Things seemed to be going alright. At least that’s what I thought. In our daily routine at Waldenhouse, Wanda and I managed to attend different groups most of the time and focus on our own programs. She forged her own friendships and found a special relationship with one of the head counselors, Jake – and he was very fond of her as well. I had moved into a clean-n-sober household in a clean-n-sober apartment building. I was going to groups all day and if I didn’t have rehearsal or a gig I was at an NA or an AA meeting in the evening. Wanda and I didn’t go to the same meetings, thinking back I am not sure if she went to 12-step meetings or not. I would assume that she did, as it was pretty much required.
Our band was never discussed within the walls of rehab, it was only known that Wanda and I were friends in the “outside” world. Being in the band motivated me to make good decisions, as I’d be damned if I was going to get kicked out of a band that I had started. But I didn’t talk about the band in groups. Part of the recovery process does require a lot of humility and trying to get to a place of self-worth as opposed to ego. As the band became more and more well known it was healthy for me to have an environment that wasn’t about performing. I always loved playing in a band, I would describe it as “the stage is my world and I am the king” – no one could touch me there. But mix that mentality with drugs and I could be very standoffish. Isolated. Having friends in Waldenhouse who just liked me for me, however corny that sounds, was truly healing.
I adhered to the controlled environment well. I enjoyed it. I liked the way I started to feel inside. The discipline did me good. And being clean was so new to me it felt like an altered state that I learned to enjoy after the detox was behind me. I played better. I felt alive. I was so present for every moment. My body and mind felt sharp. That said, it was fucking hard. It required surrender, and that’s not something I had ever done. But I did it.
Wanda didn’t fare so well. We didn’t talk about things much during our collective time in rehab as we were both working our own individual programs. Recovery is a very selfish process. It was all I could do to keep up with my own life. It seemed like Wanda was doing alright. We were playing gigs and rehearsing all of the while. I saw her in passing during the day. She was somewhat distant, but so was I. It seemed normal under the circumstances.
But after a month or two she began missing groups and calling in sick every so often. Now I know Wanda, and I knew she was getting high. Weed was the one drug she could not let go of. Whenever someone called in sick they would get a urine test. And after several dirty bottles Wanda was kicked out of Waldenhouse.
And when she got kicked out of Waldenhouse, she got kicked out of the band. We sat her down in our studio and told her she was fired. I remember her looking shocked that we actually fired her. That was the last time we ever spoke. Looking back, I remember that she didn’t even put up a fight. I know I would have begged for another chance. Or two. Or ten. Maybe she was relieved somehow. I’ll never know.
Now we were signed and in need of a drummer. More specifically, a drummer who would fit with us.
We made some phone calls and a musician friend of ours in Los Angeles said “Don’t look any further – I know exactly who you need” – and she was right. Dawn Richardson flew up for an audition and about one minute into the first song Linda and I looked at each other and were just smiling and saying “oh, yeah”.
Dawn is a drummer’s drummer. She knows music. She knows percussion. She knows how to build intensity within a song. She knows how to lay back when she needs to. Dawn’s professionalism was very inspiring and motivating. As bass and drums go, we spoke to each other. Serious about drumming and willing to do anything to make a living at it, Dawn was ready for the pressure of a major label recording, in fact she excelled at high pressure situations. She adapted perfectly.
The next step was to find a producer. Our label sent us several to consider; we vibed well with David Tickle, a young Englishman who had previously worked with Prince, Peter Gabriel, and the Divinyls. We met with him several times and he seemed a good fit. He had a warm, approachable personality and a positive attitude about the project. He had done work we all liked. I especially loved his connection to the Divinyls; they were one of my favorite bands. David signed on as producer and we looked ahead with optimism towards the next step.
4NB old mr heffer 091991 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.