Greatest What?

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In 2005 we put out a ‘greatest hits’ or ‘best of.’ There is some good stuff about that record and some bad stuff about that record.

Which first?

How about the good. Since our records were so all over the place musically, it gave us on opportunity to make one solid record that flowed… from mellow tunes… gently and gradually to the heavier stuff.

So that was cool.

But that was about it.

Now for the bad. The bad thing was that we put out that steaming pile ‘o crap version of a very good Cindy Lauper song ‘Time After Time.’ if you like our version, then I apologize to you for pissing on something you like. But to me, I hate it. I usually tell my kids ‘Hate’ is a bad word to use, but it works perfeclty here. That version is horrible because at the time, there was talk of getting a ‘single’ out of it, which is so funny in retrospect, because the only thing that does (thinking you want to record it like a ‘hit’) is put the brakes on. To use a sports reference, you go into ‘prevent D’ mode. You don’t act like yourself anymore, and you sell out who you are. We did that on that track and I regret it. We also were bending to whatever production David brought to the table at that moment, which was another component to us attempting to get a catchy song in play. Big, regrettable mistake. I love Dave and respect all he has done for us and everything he brought to the table so many time. But disliked his direction on that song very much.

And then it’s just a bit cheesy to be releasing a ‘greatest hits’ so early in our time. To me, growing up, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles put out greatest hits records. Not us.

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Putting out that record at that time also gave us one release closer to being out of our deal with Atlantic.

All that said, I offered to write the text piece that accompanied the CD, so that it came from the band.

Here is the final version:

Our first practice was 17 years ago, in a beach rental at 46th Street in Newport Beach, California. Mark, Rod, Stan, and I bashed out a few covers in a back room. I never knew Mark—he came to the first practice, longhaired and dressed head-to-toe in Adidas. He looked like a jock but a cool jock. I knew Stan and Rod from their band and because I was in a band at a rival high school. When our bands broke up, Stan called and asked if I wanted to meet down at the beach to jam. It sounded like fun, so I did. Rod, Stan, and I had all been in bands, so we kinda knew about each other. Mark had only carried their instruments, but he wanted to sing. The first song we played was The Cult’s “Wildflower.” There were some other covers, but it was a pretty quick session. I don’t think we could have dreamed how far that first jam would take us.

We called ourselves The Shrinky Dinx, and we played covers. We let everyone pick the songs they wanted to learn, which is a cool trait we still have: Everybody has a fair say. I think that’s what’s kept us together for so many years. I consider it an honor to have worked with the guys in this band, and I’m positive the ideas I’ve brought to the table have been turned into something better thanks to their contributions. Without them, I’d still be a guy in my room, playing guitar riffs, hoping to see them to fruition.

Our first gig was a kegger on 31st Street. The blue house and the backyard we terrorized are still there, just as they were 17 years ago. We were so nervous. But we sounded great for a backyard party band. We knew that the biggest problem most party bands have is that the sound dissipates outside, so we countered by bringing loud equipment. People weren’t ready for that, because most party bands just show up, plug in, and play. But at our gigs, even in the beginning, we’d orchestrate this huge plan to attack and conquer. We’d just go nuts. Rod would solo on Mark’s shoulders, Stan would bash his drums a la Keith Moon, his favorite drummer of all time, singing perfect harmony and throwing in jokes between songs that would have the crowd cracking up. I liked to keep the bass-playing simple—that way Rod could go off on a tangent and the rhythm would always be there.

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Mark developed in those early gigs too. He’d make fun of people in the crowd, like a comic at a club, and create and incite tension, a trait I think he picked up from John Lydon. It was always good theater. He’d berate skinheads, climb from the rafters, do David Lee Roth jump kicks—anything to leave people with a memory and a smile. He played those shows like there was no tomorrow. He also had this high, killer, screaming, rock ’n’ roll voice that cut through the guitar and bass and cymbals to stick its neck out and be noticed. He’d go for it, totally. No in-between. I always admired that. All or nothing.

After a few years of playing covers, we started writing songs. They were brainless, heavy-riff songs with titles like “Don’t Go To School,” “Lick Me,” “Three Piece And A Biscuit,” and “Golddigger,” but they rocked. (We still play them today in pre-productions for tours when we want to have a little fun.) And through a series of heavenly-sent lucky breaks, we got a record deal with Atlantic, signing our contract at Me And Ed’s Pizza House in Newport Beach.

Our first album, Lemonade And Brownies, was a fun record to make, because we had no idea what we were doing. We were like four kids in a candy store. We brought in Leor “DJ Lethal” Dimant (House Of Pain, Limp Bizkit) to scratch for us, then we found a full-time DJ band member in Craig. When we met Craig, it was like the band was reborn. Even though our recording career had just begun, it was like starting over. Which was an amazing gift. Without Craig, we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. The best thing was that he shared our same twisted and insane sense of humor.

We moved into a house in L.A. and toured Europe for two years straight. Our first official European gig was in front of 15,000 people at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium. “Hold Your Eyes” had charted there (of all songs and places), and the crowd screamed when they announced our name.

Sugar Ray

But when “Fly” came out, our lives completely changed. I remember hearing it on KROQ in between Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and an Oasis song, and I ran out and got in my car and drove around the block and listened to it and screamed at the top of my lungs. Can you imagine! Hearing a song you made up with your friends, on your hometown station? That was unbelievable. And for people to respond to our other songs on 14:59 was just an extra bonus. “Someday,” “Every Morning,” and “Falls Apart” got us back on radio when it looked like we might be a one-hit wonder. To us, we were just happy to make another record. If your song resonates with people, it’s a gift, but it’s nothing you can predict.

Growing up under sunny skies doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be happy, but for us it came through in our music. We just wanted people to have a good time. To this day, we’ve been blessed by other songs, other opportunities. We continue to travel and play for people all over the world, and our lives have grown infinitely because of that. From the first notes of that 1988 jam session to our first gig as a signed band on tour to the songs we’re recording at this very moment for this release, it’s all about the music and the people who listen.

To you all: Thanks for listening, and God bless.

—Murphy Karges

 

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