Junkyard Genius & The Common Ground interview with Sal Pauciello & Peter Minde
six-string acoustic. Here he’s in mid-1993 when he did demos that led to the
Where were you born? What influenced you to become a musician?
playing music at the age of 7, first briefly on the piano, and then on the
accordion. By my mid-to late teenage years I started on six-string guitar,
bass-guitar, and keyboards. My future brother-in-law, Rich Porlides was and is
an accomplished Drummer, whom I played with first in 1980 with a group called Laughen Bone’s (and occasionally in 1984). He married my sister several years
later. My influences were British Invasion, some Jazz, and both European &
American Psychedelic Music! The local scene from 1974 (when I started a band
called GROK) till the early to mid-Eighties with The Bones and the Lefthands,
when we had recorded original music,was ‘punky’, and alternative, in many ways.
York, NJ venues. The first band that (deliberately and officially) recorded in
studio was the Lefthands in 1983. Tapes do exist of earlier bands that I
started (even as far back as the early seventies) including Grok, The Pencils (1979), etc. but this was mostly
cover stuff. My bandmate Peter Minde,
who I still hang out with may be able to add some more info.
New York gigs that included the famous CBGB’s.
first met. I had hooked up with vocalist
Jim Jezzler and the drummer Tim Asher, and Sal joined the
Premonitions after leaving the Laughen Bones. The music was all covers, we played Yardbirds tunes, some Rolling
Stones, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and the Kinks. Among others. We even sang an a
capella version of “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black” by Frank Zappa and the
Mothers of Invention. The Premonitions
lasted around 18 months, breaking up over musical differences. Sal had a bunch of original tunes he wanted
to play, and the vocalist wasn’t into that. So Sal and I moved on.
And what influenced you, Peter?
player. B.B. King, Otis Rush, Frank
Zappa, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, the Yardbirds, Allman
Brothers Band, King Crimson, John Coltrane, Joe Pass, Clifford Brown. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
It took me many
years to become a decent musician. At
one point I was ready to give up the guitar, because I just couldn’t play as well as my
heroes. Only when I recognized the fact
that would never play as fast or as well as John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp or
Joe Pass (not that playing fast indicates good musicianship), did I begin to
develop a style of my own.
Lefthands to Wiretap and Dr. Funghoul’s Magic Medicine Cabinet and beyond, two
principles bind our music.
just play the root note of the chords while the guitarist plays a solo. Whoever is in the band at that moment, all
should be ready to drive the music forward, on stage as well as in the studio.
principle is the idea of “effortless cosmic.” This is how we referred to the music of the great 1972-1974 incarnation
of King Crimson, and John Coltrane – especially his later music. It seemed like they were playing music from
the heavens, and we aspired to that ethos, especially in the improvisational
pieces like “Last Exit to Topeka.” It
doesn’t happen every time you play, but when it does, it’s magical.
Lefthands played covers, many of Sal’s originals, and one of mine, formed the
basis of the Lefthands repertoire. I’ll
admit, songwriting is not easy!
mentioned earlier, “Office Girl” backed by “Consumer Tumor”, was recorded by the
original Lefthands. That would be Sal on
bass and lead vocals, Doc Luisi on drums, and myself on guitar and backing
us, Doc had a substance abuse issue that became progressively worse after we
released the single. Showing up hours
late for rehearsals etc. Sal and I
decided he had to go. It’s a shame,
because Doc was a fabulous musician. We
both felt very bad about it, but one needs to be on time for rehearsals and for
gigs. “If you’re not early, you’re
late.” We lost touch with him, and we hope he’s done OK in the intervening
auditioning drummers, we thought about expanding the Lefthands sound and began
auditioning other guitar players. One of
them was Jeff Rabin, who eventually joined the band. Then I began to think, Oh my God, we have to
start from the beginning, teaching new guys all the songs. And I couldn’t face it, and I told Sal I
needed a break.
capable musician and brought original songs of his own to the Lefthands. At one point after I left, the Lefthands were
a 5-piece band with a lead vocalist and 2 guitar players. But for most of their
lifetime, the Lefthands were a trio. They/we played all the major clubs in the New York-New Jersey area,
including the Dirt Club and the legendary CBGB.
Lefthands recorded the single “Office Girl” backed with “Consumer Tumor” in New Jersey’s Homegrown Studio, we had 10 hours to record two songs. That seems like plenty of time, until you’re
actually in the studio. The recording
went well until it was time for the guitar solo on “Office Girl”. I must have done 13 or 14 takes of the
solo. I just couldn’t get a complete,
good pass all the way through. In some
takes the first half was good, and the second half was weak. Sometimes it was the other way around. In the end, we spliced two halves together
for one good solo. I’m still proud of
of gigs, and you can’t remember them all.
But some of them stand out for especially great moments and crazy stuff
that happened. Following the release of Hell Toupee, Wiretap played at a coffeehouse in New York City’s Bowery called
The Cup of Coffee. Imaginative name,
eh? The coffeehouse turned out to be in
an abandoned house where squatters lived. They build a crude stage on the first floor and had bands in to raise
money to pay the utilities and so forth. In the stairwell, squatters had written on the wall, “Electric bill next
month, everyone needs to come up with $20.00.” One paid one’s admission with a few dollars into a jar. The patrons
weren’t necessarily the best and brightest:
During the first set, one drunk guy swiped someone else’s bottle of
vodka to guzzle. During the second set, we were joined by a
two guest musicians, a synthesizer player and another guitarist. I don’t remember who invited them. They seemed more interested in playing loud
and showing off than trying to improvise as a unit with 6 musicians. I turned my guitar’s volume on all the way
off for 10 measures, and no one noticed. Later, we learned the keyboardist had dropped acid before he came
onstage; perhaps that accounted for his playing. It took us a couple of songs to get on
track. I don’t remember if we taped that
gig, but I’d like to get back to listen to it!
and April 1983. Released May 15, 1983
And although I
wasn’t a member any more, I kept in touch with Sal, and we got back together
after the Lefthands broke up. We
developed original, structured songs with a hook, verses, chorus, and guitar
solo. Sal wrote most of them, and I
contributed a few.
a lot more improvisational, free music. One of us would start something, and the other would follow. And in the middle, one of us might drive the
piece in a different direction. This
refers to what I wrote earlier about “no passengers on the bus.” Whatever other musicians sat in with us, they
were encouraged to also drive the bus, so to speak, rather than be a
passenger. When playing this way,
there’s a fine line between real collaboration and 100 decibel anarchy. It demands listening intently to one’s
song “Guess What I Found in the Cave?” It was intended to make a
small color booklet for the Hell Toupee Wiretap CD, but ran out of money, so
they settled for an insert.
insofar as talent and musicianship. An
event happened that compelled Sal and I to ask him to leave, regarding the
substance abuse I mentioned earlier.
showing up late to rehearsals and gigs. One night, he showed up 3 hours late for rehearsal. No exaggeration. We helped him unload his drum kit from his
car – he had a huge drum kit, including a marching band bass drum. He set it up. He spent a good 30 minutes tuning the snare drum. “How’s that sound? How’s that sound?” Well, we told him he had a great sound in the
first 5 minutes but kept messing around.
got the snare drum sound to his satisfaction, he was like, “OK, just a
minute.” He proceeded to lay out lines
of cocaine on the snare drum and snort them up. Then he played every drum as loud as he could for 30 seconds, and he
said, “OK, I’m ready.”
included Peter Minde on guitar and Greg McGhee on percussion and poetry. This
was early 90s, right?
Sal: The Lefthands went from November 1981 thru May/June 1985. When the Lefthands disbanded, I worked on and completed my comic magazine “Spinal Cord Comics” (also the name of my home studio,) in 1986. I continued to compose between 1987-1989 and on my own recorded songs such as “Ground Zero,” “WinterTheme,” “Incunabula Mechanisme,” which appear on a solo/demo CD entiled Decopus by yours truly, Sal Robert Pauciello. Songs received some radio airplay. Between 1988-1992, Peter Minde & I also did what we refer to as the SPEB SESSIONS. Long original progressive/psychedelic improvisations, which we have yet to release, but may be out and available next year. Some wild compositions such as “Last Exit to Topeka” and “Irvington Green,” are included in this period.
Comics was available and sold in the NY-NJ Head-shops of the mid-Eighties.
the early 1990s, comprising the late Raymond Franks on drums, Greg McGhee doing
poetry, backing vocals and percussion, Sal on bass and vocals and myself on
guitar. Wiretap was a reaction to the
rising conservative turn in American politics. As evidenced by “Radical Class War.” We’re quite pleased with that record.
A few words about “Hell Toupee”, album released as
Sal: By 1993, after the Decopus CD, Wiretap was “born”. The personnel on the CD you have was the original band. Pete-guitar, Raymond, Drums, Greg poetry & percussion, and myself on bass. Every song on Hell Toupee is original. Although there were some favorable reviews, we unfortunately only had two gigs with this band, unlike my other bands which gigged extensively, and little to modest airplay at best.
Wiretap and all three Junkyard Genius CD’s. This is Greg circa 1997.
Davis, guitarist, to form “Sixdee”. I believe the name was soon
changed to the Common Ground. What can you tell us about the start of The
first album titled “The Common Ground of David, Franks, Malgeri, and
Pauciello” and just in about a year you released another album. This
second album titled “Portal” was instrumental one…
started a very interesting project called Junkyard Genius. Can you take us
inside the project?
“The Diary of Dick Benito” is a tribute to member of The Common Ground, Raymond Franks, who sadly passed away. Would you like to share something about him or maybe some words about the album?
Cabinet”? Would you like to tell us about recording it?
songs where Sal thought it was appropriate, but I wasn’t involved in Dick
Benito / Junkyard Genius.
special CD issue (let’s say sometime in 2015).
I’ve had a few offers to play (bass) in some jazz type bands that play
some original and some standards, but haven’t taken anyone up on this yet.
message to our readers and to your fans?