An Interview with The Knaves
One of Chicago's '60s Garage Band Legends
"To these suburban high school kids we weren't just a cover band . . . we were the Who and the Kinks and the Stones!" . . . "At the Interlude, on Pulaski and something, we traded sets with a guy called Joey Madrid. He was Billy Joel before Billy Joel was Billy Joel."
After our interview, Gene Lubin, drummer for the Knaves, provided me with the best summary I've read to date on what it was like to be in a '60's garage band:
"Back in 1964 or '65 you'd hear this song and you'd think, 'Wow! How can they do that?!' It was like underground code or something . . . right under everybody's noses. The first time I heard 'My Generation' by The Who I was riding around stoned in somebody's car. Man . . . I thought all hell had broken loose and the FBI would be out to shut down the radio station in a matter of hours. It was the best paranoid rush I ever had! As a matter of fact, the song was banned from most Chicago radio stations within the week, and The Who did have trouble getting into the Country for their first U.S. tour. Of course, every garage band in the world just had to perform it on stage after that, and The Knaves did a pretty bang-up job of it, 'cause we weren't too pretty to begin with. When people came to see us there was no doubt in my mind that they were coming out to see what it was all about! We were more than just a surrogate for these English rock groups. To these suburban high school kids we weren't just a cover band . . . we were the Who and the Kinks and the Stones! It was a glorious time."
Special Thanks to all the Knaves for sharing their recollections, and especially to Gene for his enthusiasm in assuring that the other Knaves: Howard Berkman, Neal Pollack, and Jonno Hulburt were available to participate.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[Gene Lubin] I was born in 1944, so I was into early rock in high school in the '50's: Little Richard, Elvis, etc. My dad was a bartender at a popular downtown Chicago lounge where a lot of bandstand acts would form: The Dukes Of Dixieland, Cozy Cole (the old swing era drummer), etc. I used to climb up on the bandstand and mess with the drum set on Saturday mornings when my dad would open the joint. So I took up drum lessons in the 8th grade and then into high school. I got a drum set in 1960 - when I was about 16.
[Neal Pollack] That's a tough one. I've been listening to music for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my folks would be playing records ranging from classical to standards. From Tchaikovsky and Mozart to Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. I used to watch "The Hit Parade" on TV and sit through their dumb covers of current tunes. When I was about 10 or so, I was getting into Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and the like. After that, I was listening to Top 40 tunes on the radio, watching American Bandstand, Chicago Bandstand, etc. Doo-wops were all over the place and I was digging them, too.
I remember in the summer of '61, I had just finished washing and waxing my Dad's red '60 Chevy Biscayne 2 door coupe 283 V-8 with a three speed. As was my want, I popped the air cleaner and hub caps, cranked up the radio and went barreling down the street. All of a sudden, Stan Getz, Astrud and Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim came on doing "The Girl From Ipanema" and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it and was immediately addicted to Brazilian Jazz. These days, that and jazz standards from the '30's through the '60's are my favorite form of music. The blues always got my motor going and still does. I also dig Greek, Russian, Klezmer, Gypsy, etc. Anything with an interesting melody line and good rhythm interests me. Leroy Vinegar was and still is my favorite bass player.
I first met Howard in the summer of '61. We were both babysitting in adjacent townhouses. I was sitting out on the stoop studying football plays. I went out for football because I thought the chicks would dig it and I'd get laid. I was wrong. All I did was get rapped in the kidneys and piss blood. I was never much into sports anyway and thought it was a great deal of effort for not much reward. The truth was that the chicks were more interested in cars and money. If the guy was also a jock, so much the better, but he had to have bread and wheels. Anyway, Howard was sitting on another stoop doing a pretty fair job of playing guitar. At the time, I was into the Kingston Trio and thought it would be cool to learn to play 5-string banjo. We struck up a conversation and I asked him if he played banjo. He said he did and he'd be happy to teach me.
Next time I saw him he had an old Vega with him and he proceeded to dazzle me with the basic strum, Scruggs picking, frailing, double thumbing, hammering on, and pulling off (that's left hand pizzicato for all you real musicians). I got the Pete Seegar instruction book and record and picked up a cheap Harmony 5-string. After a while, I saw that [the] guitar seemed to have more potential so I got a small Guild electric at a local music store and Howard showed me the basics. A few years later, I think '64, Howard came over to my house with the first Beatles album and after my initial reaction, "Those guys look like girls," I listened to the album and was floored. Up 'til that point it was mostly Elvis, the Beach Boys, and the Four Seasons doing a great job of what they were doing, but still doing the same old shit. The Beatles were way different. At the time, I happened to be a little overdue for my Continental razor haircut and looking a little shaggy. Howard said we should form a band. I asked him what I'd be doing. He said I'd be playing bass. I told him I didn't know how to play bass. He said, "I taught you banjo, didn't I? I taught you guitar, didn't I? I'll teach you bass." I've always been studying on my own and just got the Carol Kaye series of bass books to round out my education so I could play some serious Jazz on my fretless Gibson "Ripper."
[Howard Berkman] When I was born, my dad, his brothers, and his parents--as well as some cousins--were working musicians.
[Lance Monthly] Was the Knaves your first band?
[Neal Pollack] The Knaves was my first band and I think my tenure was from the beginning in '64 up 'til the government decided it had different plans for me in August '66.
[Gene Lubin] In around 1960, I had a few guys from [my] high school band hang out at my home in Skokie: a tuba player, a clarinet, trumpet, string bass, and me. We did jazzy Sousa marches like "When The Saints Go Marching In." I later hooked up with an organ and bass player from Sunday school. We played beatnik coffee houses in the Rogers Park area. Then around the fall of 1962, I started college and met Howard Berkman. He was like 14 or 15 years old. [He]had a small band called The Jesters with Steve Goodman on rhythm guitar. We did Ventures tunes and stuff. Goodman--a year or two later after high school--would go on to fame as a folk singer. He wrote "The Train They Call The City of New Orleans."
[Lance Monthly] Being from Chicago, I'm very familiar with Steve Goodman. What do you recall about him?
[Gene Lubin] I met Steve through Howard when they were both about 15. Steve was destined to be a folkie; he was a sort of blissed out Buddah with a mischievous smile.
[Howard Berkman] My first band was the Jesters with Dick Stock, Steve Debs, and Perry Johnson. We cut a 45, "Sidetrack." I don't remember the B-side. Perry left early on and Gene Lubin came on probably when I was or was going to be a freshman in high school. Steve Goodman came in and left somewhere before I changed high schools in '63. We pretty much went dormant.
[Lance Monthly] What happened?
[Gene Lubin] The Jesters kind of lost touch for a year or so. Then one day Berkman called me, maybe in the spring or fall 1964. He said, "Hey, I'm forming a new band, to do English Invasion stuff." So Howard and I had worked together before, while the other guys who came on board were pretty new. Mark Feldman played rhythm guitar, and Neal Pollack played bass. Howard, who played guitar like Muddy Waters at the age of 15, pretty much trained and mentored these guys, and they came along pretty well under his direction. John Hulburt came on board around the end of 1965 to add second lead guitar and back-up vocal harmonies.
[Neal Pollack] The Knaves were formed in the fall of '64. Howard Berkman, Gene Lubin and I formed it. Markie Feldman was added shortly thereafter and some time after that, we recruited Johnno Hulburt. It was formed in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. I don't remember if it was at Howard or Gene's house in Skokie, mine in Des Plaines, or in some all night coffee shop.
[Howard Berkman] I formed the Knaves in the spring of '64. I was living in Skokie. So was Lubin. Mark was in Morton Grove and Neal was in Niles. Both Lubin and Neal were college men at the time. The Knaves were: Howard Berkman - guitars, vocals, compositions, lyrics, arrangements and production assistance; Neal Pollack - bass; Gene Lubin - drums, percussion, occasional lead vocals and songwriting; Mark Feldman - rudimentary rhythm guitar and occasional haronies; Johnno Hulburt - second lead, rhythm guitar, harmonica, percussion, and fantastic harmonies arranged pretty much by himself (Johnno came into the band after we were together almost a year); and Stuart Einstein - bass. Stu replaced Neal when he went into the Army in the spring of '66.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically practice?
[Howard Berkman] We usually practiced in Lubin's basement or in the rec room at my mom's house.
[Gene Lubin] In the basement of my house, until we met the Trillings, who let us practice in their storeroom where they stored a lot of floor tiles. They were construction guys. They laid tile and stuff.
[Lance Monthly] Howard's web site notes the Trilling Brothers' organized crime affiliation. Do you care to elaborate, Gene?
[Gene Lubin] Oh. I think maybe Howard's being metaphorical here; at least I don't know anything about that. But for sure back in the '60s young people assumed that everything--especially the music business--was run either by the mob, the government, or Wall Street. Has anything changed?
[Howard Berkman] The Trillings were tile contractors. They were involved in getting city and government as well as business contracts. They were hangers on at the night club my dad played at. They used to brag about their mob connections. I think they were more like wannabe's than even lowlevel wise guys. Paul Gallis was the union rep for the North side and he got us to Kieth Wheeler, an ancient booking agent, and we did the "Go Go club road house wise-guy night club scene" through him for almost a year before we started playing the teen clubs. We younger guys had false I.D.'s. At the end of the week sometimes we'd give our check to the cashier and they'd only give us like two thirds of the money. If you mentioned it, they'd tell you: that's the way it works.
[Jonno Hulbert] Most concretely, I remember spending a "social" afternoon with them at Ralph Capone Jr.'s house, out on the far west side of Chicago. They claimed that their father was a bodyguard for Al Capone, and I've since learned that his other bodyguard was his brother, Ralph. I suspect at least that was true. I also learned, years later, that they were always armed when they accompanied us on gigs, which I didn't suspect at the time.
[Neal Pollack] The Trilling Brothers thought it would be cool to have a pet band. They were okay folks at the time and actually gave those of us who were interested [in] jobs setting ceramic tile. Playing our genre of music at the time wasn't paying very well and it was impossible to get a straight job with our long hair. A construction job was perfect since all I had to do was put my hair under my hat, show up, and do the work. Nobody gave us any trouble at all and I learned a useful trade. I still do the occasional tile job around the house and enjoy knowing how to do it like it used to be done (the right way). Bob Trilling actually ran the business and Geno was out setting tile. He used to work out a great deal and looked like it. He had a tough line of gas, but I think he was sort of overcompensating. As far as any organized crime connections, I think both of them were junior wise guy wannabe's and weren't really connected at all.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically play?
[Gene Lubin] Our first gig was at Niles North High School in 1964. Howard had just formed the band a week before and we faked our way through "Louie Louie" for two hours. In early '65 we put on phony English accents and said we were from Liverpool, England. We were up and jamming pretty well by then. The new music was just bursting out all over. We got these morning coats with tails and ruffled shirts and Beatle boots. We looked like the Kinks or the Poets. People couldn't hire us fast enough. We got our start on Rush Street at Bourbon A Go Go, at little clubs in Indiana, and at the Interlude Lounge on Chicago's South Side of town. Basically, our appeal was that we came on like a bunch of Jerry Lee Lewis types doing hard ass blues and rock like the Kinks and Stones. We had the long hair; the attitude. It was lots of show biz appeal--not just the music. I mean, nobody had long hair in 1964 or early '65 except a couple of bands. And we played places where long hair was still out of style even in 1968. By the end of 1965 we started doing teen clubs.
[Neal Pollack] Bars, teen clubs, and parties.
[Lance Monthly] Just how popular locally did the Knaves become?
[Gene Lubin] I think "popular" has to be measured not in terms of whether your name has become a household word or how many people have bought your record. If anything, the Knaves was a word probably forbidden in most God-fearing households at that time! We were rather notorious and I still know people who heard us play when they were teens. I was introduced recently to a guy at his mother's funeral. When he heard, "This is Gene Lubin. He used to play with the Knaves.", the guy screamed "HOLY SHIT!!" so loud that the pallbearers almost dropped the coffin!
[Neal Pollack] We probably played at any teen club you can name (Like Young, The Way Out, Pink Phynk, Big Toe). We were extremely popular with certain segments of the teen population -- mostly the disenfranchised offspring of dysfunctional families. We played some clubs down on Rush St. The one I remember most was Bourbon a Go Go. The cages at Bourbon a Go Go weren't glass, they were open and the dancers were topless. As I remember, I was playing bass in one of the cages while the girl was going through her weltschmerzy bump and grind. Topless go-go dancers aren't that glamorous up close. Just doing a job. At the Interlude, on Pulaski and something, we traded sets with a guy called Joey Madrid. He was Billy Joel before Billy Joel was Billy Joel. I thought he was great and tried to catch as much of his act as I could. He was the master of the "lounge sound." Much later when I heard Billy Joel doing, "Don't Go Changing," I thought Joey Madrid finally became an "overnight success." While the Interlude might have been full of Polish, the chicks thought we were sort of a delicacy and were always trying to get close to us. Occasionally when we were playing blues in clubs in Old Town, people like Josh White Jr., Martin Yarborough, and Odetta would show up and catch a set. I never saw them laughing either. Usually they'd be smiling and tapping their feet. Frequently, after gigs, we'd head down to Ricardo's where Howard's dad, Marv, was playing guitar. More often than not, there'd be an opera company having dinner and we'd end up trading tunes with them. They'd do an aria, Marv would do a Greek or Russian tune and we'd do a blues tune. By the time it got to be 2 or 3 AM, the place looked and sounded like a Fellini movie.
[Howard Berkman] We had a very hard core following. We had a number one tune on the charts locally for quite a while. We played all over. The Way Out, the Limit, the Mousetrap, Bourbon A Go Go, Like Young, Goldfinger, the Interlude, the Pink Phinque, the Second Story, My Sister's Place, Club Normandy, UICC (University of Illinois at Chicago Circle), Loyola, and the St. Charles reform school.
[Lance Monthly] Chicago was home to many GREAT local bands during that era: Shadows of Knight, Shady Daze, Saturday's Children, Trolls, Riddles. Did you associate with any local bands?
[Gene Lubin] We knew the guys in the Flock pretty well as they lived in the same areas we'd come from: Northern suburbs like Skokie, Niles, and Morton Grove. But rock musicians were not like jazz musicians who jam together. Each band was an exclusive fraternity--or club you might say --and we were competitive, although today I can't imagine why. It was a macho thing, I suppose.
[Neal Pollack] Not too much as I remember. We were sort of friendly with the Flock since they were neighbors of ours but we were really our own little clique and were more interested in chicks than hanging out with other bands.
[Howard Berkman] I was friendly with the guys from the Flock . . . all of them. As for the Little Boy Blues, I had tons of respect and affection for Paul Ostroff. Lowell Sheyatte was a friend from high school at Niles East. Justin Pomeroy of the Durty Wurds and Karen Tafejian of the Marie Antoinettes were UICC friends. Mark Coplan of the Whatfor lived across the street on Greenleaf. But mostly we stuck to our own bands. We were all real busy inventing what we became. We rehearsed, played, partied, recorded, and most of us tried to do college.
[Lance Monthly] How did the Knaves end up recording with Dunwich Records?
[Gene Lubin] We recorded seven tunes between 1966 and 1967. One 45 was released: "Leave Me Alone" b/w "The Girl I Threw Away." It was voted Top five or six [of the] most requested tune[s] on WCFL for weeks in early 1967. Dunwich basically was signing up all the decent Chicago rock acts. I have to thank them for that because the Los Angeles and New York crowd simply ignored Chicago talent.
[Howard Berkman] The Trillings knew Mitch Canoff from the gym. They were weight lifters. Mitch was Ricky Canoff's older brother. He did security stuff and was good buddies with Terry Sachen, who was the Beach Boys road manager. He came into town to record the Flock, Ricky's band, for demos. He also recorded us at Boulevard Studios, in an old Museum. I believe those recordings were what the Trillings and Paulie (Gallis) used to get us connected to Dunwich. I think we had already released "Leave Me Alone" on Paulie's label Laurie(?) and were already getting some airplay. I could be wrong. [EDITORS' NOTE: According to Jeff Jarema's liner notes in Sundazed's "Best of Dunwich Records" CD, the label was actually the local Glen Records.]
[Neal Pollack] I don't remember how we got hooked up with Dunwich, but I believe it was something the Trillings put together. We only released one single, "Leave Me Alone" with "The Girl I Threw Away" on the flip side.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? The Stones and Kinks have already been alluded to. Were they influences?
[Gene Lubin] On stage we did do mostly Kinks, the Who, Stones, Yardbirds, and a lot of vintage blues tunes. We featured LOUD drums. I mean, we had four guitars! We did songs like "Paint It Black," "Get Off of My Cloud," "My Generation, and "You Really Got Me." They were 15 minute versions that worked the crowd up into a drooling frenzy like a nursing home at meal time. In the studio, however, except for "Leave Me Alone," Howard Berkman's more . . . romantic side prevailed. His original material (which some have unfortunately referred to as folk rock like the Byrds) were classics of transplanted Merseybeat . . . more like the Hollies, maybe. Layered harmonies . . . the whole bit. Studio work is totally unlike stage work; that's why some bands have to do live performance albums. I wish we had done some.
[Howard Berkman] Our live stuff was very hard edged and raw. We listened to early Stones, "Bringing It All Back Home" with that great Chicago band, Pretty Things, John Hammond Jr., Kinks, Yardbirds, Them. Straight ahead rock 'n roll. Our studio stuff on the other hand was quite artistic and considering when it was recorded was wildly ahead of it's time. Johnno's sense for harms and Lubin's absolutely unique and masterful drumming had a bunch to do with our finished sound. These guys had a lot of music in them.
[Neal Pollack] I would say we were driving, insistent, raw, confrontational, aggressive, and "in your face." We were influenced by everything we heard, but we gravitated to The Kinks, The Pretty Things, The Stones, The Hollies, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Sir Douglas Quintet, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Butterfield Blues Band, John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Doo-Wop groups, Martha and the Vandellas, James Brown, The Byrds, Dylan, and of course, The Beatles. In the final analysis, we were all into music and had been listening to it all our lives so, consciously or subconsciously, we were influenced by everything we had ever heard. Bottom line is that it's all intervals. We were doing it balls to the wall, redlining on all eight cylinders. We weren't trying to fool anybody and were putting out the most honest expression possible of how we felt. No hype, no bullshit. Just pile-driving our anger, confusion and frustration down the throats of anyone who would listen. We wanted the world to know that if it wanted to fight with us, we might lose, but we were going to get enough licks in so that it knew it was in a fight. The fact that we're remembered and the music is still alive and listened to after all these years is testimony to the quality and intensity of our effort. In Greece they say, "Go tell the Spartans," in Chicago it's, "Remember the Knaves" or maybe just "Remember the Knaves?" but the fact remains that after thirty five years The Knaves are still remembered.
[Lance Monthly] You've mentioned the Stones', Kinks', and Yardbirds' influences but, as Gene states, many of the Knaves' recordings are more folk ("The Girl I Threw Away")or mersey ("Tease Me") sounding. Would it be accurate to say that "Leave Me Alone" is more representative of the band's sound?
[Gene Lubin] I guess Sundazed and the world would agree "Leave Me Alone" is our signature song, but the fact is our Hollies sound will dominate the album this fall . . . although "Your Stuff" is kinda psychedelic. It all points to Berkman's wide range of styles. I'm his biggest fan.
[Lance Monthly] Did the Knaves ever appear on television?
[Gene Lubin] We appeared on some Sunday morning youth program after the day's sermon. Everybody wanted to clean us up.
[Howard Berkman] To the best of my knowlege, we did a Chicago Bandstand and some kind of Sunday morning teen show.
[Jonno Hulbert] I think the only TV show The Knaves ever did was called "Kumsitz," hosted by local hot-shit AM DJ Jim Stagg. I think it was on ABC (local, Chicago.) I rather doubt that any copies of that exist.
[Lance Monthly] Did the band tour or travel at all?
[Gene Lubin] We opened for the Kingsmen at the University Of Illinois Circle Campus in 1965. That was a fitting forum for us and the crowd loved us. We didn't tour outside the Chicago area.
[Howard Berkman] We opened for the Kingsmen one time. We were supposed to open for them when I went into the body shop on Memorial Day '65. We went down to South Bend Indiana and up North to Central Wisconsin, as well as Rush St., Old Town and the North side and West and North suburbs.
[Neal Pollack] We got out to Mishawaka, Indiana once. As I remember, Alan Gross (Bob Dylan's manager) wanted us to load all our equipment into a U-Haul and drive out to New York so he could take a look at us. I think we told him to go piss up a rope. If he really wanted to see us he could have jumped on a plane and checked us out.
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band break up in the '60's?
[Neal Pollack] The band wasn't really making enough money; people got interested in other things. Y'know, all the usual things that life throws at you and forces you to take one fork in the road or the other.
[Gene Lubin] Well, by the middle of '67 we were all struggling financially, or moving on to finishing college or getting married or having a baby. The real killer was when some dastardly evil perpetrator drove off with our van full of instruments and equipment and no one had the money to even buy a guitar pick after that. Each guy kind of went looking to do his own thing musically over the next few years, mostly Howard Berkman and John Hulburt, both of whom in my book are world-class musicians and incomparable talents. You can't say that about everyone who played in a rock and roll band. God bless them . . . Neal, too. They've encouraged and supported my humble efforts with this CD of mine, and we're all best of buddies after 35 years.
[Howard Berkman] The band broke up after all our equipment got stolen. Johnno was feeling unappreciated, and, in truth, I was pretty insensitive. We were all doing drugs and drinking. Neal had gone off to the war. And times were pretty mixed up. People weren't really into the hard edged sexual and socially confrontational stuff we were doing until a couple of years later . . . more than a couple of years later.
[Lance Monthly] So, after the equipment was stolen, that was it?
[Gene Lubin] We were too much in debt to start over and were starting to have other obligations: marriage, school, jobs, etc.
[Lance Monthly] Did you join any bands after the Knaves parted ways?
[Neal Pollack] Since I was the only bass player in the Saigon, Cholon, Tan Son Nhut area, I played with everyone that had a band and needed a bass player. We had our own group which was called Darby's Rangers since the drummer's name was Ken Darby. I played a folk gig with the Jewish Chaplin's assistant (the guy's name was Roy Entin). I played country-western with the First Sergeant's country band (if I didn't, he wouldn't let me off to play with anyone else). Had a nice Gibson EB-0 provided by Special Services (not to be confused with Special Forces who weren't too into music) that I was trying to figure out how to get home in my hold baggage. In the early '70's, coincidental with the Chicago Police's massacre of a couple of local Black Panthers and the Kent State Massacre, Howard, Al Goldberg and I formed "Yama and the Karma Dusters/Euphoria Blimpworks Band" and did a whole bunch of Free City Music concerts, played a lot of benefits, and recorded a great album, "Up From the Sewers."
[Howard Berkman] I've been playing professionally all my life. I did folk house stuff all over until May of '70 when I formed the Euphoria Blimpworks Band with Al Goldberg, Karen Tafejian, Neal Pollack, Lewis Favors and Bob Goodfriend. We played demonstrations, strikes guerrilla concerts in Lincoln Park and protests at Colleges all over the Midwest and some paying gigs. In the summer and fall of '70 we produced (Al and I) the cult indie classic "Euphoria Blimpworks Presents: Yama and the Karma Dusters . . . Up From the Sewers." It's off the scale political protest, erotica, and environmental prophesy. We did two pressings of 500 LPs a piece (a total of 1000). These things are quite valuable. Al and I are currently getting a release on CD ready. It will be the first time this piece of art will be generally available ever. I recorded in Paris under the name HTWoolfe for Gil Slavin, a brilliant American producer between '72 and '75. Back in Chicago, I worked with Al and bassmen Barry Tracktenberg, and Joel Schlofsky in some great trios and quartets: HBQ and HBT.
I moved to Colorado in '77 and started playing with Nick McMahill and the Close Enuff Country Band for about a year. We then formed the Crystal Bullets and played together until about '85. Nick moved to Junction and for the next ten years or so I played all kinds of music: jazz, country, r&r, solo, ensemble - with all different kinds of bands and musicians. From '96 to '00 I played in a blues band called Kenny and the Blue Notes with monster harmonica player, Kenny Doré. I really immersed myself in the blues and had a great time. Also I was playing with the Howard Berkman Band doing more diverse stuff, and Jazzbone - a trio. Nick and I have been playing together and calling it the Crystal Bullets if we have Glenn Patterson, a genius steel player, and the Howard Berkman Blues Band if we have Carl Miranda on harp and utility. I still do a lot of solo work as well. I'm currently playing a bunch, and working on getting all my recorded stuff available on CD. I have the Karma Dusters, two CDs worth of solo singer/songwriter stuff recorded at Acme and Seagrape that we were using for publishing purposes, and a compilation of electric stuff spanning the last two decades with the Crystal Bullets - a great studio band with girls and horns and stuff and, if I can shake the dat out of him, some super Kenny and the Bluenotes.
I released a CD "Howard Berkman Band: Blue Testament" two summers ago, and can't wait to put all this past life shit to bed and get a new CD of my newest stuff out as soon as possible. The problem is I'm kinda well known in a weird cult sorta way but I got less than not much bucks. Whatever. I'm a musician and an artist. I'm not supposed to be successful. That's for business types who also play musical instruments. Or people who've been lucky enough to pick up the kind of management people who really care about them as opposed to the normal barracudas. And it seems with my luck with few exeptions these are the people I've mostly dealt with. Oh . . . and did I mention . . . I'm not the easiest guy in the world to get along with.
[Jonno Hulbert] I put out an album of John Fahey-inspired fingerpicking originals in '72, played the Chicago folkie circuit, came to France for the first time. I played the folk clubs in the late '70's, came back to Paris in '82, and have been here ever since. I have played in many a cabaret, and also played and done TV shows (concert or interview/concert) in such amusing places as The Seychelles, Mauritius, Gabon, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and Ghana.
[Gene Lubin] Join any (bands)? No. I personally settled into married life and had a couple of kids, but in 1974 I put together a band and recorded some tunes I'd worked up over the years.
[Lance Monthly] This would be "The End Of The Spectrum" album, right? Your web site describes it as "Jim Morrison on acid with a little Captain Beefheart thrown in." What can you tell me about it?
[Gene Lubin] That's the stuff I recorded with my own band, Paradise Lost. They were a few guys I scrapped together and lost touch with 25 years ago. I wrote and sang, and someone else played the drums. The Jim Morrison/Captain Beefheart thing is just an attempt to "describe" the sound. You can make up your own mind about that. But I did want to shock and throw a little theater into the music - a hangover from the Knaves days, I guess. I literally brought the stuff "out of the Closet" this year (2001) and put it out on a CD over the Internet (www.cdbaby.com/lubin). The first copy I sold was to a film company in Hawaii that wanted to use one song in their soundtrack for a surfing documentary (www.5thsymphony.com) due out this June.
[Lance Monthly] Please tell me about your career today. Do you still perform? If so, what are your plans musically for 2001 and beyond?
[Gene Lubin] I haven't performed since 1974, but I still write a little and have many good tunes I've never recorded. Like many musicians or songwriters, I see recording as preferable to performing. It's become like writing a book or something. I might put out a second CD, but more melodious stuff . . . very poetic, pretty songs. Do I show my age? Well, give me some guys who can play some mean electric guitar and I think you'll find that time moves on but we old timers don't necessarily do.
[Neal Pollack] You can check out: http://www.pressplay.net/cfn.html and I think that pretty much says it all. I got my wife a Kurzweil SP-88 electric piano and she's putting a great deal of time into that. By and by, we'll be jamming "Stardust," "Desafinado," "Satin Doll" and like that. We might play some local lounges. I don't really know. When I was in Hawaii on one of my R&Rs from Viet Nam, I happened to be in the cocktail lounge at the Honolulu airport. It was the darkest, coldest cocktail lounge I'd ever experienced. The only light in there was from the lights on the runway. I was drinking a very cold, very dry double martini and listening to a three piece jazz combo - piano, bass and drums - and thinking that I'd really like to do that someday. I still would, and might even end up doing it in Hawaii. Who knows? All we'd need to do is pick up a drummer or get a little electronic drum machine and we'd be smokin' and jokin'. Life's pitched me enough curves, knuckle balls, and even a couple of bean balls, so that I never discount any possibilities
[Lance Monthly] What can you tell me about the Sundazed release that was mentioned earlier? What will be included?
[Gene Lubin] All seven tunes we recorded plus an 'instrumental' version of "Leave Me Alone" that Bob Irwin, owner of Sundazed, has produced from the tapes. The stuff will be on 10" vinyl - the original analog renditions. A real treat for those whose ears have been corrupted by today's styrofoam music.
[Howard Berkman] The Sundazed release is supposed to be the complete Knaves' canon. Seven tunes and an alternate rhythm track that tells it all. The mix is wonderful. It's new from the original masters by Bob Erwin. The dude's a genius: he has golden ears and silver fingers. It's a very respectful and affectionate mix. It's the way I always wished it would sound. I'll believe it when it really happens.
POSTSCRIPT from Jonno: I think that if you'd asked a Knave, back then, why he was Knaving, the answer would've been (were he in a good mood): "Dunno, man, I'm just doin' it."
POSTSCRIPT from Howard: I've never seen a cent although I'm listed as the song writer. Go figure. They say I'm the father of punk music. Whatta hoot.
To read interesting autobiographies, or to purchase Knaves-related CDs, please visit these Knaves Member Web Sites:
Neal - http://www.pressplay.net/cfn.html
Howard - http://www.howardberkman.com
Gene - http://www.cdbaby.com/lubin
The Sundazed EP can be ordered directly from the label at: http://www.sundazed.com