Born on September 21 in Queens, New York. H. G. Wells, Bill Murray, Stephen King, Larry Hagman, Leonard Cohen, Chuck Jones and XTC's Dave Gregory share the same birthday with me. Uh oh. My family moved to Woodmere, Long Island when I was 4. The earliest hero I had was Charlie Chaplin, whose films were shown on Sunday afternoons on the local public television station. I wanted to be an entertainer, or at the very least do something artistic with my life. In first grade I began making up short stories and by the end of my esteemed elementary school career I had impressed many a teacher with my creative writing skills. In fourth grade I adapted my favorite movie, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory into a short play and got to be Willy Wonka myself. My best friend played Charlie Bucket. Our teacher also appointed me editor in chief of the mock newspaper we wrote set during the Revolutionary War period called Colonial Capers.
Still inspired by Chaplin, in junior high school I got a Super 8 film camera and made numerous 3 minute shorts such as "Inspector Clouseau Buys a House." Another new hobby of mine was to lock myself in my bedroom and record improvised radio call in shows on a variety of subjects, playing the host, the callers, and even doing all the commercials. By the time high school rolled around, I was whipping up secret parodies of the school's newspaper Mental Pabulum called Mental Problem, which I would pass around to my classmate friends in hopes that no teacher ever got a hold of it. They never did.
In 1979 my best friend played me some selections from his older brother's record collection. For the first time in my life I heard The Kinks, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Richman, and Wreckless Eric. Everything had suddenly changed. I was in love with music and became an obsessive collector of everything The Kinks had ever released. Within one year I had it all. The first three live concerts I attended were Steve Martin at the Nassau Coliseum, The Kinks at the same location and then three days later, The Ramones, who were so loud they blew the fuses that shut all the power off in the club about 5 times throughout the show.
1981 and I was off to attend Union College in Schenectady, New York with the intention of studying to be a doctor. One week later I changed my mind and got involved with WRUC-FM, the 10-watt college radio station on campus. I was being exposed to all kinds of new music, most of it from the collection of my roommate who owned everything by Frank Zappa, The Residents, Brian Eno, Captain Beefheart, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Fred Frith etc. I was assigned a very early Saturday morning weekly radio slot and used the opportunity to play all of the music I was now enjoying, in addition to improvising in-studio conversations between myself, newsman Dick Dynamic and weatherman Chip Snodgrass, all voiced by me. I wonder if any of the eight people who could hear my show enjoyed it?
Realizing that art courses were far easier than science, I enrolled in a photography class which proved to be very influential and beneficial to my grade point average. Taking pictures interested me and according to my professor I was pretty good at it, too. From 1982 through the end of college in 1985 I took hundreds of sardonic black and white street photographs and even won a few contests in the process. Another friend of mine introduced me to the music of XTC in 1983 and this event changed my life once again. I had finally heard what I considered to be the most impressive and creative band I’d ever come across, and beyond that I believed that I had something in common with principal songwriter Andy Partridge besides a similar sense of humor. I thought if I could write songs I would try to create something that had common elements found in the best of XTC: oddly catchy melodies, great word play, playfulness and variety. As the now music director of WRUC, I concocted a successful scheme to interview Andy Partridge on the phone in January of 1984. My current musical hero did not disappoint, and when we spoke again 6 months later I had already decided to go to England on a term abroad that autumn where I got to meet him in person. Inspired by my good fortune, I began to write song lyrics for the first time. I returned to Schenectady with a burning desire to record my first batch of tunes despite having never done it nor having the ability to play any instruments. Somehow I convinced my senior thesis advisor to allow me to record all of these songs using the school's brand new 4 track portastudio, and then set the whole thing to a live slide show of my photographs and some new drawings. By June of 1985, When I Was Your Age: A Nostalgic Look at the Present was complete. I had plunged head first into the process, recording and concocting 25 minutes of very strange songs, comedy bits, non-sequiturs and who knows what else using a simple drum machine, some found percussion, toy keyboards and lots of mouth sounds. The live slide show was assembled and projected along with my tape to an audience of about 50 people on my second to last day at Union College. Despite the fact that the audience was confused and likely a bit unnerved, I received an A and graduated with honors. Then it was back home to Woodmere to find a job. The first thing I found was not a job but rather the world's greatest radio station, free-form WFMU out of Upsala College in New Jersey. Listening to WFMU exposed me to a staggering amount of new music, general weirdness and a large community of like out-of-their-minded people, several of whom I became friendly with, like Irwin Chusid and home recording godfather R. Stevie Moore. WFMU also began to play some of my songs from When I Was Your Age which inspired me on to further audio adventures.
Eventually I managed to land the prestigious position of apprentice film editor at Morty's Film Services in Manhattan. Morty's edited tv commercials so I gained valuable experience working with film, but more importantly came across many, many new characters and lots of new comic material thanks to all the people that worked there. In the meantime, at home I was busy recording lots of new "music" of my own on my new portastudio. By the end of 1987 I had 90 minutes of recorded bits at the ready, and assembled it into my first cassette album, pOp cOrn, which included my senior thesis When I Was Your Age, and another 45-minute span of stuff I called Excuse Me. Numerous copies were dubbed and forced onto friends and family. Work continued on at Morty's and so did recording at home. 1988 saw the completion of my second cassette, a 45-minute collection called Extravaganza Deluxe! Copies of this and pOp cOrn were mailed around to various DIY magazines for review, and even to Dr. Demento who aired two of my tracks on his nationally syndicated radio show. Having grown dissatisfied with working on commercials for doughnuts and diarrhea medicine, my best friend and I decided to backpack around Europe to "find ourselves" though it was more akin to losing ourselves for a few months. While traipsing around, I continued to come up with new songs I wanted to record, if and when I returned home.
As soon as I was back in Woodmere, I felt the need to get a place of my own which materialized as a tiny studio apartment on Charles Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. I also returned to Morty's because I was too lazy to look for another job. More importantly, armed with a big batch of new songs, I was contacted by my first cousin who suggested we record some stuff together. By the end of 1989 a brand new 60-minute cassette album, described by a reviewer as "an adventure in silliness" was born -- Big Hair by the band HENWAY. It was the first time I’d ever collaborated with anyone on music and the experience taught me much, most importantly that if you add bass to a song it usually sounds better! Around the same time I was asked by the owner of an indie label in New Jersey who I was friendly with if I wanted to perform three 10-minute live sets as part of an evening of music and comedy at an art gallery. Though I had never performed live before I agreed to do it, and worked up a series of inane bits and silly costumes to distract the audience from the fact that I was standing in front of them and singing to pre-recorded backing tapes of my songs without vocals. I found the experience scary but fun, and wanted to one day do more.
While slowly recording new songs, now featuring instruments including bass and guitars actually in tune, I decided it was time to leave Morty's, now called Morty's Digitorial, thanks to advances in editing technology, and found a job at Dennis Hayes and Associates. The work was much harder and the new company was much busier, so to have an excuse to leave on time two days per week I signed up for classes in improv comedy and sketch writing with Gotham City Improv (originally the east coast half of LA's famed The Groundlings). With Gotham City my confidence on stage grew, and so did my repertoire which now included character monologue pieces such as a crazed algebra teacher entitled"As Easy as Pi,” a washed-up 1960s three-hit-wonder now serenading diners every Monday night at Mr. Chops Family Style restaurant named Sebastian, and a short-lived accidental silent film star known as Barney Mahoney. At the same time I convinced The Knitting Factory in Manhattan to allow me to perform two solo shows of my own featuring, yes, silly costumes and backing tapes -- 1991's You Plus Me Equals Us and 1993's Single Celled Circus.
In the interim, my best friend and I stumbled upon the astoundingly weird Manhattan public access television lack-of-talent showcase, Stairway to Stardom. We contacted the host, borrowed all his tapes, and rescued the show from the crap heap of history by creating a series of "Best of" compilations which eventually led to a boxed set and a very popular YouTube channel.
In early 1993, thanks to a sizable glitch in judgement, I made the miscalculation to get a hair system from Hair Club for Men to try to combat my increasing decrease in the hair on my head. A ridiculous year of embarrassment later, when the winter of 1994 came to a close, so did my Gotham City Improv performing career, and my patience with working too hard. I quit my job, shaved my head and went to Greece for two months of peace, quiet, beaches, and sun. While there I decided that I’d grown tired of living in New York City and vowed to move to San Francisco once I returned from my vacation. In October of that same year I packed up all my belongings, my AVID editing skills, my sun block, and headed west.
From 1994 through 1997 I lived in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, taking up street photography once again, only writing one or two songs, and working less than frequently, but enjoying the beautiful surroundings and weather. The growing pressure from my family and friends and my less-than-busy work situation eventually convinced me to move back to New York City, this time to the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. In January of 1998 I was able to enroll in a once-yearly songwriting course taught by my longest time songwriting hero, Ray Davies of The Kinks and given in Sheepwash, Devon, England at the Arvon Foundation. The course, which took place in early March, turned out to be the most extraordinary week in my life thus far. Fifteen other students and I worked very hard, having to compose and perform as many as eight songs in five-and-a-half days in front of everyone including Ray Davies, but we all got along famously and Ray was a wonderful, friendly, funny, supportive teacher. One week after returning home in a happy daze, I decided I wanted to record my first cd. No more cassettes for me. By the spring of 1999, The Importance of Sauce was born.
At that same time, having grown very weary of freelance AVID editing on projects that didn't truly interest me, I stumbled into the job of editing on the Howard Stern Radio Show - a Saturday night free-for-all montage fest of interviews, nonsense, freaks, foul language, nudity, insane stupidity and childish behavior on CBS television. I loved it! Two years later, once the show was canceled, I found myself both unemployed and desperate to record another cd. But first I took a trip to Rockport, Maine for an excuse to eat lobster and reignite my photography skills by taking a class at the Maine Photographic Workshops.
Back in Brooklyn, and thankfully now re-employed as a freelance AVID editor, work began on what would end up as my second cd, FRED. This time I asked my now friends Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge of XTC to help me out. With an additional assist from R. Stevie Moore, FRED was in the can. After the international excitement over FRED calmed down, I got to work on my long-planned kid's album based on my song "Purple Burt" from The Importance of Sauce. Recording progressed along nicely until it was interrupted by the need for me to whip out my acoustic guitar and start extensive rehearsals for my first ever live, completely solo acoustic show to be performed on September 21, 2003 (my 40th birthday). On that sunny, just about Autumn Sunday, I donned a pork pie hat and crooned 22 songs for family, friends, and fans munching on the complementary pizza. The whole event was recorded and assembled into a new cd called WHAT THE? Now firmly ensconced in my 40’s, it could only be appropriate to devote all of my free time to finishing my kid's album. Once again I was fortunate enough to recruit several of my hyper-talented friends/guest stars to help out, and voila' -- PURPLE BURT, a concept album for kid's about a colorblind, invisible purple boy was completed. Thanks to numerous glowing reviews, and airplay on a satellite radio kid's channel, it quickly became my most popular album, and even won a National Parenting Publications Award.
In 2006 I started on what would eventually end up being my brand new 2008 album Game Show Teeth. Not a kid's album this time; this one was for slightly immature adults. Again thrilled to be graced by a big slew of guest stars, including Andy Partridge, Dave Gregory, R. Stevie Moore, Joe McGinty (of NYC's Loser's Lounge fame), as well as some ridiculously talented but criminally unknown friends of mine, it resulted in my best album to date. The lead off track, "This Is a Song" was given an animated video treatment and caught the attention of American Idol winner, David Cook, who directed all his teen girl fans to watch it. Around this same time, I became the official video editor for a band I was long-time friends with called The Mommyheads.
Five years later, on my 50th birthday, I released my fifth album, SING SING. Twelve rule-breaking, wise guy sing-a-longs of confession, delusion and redemption.
To celebrate my fifth decade of tomfoolery, in late 2014 I published my first book -- a tragicomic memoir entitled Hell Toupee, about my Hair Club for Men debacle. It garnered lots of positive attention and a few radio interviews. As a companion piece of sorts, after 30 years at it, I also published a collection of just about every one of my song lyrics --Totally Tuneless. 2016 brought with it my sixth album, BREAKING MUSE, followed by an EP as Jumble Sail with a friend of mine from Wales, Big Al Davies, called All Abroad. An illustrated, novel based on my PURPLE BURT album was published in 2018. In January of 2022, Swell Goatee, the sequel to Hell Toupee was published.