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Not sure where to start with this one.
Have you ever looked at my Facebook profile – specifically the “About” portion that lists my workplaces?
Dave Abbott Band
“I sit on stage between Paul and Dave.”
A certain bond is formed among musicians who truly connect on a musical level. It’s incredibly rare (at least in my experience) to truly feel at peace playing with a musician who I know and trust will always be there. I felt that musical kinship with my good friends, Paul Reynen and Dave Abbott.
Paul left this world over the weekend and the loss is slowly starting to sink in for me. If you understand the importance of the bass in a rock band, particularly a power trio, then you might have an inkling of my state of mind. And if you understand what it is like to play with a really, really talented bassist you know how epically bummed out I am right now.
Being a drummer, I always have a built in relationship with the bassist – whether I like the person or not because drums and bass go hand in hand. When the two lock in together both musically and personally, it’s like peanut butter and chocolate.
Over the past 25 years or so, Paul and I fell into our respective roles as a musical peanut butter cup: me – the peanut butter; Paul – the chocolate providing the solid outside shell that held the whole thing together. Even if we were pissed off at each other, the music was always consistent – all because the shell was holding it all together. Dave could solo all night and Paul would be right there, I-IV-V ad infinitum, unwavering.
As a musician I learned a lot from Paul over the years. The number one thing was that life isn’t a drum solo. The second thing was everything can be played slower than I ever imagined. If I’d speed up or play too many fills and get a nasty look from Paul. This happened quite often when I was first started playing with Paul. Over the years the nasty looks diminished as I matured as a musician – on some occasions I’d even get praise from Paul! Holy smokes! Wow! I had the opportunity to share with Paul that I felt some other bands I played with in the past played everything to fast and I had to ask them to slow down to which he said he simply laughed and said “So you’re the ‘Paul’ of the other bands! Ha!” He was proud to have trained me well in all things slow!
Paul had a rocky life with lots of ups and downs both personally and professionally. He was a cancer survivor among other things. He had a few challenging relationships. His job was a source of stress.
He was emotionally disconnected from it all.
Being disconnected was not a good thing for his mental health or for the mental health of those around him, but it allowed his musical performances to be rock solid and consistent. Whether he was angry or falling over laughing, the parts he played were always spot on.
Regardless of anything else going on around him, he was good at serving the music and making others sound good (just ask Dave!). Which is amazing considering (I have to be honest for a moment here) he was one of the most selfish people I’ve ever met.
Luckily for me I learned about his selfishness on our very first gig together. I had arrived at the gig early and Paul showed up a few minutes after me. Coming from a good upbringing and a solid background of healthy relationships with musicians up to that point (I was 19, by the way), I helped him unload his bass rig from his truck and help him get all is gear inside. I then went out to my truck to get my drums and bring them in and naively asked Paul if he would help me as I had helped him. His response was something to the effect of “No can do. I’m already a jaded musician who knows better than to help others.” And thus began one of the weirdest relationships I’ve ever had with another human being. I genuinely liked this guy, but I wouldn’t be helping him with moving gear ever again. Ever. It’s a damn good thing he could play the bass so fucking well.
His selfishness ruined what could have been a huge win for him. I’m the guy in the band that always has a running truck, I’ve got a trailer, I have loaded and unloaded gear for pretty much every other musician I have worked with. I’ve let people store gear in my trailer, home and garage. I’ve cleaned up after musicians too drunk to remember to grab their guitar at the end of the night. Paul’s gear never had to ride home in the rain in his open bed truck if he had just acquiesced and been even the tiniest bit a team player off the stage.
But he served the music so goddamn well despite himself. He had the chops and personality to be a lead bassist and he certainly had the gear to overpower anyone else on the stage if he chose to – and yet he didn’t. There was something about music that got through his selfish barrier. He got “it”. He was the guy I wanted to be on stage with. He was the guy who never played a wrong note. He was the guy who had the ability to play so slooooooooow it hurt followed by a string of speedy riffs that would boggle the mind. He played it all extremely well and he only played what was needed, when it was needed. Incredible.
In the end, Paul, Dave and I had played so many gigs together we could start and stop on a dime, hear a single note and know what song Dave wanted to play next, give a nod and know instinctively to go to the bridge, or with a look in the middle of a guitar solo know that we will be dropping from a rocking straight ahead steam roller blaring away at fortissimo into an extra-lazy half-time-feel reggae pianissimo jaunt.
That kind of non-verbal communication is where Paul and I did our best bonding, where we had some of the closest moments of friendship. While I treasure those moments, I really wish we had had better deeper personal conversations so that I could really get to know my friend as well as he deserved to be known….
I am finding it really difficult to say goodbye to 20+ years of winks, nods, inside jokes, shared adventures, and camaraderie. Some of the absolute best laughs I have had in my life were a direct result of Paul. That guy’s sense of humor was appropriately congruent with mine as to make time spent together absolutely worth it – with the music being the icing on the cake.
I really thought that the three of us would be playing the same old songs together for another 20 years. I wanted that. I was able to clearly envision it. “Stranglehold”. “War Pigs”. “La Grange”. “Too Rollin Stoned.” The music was a constant in my life. We’d get together for a few hours every few weeks and entertain some people in a bar. Easy as that. We never rehearsed – we just played gigs. For me, that is the perfect band. The selfish part of me wanted these musical moments to happen forever. I am blessed with the opportunity to play with many talented musicians but Paul on bass and Dave on guitar was my dream team. I used to turn down gigs Dave offered if Paul couldn’t make it. Paul was that important to me.
I am presenting a single side of a multifaceted person. I don’t scratch the surface here but I did want to say a few words out of respect for the person I knew for 20+ years. Obviously there is a lot more to say, some of it falttering to Paul, some of it not so much but, at least for me, the good far outweighed the bad and that is what I will spend my time reminiscing about.
Miss ya, dude.
Here’s a few pics – click any picture anywhere on this page to see it full size….