28 Days of Bevis Griffin, Day 23: Banzai, Kikkin’ It From Texas to NYC

28 Days of Bevis Griffin - Austin Music Foundation
Posted by admin Category: Artist Spotlight

Written by Chris “C.K.” Bailey

 

Banzai Kik powered on through 1982, headlining at a handful of local clubs while undergoing personnel changes. With the help of celebrated producer/musician Patrick Keel (AKA The Pool), we recorded a couple of strong tracks, “Megalomaniac” and “Everybody But Me”. By the end of the year, we were back down to a 4-piece, with Jimmie Randall back on bass; I felt that this was the best version of the band yet, in terms of style and material. But increasingly, it felt like we were spinning our wheels on the Austin scene. 

Bevis Griffin - Banzai KikFrustrated at our lack of progress, Bevis abruptly moved to New York City in pursuit of new opportunities, and though we band members were taken by surprise, it eventually turned out to be a good move for Bevis & my partnership with him. I had already started playing with our former bandmate Courtney Audain in the reggae band Pressure, which offered a wealth of new experience in a fresh type of Black music (as well as well-paid road and concert gigs). Over the next few years, as Bevis cultivated connections in NYC, I kept my chops up playing guitar or bass with them and a number of other local bands, as well as acquiring home recording gear and producing demos for a flood of new material. 

Then, in 1986, Bevis called up The Big Apple for some recording. He had befriended a Texas-born engineer of formidable skill & professional experience by the name of Tim Hatfield (The Butthole Surfers, The Misfits, Keith Richards, and much later, Death Cab For Cutie) who’d offered us downtime at his main workplace (Mediasound Studios) to record some tracks. I flew up for a few days and with the aid of some drum programming, the three of us knocked out three songs, including a new, heavier version of the anthemic “Noisy Music”. It was a whirlwind experience for me, as I got a taste of both the intensity of New York City and working in a high-end studio environment. 

Meanwhile, Bevis had become associated with The Black Rock Coalition, a fellowship of non-mainstream Black artists uniting against the industry-imposed constraints on what “Black Music” (particularly in the rock genre) could mean. They had booked a two-night festival to showcase the variety of Black rock bands under their umbrella at CBGB’s, so in February of 1987, I traveled back up to New York so Banzai Kik could participate. Bevis enlisted a couple of skilled players including Oscar Brown III on bass and Mark Gillmore on drums as our rhythm section, and we spent a week or so rehearsing a set. It was an inspiring experience to perform for a packed house on the same bill as groups like Living Colour (not yet signed, but blowing minds), 24-7 Spyz, and Eye & I. Despite the hastily-assembled band, I felt like we more than held our own alongside New York’s finest Black rockers; we even got a mention in Rolling Stone magazine. Bevis Griffin - Banzai Kik

Later that year, we got an even more exciting opportunity when a newly formed company called Shake The Earth Productions offered to bankroll another studio recording; incredibly, we were able to get Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, John Lennon, etc) to sign on as producer. Better yet, we would be recording at the legendary Record Plant Studios! I flew back up and, with yet another rhythm section of badass NY players- David Gross on bass and Warren Benbow on drums- we quickly worked up arrangements for the three strongest songs in our arsenal and went into the studio with Tim Hatfield again at the board. With so much professionalism on tap, the sessions went smoothly and the results were better than we could have dreamed. 

One particularly good memory I have is of the day Jack, Tim, Bevis and I moved over to Chung King Studios (of Beastie Boys fame) to record background vocals for my all-time favorite Banzai track, “In My Dreams I Fly”. Despite my limited experience doing vocals, Bevis managed to coach me into joining him in some very tight harmonies! 

Overall, the couple of weeks I spent on this recording project still stands as one of the peak experiences of my musical life, despite our disappointment when the production company imploded into personal and financial infighting shortly thereafter, sidelining our attempts to move Banzai Kik to the next level.

 

 

Chris “C.K.” Bailey is a guitarist, composer, and producer.

Bodysnatchers ’78 | The Skyscrapers ’78-’79 | The Shades ’79 | The Bats ’80-’81 | Banzai Kik ’82-’87 | One Fell Swoop ’92-’93 | The Paradigm ’05

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