I spent a good amount of time in basements as a youth, the majority of this time was spent “jamming”. I lived in a village of 300 people in northern Wisconsin so there wasn’t much to do, especially in winter, except get lit or jam out (or both). Pretty much all of my friends had basement bedrooms which became hangouts or practice spaces. Sometimes in summer we would be exiled to a garage by the parents who had been stuck listening to our racket all winter. “Racket” is a very good descriptor of the “music” we made. No one ever took a lesson. We played on jury-rigged instruments and ancient amplifiers.
I was a drummer in two bands in high school. One was a hardcore punk rock trio called “OddJob”. The other was a quasi-garage, 70’s rock influenced, semi-improvisational, blues and hard rock collective with seven or eight revolving members with no real songs or name, although we did call it “Northern Lights” for a while. Both bands were amateurish at best but we all played with a lot of heart and soul.
With OddJob we played at local punk rock “shows” completely organized and executed by young people mostly under 20 years old. It was really cool, I don’t think that kind of thing really exists anymore. There were some very talented kids in the area and a few very good bands to play with. We recorded a few demos, (the first 2 in a basement) and an EP cassette in a home studio. It was a great time, it was a seminal experience and I learned a lot about the world through the punk rock community.
Northern Lights was very different. It started out as my friends who lived in the village of Haugen, WI. They all wanted to be AC/DC. This was in the mid-90’s. I was getting into punk rock and couldn’t stand “butt rock”, but they were my friends and I would play with them anyway. It wasn’t really a band just something fun to do while getting loaded. Playing with OddJob, I got a better sense of timing and song structure and it rubbed off on the Haugen guys. It eventually mutated into a kind of collective rather than a band, with other people coming over to play and party. Sadly, even though most of those guys are still close, we all just kind of grew out of it after jobs, wives and kids came into the picture.
I’ve been in a couple other bands too, but these two were my first and the ones that made me who I am. I want to go into more detail about all of the bands I played with, but I don’t think anybody is going to read this anyway. If anyone reads this and wants to know more I will, it could be damned interesting.