Today I speak with two guys from the Wichita-based band .end of story. The last few bands interviewed for the site were clear-cut “Bands Like Rush”. Today marks a return to an earlier tradition on the site: me featuring bands who its a bit of a stretch to call “like Rush”. As you’ll hear in the interview, I frankly admit to Skot Reed – lead singer of the band – that I just stumbled upon the band while listening to Rush channel on the web radio station iSound.com.
Nevertheless there is great similarity between late-era Rush (i.e. Snakes & Arrows, Caravan, etc.) and .end of story’s sound. We even hear a story from Skot how he got his early start in cover bands singing Rush covers – apparently in his youth he had the kind of clear, piercing tenor vocal range that made him a natural stand-in for Geddy.
Skot Reed: I was just curious. In your opinion, what is exactly is it that qualifies end of story as “Band Like Rush”?
Ben Sommer: It’s good question. So I was going to go there eventually in the interview, but the short answer is I’m browsing through bands on Jango and iSound, and you came up on both when I was on the Rush channel.
Skot: Oh, I see. Cool.
Ben: That’s a stupid answer and then the honest answer is it’s a pretty oblique relation musically for sure, and so another part of the answer is – I like the music.
Skot: We are both big Rush fans.
Ben: But maybe you are not consciously emulating them, and is Rush not your biggest influence, do you think?
Skot: No, not even close nowadays, but Dave and I, we played in our first band together back when we were in high school, and I won’t tell you what year that was, but let’s put it this way, we were learning everything off of Hemisphere in our high school band. So we were both big time Rush fans, but over the years, and I couldn’t even tell you what the last Rush record I bought was. The influence has changed. That’s just the way life is, but it certainly not that I dislike Rush in any way, shape or form. When I write songs, never am I trying to emulate anybody for that matter, but certainly not Rush.
Ben: Right, so that’s fine. I’m in the same boat with you frankly. I mean, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Rush, but it’s odd that I started this podcast a year ago when really my heyday for loving Rush was in college and high school and probably it’s kind of same with you.
Skot: Right, exactly. It’s one of those things though. I mean, they were such a big influence back in the day when the music was so different and just so unique and so inspiring, but no matter where they go or what they do, they are always going to love them no matter what they do, even if they put out a record that stinks. If you are a fan, you are a fan. Do you know what I mean?
Ben: Right. So tell me about End of Story..
Skot: I started End of Story almost 15 years ago. I was living in Seattle for a while when I moved back from Seattle in 1996, and I had been doing cover bands for years and years and years. As a matter of fact, Rush was one of the bands that we covered because some of my natural vocal characteristics, especially my vibrato and my range, it didn’t matter. We could play a ZZ Top song. And the first thing I hear when we came off stage was, “You sound like Rush. You sound like them, I mean, totally.” So we went with that and started covering a bunch of Rush, and then I actually started trying to emulate Geddy Lee and in the cover bands that I was in years.
But anyway, I had played covers and toured the country and done that thing for years, and in Seattle, basically when I live in Seattle, I did a lot of wood shedding, just soul searching and a lot of practicing and I started writing a bunch of new materials in a whole different style on a whole different approach and when I got back to Wichita, I contacted some musicians that I had worked with previously and End of Story was formed in August of 1996 and there has been some member changes over the past 15 years with several drummers, a couple of bass players. Dave and I hooked up, and that will be seven years this March since we’ve been back together and that’s a done deal. Between the two of us, nobody is going anywhere.
So we put out our last record called the Sonic Blueprint. It came out in January of 2009 and after that record came out, our drummer promptly quit. And yeah, we had spent a year making a record and you rehearse and get everything ready and you go play one show and he’s done. That’s a whole another story, but…
Skot: Yeah, we’ve been auditioning drummers coming up on two years and we’ve worked with a couple of guys for a length of time here and there, and so far we’ve just not found anybody that A) approaches the music the way we do, and B) they don’t just have the same priorities as we do.
Skot: Although Wichita is the biggest city in Kansas and there are a lot of incredibly talented musicians, they are all spoken for, the available talent pool is really shallow in our area.
Skot: Anyway, we’ve got three records out. The first EP, just a four-song EP came out in 2000. That was myself and a different drummer and bassist. The self-propelled record, and this is kind of a long story, but this is where we are headed so this self-propelled record was a 17-song project that I started in 2002 and throughout this project, a lot of things happened that put the breaks on it. My father passed away. I had lost all creative energy, so right in the middle of this thing I took a little hiatus. About the time I was ready to get back to it, the drummer left. The bassist and I talked about carrying on. I just decided I wanted to finish the record on my own. I already had the drum tracks recorded. So I finished seven songs of the 17 and then my son was born.
Ben: I know what that does to any career.
Skot: Yeah, I got you. And so anyway, the project just got shelved and it’s just been sitting on a computer and there are seven songs that were completed. I did everything on them, except the drums. I played the guitar, the bass, the vocals, everything. I mixed, mastered, blah, blah, blah.
Skot: And when our drummer left, when the drummer that was playing with Dave and I left, we’ve been writing new songs for a new record, but then we decided, “Hey, do you know what? Let’s open up this Propel deal, finish up some of those songs that never got completed. It’s almost done. Let’s just put it out as a full length.” So we went back and Dave played all the bass lines on all the songs. We’ve put his background vocals on everything, so it’s just as much like what End of Story is today as possible. And I’m doing the final mixes and I’ve got some final mixes to do and then the mastering and hopefully this one is just going to be a digital release with iTunes and whatnot. But hopefully it will be ready to hit iTunes sometime in March.
Skot: Yeah, we just found out that the cover art for our last record, the Sonic Blueprint, which has amazing art work on it. He’s on board to do the Self-Propelled release as well, so hopefully he’ll have some art together for us about the time I’m finished with the mastering and we would put that out. So anyway, the Self-Propelled started in 2002 and we are going to finish it in 2011, so it’s nothing like dragging our project out for a while.
So – I got so burned out on working in a studio for everybody else because it seemed like I was always doing everyone else’s record and giving everyone else that extra time and the extra effort and getting nothing done for myself, and I left the studio business to focus on End of Story, and lo and behold, we put out a full-length record in a year, so I don’t miss the studio business. I enjoy doing it just for us.
Ben: Oh yeah, so you have a sugar mom in there, a career mom?
Skot: No sugar mama. Between Dave and myself, we’ve collected so much gear over the years. I mean, we are set up. We can make records for the rest of our lives and never need another tool.
Ben: Well, that’s not what I mean.
Skot: Well, yes, I’ve got a good wife.
Ben: Now, I wasn’t speaking about the gear. You are right. You probably have gear if you have been in the business, and even if you didn’t, it’s so dirt cheap. That’s not what’s precious anymore, it’s the time.
Skot: Oh yeah.
Ben: You said you were still in debt, was your wife or significant other or whoever taking care of the bread and bacon?
Skot: Oh yeah, yeah, with that one. My wife is an accountant and has been for years and years. So it just made it more sense for her with the college education and whatnot to go to work and make the money. She’s got the education to make more money than I can and it just made more sense for me to stay home and take care of the kids instead of trying to pay daycare. By the time we paid daycare and all of that other stuff, my job would be pointless anyway if I was working. So I home schooled the kid and I’ve got a great bonding with my son for all the years that we’ve spent together.
Skot: I wouldn’t trade it for the whole world.
Ben: Cool, cool. So Dave, what’s your story. Skot said in the email you had both admitted being Rush-heads, but he said you are especially a Rush-head. Is that true?
Dave Eichman: Yeah, yeah. My story is I grew up in a musical family. Skot and I are about the same age. I’m a year older than he is and as he said we went to school together and had our first band ever together when we were teenagers in high school. We just went separate ways over the years and hooked back up once or twice and this time for good as he said about seven years ago. But yeah, I grew up with three older brothers and they listened to Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, and stuff like that, and so those were my early influences and later Rush came along and I was hooked on Rush right away. I was KISS freak for a short period of time when I was a teenager.
Ben: Did you see them? Didn’t they used to tour together? Did you see them live?
Dave: I know they did tour together. I never saw Rush with KISS. I had seen them twice in Wichita many, many years ago, but Rush was not with them.
Skot: That’s just been great.
Dave: I have seen Rush a couple of times. In fact, I just saw Rush last year here in Wichita. Skot wasn’t able to go to that show, but I enjoyed it. But Geddy Lee, as a bass player, is one of my big influences. I picked up the bass just by happenstance. A friend of mine who lived across the street loved his bass thinking that it would be cool to play. He never tried. He found out it was hard and every time I went to his house, I just started picking up this old Kay bass and it just called to me every time. I started going over there just so I could play his bass and that was the important part of the friendship and I was hooked. I just took right to it and I just started playing and playing and playing and I was kind of self-taught at first, but I played in jazz band in high school and I went to study music at the local college there at Wichita State University. And so I’ve got a little bit of academic background.
Skot: He’s leaving out the important part. He had to go to Jeff Berlin’s Player School of Music in Florida and spent a week doing intensive study with Jeff Berlin.
Dave: So that didn’t hurt.
Ben: When was that?
Skot: Anybody can do that if he’s willing. He does that twice a year and I just decided I wanted to do it. That was what? Three years ago?
Dave: Three years ago this past September, I went and that was nice.
Dave: It’s all about academics and jazz. No matter what you are doing, no matter what your art is, no matter what genre you choose, if you know the academics, you know where it will take you further. And that doesn’t hold true for everybody. There are many talented musicians that do amazing things without all the academic training. But for me, it was good and it definitely helped me to get where I was.
Dave: So yeah, with Rush, I used to sat down and learn Geddy’s parts like Skot said back to Hemispheres, back in high school and even with some of the older albums, I just used to play along with that stuff until I got those bass parts down. Geddy Lee was just one of my favorite bass players. He was probably my single biggest influence, I would say.
Skot: I just realized the very first song that I ever learned all the way through on guitar was a Rush song. I think it was called Death If I Can. Is that Newsletter? Corrosive Steel or something.
Ben: Yeah, the thing with early Rush is – they have a nice combo with the early stuff – easy to listen and really play with the basics, core progressions and rhythms, but it will also take you to another level.
Dave: To quickly finish my story is that again, seven years ago, I got back with Skot. I had quit playing for about seven years. I didn’t do anything musically for seven years. Somebody got me to start playing again, but that was short-lived, and then I hooked back up with Skot. I have day gig and like you I’ve got four kids, two grandkids and I work 45 hours a week and we would spend as much time as we can with the music and that’s it. That’s kind of our deal.
Ben: Cool. Well, congratulations for being the first grandfather on the podcast.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, that’s almost five years ago I was a grandfather.
Ben: Wow! Wow…
Dave: And I’m a young grandfather, let me just say that.
Skot: Yeah, well, you see that’s why we don’t post pictures on our website or anything like that because so many young people now, they don’t listen with their ears. They listen with their eyes. They watch the TV. They watch the videos. They watch YouTube and all that kind of stuff.
Skot: And you are talking to two guys literally who are approaching 50 and it just turns people off. It turns the young set off. I mean, “Dude, do only granddads playing in your band? Are you playing in that band and that’s cool?”
Ben: Now, that’s funny. You are playing in a really contemporary style, and I’ll be honest, guys, when I checked out some of your photos, I was like, “Oh, he’s an older guy like me.”
Ben: Cool, I don’t give a shit because I’m nearing 40 myself. I know it’s great, but is it…
Skot: It’s only on the outside.
Skot: We are young inside.
Ben: Yeah, well, you sound like you are putting it down in your songs like any youngster, but maybe it’s just a little tougher to get respect because you are playing in a genre that even now is still dominated by the young kids whereas if you are playing more straight ahead prog, maybe it’s more expected to be an old codger.
Skot: Right, well, that couldn’t be helped. But we’ve got attuned on the Sonic Blueprint called Rewire, and that’s what that song is about. It’s just close your eyes and listen, and what the hell of difference does it make what we look like, just listen because if you listen, it’s not like we are playing classic rock.
Skot: So many other guys our age that we grew up playing with, if they still play at all, they have resigned themselves to weekend warriors and going out and playing their two or three sets of classic cover tunes to drink some beer and make a dollar or two and that’s it. That keeps them connected to the musician inside them and that’s all they require and that’s not Dave and I. I don’t care about playing anybody else’s music. I get asked a lot, “Come on and sit down with us, man. Come on and hit me again.” No, I don’t remember. I couldn’t play a covered tune if my life depended on it right now. I vowed in 1995 I would never play another cover again and the only one that I’ve played is the remake of Argent’s Hold Your Head Up that we did on our first EP, so that’s not my thing.
Ben: It sounded you and Skot were kind of burnt on the cover tune scene anyways.
Skot: Oh yeah, yeah.
Ben: That’s why. So I’m curious what comment you made earlier Skot that you got tagged as the Geddy Lee sound-alike when you are singing. Let me guess, and let me ask, what other singers have you been compared to, because I’ve got one or two in mind.
Skot: Well, the first one that I get compared to all the time, and I mean all the time, and I don’t hear it, I don’t see it. It’s a compliment, but I just don’t get it. It’s Layne Staley from Alice In Chains.
Ben: Of course.
Skot: Is that what you were thinking?
Ben: Of course.
Ben: It’s your highest compliment. I mean, Geddy is cool and all. He’s got great range, but he’s got that shrill wail to him. Layne Staley, that guy is mindboggling with his tone and his soul. Do you know what I mean?
Skot: Oh yeah. Well, you see, you are talking to a guy that’s been doing this for 33 years. So when I was doing all the Rush covers, I was 21 or 22 years old. I didn’t have any natural rasp or growl in my voice. What I have then was crystal clear voice and I mean, I can sing any note you wanted me to sing. It didn’t matter how high it was. I was just a 95 pound kid that had a high voice and my naturals or broader characteristics were totally Geddy Lee and they still are as far as broader is concerned, but as my voice started to change and I got older and it would start to break up and rasp out a little bit, it drive me insane, “I don’t want that kind of voice. I don’t want that kind of voice.” And finally, I just said, “You know, I’ve got to face facts. I’m not 21. My voice is going to do what it’s going to do. I’m just going to let it be what it is.”
And I’ve just completely gotten away from trying to keep it crystal clear and pristine and I let it do what it does and sing from my gut and sing with the soul. And as comparison to Layne, I’m not a huge Alice In Chains fan.
Skot: I don’t reallylike them. I mean, their first two records, Dirt and Facelift, I enjoyed both of those records, but after that I’ve never bought one of their records and quite honestly unless the song on the radio is from those two records, I’m going to change the channel.
Skot: It’s just me. I mean no disrespect to them or to Layne or anything, but I don’t hear the Layne Staley in my voice at all, but it’s got to be there because I hear it all the time.
Ben: Yeah, it’s there. I’m in the same deal. In fact, it’s funny. I’ve never been a huge Alice In Chains fan. A couple of tunes in the early albums, yeah, they were cool. I never loved them that I have to even put down money for them. But I don’t know what struck but for the holidays, you went to talk about cover songs. I’ve been reading about some success that no-name Indies bands like us have gotten doing cover songs and I thought, “Holiday cover song?” And I was in the gym and Man In A Box was playing, which actually I was never crazy about that one over the other tunes or early tunes they had but I thought, “Man In The Sleigh, Christmas Paradigm.”
Skot: You have a point.
Ben: If you are a fan, you could hit my side and check out the stupid music, the song paired with video I did.
Skot: Okay, good.
Dave: That’s cool.
Skot: Well, I have one Alice In Chains album. Actually I should clarify and that’s Dirt and I’m definitely a fan of that record. I love it. I’ve listened to it a thousand times.
Dave: Man In The Box was the first Alice In Chains that I covered back in the day, and of course, there are several, but that was the first one.
Ben: You will be horrified with my vocals. I had to lower the key as whole tone and I’m still breaking up at the top.
Skot: I will definitely pick it up.
Ben: Cool. You gave me your lowdown on what’s going on now, but do you have any imminent news or gigs you want to plug?
Dave: No, no gigs because we have no drummer.
Dave: We have a young man that’s going to come in and meet with us this weekend. Basically what we boiled it down to when we do auditions or whatever, when people calling, “Hey, I think I can play in your band. Let’s jam.” “No, we’re not having it roll. Let’s get together. Sit down and talk and get to know each other a little bit and see if we are all on the same page here before we waste a bunch of time.” Because over the past two years, we just dealt with so many people that, “Yeah man, I’m ready to go. Let’s do this thing.” And they roll in and, “Well, I didn’t really have the time to work on all of the songs, but I think I can wing my way through these two.” And it’s like, “Oh, for God’s sake, we would do this again.”
That whole level that it could work is if you are totally committed. We get together twice a week, but there is plenty of homework. Skot is probably the creator, mastermind, songwriter, engineer and everything there for End of Story, but I do homework at home all the time.
Skot: Dave practices more than anybody I’ve ever met in my life.
Dave: I’m a practicing guy.
Skot: Yeah, when we meet these drummers, take all the time you want. Just make sure when you come in, you are ready to go. Six weeks later, they come in and they can’t even play one song.
Dave: Yeah, it’s terrible.
Ben: Have you ever thought about hiring a ringer? I mean, that’s what I do. I have a guy who I’m simpatico with and we are friendly enough and he is into my music, but I don’t have a steady gig for him to commit to, and it’s just easier for me to pay him some money to come and then just tear it up. He reads well. So I can use that to my advantage to short cut learning. So have you thought about that?
Dave: Well, there is a couple of guys like that here in town that we could use, but that’s just not what we are all about.
Skot: We are looking for the third family member.
Skot: Dave and I, although we are not related, we are closer than any blood brother I could imagine having, and that’s the way our last drummer was. We spent 2-1/2 years with him and he was total family and when he left, it was devastating. It was like a divorce. It’s horrible. We are not looking to do just get out and play for the sake of getting out and playing. We want to do to words. When we hit the stage, you’re going to believe it. You’re going to believe everything we do, everything we say and saying whatever. And that comes with three people, and it’s in their soul and there is nothing wrong with it, with the other approach. That is just not us. That’s not our thing, plus, first of all, and I hate to this because it always comes out as being arrogant or whatever, but it’s not necessarily the easiest stuff in the world to play as we’ve discovered by over a dozen drummers failing to do so. And we use a sequencer live.
We use an ear click track and I’ve got a Mac and Rack that all the stuff from our CDs like shakers or tambourines or any kind of crazy vocal effect or anything that’s have real prominent picture on the CDs, I call it the icing on the cake, all those tracks are on that computer directly off of our CDs and because we play to a click, we just need the front house mix, the line right off the sequencer and all those things you hear on our records, all the little nuance is that the people don’t really think about all that much, it’s all right there as it’s playing live. We’ve had younger guys go, “Oh, what are you, lip synching?” No, then you don’t get it. It’s not like we are standing up there with the guitar parts and bass parts and everything else on the sequencer. We are just a loud live.
Dave: Loud and live is just life.
Skot: Yeah, it’s loud and live and in your face, it’s just all the little nuances are there as well, and you see, that’s the thing. The bands in this town, there is a bunch of good ones. Don’t get me wrong, but they is like one other band that even remotely approaches it the way that we do, and a lot of guys just can’t get head around it, around the we play everything to a click track regardless, period, and it’s a pro show, man. We don’t go out until we are ready, “Well, hey, if we can put 12 songs together, that’s enough to book any place around here.” “Well, no, not if you are in End of Story.” Now, we roll in with 30 songs and we have enough to do two one-hour sets if that’s required and it’s not that we’ve, “Hey, if we should put this together so quickly, let’s go book a show.” We don’t get out of the rehearsal space until we own it, and we are large and in charge and that’s the way we’ve always been.
Skot: We are old school stuff. I mean, I’ve toured in the eighties when you toured with a semi-trailer, even though you are bar band. You’ve got 300-400 lights in your live show and fog and spotlights and drummerizers. I always tell people I graduated from the Judas Priest Academy of Excess. My guitar rig, at its largest point, was eight Marshall Cabinets and four heads and a 24-space rack full of stuff. We don’t do anything sort of, and it kind of limits us where we are at as far as just geographically. There is just not a lot of people around here that can pull it off, or that want to. I think it’s more of a mindset than anything.
Ben: Yeah, I mean, I have been in smaller areas like that where it’s just slim pickings, but when I went to Amherst, MA - which is definitely a college town when I was going to grad school. Of course, there are a lot of talented student-musicians, but they are mostly not capable of doing really advanced stuff, but the youth and energy of being around that kind of area. It sounds like you would be better off. You get your trade off. You are close to family on Wichita, but you’ve got to deal with the limitations.
Skot: Right, exactly. You see, that’s the thing. We’ve got so many roots here with family and that kind of thing. We are not going anywhere. I’ve done that. Like I said, I went to Seattle and tried that for awhile and what I found was in Seattle, there a hundred million more musicians that they are in Wichita, Kansas, and what that equate to is a hundred million more flakes. In Seattle, you don’t rehearse in your basement. You rent a rehearsal room for the night. Back in 1995, it cost $25 a night to rent a room and sometimes that we have a small PA, sometimes it wouldn’t, so you would spend days, weeks, going through ads in the local music papers and whatnot and you would talk to these people on the phone that you would swear, “You are connected with a brain. Oh my god, this is going to be one. I will rent a room and I’ll meet you there at 8.” He never showed up. You never hear from then again.
Either that or you are pulled into the same kind of a situation. They talk like they’ve got all these experience and show up and they can’t play and you say, “Oh my god.” Anyway, that’s why I said earlier, I ended up doing more just wood shedding, just sitting on the edge of the bedroom playing guitar nonstop and coming up with a different approach to writing songs because trying to put a band together up there is completely futile. But our roots are deep here, so we are not going anywhere and that’s why we are patient. We are fortunate in that I play drums a little bit enough that I’ve actually recorded a couple of songs for End of Story and then also I program very well. I had lots of years of experience with programming and we’ve got several songs that we have demos out on the Net right now that the drums were programmed and countless drummers have asked me, “Who is playing that?”
Ben: Yeah, I get that, too. I get my drummer. He plays a midi, an electronic kit recording midi, so I’m able to later remap and tweak as needed, but I still get that natural human feel because it’s not a sampler. It’s really a human playing. I just record digitally instead.
Yeah, it looks like we are on the same wavelength as far as technology application of it and a psychotic commitment to excellence of not compromising, so it’s good to meet you.
Skot: And Dave and I don’t mind getting together and just sitting around drinking, but if we want to make music, we’ve got to do something, so the programs are done and let’s make a record, whatever it takes.
Ben: Now, you are here.
Skot: Aside from the Self-Propelled project that I’ve talked about that hopefully will be out in March, we’ve got I think nine, maybe ten songs for the next CD, so hopefully we’ll have a live drummer before we start recording the next record, but I mean, we’ve almost got enough material for another full length that obviously wouldn’t be out until next year sometime with the way we do things. So the music never stops flowing. It’s kind of we are dealing. I have got one right now that Dave hasn’t even heard. I wrote it tonight with the drum machine and my guitar to throw this at him.
The way I think about writing music is I don’t really consider myself as writing anything. I consider that I’m a vessel that songs getting dropped on occasionally. It’s like the songs are out there floating around and by some divine grace I get to be the guy to bring it to life, to bring it to fruition. I have songs that I have almost no memory of even writing. It’s just they came so quickly and so naturally it’s like it was all done for me. I just had to bring it out, to put it down on tape or whatever.
We are supposed to be finishing up the Self-Propelled record and it’s so frustrating because I’ve got a lot of work to do to get this record done, but at the same time, all of a sudden, I get that new song dropped on me and I can’t ignore it. I can’t just say, “Well, I’m sorry. I can’t work with this new thing because I’ve got other work to do.” So I kind of put the Self-Propelled mixing on hold for a few days and I’ve been working on this new tune, which will be on the next record.
So anyway, like I say, the music never stops flowing and we’ll never stop making it, even if it’s just the two of us. We long to play live again, but that’s where I’m most at home is on stage. I’ve been a natural born hand since I was a little kid and I mean that’s where I light up, it’s on stage. I enjoy doing the studio stuff and all that. It’s nice to be able to do that. It’s nice to be able to make records, but there is nothing like just the amps blowing your pant legs and people in front of you are singing your courses. There is nothing like it. Hopefully this year will bring us a drummer and more live shows because we are really anxious to get back to that.
Ben: Cool. Well, good luck.
Skot: All right, take care. See you.