Saturday, October 01, 2005

BENCHMARK (1996-1997)
Matt Gooch- Guitar/vocals
Caleb Moore- Bass
Cesareo Garasa- Drums
Additional musicians:
Aaron Brown-vocals (early 1996)
Dan Eviland- Guitar (early 1996)

Discography: 8 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF... (1997)
1. Benchmark
2. Long Hard Day
3. Whatcha Gonna Do
4. Sweet Loui
5. Unsung Hero
6. Dream

I met Matt Gooch back in early 1996 while he was playing a song on a guitar at Front Porch Music. I introduced myself to him because he was (obviously) very talented and had a great sound. A few months later, he invited me to play an acoustic show at The Supreme Bean (a coffee shop that was located on the northeast side of Bakersfield). Matt was sharing vocals with Aaron Brown (who was moonlighting from his other band ANGRY ASPHALT MACHINE). The set was comprised of Matt's originals and certain ALICE IN CHAINS covers. Our friend Dan Eviland accompanied Matt on second guitar.
We played a few shows with that line-up until along the way we lost Aaron and Dan. I don't remember how.

Matt had a house located up in the east side of Bakersfield next to the community college and we used to practice there. During one of our jam sessions we decided to find a bass player and continue on as a three peice. I suggested Caleb Moore (who was fresh to Bakersfield after transplanting from Ridgecrest) who was playing with me in MENTO BURU. After Caleb jammed with Matt a couple of times, it was apparent that there was an exciting form of telepathy happening between them.

I remember the first few gigs being quite brilliant. We cut out the cover songs and stayed acoustic. Matt played a beautiful Guild acoustic guitar and Caleb was playing a 6-string bass. Matt never played lead, so Caleb took over on his bass when a solo was needed. Me? I wanked off in the back and overplayed a lot.

During the years 1995-2001, the local music scene had hit a dry patch. KORN was becoming more and more successful and "Follow The Leader" was just around the corner. The musical landscape wasn't as diverse as it was just 5 years earlier. The prevalent sound was a lot angrier; detuned guitars, high-pitched effects followed by dense walls of sound, funky mid-tempo beats and singing that verged on both explosive rage and utter despair. When KORN broke out, it was a sign: "Oh shit! They made it!" Consciously, or not, the local scene followed suit.

We were an acoustic three piece in the middle of all this, and, yeah, we had our "angry" song too.

There was a bar that we frequented often and also played shows at; it's name was Bottoms Up. It was located on 19th street between Eye and Chester and was owned by a married couple: Sean and Robin. I played in a band with Sean called THE SUBTERRANEANS back in 1993. Well, I practiced with them. We never played a proper show. Rob Ruiz (DIM) got me that gig. Bottoms Up was a hang out spot for the twenty-somethings that enjoyed the ecclectisism and diversity ofThe Mint, and also the mellow hang of Guthries Alley Cat. It was a great bar. Every Sunday they would have an "X-Files" night, which is exactly what it sounds like: people in a bar watching "The X-Files." Matt even worked as a bartender there for a while. Caleb had just become my roommate and Matt was our bartender. Good times.

BENCHMARK wasn't the only project the three of us had. Caleb and I played in MENTO BURU frequently ( as I mentioned before) and Matt was rehearsing in a rockabilly-meets-THE MELVINS sounding band with Dax Dominguez on bass, Greg Looney on drums ( both who would later play in ARRIVAL OF FAWN) and I think our friend Thor was playing second guitar. They practiced underneath Bottoms Up in its basement.

We played The Supreme Bean, the recently opened Dagny's Coffeeshop and Bottoms Up often. I remember we played a Sunday night show at Bottom's Up and a bouncer from another bar down the street was really impressed by us. He was so impressed he asked us to grab our gear, go to his bar and play again over there.
We had just finished playing at Bottoms Up, then thirty minutes later we were playing another gig in another bar. Nice.

We decided it was time for us to record our demo. We scheduled an 8 hour recording session at Pig Studios with Nick Forcillo (ENTONE) engineering. Nowadays, Nick works at Fat Tracks (which was Buck Owens' old recording studio) and has amassed quite a few credits under his belt, but at that time Nick was recording in a retrofitted garage. This wasn't a janky home studio by any means: it was modern, professional and completely efficient. I recorded one session with him a year before playing drums on some songs he was working on, so I was entirely confident of his abilities and the quality his studio was capable of. No one was really allowed into the house though, so it was almost mythical ("What is in this house? Dragons? Elves? Rhinos?") and the studio was named "Pig" because Nick had a pet pig that was the size of a small boar.

We set up our gear, and played all the songs live. Almost all the songs were first takes, and you can tell. Some of the songs have an almost intense sense of impatience, and the mistakes are painfully visible, but the feel of the music and the quality of Matt's songwriting comes through immaculately. After we finished the instrumental tracks, Matt overdubbed his vocals. Matt was not very confidant in his voice (I always thought he has daft for ever thinking that). Nick mentioned to us while Matt was recording that "this guy is a star."

There were a few beautiful mistakes that happened during the session. On the song "Dream," we accidentally found out that the pick-up in Matt's guitar was also picking up the drums. It made them sound distorted and distant. It was a very radical effect, much like a sample. so during the verses we turned off the drum mikes so all you heard were the drums coming through that guitar pick-up. It sounded brilliant. On the same song, Nick tried to do a reverse delay effect on Matt's vocals during the choruses. Matt accidentally sung his words in a different spot, but when the reverse effect came on, they were spot-on with what Matt sang. It was wonderful synchronicity, especially since nobody realized it until we heard the song back. And ultimately, Matt's acoustic Guild had a gorgeous overtone that made it sound like a cello played in the background along with him in the beginning of "Unsung Hero.

We started the session at around 4 in the afternoon. We walked out of the studio at 12AM with a fully mixed and completed CD in our hands. Hence the name of the demo.

One of our finest memories was the three of us outside of Bottoms Up listening to the local pirate radio station, and then the two DJ's (Greg Looney and Erica "Chata" Garcia) played "Dream" on the air.
Our song. On FM radio. This was before KRAB started paying attention to the local bands and playing them regularly. I still remember how excited we were. It was a small validation, but it was still a worthy one.

Matt decided to move to San Louis Obispo and Caleb was about to follow suit. Eventually, Matt left and Caleb stayed. We played a few shows over there in SLO, and a few months after Matt's move the band was pretty much done.

Caleb and I still play in MENTO; Matt and I had a couple more projects that we started up but never went anywhere. One was with Scott Noble and Patrick Leroy, the guitarist and bassist, respectively, of ANGRY ASPHALT MACHINE (the only member of that band I DIDN'T play with was their drummer) and Matt sang lead and played electric guitar. In late 2001, Matt had been back from San Louis and was living in Northern Bakersfield (where he resides today). We started up another project with Patrick on bass and Dan Eviland coming full circle as our second guitarist (Again). That lasted two months, and as with the project before it, we didn't even play a show.

There are very few musicians that I would do whatever it took if they needed me. Matt Gooch is one of those musicians. It seems to me that history has put up some walls between the three of us that can't be pulled down easily, but it's just the nature of life and time: we all walked our own paths and ended in different places.
Still, the three of us played some beautiful kick-ass music over the course of those two years, and we had very good times. Very good times. Remember, Matt was our bartender.

The friendship that the three of us had is echoed in distant memories with our music as the faint soundtrack lilting through the landscape of the lost bonds that the three of us shared. The three young men we were are still a part of the three grown men we ended up becoming. We left behind a statement of six songs that will always stay as young as we were, regardless of how old we become.



Blogger Kurtis CK said...

Cesario you are one of the most gifted and humble people I know. The thing that I saw in from the biggining, the things you write about people are always positive and awinspiring.Yes, you are correct in saying that Matt is a very talented musician I know I lived with him and heard the man practice to his fingers and my ears bleed. I think the history is about as accurate as one could get;considering the aftermath of all the self indulgencies we all partook of. Matt was our bartender as you quoted before. I think you should write a book and maybe your movie thing would be more easily accessable. Need help..? Anyways stay true like you always doo your friend Kurtis..

8:46 AM  
Blogger Ruby Lee said...

ahhhh Matt. Such a beautiful boy.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Matildakay said...

I love this! What great local musical history... can't wait to learn more.

9:19 AM  
Blogger n.l. said...

Ruby Lee you slut!

haha... Goochy kissing bandit...

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, my name is holly and i am matts niece. i own the tattoo shop In The Flesh on n. chester and I just wanted to say hello and that I liked what you wrote about matt. i havent even seen him in a couple of years, but i miss him too.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi its holly again, my email address is

2:57 PM  
Blogger Aaron Brown said...

Cesario, Very nice! BenchMark was alot of fun and great music. I hope all is well with you. Later! Aaron

11:12 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

Did you ever play with Alan Choat? I roomed with that guy for a few years after he was kicked out of Angry Asphalt Machine. He's a damn good guitarist but was a little too hooked up on the blues for their type of rock. Now he's pretty much a Focus on the Family type living in upstate NY and doesn't play at all. Hrm.

AAM kicked ass though... saw them several times at Jerry's and at the battle of the bands when I lived in Bakes. I still have a few mp3's floating around on my computer from their original demo. Bob the Trucker was the shit.

Nice blog though. I think you're the same guy that my son was taking drum lessons from this last winter. If so, awesome..Chris loved your lessons... if not, my apologies!

9:50 AM  

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