Three teens gather in the suburban town of Dobbs Ferry, NY to spend a wasted summer afternoon in the basement bedroom hangout at Kol's house. Armed with only a Rhodes electric piano, a violin, a Panasonic portable tape recorder, and 3 grams of Hashish, Kol, Nick and Bob began recording music which can only be described as "inspired" and would later come to be known as "Sheesh Recorded Live August 14, 1980". First they picked some books out of Kol's collection, consisting mostly of science fiction and electronics books. Then, with little or no preconceived plan or arrangement, they pressed record on the Panasonic cassette recorder, and began spontaneously generating songs. Kol held down the groove with trademark left handed octave bass parts and simple chords above, as Bob improvised melodies on his violin. Nick, using words from the assorted books and magazines, sang, shouted and moaned the lyrics. In between the songs Kol acted as "disk jockey" for the tape, giving each song a title and fictitious band name credit. That infamous afternoon they gave birth to 11 songs, many of which became "Doppler Effect Classics". The only recordings which precede this historic event are some of the "Splurge" recordings made by Bob, Kol and his girlfriend Angela beginning in 1979. These too were spontaneous works, free flowing and completely improvised, usually consisting of just keyboards and violin.
It was something like late 1981, but it could have been early 1982. Kol and I were in his bottom floor apartment on West 10th street, that was between 2 gay bars and down the street from a nursing college. Hot summer nights were difficult in that apartment, as the roaches would be steamed up out of the cracks by the hundreds. After tripping and seeing Eraserhead one night at the Waverly Cinema (some of the dudes there would dress up like Eraserhead), I remember crashing out at Kol's place and going to the bathroom: there were roaches on the walls, roaches on the ceiling, roaches in the bathtub...I remember counting 5 roaches on a beer can alone...
Anyway...one night Kol and I were jamming on a totally distorted Kol-ified bass, creating some sounds we called "Metallic Fluids" in those days, probably classified as a form of Splurge by future Dopplerites. These deep, reverberant, maxi-minimalist sounds must have been flowing upwards through the roach cracks into Kinky Friedman's apartment who lived upstairs (and who used to inform us of quittin' time with a few solid pounds on the floor with his boot), as one day there was a knock on the door.
Opening the door, there was a couple of dudes, one of whom British or something. The British guy spoke: "That's the most amazing thing ah've evah huudh" he says, stunned both by music and whatever metallics were flowing through HIS fluids at the moment. This was a friend of Kinky Friedman who was visiting him when he was blessed by the Doppler Sounds.
Some moments later they were inside. The British dude looked around and mumbled "How do you LIVE here..." and asked us to "do it again", but we were kind of zoned and never got around to it. "No, of course you can't repeat that..." I remember him saying.
So we were hangin' and Kol had a copy of the Village Voice on the table, and the other non-British dude started leafing through the gigs section. I noticed John Cale was playing soon, and mentioned it. "Oh, this is John Cale" says the american dude.
I remember him talking about Eno, Tom Verlaine, and being excited about Glenn Branca who was really becoming known at the time. He eventually got around to asking us to play with him at an upcoming gig. We had been talking about band names and i had mentioned that "Doppler Effect" was interesting (it came from hearing the pitch from an ambulance change as it passed by), "so you'd be Doppler Effect, then?" he asked us, and somehow we responded in the affirmative.
The gig was cool, and I remember playing classic Cale Tunes such as Fear, and Heartbreak Hotel (!). It was at the club Stillwende, and I happened to notice a couple of weeks ago (in December 1999) that the building has half of a Statue of Liberty head on top of it now.
The funny thing was, none of us had ever really listened to much Cale, or even much of the Velvets. As always, Doppler Effect existed and still exists in its own space time continuum: some influences manage to seep in through the roach cracks, but it has always been its own, original thing. Amen.
Anyway, the apartment was a stone's throw from St. Marks place, which at that time was still kind of edgy (it's kind of a tourist dump now, but there are still a lot of interesting CD joints there). I remember grabbin' a couple of slices at St. Marks pizza at about 3:00AM on a Saturday night. It was still somewhat busy, but now the interesting types were out and about. Standing next to me was a conservatively dressed....uh..lady, who ordered a slice in what sounded a hell of a lot like male falsetto. Looking up into her face (I'm 6'1'') it became clear that this was a man, but in very convincing drag. The look on his face as he realized I realized he was male was something like panic mixed with fear, which really creeped me out. In the other direction (towards 2nd ave) there was a hinged sculpture laying out in the middle of nowhere. Smoking, tripping, and the drinking of $5 bottles of wine occurred, and we would go and re-sculpt the urban toy/sculpture-thing into different shapes, as appeared to be the artist's intention. Ecstacy was still legal at this time, and Cindy X-tacy would shuttle up to MIT (I think) and occasionally distribute a new batch. Musically Doppler Effect was kind of meandering at this point...we generated a bunch of Tabla and Marimba multitracked polyrythmic stuff that I would be surprised still existed on tape somewhere. But it was Brooklyn where Doppler Effect started to turn into a real band...
So Nick, Kol, Angela, and (I believe)
Margie moved in over on the edge of Park Slope
(Brooklyn), on the top floor of a 4 story brownstone (it seemed
like we were moving Kol's furniture every few weeks!).
Not technically a loft, but what in NYC we
call a floor-thru. This was within walking distance of my own home,
so nights i would march past the housing projects to go over and jam/smoke/etc....
This is where some of the first real Doppler Effect songs were
written, and where the band started to take on a
character of its own. Most notably, this
was where Nick really turned into a songwriter/lead singer: Heart
on a Chain...Andropov Drop-off (which got some college
radio airplay)..shoebox...I wrote lyrics to Bent out of Shape, Arrival
Before Image, Energy Rollercoaster, and parts
of Cowboy Ronnie...Kol as usual was the musical anchor,and
also wrote such tunes as "The Doppler Effect Equation", and some
killer counterpoint guitar licks. Musically
Doppler Effect had no pre-set sound or agenda...it
could be hard, soft, funny, naive, and angry as living hell. By
Around this time Nick, Kol, and
I kind of moved in different directions with respect
to the music: Sideways, Up, and Down, respectively. As for me, I had to
choose between getting serious about music or finishing
my physics degree. As the oldest son of pro
musicians, I knew enough to choose physics, and eventually moved
to China for a while, to sit out the last of the Reagan years. Kol was
the one who really knew how to play a variety
of instruments. I think he never had to make
a choice. Nick found a way to keep a fairly sane lifestyle but still
continue manning the Doppler wheel and eventually
manning the manor, the defacto hub of the
Doppler wheel, which he does to this day.
In 1985 Doppler Effect's line up in the grew to include drummer Kevin Baetz, bassist Michael Henegan and saxophone player Jonathan Gotleib. Doppler Effect performed at clubs in Manhattan, including CBGB, The Five's, Tramps, and The Dive. For a while we performed as a trio, and we also did some gigs with Jonathan. This group recorded several Doppler Effect "standards" and some original songs by the drummer, Kevin Baetz.
In 1987, the members of Doppler Effect began to branch out into other projects. I began working with the band See No Evil which was signed to CBS/Epic Records in 1989 and that band released two albums with Richard Robinson producing.
Throughout this time I was also making new recordings with Nick Kane. In 1986 Kane and I recorded a live jam with Bob Barleen (of Critical Mass/See No Evil) which we titled "Screams In Space" and in 1987 we produced the legendary "11:11" sound collage. In 1988 we began working on "Metaloplastika" with Bob Barleen, after being exposed to The Beastie Boys. Some of these recordings are available through our discography.
In 1989, I joined forces with a
band then known as Critical Mass. The
band was signed to CBS/Epic Records and re-named See No Evil,
by producer Richard Robinson. Robinson had
been friends with John Cale, and had
played for him some rough mixes of See No Evil's self titled debut album.
Cale was intrigued by one song, called "At Night",
and offered to play viola on the track. After
recording his track I approached Mr. Cale to give thanks and praises
for both his viola track and for being such a great early influence on
Cale asked what specifically was referring to and I said "Does the name Doppler Effect ring a bell?". Remembering those days of "metallic fluids" Cale responded with a sigh and the words "Oh no." We briefly reminisced about our chance first meeting and the gig we played at Stillwend in SoHo, then he went on his merry way. Taking into consideration the expansion of the universe, space and time, and the divine truth of Chaos, perhaps one day John Cale will return to bless the ever expanding realm of Doppler Effect once again.
it's hard to believe
there were no rules
there still are none
when it comes to splurge
just do it - as we did -
and have fun.