Written by Tim Hatfield
Every now and then things just align. That’s the way I look back at meeting Bevis Griffin and working with Banzai Kik.
I was a young staff engineer at media sound in New York City. Media was one of the top studios and known for being a highly professional facility. They recorded everything from voiceovers for Sesame Street to orchestras to great rock music. Being a staff engineer, I never knew what I would be assigned to. I was just cutting my teeth so I would do whatever they asked. My passion was rock and I was looking to work with a band project.
I was hoping to find someone with great songs, someone who could sing them, a band that could rock and would be open to letting me do what I wanted. So enter Banzai Kik. They had everything and I loved their name too. We picked three songs to start with, “Noisy Music” (a real rocker), “Really Love to Know” and “Fool in Your Eyes”. All three standout tunes. Bevis always had a clear vision of what he wanted to do and that impressed me as well. I felt he was a genuine artist and the fact they were from Texas was the clincher. I knew we would get along.
It was the 80s and the drum sampling craze was going strong. Since we had a very small window of time with the guitarist and principal writing partner, Chris Bailey, we went with a drum machine. That way we could devote all our time to Chris while he was in NYC. We enlisted Sammy Merendino, one of New York’s top drummers/programmers, to program. I wanted to make our own samples and wanted them to be different for each song. Bevis being a drummer made that easier. We went into Media, which was an old church, and used the whole room to make each drum sound. Those sounds ended up on other records like a Hall & Oates record and Cameo’s “Word Up, among others. It was trendy but lots of fun. Bevis and I developed a strong working relationship during the project, and soon after we finished, the tapes somehow got the attention of Jack Douglas.
That led us to the Record Plant with Jack. Now that was cool! Record Plant was probably the premier rock studio in the 70s, a period we loved so much. Bevis and I both counted the early Aerosmith records as a major influence, so to be at the Plant with Jack was the perfect situation. We all got along great (ate a lot of sushi) and I actually did another project with Jack after that. This time around we were able to use a live band and we had the time to work with the band, instead of overdubbing everything. The vibe of the Record Plant, being with Jack, and the band playing live, really made the experience totally amazing. We recorded three more killer tunes “In My Dreams I Fly”, “Format” and “Till The Sky Turns To Light”. All this work, the Media and Record Plant sessions, was slated to be released on Supertrack, a label distributed by EMI. We were on top of the heap for the moment.
Shortly after all this, Bevis returned to Austin. He and Chris started playing and writing again and it wasn’t long before he called and said he was ready to go back in the studio. So we went into Willie Nelson’s Arlyn Studios, which was co-owned by Freddie Fletcher where they recorded Voodoo Doll, and Fits & Starts (all-time-faves!). This time it was Sam’s BBQ instead of sushi. You can’t complain about that. The sessions went great and I remember some amazing players coming in and contributing. Hook Herrera, one of the most soulful players I had ever come across (harp), Bruce Hughes (Bass), Ian Bailey (Drums), and Double Trouble’s ace, Reese Wynans (keys), featuring his amazing barrel-house piano on “Voodoo Doll”. These sessions not only produced some great music but great memories too. I even got a ride after one session from Angela Strehli. To me, it was being on top of another heap. Just writing this takes me back and makes me feel good.
We later went into Studio D and recorded two more songs, “Cloudland” and a beautiful song called “Words”. (That’s one I wish I had written.) We were joined this time by Courtney Audain (bass), Glover Gill and Bruce Marton (keys), Charlie Fountain (drums), Malford Milligan (vocals), DeLewellyn (vocals), and co-producer (and a great songwriter) Stephen Doster.
I think at this time Bevis had already started playing with some other people and branching out musically. He always had plenty of music to release from his soul. I know he went on to work with Chill Factor (a band I considered an Austin supergroup), RawHeaD TeX, Cosmopolitans, Solid Senders, Love Johnson, and One Fell Swoop! No Sleep, No Bull.
Tim Hatfield is a producer, engineer, and songwriter in New York City.