Column 242: Catching up with Grubb; Cloven Path/Hercules, System & Station tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:44 pm October 14, 2009

Those who have been following this website over the course of the past decade (and longer) know that The Grasshopper Takeover Saga has been well-documented. The story begins here in 1998, and runs through 2004 (here) with stories in between (You can navigate between all four parts from the ’04 story). Grubb is one of the most controversial figures that I’ve had the good fortune to interview. And GTO is/was one of the city’s most popular bands, despite being ridiculed by an indie music scene that the band itself ridiculed (or at least seemed to. Grubb would disagree).

Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do during last weekend’s interview, and a lot of the conversation didn’t make it into the column below. Among the more lively exchanges was a discussion about the so-called “indie music scene,” and Grubb’s contention that it is scribblers such as myself that perpetuate the concept and its resulting divisions.

“Those kinds of stereotypes and stigmas can create a certain aspect of ignorance and inability for younger musicians coming up, who don’t know and don’t care about a scene until someone tells them they ‘shouldn’t be hanging out with so and so.'” Grubb said. “I think it should be more open.” No one would argue with that, though I think young musicians are apt to follow whatever muse that guides them, whether it’s metal or punk or country or R&B or indie, regardless of what their friends (or a review) tell them is “cool.”

But with that in mind, Grubb implied that my suggesting that an indie band like Landing on the Moon and a guy like Grubb, who’s known for his pop-rock tendencies, are “Odd Bedfellows” is somewhat reckless, if not irresponsible. And I would agree with Grubb if I held his views of the local music scene. I don’t. Divisions do exist and always have (and always will).

GTO began to define its role in that scene when the band decided to head to Los Angeles to try to land a major-label record deal. “I remember when we first started, I thought I was going to conquer the world,” Grubb said, “but outside of that, I remember telling you that you had to get a deal, and if you didn’t, what was the fucking point. Now I couldn’t be further away for that.

“Where I am now is a matter of development, maturity. The fact that I’m not so centralized in that scene any more, I have a better perspective on what music means to me and what I think the value of music is. I value creativity and total and complete dedication. That’s what I want out of my (studio) clients, too — to do whatever it takes to make themselves happy.”

Column 242: 2001: A Grubb Odyssey
From GTO to Saturn and beyond…

It was only a few minutes into the interview for last week’s Landing on the Moon article that his name came up, and then we proceeded to talk about him for the next hour: Curtis Grubb.

I hadn’t thought about him in years, and hadn’t talked to him since 2004, when I did my last interview with Grasshopper Takeover, the trio Grubb fronted with James McMann and Bob Boyce. I knew that he’d opened a studio, Grubb Inc., but whatever happened to GTO?

I had been writing about the band since ’98, right around the time GTO decided to follow their dreams to Los Angeles with the hopes of landing a big record deal. Instead, they found themselves living on the road touring for more than two years. Albums were recorded and released. Bones were crushed. Equipment was stolen. The fan base grew. And eventually they found themselves playing arena-sized gigs opening for Incubus and pals 311. And then they came back home, to Omaha, and that’s where I lost track.

Their last gig was two years ago, opening a show for Better Than Ezra at one of the Council Bluffs casinos. “To be honest, part of the reason is due to me,” said Grubb sitting behind the console of his new basement studio located in his West Omaha home. “I was just getting a little tired of doing it. Nothing against it at all. I love playing live, I love the band and the music, I stand by everything and every choice we made. It was never a conscious decision, I always let the music guide me every step of the way.”

Two years ago, it guided him to Saturn, in the form of creating music for a national television commercial featuring the car maker’s 2007 models. Grubb said he landed the gig through his Los Angeles connections. “I got a call to be a candidate to write the music, so I wrote like fucking crazy for two weeks straight.”

That led to commercial work for Comcast and Sprint and the NBA finals. “That first one opened a whole new concept for me and my career,” Grubb said. “It cut that tie that bound me, so I just started running with it. I bought all the equipment, set up a studio and started learning everything I could.”

Along with the commercial work, Grubb began recording bands, and figured out that he loved inspiring other people to make the best music that they could “and I was good at it, too.”

And as all that was happening, GTO just got further and further in the rear-view mirror. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, it seemed like a natural progression of my life’s path as it relates to music,” Grubb said. “I never thought (GTO) wasn’t working; I just wanted something new. That was it. It never didn’t work. We weren’t on any kind of a downhill slide. We were still packing the house and selling out shows and touring religiously. The bubble was still big and getting bigger, but it was a fragile thing, and it’s like some external force stuck a pin in it and let the air out a bit.”

Grubb said all three grasshoppers remain “great and fantastic friends.” He’s seen Boyce and McMann’s new band, Two Drag Club, a number of times. “I think they’re fantastic.” He also hasn’t closed the door on working with them again.

In fact, GTO has never really “broken up,” Grubb said. “As soon as you have the ‘break up’ tag on you, than your next show together is considered a ‘reunion show,’ and those never seem to work.” So even though they haven’t practiced together for over a year, Grubb said he and the rest of GTO feel like they have another album to write. And his days behind the microphone are far from over.

“I don’t miss it in the form of any kind of regret that I’m not doing it now,” Grubb said of performing. “I know that I’ll be back there at some point. If I couldn’t, I’d miss the shit out of it. I love the stage, man, and I believe I’m pretty damn good at being a frontman and an entertainer.”

He’s also still making music, though exclusively in the studio. His latest project is a “musical reimagination” of the last 35 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey — a modern rock rescoring of the last portion of the film that starts right as Dave begins to dismantle Hal and is thrown into the “star gate” to die and be born again.

“I’ve been working on it for two years and it’s almost done except for a couple sync points,” he said. “I have a vision that if every star in the universe lined up perfectly, that the owner of the movie would accept it as a true sync, and then have the studio license it to planetariums around the world.”

Grubb screened it for me, and the work is indeed impressive. Musically, it’s a “giant leap” forward from his GTO work. At the very least, Grubb said he intends to release it digitally, and is beginning work on another secret film-sync project while he continues working with bands, including Cass 50 and Rock Paper Dynamite.

And there’s an even bigger project in the making, something that will impact everything he does moving forward. Ah, but that’ll have to wait until the next article.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me how lucky I am,” Grubb said. “I subscribe to the idea that luck isn’t thrown on you, it’s created by you. I think a lot of luck is created by following your heart.”

* * *

It seems like yesterday that I was telling you that Cloven Path were hanging it up and moving to Texas for reasons that couldn’t be explained in this blog. Well, now they’re back, or at least a new incarnation of Cloven Path is back, performing tonight at their old stomping grounds of O’Leaver’s. Opening the show is local punk-rock phenoms Hercules, Portland’s Prize Country and Denver’s Git Some (ex-Planes Mistaken for Stars). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, across town at The Sydney, Portland band System & Station is playing with Fromanhole, Comme Reel and Nicole Le Clerc. $5, 9 p.m.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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