(Commentary by John Ross; Gig Chronology by Brian West)
A Musical Expose:
Krakatoa was a successful band formed by Paul Hanson, Brian West and John Ross. The trio never achieved superstar status, but they did manage to entertain tens of thousands of people during the mid 1970s and leave their mark on the Seattle music scene. John Ross has composed the documentary text that follows. The detailed expose captures the magic of the times and helps to immortalize Krakatoa as one of the better bands ever to play Seattle. See what you think and enjoy!
The Players: Time Frame
Ernie Cailao (Drums) – 07/76 – 02/77;
Dave Freeman (Keyboards/Synthesizers/Vocals) – 03/75 – 02/76;
Paul Hanson (Guitars/Vocals) – 04/74 – 02/77;
Chris Jacobson (Guitars/Vocals) – a.k.a. Screamin’ Jimmy Diesel – 02/76 – 06/76;
John Ross (Drums) – a.k.a. Johnny Caboose (pronounced Caw-boo-zay) – 04/74 – 06/76;
Brian West (Bass Guitars/Vocals) – 04/74 – 02/77;
Troy Woodsome (Lead Vocals) – 03/76 – 05/76.
Oh, and last but not least: Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
My older brother, Donald Ross, a tenth grader at Mercer Island Senior High School, formed a rock band called “Great Whale” in the spring of 1970. He chose Terry Shelton, a sixth grader, as his drummer. A sixth grader? “You’ve got to be kidding,” I thought. But my skepticism was short-lived after I heard Terry play drums. He was fantastic! In fact, he was unbelievable. He could play anything including John Bonham’s rhythms perfectly. And he could sing, too! I watched this sixth grader sing and play “How Many More Times” (Led Zeppelin) – I couldn’t believe it! After hearing Terry play, I was greatly inspired to improve my own hard rock drumming skills.
I often listened to my brother’s band over and over again from upstairs, placing my ear close to a heating vent on the dining room floor to capture more of the sound from the basement below. They played a lot of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad. When their practices were over and I was alone, I would dart down to Terry’s drum kit and try to mimic what I had heard him play only moments before.
One day Terry was late for practice. Don got impatient and yelled for me to come down and try to fill in. When we launched into “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain) and I played it like Terry, Don quit playing and said with amazement, “You can play!”
This pattern would repeat many, many times. Terry was late, or Terry wouldn’t show at all. Eventually Don replaced Terry with Steve Showalter, and when Steve didn’t show I would fill in for him, too. I probably filled in dozens of times to the point that Steve advised Don that I was the band’s rightful drummer. But my brother only used me as his practice drummer, sensing that as an eighth grader with a fraction of Terry’s natural talent and less experience than Steve, I wasn’t nearly seasoned enough to be the full-fledged drummer for Great Whale.
Great Whale appeared at a popular club named Lake Hills in Bellevue, WA. The flyer that was mass-distributed prior to the gig contained the following announcement:
SEATTLE MERCER & LAKE HILLS
Mercer Island’s Own
“G R E A T W H A L E“
Sat. May 22 (1971), 9-12 PM Regular Adm. $2
Bring this ad or Mercer Isl. ID. For Reduced Adm. $1.50
I didn’t see Great Whale perform at Lake Hills with Raisin Cain (another popular trio at the time from Seattle), but I heard that it was a great gig. And because I didn’t want to just hang out and be my older brother’s backup drummer, it was time for me to form my own band. But whom did I know who could play decently?
I first met Paul Hanson during a jam session at the home of Audie Sherberg. We played a lot of soft, uninspired rock that disinterested me, including a mushy tune by Chicago. Audie was just a hacker, and I put Paul in the same category for associating himself with Audie. There must be other musicians around town – time to continue the search.
I found Gordon Currie (guitar) and Jeremy Rosner (bass guitar) had playing styles more suited to my tastes. Gordy was a budding guitarist who emulated Jimi Hendrix. After several weeks of practice in the fall of 1971, we played a gig at North Mercer Junior High School, where we currently attended as ninth graders. However, before the gig and throughout the first two sets, Gordy was sick and vomiting from the flu. Too sick to continue the third set, he and Jeremy packed up their gear and left me alone on stage to finish the night with a drum solo. At the end of the night my junior high school English teacher presented me with a check – my first paid performance, even though I can’t remember how much I pocketed. And while I was thrilled by the experience and hungered for more, Gordy appeared disillusioned by the whole scene. Jeremy decided he would rather spend time as a member of extracurricular clubs than practice his bass guitar. So went my first band – disintegrating before it ever had a name! Okay, time to find new musicians!
Meanwhile, Robert Gwynne, an English teacher and advisor to the school’s radio station KMIH at Mercer Island Senior High School during the fall of 1972, invited drummers to sessions after school to exchange rhythms and fills. Steve Yusen, Doug Kammerer, Robert Gwynne and I met at Steve’s house for a number of sessions. Now I had a list of the best, young drummers on Mercer Island: Terry Shelton, Steve Yusen, Doug Kammerer and me! These local drummers were an immense inspiration to me!
In the spring of 1973 my brother Don began forming his new band, “Rainbow” (a Unicam act – see pix of the band on the PNWBands website). He selected me as his drummer, but after a few weeks it was clear that I didn’t fit the bill. The first issue was my difficulty imitating the drumming of Ringo Starr in the Beatle tune “Can’t Buy me Love”. Only when one tries to duplicate Ringo’s style does one gain an appreciation for the great drummer he was. In addition to Beatle songs, my brother wanted me to play like Billy Cobham and planned to perform a lot of music from John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although he had genuinely hoped to keep me onboard, he replaced me with Doug Kammerer, an excellent drummer with roots in funk and jazz-rock.
During the fall of 1973 I participated in several jam sessions with an older guitarist named Dave Pearce (class of 1974) and a fellow classmate named Sandy Baroh on bass. Sandy’s older brother Dave was in a hot band called “Bluebird”. I recall visiting Sandy one evening to find that his rec room was loaded with gear from his brother’s band. We did a lot of tinkering, played some Beatle tunes and smoked weed at the end of every session. Fun, yes, but I still yearned for serious rock musicians.
Twists in Perception:
Paul Hanson (guitar), Guy Eden (bass guitar) and Rick Pierce (drums) were jamming in the auditorium of Mercer Island Senior High School one morning as part of a class they were attending during the tenth grade. I heard them as I passed by, peered in through an entrance door and realized that Paul’s guitar playing had improved dramatically since I last jammed with him. Perhaps I had judged Paul too harshly. He sounded so decent on stage I regretted not taking him seriously earlier. If only we could jam again someday.
I gained further respect for Paul’s progression as a musician when I learned that he was playing in a band with Terry Shelton (the former drummer for my brother Don’s band, Great Whale), and Brian West (bass guitar). As was the case with my brother, and even though they would sell their souls for a drummer with Terry’s talent, Paul and Brian found that Terry missed too many practice sessions, so they sought another drummer.
Paul Hanson (guitar), Audie Sherberg (guitar), Brian West (bass guitar) and Rick Pierce (drums) were performing one evening at South Mercer Junior High School as the band “Cannabis Sativa”. I just had to see Paul and Brian perform together in a real gig situation, so I devised a scheme to get me, a high school student, into the dance. With one of my Zildjian cymbals tucked under my arm, I approached the teacher guarding the entrance to the dance hall, staunchly announced that I was with the band and promptly pushed my way through the crowd to the stage. When Paul, Brian and Rick saw me they laughed. I offered Rick the use of my cymbal and enjoyed watching the remainder of the show from the side of the stage.
Fruition at Last:
One evening before dinner in the spring of 1974, I received a surprise telephone call from Brian West. After explaining that he and Paul Hanson had recently folded Cannabis Sativa, he invited me to jam at his home after dinner. Excited by the prospect of playing with these guys I hurriedly packed my blue-sparkle, Gretsch drums into my parents’ 1966 Buick station wagon and headed over to his house. It had been several weeks since Paul and Brian had last played, and when I laid down a rhythm from the tune ‘You Drive Me Nervous’ (Alice Cooper, Killer, 1972), huge grins formed on their faces. At that moment I sensed that a new band had been formed.
After jamming at an unusually high volume, I told a story about a man in a nearby apartment complex that had suffered a heart attack, collapsed onto a radiator and exploded body parts all over the room from the intense heat inflicted upon his corpse. Paul and Brian laughed so hard they couldn’t speak. Now I knew we could laugh together, too; possessing a similar, twisted sense of humor.
Our first practice sessions were held at the home of my parents in a large, unfinished daylight basement. We even auditioned a really decent lead singer who looked and sang like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. But he decided not to join us because of a perceived dual gap of age and experience, so we would remain a three-man act for nearly a year. After several more jams Brian was convinced that we had enough talent as a threesome to go places. It was time to learn three sets of cover tunes and contact an agent.
The first agency to represent us was Northwest Entertainment Specialists. This agency was owned and operated by a heavyset, mustached man who called himself “Jollie Ollie”. Jollie Ollie was anything but jolly, but we worked with him because Paul and Brian were already familiar with him through representation of their former band, Cannabis Sativa.
With plans to play loud, unabashed hard rock music, we named our band “Krakatoa” after the Indonesian volcano whose eruption in 1883 was so violent that the sound was heard from a distance of over 3,000 miles. Initially Paul didn’t like the name, but because of my insistence he agreed to go along with it. In retrospect he thinks it was a really cool name for the band.
Our first promo shot was almost entirely homemade. I thumbed through a National Geographic magazine and found a beautiful picture of a volcano erupting at night, spewing streams of red-colored lava high into the sky and down the mountainsides. We superimposed images of ourselves in the dark space below the volcano and gave it to Jollie Ollie for placement of band name and agency data. It was a really poor quality image for use in promoting our new band (e.g., we weren’t even wearing decent clothing - Paul and I wore tee-shirts while I glanced downward at our floor mounted stage light). It wasn’t until March of 1975 that we had a new promo shot made – one to reflect a newer, improved Krakatoa.
We didn’t know it at the time, but there was a band from Seattle already using the name Krakatoa. Over time the band from Seattle came to be known as Krakatoa East while we were known simply as Krakatoa.
We practiced and performed for almost an entire year as a three-man band, playing just a handful of gigs while we polished our skills and finished our last year of high school. I bought a cheap Moog synthesizer ($600) to color our sound, but as the drummer I could only work it into a few of our tunes, like the beginning of ‘Space Station #5’ (Montrose). It became clear that we needed someone full-time on keyboards, so we auditioned a keyboardist (Dave Freeman) in March 1975.
Dave’s keyboards and singing improved our overall sound significantly. He played a Hammond M3 organ through a Leslie speaker and used the Moog synthesizer for special effects. In the early days we practiced in the daylight basement of his parents’ home in Burien, giving both Paul’s and Brian’s parents a break. Dave’s long-time girlfriend, Paula White, often attended practice sessions, gigs and band parties.
When we practiced at Brian’s place we were occasionally haunted by a high school classmate who had taken so much LSD that we nicknamed him ‘crispy’. He tirelessly watched us practice for hours on end. After one practice session in particular he begged Brian to let him stay the night so he could be right there when we started practicing the next morning. A sad, lonely character indeed!
What early musical influences shaped our individual styles? Paul liked Robin Trower immensely. I liked Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). Brian liked Chris Squire (Yes) and listened to a lot of imported music from German and Italian rock bands. As a band, we ended up playing ten tunes by Deep Purple – more than any other band. Tied for second place were Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and Montrose with eight tunes each.
After Dave Freeman joined the band our bookings began to increase rapidly. Pyrotechnics, props, three-part vocal harmonies and choreographed stage antics became mainstays of our live shows. After switching agencies in the fall of 1975 and switching audiences from lounges to high schools and colleges, our popularity increased even more dramatically.
Although Krakatoa saw four shifts in personnel during its near 3-year existence, the most harmonious and commercially successful lineup included our keyboardist, Dave Freeman. Because this lineup spanned eleven months and totaled sixty-two gigs, it is this original four-man version that most people probably experienced. We entertained crowds at over one hundred lounges, junior high schools, high schools and colleges during the mid 1970s. Browse the listing of gigs that follows and see if Krakatoa rocked your venue!
Krakatoa played approximately 115 gigs during its 2.75-year existence (assuming 100% accuracy of Brian West’s chronological record), involving at least 137 individual performances. Club engagements are counted as a single gig consisting of multiple performances.
Over 32,000 people saw Krakatoa perform (roughly twice the seating capacity of the Seattle Coliseum of the 1970s). This is a conservative estimate assuming the average audience consisted of approximately 250 people.
How much money did Krakatoa earn? Yep, this is getting really anal, but when you’re trying to capture the financial state of the band it seemed like a fun exercise. No, I’m not an accountant either, so forget about contesting the accuracy of the data below – I consider it sufficiently accurate for its purpose without resorting to more rigorous formulas. For the sake of simplicity, present value estimates given below are based on a constant rate of return of 6.9%, a starting date of ’06/30/19xx’ and an ending date of ‘12/31/2002’.
Paid Annual $1.00 in 2002
Year Performances Gross Income Equiv Value (2002) = ‘X’ in 19xx
---- ------------ ------------ ------------------ -------------
1974 5 985.00 7,036.00 .14
1975 61 10,821.00 72,140.00 .15
1976 39 9,945.00 62,156.00 .16
==== ============ ============ ================== =============
105 21,751.00 141,332.00
To expand on one of the rows in the table above, we played a total of 39 gigs during the first half of 1976 before I left the band, grossing $9,945 (or an average of $255 per gig (approximately $10 per tune)). Using a present value calculator, this translates into $62,156 (or an average of $1,594 per gig) in 2002 dollars. Of the $255 gross proceeds per gig, 15% (or $38.25) went to our agency (Unicam), 3% (or $7.65) went to the Renton-Auburn Musicians’ Association, $30 went to the road crew and $35 went for fuel and miscellaneous expenses. This left average net proceeds of $144, and still doesn’t take into account periodic payments made to local equipment providers (e.g., RMS Sound Systems & Equipment).
We constantly owed money to the owner of RMS Sound Systems & Equipment, Gregg Paisley. We bought a lot of equipment from him (e.g., microphones, cymbals, drum hardware, guitar strings, speaker cabinets, etc.), and we had him build a large PA system for us. Because we constituted much of his early business and purchased so much gear from him, we were on his easy-payment plan. As relatively poor musicians we were always operating in the red.
A fond memory of mine has us in Gregg Paisley’s shop while he works on some electrical cords for us. On the other side of the wall is a bar band practicing their version of ‘How Long [has this been going on] by Ace, a top-40 hit in 1974. As Gregg focuses on his work, he quietly sings along with the bar band that is so clearly heard through the wall.
09/?? White River High School – 3-hour Casual Dance - $175.
Our first show while under management by Northwest Entertainment Specialists (Jollie Ollie). The dance was held immediately after the school’s football game, and we were well received considering that this was our first public performance as a three-man, hard rock band of teenagers (John Ross being the oldest at 18; Paul Hanson and Brian West both 17).
During a break between sets I clumsily lit a cigarette in an attempt to impress Paul and Brian, whom I had observed smoking during recent practice sessions. While Paul and Brian were amused, I simultaneously realized that I was not destined to become a smoker and I abandoned the ‘habit’ before it had a chance to become a habit. Brian eventually quit smoking altogether, and Paul smoked only here and there when offered a cigarette.
10/?? Carolyn M. – 3-hour College Fraternity Boat Party - $200.
This performance took place on a relatively small boat while we sailed around Puget Sound. Although I don’t remember it, Brian recalls that my cymbal stands fell over whenever the boat took a sharp turn. That must have made a great impression!
10/?? Mercerwood Shore Club – 3-hour College Sorority Dance - $185.
In retrospect, we played a lot of loud, hard rock tunes that were not well suited for the type of crowd present (i.e., a contingent of college-age couples). At the end of the night we blasted one of our originals, ‘Outer Space’, to a virtually empty dance floor. At the time we didn’t mind that we cleared a hall with the rawness of our sound; in fact, it was a good sign. Another one of our originals was titled “My Head’s on Backwards.” It had a distinct grunge sound a full fifteen years before grunge dominated the Seattle music scene. Who knows, perhaps Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame was in the audience at one of our early gigs and took his inspiration from Krakatoa!
Jim Nelson, former lead singer for my older brother Don’s hard rock band, ‘Great Whale’, happened to be in the audience and approached me near the end of the evening. He had cut his long, blonde locks and now wore short, brown hair, so I didn’t recognize him until he told me who he was!
11/?? McCord Air Force Base (Airmen’s Club) – 4-hour Dance - $225.
Brian remembers lifting equipment seven feet into the air to place it on the stage. And like so many cheap tavern gigs that awaited us, it was a truly shitty experience.
12/31 Tahola (Indian Reservation on the Pacific Coast) – 3.5-hour Teen Club Dance - $200.
Many, many teens in the crowd were noticeably drunk. I thought this gig felt wrong, like we were the wrong band playing the wrong music for the wrong crowd. But Paul and Brian believe that the crowd really liked us. We had just purchased a fog machine and thoroughly smoked the place with dry ice. Brian recalls seeing a damaged teen center and many one-year old luxury cars elevated on blocks so their tires could be removed. Considering the widespread intoxication present and the potential for violence, I felt fortunate to leave the reservation without an incident.
02/01 Darrington High School – 3-hour Homecoming - $200.
Paul and Brian had cases of the stomach flu, but wanted to play the show nonetheless. Paul felt weak, lying down in the van all the way to the gig. On stage, Brian positioned buckets in case the chunks flew. He perspired profusely and was so dizzy that he almost fell over. In spite of Paul and Brian having the flu, the performance was quite good and we were very well received, providing a rush of adrenaline that acted like a miracle cure. It was my first night playing with clear, Remo drumheads (black dot), giving my drum kit a pleasantly different sound. I never caught their flu.
Adventures in Destructive Behavior:
I had recently broken up with Paul’s younger sister, Anne, whom I had been dating for several months. I had heard that she got very drunk one night and puked all the way home. In my foolish youth, I wondered how I would behave if I got very, very drunk. One Friday night, I sat in Brian’s room with Brian, Paul and our high school friend, Bob Lewis. We were passing around a bottle of gin and I decided this was the time to see how drunk I could get. I started guzzling the gin, pouring it straight down my throat. Bob, Brian and Paul laughed hysterically after each mouthful I drained from the bottle. But laughter was short-lived. Brian said, “Hey, he doesn’t look very good. We better get him outside.” They hurriedly carried me to some shrubs and left me alone with a towel. There I became very sick. I was so sick that Paul had to drive me home and make several stops along the way. Once home, I staggered down a hallway and passed my mother who angrily said, “You’re drunk!” I responded, “No, I’m not!” My father knocked on the door of the bathroom. “Get off the toilet and go to bed!” he blasted. I thought I had been there for only a moment, but it had really been two hours!
In retrospect, this stunt is probably the dumbest thing I have ever done. My hangover lasted a full three days. I have no idea what my blood alcohol level was, but it must have been through the roof. I feel fortunate not to have died from alcohol poisoning. A full year afterwards, I smelled gin in the air and was grossed out by it. I sensed that Paul lost some respect for me, but I was too embarrassed to discuss it with him. It is also conceivable that much of my parents’ dislike of my involvement in Krakatoa may have stemmed from this poor judgment and lack of self-control. If anything good came out of this experiment, it removed my desire to consume hard liquor for the rest of my life!
02/07 Bellevue Congregational Church – 3 hours - $150.
I broke my Ludwig ‘Speed King’ drum pedal during this gig. Afterwards I switched to a ‘Ghost’ pedal, a better-engineered product that lasted me until the end of my stint in Krakatoa.
04/04 Mercer Island Senior High School – 3-hour Casual Dance - $250.
This was our first public performance as a four-man rock act. Dave Freeman, a keyboardist with a Hammond M3 organ, had joined our band a short two weeks earlier. Although he greatly augmented our sound with rock organ, Moog synthesizer and vocal harmonies, two weeks just wasn’t enough time to work out all the kinks, so we were not as tight as we had hoped. This might explain why we never realized a predicted increase in popularity after the gig. Jack Riley, a fellow classmate at Mercer Island Senior High School, was instrumental in landing us this gig. Tony Crosetto attended the dance and after he watched us perform he offered to be our soundman. Subsequently we would alternate primarily between Tony Crosetto and Kevin Monahan. In the audience was Stuart Whitney, my best friend throughout my junior high school and high school years, although he didn’t realize that it was me on the drum kit until I approached him during a break and said, ‘So Stu, what do you think of the band?’
04/19 Centralia High School – 3-hour Junior Class Prom - $250.
There was a lot of concrete present in the auditorium where we performed, making for really lousy acoustics. Paul was having amp problems so he borrowed a Sound City British amp from Gregg Paisley (RMS Sound Systems & Equipment). The knobs on the amp were designed to turn counterclockwise and Paul remembers accidentally cranking the sucker during a slow tune. This was the first gig where we performed ‘Feeling Stronger Every Day’ by Chicago. After the crowd had left and we were nearly finished packing up our gear, we had a memorable exchange involving a large ball of duck tape. Laughter filled the auditorium at 1:00 AM as we fired off the ball of duck tape, repeatedly striking each other in the ass from twenty feet away.
05/02-03 Dale’s Tavern (Lake Chelan) – 4 hours x 2 nights - $250.
Our first tavern gig – a memorable experience for me:
1) Upon arrival Dave’s car, which we used to haul a U-Haul trailer, suffered a flat tire;
2) A young drunkard outside the tavern was desperate for money, offering us his dingy old coat for a mere two dollars. After taking some equipment into the tavern, I stepped back outside to find that the drunkard had vomited on the sidewalk, and he was poised on his knees to vomit again. This experience contributed to a long-lasting hatred of tavern gigs;
3) We ate very greasy fish ‘n’ chips from the restaurant at the tavern. During dinner, another drunkard hovered around us, barely able to speak a complete sentence. After witnessing the earlier performance of the drunkard on the sidewalk, I wondered if this guy was about to barf on my fish ‘n’ chips. But he proved to be harmless and was actually quite entertaining. Brian and I had great laughs for months afterwards imitating the drunkard’s fragmented speech, where sentences usually began with an elongated ‘uh, uh, uh, Iiiiiiii’;
4) During the gig, rowdy drunks danced on the pool tables and smashed beer mugs to the floor. One guy tore a plaque from a wall and smacked another guy with it before taking on the whole bar in a major brawl. It was a scene straight out of the movies!
5) Friday night after our first performance, we drove to our accommodations – a pickers’ cabin! There was a heavy rain, and as we approached the cabin two drunks were in the midst of a fight. With the help of his friends, the winner of the fight pushed the automobile of his rival over the crest of a hill and down into a deep gully, burying the hood of the car in the mud. They fled the scene immediately at the sight of our headlights, scurrying away like insects in a matter of seconds;
6) Saturday morning I awoke very early. I had agreed to play drums for my high school Stage Band at a neighboring high school in western Washington at 11:00 AM! I had about 3.5 hours of driving ahead of me. After playing jazz tunes with the Stage Band, I would have to make the return trip to Lake Chelan for our second night at Dale’s Tavern. Using Dave Freeman’s car that he graciously offered me for the excursion I hurried across the mountains, but I had difficulty locating the high school. At 10:45 AM I turned off the main road and rushed down a neighborhood street only to find that it did not lead to the high school. Panicking, I reversed direction and headed back to the main street at high speed. I didn’t realize that Dave’s tires were bald, and with the road wet from a recent shower the car did not stop when I applied the brakes. I smashed into the side door of a passenger car as it passed before me on the main road. Luckily, the other driver was a teenager. We went to a local church that he attended and a minister helped us to calmly exchange information (the boy’s parents ultimately decided to forget the incident). After a late performance with the Stage Band, I quickly refueled and headed back to eastern Washington, arriving in the late afternoon. Dave was seriously pissed at me and rightly so for the damage done to his car – a mutilated right front end. Unfortunately, this incident resulted in friction between Dave and I for many, many months and compromised our friendship and respect for one another for the remainder of the time he was a member of Krakatoa;
7) Dale’s was also the site of the infamous “fog incident”. At this venue, Krakatoa’s fog machine had to be operated off stage and out of view from the audience. Our soundman, Tony Crosetto, operated the machine “blind” and administered what he believed to be an appropriate amount of fog – but Dale’s owner thought Krakatoa had caught on fire, so he evacuated the Tavern!
8) After Saturday night’s gig we returned to the pickers’ cabin. Talk about gross accommodations! But I took it in stride, believing Krakatoa was only beginning to pay its dues. How true this would prove to be in the months that lie ahead . . .
05/09-10 Roma Inn Tavern (Port Townsend) – 4.5 hours x 2 nights - $300.
We would repeatedly play this small tavern, but we didn’t mind at the time because we were attempting to polish our sound by logging as many public performances as possible. The stage was only big enough for my drum kit. Oddly, we made the most money during our first visit because Jollie Ollie failed to negotiate higher compensation for us for subsequent appearances.
05/17 Monroe High School Senior Prom – 3 hours - $250.
About fifteen miles east of Everett, WA, no impressions of this high school gig were recorded.
During the summer months Tony Crosetto was unable to run our sound because he took janitorial work in Fairbanks, Alaska, cleaning airplanes for Alaska International Air or sweeping floors for the University of Alaska. While the pay was great, he sorely missed working with Krakatoa. In Tony’s absence, Kevin Monahan manned the soundboard or Walter Boswell III during the spring of 1976.
06/01 St. Monica’s Church – 3-hour benefit dance - $80.
Paul, Brian and I used to attend church here. The clergy were generous with the facilities, allowing us to practice in their auditorium on numerous occasions. We reciprocated by playing a three-hour dance for very little pay. The ventilation was poor so it was excruciatingly hot on stage. All the while my girlfriend Debbie Eyring sat backstage watching me, a prominent smile on her face underneath sparkling eyes. During August of 1975 we used the auditorium once more to audition before Jim Nelson and Craig Cook, the owners of our next agency, Unicam.
On other occasions while we were still a three-man band, we practiced at a local Presbyterian church, too. It was a major effort to cart our equipment from Paul or Brian’s house to one of these local churches and set it all up for a relatively short practice session. But at the time, we would go the extra mile without hesitation for a chance to rehearse together.
Paul, Brian and Dave often practiced their singing together before I was scheduled to arrive for practice. One day I thought I should be allowed to sing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin. The other guys agreed to give me a chance, so I grabbed a microphone and tried singing like Robert Plant. Forget it! Unable to hold a note, only two or three minutes passed before I was told to stop. Brian said, “John, don’t sing anymore, just play drums.” That’s the extent of my singing with Krakatoa – two minutes!
06/13 West Seattle 3-hour party – $zero.
This gig took place on Friday the 13th. We were besieged by problems including multiple visits from local police (who told us to quiet down) and sparse attendance. We did it solely for the exposure, but the exposure wasn’t worth the trouble.
06/27-28 ‘The Cave’ Tavern (Vancouver, WA) – 4.5 hours x 2 nights - $340.
This tavern had a very nice stage, dance floor and lounging area for patrons. However, our performances were sparsely attended. During one of the shows, a fight broke out between two men who refused to share the affections of a particular woman. Fists flew and one man collapsed on the dance floor with a nosebleed while the other left the premises. Brian claims to have heard the man’s head hit the floor over the volume of our music! While the woman hovered over her injured boyfriend and waited for an ambulance to arrive, Brian said something jovial to lighten the atmosphere only to earn the wrath of the woman who promptly told him in no uncertain terms to fuck off. Paul responded by dedicating our next tune, ‘Rock Bottom’ (UFO), to the guy on the floor. Good form, Paul!
07/04-05 Roma Inn Tavern (Port Townsend) – 2nd time – 4 hours x 2 nights - $200.
07/11-12 Roma Inn Tavern (Port Townsend) – 3rd time – 4 hours x 2 nights - $200.
An encore and autographs followed this performance. Two couples that were friends of Dave Freeman came to watch us perform, but left early to return to Dave’s parents’ vacation home (where we usually stayed when performing at the Roma Inn).
07/26 American Legion Hall (Port Townsend) – Cheerleader Sponsored Dance - $200.
We arrived early in the afternoon for this gig with several hours to kill before setting up our gear. It was a beautiful sunny day and we threw Frisbees on the local high school football field. This carefree exchange remains one of my fondest memories – no school to attend, no 8:00 to 5:00 day at the office, no responsibilities other than psyching oneself up for a kick-ass performance and having a blast in the meantime. That evening, after playing three tavern gigs in a row, it felt great to be playing in an auditorium before a high school crowd. We played a lot of sophisticated tunes like Roundabout by ‘YES’ and went over excellently. This was definitely one of our better gigs.
Between the taverns, high school and Manresa Castle, Krakatoa played Port Townsend quite frequently. I thought it was a long way to go for mediocre pay, but Paul and Brian always liked the excursion and subsequent performance. We often stopped for fish ‘n’ chips at Ivar’s on the Seattle waterfront while waiting for a ferryboat ride across Puget Sound.
08/01-02 Dale’s Tavern (Lake Chelan) – 2nd time – 4.5 hours x 2 nights - $250.
When we played the Roma Inn Tavern in Port Townsend we would stay at Dave’s parents’ vacation home on Puget Sound. Who would think that when playing a tavern in the beautiful vacation spot of Lake Chelan that we would end up staying in a pickers’ cabin? That’s what I remember – more greasy food and two more nights in a pickers’ cabin. Welcome to the big time!
08/04-09 The Hume Hotel (Nelson, British Columbia, Canada) – 4 or 5 hours x 6 nights - $800.
I have a lot of fond memories of this long, tavern gig:
1) Satan’s Angels, the Canadian version of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, rode into town and attended several of our performances. While attempting to relate to the crowd during one show, Brian noticed that one of the bikers had the word ‘FUCK’ painted on his t-shirt in large red letters. Through the microphone Brian said, ‘Hey, I like your shirt!’ This prompted the huge, 300-pound biker to open his club jacket for all to see and stomp toward the stage like a drunken giant. He stopped just short of Brian, but not before stepping on a guitar foot-pedal and smashing it to pieces under his tremendous weight. Brian quickly refrained from further comments with a dumbfounded look on his face;
2) During another show a biker named Tiny requested that we perform ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ (Montrose) over and over again. Frustrated with us for not being his personal jukebox, he poured a pitcher of beer into one of our floor monitors!
3) Paul and I stayed in the same room at the hotel, while Brian and Dave stayed in another. Paul was recovering from a cold and I was on antibiotics for a throat infection;
4) During the morning after one of our shows, the leader of the Satan’s Angels motorcycle gang knocked on the door of the room where Paul and I were staying. We cautiously let him in, wondering what he could possibly want. Thin, bearded and tattooed, he looked to be in his mid-thirties. He started by telling us that he really enjoyed the music that we played, and then asked us to come and play for his gang at one of their lengthy parties held in a wooded area several towns away. Almost every other word that came out of this guy’s mouth was ‘FUCK’. Paul and I led him to believe that we would be open to playing for his gang and he left peacefully;
5) After three or four nights of staying down by the river and becoming a nuisance, the local police forced the Satan’s Angels motorcycle gang to leave town – all 30+ members. The remaining shows we did at the Hume Hotel were much quieter events without the motorcycle gang present;
6) I smoked a lot of marijuana during this trip. After playing one show, Dave and I didn’t feel like sleeping so we smoked some joints with some ladies down the hall. Dave carried on a conversation with them, but because I was so stoned all I could do is listen. First I heard Dave speaking with an English accent. Then I heard him speaking backwards. His speech took all manner of strange forms in my mind before we finally turned in for the night;
7) After another show, we all congregated in the room where Paul and I were staying, as well as several women. One of these women straddled me and repeatedly took drags from a joint, closed her lips around mine and blew marijuana smoke into my lungs;
8) While drunk one night, I couldn’t find a bottle opener so I tried opening a beer bottle with a butter knife. While applying pressure to the bottle cap with the knife, the knife slipped and two fingers of my right hand were sliced by the rough edges of the bottle cap. It was very painful to play drums the next couple of shows because I had to bend my injured fingers to grasp my drumsticks. I still have the scars to this day;
9) During the daytime, all of us would head to the beach at the lake near the hotel. At nineteen years old, I was hard pressed to control myself at the sight of countless bikini-clad beauties on the beach. I can still hear Paul and Brian saying, ‘Look at that!’ as beautiful women walked by in their search for a spot on the sand to sun themselves;
10) In the bathroom of the room where Paul and I stayed, there was an oversized bathtub. One morning I soaked in this tub and listened to Linda Ronstadt blast from a jukebox in the lounge below our room, ‘You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good’;
11) The Hume Hotel management had us play in two different lounges during the week. We were moved to the second lounge after the Satan’s Angels motorcycle gang had left town. As if to christen our new location, we resurrected a tune we hadn’t played live for a while – ‘Never Before’ by Deep Purple. I recall not ‘thinking’ about how I used to play the tune – I just played it like one rides a bicycle without thinking about it;
12) One of my fondest memories has Brian and me walking the streets of Nelson, B.C. between 2:00 and 4:00 AM after one of our shows. We walked for miles while the stars twinkled in the night sky above us. We talked about our role as the rhythmic section of the band, our desire to write original material, our dreams of making it big and countless other topics. I remember how incredibly positive we were, feeling tremendous confidence that we were headed in the right direction and that it was only a matter of time before we were discovered by a major record label. Brian and I always had good talks. In fact, we usually rode together on the way to gigs because we so enjoyed the directions our conversations took. Ah, those were the days!
08/15-16 Roma Inn Tavern (Port Townsend) – 4th time – 4 hours x 2 nights - $200.
The last time! Hooray! This was our last gig under Jollie Ollie. He got really pissed when he learned that we were switching agencies and claimed that he was doing a good job booking us, but we were relieved because we wanted more steady work and fewer tavern gigs. We stayed up all night with Tony Crosetto smoking pot and laughed hysterically. Talking about a girl with a mouth ‘like a 747’ brought on the most laughter. Oddly, nine months later we would perform ‘Cockroach’ by the band ‘Sweet’, with the lyric ‘got a mouth like a DC-10’.
08/31 Fishbowl (Washington Plaza Hotel – Channel 7 (WRKO) Telethon) – 2 hours - $zero.
This was our first gig with a new agency, Unicam, and a welcome departure from Jollie Ollie. It was a great opportunity for exposure. We played outside, under a tent that had been set up on a street corner in downtown Seattle. We were invited to play as one of Unicam’s best bands, joining other bands including ‘Star’, ‘Rail & Company’ and ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’.
Apparently channel 9 (PBS) was holding a telethon simultaneously at their station across the street. Wishing to play a part in us getting more exposure, my father contacted the channel 9 telethon staff and claimed he would donate $100 if channel 9 agreed to take their cameras across the street and film ‘Krakatoa’ as we performed. The staff member consulted with management and rejected the offer. Disappointed, my father replied, “You just lost $100.”
At the end of our show we proudly announced to the crowd that they could come see us play at Lake Hills – a popular dance hall located in eastern Bellevue. Only the best bands in the area were invited to play at Lake Hills, so we were really looking forward to this gig. However, as a consequence of dumping our former agent, Jollie Ollie, he channeled his anger against us by contacting the man who controlled the talent lineup at Lake Hills, Mack Keith, and told him we were a lousy act. Mack Keith promptly cancelled our appearance at Lake Hills and we were never invited back while I was in the band. Jollie Ollie’s true colors were revealed!
09/05 Snohomish High School Casual Dance – 1.5 hours - $150.
This was the shortest high school gig we ever played, with no breaks. Prior to starting I walked outside the auditorium and overheard one student say to another as they eyed our equipment, ‘This band must be pretty good’. Playing for one and one-half hours straight without a break generated a lot of heat in the packed auditorium. The crowd boogied hard and really got into our music, setting the stage for our next performance.
09/06 Renton High School Casual Dance – 2.5 hours - $225.
In my opinion, this was the best gig that we ever played. Having recently finished the tavern circuit, we were polished and tight. Everything sounded good, and we literally stunned the crowd with an animated performance of tunes by Led Zeppelin, Yes, Rush, Kiss, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Bad Company, etc. At the end of the show we were cornered by several students who asked us if we had released any records! For a band consisting of eighteen and nineteen year-olds, this was an extremely exciting moment and boded well for our future. I was relieved to be playing high schools instead of taverns. High school kids were often mesmerized by our performances whereas tavern crowds routinely ignored us.
I recall that right before we mounted the stage, Paul and I walked the length of a dimly lit corridor that encircled the auditorium. Looking very much the part of a hard rocker, Paul walked directly in front of me wearing knee-high silver boots, black pants, a shirt from our first promo shoot and a scarf. I was ecstatic to be drumming with my friends in this band – it was a dream come true. And we were going places! Our performance at Renton High School remains one of my fondest memories – a pinnacle of hope and optimism.
In conversations with Sam Carlson, the Webmaster of the Pacific Northwest Bands website, he said his band (The Regents) also played Renton High School about ten years before us. Renton was a good gig for them, too.
09/12 Sealth High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
One week after Renton High School and we were marred by technical problems. Our Roland eight-channel mixer overheated and failed to operate, affecting the quality of our sound. The next day we bought a twelve-channel, Peavey 1200 mixing board that lasted until the breakup of the band.
09/13 Morman Church Dance – 3 hours - $200.
Twinky, but we rocked them.
09/14 Des Moines Theater – 1 hour Concert - $11.
This was a Sunday gig – an actual concert where we really cranked the volume and shared the stage with two other local groups – ‘The Ross Taylor Band’ and ‘The Other Band’. We combined our PA systems and had quite an impressive collection of equipment on stage. However, publicity leading up to the concert was poor and only about 30 people showed up (one of them being my brother, Don Ross, guitarist for his new band ‘Rainbow’). Before the concert Paul sat with my brother and learned a few guitar licks from him. And I helped the drummer for ‘The Other Band’ with his snare drum. Some of his head screws were stripped so he borrowed my snare for his set. I believe our set was sandwiched between the other groups, with ‘The Ross Taylor Band’ finishing the concert and demonstrating that of the three acts theirs was the most polished.
This is where Paul and Brian first met the guitarist of ‘The Ross Taylor Band’, Steve Lynch. When Paul and Brian were later tired of personnel changes within Krakatoa and wanted a fresh start, they answered an advertisement in the Seattle Times for a guitarist and bassist. When they went to audition, Steve instantly recognized them from our performance at the Des Moines Theater. After running through about ten tunes with big smiles on their faces, Steve asked them to join the band. Paul and Brian took a ten-minute break to discuss the opportunity before venturing into their first band after Krakatoa called ‘Silver Load’.
Steve became a good friend of Paul and Brian and after he moved to LA and was having success, Paul and Brian followed him. He is still a friend and now lives in Auburn, WA. He had a fair amount of success as the guitarist for the band ‘Autograph’, releasing at least three albums on RCA and selling a bunch of records.
09/19 Burlington High School Casual Dance – 1.5 hours - $200.
Did not go over well with the audience.
09/20 Lynnwood High School Casual Dance – 2.5 hours - $200.
Did not go over well with the audience - Kevin Monahan’s first night running sound.
09/26 Redmond Junior High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $200.
Dave Freeman’s Hammond M3 organ malfunctioned and failed to operate about midway into the gig. Paul and Brian met some girls and got into some necking in the car.
09/27 Delta Epsilon Fraternity Party – 3 hours - $200.
Dave Freeman’s Hammond M3 organ was unusable. Dave assumed the role of a pure vocalist at the front of the stage and loved the experience, and so did the audience. Every time Brian watches the movie ‘Animal House’ he is reminded of this gig.
10/03 Shelton High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
We played well, but the audience was unresponsive to our choice of music.
10/04 Foster High School Homecoming Dance – 3 hours - $200.
Another gig where we played well, but the crowd was exceptionally unresponsive. Concerned about a string of gigs where the audience seemed less than enthusiastic, we asked one of the couples attending the dance their appraisal of our performance. Paradoxically, they replied that we were the best band that they had ever seen perform at their school! We didn’t know what to think – was this an honest remark or were they leading us on?
10/09 Tillicum Junior High School Casual Dance – 2.5 hours - $150.
A wild crowd indeed!
10/10 Bothell High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $200.
Bothell High School provided us with an excellent stage – large in square footage and nicely elevated above the crowd. Our sound was great, but again for reasons unknown, the audience just didn’t respond to us with the enthusiasm we expected.
10/11 Knights of Columbus – 3 hours - $200.
Somebody screwed up the schedule of events so that virtually no one knew that we were scheduled to play this gig. The man in charge showed up with a couple of other people. We played five tunes, we were paid $200 and we left. This was definitely the easiest money we ever made!
10/17 North Mercer Junior High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
Unfortunately for us, attendance was poor because Elton John was in town at the Seattle Coliseum. Paul Hanson and I (John Ross) had attended North Mercer Junior High School just a few short years earlier, so we had hoped to blow them away with a great performance, but it was not in the cards this night. Concerned about losing the sparse audience we did have, we took only one 15-minute break the entire three hours. One loyal fan was my next-door neighbor, Betsy Allen. She stayed almost until the very end.
10/18 Tolt High School Semi-formal Tolo (Carnation, WA) – 3 hours - $200.
Brian brought both his Cerwin Vega and SVT base cabinets to this gig, but decided after seeing the room where we were to perform that he would leave the SVT cabinet behind in Paul’s Dodge van. There was an extremely angry boy at this gig, and for reasons unknown he took his hostilities out on Brian, punching him hard in the head as he left the auditorium during our first break. It may have arisen from Brian talking with the boy’s girlfriend. We shrugged our shoulders and finished the gig. After tearing down our gear, we went out to load Paul’s van and found that the rear doors had been jimmied and Brian’s SVT cabinet was gone! We called the local police immediately; sure that Brian’s equipment had been stolen by the angry boy that left the auditorium during our first break. The police listened patiently but didn’t feel there was enough evidence to go knocking on someone’s door. Sadly, we conceded that Brian’s SVT cabinet was gone forever. Never again would we leave musical equipment behind in a vehicle.
Brian’s friend, Mike Cadden, a huge guy who had played basketball at Mercer Island Senior High School, supposedly went looking for the guy(s) responsible for the theft of Brian’s bass equipment. He claims to have found them and beat them up, but Brian doesn’t know if Mike was telling the truth or just trying to make him feel better.
10/24 Lake Stevens High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $200.
Good crowd – good sound.
10/25 Orcas Island High School Homecoming – 2.5 hours - $225.
We were late getting to the Ferry docks for this gig and missed the Ferryboat we needed to take us across Puget Sound to Orcas Island. We arrived at Orcas Island High School two hours late and rushed to set up as the audience impatiently waited in their formal attire. Our sound was disappointing, probably due to the stress of a late start and a lack of sufficient sound checks. I think we only played for about an hour before the clock struck midnight.
Ida Dixon, a member of the dance committee, graciously offered us her parents’ house for lodging since we had no place to stay on the island. We accepted and found ourselves in sleeping bags on the living room floor. But we were not tired yet, so all of us engaged in conversation littered with sexual innuendos. Dave Freeman even went so far as to make his way out of the living room into a nearby bedroom and sent out several pleas for female companionship. But I had a feeling that Ida was really interested in me, so I dared her to join me in my sleeping bag. Without hesitation she took me up on my offer. The room was instantly quiet when the other guys realized that the lady had made her choice. This was the beginning of a relationship that would last beyond my leaving Krakatoa.
Ida and I began corresponding with one another by letter on a fairly regular basis. It all started with a letter she sent to Paul, thanking us for performing at her school. The full text of the initial letter is given below, and excerpts from other letters as they pertain specifically to Krakatoa and other bands of the day. Note: I was the ‘Led Zeppelin freak’.
“To Paul, John, Brian and Dave – (hope I haven’t forgotten anyone - oh, yes, and Matt).
“You’re probably wondering, “who the hell is this from,” but if ya don’t know, then you’ll just have to wait!
“I would like to just take the time (since nobody else probably cares enough) to thank you guys a lot for a wonderful Homecoming dance (a little late, but wonderful!). Of course, I’ve heard some guys here say that you were faggots, and all that shit, but then they’ve got a lot to learn!
“I hope you’re proud of me because I’ve been sticking up for you guys when somebody puts ya down. And this should really make ya feel good – I still believe that musicians are some of the best people in the world!!! Good luck in the future.
“Thanks again –
Ida Dixon (The one that still wants to kill Brian for tripping me with that water!!! And the Led Zeppelin freak!!!)
“I hear that our advisor was trying to get some money from ya to pay for the ‘engraving’ you made on our gym floor. I hear that she also asked for $50! To me, that sounds like a hell of a lot more than we need. Don’t let anyone know that I’m on your side! If you do pay something, pay what you want to and what you feel is right. I was thinking like between $10 and $20. I feel that we’d be lucky to get anything. Again, please don’t tell Craig at Unicam, or anyone, that I said this.”
“Rail & Co. was up here [Orcas Island High School] on Tuesday [December 22] and they were really HORRIBLE. The only decent songs they played were slow ones – ‘Dream On’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’. They couldn’t play any real danceable music. It was really disappointing.”
10/31 Everett High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
Halloween! A few days before this gig we practiced applying and removing makeup, wanting to gain some sense of what the members of the band ‘Kiss’ must go through to maintain their anonymity. Then we decided to wear makeup to celebrate Halloween with the students of Everett High School. I don’t remember the precise result of Paul and Brian’s makeup application – I think it resembled the makeup of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. I remember Dave painting his face red and looking like some twisted clown. I painted my face green, with pronounced black eyebrows slanting downward towards my nose, giving me an angry, evil look. Our makeup took the audience by surprise. I believe they enjoyed our music but were thoroughly confused by our appearance. With relatively little experience properly removing makeup, it took me several days to remove all the green goop from my pores. We never wore makeup again.
11/01 Cascade Middle School Formal – 3.5 hours - $225.
The crowd was small and seemed unresponsive to our music.
11/05 Sacajewea Junior High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $200.
This was a great gig, made so by a great crowd that boogied hard.
11/13 The Norwester (Navy Base Club) – 4 hours - $200.
This was a low-volume tavern gig; reminiscent of gigs we played before joining Unicam. Could we be slipping backwards? There are few things as ludicrous as playing hard rock music SOFTLY to a room full of people that barely acknowledge your presence. They are there simply to smoke, drink and use the band as background music for their pick-up rituals. But when we set off our flash pots they took notice! I’d wager we generated more smoke in one second than all of the smokers combined over a four-hour period.
11/14 Hazen High School Tolo – 3 hours - $225.
This was a great crowd for a formal dance. After our first set we took a customary 15-minute break. As we re-entered the auditorium and made our way across the dance floor toward the stage, the crowd clapped and cheered us on. Dave Freeman walked directly in front of me wearing knee-high golden boots, relishing the special attention paid us.
11/15 Snohomish Mazonic Temple Tolo – 3 hours - $200.
This was another good Tolo.
11/21 Odle Junior High School Casual Dance – 2.5 hours - $200.
We opened to a small crowd but finished with a packed house. This worked out in our favor because I could hardly play my drums for a good portion of the gig. Earlier that afternoon I had been offered some marijuana mixed with opium and I smoked it, thinking that I would come down from the high before it was time to perform, but I didn’t. The high lasted for many hours longer than I expected and totally confused my senses. Paul and Brian often looked back at me from the front of the stage and gave me some very strange looks, wondering why I was having so much trouble holding a tune together. Hold a tune together? Yeah, right – I could hardly hold my drumsticks!
With a friend tagging along, my former girlfriend, Debbie Eyring, attended this gig, pestered me and followed us to Paul’s house in spite of my attempts to dodge her. I was more interested in Ida now and didn’t want Debbie hovering around me with her dopey friend.
11/26 Tahoma High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
Here was a good crowd.
11/29 Lake Stevens Beer Party – 4 hours - $150.
I recall entering the restroom to find that the drain of a horizontal urinal (the size of a bathtub) had stopped up, and urine had completely filled the urinal and was spilling over the sides onto the floor. One guy was pissing into the clogged urinal, forcing more pee to run onto the floor. Such sights make one realize how much beer people drink! The gig consisted of rowdy drunks, yelling for more and more and more music – we could have played all night if it were allowed. After the gig, a guy pissed in the snow beside his car as his girlfriend watched from the passenger seat. Piss, piss and more piss.
12/05 Auburn High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $200.
We arrived at this school to learn that we were to perform directly upon the floor of the gymnasium (i.e., no stage), but we couldn’t set up our gear because a basketball game was in progress. We had to wait until the end of the game and race to set up in the space of thirty minutes (normally we were given three hours). Everyone watched us silently as we nervously positioned monitors, taped cords, angled cymbals, etc. It was a disappointing experience because of the limited time we were given to prepare ourselves for public scrutiny - the element of surprise had been eliminated by a silly sports event. Not surprisingly, we ranked our performance at Auburn High School as one of our worst gigs.
12/06 Saint Philomenia Catholic Church Dance – 3 hours - $200.
We played well to a relatively small but responsive crowd.
12/12 Arlington High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
This was not one of our better gigs. Some tubes fried in Paul’s 100-watt, Marshall Amplifier and compromised our overall sound. Paul remembers how well it sounded before it blew, and that he had to plug into the PA system for the rest of the gig.
12/13 Cascade High School Christmas Dance – 3 hours - $250.
Gregg Paisley, the owner of RMS Sound Systems and Equipment, ran our sound this night with his girlfriend by his side. We bought so much of our equipment from Gregg (e.g., PA speakers, horns and monitors; imitation Marshall speaker cabinets, microphones, drumsticks, Zildjian cymbals, etc.) that it seemed only natural that he would be a master at running our sound when both Tony Crosetto and Kevin Monahan were unavailable.
12/19 Concrete High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $225.
As a front man before a packed house performing a series of choreographed movements on stage with Paul and Brian, Dave Freeman misjudged the distance between himself and his Hammond M3 organ, smashing his head against the corner of a wooden side panel. He grimaced in pain for a few seconds but quickly rejoined Paul and Brian, even though he had blood streaming down his face from his forehead. The scene was reminiscent of Chris Cole’s head injury in the film ‘Rock Star’, and similarly the crowd loved it!
12/20 Manresa Castle (Port Townsend) – Santa Claus Boogie – 4 hours - $290.
A very good gig – people were in the mood to rock. Some women came to the front of the stage and appeared ecstatic over the music we performed. Dave talked with them and was told that they had dropped acid before watching us play. Our lodging for the night was in one of the rooms above the dance hall of the ‘castle’.
Paul’s younger brother Matt was our roadie on this trip and controlled our lights, too. Since we played past midnight, we celebrated Matt’s birthday (December 21st) immediately after the gig.
I remember the castle being very dimly lit. I had gone to use a stall in the restroom and could hardly see it was so dark. Brian recalls feeling intense cold in our room, and a weird vibe that made the hairs on his skin stand on end.
While saving dough to move to Los Angeles, Paul worked for a waterbed company. After he set up a bed at a house in Port Townsend, he noticed a picture of us (Krakatoa) in the front room. The owner brought out a photo album and had a ton of pictures of this gig. The Manresa Castle has been restored and is now a beautiful, Gothic-looking hotel, known for being haunted.
I’m not sure if it was the return trip of this gig or another, but on the super ferryboat were the members of the popular and talented local band ‘Bighorn’. They dressed and carried themselves like rock stars, and exhibited an aura of joy that truly impressed me, especially the lead singer Bob Marcy. Paul, Brian and I would attend many of their concerts at the base of the Space Needle, and watch them blow away ‘Heart’ in Seward Park during the summer of 1975 (just prior to the release of Heart’s first album ‘Dreamboat Annie’). In fact, the photos inside the jacket of ‘Dreamboat Annie’ were taken at this Seward Park concert. When I learned many years later that Bob Marcy took his own life I was greatly saddened.
Paul remembers Bob Marcy as an awesome front man and believes ‘Bighorn’ was truly the greatest Northwest band. Despite excellent musicianship within the ranks of Bighorn, Heart churned out more catchy tunes, and people buy albums because of the tunes that impress them at a particular time in their lives. So goes the tale of two bands – the peoples’ choice achieved fame and fortune while our favorite (Bighorn) faded into obscurity.
12/31 Renton Stake Center Mormon New Year’s Dance – 3 hours - $375.
This was a ridiculous gig, made so by ridiculous constraints placed upon us by the people in charge. We were repeatedly asked to turn down the volume of our equipment and keep it at 95 decibels or less. We jokingly talked with each other on stage, without microphones, and were able to hear each other perfectly while several feet apart. Brian could hear the strumming of his strings directly from his bass guitar better than from his amplifier. I could only tap my drums softly to stay within the 95-decibel limit, making for three sets of ridiculous sounding hard-rock tunes. The collective will of conservative chaperones ruled this night!
01/09 Mt. Vernon High School – 3 hours - $235.
We played poorly at this gig, mainly due to numerous technical problems.
01/10 Quilcene High School Formal Dance – 4 hours - $300.
Played well but hoped to get a more enthusiastic response from the audience. Of course, our brand of hard rock didn’t always go over well at formal dances. Casual dances were much preferred because typically there were many more people in the audience and they seemed more willing to sweat and boogie.
01/16 Kentridge High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $150.
There were so many people dancing their hearts out that it felt more like we were playing in a sauna than an auditorium. I will remember Kentridge as a fantastic crowd of teenagers that loved our music. Interestingly, I later lived in two homes very close to this high school, one in Kent, WA and one in Renton, WA during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
01/17 North Kitsap High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $225.
A good gig despite many technical problems. At one point an entire PA column was out of commission, but that wasn’t enough to keep the school from inviting us back two more times. Shoestring budgets kept Krakatoa from upgrading to more high-powered PA amplifiers. Between sets, Tony would have to cool down the overheated Crown DC300A amplifier with “freeze spray”. A couple cans of freeze spray and a few rolls of duck tape were staples of Krakatoa’s “diet”.
01/23 Vashon High School – 3 hours - $250.
01/30 Lindberg High School Casual Dance – 2 hours - $225.
A very good gig, even though the auditorium at times sounded like an echo chamber. This school seemed to like us more than any other – we performed before very enthusiastic crowds a total of four times. Interestingly, this high school was right down the street from me when I lived in Renton, WA during the early 1990’s.
01/31 Marysville Y.M.C.A. – 2 hours - $150.
Unicam convinced Mack Keith (who had cancelled our Lake Hills engagement) to have us play in Marysville. Unsure of our talent, he booked us as the opening act, priming the crowd for the appearance of the band ‘Emotion’. I had never heard of ‘Emotion’. They opened with the tune ‘Burn’ by Deep Purple, but I remember being unimpressed and believed that we should have been top-billed.
02/06 Stanwood High School Casual Dance – 2.5 hours - $250.
This gig was almost ruined by bad technical problems.
02/07 Ferndale High School Tolo – 3 hours - $250.
This was definitely a great formal crowd.
02/13 Shelton High School – 2.5 hours - $250.
The minute we started performing, students pulled chairs up to the front of the stage, sat down and keenly watched us. No other group of students had ever done this. In spite of the concert-like atmosphere, the crowd was relatively stiff and unresponsive for reasons unknown.
02/14 Tahoma High School Tolo – 3 hours - $250.
This was a fair formal crowd at best.
02/20 Lake Stevens High School – 3 hours - $210.
A good crowd made this a very good gig. Several weeks earlier while we were crossing the Lake Washington floating bridge, Dave Freeman gave his notice that he was leaving the band to pursue other interests that included a career in broadcasting. Lake Stevens High School was our last gig with Dave, who played a total of sixty-two gigs (73 individual performances) with Krakatoa. And because it was a good gig, Dave had some misgivings about stepping out of the limelight. But his course was set and after the conclusion of the last tune, Krakatoa’s sound would never include keyboards again.
Instead of replacing Dave with another keyboardist, we opted for a second guitarist with the intention of toughening our sound. Enter Chris Jacobson, former guitarist for the group ‘Marilyn’. I had seen him play at Mercer Island High School and thought he looked like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame, so when he answered our ad, auditioned for us and ultimately joined the band, I was ecstatic.
Chris and I had more than just rock music in common – we shared an interest in trains and model railroading. He showed up at one practice session wearing a ‘Milwaukee Road’ t-shirt that he picked up on 1st avenue in Seattle. We were equally fascinated by trains that we encountered during our travels and would often pause to watch them pass. Chris would later become a locomotive engineer!
Chris was an exceptional guitarist and learned our material quickly. He played a gold-colored Gibson Les-Paul that had a raunchier sound than the Fender Stratocaster that Paul played. Subsequently, Paul played both his Stratocaster and a Gibson Les-Paul Sunburst that he borrowed from Troy (see below), and he and Chris would take turns playing lead guitar solos before cheering crowds.
Since we were in the midst of a personnel change, we took the opportunity to improve our sound still further by adding a lead vocalist. Enter Troy Woodsome, a twenty-three year old lead vocalist whom had recently migrated from Los Angeles to Seattle. I remember him showing up at Paul’s parents’ house for his audition with us. Wearing a short, brown leather jacket, he leaned against a wall in the living room and watched us finish practicing a tune. When he sang for us we liked his presence and vocal range. He seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity to perform with us, so we invited him to join the band.
Worried about memorizing the lyrics of two-dozen tunes, Troy saw a hypnotist in Seattle for a fee of $100. We were skeptical about the whole thing and didn’t think it helped him much.
Both Chris and Troy lived on their own, while Paul, Brian and I still lived with our parents on Mercer Island. Chris rented a small house on the corner of a busy intersection in Kirkland, WA, while Troy rented a room in the U-district near the University of Washington. Both Chris and Troy lacked transportation (i.e., neither of them owned a car), so Paul or Brian would make the rounds to pick them up for practices and bring them home (or to a bus stop) when we were finished. This would continue until we moved our practice sessions to the house Chris was renting. Troy would later refer to us as the ‘Mercer Island Babies’ because we still lived with our parents. And because Chris and Troy had their own places, we gave them a larger share of our income from gigs so they could pay their rent.
A few months before Dave left the band, we had our third promo shot taken at the urging of Unicam, our current agency. I remember thinking it was long overdue. I planned to wear my brother’s silver stage jacket and thought I would look really hip with hair so long it reached my underarms. However, during the shoot I was asked to be bare-chested, as were the rest of the guys. The photographer took silhouettes of us – we were just dimly lit faces in a sea of darkness. No suggestion of clothing (or lack thereof) or hint as to how long our hair was. While admittedly a novel idea, I was quite disappointed and didn’t think the image did us justice. This was the last promo shot taken of Krakatoa while I was a member. Paul and Brian threw dozens of copies of our old promo shot to scores of young girls during a break at a gig that followed the distribution of our new promo shot. No promo shot was ever taken with Chris and Troy, possibly because the last shot with Dave was so recent, maybe because of the cash required, but more likely because we waited to gauge the stability of the new lineup.
02/26 Lindberg High School Casual Dance – 2nd time – 2 hours - $225.
This was our first gig with Chris Jacobson. We performed in the school’s cafeteria, and with two lead guitarists on stage I remember this gig being exceedingly loud. We opened with ‘Fox on the Run’ by the band ‘Sweet’ and the crowd loved it. They appeared to be thoroughly enthralled by our two-guitar sound, but I sensed some confusion among the students. We had played Lindberg High School less than one month earlier with Dave, so the old lineup of Krakatoa was still fresh in their minds. The expressions on their faces almost seemed to be asking, ‘Where’s the keyboard player?’
I didn’t realize how popular we were becoming in certain circles until Brian told me he saw a student wearing a jacket with studs on the backside that read, ‘Boogie to Krakatoa.’ I wish I had seen that!
03/05 Issaquah Junior High School – 2.5 hours - $200.
This was our first gig with Troy Woodsome, and the crowd was great. Troy appeared to be thoroughly excited to be performing before a live audience once again. He was very positive about the show and our musicianship, but how short-lived that attitude would be!
03/06 North Kitsap High School Casual Dance – 2nd time – 3 hours - $225.
Chris Jacobson used to attend this high school, so not surprisingly he was very displeased when the gig did not go well. My notes indicate that this was a terrible gig (possibly our worst ever), but I can’t recall if we had unusually bad technical problems or if it was simply due to lackluster musicianship. Brian recalls that our monitors went out. Members of the band ‘Rail & Company’ were in the audience, and while we were belting out our rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Rover’, Chris launched into an extended guitar solo, attempting to prove to the entire crowd that he was an excellent guitarist caught with a bad act. After the show Chris split with ‘Rail & Company’ – still another way of separating himself from the likes of Krakatoa.
Tony recalls Chris and Paul engaging in a “battle of the guitars” – not so much from a musicianship standpoint (they were both excellent guitar players), but from a volume standpoint. Each time Chris would turn his amp up a little, Paul would do likewise. Back and forth they would go, until the PA system (including monitors) was overwhelmed. We normally didn’t mic the guitars (and they weren’t this night), but both of their amps were loud enough to flood out the PA system. This resulted in only the guitars being heard - no other sounds (vocals, bass guitar or drums) could be heard. It was Tony’s most embarrassing night as a soundman, as it was the only night that people from the audience came up to the soundboard and asked what was wrong with the sound. All he could do was shrug his shoulders and point to the guitars. We went through several cans of freeze spray that night…
This also marked a turning point in the attitude of Troy Woodsome; the night before he had shown tremendous optimism and good will. Now he stared into space, desperately trying to make sense out of our disappointing performance and assess his future with Krakatoa. I sat with Troy and tried to work it out with him, stating my belief that we just hadn’t had enough practice sessions together yet to be tight – we needed more time to iron out the kinks. But Troy appeared to have already made up his mind and our conversation didn’t make a difference.
My drumming may have been one of the issues at North Kitsap, too. I believe it was my first gig after I switched from the traditional grip of my left hand to a matched grip approach. This affected both my timing and the power of my left-handed sticking (e.g., the beat on the snare drum). Although the switch temporarily compromised my playing, I did it for the eventual benefits it would bring (e.g., greater power and flexibility). But having used a marching-style grip since the 3rd grade, even three months later at our last gig my ‘feel’ was still not back to normal using the new grip. When I listen to recordings of our performances during this time I can hear the uneven sticking and timing issues, and credit both to the switch of my left-handed grip.
On the issue of changing grips, one of my all-time favorite drummers, Neil Peart (Rush), went the opposite direction that I did. In the late 1990’s he switched from a matched grip to a traditional grip while studying under a legendary jazz drummer. He took an entire year to fully adjust to the change, refusing to play with the other members of Rush until the switch felt natural.
At this period in time I wore black, sequined gloves on my hands – a meager attempt at imitating Peter Criss of the band KISS. These gloves were not appropriate for drumming (they were ladies gloves) and made it difficult to grasp and hold onto drumsticks. I cut off some of the fingers of the gloves to improve my dexterity, but my drumming was still impacted until I completely disposed of them. I parted with the gloves on April 30 at Kirkland Junior High School and realized an immediate improvement in my playing.
Unfortunately, Troy formed the opinion that I was a terrible drummer. I went to Brian’s house one day for practice only to find that the others were up in Kirkland at Chris’s house discussing what to do with me. Paul and Brian later briefed me on Troy’s remarks, but indicated that in spite of Troy’s stance they (Paul and Brian) still wanted to keep me as their drummer, taking everything Troy said with a grain of salt. While I was touched by the loyalty shown me by Paul and Brian, I was simultaneously VERY depressed and wondered what they REALLY thought of my drumming. No one had ever told me before that they thought I was a lousy rock drummer, and knowing that the guys questioned my talent certainly didn’t inspire my playing! Immediately after this revelation, my self-confidence slowly began to slide down hill.
In retrospect, the practice of rehearsing at the homes of Paul, Brian or Chris, but never my own parents’ home, was not ideal for developing my talent as a drummer. Unlike a guitarist who can simply unplug his guitar and take it home for extra practice, realistically I couldn’t cart my drums home. This restricted my time behind the kit to group practice sessions and live gigs. In order for me to more fully develop as a drummer, I should have had a second kit set up at the home of my parents, where I still resided. Alternatively, if the band had had its own house, I could have devoted myself to many more hours of personal practice and reached a higher level of professionalism, but I would quit the band before ever having this opportunity.
I’m not sure of the exact timing of the following item – it is an approximation. During March of 1976, Unicam called a meeting with the band and explained to us that we were being eyed by the Renton-Auburn Musicians’ Association. They explained to us that the union was a necessary evil. We were being called to join at a cost of $125 per band member and that if we refused, the union could make working in the region difficult for us. We reluctantly consented, viewed a video presentation on the benefits of membership and began relinquishing three percent of the proceeds of each gig to the union.
03/12 Laconner Grange Hall – 3 hours - $250.
Unlike North Kitsap High School, this gig went extremely well. Notes indicate that this gig was an ‘A okay blow away.’ Maybe the current Krakatoa lineup had a future after all.
Before our next gig on March 20, we retreated to Paul’s parents’ cabin in the Cascade Mountains near Packwood, WA. There we stayed for an entire week to work on our act.
Ida Dixon, whom I’d been corresponding with and hadn’t seen since our gig on Orcas Island, and her girl friend, Danni, met us at the Safeway on Mercer Island and followed us to Packwood. It was my 20th birthday, and Ida gave me a very special gift: a scroll containing the lyrics to ‘Icarus: Born on Wings of Steel’, my favorite tune by the band ‘Kansas’. She had painstakingly written some verses in Calligraphy and carefully burned the edges of the scroll!
Floating on a cloud of amber,
Searching for the rainbow's end.
Earth so far below me,
I'm here alone and I,
I won't come down, no more.
Sail on, sail on, I will rise each day to meet the dawn.
So high, so high, I've climbed the mountains of the sky.
Without my wings you know I'd surely die.
I found my freedom flying high.
I've climbed the mountains of the sky.
- From 'Icarus: Born on Wings of Steel', by Kansas (Masque)
The band ‘Kansas’ became one of my all-time favorite bands after I saw them perform at the Seattle Coliseum in 1975, sandwiched in-between Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. They had just released their third album titled ‘Masque’ and I was blown away by how good they were. When they finished their set, the entire Seattle crowd was silent as if mesmerized by the talent of the progressive rock band before their eyes. Of course, with hits like ‘Dust in the Wind’ and ‘Carry on Wayward Son’, eventually they sold millions of albums.
During one evening in Packwood we all reclined in the upper loft, smoked pot and listened to Todd Rundgren’s ‘Utopia’. I focused on the music, soaring up and down with each note and roll across the drum kit.
Our week of practice in Packwood didn’t seem to help us much. I remember Troy trying his best to convey his idea of an original tune he wanted us to perform. He titled it ‘Oh, How She Loves Me’. It seemed completely out of character for Krakatoa to play such sentimental garbage, and the tune was abandoned. Likewise, we tried playing ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ by Alice Cooper, but it didn’t come together well enough to add it to our song list. All in all, the week seemed pretty much a waste to me because I was dissatisfied with the length and intensity of our practice sessions and didn’t think that we really bonded as a group. I was convinced that we spent too much time dreaming about rock stardom and not enough time sweating to make it a reality. I left Packwood disappointed in the new Krakatoa.
The Krakatoa Work Ethic:
Paul, Brian, Dave and I rehearsed a lot. We usually practiced a minimum of three or four days a week for several hours each day. Exceptions were the days of gigs and weekends (we would not hold practice). This zeal for practice was not shared by many future members of the band, and this affected the stability and longevity of Krakatoa.
03/20 Fife High School – 3 hours - $250.
In spite of our week of practice in Packwood, we played loosely for the crowd at Fife and they did not respond well.
03/26 Bellingham Assumption Gym Dance – 3 hours - $300.
This was a far better performance by us than at Fife a week earlier. Ida Dixon came from Orcas Island to see us play and snapped twelve color photos. This simple effort on her part underscored how infrequently we were photographed. None of us owned a still camera, so the only visual record of Krakatoa is a handful of photos taken by friends.
Paul’s younger brother Matt often operated our lights for us. But on this night, our friend Angus McGill sat in for Matt.
With a rip in his pants extending the length of his left hip, Troy hopped onto the drum platform during one tune and shook his ass back and forth to the beat. He must have had a great view of the audience dancing below the stage!
Ida Dixon had these comments concerning our performance in Bellingham:
“Anyway, now to recap those exciting moments of Friday nite. Are you ready for my evaluation of the nite? Well, here goes.
“I actually thought that you guys all played rather good! When you started out, it wasn’t very good (the vocals were drowned [out]), but as the nite progressed, so did the music! The audience seemed to really be getting off on the music by the end of the nite, especially when you played ‘Slow Ride’.
“I also heard some people comment on how you were dressed – ‘They look like fags.’ I suppose there is some like that in every audience. Myself, I thought you all looked rather nice, especially you [John]! I think it really fits the music that you play, especially KISS.”
03/27 Sumner High School Tolo – 3 hours - $250.
Another gig where we played quite well, but the crowd dissipated near the end of the night. We launched into ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ by Ritchie Blackmore’s ‘Rainbow’, but the auditorium was nearly deserted. Angus McGill snapped several color photos of us performing at this gig.
During a break Paul let some girls paint his fingernails with dark blue nail polish. Chris let them paint his nails with pink nail polish. I believe they permitted this because Queen’s flamboyant lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, wore black nail polish on one of his hands. I stayed far away from the girls and their nail polish, cringing at the thought of what my parents would say if I were to come home with nail polish on my fingernails.
04/03 Lindberg High School Formal – 3rd time – 3 hours - $240.
Gigs at Lindberg were always good. We played ‘Action’ by the band ‘Sweet’ and really got this formal crowd moving.
Somewhere around this time I really wanted a new set of drums, but I couldn’t afford it. I had seen a beautiful metallic set at the American Music store and thought a kit of silver drums would look really cool. Troy mockingly asked, “Doesn’t your daddy love you? Wouldn’t he buy you a new set if you asked him?” Knowing all along the answer would be “No”, I decided to take the poor man’s route to a new set of drums. I carted my set home, removed all the chrome hardware and ignorantly spray painted my 1960’s blue-sparkle, Gretsch drums silver. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. Stupidly (perhaps due to all the marijuana I was smoking), I failed to open any windows during the painting session and when I looked up, I noticed a thick cloud of silver mist hung in the air around me. The mist drifted upstairs to my parent’s bedroom. Suddenly, my father burst into the unfinished, daylight basement room where I had been working and angrily asked what the hell I was doing. In spite of my father’s justified anger and concern for my lungs, I had a set of silver drums that looked pretty sharp (for a few gigs anyway) – until the rigors of the road began to take their toll in the form of innumerable, small scratches upon the painted surfaces.
While attending Arizona State University in 1978, I bought a 9-piece (double bass drum), chrome Slingerland drum set from a guy that recently married and wanted the money for a sofa. I got $3,600 of drums (with hard cases) plus seven Zildjian cymbals for a mere $580.
The coolest set of drums I have ever owned is a double-bass kit of V-Session drums by Roland (what I play today). I’ve added extra electronic drums, three acoustic Roto-toms, and several acoustic cymbals to make a really great setup.
04/09 Everett High School – 3 hours - $260.
We delivered another good performance here, but the crowd was unresponsive to our music. Could it be that they remembered our first appearance at their school on Halloween of 1975 and expected us to be wearing makeup?
04/10 Marysville High School (Boone’s Farm Boogie) – 3 hours - $250.
The crowd was great at the beginning of the gig but dead at the end.
04/17 Chelan High School – 3 hours - $400.
This was an uneventful gig except for the return trip home. We encountered a spring dusting of snow while crossing westward over Stevens Pass and Brian’s GMC Suburban couldn’t get enough traction to make it over the pass. We piled out of the vehicle and tried pushing (yeah, right)! Next we tried wedging old towels under the leading edge of the back tires. This partially worked, but the towels were shot from behind the tires as if they had been fired from cannons, and then we were stuck again. After twenty minutes of attempting to push a heavy vehicle we were exhausted. Then a sand truck came up the hill from behind us and generously spread its load in our direction of travel. Almost instantly we regained traction and were on our way. I thanked God for giving mankind the logistical sense to deploy sanding trucks on mountain passes!
04/23 Skagit Valley College (Mount Vernon) – 3 hours - $350.
I don’t remember why, but we left Mercer Island very early to travel to this gig. We sat in the cafeteria at the college and talked with Brian Dedrickson (a former classmate from Mercer Island Senior High School) for hours before beginning our set up. The gig itself went very well – so well that the crowd wanted an encore. After the show students that ran the radio station at the college interviewed us while I munched an entire 9-ounce bag of Party Pride pretzels. I sweat so much playing drums for Krakatoa that after each gig I had a voracious appetite for salt, so I would often munch on pretzels during the drive home.
Apparently Troy refused to come on stage for the first set of this gig. During the break Brian called him an immature little baby and told him to grow up. Imagine an 18-year-old telling a 23-year-old to grow up! Troy became very angry, stormed on stage at the start of the second set and struck Brian on the back with his microphone stand. After this incident, Brian told Paul that Troy was gone.
04/24 Wenatchee Street Dance – 3 hours - $350.
There was a very cold wind blowing on us while we performed atop a stage set up on a street in Wenatchee. I was concerned that I would catch a cold playing under these conditions and I did. We know there is no direct correlation between the weather and one’s health, so I must have been coming down with the cold before I mounted the stage.
There was a nice looking lady in the audience that became very interested in me, but because of the way I was feeling I failed to acknowledge and act on her interest, so she turned to Paul instead. She took us to the home of a friend that was hosting a beer party where in short order we set up our gear and performed an entire set of tunes for the rowdy crowd. It was 2:00 or 3:00 AM, and I couldn’t understand why the hell we were playing hard rock in the middle of the night at a beer party (I must admit I was in a lousy mood).
But this wasn’t enough for one night. Around 4:30 AM we went to still another party. I waded through dozens of people and found myself at a keg in the kitchen. Filling a cup for myself I felt the stare of many who probably wondered who the longhair was tipping the keg. The beer did not sit well with me, and I realized that the entire house reeked of it. I felt like I might puke so I went outside, but I didn’t get sick. The sky was lightening toward the east, so like creatures of the night we decided that now it was time to sleep. We drove into the parking lot of a local motel, and as we came to a stop, I knew that I was about to puke. I made a beeline for the side of the motel, entered some bushes and puked my guts out.
Several months before I left Krakatoa, I would get sick very easily. It was almost as if I were poisoning myself. Frequent marijuana use, drinking of cheap beer, innumerable late-night parties and dissatisfaction with my image (courtesy of my parents) combined to ‘poison’ me. It took only two or three beers to make me vomit, and with one joint having the effect of ten cigarettes on the lungs, I was beginning to wheeze from the irritation. These factors would ultimately contribute to my case for quitting the band.
Even though they were both noticeably drunk during our performance in Wenatchee, Chris and Troy managed to pick up women at this gig. These women eventually followed them across the mountains to Chris’s house in Kirkland where they stayed for a time. On one occasion I went to Chris’s house for practice and found these women preparing themselves in the bathroom with the door ajar. As they wore only underwear, I regretted not having felt better in Wenatchee!
The Krakatoa Policy on Drug Use:
Since the beginning of Krakatoa, we had an agreement that none of us would ever be under the influence of any drug while on stage. We were very serious about giving our best at every performance and believed drug use would greatly compromise our collective talent. Aside from my ignorant miscalculation prior to our gig at Odle Junior High School on 11/21/75, I consistently kept that agreement. The only other violation of which I am aware is that of Chris and Troy’s drunkenness in Wenatchee.
While playing with another band in Billerica, MA during 1982, I ‘recommended’ that we abide by the same policy of abstinence from mind-altering substances during gigs. This did not sit well with the bass player, who liked to snort cocaine before each performance. Citing my conservative performance standards, the band members collectively decided to oust me. Good riddance!
At this point in time, my parents formed definite plans to move back east to the Boston area. They had frequently voiced their dislike of my appearance and my involvement in a seemingly fruitless musical career. My father wanted me to attend college and earn a decent living, so he threatened to cut off financial support if I didn’t quit the band and move to Boston with them.
A myriad of questions entered my mind. I began contemplating how I could continue playing drums for Krakatoa. Two years just wasn’t enough time to make it big in the music business, right? Could I support myself? Where could I live? Who could I room with? Since I didn’t own my own car, how would I get to rehearsals and gigs? Could I attend the University of Washington part time and live in a dorm? No, my father insisted that college was a full-time venture, so I couldn’t do that. I would have to work at some menial job for meager pay. But I already did that during high school. Yuck! Were Paul and Brian infected with Troy’s negativism and contemplating firing me as their drummer? Then I’d not only be without my family – I’d be without my band, too. Ugh!
I carefully assessed my current financial position as a member of Krakatoa. Because Chris and Troy had been given a larger share of our income from gigs, I averaged $21.00 per week. And because my parents disapproved of my membership in Krakatoa and wanted to drive home how little I was paid, they took $10.50 from me per week as rent. This left me $10.50 per week of disposable income! I couldn’t even buy drumsticks without taking a loan! I quickly realized that I was just too poor as a musician to make it without assistance from my parents.
My head started spinning out of control over my uncertain future. After seeing many of my high school friends finish their first year of college and reflecting upon what I perceived to be the collective assessment of my talent as a drummer, I carefully weighed all that my parents said and grudgingly realized that there was only one realistic choice to make. My dad kept reminding me that the train was leaving for Boston soon, so with a heavy heart I had to let the other guys know.
Brian and I decided to return to Seattle while Paul, Chris and Troy remained behind in Wenatchee with the women they had befriended. During the ride home I broke the news to Brian that I would be leaving the group. He sighed and then remarked that he and Paul thought that this might be coming. Regrettably, as much as I wanted to continue playing with the band, my parents still wielded too much power over me at this point in my life for me to go my own way. Krakatoa would begin their search for a new drummer almost immediately.
My parents were extremely vocal about my appearance while I drummed for Krakatoa. My mother said that with my long hair I looked like ‘a wild man from Borneo’. After leaving the band, my father ordered me to cut my hair short, or in his words he would ‘ship me to Boston in a box’. I conceded that Audie Sherberg’s mother would never style my long hair again. Feeling completely out of place, I reluctantly entered a local barbershop with my father and sadly watched my long hair fall to the floor as the barber, beaming a huge grin the whole time, quickly snipped it off. I would never have such a glorious head of hair again!
In February 2003, my old friend Brian West had these kind words to say:
“John, I remember thinking that things would never be the same again. Krakatoa continued but you were missed. Our innocence was gone. And that small group of High School pals playing together with big dreams was ending. I think Paul and I would agree that your leaving was much harder than losing Dave.”
Stemming from their own dissatisfaction with Krakatoa, Chris and Troy also announced that they would be leaving the band. Chris was being courted by a band called ‘Jax’, and promised a 200-watt Marshall Amplifier stack if he joined them. Troy was on the verge of becoming the lead vocalist for ‘Mojo Hand’, another local act. The current lineup of Krakatoa was about to disintegrate. Brian admits that he and Paul should have tried harder to keep Chris onboard because of the degree to which Paul and Chris complimented each other’s guitar playing.
04/30 Kirkland Junior High School – 3 hours - $250.
Right off the bat we had technical problems involving the guitars. To entertain the audience while others in the band scrambled to correct the problems, I launched into a spontaneous drum solo involving syncopated beats with fast bass-drum work, similar to the rhythms I kick out during a section of the tune ‘Slow Ride’ by Foghat. Members of the band thanked me for the diversion. Even Troy, who started all the bad karma concerning my drumming, gave me a look of appreciation.
I was in a great mood and played extremely well. Brian caught me smiling and said, ‘You’re happy because you’re quitting the band.’ I was happy in the sense that I was no longer struggling with a very difficult decision – I would be leaving Krakatoa to attend college in the Boston area. But I was not happy to be leaving my friends and the band we had formed two years earlier.
05/01 Marysville Y.M.C.A. – 3 hours - $200.
Here we played to another unresponsive crowd.
05/04 Audio Recording, Seattle, WA.
Paul, Brian and Tony had taken a course through this recording studio and were allowed to take us in for one recording session (May 4) and one mixing session (May 5). We recorded four tunes:
1) Tears in my Eyes (Uriah Heep);
2) Cockroach (Sweet);
3) Owed to ‘G’ (Deep Purple);
4) Doctor, Doctor (U.F.O.).
We started to record a fifth tune, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” by Bad Company. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and weren’t able to complete the task.
Troy had some nice comments about my drumming during this recording session! He liked the snap of my wrist as I struck cymbals, and he thought I did a lot of tasteful things in the tunes we recorded. He even thought the recordings were good enough to get radio play, although I thought they needed a lot of reworking before that was an option.
The music was recorded on cassette tapes and we each got a copy. I still have these recordings to this day, but the passage of time has significantly deteriorated the sound quality. I have transferred them to CD and have used computer software to improve the sound quality where possible.
05/08 Stanwood High School Prom – 3 hours - $300.
We played well, but hoped for a better response from the formal crowd.
05/14 Helen Bush School – 3 hours - $200.
This was not one of our better gigs, but we successfully hyped the crowd near the end of the night. A major distraction was the presence of both Chris’s and Troy’s future bands in the audience. Members of ‘Jax’ and ‘Mojo Hand’ smiled up at us, apparently enjoying watching Chris and Troy play with the band that they would soon leave.
One of Chris’s lady friends accompanied us on this gig. She was an avid photographer and took a lot of good quality, black-and-white stills of us performing.
05/15 St. Mark’s Episcopal Church – 3 hours - $200.
I think this gig took place during the daytime, and directly upon the floor of the church auditorium. All the ingredients were there for a bad gig. Only a day after being reminded by ‘Jax’ and ‘Mojo Hand’ that Krakatoa’s end was near, we didn’t see the value in performing. Tunes almost fell apart into unpleasant associations of instruments as if we were conducting experiments in poor composition.
05/21 Oak Harbor High School – 3 hours - $300.
This was a decent gig and crowd.
05/22 Eastmont High School (Wenatchee) – 4 hours - $400.
Chris and Troy had very little invested in this gig. Paul, Brian and I played the first set 3-man – the first time in over a year. With all the weird attitudes flying between band members, it took drunken friends in the audience to get all five of us on stage and salvage the gig.
05/28 Sequiah Junior High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $200.
I approached the stage during our set up to find Brian in a very good mood. He greeted me warmly and showed me his newest equipment purchase: a second SVT bottom cabinet. Brian stood in front of sixteen 10-inch speakers – a true wall of bass amplification equipment. At this moment I felt my first deep misgivings about leaving the band and the friends with whom I enjoyed playing so much.
We played this gig without Troy and went over excellently. Chris really got into the music this night. With Troy out of the picture everyone could unwind and let loose with kick-ass rock and roll. We played superbly, and I remember this as our best gig with Chris.
05/29 ‘The Barn’ Community Rock Hall (Port Angeles) – 4 hours - $250.
This was Troy’s last gig. He played a total of twenty gigs with Krakatoa, and managed to burn bridges until the very end. In front of the entire audience he mocked us as a band and stated that he was the new lead vocalist for Mojo Hand. Chris was so furious about Troy’s remarks that he was ready to throw punches. Due to the rest of us calming Chris down, Troy was fortunate and escaped a serious beating.
I remember our last conversation with Troy Woodsome. Sensing that he would definitely rise to stardom and that perhaps, if lucky, so would the rest of us, he said, “See you guys at the top.”
06/01 Mount Vernon Graduation Party (Virginia V Steamboat) – 4 hours - $275.
Another gig set to the gentle rocking motion of a steamer ship.
06/03 North Kitsap High School Graduation Party (Virginia V Steamboat) – 4 hours - $375.
Well, I guess we didn’t do that badly after all at North Kitsap on March 6, or they wouldn’t have asked us back to perform at their graduation party! Paul met Kim Studebaker at this gig and married her two years later (in spite of the fact that she was on the entertainment committee and preferred the band ‘Rail & Co.’ over ‘Krakatoa’). During the summer of 2003, Paul and Kim celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary! Congrats to Paul and Kim!
06/04 Rose Hill Junior High School Casual Dance – 3 hours - $250.
This was a decent gig, and I even inspired someone! During one of our breaks a guy told me that he thought I was a fantastic drummer, and that seeing people like me perform made him never want to stop playing drums!
06/09 Leota Junior High School Formal Dance – 3 hours - $200.
This was a decent gig, too. Unfortunately, I had only one more gig to perform as the drummer of Krakatoa.
06/10 Cordell Junior High School Formal Dance – 3 hours - $200.
For both Chris and me, this was our last gig with Krakatoa. My notes indicate that it was one of our most disappointing engagements due to numerous technical problems and the proverbial ‘dead horse’ syndrome. In spite of this appraisal, the crowd went from being very stiff at the beginning of the night to wild cheers at the end – a good turnaround for a formal crowd. I guess we managed to rock them nonetheless.
I believe our best tune of the night was ‘Slow Ride’, by Foghat. With guitars blaring, we really brought the second set to a climactic conclusion. Afterwards, Kevin Monahan advised us through his microphone at the soundboard, “Boys will be boys, now turn down your toys.”
At some gigs we did an alcohol chant. Imagine the terror of chaperones when we openly chanted ‘alcohol’ over and over again to high school kids (perhaps in conjunction with the tune ‘Cold Gin’ by Kiss). At Cordell Junior High School we behaved ourselves and left the chanting up to their imaginations.
Chris had committed to join the band ‘Jax’, but he enjoyed playing our sets so much that he expressed a genuine desire to stay with Krakatoa. But the lure of a 200-watt Marshall stack and higher personal pay was too much to turn down so he regrettably left Krakatoa.
I borrowed a tape deck from my high school friend, Bob Rudolph, and hooked it up to the mixing board. While I now wish I could have recorded a better gig, it is still better to have this record of Krakatoa live than to have no record at all. Unfortunately, the music was not mixed well going onto tape. This may be due to indirect miking of the guitars through microphone stands on stage (per Tony’s earlier comments, the guitars were not normally miked). At times the guitars are barely audible, and at other times the vocals are overwhelming. As with the studio recordings made on May 4, 1976, I have burned them onto a CD and have used computer software to improve the sound quality where possible. Selected live recordings are available for listening on the Krakatoa web page.
Tony Crosetto, our original and most frequent soundman, had these comments concerning Krakatoa’s sound and the strategy he would have employed had he been around to record us live:
“Krakatoa always sounded good live. It was a bit of a balancing act, mixing the rest of the band to the un-mic'd guitars and having to adjust things when Paul and Chris changed their volumes (usually up...). Eventually, the PA wouldn't keep up, and the vocals would start getting drowned out. Another battle was keeping the monitors loud enough (over the guitars, again), without them going into feedback. We were always running on the ragged edge!
“If I had recorded you guys live, I probably would have tried setting up two microphones in an x-configuration, right in front of the sound board. With the right tape deck, you could run the microphones straight into the L/R channels. It's kind of ironic - what came off the board that night was probably the opposite of what Krakatoa sounded like live. You've done a masterful job of remixing it into a respectable recording.”
I deeply regret not having any recordings of Krakatoa while Dave Freeman was in the band. It would be great to hear what Krakatoa sounded like with Dave’s singing, keyboards and synthesizer sound effects thrown in, as well as the additional vocal harmonies present in the music!
After Chris and I left the band, Paul and Brian engaged a new drummer named Ernie Cailao and remained a three-piece act until Krakatoa disbanded in February 1977. Before moving to Boston I attended one of their practice sessions and wasn’t impressed with Ernie’s drumming. The desire to continue as Krakatoa’s drummer was so strong that I almost blurted out that I wasn’t leaving the band after all. I will always ponder the possibilities had I stuck it out with Krakatoa!
I have paraphrased Brian West’s comments related to the remaining gigs performed by Krakatoa after I left the group:
08/28 Eager’s Place, Everett.
This was a return to the three-piece line-up and a very bad first outing. My notes indicate another crummy hole.
09/10 Everett High School – 3rd time back.
We felt at home here but the crowd was subdued. It was a warm-up gig for the next weekend.
09/17 Paramount Theater N.W.
All right! Dreamland USA! I remember this as the apex of Krakatoa. Paul was in top form and we got a better response than Troy’s new band, Mojo Hand. We lit off every pyrotechnic effect we had and played very well. This was a taste of things to come later in my career, but it was never this fresh or new again. Playing your first real concert is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
*** HOLD IT, HOLD IT!! You mean to tell me that I drummed for Krakatoa for two fucking years, and then Ernie joins the band and gets to play the Paramount as his third gig!! Playing the Paramount was always our dream. I can’t believe it was only three gigs away from me. Shit!!
09/24 Anacortes High School.
This gig was a real let down after the week before. Paul and I were getting tired of Unicam.
10/01 Lindberg High School – 4th time.
Unicam gets the axe soon!
10/08 Stanwood High School.
This gig was one of the better High School gigs we played with Ernie.
10/22 Capitol High School.
The gig went well but the memorable thing was a great dinner at the Greenwood Inn.
10/23 Oakville High School.
This was a tiny town halfway to the coast. My comments: “cheddar on top”.
10/29 White River High School.
Another matchbox. John, you played there with us in 1974 (Krakatoa’s first gig).
10/30 Thai Delta Chi Fraternity.
This was a Halloween party that we played in a small hall.
11/10-14 Good Time Tavern – 5 nights.
“Crummy Hole USA.” I think this was the start of the demise of Krakatoa. Paul and I were getting sick and tired of playing small dumpy clubs.
11/18 Concert in Port Angeles.
We backed up Chiliwack & Trooper at a Theater. A lot of egomania existed between our crew and the headlining act. Because the headlining act had to catch an early ferry across Puget Sound, Krakatoa ended up as the actual headliner. But the road crew of the other band stayed behind and tried to sabotage our sound and lights. We stayed at a dumpy hotel afterwards and partied with some locals.
11/19 Sequim High School.
Don’t remember this one. Notes indicate “jailbait dances onstage”.
11/23-28 Hong Kong Tavern, Port Angeles – 6 nights.
This was a club on the ground floor of a deserted five-story hotel in downtown Port Angeles. Our accommodations were on the third floor of the hotel. It was eerie because we were the only guests. We met some really nice locals and had a great week. We ate a lot of Chinese food. “Yung Fung Wung, Ok?”
This concludes Brian West’s detailed records of gigs performed by Krakatoa, although he admits that there were other gigs not recorded. These included appearances at the Town Pump (Tacoma), Lost Nights (Tacoma), Lake Hills (Bellevue) and several more high schools.
Ernie Cailao left the band in February 1977 due to legal issues. Paul and Brian had a few more contractual obligations as Krakatoa and used Mark Nelson (formerly the drummer for Sorcerer’s Apprentice) to finish these gigs. That was the shortest-lived version of Krakatoa and lasted a total of three weeks. It would have been a good act, but Mark received an offer to record with the band “Pavlov’s Dog” so Paul and Brian released him. That was the final coffin nail in Krakatoa.
Song List of June 10, 1976:
What was it like to hear Krakatoa perform at your local high school or junior high school? Listed below is the complete song list performed at Cordell Junior High School on June 10, 1976:
1) Stranglehold (Ted Nugent);
2) One Thing on my Mind (Montrose);
3) Star Struck (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow);
4) Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble (Bachman Turner Overdrive);
5) Wishing Well (Free);
6) Simple Man (Bad Company);
7) Can’t Get Enough (Bad Company);
8) Movin’ On (Bad Company);
9) Strutter (Kiss);
10) Cold Gin (Kiss);
11) Finding My Way (Rush);
12) Mama We’re All Crazy Now (Slade);
13) Good Lovin’ Gone Bad (Bad Company);
14) Rock the Nation (Montrose);
15) Ready for Love (Bad Company);
16) Tears in My Eyes (Uriah Heep);
17) Slow Ride (Foghat);
18) Wanton Song (Led Zeppelin);
19) Highway Star (Deep Purple);
20) Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin);
21) Tush (ZZ Top);
22) C’mon and Love Me (Kiss);
23) Rock Steady (Bad Company);
24) Working Man (Rush);
25) Rock & Roll All Night (Kiss).
The musical equipment employed by Krakatoa during the spring of 1976 was as follows:
1) Public Address (i.e., PA) system:
a) Altec 15-inch speakers in imitation Sunn cabinets (4);
b) Altec 12-inch (421 8h series II) speakers used as stage monitors (4);
c) Altec 5-11-B high frequency horns (2) and Altec 501 horn drivers (2);
d) Crown DC-300A amplifier (1);
e) Crown D-150 amplifier (1);
f) Rosac slave amplifiers (2);
g) AKG model 190 low-impedance microphones (12);
h) Peavey 1200 (12-channel) stereo mixer (1);
i) 12-channel snake (1).
2) Bass Equipment used by Brian West:
a) Rickenbacker Bass Guitar (1);
b) Ampeg amplifier (1);
c) Ampeg SVT cabinets housing 8 ten-inch speakers each (2).
3) Guitar Equipment used by Paul Hanson:
a) 1970 Fender Sratocaster (1);
b) 100-watt Marshall stack (1).
4) Guitar Equipment used by Chris Jacobson:
a) 1972 Gibson Les-Paul Deluxe Gold-top (1);
b) Sunn Concert Lead amplifier with custom pre-amp modification by Tapco (1);
c) Cabinets housing four, 12-inch Jensen speakers (2).
5) Percussion Equipment used by John Ross:
a) Gretsch drums (with one 22-inch base drum);
b) Zildjian cymbals (15” hi-hats; 16”, 18” & 20” crash; 22” & 24” ride);
c) Ludwig hardware.
Tune Repertoire (May 1974 – June 1976):
The complete repertoire of tunes performed by Krakatoa through June 1976 is listed below:
1) Dream On;
2) Make It;
3) Sweet Emotion;
4) Walk This Way;
5) No More Mr. Nice Guy;
6) School’s Out;
Bachman Turner Overdrive:
7) Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble;
8) Give it Time;
9) Hey You;
10) Rock is My Life;
11) Roll on Down the Highway;
12) Taking care of Business;
13) You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet;
14) Can’t Get Enough;
15) Feel Like Making Love;
16) Good Lovin’ Gone Bad;
17) Honey Child;
18) Movin’ On;
19) Ready for Love – we played it slow and heavy;
20) Rock Steady;
21) Simple Man;
22) Day Tripper;
24) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band;
25) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise);
Beck, Bogart and Appice:
26) Superstition (Stevie Wonder);
27) Man on a Silver Mountain;
28) Star Struck;
29) Children of the Grave;
30) Crash Course in Brain Surgery;
31) Hammer and Thongs;
33) Feeling Stronger Everyday;
35) Highway Star;
36) Lay Down, Stay Down;
37) Lady Luck;
38) Might Just Take Your Life;
39) Never Before;
40) Owed to ‘G’ (Instrumental);
41) Smoke on the Water;
42) Space Truckin’;
43) Storm Bringer;
44) Listen to the Music;
45) Free Ride;
46) Rock and Roll Woman;
47) Saturday Night’s All-Right for Fighting;
Emerson, Lake and Palmer:
48) From the Beginning;
49) Home in my Hand;
50) Slow Ride;
51) Wishing Well;
52) Peel the Paint;
Grand Funk Railroad:
53) Bad Time to Fall in Love;
54) We’re an American Band;
55) Funk #49;
58) Cold Gin;
59) C’mon and Love Me;
61) Got Nothin’ to Lose;
62) Rock and Roll All Night;
64) I can Jive;
65) Maybe Not so Long;
66) My Head’s on Backwards;
67) Outer Space;
68) Rock and Roll Medley;
69) Communication Breakdown;
70) Custard Pie;
71) Over the Hills and Far Away;
72) Since I’ve Been Loving You;
73) Stairway to Heaven;
74) The Ocean;
75) The Rover;
76) Wanton Song;
77) I can’t Stand It;
78) Look Outside;
79) New Rock and Roll;
80) Junior’s Farm;
81) Bad Motor Scooter;
83) Good Rockin’ Tonight;
84) Got the Fire;
85) One Thing on my Mind;
86) Rock Candy;
87) Rock the Nation;
88) Space Station #5;
Mott the Hoople:
89) Drivin’ Sister;
90) Whiskey Women;
91) Beggar’s Day;
92) Hair of the Dog;
93) Jet Lag;
94) Love Hurts;
95) Pony Express;
96) New Day;
100) Keep Yourself Alive;
101) Now I’m Here;
102) Stone Cold Crazy;
103) Honky Tonk Woman;
104) Finding My Way;
105) Here Again;
106) Priests of Syrinx;
107) What You’re Doing;
108) Working Man;
109) Mama We’re All Crazy Now;
110) Midnight Ride;
111) Green Eyed Lady;
113) Ballroom Blitz;
115) Fox on the Run;
116) The Rocker;
117) John Barley Corn;
118) Day Dream;
119) Day of the Eagle;
120) I Can’t Wait Much Longer;
121) I’m Gonna be More Suspicious;
122) Lady Love;
123) The Fool and Me;
124) Built for Comfort;
125) Doctor, Doctor – this was Tony Crosetto’s favorite tune;
126) Queen of the Deep;
127) Rock Bottom;
128) Space Child;
129) The Coming of Prince Kajuku;
130) Easy Livin’;
132) Tears in my Eyes;
133) Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box;
134) Ballad of the Beacon;
Brian West ran into Troy Woodsome at a music store in Tacoma, Washington sometime in the late 1980’s. He was still chasing his dreams. According to Brian, Troy had not aged well and appeared to be wearing the same scarf and leather jacket that he had worn in Krakatoa a decade earlier.
During the late 1980’s Paul and Brian decided on a whim to attend a football game in Southern California in which the University of Washington Huskies team was competing. Three rows away sat Dave Freeman! Some ten years after leaving Krakatoa and two states south of our origins and there’s Dave! This is one of the most amazing coincidences of which I have ever heard. Dave and his wife were last known to be living in Africa.
Chris Jacobson first contacted me (John Ross) via email on July 7, 2002. He came across the Pacific Northwest Bands website and responded to the link provided with the Krakatoa page text. Chris helped me get in touch with Paul and Brian after a twenty-four year silence, and if we were on stage right now I’d ask that he be given a huge round of applause. Thanks, Chris!!
Chris became a locomotive engineer for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and a rock producer. His latest collaboration included Kurdt Vanderhoof of the band Metal Church. Their CD is titled ‘A Blur in Time’ and was released on July 29, 2002 on SPV (a German Label).
On April 2, 2003, I made my way to the House of Blues in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My old comrade, Paul Hanson, performed two guitar solos (about ten minutes in length) before a small crowd of Bostonians to demonstrate the capabilities of a new guitar effects device produced by Roland. I hadn’t seen Paul in twenty-seven years and it was so good to see him. His guitar playing has improved immensely (see his tribute below) – it was like watching Eddie Van Halen. Paul lives in the Seattle area again, in the vicinity of Packwood (i.e., the foothills of the Cascade mountain range). He works for Roland full-time and does extensive traveling to demonstrate and promote their products.
Tony Crosetto also contacted me via email on August 30, 2003 after browsing the Krakatoa Chronicles. He still lives in the Seattle area and has worked at The Boeing Company for over thirty years. In November 2003 he joined Brian West (visiting Seattle for the Thanksgiving holiday) and Angus McGill for a few beers at a local bar.
On June 25, 2004, several former members of Krakatoa and key support personnel reunited for a short, evening party. Paul Hanson (guitar), Brian West (bass guitar), Chris Jacobson (guitar), John Ross (drums), Tony Crosetto (sound) and Angus McGill (lighting) were present. We had great fun reminiscing and played two CDs of Krakatoa covers until well past midnight. Boys, it was a blast, but far too short after 28 years apart! We should do it again soon, and make a day out of it.
Paul lives with his wife of over thirty years in Packwood, Washington. Amazingly, they recently lived in the same neighborhood that my wife and I eyed before moving to Boston in 1992. Had I never moved to Boston, Paul and I may have discovered one day in 2000 that we were neighbors! After growing up not far from each other on Mercer Island, finding each other to be neighbors twenty-three years after Krakatoa would have been truly bizarre!
On Friday, September 16, 2005, Brian West, Tony Crosetto, Angus McGill and I gathered at the Roanoke Tavern on Mercer Island to celebrate our 30th high school reunion with about a hundred other former classmates. Thirty years has passed in the wink of an eye! Other musician friends present at the reunion were John Scher (Rainbow) and Gordon Currie.
On February 8, 2012, Dave Freeman (former Krakatoa keyboardist) contacted me after reading the Krakatoa Chronicles. He indicated that he thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane – it brought back a thousand memories.
Creation of Krakatoa CDs:
In celebration of our reunion, I created two CDs of Krakatoa covers and gave each band member their own set to keep. In creating the CDs, I used computer software to enhance the quality of both live and studio recordings originally made using cassette tapes. Here are the steps I followed to create the CDs of Krakatoa covers:
1. I started with three, 60-minute SONY cassette tapes containing live recordings, and one, 45-minute SCOTCH tape containing studio recordings. The tapes were twenty-seven years old and I was concerned about losing all record of Krakatoa’s sound should the tapes break or otherwise disintegrate due to age and/or chemical changes.
2. Next I bought a really cool recording device – the Tascam CC-222 (a professional, studio quality CD recorder/cassette deck). This cost me $750, but I considered it a worthwhile investment toward saving a fragile set of Krakatoa recordings.
3. With tapes and rewritable CDs in hand, I used the CC-222 to copy the tunes from each tape onto the CDs. These were straights copies – adjustments in sound quality would come later.
4. Each tune was ‘ripped’ from its CD and uploaded to my home PC – a mere 450 MHz, Pentium II machine with 256 Mb of SDRAM. This task alone consumed over one gigabyte of storage on my 14-Gb disc drive.
5. Over a period of several months, I painstakingly used WaveLab (Steinberg) software to make adjustments to the sound quality of the recordings. This was a difficult task. First, I had to learn how to use the software; second, I had to apply multiple parameters to each tune a number of times before deciding that the best mix had been achieved. Since I was dealing with very old, pre-mixed tapes, I was quite limited in my power to enhance the sound quality of each tune. The best I could do was to add additional harmonics using the ‘Puncher’ effect, expand the stereo feel using the ‘StereoExpander’ effect, increase the bass and play with the mid-range using the equalizer, dither the sound, etc. On a few tunes I increased the relative volume of the right channel. But I didn’t have the tools to lower the relative volume of the vocals on the live recordings or increase the volume of the guitars.
Some tunes were not worth saving. For example, Stranglehold (Ted Nugent) was our opening tune during our last gig. The sound quality is so bad that no amount of tinkering would make it presentable. Other tunes (e.g., Highway Star (Deep Purple)) suffered from enormous spikes and dips in volume, originating at the soundboard. However, the end of Wanton Song (Led Zeppelin) leads directly into the beginning of Highway Star, and this beginning section spans two cassette tapes (with several missing measures), so I had to splice the pieces together the best I could, then cut out the rest of the tune. In the tune Working Man (Rush), I wanted to spare Paul any potential embarrassment he might feel as he struggled to sing like Geddy Lee, so I cut out the ‘Priests of Syrinx’ section. In the end, I believe I have captured the best of Krakatoa.
The studio recordings were almost unsalvageable. Unlike the SONY tapes used for the live recordings, the original SCOTCH tape was clearly disintegrating from age and repeated playback on poor quality tape recorders shortly after I left Krakatoa. With very little fidelity left, each tune sounded muffled during playback. Luckily, I found a copy of the original tape I had made over ten years earlier. While working with a copy of the original tape is not ideal, the sound quality of each tune on the copy was decidedly better, although still not great.
6. After listening to each tune literally dozens of times, I had to end my tinkering and live with what I had created. It was time to create a new master CD. Starting with ‘Slow Ride’ by Foghat, I burned fifteen tunes (79 Mb) onto a rewritable CD using the Tascam CC-222. Then I burned four studio tunes onto a second CD. Next I needed to create five copies of each CD on CD-R discs (ten CD-R discs in total). I accomplished this through use of another CD player – its role was to play back the rewritable CD while the Tascam CC-222 burned the input onto a CD-R disc. This task took several nights to complete.
7. The last step was to create jacket covers for the CDs. I used CD labeling software to accomplish this task. After selecting appropriate bit-mapped images of two of our promo shots, a picture of myself on drums and a picture of Chris on guitar that I had scanned, I carefully positioned them within the boundaries of a CD jacket design. I composed song lists and musician credits for the back covers of each CD. Through trial and error, I printed the designs onto premium photo paper, trimmed them using a razor blade, folded them and positioned them within each CD jewel case.
It has been suggested that the creation of these amateur-class CDs is the mark of someone with too much time on his hands. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I sacrificed a lot of time I could have spent with my family. I did it not because I have too much time on my hands, but because I had a passion for preserving Krakatoa’s music before it is forever lost and so everyone might enjoy our performances of over thirty years ago.
The same can be said for the ‘Krakatoa Chronicles’. There is a lot of material here – a lot of memories. It doesn’t mean I have too much time on my hands – I have merely made time (a little here, a little there over a period of several years) to tell the Krakatoa story from my perspective. The account is quite personal in nature, and maybe I have exposed too much of my soul. But that makes it more interesting than a cold accounting of our gigs. I have solicited commentary from former band members and incorporated their responses into the document where applicable. My underlying goal has been to preserve the memory of Krakatoa (for those of us who care), and to distinguish the Krakatoa page from others on the Pacific Northwest Bands website by virtue of the unique material available.
Tributes to Mercer Island Musicians:
Terry Shelton (Drummer Extraordinaire):
As described above, Terry Shelton was the drummer for ‘Great Whale’, my older brother Don’s first hard rock band. Terry was a mere sixth grader in the spring of 1970, playing with tenth graders. After attending a Jethro Tull concert in Seattle, my brother said, “Terry could run circles around the drummer for Jethro Tull.” Indeed, he had incredible natural talent and later proved to be a musical genius, mastering multiple instruments and flying back and forth between Seattle and Los Angeles for recording sessions at the age of sixteen. Whenever I watched Terry perform, I was truly awestruck.
One afternoon, Brian West and I went to see Terry at his house. He played back a tape of a tune he was composing – a beautiful guitar melody with four-part vocal harmony. Then he sat behind his drum set and did what he does best. For the life of me I couldn’t follow anything he played - it was that sophisticated. But then he slowed it down and showed me how to play certain rhythms. He advised me to work on my rolls, claiming that drummers use them the most. And he said, “Don’t take drum lessons, just listen to records.”
Of all the drummers I have ever known or had the pleasure of listening to, Terry had the greatest influence upon me. I will always credit him for sparking my initial interest in rock drumming.
Steve Yusen (Drummer):
Steve was another excellent drummer originating from Mercer Island. For five dollars he once came to my parents’ home and showed me a few rhythms. He claimed it was difficult to master all the rudiments and it involved a tremendous amount of practice to reach a decent level of proficiency, but then it was all down hill. He would later play with Terry Shelton’s older brother Gary (a talented bassist) in ‘Bacon Fat’. I still have a ‘Bacon Fat’ business card from when they played a local gig (circa 1972) – it reads: Bacon Fat – Where it’s At Rock ‘n Roll Show – Carl Vonder Haar (Manager).
Steve attended Evergreen State College to become a professional drummer. When I walked to Paul Hanson’s place for Krakatoa rehearsals, I often paused on the pathway next to Steve’s house and listened to him practicing in his basement. What a great drummer!
Doug Kammerer (Drummer):
In the spring of 1973, Doug became the drummer for my brother Don’s second band ‘Rainbow’. He had a really cool jazz-rock style with elements of funk thrown in to keep it interesting. Like Terry Shelton, he too played along with records to learn his fundamentals. I saw him perform with ‘Rainbow’ at Saint Monica’s Church and thought he was awesome. Terry Shelton attended the dance and sat at the back of the room, trying to attract girls by strumming a guitar during song breaks. But at the start of one tune in particular, Doug laid down a beat that ripped Terry’s harem apart and drew the girls screaming to the center of the dance floor.
Terry seemed genuinely impressed with Doug’s drumming. By his demeanor and the look in his eyes, I also sensed that he longed to perform in a band with my brother again, although he never would.
Craig Cook of Unicam thought Doug was a fantastic drummer. These days, Doug is a network administrator and plays in a band now and then for fun. According to John Scher, Doug switched from drums to guitar because in his opinion drummers aren’t in the spotlight enough.
Don Ross (Guitarist):
Without a doubt, Don is the best guitarist I have ever known. He started with a blue-white, Fender Stratocaster in 1966, and then traded it for a Gibson Les-Paul and a twelve-string, acoustic guitar in 1972. He first emulated Jimi Hendrix, then Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), and then John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra). He practiced endlessly, perfecting the riffs of any guitarist he heard. And he was lightning fast. Admittedly, Don was a much better guitarist than I was a drummer. I was never officially the drummer for any of his bands because the talent gap was too wide. But as his younger brother, I got to hear a lot of great guitar playing while we grew up together. Don, you’re the best!
Don not only played with extraordinary talent, he looked the part, too. He lifted lots of free weights and grew slim and powerful. And his dark brown hair was a longhair’s dream – perfectly matching the look of Jimmy Page from an early photo with Led Zeppelin.
One night during the late 1970’s, Don got into a violent argument with his roommate in the U-district near the University of Washington. Don’s left hand was pushed through a plate glass window, shearing off half the padding of his middle and ring fingers. Skin grafts were necessary to rebuild the lost tissue, but nerve damage and a loss of feeling in both fingers were permanent. Believing this injury compromised his playing, he abandoned his dream. “Rainbow” was Don’s last rock band – truly a shame because his talent was extraordinary. To this day when I hear him play, he is still awesome.
Don became friends with Roger Fischer (Heart) and often worked on his guitars, including a double-neck Gibson. He fondly remembers attending parties with the Wilson sisters, Anne and Nancy. Nowadays, he is a professional writer, has his Masters degree in Information Systems and does work for NASA.
Paul Hanson (Guitarist):
When Paul and I were in Krakatoa together, I didn’t realize how good he was on guitar. Tapes of our music reveal that he was a very accomplished guitarist at nineteen years old. Beyond Krakatoa, Paul’s musical accomplishments are astounding:
As a performer, Paul toured the states and Japan playing lead guitar beside Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor on his “Thunderworld” tour. Paul was also lead guitarist on the Vanilla Fudge reunion tour with Carmine Appice and Tim Bogart. He also spent several years in the Los Angeles club circuit with the legendary Brooklyn Brats.
As an instructor, Paul was the director of the Rock Guitar Department at the American Institute of Music in Vienna, Austria during 1990 and 1991 where he toured in support of his first solo album “The Visitor” on MGI Records. He taught rock and classic rock at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood for fifteen years and has lectured at the University of Southern California (USC). He has authored a successful book entitled ‘Shred Guitar’ (Warner Brothers), “Hard Rock” (instructional tape series, Hal Leonard), “Metal and Rock Improvising” (video, REH) and “Arpeggios for Lead Guitar” (video, Hal Leonard). In light of his extraordinary musical talent, Paul was asked to be a guitar coach for film and television stars including Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future; Light of Day), George Clooney, Eric Stoltz, Mitch Polleggi (X-files), Maria Conchita Alonso and Charlotte Ross of Aaron Spelling’s “The Heights”.
As an actor, Paul had a bit part in “Back to the Future”, appearing on stage with Michael J. Fox as one of the ‘Pinheads’. Note that Paul wears a cap and sunglasses while posing as the bass guitarist for Marty McFly’s high school rock band (I watched the film for years and never recognized him in the role).
As a composer, Paul has run a home project studio and has written music for films and television. Some of his latest compositions include the main menus for the DVDs “The Matrix”, Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” and “The Perfect Storm.”
Paul’s talent has become immense since I performed with him some thirty years ago. He joined the Roland musical instruments company in 1999 and currently tours the US as a featured guitar clinician. Hearing him perform today leaves one in a state of awe.
Brian West (Bass Guitarist):
I am very impressed with Brian’s bass playing when I listen to old Krakatoa tapes. He was extremely solid - never missing a note as he and I formed the rhythm section of the band. As was the case with Paul, I didn’t realize how accomplished Brian was when I performed with him in Krakatoa some thirty years ago.
Beyond Krakatoa, Brian played with dozens of bands, appears on several CDs, appeared in films (e.g., The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization Part II - The Metal Years), etc. He has been throughout the states in a tour bus and has performed for hundreds of thousands of people.
In 1993 on his thirty-fifth birthday, Brian sat in a tour bus in a dry, midwestern town. Away from his family and unable to have a drink, he realized he was the oldest guy on the road and it just wasn’t fun anymore. It was time to quit the race and do something else with his life. It was an emotional decision – to reach the fringe of stardom but still have it elude him. It took two full years for Brian to make peace with himself over giving up his dream. Nowadays he is the president of his own company in Los Angeles and plays in a cover band in his spare time. Love you, man!!
John Ross (Drummer):
Well, I really can’t write a tribute to myself – I’m not that narcissistic! But I’ll echo the touching words my former girlfriend, Ida Dixon, once said to me in a letter near the end of May 1976: “John, look in the mirror. The person you see is the one I love. You’re the star and I’m the fan.”
Painful Lessons Learned:
Several months after I left Krakatoa to attend college in 1976, I found myself in a state of melancholy. I wasn’t following my dreams of rock stardom – I was buried in mathematics, economics and accounting texts. How thrilling!! The musician inside me was heartbroken. Although I wasn’t a great drummer when I called it quits, I sensed I could have become pretty decent if only given the room and support to weed out my weaknesses and develop my talent.
No longer a member of Krakatoa, I lost touch with Paul and Brian. But sensing a page unturned, I started having disturbing dreams. During many of these dreams I was rooted on a street corner, gazing down a long row of apartment buildings. In the street were hundreds of noisy people. Suddenly, Paul or Brian would emerge from one of the doors, several dozen feet away. I would yell at the top of my lungs to get their attention, but they couldn’t hear me over the din of the crowd and quickly slipped out of view amongst a sea of faces.
In retrospect, I regret that I performed with Krakatoa for only two years. Two years was not nearly long enough for me to walk away and believe I gave it my best and could do no better. Another two years or so would have been infinitely better. Had I stayed with Krakatoa, the decision of Paul and Brian to hook up with Steve Lynch in Silverload may never have occurred. Krakatoa may have developed into a killer band with a large, loyal following. And then again, maybe we would have made it all the way to the top. But that is the stuff of dreams.
The chemistry between the members of Krakatoa, our common roots, our extreme youthfulness, the relative innocence of our intent, my premature departure and the band’s untimely demise have resulted in my fascination with the group and its potential. Of all the bands I have played with, Krakatoa remains my favorite.
“Don’t give up your dreams” is an adage that resonates in my soul like a thunderclap over a mountain valley. If I could impart some measure of wisdom to those who have been caught up in the Krakatoa Chronicles, it would be to see your dreams through. Don’t let anything or anybody get between you and the realization of your dreams! At all costs, pursue each dream until you are satisfied with your efforts to attain it.
John Ross (Drums/Percussion):
In spite of some of my commentary above, the vast majority of my experiences with the members of Krakatoa and the crowds that heard us perform were overwhelmingly positive. I look back on this time in my life and relish almost every minute. It was a time of dreams. If I could do it again, I’d do it again a thousand times. If only we had time machines! Below I have captured some additional memories that cannot be associated with a particular gig, and some parting thoughts.
We were usually allotted three hours to set up our gear prior to the start of a gig. Set up usually began at 6:00 PM with shows scheduled to begin at 9:00 PM. Most gigs lasted three hours, consisting of three sets that were fifty minutes in length and two breaks lasting fifteen minutes each. This meant our shows usually lasted until midnight. Tearing down our gear after a show usually took about one hour and the drive home another hour. This meant arriving home commonly between 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM (on Fridays in time to catch the last part of Channel 7’s ‘Creature Double Feature’ – a popular science-fiction/horror show of Seattleites).
To cart our equipment from gig to gig, we often used a Dodge van owned by Paul Hanson’s parents and a GMC Suburban owned by Brian West’s parents. How accommodating and generous their parents were! While we often played both Friday and Saturday nights in a row, we occasionally had to quietly empty one or both of the vehicles of equipment at 2:00 AM so the vehicle(s) could be used during the day on Saturday.
When I first joined the band, I was so excited that I tore down my model railroad in hopes of using the room as a practice space for the band. With hammers in hand Brian and I completely dismantled the railroad in record time. But practicing at the home of my parents lasted only a few short days. My mother was already tired of enduring years of practices by my older brother Don’s bands ‘Great Whale’ and ‘Rainbow’. The volume of Brian’s bass guitar not only raised my mother’s blood pressure; it also irritated a neighbor who was dying of cirrhosis of the liver (he called the police). Krakatoa was quickly banned from practicing at my parents’ house. Luckily, Paul’s parents and Brian’s parents were much more accommodating.
At Brian’s house we usually practiced in the family room with my drums set up in a sort of pit. At Paul’s house we usually practiced in the living room. I recall that during one practice session at Paul’s house, Brian’s bass rattled a huge flowerpot to the floor in the adjoining kitchen, spreading dirt all over the floor. During another practice session at Paul’s house, his mother and four sisters were at the opposite end of the house with the TV blaring while we belted out tune after tune at ear-busting volume. I don’t know how she did it, but Paul’s mother was a saintly woman who never seemed to complain about Krakatoa completely dominating her house day after day with loud, hard rock music.
We were a loud band. When we practiced at Paul's place we nearly sent shockwaves through the ravine on the north side of his house. After one particularly loud practice session we went out-of-doors and watched a rather brisk wind rustling the leaves of trees in his yard, but we couldn't hear anything because the ringing in our ears was so overwhelming.
The camaraderie between the members of Krakatoa is probably what I miss the most. Eating, sleeping, traveling, performing and sharing our hopes and dreams with one another resulted in tremendous camaraderie, and it made quitting the band a highly emotional experience.
The more rural a gig’s location (e.g., the farming communities at the base of the Cascade Mountains), the more requests we’d get for music of different genres like Country Western. One student from a particular school repeatedly asked for Marshal Tucker and was quite distraught when we couldn’t deliver. But we were true to our hearts. We strictly stuck to our hard rock repertoire and refused to tailor our sets to individual crowds. It’s no wonder that our music didn’t satisfy the expectations of every crowd!
During the first half of the tune Stairway to Heaven I’d slip on my platform shoes, leave the stage and walk through the crowd attending the dance. This afforded me an opportunity to hear the softer side of Krakatoa from the vantage point of the audience. It was also amusing to experience the reaction of students to my presence – they never spoke with me, they only stared at me with my long hair and stage clothing. I wonder what they really thought of Krakatoa and me! Sometimes Tony Crosetto and I had short discussions at the soundboard, but as much as I enjoyed this interlude, I had to be careful not to get carried away and forget to get back behind my drums in time for the second half of Stairway to Heaven.
In retrospect, I wish I had not been so sensitive to Troy Woodsome’s remarks concerning my drumming (in fact, he contradicted himself quite regularly). When listening to tapes of our music, there are occasional bad guitar chords and frequent off-key singing. And for sure, I screwed up here and there, I admit. Most of my screw-ups were tempo related – easily correctible through application of some basic mechanics. I know now that it was only a matter of time before I would become an excellent drummer even by Troy’s standards. But I was only twenty years old, immature and lacked self-confidence. Troy’s negativism made an indelible impression upon my young psyche at a turning point in my life. My transition from a professional rock drummer to a college freshman was partly fueled by the ‘Troy’ factor.
What was the world like while Krakatoa rocked Seattle? Gerald Ford was President. The last soldiers came home from Vietnam. Saturday Night Live demonized former President Nixon, and Dan Akroyd and Steve Martin performed skits of ‘Two Wild and Crazy Guys’. The Midnight Special aired on Saturday nights, hosted by Wolfman Jack, and Don Kirshner hosted bands like Kansas on his ‘In Concert’ series. Led Zeppelin was selling out arenas all over the world, Kiss was rapidly rising in popularity and Nirvana was thirteen years in the future. Microsoft didn’t exist and the original twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York (the buildings destroyed in the 9-11 terrorist attacks) had only recently opened their doors. Music was distributed on vinyl records. There were no compact discs, cell phones, camcorders, VCRs, PCs or Internet websites.
I still wonder to this day what would have become of Krakatoa had I decided to continue playing with Paul and Brian. With tapes of our music spanning 1974 to 1976, it is amazing how much we improved as individual musicians and collectively as a band in the short, two years we performed together. And we were so young!! I’m sure that the original trio would have persevered for many more years while developing the magic chemistry and sound that propels a band to the top. I also planned to pen many of the lyrics to original tunes once we really dedicated ourselves to creating our own music (like Neil Peart of the band Rush). Remember the Pepper King? Where would Krakatoa be now? We’ll never know the answer to that question, but see the link to a short story I wrote during college called ‘The Chocolate Éclair Miracle’, a fictitious account of Krakatoa’s rise to stardom.
Some (including my own former Krakatoa band mates) may wonder why I have taken the time to compile these thoughts and events, especially in light of Krakatoa’s relatively short life span and failure to progress to stardom (i.e., it was simply a local, short-lived Seattle cover band). In fact, it is often assumed that only those with too much time on their hands compile documentation of this length and detail. Thus, I am compelled to come to my own defense and explain my madness. First, as a writer, it is a therapeutic avenue of expression. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as the drummer for Krakatoa and believe that my friendships were cut short. In writing the ‘Krakatoa Chronicles’, I get to live those days over again in my mind. Second, I am fascinated by the passage of time and how quickly our world is changing. By writing the ‘Krakatoa Chronicles’, our experiences are captured before advancing age has taken too great a toll on our memories. While ‘Krakatoa’ may be a very distant memory for many Seattleites, a reading of this document may spark fond memories of a dance attended long ago. How many high school couples kissed while we performed ‘Ready for Love’? Third, I believe Krakatoa deserves such a tribute. In light of what former band members have accomplished in the years since, Krakatoa NO DOUBT would have amassed a huge following and climbed the charts had it remained intact. Lastly, the ‘Krakatoa Chronicles’ have served as a vehicle to rekindle our ties to one another as friends and musicians.
Some have remarked that I am ‘living in my past.’ But the rock scene of Seattle during the 1970’s was truly magical. The memories are vivid and powerful. It was the time of my youth – a time of exploration and freedom, albeit short-lived. In my middle age I sit quietly before my PC each day for hours on end, breaking down business problems into logical components that may be assembled into computer programs. Then a refreshing flash from the past rockets through my mind – I’m up on stage with Krakatoa, pounding on my drums before a crowd of hundreds wildly dancing beneath us. When I’m sixty-four, will I relish my hundreds of computer programs, or will I share stories as a ‘70s rock drummer with my grandchildren?
The chronology of gigs described above would not have been possible had it not been for our bassist, Brian West. He kept a log of our performances and often noted the reactions of crowds to our music. Immediately after leaving the band I borrowed this log from Brian and recorded the sequence of gigs on sheets of notebook paper, adding key words to jog my own memory of the wild and varied experiences we had as a band. Thanks, Brian!
I would also like to thank Sam Carlson, the web master of the Pacific Northwest Bands web site. With a wonderful demeanor he has repeatedly assisted me with arranging the material on Krakatoa’s web page, from text to photos to music. Thanks, Sam!
Paul and Brian moved to California during 1978, entering the L.A. music scene. From there they formed many successful bands, toured foreign countries, appeared in feature films, etc. While the account of Krakatoa that I have presented may seem tame by comparison, it is nonetheless the way it was for three high school friends that started it all in the spring of 1974.
Dave Freeman (Keyboards/Vocals):
On August 19, 2012, Dave provided me with the following comments:
“I've moved from China to Pakistan. No, I am not CIA, just an international educator.
“I will always regret my decision to leave Krakatoa. The tight sound we accomplished, the growing fan base, the positive relationships inside the band and our close group of supporters are all things I cherish. I am particularly proud of the time we put into our vocal rehearsals. We were "unplugged" before the term became popular. By spending the time to get that aspect right, I believe our sounds surpassed many of those bands working at the same level in the Northwest at that time.
“I'll always remember Tony, the sound guy, expressing his anger at me because I always held back during the sound check. I wanted something extra for my solos. And staying in a pickers’ cabin in Eastern Washington while playing a dive bar in Wenatchee – I guess you got to take the bad with the good. I still have a promotional picture the band had taken. Were we ever that young?”
Paul Hanson (Guitars/Vocals):
“One thing we had was a work ethic and dedication to our band. There have been so many musicians that I have played with who flaked on rehearsals and were not dedicated. Who knows what would have happened if we had stuck together as a trio? Never know... maybe there are alternate time branches and we are out there in one... living in Hawaii as millionaires off of our platinum records.”
After listening to the two CDs of Krakatoa’s music that John Ross produced for our summer, 2004 reunion, Paul had the following comments:
“We were better than I remembered. We had a cool band [Krakatoa]; it was just our clothes that were bad.”
Chris Jacobson (Guitars/Vocals):
“I was always so proud of this band. One thing that stands out in my mind is Craig Cook, our manager at Unicam, loudly proclaiming that Krakatoa was the best two-guitar hard rock band in Seattle. I think he was right!
“So many bands of the seventies have long been forgotten. But this wonderful account of our experiences will help to immortalize Krakatoa. The legacy lives on!”
During April, 2011, Chris lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He has left behind many loving friends who will miss him dearly.
Brian West remembers Chris: “I cannot believe he's gone. He was one of our good friends. I choose to remember the good times: Stevens Pass with moving blankets, green note contests on stage, hurrying back from a gig to watch Saturday Night Live at the shack on Rose Hill, Denny's, Sambo’s, VIP's, bad food, bad motels, cruising in the Suburban while pulling a U-Haul trailer, train chasing with him in his Mazda pick-up in Southern California, the big wall of sound we created with him, his sense of humor, his musical ear. These things and a thousand others I will miss but I will not forget.”
Paul Hanson remembers Chris: “It’s really sad to hear. Chris introduced Kim and me and we had some great times, especially in California in the 80’s.”
John Ross remembers Chris: “I was struggling to play ‘Owed to G’ by Deep Purple precisely the way Ian Paice plays it. Chris wisely said, “Don’t play the song the way Ian Paice plays it – play it the way John Ross would play it.” As one musician to another, that was the most level-headed and helpful advice anyone ever gave me. We had a mutual love of trains and hard-rock music, and I credit Chris with being a critical player in reconnecting the former members of Krakatoa. Chris, you will not be forgotten. Rock on!”
Brian West (Bass Guitar/Vocals):
“In retrospect I wish we had kept it going. Krakatoa was a better band than most of the ones that Paul and I played with in subsequent years. I have played to hundreds of thousands of people, but the lessons learned in my formative years with friends will stay with me for life.”
Tony Crosetto (Soundman/Effects):
“The experiences I shared with Krakatoa formed some of the best memories of my youth. Sure, it was exciting to be associated with a popular rock band, but what I appreciated more was the camaraderie of the group and the fact that we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. I also admired the raw talent these boys displayed and I was sure that one or more of them would eventually ‘make it’ in music. Their talent was only exceeded by their ambition and drive. What it takes to be successful in the music biz is the right combination of talent, drive and promotion (which, of course, takes money). Krakatoa was long on the first two and a tad short on the third. To think what they could have done with a little more financial backing is the stuff only dreams are made of.”
Troy Woodsome (Lead Vocals):
Unfortunately, Troy will never be able to provide his final impressions. He quietly passed away during August of 2007, a victim of colon cancer.
Troy’s passing brought back a memory of his diet when he lived in an apartment near the University of Washington campus. While I visited him one afternoon during the spring of 1976, he showed me a thick, dark paste he had made, claiming that it was a health food he had mixed for daily consumption. He was particularly proud of this concoction, but it had a terrible odor and I’m convinced that if I had taken him up on his offer to sample it, I would have puked all over his apartment! Health foods may not be as healthy as we might think!
As a husband and a father of two beautiful girls, he put up a brave fight against his cancer, but after a battle that lasted for several years it finally got the best of him. Good bye, Troy!
Ah yeah, good night, we love you!!
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