Thursday, April 25, 2013

David Alston: Band-forming Zen

I didn't know David Alston as well as I would have liked. The author of the Note I share below clearly knew him better than me. And the person he describes is so the Dave we knew in the Southern Village Weave. Dave, you will be missed:

"If you ever want to start a band ...

If you ever want to start a band, find yourself a Dave Alston.  He was perfect.  

We had a great dynamic, the four of us.  John and I were the erratic ones.  Enthusiastic, but "limited" in guitar playing and singing abilities.  Jon and Dave were fucking solid.  There is no way Sticky would’ve made it beyond a couple gigs if we didn’t have a rhythm section that stayed in the pocket, stayed in tune, and never (EVER) forgot a part or hit a wrong note.  There were clams aplenty between me and John.  We could write and sing, stumble through melodies and hooks, all the while knowing we didn’t have to think twice about Dave’s bass line or Jon’s drumming.

In the summer of 1993, I flaked out on being a high school social studies teacher and moved back to Boone to get a different degree and hopefully start a band.  The first person I sought out was Dave.  I didn’t know him well, but I knew that I wanted the black guy in the Cure T-shirt in my band.  He had facial hair and smoked cigarettes.  He had a deep voice, an encyclopedic knowledge of music and pop culture.  He wrote for the student newspaper.  Is it fair to say that Dave was sort of famous?  It seemed like it.  He was cool and aloof.  And get this: HE PLAYED BASS.  Are you kidding me?   Getting him to be a part of Sticky was like getting the most popular girl in school to go to the prom with me.  A coup.

After starting the band, he moved into a duplex with me and Derrick Swing.  We paid $100 a month each for the next four years for this glorious squalor a few blocks off of King St.   He was such a character.  He watched Kurosawa films.  He listened to Brian Eno, Can, Richard Hell and the Voidoids.    He read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was reading Spin.  

He was an odd bird. That, as much as his proficiency on the bass, made him a perfect band mate.  You want odd in your band.  There’s not enough odd in my life these days.  He once abandoned a car on King Street and never went to check on it.  “Dave, what happened to your car?”  In that Dave voice we all know: “Ah, yes, I need to check on that.”  He seemed so Zen. 

We spent so much time together, yet he wouldn’t let us get too close.  I remember once, the four of us lying in bed in some fleabag motel, Jon said “Dave, if you ever have anything you want to tell us….you know you can, right?”   Again, in that Dave voice:  “Go to sleep Jon.”  Perfect.

With all due appreciation for the joys of getting older/wiser, having kids, and living this life I’ve chosen to live…..I will always reflect on my years with Dave and with Sticky as my default ‘happy place.’  I can still see the piles and piles of small newspaper clippings that he cut out and assembled into collages.  I can still smell the incense Dave burned.  I can hear Marquee Moon.  And I can hear Dave’s un-amplified bass as he sat there on the couch and played along to every fucking note. 

So yeah, if you ever want to start a band, go find yourself a Dave Alston.   But good luck, I’m pretty sure there was only one.

With all my love, brother.   Rest in peace."