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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bocephus und Chad pt. 2: an interview with Matt

For the next few days I'm devoting my blog entries to an interview I recently conducted with the members of Bocephus und Chad, an Arcata, California-area band circa the mid-1990's that mainly consisted of two guys named Matt and Bri (as in "Brian," but mostly referred to as "Bri") who first met as college roomates at Humboldt State. In this installment I'm talking to Matt ("Bocephus"), who understandably asked that his full name be witheld.

Me: can you clarify the chronology of the band: you meet Brian as college roommates, begin to write songs together and later perform shows and record tapes, Brian leaves to pursue opera, and you continue the band with other members until you graduate from college and/or move from Arcata--is this correct? And then the band exists via an occasional reunion with Brian until he moves to NYC, yes?

Matt: Chronology is right...Bocephus und Chad started because when one enters college dorms, they fill out a form that states all their interests, mannerisms etc –those forms are then taken by evil little bureaucrats and used to match the most unlikely of people together—thus Brian—music major, Broadway fan, stuffed hippo hugging, blanket (his gankie)-loving, was stuck with me—Bon Jovi and Rick Springfield fan, English major, slob, Catholic school survivor.

And while times were rough in the beginning—when I was sleeping he’d play phantom of the opera on his keyboard until I woke up—and I’d throw his clothes and his hippo out the third story window—in time we found that we both loved making music—since we were in Humboldt we started out singing lovely tunes about nature—like “Please Don’t Pick the Fucking Flowers”—then we moved on to songs about lumberjacks “Real Men” and hairy Humboldt women –the Humboldt Rap.

As the years in college went on, Brian moved into a house and allowed a woman to live there if she would be his accompanist/kept woman and, at any time of the day or night, would go to the piano to accompany him on any song.—now we had a band. We enlisted another guitar player, a guy whose job it was to play the saxophone and if anyone could guess what he was playing, they could strip him down to a G string.

Brian eventually moved towards opera and dropped out of the band—so I carried on taking only people who had been rejected by other bands (for two years I was the only one in the band who could play their instrument)—we were like a half way house for musicians. We had a wonderful lead guitarist who could play killer Guns and roses riffs but couldn’t play rhythm—two female lead singers who couldn’t sing—and an open door policy for anyone who wanted in—as a result we were the only show in town that had a cakewalk in the middle where you could win a cake but finishing a song was sometimes an iffy proposition.

The last two years saw us at our heyday--Rob the guitar player who wrote “Someone Farted in the Elevator”, Mauro the bass player you must keep from your daughters, Anna the backup singer who could sing, Ron, who was good looking but couldn’t sing or play an instrument, Matt (different one) the male exploited sex object (he was 6 feet, 135 pounds and danced in a leopard g string—he looked like a middle finger when he danced), Steve the elvis impersonator, Wendy the backup singer (who could sing) as well as the aforementioned lead guitarist. Good times. We played more cafeteria shows and a gay pride parade, had a few cakewalks and every time we played "Carrots and Beer," we had to put on protective gear (garbage can lids, cups, a fire helmet) as the audience would pelt us with carrots. The highlight for me was the day that both of the girls Ron was dating showed up to the show together, and we stopped in the middle of a song, looked at him and said, “you’re sooo dead.” And the time we took every male in the audience, brought them backstage, taught them the words to Tiny Peters, and had a men’s chorus –it was beautiful.

Me: What exactly did you think of Bri when you first met him? It sort of sounds like a bit of a clash, you being the sort of classic rock-type dude and him singing showtunes and all. Did you mesh pretty well from the beginning? Because to me that's one of the things that makes B&C sound distinctive, that sort of rock-and-musical-theater combination.

I didn't know Brian for the first week--he'd brought his girlfriend up to college and was shacked up at a hotel--when I first met him, he was hard to get to know--he was chronically shy--never spoke. He just smiled. But when I started to decorate our door with pictures of Tiffany (accompanied by pledges of allegiance to her as both an artist and religious figure), New Kids on the block (accompanied by comments about how much they reminded me of my growing up in the hood)penguins and
other random crap, he began to come out of his shell. We were from the suburbs--we had that same frustration with conformity, that same cynicism that comes from recognizing that every emotion you hear on the radio has a for sale sign hanging on it, that same urge to somehow be different in a world where everyone buys their identity at the same store.

We lived together so we would get into plenty of arguments. Once when he got mad at me he tried to write "flaccid Nazi" in glow in the dark ink on our light--however, as a music major, he was obligated to be a bad speller and wrote "placid Nazi"--two years later that was still on the light... but we knew we were the same people--two doofuses -- two fives --two musical freaks..and we were very happy to be that.

Musically we always meshed. He turned me on to They might be Giants, the Rainmakers, Les Mis, and a bunch of other groups I'd never heard of and loved. I don't think I ever turned him on to anything--but I gave him an outlet to be as weird as he wanted. I knew I'd struck gold with Bri's talent plus he owned the four track--so I had to be nice or no recording for me.

I forgot-when Brian wasn't in the band we went by Bocephus und Ed---not really that important but I thought I'd throw it in-we did it just out of respect for Bri.

Me: What kind of venues did Bocephus und Chad typically play in? Were these clubs, or parties, or...?

Matt: We typically played the cafeteria--every few months, I would want to do a show-there were only 4 bars in all of Humboldt and only one played music--we didn't get invited to parties --so it was all a do it yourself show--I worked at the cafeteria, so I had access to there. Later on I played at a café that sold potato dishes to the post bar crowd. In Sacramento we played Laughs Unlimited Comedy Club until they stopped calling us, and another bar/café that is now defunct. It was a very lax playing schedule--with us-we weren't the hardest working band in Humboldt.

Me: On the Kifko Kid album there's a cover version of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. Whose idea was this, I assume it was Brian's, but did you goad him into it?

Matt: Brian never needed goading to cover cheesy songs--he would have made an all Disney and Ultravox album if he could.

Bocephus und Chad - Molly
Bocephus und Chad - Chris Rodewald

Matt: Chris Rodewald was our dorm neighbor and later a roommate of Bri's--he was a golden god. Perfect hair, built like a brick shithouse and so completely friendly and humble and smart that it drove us nuts. Usually attractive people have a flaw--they're stupid or vain or something--it's god's way of keeping things equal. Chris had no flaw. It drove us crazy---and we were all good friends (he and I still are) because brian and I were not exactly estrogen magnets. Chris had beautiful women fighting over him and he was turning them away to be loyal to his crazy girlfriend. That song is a direct rip off of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with all the lyrics written in Chris's room as we pillaged it and laughed about all the ways he was cooler than us. We once ran him (without him knowing) for a college elected office as a write in candidate and he almost won (the signs said vote for Chris Rodewald--he'll get you laid--or Vote for Chris Rodewald-because he has better hair than you). Chris is now a very successful businessman in San Diego and still the nicest person anyone could meet.


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