after the band had gone through some line-up changes. Kurt, who played guitar, left and was replaced by Jonathan Boyle (pictured above along with me on drums and Mike Shirley on vocals)). These were perhaps recorded in 1993 or 1994
- Showered in Shit
- Infested Body Decay
- Decapitated Oral Copulation
I wrote most of the lyrics for these songs.’Decapitated Oral Copulation’ was about someone being decapitated and forced to orally copulate with themselves (I got this idea after discovering that a severed human head could still sense for a brief period). ‘Showered in Shit’ was based on a real life case I heard on the news about a person who hid in Port-a-Poties to spy on women as they relieved themselves. We also had songs about a vampire that lived solely on menstrual blood and other gems which I will leave to your imagination! Looking back on these now, I am amazed at how offensive they are; I guess that was supposed to be the point! I always thought of this kind of stuff as akin to Bad Taste and The Evil Dead, which coincidently were my favorite movies at the time. That is, I thought of them as B horror films put to music. As I was to learn later, I am not into the real-life guts and gore.
Cannabalistic Mutilation gradually morphed into Mortalis. Mortalis featured Richard Gwen on guitar and John Smith on vocals. Mortalis made a couple of recordings, all of which are lost as far as I know. We recorded at our rehearsal studio as well as live at KCPR on their hardcore metal show, and there were a couple videos of live performances but they did not survive the digital transition, which is a shame. With the addition of John the band had changed from focusing on gore to focusing on politics. I recall we had one song called ‘Sendar Luminoso’ which was about the ‘Shining Path’ guerrillas in South America. Playing in Mortalis was a lot of fun. It was during a time when death metal was very “hip” and we played lots of house parties and gigs; it really made my first year at Cuesta feel like the normal high school experience I never had.
Mortalis eventually broke up and Rich and I briefly formed Bottomed Out, which had short 1-2 minute songs and returned to the original Sore Throat/Assuck kind of writing. We had songs with titles like “One Eye and a Bag of Condoms” and “2pump Chump.” Eventually I gravitated out of the death metal scene and ended up working at a mortuary going to school full time.
Shortly after I started going to Cuesta College I moved into Reis Chapel in San Luis Obispo. I lived with 4 other guys and together our responsibility included collecting various Human remains and transporting them back to the mortuary. Our apartment was literally attached to the chapel (we even had a door the opened directly to the coffin display room). On the weekends we answered the phone at the mortuary and also worked at various Chapel functions (wakes, funerals, etc). As far as I know this was the last mortuary in California that still used this kind of system (most mortuaries use a professional service to collect human remains). We would work in shifts and have to be ready at a moments notice should someone have passed. We would go to homes, hospitals, the scene of an accident, or wherever a body was discovered. It was during this time that I realized that I was not into real life guts and gore. There is a lot I could say about my time at the mortuary, but it is rather depressing. During this time I started to try to actually learn how to play the drums in other styles and would sit in occasionally with the Shival Experience (a roots/rock/reggae band) and would jam with friends.
In the Spring of 1997 I put all of my stuff into storage (including my drums) and headed up to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State University. Through a series of misunderstandings and accidents I ended up spending all of my financial aid living in a hotel while looking for a place. By Spring break I was homeless, living in the 24-hour study section of the library and had my car towed all while studying philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. During all of this my storage space had been left unpaid and my stuff was auctioned off. I lost everything except what I had taken to SF with me and that amounted to mostly clothes. Needless to say this included my drum set. I went without drums for a year or two and eventually came to the realization that if I continued this way I would be one of those people who said “I used to play the drums when I was in college,” and so I took some of my financial aid money and bought a drum set. By this time I was settled in SF and lived in the house that I would continue to live in until I left SF in 2002. The first set I bought was a very crappy CB-700 set but it was fine for playing in the garage with my roommates who were all artists and musicians. In SF I was introduced to the jazz funk scene and became interested in free-form jamming. I also got my first practice pad and started practice paradiddles, single-stroke and double-stroke rolls.
Maggie’s Pacifier was formed when I met George Adelson around 1998 or so. George was a local SF kid who operated a “secretarial service”. This meant that he ran an answering service and mail P.O. box with a real street address. I had my permanent address listed at his place (at that point I was living in the 24 hour study section at SF state and waiting to get into the dorms!) and would chat with him when I came to pick up my mail. Eventually we started playing and I bought the drum set I have now (a Drum Workshop collector’s series 4 piece), which is featured in all of the following recordings. We recorded one demo, New School Favorites. George was much better than I was but he said he liked my “fire” and we had a blast when we played! We played a lot of house parties and were just about to start looking to play at local venues when we split up (an argument about vegetarianism did us in).
- Happy Friends; a cover of a Greyboy All-Stars tune
- Fire Eater; another Greyboy All-Stars cover
After Maggie’s Pacifier split up I started a band with Aaron Friedman, who I met on Craigslist sometime around 2000. We had a couple of false starts (calling ourselves ‘Others Unknown’ (pictured below)) before we settled on our line-up.
Once we settled down we ended up with Chris Guthridge on guitar, Chris Mergemekes on keys and Nicholas Bidon on Sax (plus Aaron and I). Later we added a trumpet player. We were originally called The Big Pill but we found out there was another band by that name in L.A. We decided to name ourselves for the train that went by our rehearsal spot, the L train. We were a mob who met off the L; Mob-L.
We recorded two demos; Aquatic Ape Theory, which was recorded in my garage and the other The Devil Made Me Do It, which was recorded live and outdoors at a house-party in Napa both using a 1/4 tape reel-to-reel. We played all over the Bay Area and had a lot fun. These guys continued playing for a year or two after I moved to Connecticut (eventually paying at the Boom Boom Room and the VooDoo Lounge…places I had always wanted to play! :(.
- Right-Side Steps (Gettin’ Down)
- Twomp Stomp
- Graham Cracker
- The Perfect Cheer
- Cryin’ & Crawlin’
I moved from SF to Connecticut in August of 2002. I was going to the University of Connecticut, where I got my Masters degree in philosophy. I had my drums shipped from CA to CT on a truck. It took several months for them to get there, which was fine because I was focusing on the rigors of graduate school. I did pick up some books to practice from. The first was Ted Reed’s Syncopation, the other a book of sticking patterns and then finally a book by Alan Dawson called The Complete Drummer’s Vocabulary. Studying these books is the closest thing to a drum lesson I have ever had. It was in my dorm room in Connecticut that I first came to understand what a triplet was, and what the real difference between straight time and swung time. Looking back I had already discovered this difference as a difference in the “feel” of certain rhythms but understanding the theory behind it was at once totally obvious and mind-blowing.
Other than playing on my practice pad I did not play much, though I did do a brief stint with a Hindi band formed of other UConn grad students. We mostly played Bollywood movie songs but we did play one rock-ish tune by the Pakastani band Junoon called Sayonee. We played a Diwali festival at UConn and there is even some video of us playing Sayonee!
I moved to New York in the summer of 2003 to go to the Graduate Center, where I helped start The New york Consciousness Collective and earned my PhD in 2008. Below is some video from the first Qualia Fest at the Parkside Lounge, which was filmed to be included in Dave Chalmers’ profile on the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. They did use part of it in Season two episode 5. We have since held two other Qualia Fests, and even had a story on it in the NY Times last year!
William James Trio