Monday, February 25, 2008

ISSUE 22 - MAY 2007


While it’s here

With all of the rejuvenation outside currently the opposite is on my mind. The trees are flush with green and azaleas are ripe in near fluorescent pastels but I am reminded of loss.
Silly as it sound, but this began with Brewster’s Millions. If you’re not familiar, it’s the story of a man who must spend thirty million dollars to inherit three hundred million. The task must be completed in thirty days yet tell no one and be penniless at the end of thirty days. It’s a very American film, highlighting the best and worst of people when money is involved.
The 1985 film starred Richard Pryor and John Candy. For Candy, it was the early stages of a movie career but for Pryor it seemed a lateral move. While the film did little to further or embrace Pryor’s comedic talents, it worked because Pryor is likable as Brewster in the film.
In a scene between Pryor and Candy it dawned on me, that both of these actors are dead. Pryor passed last year, Candy in 1994 at the age of 44. Pryor’s reputation unfortunately surpassed his film work; squandering acting roles in lieu of huge paychecks (Eddie Murphy has done much of the same over his career). Candy tended to play the same guy, a reliable comedian in the buddy role or one in which he’s the butt of the joke. However, we all know who they are; we all remember them for many reasons.
It happened again watching 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam. A scene in which Robin Williams gets lambasted by J.T. Walsh and Bruno Kirby happens mid way in the movie. It dawns on me that both Walsh and Kirby are dead as well.
Each of these films is twenty years old and twenty years is a long time but it was a strange realization that these actors were gone, hard to wrap my head around. It wasn’t a connection between age and mortality. Then it made sense, as people we get used to things, get comfortable in knowing they’ll always be there. We all know the average life span and generally act accordingly.
A close friend recently attended the funeral of his ninety year old grandmother. Repeat, ninety years old. By all accounts that’s a long life. But she wasn’t sick, she fell and struck her head and died because of that. My grandparents passed at an early age so it was hard for me to assimilate but the way I related was the fact that she’d always been there. I met her once, long ago, and was a very kind woman, the image that occurs when you think of grandmothers.
This boils down to appreciation and creating in the face of living. Mothers have children and become grandmothers, bringing life into the world and opportunity, more chances. Women and men creating life is by far the most creative act of all. Some of these children grow up to be amazing. Creative people add more color to the world, adding life to life, whether through film, painting, literature or music.
Especially music. Like photos, music is an important cataloging agent for anyone’s life. One Sunday evening years ago the news broke on television that Joey Ramone died from leukemia. The Ramones were gone. No one would ever get to see them play again. All those years of non stop touring, they were always there. You went to high school and they were touring, you went to college, they were touring, you met someone and started planning a life, they were still doing it. Then Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone died. That was it. I couldn’t believe that band did not exist anymore in the world. It was one thing to disband but hard to imagine they weren’t around anymore. I lived in a world where the Ramones were gone.
We get so comfortable, knowing that someone will live a long time, always be here. But does that necessitate treating them with such a laissez-fare attitude? We should value it while there’s time. Nothing should be so expendable. It recalls a line from a Blind Melon song, And I can’t understand why something good’s got to die before we miss it?

- Brian Tucker





How to say NO! To moochers

Out-of-work-by choice, users, mooching friends . . . it's time we learned how to say no. If you can't, you may find your money drained along with your time and emotional energy.

We all have them in our lives, those people who choose to be unemployed. They are our friends, lovers, brothers or even a next-door-neighbor. I have an overstocked number of them in my life for some reason. They choose unemployment for philosophical arguments. They avoid a regular job because it takes away from their poetry writing. I know a user friend who once said to me after I suggested she find a job, “Oh no, that would kill me.” They always manage, so why bother punching in at the time clock now? They get by on the kindness of strangers, the reliability of over-giving parents and taking advantage of everyone’s politeness. They ask me to drive them all over town since I have a full tank of gas and I have an auto that runs or heck that I have a car. We aid them because we feel we must give alms to beggars, even those who choose the impoverished life. I could forgive them and even admire their work-free lives if they actually made a living from the poetry “Ode to a toad” writing or if it wasn’t the double standard they live in, “Money is the root of all evil, don’t sell out to the establishment, may I borrow $200.00?” By grace, there are church’s in the Wilmington metro area that have funds set aside to help the needy, particularly people who are down and out without choice. I have a friend who makes the rounds to these churches and asks them to pay her bills and sometimes she gets them to pay her mortgage. She promises to stop asking and donate a return once her movie script is sold, right after she writes it and may she borrow my computer, or until the pine cones hand dipped in gold paint sell for big bucks!

The users also try to take up our free time, we the overburdened, underpaid slave to industry laborer. The moochers not only ask but sometimes expect us to give up our days away from the salt mine to run long distance errands for them, or in an acquaintance’s case, pick up stones lining her flower beds. “It would take me all day if you don’t help,” she woes. Let me think on that? Give up a beautiful perfect Sunday afternoon at the beach to recuperate from the week’s stress or schedule an appointment with a chiropractor to fix vertebrae I strained from bending over for 8 hours picking up 5000 stones? I am a sucker for a pretty face or a teary sob story but enough is enough.

Liz, my long term friend, tells me that among the relationship skills we should learn early in life -- but usually don't -- is the ability to say no. Saying no is essential if we want to preserve relationships with many of the people, including loved ones, who are trying to get us to say yes.

Take a minute to think. The person who's making the request (or demand) probably spent a lot of time mulling over all the reasons why you should agree. You, on the other hand, may have been hit out of the blue. You can put up your hand, say "I need a moment" or even walk into another room to collect your thoughts.

Don't make a sucker's choice. In our panic, we may think we have to choose between two bad alternatives: "I have to give her a loan, or she'll never speak to me again!" (Practiced moochers are, by the way, experts in backing people into this mind-set.) The reality is that we usually have far more alternatives than we initially think. Taking a moment to consider those, and what we really want out of the situation, can keep us from grabbing a bad choice.

Go public. Tell the other person where you stand as soon as you can. This is also known as "articulating your boundaries," and tells the listener that "you're now driving the conversation," Instead of responding to their arguments, you're setting out what you will and won't do. Most petitioners "will see the answer coming" once you've gone public, and if you stick to your guns will shorten or end their attempts to persuade you. "Don't just say no," "Soften the blow by telling them why." Make it clear that your reasons aren't a personal reflection on the petitioner, but are instead solidly held beliefs. They will either choose to remain friends or move onto the next gullible party and that is all I have to say because right now I have some gold painted pine cones, I just bought, to hang up somewhere.


photos Brian Tucker


by Brian Tucker
photos Ava Bock

Two years ago Stephen Sellers lay in the top bunk in a Connecticut correctional facility, his face eight inches away from the ceiling. Long before he began his twenty five day stay in the Connecticut prison a previous inmate drew a circle on the ceiling, a bare circle, nothing more. Sellers stared at the circle, feeling the way he’d felt for a long time, feeling sad, confused, depressed, thinking about how much it sucked to be locked up.
Sellers had lived a life fueled by self doubt and self medication, a life where music, alcohol, anything filled the void. There were no more second chances. He’d finally been handed a possession charge there was no way to get out of with money and lawyers. The road led him here, locked up. He was in a minimum security prison, safe away from the five days spent in a holding facility where all types of inmates shared space, with dangerous men. Sellers was lucky, luckier than the young man running his mouth and subsequently held down and raped not twenty feet away.
Sellers lay in the bunk staring at the ceiling, at the circle drawn by someone else. And a switch flipped inside him, as efficiently as the clock going from the ninth hour to the tenth. He figured it out. He knew what the problem was.

In the spring off 2006 Sellers left a CD behind a tiny Buddha at the front door of my house. The CD was Beatific Star and it was the start of the longest gestation of anything I’d write about. The CD is magnificent, a collage of music styles and, I would learn later on, a hard look into his own life. It is an album I’d return to frequently, play again and played loudly in the living room as I worked. I struggled with Beatific Star trying to review it for Avenue, it was so thick musically, so strong thematically, I honestly didn’t feel I could do it justice. I didn’t think I could tell a reader what I heard, how beautifully varied the album is. It is a collection of music you could listen to and craft a novel at the same time. Moving along like a soundtrack to something heart wrenching and hopeful, it offers musical shades of Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails and Roky Erickson. It’s acoustic and bombastic, the production spare and elegant, a Mercator Projection of music.

Sellers sits at the edge his front porch off Orange Street smoking a cigarette, looking content, bemused almost. His silence could be interpreted as someone sitting and stewing. I walk over and upon standing up he flashes a wide, tight smile. His blue eyes glisten and get small from smiling so wide. He’s in his late thirties, tall with a face textured and interesting, lined and angular. Seeing the smile I believe he may be the only person I know who looks his age and yet seems like a new born child, happy with what the world can offer.
“You want to see the new van?” he asks excitedly. I realize then that he was not staring out into space when I drove up but looking at the new white cargo van out on the street. Inside the van he points out work he’s done on it. There’s a storage area built at the rear doors to keep musical equipment from being stolen and the thick carpet on top for people to sleep while driving. It is a large van able to hold a lot of people and Sellers is planning to tour this year.
Back inside the house he plays a new song. It pours through the speakers reeking of psychedelic tones. It’s ethereal with a subtle groove.
“I’m trying to find a way to get that psychedelic country thing going and have parts in that are real tripped out,” he explains.
Placed center in the living room is a dark blue drum set. There are two small tables he made from nice, thin wood that look like a cross between the Jenga game and Frank Lloyd Wright. The room is filled with music equipment. Seller’s second album, Getting Born, was recorded in this small room decorated with photographs and diminutive pieces of art. There is no television, only furniture, music equipment for playing and recording and several shelves of books, CD’s and cassettes. That’s right, cassettes, many homemade from bands that have disbanded. It’s symbolic of the time passed since Sellers played in the Roanoke, Virginia band The Wanderers, living in a band house and going to college.
The road that began in Roanoke is long and winding and ended in Connecticut. Roads anew, life began again moving to Wilmington. It would be straightforward to talk about redemption, but perhaps rebirth is more appropriate.
Sellers played drums in The Wanderers, a serious touring band in which the members lived in a house together. At seventeen Sellers and a friend were digesting a lot of punk music. They bought an album by the Big Boys that on the back said START YOUR OWN BAND.
“We had been listening to all this music and thinking to ourselves this doesn’t sound that hard. It doesn’t sound like Rush or Black Sabbath or something we can’t do. We sat around one day and said, ‘we’re a band.’ All we have to do is get instruments and learn how to play. Starting today we’re a band.”
The friend said he wanted to play drums and Sellers agreed to play bass. Walking home from the friend’s home that same day he came across a drum set a family had thrown to the side of the road. It was so little and so light he carried the drum pieces home. He called up the friend telling him about the drums he found.
“I found a drum set so I’m the drummer,” he boasted. The friend agreed, went to a pawn shop and bought a used bass guitar. Sellers recounts the story, remembering the humble beginnings, animated and excited as if it just happened. He mimics playing an instrument.
“We got together a few days later and played dunh dunh dunh and we were a band, man! We went and got a guitar player and guy who could sing. But we couldn’t keep a singer. Then we found this guy named Jim who was in another band but got on board with us. We became The Waltons. And Jim could write good songs and was the drive behind the band. He was the guy who said we’re really gonna do songs, we’re gonna record, make music and play live shows. Do what other punk bands are doing. That was really exciting.”
For two years The Waltons played punk but morphed into playing psychedelic surf rock. The band became The Wanderers whose members ended up staying together, living in a house together, buying a van and touring. The band garnered some play from record labels. The Wanderers lived in a downtown neighborhood in Roanoke, Virginia where there was a bevy of musicians. The house was a functioning band living space and practice house for several bands. It was then Sellers met Pat Starkey.
“There was a lot of coming and going. Pat and his girlfriend broke up and he moved in the band house. We new he had music equipment and played in a band. Jim eventually went on to do another project years later and started a band called Vim Vigor Vitality, that had a cool, complex rockabilly sound.”
In Roanoke, Sellers attended college as did other members of the band. Everyone went to college within driving distance of Roanoke so The Wanderers never broke up.
“We all drove from whatever college we were going to into town on the weekends and played gigs or practiced. The thing slowed down but never died, always ramped up during the summertime. We would do these loops, playing Outer Banks, West Virginia, Tennessee and in North Carolina. We played Raleigh, Charlotte.”
All these Roanoke musicians were in respective punk bands in Roanoke. Mary Huff from Southern Culture on the Skids was in a punk band, NMP, and Sellers describes them as the best hardcore band in Roanoke. They also made it big, serving as inspiration for any band in the area.
“Mary was their bass player and not only were they the best punk band, but they had a girl in the band. The Walton’s were inspired by that and got two girl singers. Mary and Dave moved to Chapell Hill and started playing,” he says.
Time passed and Sellers reconnected with Mary. “We would get notes about them and then all of a sudden I’m talking with Mary and she says ‘We’re on Geffen records.’ I was like, Get the fuck outta here, man!” After Southern Culture on the Skids first release, Too Much Pork for Just One Fork, he started seeing CD reviews everywhere. “I think I saw a blurb in Rolling Stone. They got big in Australia. And then they started touring the world. I remember thinking, holy shit, it happened to some people from Roanoke. It can happen. At that point I didn’t know anybody who was signed to a major record deal and somebody was footing the bill for their tour. Look at their tour schedule; they’re relentless, over 200 gigs a year. They inspire me, for playing and sticking together,” he says and pauses, thinking for a moment, “because it’s hard.”

The Wanderers eventually grew apart. Sellers and Pat Starkey loaded up a car full of stuff and moved down to Austin, Texas. The pair was a “wrecking crew together” and subsequently their lives split, selling everything they owned down there, music equipment and all and moved away. Starkey stayed in Virginia and Sellers went north.
At thirty, Sellers moved to Connecticut where he took on a job with ESPN and it was his first job, having spent his twenties playing in a band as a moderate living. “I wouldn’t call it a living,” he says without humor.
Seller’s life advanced but problems still existed, there was now an influx of money working a good job for ESPN. But money meant material things, cars and nightlife which led to continued drinking and then cocaine. Money from a high profile job at ESPN made it much easier to fill Seller’s personal voids.
After six years in Connecticut and numerous arrests to his name, things hit a wall. A lawyer couldn’t save him anymore and without help he wouldn’t be able to help himself. But prison didn’t do the trick as one might think; it wasn’t incarceration per se, or the horrors of concrete confinement. He finally figured something out and it just took longer than most people. Spending thirty days there - five in a holding area, surrounded by men far more dangerous than him, and the remaining twenty five in a minimum security prison, something happened that he finds it difficult to explain to people.
“I’m laying in bed one night on the top bunk and the roof is only about eight inches off the top of my nose. I’m laying there basically the same person I’ve been for the last twenty years, very sad and depressed and confused and really not thinking about anything but how much it sucks to be locked up. And I’m staring up at the ceiling and some dude had written a circle on the ceiling and laying there staring at the circle but it was like somebody flipped a fuckin’ switch. And all of a sudden it dawned on me that the problem was not the world, that the problem was me, and how I see the world. And I know that sounds like a really simple thing and I think most adult people know that, that how you view the world is how good or how bad your life can be. That was the first time that had ever dawned on me.”
He pauses and looks straight ahead, thinking hard about his next sentence and then smiles.
“I woke up the next day it was like I was walking around in a new skin.”
Leaving prison nearly a month later Sellers knew substance abuse was going to be a problem, a large hurdle. For the first time in his life a request for help was made. He knew he had a problem, because he kept getting locked up over and over again, kept ending up in front of judges, getting DWI’s, possession charges, possession with intent to distribute charges. He knew there were all these problems – police, judges, the lawyers and parents and friends, everybody knew, including him, he just didn’t know how to stop. He ended up saying words that were difficult to say. Help me.
“Ask and you shall receive. That was the first time I asked for some help. Everywhere I turned, my friends, my family, as long as I was willing to ask for help. I got it. That hurdle became a little easier to get over. Then it was about how to be happy, how to have some confidence in myself. How to figure out who I am. Those are tough questions, those are tough questions for someone in a natural state of development I think. And for someone whose growth gets stunted as a teenager because you’re not asking the difficult questions, you’re not trying to move forward into adulthood and figure out how to be happy and productive.”
That combination laid groundwork for drugs and alcohol. Sellers was in a vicious and repetitive circle in which he needed to have people around him. He felt uncomfortable alone, needing to always have a girlfriend. Everything that made him feel deficient was replaced with something to fill the void – girlfriends, music and all the people who were interested in him because he played in a band.
“I thought that made me something. Made me cool, made people want to be around me,” he says, knowing it delayed the inevitable. “When I look back on that period of time it’s like looking at someone else’s life. If someone had told me four years ago that I could buy a guitar, that I could write one song, that I could be the guy to put together a band. I would have told them they had the wrong guy. I used to get tanked by myself during the day and daydream about, ‘am I the kind of guy that could start a band? Because wouldn’t that be cool, to be in a band again? That was something I look back on fondly. Wouldn’t be cool to front a band? I’d look at myself in the mirror and say I’m not that guy.”

Gary Anderson, a member of The Wanderers had heard of Wilmington. After the band split up, Gary moved to Wilmington and formed the surf band called The Derailers. The Derailers came back and played Roanoke and told his old band mates, Sellers included, that Wilmington was awesome, that they should move there. That was ten years ago.
After release from prison in 2003 and going clean, Sellers knew he needed to take a period of time, a long look at his life and figure out what he wanted to do with it. He asked what did he look back on and have good memories about, what made him happy, what is viable? It wasn’t material things or substances. His thoughts led to playing music, something that always made him happy. Creating music, practicing, touring, recording – all things he had great memories of and made him feel creative and alive.
Sellers was living in Roanoke, having lost his job, with a drained bank account from legal fees and without a driver’s license. He was at square one, in his mid thirties and without direction.
But he’d always wanted to write a song. He wondered, could he do it? Playing in a band for a long time taught him how to put one together. But he didn’t know.
“I thought I’d go out and buy a couple of guitars,” he says. “An acoustic and an electric.” Initially he bought a set of drums thinking he’d play in a band again. While looking for drum heads he saw a guitar that matched the blue in his drum set and put money down on it. He said, “I’m gonna kill myself if I don’t get the guitar that matches the drum set, even if I don’t learn how to play it.”
Buying a guitar was beneficial, was really for healing and purging. He didn’t know if it would work or not. He surmised that if it didn’t work that’s okay, but if it did, what would happen? It was an idea that started to grow and there was a reason it continued.
“I needed to focus on connecting with people. These were all problems that I had in the past that led me into substance abuse, that lifestyle. I think it was a lot about self confidence. I felt very out of place everywhere I went, never really developed. I never took the time to figure out who I am and develop that, which is why I decided to figure out something to do with my life that makes me happy,” he explains.
Sellers could look back on his life and recognize that he was unhappy for a long time. He figured, there were times when he was happy, so, was it possible to get back to that place? That was the catalyst for a return to creating music.
“It has taken my life in a direction that I thought; wouldn’t it be nice if my life was like that? It all has to do with trying to get out of bed in the morning and trying to connect with people, trying to be a loving person wherever I go? That’s difficult for me, that’s not natural. For twenty years of my adult life I really didn’t live that way. I lived as a scared person, scared of the world and other people, and success and failure and relationships and not having relationships. Just a very conflicted person.”
But he now owned an electric guitar and set about seeing whether he could write a song. He wrote one that ended up on Beatific Star. Some time passed and others taught him how to play chords. He bought simple recording equipment and found there was much to write about, emotions viable for songs.
“It started happening and I spent a lot of time doing it.” Listening to other artists helped him see possibilities in crafting music. Wilco had a lot of impact on him, how Jeff Tweedy put a song together, what was allowed and what was not allowed, what could be done in the middle of a song.
“It blew me away that you could have noise and nothing but feedback in the middle of a song and make it more beautiful than an E chord. Then I stared listening to this weird Miles Davis CD On the Corner.”
After learning two chords “on that thing,” referring to the guitar in which he wrote a song, having enough words to fill in all the verses and choruses. Knowing how to play the drums led to getting back into recording. Sellers attended engineering school so he knew how to record. The problem was that even though he once recorded bands, he’d never done so as a one man operation. But a fire was lit under him, creatively and spiritually. He recorded a five song demo, the only five songs he’d written. “I needed to record them and see how they sounded.”
At the same time he was trying to form a band in Roanoke but nothing came together like he wanted, not a single practice. Months went by and practices still weren’t happening. A friend needed help moving to Wilmington and once in town he looked up Gary Anderson. Sellers found a phone book and Anderson lived not far from the apartment Sellers would eventually move into. Anderson answered the door to find Sellers standing outside. Anderson was a father now, doing well. Sellers asked if he moved down would Gary like to start a band. Yes. Sellers said he’d be back in a month.
Sellers packed his things and moved down, setting big goals. In a year he promised himself that he’d have a full length CD. With only the five song demo he began to hammer away at the first full length. Upon nearly finishing that first CD and spending so much time practicing every day, he searched for other musicians. He went places people were hanging out, people he thought he might have something in common with. He was steadfast in looking. Sellers was reaching out to people, making contact. E-mailing.
He e-mailed me when Bootleg was Avenue. The e-mail was simple: “I moved down, I’m a musician.”
Everywhere Sellers went he did what he’d never done before. He asked. He met the people at the Independent Art Company by walking in the front door and saying, “I don’t know anyone in town, I play music, what are you guys doing in here?”
“I met a bunch of musicians at the Juggling Gypsy or did so walking up to musicians after a show at the Soapbox and introducing myself. A friend of mine is on the roller derby team and one of the girls she skates with, Missy, plays drums.”
He asked for her phone number.
“I called her and said I’m from Virginia, I played in a band in Virginia, I live here now and want to start a band. She said ‘I’m from Virginia, I played in a band in Virginia and I wanna play in a band.’
Two of the first people he met after moving to Wilmington were Rich and Shawna at Rebel Books. “I was shooting the shit with Rich one night and Rich said, “I’m a bass player, I’m from Virginia, and I want to be in a band.’
So it was three Virginians hanging out in Wilmington who played in bands with mutual friends, had passed each other on tours, playing in different places, all these bits and pieces in common. And soon they were sitting in Seller’s living room getting ready to make music. Missy, Gary, Rich and Sellers were now Revolution Summer.

The four would park stools in the middle of the room and sit and sing to each other. “I always think its great as its happening ‘cause I’m so happy to be doing it,” Sellers says. He recounts a story of people hanging out at the house, singing and playing. The next day a neighbor spoke to him, practically for the first time, saying “Ya’ll sounded real good last night.”
Sellers describes this as a ‘payoff’ for all the hard work in trying to create. The payoffs are far and few but hearing something like that, something earnest and simple, makes all the effort worth it.
Sellers’ songs for Revolution Summer were fairly simple, comprised of A,E,G, and D chords or just power chords. Rich was a quick study and Missy had played in bands and they all knew how songs were put together. Gary brought his lap steel guitar and added to the band’s sound. Missy and Stephen sang together and something clicked.
“The combination of the lap steel, the combination of the instruments or the simplicity of the songs,” he explains. It was something Sellers, for a long time, believed would happen – he just didn’t know how. And now it had. By meeting people and asking. That was a year ago.

Beatific Star was recorded in Sellers’ apartment on Castle Street. He did it all himself, playing, recording, completely DIY and homemade. The process can’t be anymore hand crafted, hand crafted like the beautiful tables in his home made from scraps of fine wood.
“The first song I wrote was ‘One Love’ off the first CD. Laura Spencer and Addie Wuensch sang on it. It’s nothing but A and E the whole time.”
The song is about the worst day Sellers ever experienced, the day the door slammed shut, in which all the ways out of trouble were used up. There was another charge and knew he would be going before a judge again. His lawyer told him to quit his job because the lawyer couldn’t save him this time.
“He told me I was going to jail.”
Stephen felt broken, depressed and lonely. Pulling all the curtains in the apartment, he locked the door. Hiding. He sat quietly with a fifth of bourbon and a refrigerator of booze. Some grass. Sitting alone in a dark apartment getting tanked. While it was happening he began to think about what a sad existence to live, to be so scared that someone will knock on the door.
“I’m in there with the only things that I trust to make me feel good,” He says, “and I just felt so defeated.”
‘One Love’ is about that day. The song sounds like it’s about a girl but it’s about booze. It’s about being locked away, about how obsessed he’d become, how trusting of substances much in the way a husband might confide in his wife. Writing the song was in part cathartic. It seemed to feel good to write the song so that now he can be honest about it, can tell people about it. To feel naked and be more comfortable. And he tried another song about a past relationship to see if he could feel better about it as well. And it did. This led to thinking about specific things, markers in his life that encompassed a life falling towards substance abuse.
Take the first song on Beatific Star, ‘Page 91,’ about an eighteen year old Sellers starting to discover drinking and grass, being able to do whatever he wanted to do when he wanted to do it in the first year of college.
“I discovered that this stuff temporarily solves all my problems. If I’m worried about something alcohol makes that go away. Grass seems to make that go away. This stuff is kind of a solution. ‘Page 91’ is about being 18 and the entire CD runs up until ‘Away to the Sun’ about coming out on the other side, of finding a way to be happy.”
Addie and Sellers worked opposite shifts at A Little Bit Hippy at the Cotton Exchange. He worked when Addie didn’t, never really meeting. Addie came in to work for a check one day and they finally spoke. The conversation was about art and the jewelry she made. Music came up and Addie mentioned that she and her friend Laura hang out and harmonize together. Stephen invited them over to his apartment.
On a Wednesday about five o’clock Beatific Star was given additional flavor. Until then he wrote and played all the parts, the only person involved in everything. That Wednesday was the first time he heard anyone else interject in his music. Addie and Laura came up with a harmony on ‘One Love’ and it was a revelation.
“I didn’t know that anything I wrote could sound like that,” he says. “On that CD the vocals are very tentative; there are some moments where it sounds like I’m sneaking up to the microphone and trying to figure what’s gonna come out of my mouth when I take a breath. That got a little better on Getting Born. But when I heard them sing, they sounded like angels or something. So beautiful.”
After the Beatific Star album was finished - cases, inserts and the discs all made at his apartment, Sellers felt there was more to do.
“I’ve had more. I’m not done. I still have a bunch of songs ready to start.”
That next project was Getting Born. He loved the way Laura and Addie sounded, the way their voices harmonized together. He offered it to them to work on. Addie had recently moved back from New York and jumped on it. They sat in Stephen’s living room and hammered away at Getting Born, both of them adding a song each to the album. “The whole thing came together in less than eight weeks.”
They were all interested in playing the material out live, doing so last winter at Bottega to a full room, playing the songs sparsely, with just vocals, acoustic guitar and tambourine. It was a throwback to how people may have played in the sixties or during the early thirties, acoustic and heavy singing. By then, Sellers had two full lengths completed, a band and the upcoming project with old friend Pat Starkey, Aardvark.

Aardvark was born out of the RPM (Record Production Month) Challenge. It’s a contest put on by two guys in New England, an open ended contest encouraging people to get involved in the artistic process, to create an album of music during the 28 days of February. The only rules are that, you’re on the honor system, that it all be recorded in the month of February. In part, it’s to get people that have been hanging onto songs and not doing anything with them or half completed projects, to make an album of music. Artists can use older material but they encourage people to do a project from square one, beginning to end, in those 28 days.
A third of Aardvark was recorded in Virginia in Pat Starkey’s basement. Sellers made the trip with different ideas about what the album would be. Nothing was written until the pair got together.
“I thought he had a bunch of music ready to record and was counting on me to record about twenty minutes worth of stuff and then go up there and record his stuff and then pile it all together onto one CD.”
Sellers thought they were going to start making noises and turn them into songs. He returned with pretty basic guitar and drum tracks. “It was a scramble and that’s why there’s some filler on that thing.”
Starkey and Sellers reconnected years ago after both of their lives had been in a tail spin. Sellers was living in Connecticut and getting out of prison. He returned to Virginia and heard a rumor that Starkey cleaned up seven years ago and was doing well, having a good life.
“So I looked him up and asked for help. That’s how we reconnected and he helped me start the process of getting clean. Then there we are four years later in a basement playing music again, both clean. That was the amazing part of that process, that me and this guy that had played music in Virginia, we’re back together in his house recording this project and I wrote some lyrics around that experience. But it lit a fire under Pat because after I left he called me two days later saying he ordered microphones, a 16-track, a keyboard, and musical equipment. The whole process, Pat wanted to keep doing it.”

The members of Revolution Summer have been going in different directions lately. Missy is working on another movie, Rich and Shawna are moving back to Los Angeles and trying to sell their house. Everyone wants to get together.
Sellers likes to stay busy, he likes to and probably needs to. But is it potentially harmful to take so much on? He doesn’t necessarily think so.
“I have a tendency to take on too much stuff. I also have a tendency to underestimate myself. I’ve wrestled with it all of my life. It’s back to not having enough confidence in my own abilities. I’m at a point where I’m willing to take on a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes it’ll be three o’clock in the morning and I’ve been up 24 hours and I’ll have three more days of stuff I’ve got mapped out to do, obligated, or want to do. I’ll think, I’m doing it again, I have too much to do, but to this point I’ve managed to get all that stuff accomplished. I think in some cases I underestimate what I can do but then a lot of people do. It just depends on where your passions are, where your heart lies. People who take on artistic endeavors, people who have a deep need to create, and are uncomfortable when they’re not creating are willing to make almost any kind of sacrifice to do that kind of stuff. What I’m finding out is that this is the stuff that makes this a cool and happy process for me. I can get wrapped up into my ego but the thing that really makes me happy is that I’ve connected with friends and what happens when all of us get together.”

Sellers sits atop an old stool in his living room, the sun setting casually and air moving coolly through the open front door. He sits up straight, eyes always seeming to be somewhere else yet focused on the moment. I wonder if he is merely looking out the window or at the house across the street he may help paint this summer. Or maybe, he’s just thinking of a new song idea. I think Sellers has been doing the same thing in the last several years, constructing songs as he reconstructed his life. I know when he gets inspired he knows to put on a pot of coffee. It’s a tremendous feeling, no substance can give you that type of energy. The best drug is creating; the need to do something that inspires you. It has to be synonymous with peacefulness and a stilted calm.
“I’m already in a place I never thought I’d ever be anyway. So for all those things to happen...everything else is like icing. It feels like I have this awesome cake and everything else that happens is extra.”

The last Saturday in April I walked along Front Street to a friend’s apartment to attend a birthday party. Crossing Chestnut Street, I saw someone standing just outside Bottega in a bright white dress shirt. It looked angelic, glowing as if the contrast were turned way up loudly. The shirt burned bright on the sidewalk against black trousers.
There were a number of people outside and I realized it was Stephen Sellers. He was talking to a woman. We talked a few moments and he was smiling ear to ear, looking incredibly happy. He had just finished playing a set of music minutes before. A homeless man was approaching everyone asking for change or something. Sellers and I were talking about few things for this story, a few clarifications. The homeless man approached Sellers, interrupting our conversation. Sellers stopped momentarily and turned to the homeless man and said he’d speak with him in a just a moment.
From the outside it seems like what anyone would do, maybe to blow someone off. Sellers turned his attention back to me and we spoke a little longer. I said I’d call him the next day.
As I walked away Sellers turned and spoke to the man, saying, hello, how are you, man?

For more, check out:


by Josh Spilker

Dragan (pronounced “dragon”) has an African Grey in his living room, and it’s staring me down. It has large eyes on either side of its head and glances at me cautiously, in its bird sort of way. The bird is silent for a moment, a rarity in its life. She does not know what to make of me, a stranger. She has become content in this home, flying in peace, in her own recognizable surroundings, and I’m an intruder.
But I know more about the bird than she knows about me. Maybe she knows that we are talking about her, that Dragan is sharing intimate details about her life with me. The bird’s name is Lola. She’s a tropical bird, the African Grey. Her head is the size of a small cup, and fully feathered, but her body is mostly bare, too bare for a bird.
Lola looks at me and then back at Dragan. She needs reassurance from him about my character. Dragan tells me not to touch her, that she’ll snip at me. Dragan is Lola’s savior, and she trusts him. Dragan rescued her, driving five hours from Wilmington, NC to Virginia Beach to get her. To bring her here, a safe place in which Lola can be herself, and talk to whoever she wants.
Dragan picks up Lola from her perch and brings her over to the couch for a conversation. We are in Dragan’s home, a paneled house near Monkey Junction. His home contains three aquariums, all of which he built. There’s a large bird cage for Lola and another perch.

As we sit down on the couch, Dragan tells me Lola doesn’t just mimic, she listens and responds in words. Like how a dog barks, except with a vocabulary. Dragan says she can pick up as much language as a three year old. So if Lola is thirsty she asks for water. If she wants Dragan to take her down she will ask “Where are you?” The bird is not much different from a child who needs care and attention, which Dragan says many people don’t consider before purchasing such a bird. That’s why he had to rescue her.
“For three years, the lady didn’t take care of her. She fed her peanuts, and that’s it,” he says. Dragan compared it to a human eating only bread. The woman didn’t know how to care of her, Dragan explains and Lola is still naked from the stress, missing many feathers.
Dragan is certified as a tropical bird rescuer by Phoenix Landing, an animal rescue shelter for tropical birds. Based out of Asheville, N.C., Phoenix Landing will contact Dragan if there are birds from pet stores or delinquent owners who don’t want them anymore. Once Dragan retrieves them, Phoenix Landing will put them up for adoption. Dragan decided to keep Lola as his own.
Apparently, they’re not the most considerate of birds. African Greys demand affection and attention, just like a member of the family. They also live a long time, and may need assisted living.
“People don’t think that these birds live 50-70 years,” Dragan says. “You need to think that the bird will be with you for your life. That’s a decision for your life. You need to think that if something would happen to you, who would keep that bird, who would take care of that bird?”

Dragan Zeljkovic is in his mid-thirties and currently a cab driver. Originally from Bosnia, the town of Gradiska on the Sava River, he came to America surviving much of the fighting in his home country. Gradiska is split into Bosnian and Croatian sides. He lived on the Bosnian side and his house was bombed by Croatia in the Yugoslav Civil Wars during the early 90s. It was a civil war that broke up Yugoslavia.
“First, in speaking about the war there is nothing nice to say. Really, most don’t talk about it, but there were three different religions fighting for territory, around Croatia in that area,” says Dragan.
We stepped out from his back porch where Dragan lit a cigarette and showed me another piece of his handiwork, the decorative garden pool. It’s covered with rocks and he said he wants to put larger fish in there, if he had more time to care for them. He later shows me pictures of one similar pool and patio that he installed on Oak Island. The conversation returns to his homeland.
“I chose to go with the UN Peacekeepers, two sides fighting - you go in the middle,” Dragan continues. “I was with a special border police, because I had a lot of friends in that area, and I had friends that were Serb, Croatian and Muslim.”
As a member of the border police, Dragan watched different groups, like UNICEF, coming in and out. He checked paperwork and checked what was inside the various cars.
“That war was a very nice cover for people to take advantage of the war, and make it a business and make a lot of money,” he says.
In 1993, in the third year of the war, he lost “everything,” he says. He was a jack of all trades, having gone to school for metalworking, raised tropical fish to sell and even had a pet shop or two around town. “No good side,” he says about the war. “Everyone lost something. It’s been a waste of time.”
After displacement from his home in Gradiska, Dragan went to Belgrade, the largest city in Serbia. He found work doing odd jobs, one of which was supplying angelfish to a local general mercantile store. He still raises angelfish. In addition to the three large aquariums in his home, he tells me he sold a few others recently.

“Too much upkeep,” he says. We look at a few of the fish, and he shows me pictures of others.
“I grew up on that river (the Sava River), fishing and stuff, and now you can’t go fishing on that half,” he says.
Dragan arrived in the U.S. and then Wilmington in 2003. He came to Wilmington because he had people here willing to “sponsor” him, Winter Park Baptist Church of Wilmington. From what I gather, he was here for twenty days, and was able to find a job, and start out on his own. He’s been a manager for Chuck E. Cheese, he’s built countertops, worked at Mayfaire Cinema, bred angelfish, constructed elaborate rock ponds on Oak Island, drives a cab and sometimes delivers flowers. Now, Dragan can go fishing whenever he wants, or raise his own fish. His choice. And choices were very few when he was stuck between two or three warring factions.
“It’s ridiculous,” he continues. “There’s a bunch of hardcore stories, and I can’t take it. I want to live my life and I want to have peace and that’s it.”
Actual peace on land and peace on pieces of paper are different things. Peace may have been achieved to a degree between countries in Western Europe for the time being, but that doesn’t mean peace has occurred with its occupants. Dragan said that Gradiska was a good city until the war made it unbearable.
“War destroyed the middle class of the people, so it’s very hard to find a job,” Dragan says. “If you have a job, it’s like $200 a month, not like here.”
Such a common occurrence spread his family over three continents. His parents are in Australia, he’s in America, and his daughter is back in Belgrade. It’s a situation he doesn’t see changing, though he would like his seven year old daughter to one day make it here.
“I survived and I lost everything and I don’t want to do it again,” Dragan says. “America is pretty much a secure country, and I like it. And I think I’ll stay right here where I am.”

Dragan’s demeanor is pleasant. He is friendly and easy to talk. His openness is enjoyable and he’s always favored work with the public. The openness has a positive side effect in that he has more time to speak English which is accented, but pretty flawless.
“I learned Oxford English, but when I came here I didn’t understand 50% of what people were saying,” he says mentioning a particular British form of English. “I spent nights and nights on the Internet learning grammar and spelling. You can’t translate word by word, you must take the meaning of that sentence, and put it inside my head, translate it and put it another way backwards and put it out. So my head has been like a freaking computer. Sometimes, by myself, I have headaches talking to people. It’s been very hard for me, translating for people.”
Dragan may struggle with American English, but it’s different than dealing with translating rude American behavior. He recalls a cab story involving a drunk girl he picked up from lower Market Street in downtown Wilmington. He was picking up some of his regular customers from downtown, and the girl stepped in front of his cab because she thought he was ignoring her. He was ignoring her, but to pick up somebody else. Then the girl grew angry and began yelling at him from outside the cab. He picked up his customers and then returned for this girl. Upon returning, the girl didn’t understand how he would still be nice to her.
“If I help you, because it’s my pleasure,” Dragan says. “What you need to see is that if I help you, you help someone else. And if everybody acts like that, this world would be a lot nicer place to live.”



by Brian Tucker

Kenyata Sullivan has been involved with WE Fest, or, the Wilmington Exchange Festival, since before its inception in the mid nineties. He helped found the band Pandora’s Lunchbox in 1990 and formed a second, The Majestic Twelve, several years ago. He could pass for Jeff Tweedy, a head full of messy black hair and a voice that is genteel southern and a tough Texan.
I spoke with him in the low light of The Cellar downtown last March and again at his home near the beach. On both occasions he talked openly and at length about his life around music while smoking a cigarette or two. Sullivan is passionate about what he does, passionate about his family and life’s opportunities.
The annual festivities begin Thursday May 24th and last until Monday May 28th at the Soapbox in downtown Wilmington. Three floors of music and entertainment all for a buck a day. That’s right, a shit load of music for a DOLLAR a day. That means more cash in hand to spend at the bar or buying merch from something new you discovered.

W.E. Fest is several days of do-it-yourself, volunteer-run entertainment that always takes place during the week of Memorial Day Weekend. Only indie-label and unsigned bands are allowed to play W.E. Fest; no major acts allowed.

How long have been involved with music in Wilmington and what are you known most for?I don’ know if I’m known at all. I’ve been involved in Wilmington music since 1991 when I started my first band. I had fan ‘zines and was part of the scene, went to shows. I started Pandora’s Lunchbox in 1990, 1991. The scene was vibrant, different back then. Very few bands left Wilmington to. Bands expect to tour now.

What did you learn from your experiences with Pandora’s Lunchbox that has helped with WE Fest?
Dealing with clubs, learning how to get around having to deal with clubs. That’s when I became part of the underground, for real, as in corresponding with people all over the world. Trading things with people all over the world, realizing how much wonderful stuff was out there that people didn’t have access to. This is pre-Internet underground. I think it’s hard for people from this new generation to realize how hard it was to find something that you really liked. There were very few choices in your local scene. There weren’t that many local bands, not many choices on the radio. It was hard to hear an unsigned band in another part of the world. It’s different now that it’s hard to grasp how hard it was to make friends with somebody in a band in D.C. It took maybe a year, because you’re dealing with the mail, before you got an idea of how much was out there that was just genuinely unknown.

How did the underground music scene influence WE Fest?The underground, the one thing that defined it for me (back then) was that all of us were different. The one thing we had in common is that we were interested in experiencing things that were new to us. But we were all very different, we had different political opinions, we like different kinds of music and we ended up cross pollinating and exposing each another to things that we individually believed in.

What was the catalyst for W.E. Fest?I was talking on the phone with Jehn Cerron who didn’t even play W.E. Fest until 1999, performing what I think is the single most memorable set by any musician. Jehn is about five two and gets up onstage with a series of repeat pedals and she builds her voice into these huge soundscapes by using the repeat pedals and then she whittles them down into songs in real time. It is breathtaking. After the set, one of the regulars, a punk rocker with twelve inch Mohawk walked up to me and said Kenyatta, I just heard the voice of god. Jehn and I were talking on the phone and she said when are we gonna get together? All of us fucking lunatics in our little corners of the world who are convinced we’re important. That was the impetus.

(After the conversation Sullivan’s previous band, Pandora’s Lunchbox , played the Philadelphia Music Conference. They stayed at one of the organizers’ house, Rick D’Angelo, who was fed up with the whole thing. He said he’d move down to Wilmington and do W.E. Fest. He still lives here, in Oak Island doing real estate. That was the beginning.)

It was very Little Rascals, C’mon guys let’s put on a show. I know a band from the Netherlands! It’s gonna be great! If you don’t get it, fuck you. The first year it wasn’t very well attended so I thought I sucked. I can’t ever do this again. I was in bed for a week. Then the press started coming in. People from fanzines started writing about it. Bands started calling and mailing thank you notes. Saying this is the best thing I’ve ever been to. This is the best thing I’ve ever been to because of this. I actually made real friends. I am booking tours now because of the people I met. People went from not being to get a show to playing up and down the east coast because they had all of these other bands who had in’s at all these clubs. Bands booked a whole a tour from the people they met. That’s what W.E. Fest is supposed to be.

What’s attendance like and when do shows begin?I would say that we’ll have over the course of the week, 700-1000 people. But who knows really, you just don’t know. We have nights where we couldn’t squeeze another person in the door. The music starts in the evening at eight usually and runs until two. We may start a littlie earlier. There are certain artists that have a specific crowd who’d want to see them at five or six. The bottom line is that everybody who plays, plays to a good crowd. We’ll have at least six bands a day, some extra on Saturday. Bands come and play for free. Everyone volunteers their time, pays their own way, from organizers to the artists which is why we can keep it so cheap. Because everyone volunteers we can keep it so dirt cheap it keeps it high quality, the essence of DIY. W.E. Festival isn’t for everybody. If you’re a cooler than thou hip indy kid you’re not gonna like W.E. fest. We don’t judge you by your t-shirt. For a buck you can discover a lot of music. That’s the goal, to discover things that will have real meaning in your life. The Soapbox has opened their doors, all three floors, for all five days.

Do you think that e-mail and the Internet, has taken some of the excitement out of discovering new things?
Some people do but I don’t know that I do necessarily. It’s just different. I think there are things that have been lost. There’s a personal aspect that’s been lost. It took so much effort to do it back then that it weeded out the weak, the people who really didn’t care, who weren’t willing to make that kind of effort to experience new and different things.

How much time goes into preparing for the Festival?Months. I try and start before January. Right now I’m waiting on confirmations, fan ‘zines for the kids, getting films locked down. It takes months and months to put together. We’re talking three stages of event, five days. That’s a lot of people and stuff to coordinate, a lot of events for a dollar a day. Some people don’t understand that it’s the idea that we’re going to get together and show each other what we’re doing and get drunk. The thing that’s really a whole lot different is that I’m dealing with a lot more managers than I’ve ever dealt with before. As a whole there’s a whole glut of would be management where a lot of people think they know what they’re doing and have no idea. That’s a mess. I’d say to any band don’t let anyone be your manager unless they have an established track record. Don’t sign anything even its from your friend. Have a lawyer look at it. A lot of people are calling themselves managers and they have a clue to what the job entails. A lot of people who contacted me for W.E. Fest are really bad at it, are clueless. And some of them are becoming known among people who book as people they will not deal with.

Are bands generally enthused about playing the festival, even though they foot their own bill?
Yeah. Next year we have to start not letting bands who played before play again. We have a huge recidivist rate. One band who played, broke up, but are coming this year to hang out for five days. We encourage bands to come play and not leave, hang out for a few days. The best part about W.E. Fest is about how bands work together over time. Get to know each other, share booking contacts, help out with shows here and there – all kinds of stuff. There’s so many ways bands can help each other. That’s how you build communities. The guys in the Dismemberment Plan still say that the W.E. Fest show was one of their best show ever they ever had. They played at three o’clock in the morning in a basement with three kegs. It was fantastic, everyone was up there with the band, exuberant, excited and into it.

In the loosest sense, what is WE Fest or if it had a mission statement what would it say?
That’s changed over time. When we first started there was a clear cut indy versus major kind of battle going on. You were on one side or the other. A lot of the bands that most every day kids think of as underground are no where near underground. There’s an upper tier of indy music that has all the resources, kinds of management that major labels have. They just don’t have a major label but for all practical purposes they have those things. So the distinction isn’t the same. But I think it’s all been nebulous what we do. For me, the best part of WE Fest is what happens afterwards, what bands do after.

Is there still a crowd for W.E. Fest? That’s the big fear. We don’t attach ourselves to any one click. It’s very hard to get people from these various clicks to come out because why do they want to mess with those other people? They don’t like those other people. We’re looking for the one or two of you that are real, that are individuals that genuinely have your own opinions and don’t let other people tell you what to think. If we can get a room full of people who actually believe something then that’s fantastic. You will be exposed to something different every night, not just different types of music but different ways of playing music.

Do you plan to continue the DIY aspect of W.E. Fest?I don’t foresee us accepting any corporate sponsorship because we don’t have to. And if WE Fest does stand for something is that you can do this over and over again and you don’t have to kiss anyone’s ass to do it. Our job is to make sure that everyone who pays their dollar leave thinking ‘I can’t believe that was only a dollar.’ And also that the bar makes money because it makes it easier next year. That the bands that play and all the people who travel feel glad they made the trip. We really focus on the bands as opposed to the festival. It’s the bands that make the event not the other way around. They’re doing us a favor by coming here. We’re not doing them a favor by filling a slot.

It’s a community service in a sense, exposing people to things they wouldn’t normally see.
That’s what we thought in 1996. We wanted to expose our town and our scene and our community to all the fantastic things we were finding in the underground. I remember on the very first day of the first WE Fest and I saw this girl, a five foot three hard bodied blonde walking down the street like she built it, wearing nothing but thigh high leather boots and a G-string with electrical tape on her nipples and she’d written with magic marker down her arm Fuck You I’m From Syracuse. I was, like, we win. You know, we win. She was the dominatrix who traveled with 99 Cent Special. She’s in California now.

Why did you pick Memorial Day weekend for the Festival?We chose it because it was arbitrary and no other event was going on then. We worked around all the major conferences. We were supposed to be an option. An option where you didn’t have to spend all this money to be considered. We took all the money out of the equation. Where nobody got in because they were somebody’s brother. A lot of those events, that’s how they work. This year we’re letting people do showcases – Trekky Records from Greensboro, Organic Entertainment is doing a showcase, Eskimo Records.

What else will the festival have besides music?Small press, fan ‘zines, indy comics. Traveling art. The Big Art Show is coming down from New York. The Yard Art people. All forms of indy culture, cross pollination, where the filmmakers are meeting the bands and the visual artists are meeting the people who are writing about them. Everybody getting to know one another. And beer. Beer is a big part of We Fest. We like beer. We started off doing microbrews but I don’t about this year.

Is the live streaming going to be a go?Yeah, it looks great. If you’re home you can watch it or if you’re parents won’t let you go to a rock show, which we understand. Listen to your parents.

Is W.E. Fest for everyone?It’s not for the people who don’t give a shit. People who don’t give a shit - stay home. The people who do give a shit, you will be in a room with a whole a lot of other people who love music, who love saying fuck you to the man, who love building things as opposed to buying things. People need to be exposed to this. But it’s really for people who are interested in seeing things that are interesting and different. And a lot of people aren’t. A lot of people they just want to listen to their 311 record again. And that’s fine. Good for them. But they aren’t going to have any fun at W.E. Fest.


Eskimo Kiss Records: Kim Ware
By Josh Spilker

Eskimo Kiss Records was started in Wilmington in 2000 by North Carolina native, Kim Ware. Now in Atlanta, she has released over thirteen albums, basically all on her own. The Eskimo Kiss lineup is geared towards indie rock/electro pop with a Southern twist. We talked about her providential trip to Vegas, drinking beer with her bands, and the lack of money in record labels. For more info on Eskimo Kiss Records, check out or

Bootleg: How and why did you want to start a record label? Kim Ware: Back in ‘99 or 2000, I was playing in a band called Pacer at the time. I’m a project manager at work my day job I was always the one who did the planning, booking shows, and doing the organizational stuff for the bands I had been in at the time. I had been talking to a band at the time called Lookwell about just trading shows with them and stuff, and when they sent me their CD, which was unreleased, they had just recorded about 5 songs with jerry key, and they were just sending it out to get shows and stuff. When I heard it, I thought I wanted to start a record label.

I got that CD and the wheels started turning a little bit more. We went to Las Vegas that November of ‘99, which was actually a trip that my ex (husband) had won. We thought it was like a scam, we were saying when they sent us the $500 cash that they’re saying we’ll get, then we’ll believe it. Well, they did. It was legit. We won this trip to Vegas, we didn’t have to pay a penny to go, and we got money while we there. While we were there, I won the jackpot on a corner slot machine, and so I won four thousand dollars. And I was like well, we were wanting to start a record label, and we didn’t have the money, and now we had the money to.

Bootleg: So the label is not your full-time job? KW: The label is an expensive hobby. I would love it if it ever turned into a full-time job, but it’s pretty hard to sell music these days. I think it takes a lot money behind records, to have everything in place to have promotion and radio. And the band needs to be touring as much as possible. I think having everything in one place at one time can take a lot of money.

Bootleg: What type of sound are you looking for now? KW: I’ve always liked indie rock and indie pop that sort of has a Southern influence. I sort of do different things, I don’t want everything to sound exactly the same. Hopefully, the common thread is indie pop with a Southern influence.

Bootleg: What is the hardest part of putting out a record in general? KW: From a small label standpoint, the hardest part for me is having the money and the time to do it at the same time. There are times where I save up a lot of money, so then it’s time for me to put out the next record. It really is a lot of work, and I basically do it by myself, so coordinating it and being able to do it along with my full-time job, and I play in a couple of bands, and trying to make it in a relationship, take care of my house, all of that is what’s hardest for me. Having the money and having the time.

Bootleg: What’s the budget like for putting out a release? KW: The Glaciers was the first time I paid a company to do radio promotion for it. It takes so much time to do radio well, even though it was a lot of money, it was about 1400 to get a company to promote it for six weeks. It got played, we sent it out to about 300 stations, and it got played on about half of them, which was so much better than what I could do on my own. If you include that in the budget, that’s about three or four thousand dollars. You could spend a lot more money than that.

Bootleg: What do you think is the role of the small label today? KW: Well, I think it can be a big deal just to have someone spend their time as something that we’re doing. I like to think of it as an extension of the band, as well, I’m really big into the whole grassroots, community event and the way that music is marketed has changed so much with blogs and everything. Which is really cool, it’s just one big circle of different people helping each other out. I like to think of it as an extension of the band, like a family. I think if you have a label like Sony, you won’t have as many people like, oh, the new record that Sony put out is out today and I’m going to get it, because I’m interested in everything (Sony) puts out. I have people, who buy every Eskimo Kiss release, who want to support what I’m doing. It’s just a small handful of people, but still I mean it’s cool, and everyone has their favorite label.

Bootleg: How do you go about finding your bands? KW: When I first started the label, I definitely wanted to focus on the Southeast. And the Glaciers, they’re really the first band that I wasn’t friends with already. They had heard the stuff for Citified, and wanted to get in touch with us. I’m starting to branc out a little more with it, but at first I was trying to do bands from the Southeast.
It’s such a personal thing, anyway, if I can’t sit down and have a beer with you, and get along with you, I probably shouldn’t put out your music. And I’d want people to consider me a friend as well.

The Vital Stats for Eskimo Kiss Bands

The Glaciers: Alt-country layered pop featuring former members of The Mendoza Line
Location: Queens, NYC
For Fans of: Beth Orton, Cat Power, Ben Folds, piano-driven shoegazing.
Release: “The Moonlight Never Misses an Appointment”

The Preakness: Catchy but calming lo-fi basement rock
Location: Atlanta, GA
For Fans of: The Shins, Beulah, Viva Voce
Release: The Preakness S/T 7”

Citified: Slightly spacey guitars, distinct bass lines, and haunting vocals with good allowances for reverb and introspection
Location: Greensboro, NC
For Fans of: REM, Red House Painters, Snowden, stripped-down Echo and The Bunnymen
Release: Citified S/T

Jane Francis: Defiant folk in classic singer/songwriter mode
Location: Saxapahaw, NC
For Fans Of: Lucinda Williams, Joni Mitchell, Denison Witmer, Forget Cassettes
Release: “Skeletons For Tea”


By Brian Tucker

Johnny Depp sported a tattoo in the early 90’s that read ‘Winona Forever,’ referencing his engagement to actress Winona Ryder. When the relationship ended the tattoo was altered to read ‘Wino Forever,’ blocking out the ‘n’ and ‘a’ with black ink. Today, he could go the way of Danny Bonaduce, having it removed by laser.
Technology has come a long way it seems. Tattoo removal is as commonplace as hair removal or ridding noticeable spider veins. In an effort to clean up the image of marines, the Marine Corps began limiting tattoos last March, banning large tattoos below the elbow and the knee (the Army is not following the same pattern, allowing tattoos above the neckline). This led to many marines getting tattoos before the deadline. Still, what about removal?
In Wilmington tattoo removal is available at Atlantic Dermatology and now Lucky Seven Tattoo, the only tattoo shop in the area with a laser removal machine. Now, you can return to the tattoo parlor for removal or alterations if you’re in Johnny Depp’s predicament. It’s relatively painless and takes anywhere from four to ten treatments. But people enter into removal for a variety of reasons.
Laura, the nursing supervisor at Atlantic Dermatology said, “Usually we get people who get a tattoo on a weekend and realize they don’t like what they’ve done. People call and see what they can do to get rid of it.” She says that clients range in all ages, those who got them years ago and don’t want them anymore. But it may be work related as well. “Jobs require employees to not have them, they can’t cover them up.” Or it’s familial. “Spouses don’t like them for whatever reason and they feel like they have to get rid of them.”
But for those expecting removal to be done in a drive-thru fashion it’s not quicker than when the tattoo was originally inked. Removal of a tattoo is dependent upon several things, the colors used, the type of inks, which laser machine used for the removal and time. Most tattoos take between four to ten treatments. Between these treatments the skin has to heal and that period of time is different for the individual.
Atlantic Dermatology uses a machine that is in rotation between offices and they utilize different lasers for removal, depending on the tattoo. They have found that their Gentle Laze laser used for hyper pigmentation and laser hair removal treats them (tattoos) also. They allow up to three months between treatments but is dependent on the rate of healing.
“We evaluate everything at the consultation and if we feel they’re a good candidate - if they’ll get good results, if they’re tattoos are either, we call them jailhouse tattoos or if they’re professional tattoos. Because we don’t know the inks that were used,” Laura says. The homemade, or, jailhouse tattoos, might be harder to get rid of or easier to get rid of. The doctor or physician’s assistant don’t know what inks were used. These are the factors involved in evaluating and removing the tattoo and then there’s healing of the skin.
“It depends on how the tattoo is healing,” Laura says. “There may be blisters, almost like a burn. You put polysporin on it, covered till it heals. Sometimes we switch them over to a different laser to so they don’t have to wait that full three months. It may take six to ten treatments depending on the color. Dark colors work better. Oranges red and yellows and greens are harder. Dark blues, purples are easy. People don’t say it’s any worse than getting a tattoo.”
Atlantic Dermatology has been doing removal for nearly ten years and the number of clients is steadily growing, becoming a lucrative business. So it only makes sense that that tattoo parlors get involved in the business. Enter Wilmington’s Lucky Seven Tattoo.

I arrived at Lucky Seven Tattoo April 9th. While one staff member was preparing to ink a tattoo for a customer no one else was around. It was unusually quiet except for the faint, tiny sound of slaps coming from a small room near one of the inking areas.
I stood outside this particular room normally used for piercing, waiting to speak with shop owner Brian Price. In place of a door is a tan curtain and now closer I was better able to hear the tiny snapping sounds, like a whip cracked by a Smurf. The sounds were repetitive. They were the sounds of the laser being used to remove a tattoo. Price has been using the machine on himself to remove a tattoo in order to show customers in addition to correct part of another.
Piercer Mike Page and Price used the laser to remove tiny moles and page used it for some veins in his nose. “We’ve been practicing on ourselves,” Mike says, showing me the work underneath his shirt and left side of his nose. By doing so, they have experienced how much to use the laser for removal. Another staff member in training, Tracy, had peach fuzz on her lip removed in addition to two small moles that will require a few more treatments.

“I was thinking about tattoo removal for a few years because so many people come in for cover up’s,” Price says. “Just about everyone I know has something they want removed or covered up.”
Price also wants to work with the gang task service in Wilmington in regards to tattoo removal.
Paul Cenac, MD was in Wilmington from Atlanta that day to install a Q-Clear laser machine and train Lucky Seven staff members. The machine is the size of an old fashioned typewriter or cash register and resembles a prop from the Jetsons cartoon show.

I listen to Paul describe other uses for the machine, hair removal and spider veins.
“Seventy per cent women have spider veins,” he says. “Caused by weakening from estrogen”
Paul used the machine to remove hair on his left hand three years ago yet his right is still covered with black hair. He did so as a testament to his belief in the process and refers to the one hand with hair as ‘monkey knuckles,’ a walking billboard for hair removal. Removal is relatively painless and the process for hair removal works by the laser killing off blood supply to the hair. I asked them to use the laser on a sunspot/freckle on my right hand. It took longer to prep for the work than to actually do it. We put on protective glasses and Paul offered a cold compress to numb my skin. I declined.
Paul placed the laser ‘gun’ above my hand and using a red light as a guide, ‘fired’ a few times over the sun spot. It looks like this; pulses of light hit the ink, vein or sun spots to remove them. The gun looks like a laser pistol crossed with a Makita heat gun. It happens very quickly. The snapping sound happens and the light hitting my skin feels like a mosquito that’s landed and trying to dig in.
Photo-acoustic is the term for that snapping sound. Paul refers to it as a sonic boom at the cellular level.
“The sound of the pulse hitting the ink under the skin. That’s the sound of the pigment breaking up, when you hear the popping sound,” Paul explains.
I was left with what looked like faint spots of ash on my hand. It didn’t hurt and the area eventually scabbed over a little and fell away. Less than two weeks later the sunspot is completely gone. I have a spot of new skin that needs to catch up on its tan.
As further demonstration, Tracy sat down and used this process to have peach fuzz removed from her upper lip. Paul applied color to the area above her lip and began using the laser. It looked strange, tiny bursts of light above her lip, as though she were being subjected to something you’d see in a Terry Gilliam film. But she sat calmly until Paul was finished. The end result was that she now had a smooth and shiny upper lip, free from facial hair.
Brian’s arm is a little more complex. He has a detailed, all black Celtic tattoo that wound halfway around the upper portion of his arm, approximately three inches tall. He has been removing it over time to show customers. One half is disappearing, appearing as a murky light grey tattoo and the other half is still solid black.
After a first treatment there is scabbing and must heal before another treatment. It is no different than when you scratch your arm, scabbing over and eventually falling away leaving new, fresh skin. Here’s how the treatment process works;
The laser strikes the skin and ink underneath. It breaks it up the ink allowing the body to absorb the ink particles. At a microscopic level ink is like a basketball and the macrophage (cells that ingest a wide variety of particles in our body) is a tennis ball sitting next to the basketball. The macrophage can’t absorb the ink because it’s too big. The laser acts as a bullet hitting the basketball breaking it down so the macrophage can absorb the pigment. Then, the macrophage internalizes the pigment thus digesting it in the cell.

Different laser wavelengths are absorbed by different colors. Black and blues are absorbed by 1064 nanometer wavelength. Reds and purples are absorbed by 563 nanometers. Greens by 755. Those are three main wavelengths used for tattoo removal.
“It tickles at 532 wavelength nanometers and at 1064 feels like mosquito bite without the sting,” Paul says.
All tattoos are the full thickness of the skin, usually, and have to be removed in layers. Depending on the amount of ink initially injected, and depth, it will determine how many treatments necessary to remove all the layers. It takes usually 4-10 treatments. That may seem excessive but bear in mind that during the 80’s and 90’s a tattoo would be cut off leaving the shape of that tattoo.
“In twenty three years of laser advancement we’ve gotten to the point where the tattoo is removed from the skin,” Paul says. “We use the normal processes of the body to remove the ink.”

Paul Cenac has been involved with lasers since 1983 and the first lasers he worked with were for cancer surgery. Over the years he has worked with lasers that don’t damage tissue but work with living cells to accomplish desired results. They are thirty eight different medically effective lasers. There are three wavelengths used for tattoo removal, using two of those wavelengths at Lucky Seven Tattoo in a non-destructive manner.
The technology has only been available since 2004, what is called a quartz switched laser, so the on-off switch works at the speed of light through a quartz filter. This is recent in the history of lasers. Albert Einstein theorized lasers (light amplification by the stimulation emission of radiation) were possible in 1910 while working as a post office clerk. Writing his idea on the back of an envelope, it was nearly 35 years before mankind was able to recreate his theory and make the first laser in the 1940’s which was essential in the development of nuclear weapons that ended World War II.
That technology is the building block of nuclear power plants and medicine so laser technology and nuclear technology parallel one another. Advances in computers and solid state electronics and chips now allow users to have a laser the size of bread box that once was the size of ten by ten foot room and switch it on and off at the speed of light versus having to press a pedal manually.
Paul works with lasers in various clinics and Light Age Incorporated developed the Q-Clear laser machine. The owner of the Light Age Incorporated made Alexandrite-Laze in 1983, taking it commercial in 1986. It is the basis for all laser hair removal.
“We want them to use what we consider to be the safest lasers on the market. Even the safest laser on the market can be harmful if not used with proper training,” Paul says. “The company feels it’s really worthwhile to not only put a good instrument in the hand of the end user but to give them the training so they give the best results and in the safest manner.”
I ask Paul about spider veins, another application of the laser. He says that generally women have thinner skin and thinner vessels and capillary walls. Their capillary walls break easier resulting in more bruising since the walls are more fragile.
“With that thinness they dilate from pressure over time. As the vessels dilate and get bigger they become more visible through the skin. They occur frequently with more estrogen pulses women have, occurring more during pregnancy,” Paul explains.
The laser works on spider/varicose veins by coagulating the blood in the vein in which the body comes along and absorbs that coagulated vein, removing the unsightly appearance. In addition a person will have about 40 times more venus outflow from the skin. Removing those visible veins allows the skin to look clean and still be healthy.
But how is it that a tattoo parlor can use a machine one may only associate with a doctor? Technology has made it more accessible and treatable for one. Second, staff members at the tattoo shop are trained to use the machine and are overseen by a medical director.
Lucky Seven Tattoo has a local medical director, who’s about two blocks away, that oversees their. In North Carolina the rule is the medical director has to be within a half hour of the clinic.
“That person is the medical umbrella, the medical supervision of the process,” Paul explains. “Even if this machine was in his office it’s usually the tech’s who do the treatments so we train the tech’s how to use the equipment to do the procedures. This is like the tech’s are not in the office they’re here (Lucky Seven) but still under his supervision.”
This is similar to what Laura explained at Atlantic Dermatology where Dr. Stephen Crane does most of the treatments. “The physician’s assistants can do them,” she says. “There’s no scarring, some people, you can see a faint image. Some just have clear skin,” Laura says. What is left behind may resemble a light birth mark.
Costs of the procedure are varied and worth investigating. It may be more efficient to go to the tattoo parlor than a doctor’s office. That is dependent upon the person. It may be cheaper. A tattoo shop has more square footage than a typical doctor’s office. To some, it’s more comfortable and less clinical.

But tattoo removal is becoming much bigger. Dr. TATTOFF is a name that is getting around. During the mid-nineties James Morel and his brother published the magazine Pop Smear in New York City which resulted in a healthy, five year run. The magazine’s vibe was sex, drugs and rock and roll. Morel won’t disclose the tattoo, but he says one he had it didn’t exactly fit the magazine’s attitude.
“I had to have a tattoo removed,” he says, “a ridiculous tattoo.”
Morel went in search to have it removed. That experience eventually led to another business venture, one that is very successful in Beverly Hills, on the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega. As CEO of Dr. TATTOFF, he and his business partners own three stores in California under the name Dr. TATTOFF. In August they plan to open four Dr. TATTOFF stores a month and with backing from those with experience in chain stores, plan on building ninety across the United States.
It’s good business. Morel thinks so.
“Think of all the tattoos put on in nineties. That style is not particularly popular right now. Think of all the changes recently with technology. People’s personalities are changing so fast these days that what you thought was cool even two to three years ago you may not believe in. You know, maybe it’s time to have that removed. Get your Soul Asylum tattoo removed,” he says with a chuckle.
Dr. TATTOFF uses a Q-switch laser, he says is the best on the market. “The lasers they used before was a ruby laser. The problem with those lasers was they got the tattoo off but left scars. Before that were argon lasers but that was even worse.”
The lasers used now use wavelengths that are specifically targeted for certain ink colors that do minimal damage to the skin. “So basically you can have the color taken out and it doesn’t take your pigment out or damage the skin.”
Morel said that yellow ink is tougher to remove and that a nice black tattoo or dark color on light skin has a very high chance of being removed. Morel says it doesn’t depend on the person, that the general rule of thumb is a person wait 6-8 weeks between treatments and that you’re looking at six to eight treatments also. Dr. TATTOFF’s patient’s age range runs the gamut, people that are adults who as kids went to their friend’s garage when they were thirteen and got homemade tattoos.
“Generally 25 – 35 years old and the majority of them are women,” he says. “Homemade tattoos are easier. The professionals use so much ink and they do a good job with their coverage that it takes longer to break up the ink. Generally, those homemade tattoos they can’t get the ink in far enough.”
Even in Beverly Hills Morel says that less than ten per cent of patients are celebrities but does their fair share of work for them. “Just being in this town, my business partners are guys in the entertainment industry, who own clubs in town. The word gets around quickly, Grammy winners, Oscars winners. They (the movie industry) do a good job of covering up tattoos and putting them on in this town.”
One celebrity was Danny Bonaduce who got a black ring tattoo on his ring finger to demonstrate the strength of his newfound fidelity after sleeping with another woman. His wife disliked it because it reminded of him cheating every time she saw it. Enter Dr. TATTOFF.
Removing the ring was different not that it was close to the bone but because of the location on his body. Tattoos that are further away from your heart, more towards your extremities, your fingers or toes, take a little bit longer to remove because there’s not as much blood flowing through there and your system can’t work to get that ink out after it’s treated. It doesn’t go away as well as on an arm. It takes longer.
“Not a lot of people think about that,” Morel adds, that it’s harder for the body’s macrophages to work to remove the ink.

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What types of music do play/prefer? My favorite is House music, especially house remixes of old songs. I am known for playing what's called "Baltimore house" or "Baltimore club." It's a mix of hip-hop beats at 120 to 135 beats per minute. Usually the music has low production quality, giving it that old-school rap sound. Lately the crowds have been asking for a lot of mash-up stuff. I put my own spin on it by playing a popular record for a few bars, then dropping a Baltimore house beat on top of it. I do spin some hip-hop but it’s a shame what has happened to that form of music. It started out so fun and original and now it just plain sucks. There are no new decent artists. It’s just all crap shoved down out throats by MTV. I miss the old days of rap.

How did you get into dj-ing? I started in the business as a bartender in a beach/party town in Maryland called Ocean City. My favorite thing in the world to do is go out dancing, but I was always frustrated that the DJs in the area were not as entertaining as those in bigger cities. I always wondered why DJs would just sit quietly behind the booth like a human jukebox. I felt that DJs should be as energetic and animated as bands are on stage. The crowd feeds off the performer’s energy. Motion creates emotion. Finally I had someone teach me the basics of music and equipment, and I took it from there. I really think that dancing had a lot to do with me grasping the concept of pitch, tempo, and mixing.

What separates your local scene from others you've been to? I actually am part of a couple of scenes. In the summer, I live in Ocean City MD. The rest of the year I live in Baltimore. The scene in Ocean City is a blast. I play to enormous crowds every night and do a lot of outdoor parties on the beach or at pool bars. It's just such a fun crowd to play to because everyone is drunk and on vacation. Musically, this area hasn't caught up with the rest of the world, but that's just part of the laid back lifestyle here.

Do you create your own mixes? Yes, I work with a producer and we've been working on original stuff. I've been contacted by some record companies who are anxious to get my stuff on the shelves already.

What’s the most exciting thing so far in your career? The first time I saw my name on a billboard. I called my mom right away. I also just recently saw my face on a T-shirt. That was pretty cool. Bud Light is my sponsor, so actually getting paid to drink good beer is another high point! Truthfully though, the greatest is seeing a packed dance floor when everyone is dancing and smiling and having a great time. It's very rewarding when people tell me that they came to see me again because of what a good time they had with me the last time. I work very hard when I'm performing, including jumping out of the DJ booth to dance in the middle of the crowd.

Lastly, what about you no one knows or would be surprised to know? When I spin at clubs it's all house music and hip-hop, but when I'm alone...I belt out the country music at the top of my lungs!