Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we'll be meeting some people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily musicians, but more the behind-the-scenes people who make the scene move.
Chad Lovell played drums for Course of Empire. Along with fellow percussionist MIke Jerome, he was half of the pounding tribal rhythmic foundation of the band. He was also one of the producers, alongside John Fryer, of COE's final release, Telepathic Last Words. Lest anyone forgets, Course of Empire was kind of a big deal, touring the world alongside the likes of Sisters of Mercy, Stabbing Westward, Sister Machine Gun and many other greats of the industrial rock ire.
But, playing music seems to be an element of the past for Lovell, who now spends his time as a live sound and recording engineer -- easily one of the most crucial and coveted members of the Dallas music scene's support staff. Any time there's a show at the Curtain Club, for instance, Chad Lovell is almost surely mixing.
But that's not the only place you see him handling live sound. It's just the most common. He doesn't make a big splash about it. He's quiet, and prefers to sit back in the shadows. Probably because he's listening.
Listening is perhaps Lovell's most monumental contribution to the local music scene. While so may others seem to be occupied with talking loudly (and sometimes saying nothing), Lovell quietly gathers information on what's most needed in our scene -- from the simple demands of a band on stage needing "more vocals in the monitors" in order to perform its best to seeing the need for an Internet broadcast that focuses completely on the Deep Ellum scene.
Just recently launched, deepellumaradio.com is Lovell's newest project, and he acts as the station's go-to guy for all things under the operations and technical umbrellas. After the jump, we'll get to know one of Dallas' very best local musicians, who now spends all of his time supporting our other local musicians.
How about treating us to a "war story" from any point in your history in the music world that you've never told in an interview?
Every day on tour is sometimes a war, or at least it feels that way. I have lots of strange stories. Meeting famous people in unlikely situations. A few years ago, I was on the film crew for Black Sabbath in Houston, and I was running around backstage looking to say hi to Darrell from Pantera, and instead ran into Ozzy's room by accident. He asked me who I was and said to have a seat. I did, and we sat there for about five minutes in the dark, watching Jerry Springer. I mean, you just can't make this stuff up. I once hosted a dual-guest radio show with Beck. Just the two of us talking about Rush, I think. Very amusing.
So, give us a nutshell version of your pre-Course of Empire days as a young drummer.
The first time I sat behind a kit was as a three-year-old on a friend's drums in England. I always knew I wanted to play drums, and it came very naturally for me. My first drum set was a gift, from a kind old gentleman who owned a music store somewhere in Garland, I believe. He was trying to sell my dad a guitar and amp. He saw my interest in drums (I told him someday my parents were going to buy me a kit), so he sweetened the deal with my dad by throwing in an old four-piece Kingston practice kit. Interestingly, there were no cymbals, which in a way, directly impacted my playing style to be tailor-made for Course of Empire. I wish I knew who that old man was, because I owe him much thanks.
Give us your retrospective thoughts of your time in Course Of Empire.
Course of Empire. Well, I could tell you a million stories, and those that know me have probably heard them a million times. I was very privileged to play and work with them. The pairing was as unlikely and yet, ultimately perfect. Fate certainly destined us to align, of that I have no doubt. We were fortunate to be allowed to pursue our artistic dreams, to explore various philosophies and views with each other, and to write some amazing music. It was a defining part of my life, and, again, I simply feel so privileged to have been a part of the ride. Mike, Vaughn, Paul and Jerome are equally amazing people. I love each one as a brother. (Hi guys! Let's do a reunion...)
[Editor's Note: Seconded!]
Why the decision to unplug from playing in a local band, and switch to recording/sound engineering? Surely, you must have been offered some sweet opportunities to play with other bands?
I was offered some choice playing gigs post-Course of Empire, but my role in Course was perhaps a bit more expanded than the typical drummer in most bands. I simply wouldn't have had the same freedoms to explore that in other bands that already had an identity. Ultimately, playing drums for me was simply a means to an end. It was no longer about playing the drums, it was about the writing and construction. I felt I had accomplished everything I had set out to do rhythmically in that venue. As far as recording and live sound, I had experience in video production at an early age, so working as a recording engineer was a natural extension of the rock experience. I wanted to know all of it. I wanted to be able to create on my own terms. David Castell taught me quite a bit about recording in the studio, and I would not be a live engineer if it hadn't been for James McWilliams asking me to run monitors over at Trees in the '90s, and later at Curtain Club. I never really set out to be a soundman per se, however I was lucky enough to be taught well, and hopefully my work over time has been appreciated. I certainly take the job seriously, and I work hard to make every mix the best it can be.
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How goes your first experience with Internet radio so far?
Well, the radio production end of it was no problem. Dealing with all the little details that you have to with the servers and technology has been a challenge at times. Not having any experience with web design has limited our online presence, but I am sure that will be worked out in the near future. Perhaps one of your readers would be interested to help. It's been a labor of love at this point, but the on-air talent we have on board is brilliant. I think people will really come to appreciate the station this year. You learn something everyday. I'm quite confident that we will be better and more efficient in the coming months. I am very focused on the station now, and excited about projects we have in the works. I look forward to putting my own show up after I get everybody else situated.
Best local performance witnessed while piloting things at the Curtain Club? Other venue performances?
Too many. Slow Roosevelt, House Harkonnen. Rivethead, Trebuchet. There are so many great bands that each stand on their own and I love working with each of them. Really, I simply can't specify one show. I enjoyed my time at Clearview. Same problem. Too many great bands to single one show out. OK... there was that Feds show that just blew me away. Love and miss those guys. The Jucifer concert at Clearview was certainly one of the strangest and loudest experiences for me. When Trend Kill Clinic played there, I met my best friend, Elle.
What's the most surreal/crazy/violent/unbelievable/racy/all of the previous combined event you've ever witnessed while working a live show in DFW?
Trees was sometimes a violent place back in the '90s, with people were getting their skulls cracked sometimes. I have seen too much blood from fights, stage dives, broken bottles. As far as the bands go, Fair To Midland's singer scares the crap out of me sometimes with his jungle-gym antics. Joe from Jibe was the same way. Zac from the Nixons would get into some hairy spots. Great fun, though. There was an all-out kung fu war at the Curtain many years ago. There was one show with Craig from Brutal Juice at Curtain -- he always does something crazy on stage, but this time he decided to crack a beer bottle over his head in a comical sneer. Unfortunately, the beer was mostly full so it split his head wide open. Blood was gushing everywhere, yet they kept going. He eventually lost a pint or so of blood, passed out and they took him to the hospital. He still has a hell of a scar. I remember Pimpadelic shows with fully naked girls on stage pissing in a Taco Bueno cup. The Razorblade dolls chainsawing a pigs head in half on stage in the middle of the hot summer. It smelled like rotten bacon for a week. I have seen pretty much anything you can imagine at this point. Midget goat people with a tap dancing singer playing acoustic metal? Seen it.
What does Deep Ellum need to do to vault itself even further up out of the trenches of the mid-2000 slumps? What's left to do?
People. The people should realize that Deep Ellum was and still is an epicenter for the arts and music in this town. It has its own unique vibe, and creativity is encouraged. The scene is very diverse -- more so than probably any other place in the city. There is something for all tastes happening here. Everybody has great spirit, and everybody wants to succeed. There are some great things in the works this year. Deepellumradio.com was simply Kim Keebler and my contribution to help promote the scene. Personally, I have been down here since the '80s, so I have seen it come and go and begin to rebuild. There are plenty of other great spots around town, no doubt, with Oak Cliff being a major part of that. But Deep Ellum is a safe and interesting place to be once again.