Adam Gates was a really talented singer-songwriter who had been signed to Geffen. I can’t remember how I finally got to meet Adam. But I was in the rehearsal studio with Adam for a good year, at least. I think we played one or two gigs at the Bottom of the Hill, now that I think about it. We actually did finally get out and play some shows.

What kind of stuff was it?

Well, he was really into Radiohead, and this other band that had a record called Ursa Major Space Station They were a really great band, way underrated. British. [The Catherine Wheel. — ed.] They only made like three or four albums, and then they kind of disappeared. They had a major label deal. Adam was really obsessed with this band. And we would kind of cover some of this band’s stuff. Adam would lift riffs from some of their songs, and we would jam on them for hours.

I really liked the material a lot. But what we were doing, it just wasn’t really complete. It just never came together. Adam could not communicate his ideas very well at all, except he could communicate his dissatisfaction. And he was always wanting things to be a certain way, but then he would change his mind completely. And what it was was last week would be something different the following week….

And out of respect for him, I kind of went along—you know, I followed his lead for a good year in the rehearsal studio. We called the band Submarine. I turned him on to a lot of things, and he really got influenced by the Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. In the book, it tells the story of Hagbard Celine, who was a submarine captain, and he had this submarine that went all around the world and then would pop up in the strangest of places.

Submarine at the Nightbreak in San Francisco. June 7, 1995.

The Senquist Experience

“They would order these really weird cuts of meat, and a lot of it. They would come like once a week. They all wore these dark glasses, and they didn’t have any eyebrows, and they were super pale…. And they were known as the Senquists.”

The Senquist Experience at the Chameleon in San Francisco, 1991. L-R: Larry Dekker, Elliott Shannonhouse, Michael Belfer. Photo by Terry O’Reilly.

WY: You mentioned another band, but I couldn’t make out the name of it. The something experience.

MB: Oh, the Senquist Experience. I made some bitchin’ posters for that band, really bitchin’ posters.

So here’s the story of the Senquist Experience. Patrick Roques had a friend named Mark; I’m going blank on Mark’s last name. And Mark was this really sweet guy who—everything he got into, he made a lot of money. He had the Midas touch. Everything that Mark touched turned to gold.

For example, Mark bought all of this land around Mount St. Helens, because it was cheap, and he had this idea that he wanted to start a farm or something. Well, within a year, Mount St. Helens blew up. And the land that he has purchased had all exploded and become completely transformed. And because of all the minerals and the riches in the earth that were released, it became some of the most fertile farmland in the country. So a big parcel that Mark had bought became so much more valuable as farmland. So he sold it, and he made a huge profit, like in the millions. That’s just like one example. I mean, just the craziest things would happen to him.

Well anyway, he really loved Tuxedomoon, and he loved Patrick Roques and whatever Patrick was doing. And Patrick was also a big Sleepers fan. So he got Mark to finance a whole bunch of things, like Vacation magazine. That only came out because Patrick got his friend to put up some money so Patrick could make that.

Where am I going with all this? So, there was this story. Mark was a butcher by trade, and he had a meat business in Tacoma, and there were these people who came into his butcher shop. They would order these really weird cuts of meat, and a lot of it. They would come like once a week. They all wore these dark glasses, and they didn’t have any eyebrows, and they were super pale. They were really creepy. And they were known as the Senquists.

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Mondo Belfer

Piecing together some info on the short-lived Mondo, Michael’s short-lived band with Peter Kraemer (formerly of Haight-Ashbury-era Sopwith Camel), Tetsu Inoue, and Stefano Paolillo.

MB: I did that band called Mondo with Peter Kraemer and then Tetsu and Stefano. It had to have been before I went to New York [in 1985].

WY: Yes, it had to, because it’s mentioned in the Peter Belsito book [Hardcore California]. That book was published in 1983.

Oh, okay. So it was talking about something I was doing currently.

Or recently, yeah. I mean, it was in the past tense. And then the other thing—the rateyourmusic thing that Tom Mallon put up. I found something about a tape that had been made in 1982.

Ok, so this [his return to New York in the mid ’80s] would all have been after that. And that makes more sense. Because Stefano went to New York to really pursue his fashion photography career. He was really successful at it. He was a brilliant photographer, but he was just a real horrible heroin addict. What I mean when I say that he was a real horrible heroin addict is that he had horrible health problems as a result of his addiction.

Stefano Paolillo was a fantastic guy, amazing guy. He had so much heart, and he was so funny. And he was a great drummer. He had fantastic feel. He wasn’t full of technique or fancy fills, but he had the greatest feel, and it was fun to watch him play. He was very relaxed when he played. When you made eye contact with him, he was very present. And he always had a big smile on his face.

And we did some great stuff together. Peter Kraemer came on board. Peter was a lot older than us. A lot older than me…. He’s always had this really bitchin’ pitch-to-voltage converter, which he would use with his saxophone. And he played keyboards and sang. He could convert the pitch of the saxophone to a control voltage, which would then trigger a modular synth module. It even had an input into his 505. He could somehow control his 505 from the saxophone, and he got some really fuckin’ cool sounds out of that sax. So we were pretty hot shit.

First it was me writing with Peter, and then Tetsu had come out to San Francisco, and he loved it. But he never gave up his place in Manhattan. He was smart. So he would come out to San Francisco, and then Peter and him hit it off. And Peter, true to old hippie form, always had the most amazing hookup for everything. When he had to move from the bookstore, somebody rented him this famous ferry boat that was harbored in Sausalito. So he ended up living in this big ferry boat. And he had a lot of rooms, so Tetsu rented one of the rooms on the boat and ended up living out there.

Oh, Tetsu loved it.

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Outtake: Lunch with Jack Douglas

A brief outtake from Michael Belfer’s memoir When Can I Fly? The Sleepers, Tuxedomoon & Beyond.

There are a handful of producers who I stand in awe of. Two of them would be Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. There’s Martin Hannett, who produced everything on Factory Records. And then Jack Douglas, who produced the first Cheap Trick record, Aerosmith’s best three albums, and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy.

I’ll never forget the time that Jack Douglas took me out to lunch. It was one of the high points of my life. He let me ask any questions I wanted to, so I asked him about the Aerosmith records, especially Get Your Wings. The solo on “Train Kept A-Rollin” is one of my favorite guitar solos of all time, and I wanted to know what he had used to record it. He just busted out this story about how they had brought in these ringers, and the lead guitar player was none other than Steve Hunter, Lou Reed’s guitar player from the Rock ’n’ Roll Animal album.

Jack said, “If you don’t believe me, listen to the intro to ‘Sweet Jane,’ and then switch back to ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’.”

And sure enough, it’s like, “Oh, fuck. That’s not Joe Perry.”

But to Steve Hunter’s credit, he never broke that story. It was Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner who played the roles of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, the two guitar players in Aerosmith. Jack also shared the secret of the bass line to “Sweet Emotion” with me. He said, “Go back and listen to it, and listen hard. And you will hear that underneath the bass guitar, we doubled the line with a bass marimba.” And sure enough, there it is. I bet you didn’t notice it before, though.

When Black Lab got signed to Geffen, all of a sudden I’m presented with, “Who do you want to produce your album? We’ve got a $500,000 budget to make a record.” I said, “Can we see what Jack Douglas is up to?” And their response was, “Jack Douglas? What has he done lately?”

I said, “Jack Douglas produced the first Cheap Trick record, Aerosmith’s best three albums, and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy. He doesn’t have to make another fuckin’ record for the rest of his life. That guy has proven himself. Are you out of your mind? I’m telling you, it’s time to bring Jack Douglas back! Can we at least look into it?”


They wouldn’t consider it.