Bob Makin’s Makin Waves column was born at the East Coast Rocker 30 years ago. And I was its first editor.
I had been on the then-Montclair-based weekly newspaper’s small editorial staff since 1986. Mike Daly joined in 1988, and we soon became co-managing editors. Bob started freelancing in 1988 before becoming a full-time staff member in 1989.
Bob, Mike and I will all be involved in a concert celebrating the 30th anniversary of Makin Waves that will take place at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, March 31. My web site, NJArts.net, is one of the places where Makin Waves now runs, and NJArts.net is one of the concert’s media sponsors. Mike, formerly of the power-pop band Every Damn Day, will be performing with his current band, Mike Daly & the Planets. So I thought it would be interesting to interview Bob and Mike, together, to preview the show.
For the record, another East Coast Rocker writer of that era, John Reynolds, will also be involved in the show; he plays guitar in Daly’s band. And East Coast Rocker itself — which reverted back to its original name, The Aquarian Weekly, in 1992 — is another outlet for Makin Waves, along with Gary Wien’s NewJerseyStage.com; both are also co-sponsors of the show.
The show takes place at 3 p.m., and features Williams Honor, Deal Casino, an Upstage All-Star Jam (featuring Vini Lopez, Paul Whistler and others), Nalani & Sarina, Colossal Street Jam, The Vansaders, Karen Mansfield and other musicians Makin has written about. You can find the complete schedule below, under the interview.
Bob, Mike and I talked by phone earlier this week:
Q: You know, looking back to the late ’80s, when Makin Waves started, I think I had the sense then, and a lot of people had the sense, that the clubs were struggling, the bands were struggling, the East Coast Rocker itself was struggling. And, since then, the infrastructure has changed a lot, but it’s really the same in a lot of ways, too.
Makin: Yeah, the musical styles change. But the effort is still the same.
Daly: It’s the same kind of struggles that this area has had for a while. When we started in ’88, the one thing that was thriving in New Jersey was the cover band scene. And even that, at this point, from what I understand … I don’t hear any kind of huge success going on. I can remember where there used to be a lot of cover clubs, and they were pretty big, and somewhat fancy, upscale kind of places, and the cover bands were raking in a lot of money, and the original scene was plugging along as best it could from week to week and month to month. And as far as original scene is concerned, I think the same thing is still going on. It’s a death-defying scene, and it has been for years and years.
Makin: That’s definitely true. The DJs seem to be raking in all the money, and getting a good chunk of gigs. Like Mike was saying, even cover bands are struggling. The thing that’s definitely different is that there are so far fewer venues than there were back in those days. I remember being invited, almost on a daily basis, to a showcase, at either The China Club, The Cat Club or The Limelight (all in New York). Those three clubs don’t even exist anymore.
Daly: The bar business, the club business, is a really hard business, and they open and close right and left. So, it’s really kind of amazing that enough is going on, for the Aquarian to still exist. And for you, Jay and Bob, you guys are still journalists, and you’re still covering arts in New Jersey. While it’s not as thriving as it was in the late ’70s, there’s still enough out there for you to keep doing what you’re doing.
Q: I think one of the biggest changes is that in the ’80s, you were struggling to get the attention of people who were going out. And now people just aren’t going out, the way they used to. They stay in and watch Netflix, or surf the net, or play video games.
Daly: Yeah, and the notion of bands — you know, musical groups being made up of multiple people who play instruments, and write their own music — is not at the forefront of what’s going on right now. There’s a lot of computer-created, individual things going on, and bands that are the same old kind of pop. The boy bands, or whatever you want to call them, where it’s three or four people who sing, and the people behind them are not really acknowledged.
Q: And rock is not the dominant musical form, anymore.
Daly: They’re talking about the guitar becoming extinct, which I think is a little far-fetched, but it’s certainly not as popular as it used to be: To buy a guitar and take guitar lessons, with the idea of being in a band or performing solo.
Makin: I think rock is becoming like jazz. There’s always going to be jazz, there’s always going to be rock, there’s always going to be guitars. There may not be, like, the smaller manufacturers of guitars, and maybe even some of the larger ones will have trouble. But there will always be musicians playing guitars because, one, it’s the only wearable instrument, and, two, it will continue on forever because enough people are going to want to play jazz and rock on an electric guitar, to keep it going.
Q: So Bob, what do you remember about the start of the column?
Makin: You were doing New Jersey Newsbeat, which covered the whole music beat, but you gave me a column called Beachin’ It. It was a Jersey Shore club column. You wanted me to write the column so that more Shore advertising could be generated. And in the third column — which was about the Sutton Thomas Band, who are playing the anniversary party — I made a reference to them, that they were makin’ waves. And it was really a reference to my grandfather’s boat. And so when the fourth column came out, it wasn’t Beachin’ It anymore. You had renamed it Makin Waves. And then over time, you went to The Star-Ledger, and John (Reynolds) came in, and was doing Newsbeat, and Makin Waves kind of morphed more into an A&R column. It was like, “These are the bands in New Jersey that are makin’ waves.” It was still very Shore-oriented, because we still had New Jersey Newsbeat. So John did, like, North Jersey, and I did South Jersey.
Q: Bob, in putting together the lineup for the anniversary show, was there any particular mix you were looking for? What was the thought process for choosing these particular bands?
Makin: I wanted it to kind of span the history of the column while also showcasing what’s going on now. In doing that, one of the bands that went way back with me … they’re called Solace, and going back with me they were called Godspeed, and even before that, they were Social Decay. They had to drop (out of the show). And when they dropped, I replaced them with Deal Casino, and the Upstage Jam Band. So now, you don’t just have what I was writing about while it was going on, and what’s going on now, but with the Upstage Jam Band, you have music from even before the column. The show now spans three generations of music, most of it coming from Asbury Park.
I’ve done a concert series all year long, and this is the culmination of it. I’ve done shows all over the place — a bunch of different bands and scenes were part of it — and I also have the Hub City Music Festival right after the show, which will focus on New Brunswick. Throughout my career, my focus has pretty much been Asbury Park and New Brunswick.
Daly: An interesting thing, too, is that back in the early ’90s, when John and I started Every Damn Day, you could actually play the whole circuit. We played Hoboken, mainly, and that part of North Jersey, but we also played Asbury Park and New Brunswick and The Village. You could actually do that. It seems to me, shortly thereafter it became a lot more insular. Even while Every Damn Day was still playing, it got harder and harder to cast your net that wide. But back then, you could do it, and there were bands that were actually doing it. Really good bands were hitting all the spots.
Makin: Now bands hear a lot, “Are you from town?” “Are you from Asbury Park?” or “Are you from New Brunswick?” or “Are you from Trenton?” Because if you’re not, they have to question whether you’re going to draw. Back then, people went. We went to Hoboken all the time. I was living in Toms River at one point, and hanging out in Hoboken with Mike.
Daly: We weren’t quite punk enough to play City Gardens in Trenton, so we never really cracked Trenton. But we did all the other spots. There was an audience for it.
Makin: Yeah, there was. That’s the difference. Like Jay said, they’re sitting home on Netflix and YouTube.
Q: So Mike, what year did Every Damn Day go to?
Daly: We started in ’91. We officially went on hiatus 15 years later, so 2006.
Q: And Mike Daly & the Planets started …
Daly: In 2010. And when that first started, it was intended to be kind of a solo project, where I got to play with as many different people as I possibly could. I was in Every Damn Day for 15 years, and there’s a lot to be said for playing with the same group of guys. We had no personnel changes for 15 years, (with) the occasional guest artist. You get comfortable with each other and feed off each other and click on all cylinders. But because I had had just those four guys, and there were other people I wanted to play with, it was an opportunity to record, anyway (with other people). I also envisioned performing with different people.
But then it became three-fourths of Every Damn Day (laughs), plus a drummer who had I played with for a good 20, 25 years in cover bands. So that’s where it’s at now.
I can’t not play. I took a few years off and, you start to ask yourself why you’re so miserable, and then you realize that one of the reasons is that you’re not doing something that you really love. You’re not being creative, and you’re not being musical, and you’re not getting feedback. I couldn’t stay away, even though, as we’ve discussed, the club scene certainly isn’t what it used to be, and it’s not as easy to get gigs as it used to be. By the time I started to try to get gigs with Mike Daly & the Planets, Every Damn Day was in everybody’s rearview mirror, and I had to basically start from scratch again.
Makin: I feel the same way. They’ve killed Makin Waves twice. The first time, Gary (Wien) picked it up briefly at Upstage (magazine), before that folded. And this time, you and Gary picked it up, and it didn’t miss a week. And because you’re doing it, and I have so much more freedom working with you, I’m so fired up, like Mike is with the band.
Q: That’s great. Mike, is it possible to say what Makin Waves has meant to you, over the years? And Bob’s support of your music?
Daly: Oh, it’s incredible. First of all, if Bob doesn’t know you, you don’t exist, in North Jersey and especially the Jersey Shore music scene. His reach, in terms of readership, has always been huge. He has enthusiasm, and he creates enthusiasm for all these bands, mine included. … He has never differentiated between major label, international bands, and local bands. He views all bands equally. And that’s a huge boost for somebody locally, trying to get heard, and attract listeners, and attract a live audience. His influence on the scene, over 30 years, can’t be overestimated.
A picture of his head appeared on one of Every Damn Day’s CDs. And one of his crazy catchphrases became the title of an Every Damn Day CD. So I can say that he’s been incredibly influential upon my musical career, and it’s nice that we’re working together again, after all these years.
Q: What was that phrase?
Daly: Jettison the Pod Sparky.
Makin: It was a reference to A&R people. It was so damn frustrating that they weren’t paying attention to a whole bunch of bands, but that they weren’t paying attention to Every Damn Day really pissed me off, because the songs were so good, and it was at a time where you had so much great power-pop going on: Jellyfish, and Redd Kross, and The Pursuit of Happiness. There was one band, I can’t remember the name of them, but Mike liked them a lot, and they were on Geffen. And I’m like, “Jettison the pod, Sparky.” It was a reference to “Star Trek.” It was like, “Get off the bridge and into the shuttle craft and come check us out, here in New Jersey. You’ll fly all the way to Seattle to see a band that’s ripping off Nirvana, but you won’t come on the PATH to Hoboken to see Every Damn Day.”
Daly: Several images of Bob’s head are in a circle, on that CD. People see it and get a real kick out of it, still, to this day.
2 p.m.: Doors open
3 p.m.: The WaterMakers, featuring Tom Kanach
3:45 p.m.: Karen Mansfield
4:30 p.m.: Mike Daly & the Planets
5:15 p.m.: Mike Brody vs. the People
6:15 p.m.: LEEDS
7 p.m.: Nalani & Sarina
7:45 p.m.: Sutton Thomas Band
8:30 p.m.: Williams Honor
9 p.m.: Colossal Street Jam
10 p.m.: The Vansaders
11 p.m.: Deal Casino
Midnight: All-Star Upstage Jam with Paul Whistler, Vini Lopez, Joe Petillo, Billy Ryan, John Mulrenan and others.
Here is some Mike Daly & the Planets music:
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