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MP3 Joe Harvard - Country Eastern

Country Eastern

13 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Garage Rock, COUNTRY: Countrypolitan

Since the night in 1975 that I saw my first local band at the Rat I''ve been in love- and increasingly involved - with music. And for a long time, music for me was synonymous with the Boston,mm, rock scene. Not long after that I began to roadie for the Real Kids, one of the bands that started the whole Beantown ball rolling. In 1977, as a sophomore in the Harvard class of ''80, I was kicked out of that fine institution for a year (for -- big surprise -- disciplinary reasons ... ) so I started working full time at the infamous Record Garage. I stuck around when owner Jack Griffin opened the Cambridge Music Complex then worked there as well. I met many, many local musicians in those two gigs. Throughout the late 70''s and 80''s I played in and worked for a number of local groups: Baby''s Arm, Unnatural Axe, Slow Children, the Sex Execs, Pink Cadillac, the Real Kids. I also received my education in vintage equipment, became a die-hard electric guitar gearhead, and began a love affair with the Fender Telecaster. I''ve had my favorite-ever red ''66 Teli for 23 years now, so long it has a pit in the body where I lay my pinkie; my second fave, a refinished ''57 with a maple neck, eventually found a good home with Dinosaur Jr. genius Jay Mascis; it became his fave axe...you can see it onstage at most any show he plays, now in a metallic blue finish.

With almost two years to kill before I could reapply to school I did a lot of playing and a lot of drugs. I fell in love with a Pakistani woman, travelling to Greece, London and Karachi, Pakistan repeatedly to pursue the romance. In 1980 I got back into school and scrambled to make up for lost time by taking extra courses and summer classes. I divided my time between rock clubs and anthropology studies. I worked as assistant to C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky [now with the World Heritage Foundation], the Director of the Peabody Museum of Ethnology for two years, taking a semester off in 1981 to take a paid job as draftsman on an archaeological expedition to west central Saudi Arabia. After returning I buckled down and graduated cum laude in archaeological anthropology with the class of 1982.

After spending a year (1984) learning sound engineering by recording friends- John Felice, Matthew MacKenzie, Jonathan Richman, the Either Orchestra and [Sidewinder''s guitar great] Eric Rose were among the "test subjects" - in my bedroom studio at 117 Columbia Street, Cambridge, I felt like I was ready to move on. My roommates felt so too....in fact, they insisted! So-So Studios went the way of all things. So I got together with three friends from one of my favorite bands, the Sex Execs- Sean Slade, Paul Kolderie and Jim Fitting - and we began a collectivley run recording studio. We built the studio- with a lot of help from our friends -in a warehouse at 169 Norfolk Street, Roxbury. The area was pretty rough, especially on our cars- all of us had our wheels vandalized or stolen in the first few months. As a joke I said we''d have to make the place like Fort Apache- and the name stuck. After a year I became the sole proprietor.

In a couple of years we moved the Fort to a new location down the block. Then a friend turned me on to a studio which was about to go on the market. The place was de-luxe so I took out a loan and bought the joint: Fort Apache North became our 24 track flagship, and I took on a partner- Fort Apache South manager Gary Smith. In 1987 Greg "Skeggie" Kendall, Billy Ruane and I formed Helldorado Productions to book music at a belly-dancing joint that served Meditteranean food: the Middle East Restaurant. The place, already a succesful restaurant owned by Joseph and Nabil, took off like a shot and never stopped; in ''98 I played a set at the tenth anniversary party, going on bewtween Willie "Loco" Alexander and Mission of Burma great Roger Miller.

Things went great for a few years. I was busy as hell, producing and engineering and playing in 2 or 3 bands at a time: Lazy Susan, Mr. Happy, Goo, the Local 22''s, the Brothers Kendall, even a handful of gigs as a member of my first Botown hero Willie "Loco" Alexander''s backup band. I played weekly shows at the Plough and Stars- first every Monday night, then Sundays,then Tuesdays- for almost two years straight. Joe Harvard Night drew some great guests, including multiple appearances by Kim Deal from the Pixies. Total coolness, until the unfortunate convergence of the recession and my 15 year-old substance abuse problem. Lacking insurance, a number of stays at depressing public detox facilities followed. Desperate to get straight I left career and kin behind and moved to Columbus, Ohio, landing smack dab in the middle of a dope epidemic in that otherwise lovely town. I got a number of incredibly crappy jobs, then parlayed a janitorial position at the premier live music venue, Stache''s, into a gig as the unofficial house sound man. That allowed me to see and work with practically every band in a town with a great music scene, and my engineering greatly benefited from the hundreds of live shows that I mixed. I wasn''t making much money, though, and what I did make I blew as fast as it came in. After 2 years of personal mess and fiscal duress I was forced to sell the Fort, so Billy Bragg bought my 75% share of the business. Columbus, Ohio was a very cool place, but I wasn''t able to fully appreciate it''s finer points as I spent much of my time shuttling back and forth to the East Side on nefarious missions. I did manage to build an eight track studio in my house, which I called Little Big Horn Studios. I recorded with some of the wonderful artists from Columbus, including the Haynes Boys, Los Clementes, the Science Gravy Orchestra, Andy White, Pica Huss, and Snookypuss. I also did some partnering with Chrome Frog Records, helped Craig from Pica Huss with the basic design for the room at Magnetic Planet, and worked with out of towners like Madder Rose on album demos. I made some good friends, saw some bitchin'' Ohio bands like Men of Leisure, New Bomb Turks, Scrawl (they rule), the Royal Crescent Mob and the Squids. And I met my [former] fiancee, a petit bombshell who was something of a legend among the musicians who played Stache''s, as she waitressed across the street from Stache''s and was a world-class cutie. She moved back to Beantown with me. So it wasn''t a complete bust. But being land-locked was messing with my biorhythm or something, I missed my family, and I figured if I had to be broke and a disaster I''d rather do it at home.

In ''93 I came back to Boston. I was a total mess. A non-competition clause restricted me from working in the Boston music industry and the closest I got to the scene was the intimate relationship I developed with the area''s pawn shops. I had hit the wall HARD. I entered treatment in September of ''95 and haven''t looked back yet. In January of ''96 I decided I needed a new profession but I was financially tapped out, so I began volunteering full time at a non profit, public-access computer foundation called Virtually Wired. I learned quick, and was able teach a few classes within three months. Later I started and administered to a highly succesful Individual Training program- the first of its'' kind in Boston. I''m especially proud of starting a program to teach computer skills to Mass Rehab clients seeking to re-enter the job market, some of whom had physical impairments or learning disabilities. I taught over 500 classes- one person at a time -and ended up running the place for a few months in the summer of ''97, when VW was threatened with bankruptcy and closing. The volunteer team I assembled put us back into the black and kept the doors open through the summer- long enough for a deal to be concluded with ABCD (a prominent community development agency) that got the organization out of danger. Having learned enough to start my own consulting and training business for home and small businesses I left VW in September to form Key TechKnowledgy. Besides servicing a number of home businesses, the Boston Police Graphics Unit, and half a dozen real estate, dental, financial service and management companies, I was developing and designing websites and working on ways to integrate the DIY spirit of punk rock, the energy and vitality of the Boston indie band scene, and the fight to keep the Internet an open frontier for all. And still playing a Telecaster, of course.

Joe Harvard. 1998.

UPDATE: May, 2001

Well, whoever said "the more things change the more they stay the same" definitely was not living in the same world as me. Not long after I wrote the above words, my six-year relationship with Catherine, the wonderful girl I met in Ohio, came to an end. We remain best of friends - she''s still a member of our family for all practical purposes - and despite many nay-sayers and pessimists we remained roommates as well for half a year after the "official" beakup. I ended three and a half years at Bay Cove Treatment Center after I met my current better half, Cathy, in Manhattan. It was in November of ''98, and I was on a New York visit to another dear friend and ex, Mary Fitzgerald. She had written the screenplay for a Nick Smith-directed film -Monumental-and I was helping with the music. Nick and I hit an East Village house party, and we ran into one of the film''s crew members, Jen Hixson, who had a friend in tow. As We were introduced I noted her British accent and her lovely eyes. Her name was Cathy, and when I inquired she told me she was the editor of a magazine called Lapis, and had been in New York since she came to the States ten years before. When I asked her to dance, she said "oh, god, I think I''ll go home now". And from this auspicious beginning love bloomed. After driving to New York for 10 out of 12 weekends, and finding out that we were losing our Everett apartment, I figured "what the hell" and did something I had always sworn I would never do: I moved to Manahattan.

The transition was a bit rough, as I left the Clinic in the final stages of a long detox, but luckily Cathy was a nurse in England, and studied homeopathy for three years, so I went straight into an at-home, drug-free detox process. To help me get through the ordeal Cat used herbs that smelled like some old bum''s feet, hot soup and Ibuprofen, and the same caustic humor she''d displayed at out first meeting. after 12 sweaty days in which I only left the bedroom to hit the john. After a disoriented trip to England and a couple of very shaky months, I felt like I maybe had rushed it all a bit, what with changing jobs, homes, relationships etc., and living in the epicenter of the dope world- New York City''s Lower East Side. So I got back onto a clinic in New York. It''s a drag, but it''s also the one thing I know that works for me, so I take it slow and my motto is "any day above ground is a good one". Better safe and alive than proud and dead, I guess.

True to expectations, I hated my first few months in NYC. But I started to settle in, and spent a year helping start up a world music and instrument store called Tribal Soundz, on East Sixth St. in the Village. I''d always bigtime dug a few guys who played traditional and ethnic stuff- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, King Sunny Ade, Hamza Al Din -but working with sitarist Daniel Fink and mbira/marimba player Nora Balaban opened up a whole bag of new stuff, especially in the Indo-Persian and African realms. Unfortunately, it turned out the principal partner had even more IRS problems than I do, so it all ended with a whimper rather than a bang, but it was very cool learning about a whole new kind of music, and promoting a few shows and events like kora player Mamadou Diabate at the National Black Theater in Harlem. Nora runs the store now, and it''s still a very cool establishment, promoting events and holding workshops by some high profile World artists. Perhaps it was all just as well, as Cathy and I moved to Brooklyn in the summer of 2000, and our quality of life vastly improved along with our burgeoning cat population.

My time in Brooklyn was divided between recording, working on web sites and writing a book- like all the old fogies, right? I was the webmaster (seems like the wrong title if they aren''t going to give me a leather outfit or a whip, but there it is...) at the New York Open Center, the oldest and largest center for holistic learning in NYC, and the same nonprofit organization that puts out Lapis Magazine, of which Cathy is Managing Editor. They recently were awarded Utne Reader''s Alternative Press Award so we''re all very proud of her work these days (though it''d be great if that pride translated into a few more bucks in the old pay envelope). As for recording, I borrowed enough loot to set up a swank Pro Tools Mix Plus studio (huh?, you say...well, take my word for it it''s reeeaaalll good), and after months of struggling to master this digital audio workstation stuff I''m as comfortable now as I''ve ever been using magnetic tape, and probing the borders of the film and TV industries to break into scoring. Even got my first real gig, providing the music for a movie preview series in the UK called Filmspotting, on their digital-TV version of the Sundance Channel, Film Channel Four. Meanwhile there was a no-pay gig as Music Director for Monumental, the as-yet unreleased indie film by Nick Smith and Mary Fitzgerald, some live recording and engineering for Mamadou Diabate and Jonathan Richman (the latter''s show with Randy Newman in Central Park was brilliant, and the first time I''ve mixed my pal''s JR and Tommy), and various odd sessions here and there from hip hop to grindcore. Besides the hour''s worth of Filmspotting music, I''ve finished a complete at-home album, and I''m now working on a second.

Lately Jen Hixson, our good friend here in the city, has been producing the Moth Slams, and I''ve been attending. The Moth is a very cool storytelling group that does monthly shows, always on a given theme that the five guests must stick to; storytellers range from well-know writers and actors to unknown food service workers ... in fact it''s often the non-pro''s who surprise the room with unexpectedly powerful or humorous tales. By contrast with the regular Moth shows, the Slams are just like poetry slams, with ten people whose names are drawn from a hat, then given 5 minutes to tell a story on a given theme. They are each graded by three teams of judges. The stories can''t be read, no notes allowed, and it''s interesting to see the different approaches: word-for-word memorization, looser stand-up comedy, fanciful fiction, true stories, totally off-the-cuff (I opt for these last two approaches...sort of story-as-therapy). Despite an almost pathological inability to keep ANY story under 5 minutes, I''ve done three or four Slams now, and it''s nerve-wracking but a ton of fun. After tying for 1st one night I was recently invited to the 1st Annual Slampionship, held at Nell''s in Midtown. I got to square off against ten other storytellers, and my name was picked from the hat eleventh -- dead last. A very capable (some might say "better") writer/storyteller who''d gone on third had scored high and stayed ahead through the next seven ''rounds, and he was just one shy of winning the whole sheebang when they introduced me. But the Gods of Gab were with me, and despite my usual penalty for runnng overtime I edged him out. So for the next year I could claim bragging rights as the Storytelling Champ of NYC [NOTE:James Braly was the guy I bested for the title; a talented performer and author who has done his own one-man show, James went on to win the following 2nd Annual Slampionship -- since we moved, unfortunately, I hadn''t made it to any more Slams, but I was a judge for that year].

So that''s about it, up until now. We are the unofficial cat philanthropists of the neighborhood, having placed 2 strays into homes so far this year, as well as rehabilitating three abandoned kittens and a full grown male who all lived with us- along with our own two adults. Catherine, my ex, has taken TZ, one of the kittens, to keep our old rehab''d stray cat K Drive company. So we have now two brother-sister teams: Skippy and Skooch, Monstrous and Jane, and then Earle, the former junkyard cat who was incredibly timid for months but who follows me like a dog now, having mastered the system of entering and exiting via a cat door I built into my home office window. We also feed another 3 cats outdoors, of which Nancy is my favorite. She is probably the sister of the kitten''s mother (Cyd, who disappeared shortly after their birth)... and after a year of feeding her she has finally begun to get close enough to almost touch. Oh yeah, then we had a dog named Harley, who had a tatoo...we found him tied to a fence, and Cathy got him hooked up with a great organization called NEARR, which places animals with foster homes. So if anyone is looking for a very nice Labrador, or a friendly cat like Earle- don''t hesitate to call. We deliver.

Joe Harvard, May, 2001

UPDATE: December, 2002

Nothing stands still. After 15 brilliant issues Cathy''s magazine Lapis has called it quits...due to fiscal problems at the New York Open Center, who published it. I''m no longer at the OC either, and have pretty much been working full time restoring our house in Asbury Park. Yes...we have a house...and it''s in NEW JERSEY! But Cathy always wanted to live near the ocean, and we''re only 5 blocks from the Boardwalk and the Atlantic, and only one block from Subset Lake. It was way difficult to put together, but Cathy and I just managed to get an FHA [spelled ''poor people''] loan and miraculously obtain a mortgage on a lovely [if somewhat in need of attention] three-family Victorian home on Fourth Street. Asbury Park is a great place. Kind of like Cambridgeport but with the ocean, much wider streets and bigger, more ornate Victorian homes. There are still some remnanants of the faded glory that was once the amusement park Bruce Springsteen sang about so often, and we love to explore them. Meanwhile the cobwebs of a couple of rough decades are being dusted off by a number of new arrivals, many of whom are, like us, younger families escaping the mayhem of NYC.

We arrived in AP in September of 2001, joining a group of stalwart pioneers who came here when the place was in sad, sad shape - mainly artists, musicians, various creative types, and a solid block of gay homesteaders - who were among the first to begin the slow-but-sure process of rehabilitating this grand old dame of the Jersey Shore. Now the state has promised a mess of money to help develop the waterfront, which has languished for almost two decades. It looks like we may have made a shrewd move coming here when we did, and we''re trying to get as involved as we can in the public meetings and other forums for defining the way the city will grow over the next few years. There are real challenges. not least of which are the tensions between new arrivals [who carry a crushing burden of the city''s taxes...7% of residents pay ALL the property tax!] and the mainly-renters who are being displaced. Newbies are mostly homeowners; veterans are mostly renters. The former group are mainly white and middle-class; the latter, African-American and working class, with a fair number receiving Section 8 or on some form of public assistance. As the once-grand homes are restored - from the cubby-holed rooming houses they were converted to in the 70''s, back to their original status as single-family homes -there is a growing housing crunch for renters. So there''s a real and pressing need for a dialogue and cooperation between all groups, to avoid repeating the problems that plagued AP in the past [black riots in the late 60''s, white flight in their aftermath, stalled or misdirected development efforts that failed to take all sides into account]. All of which adds up to an exciting place to be, and a feeling that we''re part of a pioneer group defining what Asbury Park will look like in the future to come.

After we bought our home, a number of friends began looking hard at AP as a good move to make. Cathy''s best friends and bridesmaids, Nancy and Jen, bought a place of their own. Since then Jen has taken over sole ownership of the place,so we see her almost every weekend, which is great. Nancy became involved in a serious relationship that finds her splitting time between the Berkeshires and Brooklyn, so we see her less- which is not so great -but she and her beau are still regular visitors and house guests, and have looked at a few places here with an eye towards possibly buying something of their own in the future. Since we''re only an hour and fifteen minutes or so from Manhattan, we are treated to frequent visits by other friends who live in or are visiting NYC, and by bands making the Apple-to-Philly run. Among these have been Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkin [Cathy and I had a much-needed October mini-vacation in San Fran, to stay with Jonathan for his wedding], the Twine Men [2/3''s of Morphine meets 40% of Face to Face = 1 great band], Brendan O''Shea [for whom I recorded the title track for the Indie film Monumental], vocalist Teresa "Charlie" Millasovich, and my former fiancee/co-member of Blunt, Catherine Boone; Catherine [and her sweetie Richard] holds the record for visits from Boston, having stayed with us once in the Village, then twice in Brooklyn, and now twice here in AP. Still one of my very best friends in the world, she also sent us on our honeymoon to Cape Cod as a wedding present. There''s a lot to be said for amicable partings.

So it''s December now, 2003 is just around the corner. I''m working pretty hard on the house still [see pictures using the link below], and in-between fun tasks like tearing out walls and floors, re-mortaring all the walls of the foundation, rebuilding the entire kitchen and bathrooms, etc. etc., I''m trying to get a studio set up in the basement to go with the control room I''ve built upstairs. Hopefully not long after the New Year I can join groovy local places like the Saint and Be Gallery as one of Asbury Park''s new breed of music establishments. Meanwhile, besides a bit of my own recording and a few production jobs squeezed in here and there, I have a commission from Continuum Publishing to write a book on the Velvet Underground and Nico LP -a hookup thanks to my cousin Joe Pernice, who''s also writing a book in the same series [his will be the series'' sole work of fiction, I believe, written about one of the LP''s by the Smiths]. My first book is due in July, 2003. But more, much more- no, most - importantly, our first child is due, in mid-April. So right now I''m off to hunt down some tiny little drums and a teeny, weeny Telecaster. And, oh yeah, a very, very small Willie "Loco" Alexander T-shirt. Rock on!

JH, December 10, 2002

UPDATE: March, 2004

When last I wrote in this bio my wife Cathy and I were expecting our first child. On April 24, 2003 he was born, and despite a few complications [which you can read about in the Delivery story] he is beautiful beyond out wildest expectations. Now, a few days before the eleven month mark, he remains a happy, fun and funny boy. He has his own guitar -- a 4-string Strumstick that he guards jealously against intruders -- and a Schoenhut miniature piano, both of which he plays with enthusiasm and a surprising amount of skill. Lately he has also taken to banging on a Pearl soprano snare, the smaller type used in salsa bands. He''s been lucky enough to inherit Cathy''s father''s hands, with long graceful fingers, instead of the stumpy, mason-or-laborer-ready digits of my side of the genetic equation. Cat''s a stay at home Mom, and besides the never-ending chores of keeping up a three story Victorian house she maintains the Lapis online magazine site, while I''m doing four nights at the Saint as head soundman, plus odd jobs and the Saint web site. Not exactly rolling in it, but ''re keeping kit and kin together. My book comes out in a few weeks, so we''re psyched about that. We love to hear from friends and have guests over, so stay in touch!

UPDATE: November, 2004 PHOTOS

It''s been 20 months since my son Aidan was born, [April 24, 2003] and he is still adorable beyond my wildest expectations, and still a happy, fun and funny boy. He jealously guards his wee guitar against intruders, bangs a Schoenhut miniature piano, and pounds a Pearl soprano snare, though his great love these days is divided between momma, his growing library and his miniature cars. Watching him grow, and being lucky enough to be around a lot for his first year, has been the blessing of my life; our nightly bath remains the highlight of my day.

It''s been 9 months since my book "The Velvet Underground and Nico" came out, and it''s doing pretty well. Not New York Times Bestseller well, but not too shabby for a first effort. On the music front, I''ve done a lot of solo shows here in Asbury Park, plus a healthy number of cameo appearances with local songwriters such as Mark Prescott and Rick Barry, and bands like Bubblegum. I''ve gotten to sit in with old friends like Chris Harford and the Band of Changes when they come through town, and I''m now playing guitar and lap steel with a wonderful songwriter named Mimi Cross [whose recent CD was co-produced by an old Boston pal, the mega-talented Kevin Salem]. Still, I recently decided it was time to get myself a new band. On Thursday, Nov. 11 I played a set at the Saint, using my former Dragster bandmate Jay Walker on bass and Marcus from Tom''s River on drums; it felt right, and we''re now rehearsing together. The following Saturday I was psyched to play the finale of Big Art Show''s Asbury season, this time with Sarah Tomek, the 2004'' Asbury Music Awards'' Best Drummer, on the throne. Super cool show, loads a folks including all the local hipsters, and Big Art had the Boardwalk Hojo''s loaded with good vibes and the work of over twenty artists. I''d lost a bet on the Presidential Election which involved my getting a crew cut, so I asked for a volunteer from the audience, and a lovely young lady introducing herself as Alysa came through the crowd to offer her services as guerilla stylist [that''s her in the photo above, caught in the act of doing the deed]. I gave her a spray bottle, a barber''s shirt and a pair of clippers [which wouldn''t reach the socket, so she ended up using something like pinking shears], then told her she had until we finished playing "Pablo Picasso" to get the job done. Thankfully, what might have been a debacle turned out quite nicely, and the audience got into it as much as the band. One gig, one free haircut, and the terms of one bet satisfied. Performance Art lives.

People who are interested in Dinosaur Jr. Throwing Muses should consider this download.
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