Monday, March 30, 2009


Tacklebox was formed at the end of the fall semester in 1994 when Robert Johnigan, Mark Honnaker and myself left True North over irreconcilable differences. Turned out to be a great decision, which led to two bands that were each better than the original. That’s not to say that either band was particularly great, just that True North wasn’t and I have the incriminating tape to prove it. I’ll have to save the history of True North and it’s demise for another day, as that would be a long and rambling story. Anyway, on to the lost tape of Tacklebox’s Miami Street session and the $150 we still owe the owner.

One of the decisions with the breakup of True North was to allow Tacklebox to take over the designated slot on the upcoming campus CD, sfumato. It was a generous offer from the guys of The Reverend Funk. We jumped at the opportunity and were soon at Miami Street recording “Identifying a Spider’s Web.” It was a fairly layered track with too many guitar parts and probably would have stunk if not for Steve Sostak. Fortunately, he found something in the mix and really turned the song into something decent (Thanks Steve). The song deals with a topic that was a through-line of most of our lyrics – identity. I think this was largely due to me being from the Confederate South and somehow feeling more and more isolated in the Yankee dominated world of South Bend. Could also have been the clich├ęd searching of a young adult trying to find his way in the world. Either way, examining who I was and where I came from was the dominant topic of Tacklebox lyrics and music.

Throughout the remainder of the 1995 spring semester, we continued to write new material and re-work existing material that the guys in True North refused to play. Some of these were recorded in a day and a half at Miami Street in the late spring of 1995. We never did put out an actual tape of these songs. Instead, copies were distributed at random to a very small handful of people. Fortunately, at least one of those 3rd generation dubs still exists and hence this history.

I don’t actually remember a ton about recording at Miami Street, although I’m pretty sure it was overcast. We set up quickly and knocked out as many songs as we could in a day. Most of the parts were recorded separately. We didn’t do anything live in the studio, which you can hear in places. The one thing that sticks out from the session was that we were never able to get the song “Garage Helicopter Umbrella” right, and thus it was never mixed and only lives in our memories. So sad.

After a day in the studio, we headed back for a grueling 4-hour mix. We were incredibly green and leaned heavily on John at Miami St. The one song we were fairly insistent about the sound was “Our Light Bright” – a political song about the budding GLND group and the University’s refusal to recognize them officially. Against John’s wishes, I insisted that we record the guitar really loud and with a bunch of feedback. It’s probably my favorite recorded song by Tacklebox.

At this point, I bet you’re wondering about the missing $150. Well, the band wasn’t making much money so each member of the triumvirate agreed to pay $150 towards the sum for the studio time. I sold plasma to pay my share and buy some PBR. Unfortunately, Mark – the only member with a job – never did go by the studio and pay his share. He kept saying he was going to, but to my knowledge, he never did. I’m still deeply sorry for this and will gladly send John a check if anyone knows his whereabouts.

After the campus CD dropped, Tacklebox pretty much blew up. We played shows in basements and living rooms. Even got to play at Jazzman’s and Club 23 - twice! Pretty amazing. Live, the songs were always played faster and sloppier than the recordings. Fortunately, Robert and Mark were a really good rhythm section and gave the live songs some sense of coherence. That, and the fact that Robert is one of the most fun bass players to watch – ever. I’m sticking to that. That dude from Van Halen had nothing on Robert (although could probably drink him under the table.)

The end of Tacklebox was fairly anti-climactic. We had ambitions to tour with Hace Frio in the summer of 1996. There’s even a little zine/promo piece to boot. Unfortunately, Robert was offered a job at an international corporation and just couldn’t pass up the money. So, we lost our bass player and the will to live. It was a good time and there are plenty of repressed memories to show for it. Long live Tacklebox!

On a side note, we were really lucky to have Rob Adams in our corner. He always pushed us on people and even helped land us a slot opening for the Violent Femmes when they played that dome thing (Stepan Center) way out on the North Campus.

--Chad Shaffler


see also"
Tacklebox on MySpace


doug said...

Tacklebox was freaking great. I don't know how I ended up being one of the few with a copy of these sessions on tape, but I sure did treasure it.

Tacklebox opened for Spoonfed at our last show, and later played a show with The Butterfly Effect in Memphis as part of one of the best post-graduation music roadtrip weekends. We also covered "Dixie" on occasion, which remains one of my top SBP90s songs, period.

Can't wait to get this on my mp3 player for the purposes of rocking out on the subway.

doug said...

Now listening to this on the computer and it remains as good as I remember.

The added bonus is I finally know the song titles.

Anonymous said...

Song titles, who needs song titles?

Glad you're enjoying it. I'm just excited to have a copy for myself.

RPD said...

My favorite band ever