Trained Animal & St. Louis Music History
In 1979 I moved back to St. Louis from Berklee College of Music to absorb and sort out all that I had learned and start to put it into practice.
The first band I was in out of College was called Trained Animal. We played post punk with a New Wave/Oingo Boingo type vibe. It was a time in the St. Louis music scene when Alternative Music was considered a new phrase in the pop world. There was a small St. Louis contingency of bands with a strong underground audience following. Bowling alleys, VFW Halls and bombed out theaters were the location for many concerts due to the inexpensive rental costs.
Jet Lag Magazine helped to push the music scene and to cater to a growing fan base. At the height of this movement they engineered an effort to create a compilation CD of the most popular groups called Test Patterns. Below is a reflective gaze back at a time in St. Louis music history and my early evolving music career as a guitarist/songwriter/composer. Please feel free to stream the two cuts from Trained Animal U.R.A. Girl and When You Dance With Me as you read below. Thanks and enjoy!
It was winter, 1980. The Talking Heads were still playing at CBGBs, Blondie had broken and was touring, the police had left the UK and just starting to make an appearance on the US scene. It was a time when punk was dying in the UK but still going strong in the US. Reggae and Sca were hitting hard and influencing underground music in America with Bob Marley, The English Beat, The Specials, UB40. Musical boundaries of underground pop culture were beginning to be redefined with groups and individuals like Lydia Lunch, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Art of Noise and Oingo Boingo.
With the underground music scene across the country smoldering and churning to the beats of this new optimistically rebellious Post Punk/New Wave era, a sense of creatively vibrant community was born. Similar music scenes began cropping up in some of the major cities with bands like Brand X in LA, Psychedelic Furs, in San Fran were making names for themselves. Cincinnati, Ohio, Boston, Mass., New York, NY, Athens, Ga. And yes, even St Louis, Mo. had its share of bourgeoning underground music mania with groups like the Felons, Zanti Misfits, Ooze Kicks, Brown and Langhere, and the group with which I will never forget; Trained Animal.
Trained Animal became my alma matter of bands. It was a training ground for discipline, rehearsal, jamming, writing, marketing, performance, image, creating a buzz, etc. Bob Leach was the master mind behind this concept band which included Ed Ruprecht, Jeff Kirsten, Brian Stoller, Bob and myself. I met bob playing the garage band scene in various parts of St. Louis City and proper.
After leaving Berklee College of Music in Boston in the Spring of 1979, I was trying to get experience and hang with people where ever and whenever I could. I was traveling to all parts of the city playing till all hours of the night living off 3-4 hrs sleep going into dead end day jobs and practicing between eating, sleeping, jamming at parties and honing my songwriting and composing skills. I met a lot of musicians.
I initially started hanging out with Bob Leach at weekly Freddie Moral jams in his parents huge house off Lindell Blvd. facing the St. Louis Art Museum. Freddie’s father had been a well established fine arts painter and had a perfect space for us to have all night jam parties. Bob was starting to show up regularly playing bass. He had all the Jimmi Hendrix, Grand Funk, Classic Blues and Sly & The Family Stone bass lines down. Great player with a lot of experience and an ear to what trends were forming and where they could go. Anyway, he gave me a call one day and said he had hooked up with a drummer, Jeff Kirstin and a vocalist Ed Rupreck out of the musicians add pages in one of the underground papers at the time and asked if I would be interested in coming to some rehearsals with my gear.
I packed my gear, showed up and started jamming. Soon we were hitting 3-4 nights a week and put together a committed rehearsal schedule. As a group we were fast writers. I think we came up with 5-10 new tunes a night completed, at least on the music end. Sometimes Ed would come in with a lyric idea and we would build around that or I we would all throw down our ideas and work out parts and or song sections based on previous jams. Bob and I would record everything and begin the fleshing out process for tunes to put in our catalogue.
Rehearsals were held in Bob’s Basement in Maplewood. Bless his mother for putting up with us. She is a beautiful soul. I don’t think I ever saw the upstairs but a few times. The basement became our personal practice pit. Bob and myself were heavy chain smokers at the time. Suffice it to say by the time we were ready for our first concert, well, the concrete floor was about an inch deep in butts.
Jeff was an amazing drummer and Ed was a very gifted lyricist and singer who could deliver spot on. We bean recording tracks so we could have something for radio air play. UMSL had a great late night underground station at the time and was very supportive. I remember we crashed the station as a strong intro to our music and band. We later did the same with the Wash U. Station as well. Two of the tunes from the initial recording session wound up on the Test Patterns CD.
After most of the music was written we acquired Brian Stoller as second guitar to fill out the parts Bob had laid down in the studio. Bob was the bass player and was probably the one of the most ingenious bass player, guitarist, music marketer and writer I have ever come across in my years of professional music. He did everything outside of the box. By the time we did our first hit, he had created such a buzz and rehearsed us so well, there was no way we could bomb on the first concert. He rehearsed to the point that everything was so tight and ready to go before the first concert, that we made a high impact first impression. Each tune sounded different and looked different as well. This is something which seems to be severely lacking in most portions of the St. Louis music community today.
I remember one time I had this tune I had brought in to be played as an instrumental. By the time he was done with it we had a 30 sec. instrumental thrasher.
Anyway, Everything about the music back then was alternative, meaning alternative to any and everything which was trendy then and before. If an instrumental tune went on for three minutes, we made it 30 seconds, if there was a solo we made it 10 seconds tops as opposed to the standard long drawn out solos of the day. If Dylan played Like A Rolling Stone soft we played it hard with a punk edge. We had a tune with a live record skip, one about body buddies (crabs) the singer seemed to have contracted it and felt a need to put it to lyric. We thought the punk scene ended when Sid Viscous died, interesting that there still seems to be a continued existing undercurrent.
Our first concert was in a bombed out theater. It may have been the old Sun Theater, I can’t quite remember. It seems that the theater was abandoned and the promoter got permission to open it for the night of the concert. Channel 5 news was there with Jennifer Bloom doing a documentary on the scene. We actually made it on a clip I remember seeing it from my room in a rehab center. The green room was in a poorly lit area of the building. I remember dark hallways, with a lot of wood with balconies.
A B52 white light was acquired to light the stage. It was so bright I think I used my Ray Band Aviators to deflect the sunlight it was emitting. The dance floor was huge and we went on to open the night with the Felons, Ooze Kicks and one other band I believe. What a great hit. Ed was in full costume, my image was the Jazz Guitar guy on the stool, Bob was in bad ass black, Brian,...well...I think he had his under ware on the outside of his pants. I think at one time Bob had talked of chaining ourselves to our amps. I did one more concert that I can remember before going into a rehab center. Trained Animal went on to do a few more gigs with Brian Stoller on Guitar and I went on to recovery. I have always had much respect for Jennifer as a result of that story.
Well thirty years later and I am still alive and have had a musical journey which is still evolving and spiraling to new heights. According to my teacher Ustadt Imrat Khan, an artist does not begin to reach their point of maturation until they reach their late thirties and this continues until their early sixties. After which the music begins to age lake a fine wine. I am still maturing.
Ed and Bob did not have that long life and transitioned out early in their careers. They are not here on this earth plane but the memories they left with me and others still are. I see Brian at different events where I am performing and it is always and incredible pleasure. Not sure what happened to Jeff. I lost contact with him along the way. He may be missing in action.
So that is my story and a little part I had in this era of St. Louis, music. If you want a copy of the CD TEST PATTERNS you can get it from: BDR Records. Here is an RFT article on the CD release party. Sorry I missed that one.