ANDY WALDECK’S MILLION MILES OF MUSIC

Photo by Jenn Rhubright

     Would you embark on a journey if you knew it would require a million miles just to make a footprint? Jimi Hendrix inspired a young boy in Wisconsin to pursue a life in music. When the bug bit, he had no idea how he would get to the place he envisioned or what would happen along the way to influence his path. He saw a man do incredible things with a guitar, and the performance rocked his world. The wellspring of creativity he would encounter didn’t come from his Midwest surroundings. He had to venture outside his home base to discover the muse that would light his musical fire. Immersing himself in the miles and the music he experienced along the way, he started a band with the name of a distant place. Together, they traveled enough miles to reach this land of antiquity, all the while creating their own history with each step. Reaching the threshold of a new beginning meant the end of one million mile journey and taking that bold first step towards the next. Earth To Andy was a big bang moment, an explosion of sound as powerful as its leading personality. Its impact survives Everafter. No one ever said it was an easy road to take.

     As with age comes wisdom, Andy now has the benefit of hindsight to see how early his roads diverged, and the difference taking the one less traveled has made. He comes from a long line of optometrists, so his dad was not unaware of his son’s vision to pursue a career outside the family business. It was a gutsy aspiration at a time when children were expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps, not create new ones. Andy persisted in dropping hints to his father about his musical bent, asking for a guitar repeatedly before receiving one for Christmas at the age of ten. Believing he’d finally received the holy grail, he opened the package to discover a bass. Not exactly the instrument of his burning desire. He hid his disappointment for a day or two and then decided to embrace the gift he was given. He had no idea how valuable that bass would be. Since he was 12 years old, he’s had work because of it. In middle school, he said there were 12 guitar players, but only one bass. In high school, the ratio was 30:2. As he would learn much later, playing bass was also the key to being comfortable on stage.

     About the time Andy started high school, his parents divorced. His mom moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, and he started high school there. Freshman year at a private school didn’t go so well, and he’d drifted some from his music. He made the switch to a public school for his sophomore and junior years and loved it. Musical opportunities were abundant, and he reconnected with his desire to be a professional musician. His high school offered a jazz workshop where guitar players went to learn technique that was a foundation for other things – rock, classical, metal, and country. It was a lesson in the discipline of learning to play and employing different techniques. He was surrounded by talented guitar players and drummers, but there were no bass players. His skill was a hot commodity in that market, and he started playing with four or five different bands. Growing up in Milwaukee, he’d been exposed to a pop-centric world. In New England, his musical world exploded – Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Clash, Sex Pistols, ska music, punk music. He discovered a sound landscape he didn’t know existed. At the end of junior year, someone dragged the needle across his newfound vinyl. The principal at his school was less than impressed with his performance over a two-year run, inviting him to pack his bags and head back to Milwaukee. For a kid who felt on top of the musical world, this was a big helping of American Pie – the day the music died.

     Back in Milwaukee, he moved in with his dad and started his senior year at St. Catherine’s. He put in just enough time and effort to graduate and was gone again four days after graduation. Against his father’s advice to choose a college that offered a music program and a backup plan, he enrolled in the summer session at Berklee College of Music in Boston. That experience was enough to convince Andy that the academic scene was not for him. The best thing that came out of that summer was meeting Joe Lawlor. Joe was a year younger and still attending Amherst High School. In a year’s time, they would reconnect in the Washington, D.C. area where both their mothers were living. Andy was interested in DC’s vibrant punk scene, a vastly different world than the Berklee scene he’d just come from. He had every intention of jumping into the mosh pit.

     Unabashedly, Andy answered an ad in the Washington City Paper seeking a bass player who could sing and write. He’d never written a note. It turned out to be some kids from Annandale High School who wanted to start a band. There was an instant connection. They called the band The Flip, and they played house parties and clubs in DC such as The Bayou and Grog & Tankard. More importantly, it put Andy in the middle of the punk scene he craved. What he found there was not what he’d expected. In our interview, he said, “The environment you immerse yourself in has a lot to do with your perspective on music, as does who you meet in that environment.” What was happening in DC at the time was like nowhere else in the country, giving Andy a unique vantage point for his emerging musical development.

     DC’s punk scene, often referred to as DC Hardcore or harDCore, emerged in late 1979. It was one of the first and most influential punk scenes in the U.S. It grew locally with support from the student population at Georgetown University and its student-run radio station, WGTB. The Ramones had come to DC in 1976, followed by a few other punk bands that played mostly on off-nights to young audiences. Traditional rock fans railed against them. The first venue that gave punk bands a place to play was the Atlantis, located in the Atlantic Building at 930 F St., NW. It was short-lived, and in 1980, it would reopen as the 9:30 Club, an iconic fixture of the DC music scene. One of the pioneers of hardcore punk was Bad Brains, a band that formed in DC in 1977. From their wake would come a wave of new punk bands – Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Velvet Monkeys, Void, Government Issue, Scream, and another wave from “Revolution Summer” in the mid-80s – Rites of Spring, Fugazi, Soulside, and Gray Matter. Another punk band that made an early splash was Dain Bramage, who employed a local drummer named Dave Grohl. In 1987, they disbanded when Grohl joined Scream. Scream had formed in 1981, one of the benchmark bands of the emerging DC Hardcore music movement. They recorded their music in the basement of Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, Virginia, founded by Don Zientara. This studio would become crucial to the scene over the coming years. Scream released their debut album, Still Screaming, on the independent label, Dischord Records, founded in DC in 1980 by Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and Jeff Nelson (Minor Threat). Dischord was the underground railroad of independent labels at that time, spearheading a nationwide effort of underground bands that formed the pre-Nirvana indie-rock scene. They were one of a few independent labels that presided over the shift from hardcore punk to the emerging alt rock scene of the 90s.

     Now back to where we left Andy in the mid-80s, at the precipice of his immersion into this diverse music scene. It was no secret that DC was a dangerous place at that time, widely reported as the ‘murder capital of the world.’ What he saw in the hardcore scene wasn’t just poor city kids. He found kids from the suburbs just like him, disenfranchised, who were spoon-fed pop radio, and craved something more. At that time, there was no such word as “alt” in music. In addition to the punk scene, he discovered a massive underground movement that was pre-hip hop, pre-R&B. Go-Go music originated in DC in the mid-60s as a subgenre of funk. It’s a blend of funk, R&B, and hip hop with a focus on funk-style jamming. Chuck Brown is considered the ‘Godfather of Go-Go,’ but many bands contributed to the early development of the genre – Young Senators, Black Heat, Experience Unlimited (E.U.), and Trouble Funk. At the time Andy arrived in DC, Trouble Funk, E.U., Rare Essence, and The Junk Yard Band were just a few of the bands that were still playing Go-Go music. He went with another guy in his band to a club to listen to it frequently. They were the only white kids in there. Standing in the corner, hats worn low, they stayed only until sideways glances made their presence known. It was a risky place for white kids to be, but the music was worth it. For the first time in his life, he saw that you could bridge the gap between white and black music. There were white kids out there who wanted that, but had no idea how to access it. He still recalls those days in DC fondly, saying it was a terrific time to absorb music. By the end of the decade, he’d be ready to begin that first million mile journey.

     When Joe Lawlor moved back to the DC area after high school, he and Andy worked construction jobs together and started writing songs. The 80s had given rise to rock bands whose sound didn’t fit neatly into any existing genre. They became part of the independent music underground that was pushing to rise above the surface and claim their own category. New Wave and College Rock were titles being used for such bands, including Nirvana, at the time they released their debut album, Bleach, in 1989. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and Fishbone were already on the scene in 1988 when Andy and Joe’s collaboration became the impetus to start a band. The alternative sound of the bands they’d been listening to was exactly the sound they wanted. The time was right for the music they were writing. They just needed a couple of additional players and a market to support it. Egypt was the incarnation of their sound vision. On the opposite coast, in Seattle, Sub Pop Records had signed Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, and all were releasing albums that were the first steps toward popularizing grunge music as part of the emerging alt rock scene. College Radio was playing the music, putting a more powerful sound on the airwaves than what mainstream offered. The ripple effect of the rising alt movement gave Andy’s new band traction. By 1989, they were playing all over the DC area.

     The Bayou was a venue located in Georgetown that opened in 1953. In the beginning, they featured Dixieland Jazz until rock took over in the early 60s. College students from Georgetown University began to frequent the place, especially when new bands from the UK made it a regular tour stop in the late 70s. Featured bands included U2, The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, KISS, Dire Straits, Foreigner, and many more. For their first show ever, Egypt was asked to open for a headliner at The Bayou. There was a booking agent in the audience scoping out the headliner for possible future shows. After their opening set, he came back to the dressing room and said they were exactly what he was looking for. They signed a contract and became the regular opener for every big act that played The Bayou – Bryan Adams, The Tom-Tom Club, Run DMC, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, The Neville Brothers, and a long list of others. They also played frequently at Hammerjack’s, a concert hall in downtown Baltimore that played host to acts across a range of genres – GNR, Skid Row, Ratt, Badfinger, Goo Goo Dolls, and the like. As the 90s rolled in, Egypt was touring incessantly, the miles ticking away towards that million mile mark.

     Evolving as a band alongside the emerging sound of grunge and alt rock at the dawn of a new decade, Andy knew what he wanted in a lead singer. It was a sound and style their current frontman didn’t have. Just as they decided to cut him loose, the singer they wanted got a gig with another band. Jeff Brodnax was hired by 24-7 Spyz, an alt metal band out of the South Bronx, to replace lead vocalist, P. Fluid, in 1990. In the absence of a desirable replacement, Egypt continued touring as a three-piece with Andy pulling double duty on bass and lead vocals. For Andy, it wasn’t his favorite phase of their history. Nirvana signed with DGC Records (David Geffen Company) in 1990 and began recording their second album. When Nevermind was released in September, 1991, it changed everything. Grunge was suddenly palatable in the mainstream, and the alt rock movement exploded. Hair bands were out, replaced by the unfashion-conscious hard rock bands of the 90s. Egypt’s stage look was basketball shoes, Jams shorts, and no shirts. The amount of energy they poured into a performance made shirts impractical. Where hair bands often preferred theatrical staging of their performances, Egypt was more spontaneous and unbridled. Their music was high intensity rock fused with funky rhythms – “dude music” as Andy called it, and their audience would generally reflect that. After three years of pedal to the metal performances as a trio, they would finally land that lead singer in 1993.

     After losing label support at their creative peak in 1993, 24-7 Spyz went on hiatus. That left Jeff Brodnax a free agent. Egypt never gave him a chance to entertain other offers. He became their frontman and they started recording their first album, signing a deal with Trumpeter Records out of Norfolk, VA. They released Soul Hammer shortly thereafter. With their strongest lineup to date – Jeff Brodnax (lead vocals), Joe Lawlor (guitar), Andy Waldeck (bass), and Glen Walton (drums), they took their show on the road. By ’94, they were a headlining act, playing East Coast clubs and small concert halls. They went as far west as Colorado, logging miles as a band that was becoming a vanishing breed. They were the band that all the bands on the road loved, but the audience was elusive. Dance, rap, and computerized music were taking over. Another issue for the band was filling the drum seat. They went through a series of drummers during this period before approaching the guy they wanted. Kevin Murphy was the drummer for Full Stop. They’d seen him play and always thought he belonged elsewhere, like with them. For Egypt, he was THE guy. They made him an offer and he accepted, but he had to finish his run with Full Stop first. In the meantime, he learned the music and listened to some demos of songs that were unfinished. He joined the band in June, 1995, putting his stamp on the role very quickly. They released their second album, Drowning in the Promised Land, and continued touring. Seven years after its formation, Egypt was the strongest version of itself with this lineup. Since Andy began the project in 1988, he figures a million miles went into making that band everything it could be. Unfortunately, they’d hit a wall creatively, and the market for their music was fading away. Shortly after the release of that second album, the decision was made to call it quits.

     The breakup of a band is never easy, but this one was particularly difficult. Andy knew Egypt was done and had another project in mind, not knowing exactly what it would be. He did know that he wanted Kevin to be a part of it. Kevin’s decision to join him came after hearing a few songs Andy gave him to listen to. Chris Reardon and Tony Lopacinski were playing with a Charlottesville-based band called Red Henry at the time. The project was pitched to them and the band was formed. Earth To Andy would be like nothing else Andy had worked on previously. The songs he’d written were for four-part harmonies. Everyone in this band would be singing. Chris would play bass, Kevin on drums, and Andy and Tony would share guitar duties. Andy had learned to play guitar as well as bass and changed up his role with this project. Chris and Tony were great vocal arrangers, especially on four-part harmonies, and Andy said they worked A LOT on vocals in this band. Kevin’s heavy-handed drumming would be an integral part of the ETA sound, melodic but hard rocking. It would be described as artfully matching loud guitars with catchy melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and striking four-part harmonies.

     Andy’s approach to getting the sound he envisioned for ETA came from finding the right people. He felt strongly about not getting anyone who needed to be groomed. When he was writing the music, he wrote with the person who would be playing it in mind. His philosophy is to give people around you what they love to play. In so doing, you’ll get 100% from them. By the same token, he feels you can authentically become the producer of the sound of the band by allowing people to be the best they can be and not ask them to change who they are or shorten their field of vision. For the full-bodied sound he had in mind, he didn’t want to shortchange anyone’s energy. He thought this would be the role where Kevin could unleash all he could be as a drummer. The music was created specifically for him to flex his power and creativity behind the kit. It would be his job to stamp his imprint on it. To further cement the equality of contribution in this band, they made a publishing agreement between them. It would be equally split four ways. The respect for each other, motivation, and work ethic amongst these four guys made this an exceptional band before they’d recorded a single note.

     In 1997, they released their self-titled debut album on Voluptuous Records. Just a thousand copies were made. In ’98, Simple Machine was their sophomore release with 12 tracks on it. That effort attracted big label attention. Warner Music Group’s subsidiary label, Giant Records, signed them to a deal to release their third album. With label support, the production of this album would be top-notch. They went to L.A. to record tracks at The Vortex and to New York to record at Bear Tracks Studios. Additional musicians were brought in for string arrangements on cello, violin, and sitar. Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots contributed acoustic guitar on the intro to “Still After You.” It was produced by Nick Launay, one of the most sought after producers in the world, having worked on records for Arcade Fire, Public Image Ltd., Talking Heads, INXS, Kate Bush, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gang of Four, and numerous others. Chronicle Kings was released in 1999. The lead single, “Still After You,” became a rock radio hit, reaching #39 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. A video for the song was also released. It was used in episodes of Charmed and in season ten episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210. Following this release, ETA would take on a major league touring schedule. They hit the road in 2000, touring with Stone Temple Pilots, Fuel, Tonic, Live, and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack. They played like rock stars and toured like road dogs, racking up mile after mile promoting the record and building a fan base. Had this happened a decade earlier, they might be a household name. Unfortunately, they were a phenomenal band that outran the market for their music. Their label support was yanked and they found themselves, once again, releasing subsequent albums independently. They released an acoustic project, The Bradbury EP, in 2000, and their final album, appropriately named Sticks The Landing, in 2003. It was their final offering of songs they hadn’t yet released. They played a few farewell shows and closed the book on a band that had enormous potential. As they say, timing is everything.

     For nearly two decades of Andy’s life, being in a band was like breathing air, a life force that was his raison d’etre. It wasn’t just a job. It was a lifestyle. He was on the road more than he wasn’t, surpassing the million mile mark where the distance traveled seems infinite, and they weren’t easy miles. An unknowing public thinks of pimped out tour buses, glamorous hotels, and endless supplies of food, drink, drugs, and women – staples of a rock star life. The reality is, unless you’re in that elusive upper echelon of rock bands, road life bears little resemblance to that image. Countless hours are spent sitting upright in a van, uncomfortably close to your fellow band members. In the days before cell phones, which these were, you called home from a pay phone with a calling card, at least until it ran out. If you were lucky, there was enough money to get the bills paid and keep the van rolling in the direction of the next gig, somewhere down a familiar road you’d traveled countless times. The music you play changes, but little else does, and problems begin to take a toll offstage. Personalities snap and the band breaks up, or the beast that is financial reality slams the door shut on your dreams. For a career musician, the silence is deafening. The road that used to lead to everywhere now has a sign that says ‘Dead End.’ With seemingly no outlet, you must find one.

     Andy had known from a very early age that music was the career path of his choice. It was now time to diversify the components of that chosen career. His home base is Charlottesville, VA. While it doesn’t have the glam or resources of an L.A. or NYC, it is not without opportunities, especially if you’re as talented as Andy Waldeck. His role in all the bands he’d been a part of was multifaceted. That meant that for the previous two decades he’d been honing his skills on bass and guitar, singing, songwriting, performance, and production work. Perhaps inadvertently, he’d learned some things about managing a band and how to put one together, nurturing the personalities and talent as needed. Multitasking seems second nature. Some big names have passed through C-ville, and numerous bands call it home. Once upon a time, Chris Daughtry spent some time in town learning to play guitar and seeking advice about his career. If you read the liner notes of his debut album, Andy Waldeck is the first name he lists in his thank you note to people who helped him along the way. Their relationship would continue over the years with Andy replacing bass player, Josh Paul, when he left the band briefly in 2012. Daughtry’s career is something he’s watched grow from the beginning. He’s also written songs with two other American Idol alumni, Constantine Maroulis (“Here I Come,” “She’s Just Rock N’ Roll”), a two-time Tony nominee, and David Cook (“Heartbeat,” “I’m Gonna Love You,” “Kiss & Tell,” “Laying Me Low”), the show’s 2008 winner. He’s been a prolific songwriter over the years, from his days with Egypt to the present. Outside of Nashville, songwriters aren’t talked about much, but Andy has amassed an impressive list of song credits in multiple genres.

     In the post-Earth To Andy decade, Andy toured a fair amount with bands based out of Charlottesville and elsewhere. When Scott Stapp (lead vocalist, Creed) released his second solo album, Proof of Life, in 2013, he put together a backing band for the tour. Andy was the bass player along with Andy Wood and Travis Comer on guitars and Chad Szeliga on drums. Being on this tour meant learning both of Scott’s solo albums and the Creed catalog. In recent years, he’s done less playing on the road and more in-town gigs. One of those local gigs is a three-piece cover band called E3. The band features Andy on bass and vocals, Steve Van Dam on guitar and vocals, and Nate Brown on drums and vocals, the latter two being former members of the alt rock band, Everything, out of Harrisonburg, VA. They bill themselves as “passionate professionals,” and that’s an understatement. These three guys have been around each other musically for over 20 years – playing, singing, and writing together. When they get booked to play an event, they don’t just show up and play music. They make music in the moment, just as an original live band would do. Their three-part harmonies add to the big sound this band brings to a room, and their range is endless – classic R&B, rock, reggae, funk, 80s, 90s, and today’s music. Their ad reads: “from Louis Armstrong to Led Zeppelin, from Johnny Cash to The Cure to Coolio,” and they really are that versatile without overreaching on a single note. The energy they generate becomes the life of the party. They play mostly private events on the weekends, and you’d be hard pressed to find another band nearly as good. Andy has a habit of being involved in some really great bands.

     In 2016, with his songwriting partner and former Earth To Andy bandmate, Chris Reardon, he started a new project called Killer Deluxe. In some capacity, they’d been together since the late 90s. They had a collection of songs they’d initially written for other artists. Looking at the collective, they found a cohesive set of songs that became their debut album. Unlike most situations, where the band comes before the album, this album demanded a band. A digital download couldn’t replace the stage this music called for. They signed a management deal, put a nine-piece band together, and booked their first show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA. Andy and Chris share lead vocals in the same fashion as the Blues Brothers, and they’re backed by the full-bodied sound of Matt Miceli (guitar), Mike Tony Echols (bass), Nate Brown (drums), Tommy Gann (keys), Ken Francis Wenzel (sax), Daniel Davis (trumpet), and Matthew Echols (trombone). It’s a throwback sound of power pop that can barely be contained within the room. The chemistry between Andy and Chris is magnetic on its own. Add the full band and it takes power pop to a new level. Decades past starting his first band, Andy is still doing it without a hint of slowing down.

     When he’s not performing in a band somewhere, he’s busy creating the next generation of stars. Label backing is scarce these days, making piecemeal production the norm. As a result, Andy is often involved in all components of the production process, including grooming the artist along the way. Sometimes it’s a fine line between management and producer. He teaches lessons at all levels of ability, whether it’s through school programs, music centers, or at the professional level. His experience in the music business is invaluable, and it’s given him a diverse resume from which he can market himself in nearly every aspect of the business. Whether on stage or off, he’s a force to be reckoned with, and with frontman charm, his love of music is infectious.

     The first time I saw Andy Waldeck perform, he was playing bass at an Egypt reunion show a couple years ago. Within minutes of watching the way he carried himself on stage, I knew he was no ordinary bass player. He has since told me that his heroes on bass, Geddy Lee (RUSH) and Bootsy Collins (James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic), carried themselves more like a guitar player or singer. He fits that image to a tee. Some musicians simply play music. Andy embodies it, and his dedication to the process translates into his stage performance. Whether he’s talking about music, writing it, singing, or playing it, he’s consumed by it. This wasn’t just a kid who decided it would be cool to play music. The boy became a man who needed to play music, and the bands he’s been a part of reflect that passion. Maturity and the passage of time often require a reset of life’s priorities, but there’s no casting a shadow on such talent or dimming the flame that still burns. The music for Earth To Andy was written decades ago. Read the lyrics and they’re hauntingly relevant today. Time can’t diminish the impact of great music, nor the influence of the musicians who created it. Just as Andy grew up appreciating the music that came before him, current and future generations will come to appreciate his legacy and the music his bands created. The words he wrote in the opening lyrics of “Biting At My Heels” seem to hint at that legacy. “You put your feet into the steps I left behind. Shallow prints impressed into the sands of time.”

VISIT ANDY’S WEBSITE: http://www.andywaldeck.com/

CHECK OUT KILLER DELUXE: http://killerdeluxe.com/

LISTEN TO KILLER DELUXE: https://open.spotify.com/album/0bzoDVyXXhUvdZjlja325T 

DOWNLOAD KILLER DELUXE: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/killer-deluxe/id1077474842

FOR MORE INFO ON BOOKING E3, WATCH THE VIDEO:

LISTEN TO EARTH TO ANDY’S CHRONICLE KINGS: https://open.spotify.com/album/1iuzv3yDbw1p0TRtJ3XnpN 

DOWNLOAD CHRONICLE KINGS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chronicle-kings/id358017752

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR EARTH TO ANDY’S “STILL AFTER YOU”:

LISTEN TO EGYPT’S SOUL HAMMER: https://open.spotify.com/album/3sAZbiu4tDT172fA644eR9 

DOWNLOAD SOUL HAMMER: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-hammer/id397305195

LISTEN TO EGYPT’S DROWNING IN THE PROMISED LAND: https://open.spotify.com/album/1syHT4BD9lwNt82KZWPB5h 

DOWNLOAD DROWNING IN THE PROMISED LAND:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/drowning-in-the-promised-land/id397276845

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Bev Miskus

Blogger of all things music related in Nashville and beyond.

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