In 1986, as I was sort of going into a post-punk Hanoi Rocks stage, I found myself years away from being in a punk band. Cold War, my old band, died back in 1983, maybe earlier, and after I graduated, in 1984, I lost touch with the other members of the band.
So, like I was saying, back in 1986, there was a band playing around Los Angeles that was packing huge crowds, called Voyeur. I was at a party, and a couple of girls came up to me and started asking me about the bands I was into, so I rattled off bands like ‘Bad Religion, TSOL and I just saw Cherry Bombz.’ They stared for a minute and said they had never heard of any of them, but I should check out this band called Voyeur. They packed every club they played. I said ‘sure, I’d check them out.’ As it turned out they were playing the Country Club in Reseda that next Friday, I went with my friend Chris who lived around the block from me.
We parked in the back of the club in front of the Chinese restaurant The Great Wall paid $7.00 and walked in. A couple of cheesy glam bands went on first, then the whole place starts moving towards the stage, it was about 70% women, which was a huge difference from the punk shows I was used to.
The band had cool songs like Kiss prior to 1976, and the stage presence of the 1970’s Van Halen. The singer, Paul Lancia had a vocal range similar to Steve Perry of Journey. The rest of the band had glam-trash names like Michael Hunt and had a cool ‘don’t give a crap’ attitude. Anyway, once you went to one show, the chicks in the parking lot would tell you to come to the next show and want your phone number to call and remind you. It became a traveling party.
So, over the next six months, I went to, at least, 8 of their shows. They were good and fun. Then one night, as I was leaving a show at the Troubadour, Paul (the singer) pulls me aside and gives me his phone number; he tells me he lives in Tarzana, to come on over the next week. So, I called him and headed on over. It was weird to be going to his place because unlike the punk scene, I had never hung out with Paul or saw him anywhere. So, Paul wasn’t a regular dude, he was a rock star who wanted to hang out. Weird. I knock, Paul opens up, and as I walk in there is a really big guy about 200 – 250 lbs sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the wall, I reached out to shake his hand and say, “How are you doing?” But he doesn’t break his stare with the wall. Paul shook his head and said this was his uncle. Like that explained anything. We go into the living room, and Paul hands me a tape of Voyeur’s last show, he had it recorded off of the soundboard. I said, “Thanks,” and then he shows me a flyer of a group called Circus. I said, “Cool,” but I didn’t know what the flyer was for. He said in a very serious tone, this is my new group. I was surprised; Voyeur seemed to be going well. Anyway, Paul had secretly split from Voyeur; Circus was made up of Paul on vocals, Billy D’Vette on guitar, a guy named Dino on bass and I don’t remember the drummer’s name. Paul played me, the Circus demo, and they sounded very polished, not as party-trash sounding as Voyeur.
The guy who ran the Country Club was going to manage Circus and promised them a tour of Japan. Paul couldn’t say no. We rapped a bit more about what bands these guys came from, Bill D’Vette had his own band previously called . . . . wait for it, D’Vette, Dino had jammed with my friend Chris’ old band Harlot, on and on like this for about a half an hour. Then Paul asked, “You sing, right?” I said, “It was closer to screaming.” Paul then told me “You should audition for Voyeur.” I said “Really?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll have the guitarist from Voyeur call you.”
A day or so later Billy the guitarist from Voyeur (not D’Vette from Circus) calls me at home, and says “Paul recommended you for the band; I’d like to come by and audition you.” I said, “Great, come on by.” Gave him directions from his place in Van Nuys, to mine in Reseda.
Billy comes to the door, about 5 to 6 inches taller than me, (4 inches of it was the hair), with his acoustic guitar, and lyric sheets, and the original Voyeur demo tape. I look over the lyrics, and we listen to the demo, and he tells me “Make sure you use vibrato on this verse.” To this, I stare as blankly as Paul’s uncle. I had never heard the word vibrato in my life; I had never had any sort of vocal training or singing classes. I sang punk, no skill used – just raw energy, I pushed my voice through each song with youthful energy.
So, Billy, and I start running through the set of songs he had chosen, and each second I see his expression go from smiling to, almost horror. And I hear my voice crack, and turn into a shriek. Finally, Billy picks up his stuff and says thanks. I couldn’t say anything other than “Sorry.”
Looking back at it now, it would’ve been like George Thorogood auditioning for Rush. That night as I walked Billy to the door, I saw my mom and brother sitting on the couch; they both gave me that look, the look you give retarded kids when they appear in school plays or student presentations. The “poor thing” look.
I find out later, when I was in the middle of my audition, my brother came home from work and heard me “singing” and asked my mom “What’s wrong with Mike?” Seems he thought I was either crying or having some type of emotional breakdown. I was really freaking awful. I have never attempted to sing again, except for my children. My daughter loved my singing until she turned about 5, then she’d make faces, then I stopped, my son, Lucas, when he was three, loved my singing. What a great kid.
– Last One To Die, 2011
Misconceptions of Hell