Besides Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, no other band is as synonymous with the glory days of Deep Ellum as Ten Hands. Beginning in 1986, the group quickly garnered a solid local following that has not diminished in three decades. Although Ten Hands formally stopped playing in the mid '90s, there had been sporadic reunion shows until 2004 when several members left town. Now, some of those players have made their way back to the area and Ten Hands is set to perform for the first time in a decade.
Speaking from his home in Denton and in anticipation of Saturday's Ten Hands reunion show at the Kessler Theater, vocalist Paul Slavens was nice enough to talk to DC9 about the band's upcoming reunion show how more performances and a new album are likely to follow.
How did this reunion show come about?
We played for a number of years after we officially quit playing. We did a number of reunion shows during the five to seven years after we broke up. And then, what happened was that Earl Harvin moved to Germany, Steve Brand, the guitar player, moved to San Antonio. Gary Muller, the stick player, moved to Los Angeles. The logistics of the thing became untenable. In the first few years after we quit playing, we played so much that muscle memory was all that was required. All we had to do was rehearse the day of the gig and we would be fine. As the years rolled on and we had to find other people to play the drums when Earl Harvin, Mike Dillon or Big Al Emmert wasn't around. It became more difficult to sound good. We just kind of quit playing for the last ten years. It was mainly because of logistics. Yet recently, Gary moved back to Denton and Big Al is living here, too. He is the drummer for Brave Combo. Now, we had three out of five people living in Denton. Steve has become the owner of his company and he can now schedule himself more easily. He was able to come up and we've had rehearsals over the past three months. Tomorrow night, we are going to have a night before run through. The logistics finally became doable.
Does that mean there will more frequent shows by Ten Hands?
Yes, especially seeing how successful this one seems to have gone off. The thing's been sold out for over a month now. And there were a lot of people saying they couldn't get tickets. We are already talking about playing some more gigs. We are more excited about doing some more recording.
How long has it been since the band has recorded anything?
Gosh, the last thing we recorded was the album Jazz for Jerks, which would have been in '92 or '93. It's been a long time.
During the prime era of the band, the mid to late '80's, the band became synonymous with the then thriving Deep Ellum scene. But Saturday's show is at the Kessler.
Well, whenever we did the reunion shows before, we always played at Dada. That was our home. We played a lot of gigs at Dada. That was Ten Hands' main home. I haven't been in the club in a little while. We have a lot of history with Club Dada. When we thinking about places to play and it just happened at the spur of the moment. When we first started talking about getting this done, I went on Facebook and asked where we should play. People jumped on and put on their comments. It was a pretty good consensus that we should play the Kessler. The Kessler just has a cool spirit that remains me of the old days. It's a nice place. Dada has changed a lot. They took out the bar. We've been talking about how nice it would be to go back and play there. Maybe we will play there in the summertime when they open the patio. There's a lot of things about the Kessler that have a lot going for it. Seeing that this is our first time to play in a long time and our audience has changed. The Kessler is a little more mature audience friendly. It was based on that Facebook post. Jeff Liles just jumped on it first. He messaged me and said we should do it at the Kessler. He was the first one to bite and that's where we are doing it.
Were you surprised when the show sold out so quickly?
There was talk about doing two nights. Jeff thought we should, but I really wanted the one show to sell out. I wanted to make sure that it was a good night and there were a lot of people there and you could get that feeling, the way it used to be with people smashed together. I was a little surprised as quickly as it did. I had my hopes up seeing that we hadn't played in so long.
Whether it was the shows in the 80's or the later reunion events, Ten Hands has never had trouble selling out shows. What is it about the music that has made it so popular among audiences in Dallas?
We were at our apex about the same time Deep Ellum was at its apex. The New Bohemians were on the leading edge of that scene and then they moved on to greener pastures. There was a three or four year period, from 1988 to 1992, when Deep Ellum was still happening. We were just a fixture at Club Dada. We were a part of a lot of young people's lives. I know it because people tell that to me all the time. We were a fun band. The general nature of bands has changed a little bit. Back then, the idea was to get people up and dancing, having fun and moving. We weren't really writing heavy, meaningful songs. We were always playful. We weren't afraid to be silly. We had amazing drummers. You can't underestimate the impact of guys like Matt Chamberlain, Earl Harvin and Big Al and Mike. They were all great drummers.
When the band decided to formally stop playing was about the same time the Deep Ellum scene went into decline.
Yes, I guess so. There is a song that we did called "The Buffalo Club." I was standing on the stage at Dada and we had a big crowd. We had that Deep Ellum vibe. I looked out that window and across the street in that corner building was a place called The Buffalo Club. It was the first kind of gentrified, yuppy, upscale kind of thing. I thought, uh oh, here it comes. They are going to nice this place up and it's not going to last. Sadly, that is what happened.
Not only has Dada made a comeback, but the whole area seems to be resurging. Ten Hands could be coming back at the right time.
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I think all of us who were there at that time, we wonder if the Deep Ellum scene is coming back. There have been signs of this before over the past 20 years. Everyone has always wanted Deep Ellum to come back. I think that it is closer to coming back now than it has ever been. I was down there a couple weekends ago playing at the Twilight Lounge. It was a weekend gig in Deep Ellum and it was good. It was way better than anything I had seen there in a long time. It wasn't like it was in the heyday. I think there are now clubs with smart people running them. I think if the economy could just improve a bit, the scene could really take off.
Are there plans for a new Ten Hands album?
When we talking about getting together and rehearsing, I thought why should be just practice those old songs for the gig? Why not write some new stuff and bust it out, out of the blue. Why not make a new record? The idea of making a new record is something we've been talking about for a while. Everybody has done so much other stuff since the last Ten Hands record came out. We have changed so much as people. We have improved as musicians. We are all still really good friends and recording just sounds like fun.