Through the magic of the internets, a friend recently posted some old photos of an early performance from one of my first bands, an electro-goth-rock project called Rahne. I knew these photos existed, but I never knew what became of them. Ah, Facebook, you’re a bastard, aren’t you?
Rahne started off as an outlet for the bad poetry which I’d been writing and reading at open mics since age 16. If you check out the photo to the right, that’s me on the right being all emo with the guitar, and Jason Feinberg on the left, looking like he’s intensely working the pitch wheel on the keyboard. We’d been writing and performing music together since high school, but it was mostly Jason jamming out on the guitar and me crooning over it. I didn’t really play any instrument, fancying myself more a Jim Morrison type of poet-singer.
Well, my predisposition to doing everything myself started early, and when it came to music, that was no different. At about 18, I started tinkering around in my bedroom with an old-school Casio keyboard, dubbing rough melodies and sounds over pre-programmed rhythm patterns to create nascent songs to which I could custom-fit my angst-filled, teenage lyrics.
Eventually, Jason and I got an apartment together, and with that came his MIDI-capable keyboard connected to a Macintosh computer with sequencing software. Even for 1995, this was a dream set-up. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. I re-recorded some of those early demos, and started writing new songs quite prolifically. I also had access to one of Jason’s guitars, and painfully at first, taught myself enough guitar to record some rudimentary two-string chords on the new songs. The sound went from New Order-ish to Nine Inch Nails-ish, and I was cocky enough to think the songs were good enough to take to the streets, and so I made up a few demo tapes and went about recruiting a live band.
Jason reluctantly agreed to play guitar, as I was not skilled enough to do so myself, let alone play AND sing at the same time. I ran into an old friend during a show at the Huntridge Theater one night, Phoenix Ladd, who played drums in the all-girl punk band Jenn’s Cancer. I gave her a copy of the demo, and surprisingly, she was willing to pound the skins. Additionally, she had a friend, Jane Pastor, who could come in on bass. I thought it was a pretty good lineup, if it worked — two girls, two guys, a lot of attitude.
Jason and I grabbed our equipment and drove out to the northern edge of the Las Vegas Valley, where Phoenix lived with her family. It was a sprawling ranch house, perfect for late-night rocking. We met Jane, we hung out, smoked cigarettes, whatever, and eventually got around to trying to “jam.” Of course, I was providing the songs in full — all the drums, guitars and bass had already been worked out — the band just had to follow. I remember how awesome it was to hear Phoenix — who, at the time, was a pretty rudimentary punk drummer — bring the digitally sequenced drums to life, and how good it felt just to be performing, even in her makeshift practice space.
However, Jane disappeared and Phoenix decided to move to Seattle or Portland to attend school. Rahne was falling apart before it even started. But did that matter to me? Of course not. I booked a gig with a few other friends at a Cafe Espresso Roma in the middle of December 1995. It took some arm-twisting, but I managed to convince Jason to play guitar along with me. However, he didn’t have time to learn the songs (silly college finals!) and showed up to the gig with a brand-new guitar that kept slipping out of tune, so Rahne’s debut appearance was pretty much me poorly playing and singing five or six moody gothic rock songs while Jason noodled out of key on his metal guitar.
But glutton for punishment that I am, I persevered.
We regrouped. I got better at guitar, even beginning to make regular appearances at open-mic acoustic nights. Jason switched from guitar to keyboards. A lot of goth acts at the time (and historically) were two- or three-person deals, often backed by a drum machine or other sequenced tracks. We went the lo-tech route. I dumped all of our drums, bass and effects for performance onto a cassette tape, and we’d run the tape player through the P.A., while Jason played the keyboard parts live and I played guitar and sang. And when we reappeared at Enigma Garden Cafe the following March, it clicked. We played two sets with something like 16 songs and managed to stimulate the packed venue.
By the time we played our third gig, a bass player in attendance named Sterling offered to join the band, and by the next gig, Jason had bowed out to work on his own project, Wail of Sumer, and it was just Sterling and I (along with our magical tape deck) for the rest of the summer, until we recruited a new drummer, Brian Pfeifer, and a second guitarist, my high school pal Ryan Couevas.
That new incarnation of Rahne afforded me the freedom to expand our musical oeuvre a bit, going a little more mainstream rock, and even a bit funky (I was on a Prince kick at the time). It alienated the goth fan base somewhat, but also allowed us to move from the Vegas cafe scene to the bar scene … before imploding for a variety of reasons in April 1997.
When all was said and done, in its 16-month existence, Rahne produced two “studio” cassettes, one live tape, a few singles, nabbed some college radio airplay and goth club spins, and among some better press coverage, was named “Worst Rock Act in Vegas” by Andrew Kiraly at the CityLife (tying with Bangkok Shock). That’s not a bad run for something that started as me tinkering with a Nintendo-sounding toy on the floor of my bedroom.