Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rare Noise from London: Eraldo Bernocchi, FM Einheit and Jo Quail Talk "Rosebud"

Left to right: FM Einheit, Eraldo Bernocchi and Jo Quail (photo source:

As previously discussed on this site, London’s RareNoiseRecords has been responsible for releasing some of the most adventurous music of the past decade. One of the label’s most recent titles (and easily one of the most exhilarating albums of 2017), Rosebud, finds guitarist and RareNoise co-founder Eraldo Bernocchi joining forces with cellist Jo Quail and groundbreaking experimental percussionist FM Einheit.

Acquaintances since the ’80s, Bernocchi and Einheit first collaborated on music together on the Black Engine project with the Italian group Zu. Quail first came to the guitarist’s attention when he saw her perform on stage with Sol Invictus at a festival. In November 2016, the three artists gathered in London to create the six-song Rosebud.

“FM Einheit is one of the reasons why I am doing music,” Bernocchi says. “His work with Einst├╝rzende Neubauten deeply influenced me when I began to experiment with sound in the ’80s. Jo is an English classically trained cello player who is immensely talented. She shifts her gears from orchestra work, composing for strings and devastating eardrums with a large use of distortion pedals and whatnot. Plus, Jo and myself share a love for quite a few Metal bands. Both of them brought a wide sound palette to this trio and were chosen for their ability in shape-shifting from one moment to the other.

I greatly admire Eraldo’s capacity for continuous musical creation; each project has a distinct and individual feel, and each one is of the highest caliber,” offers Quail. “I have had the pleasure of working with Eraldo previously in a live setting and subsequent recordings, too. I was obviously very familiar with FM’s iconic work, though having never met him before I can confess now to feeling a little nervous beforehand! Working with FM is to work with the most powerful, expressive and dynamic musician; it was a joy to make Rosebud with these two incredible artists.”

The union resulted in an album that alternates between intense (sometimes even harrowing) moods and serene shades. Bernocchi credits the end result of each piece to the willingness of all three participants to work without a set musical path in place.  

 “We gave each other no direction whatsoever. Nothing. This is the way to go for me. Each one of us came up with ideas, and we combined them. On certain tracks, all is improvised; I had to edit and work on the sessions to reduce the length and create a stream or something that had structure. On other tracks, we created the arrangement in-studio, as we kept a little bit of spare time each day to do it.”

Musical experimentation is nothing new for Einheit, who developed “an open mind and a passion to explore the unknown” during his decade-plus stint with Neubauten. Naturally, the Rosebud experience fit him like a glove.

Rosebud is the documentation’ of our first-ever [time] making music together,” he says. With open ears, we were listening to each other constructing the pieces. Who would start the initial mood of a track changed from piece to piece.“

There were moments when one of us would take a clear lead or create the ‘mood’ that resulted in the next hour or so’s material, and then times when we would sit back and respond to what we heard,” adds Quail. “In any form of collaborative composing, there should be a steady tide of direction and reaction, and this was certainly the case making Rosebud. I think we all brought our singular sounds and playing to the record, and the result is what you hear now.”

Although Quail was no stranger to exploring sonic esoterica, the recording of Rosebud took her in new directions.

I’ve never made a record with someone playing springs and power tools before… and indeed making them so musically eloquent! On the face of it, Eraldo, FM and I appear to come from very different backgrounds musically speaking, yet we all reach across genres in what we do as individuals. A collaboration that offers you the opportunity to work with musicians from different spheres, as with Rosebud, is both exciting and inspirational. I have learned a great deal listening to both these musicians record. Eraldo and FM have great musical sensitivity and choose what they play, when and how they play it with great skill and grace.”

Both the album’s title and the Industrial Metal-tinged track “Xanadu” are references to Orson Welles’ classic 1941 film Citizen Kane. In the movie, the powerful and corrupt newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane utters on his deathbed the name he gave to a beloved sled he remembered from his youth (“Rosebud”). In Bernocchi’s mind, incorporating Welles’ narrative into the Rosebud project made perfect sense in light of current world events.

Look at what’s happening everywhere - the media role, Trump, Erdogan, Brexit. The memories we more and more treasure as they slip from our fingers, the power abuse, the rise of populism… It’s all happening now! Media are ruling everything and reprocess fake news selling lies for truth. Liars are becoming prophets once again, just like the early 20th century. ‘Content’ is a domination word, and ‘content creators’ are buying our privacy and life in exchange for constant connections and feeds. It’s nothingness becoming power, and it gets worse day by day. Now that the record is out, I feel like John Carpenter’s They Live would be even better to describe what’s happening! The Citizen Kane [influence] came up at a later stage; FM put it on the table, and Jo and myself were super happy to join. He came up with most of the titles, and we thought they were perfect.”

And what level of difficulty –  if any – did Einheit have in naming the compositions?

"It was a piece of cake,“ he replies. “Strange, mysterious music plus Orson Welles equals Rosebud.

Bernocchi’s involvement in Rosebud is the latest in a string of recent recordings. One of his most notable projects, Metallic Taste Of Blood with celebrated bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree/O.R.k.), utilized the services of veteran drummer Ted Parsons (Swans/Prong/Foetus/Killing Joke/Godflesh) for 2015’s Doctoring The Dead. What began as an out-of-the-blue invitation from Bernocchi quickly became one of the most enjoyable experience in Parsons’ career.

It was kind of a project where you go in and have no clue what it’s going to be like, but you know that there’s two talented guys,” he recalls. “We just jammed. With a bass player like Colin, you can’t really go wrong as a drummer. Eraldo’s such a nice guy and a gentleman. I call him the Bill Laswell of Italy! (laughs) He works with a lot of people.”

Parsons especially enjoyed Bernocchi’s guitar playing and inventive use of effects.

I think he really likes to create an atmosphere while he’s writing the song. He’s not like a chugga-chugga player; he starts thinking about atmospheres. After you lay down a track, he’ll instantly lay down something with the e-bow or something atmospheric. I like that about Eraldo; he’s thinking about the whole sound of the song.”

Best of all, Parsons walked away from the Doctoring The Dead experience with two new lasting friendships.

What I took from that whole session was just dealing with some really professional guys who liked to have fun doing it. It was good to play with people who didn’t have egos. It was really comfortable to be with those guys. I felt like I had known them for a long time. They’re both sort of in my circle of brothers that I’ve collected over the years. They’re like family.”

Bernocchi is quick to praise Parsons’ contributions to Metallic Taste Of Blood’s most recent chapter.

Metallic Taste of Blood is becoming a two-sided world. There’s one side that lingers in heaviness, and another one that conjures melancholy and sweetness. It’s something that was already there in the first album, but with [Doctoring The Dead], it went further thanks to Ted’s drumming. He’s a more linear drummer than [previous drummer] Balazs [P├índi]. Where Balazs paints with strokes, Ted blows you away with his killing grooves and powerful hits. I’d like to have them both on stage one day; I love working with Colin and Ted, but adding Balazs to the picture could also be interesting.”

Since his mid ’90s departure from Neubauten, Einheit has kept busy working with a slew of artists including Gry, En Esch (KMFDM/Slick Idiot/Pigface) and Mona Mur. In addition to unleashing captivating sounds with these projects, Einheit’s penchant for musical exploration also had a major impact on the 1998 incarnation of the incendiary musical pirate ship known as Pigface. Two decades later, Einheit’s presence on tour with the group (documented on the live album Eat Shit You Fucking Redneck) elicits fond – and unsurprisingly intense – memories from bandleader Martin Atkins. 

If it is true that simply having an English accent lends an air of credibility and assumed education to someone, then it is certainly true that just being German lends weight and credibility to anyone from there experimenting with the confines of Industrial music. So then, FM Einheit ends up on [my label] Invisible, as so many of us did - and here’s ‘Mufti’ [as we called him] hitting a coiled spring with a metal bar. Of course, attention is paid to the exact circumference of the thing, but man does it look good in photographs. Mufti has a, I would say, Bukowski look about him: Smart suit but rumpled, an older face – similarly rumpled – and a cigarette. It was delightful when he furnished a film to be shown right before Sheep On Drugs performed during the ‘New High In Low’ tour…I gave the Sheep their cue for the tour: ‘When the terrorist goes in to blow up the McDonald’s, you have five minutes.’ I think on that tour he used his leverage to bring over Gry - amazing performers. Just a few days into the tour, he sustained a pretty horrible Achilles tendon tear [onstage at the Fillmore West], but he just put on an inflatable for the thing and persevered through the tour. In Toronto, after an outbreak of spinal meningitis decimated bands and crew alike, I was his drummer. Later, he handed me water when my tech was in hospital.

Quail’s activities in recent years include recording with the considerably less chaotic (but no less fascinating) supergroup Satellite Paradiso. Led by former Psychedelic Furs guitarist John Ashton, the group released a crowdfunded self-titled album in 2014 (reissued in 2016 by Mi5/Universal).

John and I have a mutual friend who put us in touch, and John kindly invited me to play some cello,” she explains. “We collaborated online as I’m in the UK, and it was a really great experience. John allows people to do ‘their thing’ and then will guide if needs be after that, so it’s a very enriching experience working with him. I think the record is fantastic; it’s triumphant and stadium-sized, and I’d love the opportunity to play some shows with the band sometime!”

Blown away by Quail’s work on the album, veteran musician/visual artist and Satellite Paradiso drummer Frank Coleman (Bentmen/Jayne County) welcomed her on board for his project Secret Agent, which also features original Furs member Duncan Kilburn and former ’Til Tuesday guitarist Robert Holmes.

She’s a sweetheart and obviously incredibly talented,” Coleman says. “She was touring Australia, and I had sent over this piece to Duncan to do sax on; on his own volition, he went and corralled her and got her to come by the house one weekend and play cello stuff on top of it. It’s awesome!”

In Coleman’s mind, one of Quail’s greatest strengths is her ability to create fascinating sounds by running the “raw cortex of a cello-type sound” through a battery of guitar pedals.

It’s a bit like the next step beyond Jimmy Page playing the Les Paul with the violin bow. It’s different from a guitar in that the attack and articulation is unique because it’s bowed; it’s a wider harmonic spectrum. It’s deeper than guitar work naturally and physically because the length of the strings, and then she takes that and processes it in a very unique stew of stuff.”

As the Rosebud album continues to awe and inspire listeners the world over, its three contributors have individually set themselves up for an active 2018. In addition to a sizable tour schedule that will include various stops in the UK, Europe and Australia, Quail is slated to record her fourth solo album next month for an autumn release. A recent email from Einheit teased his work on the “radio drama” Symphony Of Sirens, while Bernocchi recently appeared on the Solitary Universe project on Aagoo Records and had a staggering array of sonic adventures mapped when we touched base in December.

I just finished mixing a new Sigillum S album with Paolo Bandera, the original founder together with me and Bruno Dorella from OvO - now a permanent member. It’s coming out in the spring. There will also be a new album for Glacial Movements with Toshinori Kondo. It’s a no-beats/groove album entirely based on deep sea recording provided by the Palaoa Research Station. I’m using these recording to create pads, strings, sub basses and whatnot, but I’m only using these sound sources and Kondo trumpet. There’s a new Equations of Eternity [release] with Bill Laswell coming up later this year. This time, we are exploring the darkness of Aghori rituals from India. I went [in 2016] to record at the biggest religious festival there, and it was really interesting – really intense. Then there’s Supervoid, a new quartet with Xabier Iriondo on guitar, me on baritone guitar, Jacopo Pierazzuoli [Obake/Morkobot] on drums and a mysterious fourth member who we’ll announce at the right moment. It’s a strange, heavy instrumental combo with a Ry Cooder-ish/David Lynch vibe going on. It ranges from super heavy to ambient bluesy cinematic tracks. There will be a new Blackwood split vinyl and the first album of Rotor, a duo with a Leon Switch from Kryptic Minds. And then... I’m looking forward to meeting with Gareth Davis, a real clarinet wonder, and conjuring a couple of projects we are discussing - movie soundtracks, advert music and much more. Not everything will happen this year; it’ll take time, but this is what I’m working on at the moment.”

While the man’s plate is certainly full, he hasn’t closed the door on future adventures with Quail and Einheit.

I really hope we will end up on stage. I cannot wait to blast this music live, as we think it is really powerful. I would love to continue this trio; we could explore more and more now that we know better how to interact.”

Rosebud at RareNoiseRecords


Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Vessel of God: H.R. on Maturity, "Good Music" and the Future of the Bad Brains

H.R., August 2017 (photo by Lori Carns Hudson/

The first thing that struck me during my recent phone call with H.R. (a.k.a. Joseph I) was how great he sounded. 

During a career and personal life marked by glorious highs and frightening lows, the man born Paul Hudson 62 years ago today has built a reputation that is as legendary as it is enigmatic. While H.R. the singer brought a new and inspiring level of spirituality and musical/lyrical intensity to Punk and Hardcore as a member of the mighty Bad Brains, H.R. the man has seen his life (and more than a few of his personal and professional relationships) continually marred by a series of mental and physical health issues. Last year, he underwent brain surgery to strengthen his battle against SUNCT Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by severe and debilitating headaches. H.R.’s life has not been an easy journey by any means, but the here and now finds him animated, good humored and existing in a world of positivity, creativity, gratitude and inner peace.

Currently, H.R. and his long-running solo band, Human Rights, are writing new material with the goal of releasing an album within the next year. He considers this upcoming release a major step forward in the group’s evolution.

It’s grown, and it’s full of life and spirit. It’s just a combustion of new music. When you heard it, you’ll understand just where I’m coming from. It gives me great joy and happiness, and the music is a lot happier and more fulfilling for me as an artist.”

Although H.R.’s work away from the Bad Brains has largely explored the world of Reggae, newer fans might be surprised to learn – and hear – that this was not always the case. Last year saw the release of H.R. Live At CBGB’s 1984, a blistering recording of his first-ever NYC performance as a solo act following his first of many breaks from the Bad Brains. With the exception of the funky “Stand In Your Heart” and “Who Luvs You Girl” and the eight-minute Reggae jam “Happy Birthday My Son,” Live At CBGB’s 1984 contains blast after blast of Punk energy on par with the sonic vibes found on the Bad Brains’ Black Dots. In addition to H.R.’s unmistakable vocal delivery, the fire contained on the disc is fueled by a bulletproof backing band then comprised of guitarists David Byers and David Jordan and The Mob bassist Jose “Judah II” Gonzales. H.R.’s brother and Bad Brains bandmate, Earl – one of the most jaw-droppingly skilled drummers in the genre – supplies the beat. This record is not just a release from the vaults; it is a crucial addition to the record collection of anyone who appreciates the history of American underground music.

Of course, there are plenty of other audio/video documents of H.R.’s various legend-earning performances at CBGB’s, both on his own and with the Bad Brains. Not surprisingly, he still holds the solely missed venue in high esteem.

CBGB’s offered opportunities for young groups and alternative groups. Hilly Krystal had a lot to do with that while he was the manager of the place. He gave the Bad Brains a chance to play and be heard by professionals.”

Live At CBGB’s ’84 serves as a fantastic introduction to the musical brilliance of David Byers, a D.C. legend who spent time in the arty original-era Punk band The Enzymes alongside future Rollins Band/Pigface/David Bowie guitarist Chris Haskett. (Demo recordings of The Enzymes from 1980, which finally hit the masses decades later thanks to Henry Rollins’ old Harmony In My Head radio show on Indie 103.1 in Los Angeles, are absolutely worth a hard dig through the internet to find.) Sadly, Byers passed away in 2003; H.R. still feels the loss.

I think he was a brilliant individual; he was years ahead of his time. He would be the kind of man who would go with us in the studio and come up with these great influences. After a few minutes or an hour at the most, he’d know just where I was coming from. He fit in great with the Human Rights lineup. I really miss him, and I think he’ll go down in history as one of the greatest artists and guitar players that there ever was.”

When not sporadically reuniting with the Bad Brains, H.R. spent the second half of the ’80s gradually shifting his solo work away from the Punk-driven sound of Live At CBGB’s 1984 to the full-fledged Reggae heard on a series of H.R./Human Rights releases including 1990’s exceptional Charge (which featured the classic track “Just Because I’m Poor.”) He credits the change in musical direction to becoming “much more mature” thanks in large part to time spent in Jamaica. 

I was given advice by my old manager, Anthony Countey, to go out and experience myself and to learn from my different experiences and then work on the new sound.”

After a few years, H.R. and his Human Rights cohorts found the sound they were out to capture.  

I think the group had it all together when we did a record called I Luv [in 1991], which was produced and arranged by Mr. Paul Cornwell. He helped me with the arrangements along with David Byers. One of the songs on it was called ‘I Luv,’ and I really dug that song. It really expressed, for me, where I was coming from, what I was going through and what I wanted to relate to the people I’ve been playing my music for. I really loved the spiritual connotation of the group.”

Although H.R.’s place in history was solidified the very first time he hit the stage with the Bad Brains in the ’70s, he has experienced a career renaissance in recent years complete with the public acclaim he has so richly deserved. In addition to their 2006 return as a recording and touring unit (resulting in 2007’s Build A Nation and 2012’s Into The Future), the original Bad Brains – H.R., Earl, guitarist Dr. Know and bassist Darryl Jenifer – were prominently featured in the 2006 film American Hardcore and later became the subject of their own full-length documentary, 2012’s Bad Brains: A Band In D.C. In 2016, H.R. was the subject of the documentary Finding Joseph I and an oral history book of the same name.

Overall, the book and the film were great. They had a lot to do with what people thought about me. I was so surprised to know that that many people had cared about me, really loved me and wanted to work with me! I was surprised at that, and what they had to say was just overwhelmingly cool. I want to thank them very much for their inspiration and for their support.”

As celebratory as the Finding Joseph I releases are, both also offer an unflinching view inside H.R.’s turbulent mental state. Tales of violent outbursts, burnt bridges and bouts of homelessness flow between words of praise from fans and musicians alike, painting a complex portrait of a man who is both immensely talented and deeply troubled.

Unsurprisingly, the fallout from his unpredictable behavior has had a chilling effect on the Bad Brains’ career. In one pivotal scene in A Band In D.C., a frustrated Jenifer unloads on H.R. backstage in Chicago after the singer delivered a near-catatonic performance (punctuated by snarky comments) in front of an agitated crowd.

Fortunately, things are finally turning around. The Finding Joseph I book and film both end with H.R. finally welcoming professional help for his schizophrenia, a process helped along by the love and support of his wife/manager, Lori. Shortly before Finding Joseph I’s initial November 2016 theatrical release, the Bad Brains became the first Hardcore band in history to be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After decades of inner strife, H.R. is finally enjoying a life worthy of his many gifts. 

Naturally, one very big question remains: What does the future look like for the Bad Brains?

The future looks bright!” replies H.R. “We got a great new manager. We just came from doing a little tour over the summer, and we’re just waiting for the weather to break and we’ll be on our way to do more festival work.”

Now a five-piece band following the recent addition of full-time second guitarist Chogyi Lama (“Man, can that dude throw down!” says H.R.), the Bad Brains have new music on the way – 35 years after their legendary self-titled cassette changed everything.   

Any day now, we’re scheduled to go into the studio and do some more work on a new album. The greatest album that we did, Into The Future, came off great, and I really like working with the fellas.”

If there’s ever a time for new Bad Brains music, it’s now. With America in a state of political, financial and spiritual disarray, the Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) expounded by the band is in high demand. While the realities of modern life are difficult for many, H.R. insists that there is still plenty of hope to be found on stages and records around the world.

“I think that people overall need to listen to more good music! (laughs) What they need to do is put down the sword and learn to be forgiving towards each other, just give a chance to let peace rule over their bad, negative feelings and be more positive with listening to good music and being supportive of the good scene that’s happening.

There are musical artists who define “success” by the number of records they sell, while others find their greatest satisfaction through simply sharing their music, art and message with others. What does “success” mean to H.R.?

I think it has a lot to do with God and what He wanted me to be as His vessel and as an individual who would bring joy to the world and joy to my listeners. I give all the glory to Him. I think I’ve grown very much into the scene, and it just brings me great joy to know that God is working out things for me.”

H.R. Tour Dates

Official H.R. Website 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Somerville Gets Surreal: The Bentmen Rise Again

William "Des" Desmond of The Bentmen

I love the people in the band! Everybody has a splash of creative mental illness.”

That’s how Boston underground scene mainstay William “Des” Desmond sums up the group of experimental artists and musicians who comprise his long-running audio/visual maelstrom, The Bentmen. For decades, the heavily costumed ensemble has amazed and befuddled audiences with multimedia live performances and an aural buffet that is equal parts Captain Beefheart, The Tubes, Tool and Killing Joke. This Friday, The Bentmen will hit the stage at the ONCE Ballroom in Somerville for their first full live performance in 11 years. No matter how many R. Crum comics and/or Zappa albums you might own, nothing – NOTHING – will prepare you for what you’ll witness when you make it out to the show.

Boasting a body of work and an inter-personal history worthy of a book, The Bentmen have spent 36 years slapping a warped smiley face on some of the more unpalatable elements of the American experience. Whether they’re crafting a song about Ted Kennedy’s doomed ride on a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island (“Lobster Bib”) or delivering an ode to a family of serial killers from Kansas (“The Bloody Benders”), the group guarantee an experience that will make you laugh while you wince.   

While The Bentmen’s intense visuals are the stuff of legends and nightmares, the band’s greatest weapon is the extraordinary musicianship that drives the madness. In addition to Des, the current incarnation of the group includes Frank Coleman (drums/samples/interactive videos/vocals) “Crazy Eddie” Nowik (guitar), George Hall (guitar), Ross Kennedy (“human prop”/crowd agitation), Andrew Padua (bass), Scott Collins (guitar), Chris Burbul (backing vocals and antics), Tracey Stark (further antics), Geoff Chase (drums), Paul Robicheau (percussion) and Desmond’s wife, Katherine (keyboards). As a Google glimpse at the performance and album credits of these folks readily reveals, The Bentmen represent the cream of the crop of the New England music scene past and present.

The Bentmen story began in 1982, when Desmond and his old high school buddy Woody Trenholm would get together and mess around with synthesizers and various outboard gear. While these get-togethers were based around having a little fun, the compositions the two created were far from typical party music.

Immediately, it was evident that we were going to go in a very, very dark direction with it,” Desmond recalls. “Maybe that’s where our spirits were; I have no idea, really. I like very heavy music with a little bit of a cerebral touch, and society always irritated Woody. He had many complaints – and rightfully so – about human beings and how they treated each other. We started started writing songs based on the angst that we both had for society. We developed these silly songs; some of them were very, very twisted. It was a social commentary, really.”

The duo’s bizarre musings on the world around them first found a home on The Bentmen’s debut cassette, A Number of Beast-Like Forms.

We found an ad for life insurance that was in this old magazine. There was this cartoon of this Blob-like creature sitting there gobbling up people’s money. It was warning people, ‘You want to buy insurance from us and not from the other monsters out there that are gonna suck you dry from your money.’ There was a whole list of different things that you wanted to watch out for, like ‘two-year modified death benefits.’ Well, there’s a title for one of the songs!”

Bolstered by early support from Boston College’s WZBC, The Bentmen quickly became a popular attraction around town thanks to a surrealistic live show that continued to evolve. Desmond’s use of costumes in his live performances was a carryover from his days with the pre-Bentmen band, The Replicant Rubbers, which also included Robicheau. All Bentmen outfits have been handmade since the beginning, making the most out of found objects to keep the budget down.

I’ve gone across the street from my house and gone in the woods and broken off tress limbs and branches and made costumes out of that! It’s just there; it’s free.”

Along the way, the lineup expanded to include some of the most gifted players the city had to offer.  

I think Woody and I were onto something with this band early on. It’s not for everybody, but some of the better musicians in town really wanted to be a part of it. It wasn’t hard to get them.”

The sonic circus would eventually welcome Reeves Gabrels, then-guitarist for local heroes The Dark. Gabrels later found global acclaim by the close of the decade for his vibrator-as-plectrum exploits with David Bowie’s Tin Machine.

Reeves is a wonderful player; nobody quite sounds like him. Frank Coleman always says, ‘What other band around Boston can brag that Bowie stole their guitarist?!’”

Gabrels returned to The Bentmen in the ’90s for the album Patient Zero, which also boasted appearances by Adrian Belew and The Lounge Lizards’ David Tronzo. As of this writing, a long-awaited Bandcamp re-release of the album was only days away. 

For Coleman, performing live with The Bentmen later this week is the continuation of a journey with Desmond and Co. that began all the way back in 1990. At that time, he was hired to video record a Bentmen show at Axis in Boston. A former child actor with opera singer parents, he was instantly blown away by the theatrics that greeted him at the other end of the camera.

That whole thing was just pushing all my buttons!”

About a decade later, a ringing telephone changed his life forever.

Des called me up and said, ‘Listen, we’ve got this gig coming up, and two of the drummers are out of town. We never play with less than two drummers. I’ve never heard you play, but I understand you’re pretty good. Would you be interested in coming down and sitting in on the gig?’”

Ten days later, he performed with The Bentmen in front of 40,000 people at the Central Square World’s Fair in Cambridge. 

Aside from an abbreviated set at the Brighton Music Hall in 2014 as part of WMBR’s “Pipeline! At 25: 50 Years of Boston Rock” festival, little has been seen or heard from the Bentmen until now – which makes the upcoming ONCE Ballroom show truly special.

The Bentmen work on their own strange atomic clock,” Coleman says. “We do things when the mulch is aligned with the light of the moon in just the right way, and then we start to grow out of the pumpkin patch and sprout!”

So what can audience members expect from Friday’s extravaganza? Even Coleman’s not entirely sure. 

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Leonard Bernstein: ‘Greatest requires two things: A plan and not quite enough time.’ That’s usually how we find ourselves. We have a plan, and I try to create structures or at least boxes to put things – there are a lot of moving parts to this show – but the best plan never survives the first encounter with the enemy. You do your best.”

Fans are encouraged to arrive early in time to catch the opening set from CMB, which features Desmond’s daughters, Casey and Mary Lee.

Isn’t that cool? It’s amazing!” shares proud dad Des. “Casey’s had a really incredible run herself; she’s written so many songs. My younger daughter, Mary, is joining her, She’s a talented songwriter as well, and she plays multiple instruments like Casey. This is the very first time that the girls are opening for their parents’ band.”

Casey Desmond 

An accomplished solo artist, Casey was first encouraged to have a go at being an onstage performer through the supportive words of Bentmen collaborator Tiny Tim.

Yes, you read that right; TINY TIM played with The Bentmen and inspired Casey’s career. Here’s the CliffsNotes version of her father’s sprawling tale of this pivotal event:

Des goes out to buy Katherine a Mother’s Day gift.
Des stops at a yard sale.
Des spots a canoe.
Des buys the canoe for Katherine.
Des discovers that the guy holding the yard sale is Victor "Moulty" Moulton, the famed hook-handed drummer from The Barbarians.
Des and Moulty become friends.
Moulty invites Des to his show at a VFW hall. Ernie Valens – Ritchie Valens’ cousin – is also on the bill. So is Tiny Tim.
Des meets Ernie, Tiny and the real-life inspiration for Ritchie Valens’ “Donna.”
Des invites Tiny to appear at a Bentmen show.
Tiny says yes.
The show happens. Rumors of mass audience-member LSD consumption abound.
The show is a success.
Tiny and a very young Casey meet in the dressing room and sing “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” together.
Tiny is impressed.
Tiny tells Casey: “Casey, you have a wonderful voice! You should take up songwriting and music.”
Casey dutifully follows her new friend’s advice.

Fast-forward to the here and now, and Des and his family – as well as his extended family of musicians and inventive souls – are gearing up for an evening like no other. While The Bentmen’s future is unwritten, Friday’s show is sure to be a blast.

I don’t know if I can do it much more,” Desmond admits. “I keep saying this is my last one, but then I get the addiction. When you have a good show and there are people into it, it’s an addiction to keep performing and not just give up something that you’ve created and put your heart into. But you are chasing ghosts; you never quite reach that pinnacle of feeling that you may have gotten one or two times, but those one or two times keep you at it.”

A special GoFundMe “Bentmen Slush Fund” has been set up to help the band cover the costs of the upcoming performance. Details - including information on some unsurprisingly bonkers perks - can be found in the video below:

Official Bentmen Website