Originally published in Issue #4 of MOO Magazine (July 1994)
Coming to MTV this fall … four twenty-something musicians from the barren state of Pennsylvania overcome the pitfalls of love and life and promise themselves, their friends, and most importantly, their parents, that someday everyone will know their names.
While the plot sounds like something that MTV might present in a docu-drama form along the lines of Real World or Catwalk, this story rings true for the members of York, Pennsylvania’s Live. Given every change to make it big, Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Gracey took their God-given talent – in this case, a strong appreciation for music – and reached a rather amazing level of success considering that all four should be busily pursuing college degrees at this time instead of touring the world.
Currently on tour in support of their second album for Radioactive Records, the members of Live have grown more comfortable playing together as time has gone by. It wasn’t too long ago that Kowalczyk stage dove for the first time ever during Live’s performance on the 120 Minutes tour while in Dayton, Ohio.
“We’ve just been playing so much in the last year or two, it’s pretty natural,” bassist Dahlheimer says. “It’s pretty comfortable.” It doesn’t hurt to have one of the top-selling alternative albums in the country. The more money going into the pocket, the more comfortable the situation. Of course, the success is well-deserved as the band has been touring since the guys were in high school, borrowing their parents’ cars to drive to the big cities of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore where they played to some of the major label bigwigs. The rule was, they were allowed to play those shows only if they got back in time to make it to high school the following day. The closest club was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a half-hour drive from York. “We started playing when we were really young,” Dahlheimer remembers. “That’s the only club that we’ve consistently played since, so it’s kind of like our home spot.”
Eventually, Radioactive Records offered the band a recording contract, and the fairy tale began. An album, Mental Jewelry, produced by Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison, was released in 1991, and before the band members could say “college entrance exams”, they were off making videos and touring.
After two successful singles, “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” and “Pain Lies on the Riverside”, and a well-received headlining tour, Kowalczyk, Taylor, Gracey and Dahlheimer returned home to to begin work on their second album, eventually titled Throwing Copper.
Once again, Harrison was called in to handle the production of the songs, but this time his role was a little different. “He was more like a ringleader this time,” Dahlheimer explains. “He kept things moving. He didn’t really have as much to do with sounds and things.” The whole recording process took less than two weeks last summer, although the mixing of the album was a little more prolonged. A mixer was hired due to his past work with Sugar, a band that all the members of Live enjoyed, but just wasn’t working out. He was given the boot and Tom Lord-Alge, who mixed “Pain Lies on the Riverside”, was brought in to finalize everything. The final product didn’t see the light of day until this Spring for a number of different reasons, as Dahlheimer explains: “We missed a bunch of deadlines as far as art work. Everybody in Marketing was coming up with a new date and a new reason why we should release on a later date.”
Boasting 14 songs, including the bonus country slide-guitar cut, “Horse”, Throwing Copper has received tremendous critical praise from journalists who often compare Live’s style to that of an early R.E.M., as well as great response from the record-buying public. These two things caught the members of Live, especially Dahlheimer, off guard.
“It’s doing phenomenal, which I … I personally had no clue what was going to happen,” Dahlheimer comments. “It was good this time because last time the initial drive was fully MTV. MTV got the video and pushed it and got the ball rolling. This time it was great because we went to radio first.”
Although the first single, “Selling the Drama”, has been out for quite some time, audiences are still demanding it on the radio and MTV. Live does have plans to release a second single/video for “I Alone” when timing is right. Dahlheimer would like to have an in-between single released before “I Alone” to keep fans satisfied.
Touring this year was delayed a bit because Dahlheimer needed to have his appendix removed days before the warm-up tour of college campuses was set to begin. Fortunately, Dahlheimer comes from a musical family and his brother filled in on a handful of dates.
“I laid in some strange hospital for a week,” Dahlheimer says. “It was the day before the album came out. I remember waking up and getting a phone call, ‘Congratulations, your album is out.’ And I was like, ‘Big deal; let me sleep.'”
Once recovered, Dahlheimer and the band hit the road with label mates Angelfish and performed in moderate-sized rock clubs. They also headlined a Cleveland radio station anniversary party which included The Church, Eve’s Plum, Frente!, Sister Psychic, Denzil, and Grant Lee Buffalo. This summer, Live will once again be part of a stellar lineup as it joins the Womad Tour also scheduled to feature Peter Gabriel, Midnight Oil, Arrested Development and The Levellers, among others.
Even with the success, people from Live’s hometown aren’t appreciative of the hometown heroes. “Actually, when I got back from the hospital, everybody was still out. The day I got home, the front page of the paper read, ‘Local Band Writes Song About Hometown,'” Dahlheimer says, in reference to the band’s song “Shit Towne,” a teen-angst song about growing up in a town which is like a vacuum. If you don’t get out while you can, you’ll be sucked in forever. “Everybody was pretty pissed off – all the papers, the newscasts, talk radio. It was just bizarre, for like two weeks. It was just kind of harsh.”
All the members still have strong relationships with their families. Dahlheimer even moved back in with his parents recently. “The plans for us are to tour for the next year, year and a half, so I figured I’d save myself some money,” Dahlheimer says. “So I packed up me and my dog and moved into the spare room. Actually, they’re not here all summer, so what the hell.” (Hey, everybody, party at the Patrick’s house this weekend!)
The long-term future hasn’t been written yet. It is safe to say that Live will continue to tour as long as the album is doing well (Heck, with a name like Live, they can’t just sit in the studio all day), and will continue to mature as both musicians and songwriters.
Be sure to watch the continuing saga as we see whether the band follows its natural instinct and creates music for the sole purpose of creating art or joins the dark side and gives in to the temptations of money and greed.