Hollywood Calling - Vampires Anonymous

Another post from a distant memory of my time as a sound engineer, tour manager and musician in the 90’s

Setting the Scene

Way back in 1999 I was still living in California, having moved there while working with legendary british band The Specials, and after they split I kept working with their singer and good friend Neville Staple. He wanted to keep touring and to stay in Long Beach, so had formed a band at the time called “The Hitmen”, featuring several great Orange County third-wave ska musicians. I handled tour management and live sound - occasionally having to dep on guitar too if someone was busy - and we had a pretty steady stream of work.

Hollywood Calls

I can’t remember how we were connected, but I do remember meeting with Neville and guy called Michael Keller who was a show runner on some TV shows and movies. He had a script about a Vampire that entered a 12-step program to try and kick the habit, and told us he’d managed to get Michael Madsen on board by handing him a copy on the set of “Vengeance Unlimited” that starred Madsen and he was an assistant director on.

This all sounded quite exciting to us, so we accepted the challenge. Keller wanted 4 songs for the movie, and gave the us the story outline and brainstormed some topics as material for lyric ideas, which we went away with and wrote 3 songs from. The 4th was decided to be a cover of Pressure Drop by Toots and the Maytals.

Brando’s Paradise

As I had found through working with them over the previous few years, The Specials had a huge amount of fans in America, and many of them we also well established and famous in their own right! One of these connections was John Avila who had been bass player for the hugely successful Oingo Boingo and most recently to then had been producing Reel Big Fish.

We went up to John’s studio “Brando’s Paradise” in San Gabriel, California to record the tracks and I remember that being a fun experience, bringing these original songs to life - one or two I co-wrote - as well as being roped in to play some rhythm guitar chops and chorus backing vocals.

The Movie

Vampires Anonymous

According to IMDB Vampires Anonymous was released in 2003, which is at least a year or two after we got involved. I recall some kind of financial issues that ended up delaying final editing etc, but it was definitely released in the end!

I also remember being invited to a film festival in San Jose I think, where the movie was shown and given the absence of literally anyone else involved, I was was asked to stand up in the audience and take a bow. I have to admit it was pretty cool to hear the songs at the the theatre and see my name (at the very end) of the credits.

I’ve seen it since on the small screen, and certainly a strange movie but overall a really fun project to be involved with. Madsen is great in it, as are many others. Neville also has a meta-cameo in it as a character playing a vampire on a TV that’s in the background of a scene.

While seemingly a million miles away from my life and career since then, there were so many great lessons learned in that time, particularly collaborating with groups of people and keeping everyone focused and aligned to deliver. It all makes sense :)