|Posted by davidellislpn on July 20, 2014 at 2:05 PM|
Interview with Dave Ellis 2014
When did the Crystal Haze Band actually start?
Dave: The band actually first got together in the summer of 1975. It was originally led by, and put together by Dirk Tucker. He was from Blue Mound Illinois. It ‘s a little town just southwest of Decatur. Dirk played guitar and sang. I always remembered him froma band called “Solar Fire” from the early Seventies. The early Crystal Haze Band was Dirk on guitar and vocals and Greg Bickers from Mt. Zion on Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals, and Rick Beaman from Decatur on drums, and Bob Prust from Decatur on Bass Guitar, and a Stand-up Lead Singer named Michael Lambert on Lead Vocals. Mike, I remembered from an early Seventies Decatur Band called “Gunsmoke”. They (Crystal Haze Band) were playing School dances in the Fall of 75 around Central Illinois. At the same time, I was playing still with my band called “Legend” which was a “Cocktail Lounge” type band (that actually worked constantly) but played a lot of stuff that I was really no longer into, after doing it since freshman year in High School. So at the same time, I was always jamming with other people on my nights off, with people that were (like me) into heavy rock, and playing a lot of Zeppelin and Rush and Aerosmith and early Kiss etc. This created a dynamic clash in my regular band, and by the early fall of 75, Legend agreed to break up as of mid January of 76, after our string of gigs would run out. So I began looking about, to either rebuild a new band that would play only real rock n roll; or either get into a cool band that was already playing the type of stuff I was doing. At the same time, I kept writing my own songs, which I had been doing ever since 1971.
SO how did you end up in the Crystal Haze Band?
Dave: I was in senior year of High School. I had just transferred over from St. Teresa’s to MacArthur HS. I was sitting across from this kid in study hall, and told him that Legend was breaking up. He told me that his cousin Greg Bickers needed a guitar player for his band. So I called up Greg. He told me that Dirk Tucker had just quit the baned, (and it was actually Dirk’s Band) and that Rick Beaman and him (Greg) were now running it. He invited me to come over to East Street in Decatur that week and try out. I came in and played with them all afternoon and evening and did a bunch of Rush, Aerosmith, and Kiss songs, and they invited me to join up…which I did immediately. That was around the end of January or beginning of February of 1976. At that point, Greg and I were still senios in High School, Bob was in Junior year at Eisenhower, and Rick Beaman and Mike Lambert were already older and married, with their own homes.
I never was 100 % on the circumstances, but Lambert left the early band, shortly after I joined…like within a couple months or so. We played a lot of school dances, and school concerts and then proms in the spring. We really didn’t do much of the Lounge scene like Legend had been doing. We did, howver play one Prom as an impersonation of Legend, since Legend was booked a year ahead to play the 1976 Prom in Assumption Illinois. So we just showed up, and put up the old Legend Sign in front of us and jammed out, and it all went really well. That was very funny actually.
What is also curious is that we were already playing a few of the songs that would make it onto the album (a year later), playing them at these school type gigs and concerts. I wrote Truth of the Ages, Stop, and DNJ during that Spring of 76. DNJ is what Bob and Greg called it, cuz I didn’t give it a name at the time. They called it “Dave’s New Jam” or DNJ. I would later have Greg rewrite the words to Stop in 77 during the album recording. Beaman was planning to quit after the end of the prom season in 76, so we started having Mike Stevens from Mt. Zion come around and fill in at gigs and start to pick up on the vibe of the band. That way when Beaman finished, Mike Stevens was already in with all the material and there was no real transition to try to do.
Graduation came in June of 76, and within a few weeks the band just kinda collapsed, with nobody really doing the booking, cuz Beaman had preety much handled that after Dirk quit. I kept on working on my song writing, and by January of 77, I had come up with this plan to to put everything into recording all these tunes for analbum. At first I was just going to have it be a Dave Ellis record, but really realized that the whole thing needed a Band feel to it, to have any real purpose, or to try to get ahead with it and market it. Also during this period of time, the first Boston album came out, and everybody began to change their ideas about recording, and layering guitars on tape and such. And I was no exception. So as I began to line up people to do the album, it happened that everybody I wanted on it were the former members of Crystal Haze Band. I remember that I even offered Beaman to share the drum work time with Stevens, but Beaman opted out of the whole project. So in the end, it would just be the final Crystal Haze Band memebers, plus Bryant Minks. During that winter I had been filling in with a lounge act playing really bogus material like Kikki Dee and garbage that really turned me off. But they had this really great keyboard player Bryant, who wanted to do the album with us. So we brought him on board too. Everybody in the Band Scene in Decatur knew Bryant and he had a history of jamming with really good bands.
I took the money that I had for college, and then actually dropped out of college and started the work on the album. In the daytime I was working with Greg at this really weird Laboratory where we worked with Rhesus Monkies and Rats and such. It was kind of a chamber of horrors. I didn’t last there and neither did Greg.
The whole album was done on a TEAC Tascam system on eight individual tracks (not 8-track, for those of you who are younger.) It was eight tracks, instead of 16 or 32. We couldn’t afford the bigger studios. I knew that Sabbath had recorded some great tunes like Sweet Leaf and Iron Man on only eight tracks, so I figured we could still make a group record that way. Across town, another band, Bethlehem Steel, with my former drummer form Legend; Tim Baily, was recording a 45 record in a demo studio that I think only had four tracks. Still they put out a good little record. It was called Golden Lady. They got a lot of gigs that way. It made me look forward to our album coming out. I hoped both that it would get gigs, plus I had the bigger idea of attempting to snare a real recording contract with one of the big record companies.