The Original What Went Wrong formed around 1981. The
name was actually the creation of our singer, Pam. Sean Dever was
supposed to play guitar, KG Morse was supposed to play drums and I was
supposed to play bass, but things never got beyond the planning and noodling
stage, most likely because we sucked. Sean could pick out some stuff
on guitar and KG was a fine drummer, and maybe Pam could sing, but I thought
Sid Vicious was a good bass player; ie: we had no solid bass. I still
like Sid. Aesthetically, anyway. I love the aesthetic that
you do something with nothing, that training is unimportant, that it's
OK to play badly, just play. Sometimes I regret going to music school.
Then I remind myself that the only way I'm ever going to change the conservatory
is by getting my doctorate. Whoa, major detour! At that time
I was punk by most any definition. Pam gave up fairly quickly, so
we tried to hire Erin, who could also play a mean keyboard, but we sucked
so bad she wouldn't do it. Sean quit fairly quickly after.
About this time I met the Henderson brothers: Michael and Kevin.
I'd actually seen them around for years before we figured out who one another
were; Tucson was a small town. I guess it was somehow inevitable that
we should play, but I'm still infinitely grateful. Michael was already
a brilliant guitarist at the age of fifteen, and for some reason his interest
strayed from heavy metal to punk. One of the miraculous milestones
of my life. By this time I was actually practicing the bass a little,
and some of my guitar experiments applied. Sort of. I co-wrote
the first two songs with sometime friend Richard Bryant. Michael
suffered along with this for several months, far longer than KG, who had
to 'leave town with his dad'. I asked Rat to play drums. My
first meeting with Rat should be the stuff of legends. You can read
about it when I finish my autobiography. In the meantime, suffice
it to say that Rat Warthead would play drums for me, off and on, for a
great many years. The combination of Rat and Michael pointed out
my deficiencies as a bass-player/singer quickly, and the source of the
problem finally occured to me. I have been playing and writing music
since I was six, I can pick stuff out on almost any reed, string or brass,
what was the obstacle with bass? I was well aware that I was just
about deadly competent practicing it alone, but with the band... what was
the difference? The difference was that I was singing. And
I realized then that my brain has a great deal of trouble thinking contrapuntally
and monophonically at the same time. And since I've always seen the
bass as a fully contrapuntal instrument, and since normal western singing
requires some monophonic thought, I couldn't do it. If my guitar
sounds contrapuntal, it is an illusion. I have a very different relationship
with guitar. It's about sounds and fingerings to turn sounds into
other sounds, not counterpoint. I even fool myself sometimes, but
any counterpoint is really coincidental. So I can't play bass and
sing nearly as well as I can play bass or sing to this day. Once
I resigned as bass-player What Went Wrong took off. Musically,
anyway. My devoting myself more wholeheartedly to singing and writing
songs paid off to some degree. But at our first gig the set was still
mostly covers; Johny Glue played bass. It wasn't all that grim, but
it started a long history of heckling that followed us forever, sometimes
charming like the chants of "What did go wrong?", sometimes terrifying
like when the windows got smashed out of the 814 and I got thrown into
the cymbals. Anyway, Johnny was just too flakey. We begged
and begged Kevin to play bass for us, and finally he gave in. What
Went Wrong got pretty damn good musically immediately with nasty tight
originals and covers like a note for note "Light My Fire" or a very not
note for note "Hey Joe". There were some decent recordings made of
this incarnation, but no one seems to have them. Lemme know if you
find one. Rat quit to tour with UPS. We were adrift, Michael
demoralized. I was used to Rat quitting by this time, so I pressed
on, hiring a string of hopeless drummers. Xavier, Mark, Tom.
Well Tom was utterly brilliant, but he couldn't handle how different we
had become. Mike was into music from all over the world, and I was
steeping myself in the western theories of harmony; our music wasn't exactly
the normal punk rock fare. Nor jazz nor heavy metal nor neo-classical
nor alleatoric nor twelve tone nor avante garde for that matter.
We were just different. And we certainly did have a following, but
we certainly did not stand a chance of getting anywhere with it.
And then Kevin quit for good. Kevin is a virtuosic guitarist and
gifted writer in his own right, and it is the nature of the rock audience
that the guitarist generally eclipses the bassist in their attentions.
I can't blame him, I completely understand, but we would miss him.
It would certainly never be the same for me. But it might get better.
I'm trying to remember if we played out once or twice as a three piece
then, I think we did, with Mark. Yuck, bury that memory. Then
Chris Griffin came to town. Actually, come to think of it, Chris
joined us originally as our manager while Kevin was still with us.
He had a car, he could drive to the shows. Of course, his car was
a VW Beetle and fitting the band and the equipment into it was ridiculous.
The process required someone (usually me) to ride in the trunk. But
we got to shows. And when Kevin quit Chris didn't let me suffer feeling
I was neglecting what the bass should truly be or not paying close enough
attention to my breathing for too long. He changed his name to Gob
Awful and picked up the bass. Picked it up faster than any man I
have known. Probably didn't hurt to have Michael around, I know it's
done wonders for me, and Gob did have musical experience on other instruments,
but still it was amazing. We recovered from the loss of Kevin as
well as we possibly could, and Rat was back. A very impressive band,
that. I do still have a recording or two of that lineup, I'll try
to mp3 it sometime. Rat quit. We hired Dean. Dean
quit. Rat came back. Rat quit. Mike and I formed Sloth.
Rat came back. Rat quit. We hired Bert, a fantastic drummer
in his own right. Rat came back. Bert stayed. This was
my favorite incarnation of What Went Wrong. If I can ever force two
drummers to work together again I will be a happy man. Bert quit.
They fired me. Yes, you heard correctly. Anyone who doesn't
know who wants to should: that What Went Wrong did fire Matthew Mairs.
It seemed like a big deal at the time. Something about their desire
to explore instrumental music, something about how busy I was with the
Hose. I'm sure my insufferable ego and consistent tardyism and absenteeism
had nothing to do with it. Gob had experience firing me, it's actually
not all that uncommon a skill, I've been fired from more bands than
the average person has been in; he had kicked me out of Psychotic Cartoon
People and we had all kinds of knock-down-drag-out fights in other projects,
so this firing wasn't a big deal to him, I suspect. But it freaked
me out for a while. Then they all moved up north and the gravity
in Tucson and the Hose led me on to further adventures here in the sweaty
Sean Dever, guitar: Maybe he can play, maybe
he can't. We will probably never know.
KG Morse, drums: He could definitely drum.
Until he had to 'leave town with his dad'.
Pam, vocals: Probably she could sing or she
wouldna formed the band, but she quit at the first practice.
Michael Henderson, guitar and occasional keyboards and vocals:
While his heel did remain fused to his buttock through most of our carreer,
I do not believe that you will find a more accomplished guitarist for his
Rat Warthead, drums and occasional keyboards:
It makes me sad he's not playing drums right now. If you ever get
a chance to see this kid play, do it!
Johnny Glue, bass: Good friend, excellent
bass-player, I don't think he liked how little we cared what the audience
Kevin Henderson, bass: If bass really is
some kind of lesser guitar then he should never have profaned his incredible
skills by playing it. Of course I do not believe that it is, and
I believe his playing proved that.
Xavier, drums: Half a practice. Bad.
Mark, drums: Half a practice and I think
a show I'm trying to forget. Good drummer so long as he didn't attempt
Tom, drums: Fantastic drummer, I don't think
he liked how little we cared what the audience thought either.
Gob Awful, bass, vocals and keyboards: Very fine
musician and miraculous bass-player. Why do we have to be mortal?
Dean, drums: Good drummer, but I did get
tired of feeling that his presence was a favor.
Bert, drums: Yer a freak Bert, a brilliant
freak but a freak nonetheless! And yes, he can drum.
Matt Mairs, vocals and occasional bass, guitar
or keyboards: I started badly and finished bloodily.