United Dictators of Mars: The Music of Tom Mody & Jeffrey Harris

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The bands of Tom Mody and Jeffrey Harris  

Harbinger
Band History Page


Band Members

Jeffrey Harris - vocals Tom Mody - guitar
Billy Pierce - bass Todd Hensley - guitar
Gary Sobolewski - drums mac hine - drums

The band Harbinger

Recordings & Releases

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Harbinger
Video '91
1991

go to album page.

Harbinger - Video 91 DVD

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Harbinger
the Inevitable
1991

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Harbinger - the Inevitable

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Harbinger
Harbinger
1990

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Harbinger - 1990

 


OFFICIAL VIDEO
XL


LIVE VIDEO
Waverly Aud.
Sherburne Aud.
Nardi's
Coleman's


 

 

 

 

 

HARBINGER

Tom Mody:
After the break-up Torrod 2 I spent a few months at my parents house then moved with my cousin to San Francisco. I had no musical plan. I just had all my gear in my apartment bedroom and would play and record demos. I knew I needed some financial freedom and got a job then stated up some entrepreneurial endeavours but I only had a enough money to live on. I didn't have anything left over to have control over anything thing else and I wanted some form of control over my band. I guess I could have joined a band but I fell into a routine and that was my life for a while.

Jeffrey Harris:
After my return to NY from LA in the winter of '88 and settling in, I began working with a local band named Call Me Crazy and served as their sound and lighting engineer and singing back-ups live for the first two sets while running sound and lights and getting up on the stage with them to sing the third set. It was fun and passed the time, but classic rock & roll was not where my heart was. So I re-established contact with Todd Hensley and asked him if he was interested in recording a personal project which I was contemplating putting together. After some discussions, Todd agreed to help me with this project. That was some of the greatest creativity in collaboration that I would ever have with Todd. In the final stages of the project, I asked Todd if he would be interested in forming a band. He agreed under the premise that we be equal partners and that we would be a little selective in who was to be in our band (as well as who would not be in our band) and that he would be sole guitarist. I conceded. Our first selection, naturally was Billy Rock-n-Roll on bass. We then set out with flyers posting our contact info on them in a 45 mile radius looking for drummers and keyboardists. We auditioned many people in mostly the drummer role but there were many strange people who really wasted our time. We contacted a drummer who was referred to us by Todd's brother Andy. I think his name was Jay Carros. He came highly recommended but when he came up from Binghamton NY, it wasn't exactly what we had expected. He was ok, but not really committed. A keyboardist from the Utica NY area contacted us and we auditioned him. His name was Bill but everyone called him Bly. He also was ok but nothing to write home about. We tried to jam with these guys but AC wasn't reliable for whatever reasons. Bly mentioned that he knew this drummer but he was still in high school. Desperate to begin rehearsing as a full unit, we auditioned him and found him to be a fit with us. Enter Gary Soebolewski ((AKA Scary Gary S.). He was just looking for a reason to drop out of high school and unfortunately, we became his avenue to do so. So Bly would bring Gary to rehearsals with him along with this other friend of his to watch. Enter Rick "Mosh" Turner. Rick would become roadie and later tour manager. After a wile, Bly became unreliable which was ok with us because Mosh would bring Gary to rehearsals. When we had enough songs in our repertoire, we promoted the hell out of ourselves with flyers slapped under every windshield wiper, ads, and radio interviews. We played everywhere and anywhere we possibly could in a 100 mile radius. Mosh was acting as Road Manager, publicist and roadie. He also purchased our converted GMC tour bus AKA HMPU (Harbinger Mobile Party Unit) and was our driver most of the time. We had a blast! Life was great!

After a while, we noticed a change in Gary. It was becoming more and more evident that he was being driven by his girlfriend and she was trying to be the wedge between us and him. On the eve of a show which we invited Tom Mody to Colemans in Rome NY to come out and see us, we were openers for a band called Destiny who were a highly professional band with independent label interest. We wanted this show to be perfect. Everything was going well until Todd was doing a guitar solo and Gary was at the front of the stage making out with his girlfriend for approximately ten minutes. It was embarrassing to us. I remember wanting more and beginning extensive talks with Tom. It was time to take it to the next level. To be more professional. The trick would be to convince Todd. Somehow I did. Harbinger 2 is born.

Tom Mody:
After a year and a half I missed home and decided to move back. I still could do my business stuff and have no other major expenses living at home. I returned to Sherburne in May of 1990. I went to New York City for a few days to meet with my Torrod drummer Andy James who had some projects going but we never really discussed much about band stuff. Jeff and I had made contact and he had invited me to see his band Harbinger play at Coleman's in Rome, New York. It was a pretty legitimate show at a big time area rock club. I was pretty impressed. They even had a converted school bus that they traveled in.
A few weeks later Jeff gave me the demo that they had recorded and again I was hearing some incredible progress from him vocally and based off the strength of Edge of Insanity and The Witness I agreed to join Harbinger. I'm not sure how popular the decision was initially among the other band members.

The other guitarist, Todd Hensley was Andy's brother and I knew Todd well enough and probably jammed with him a number of times. Though Todd was older he was much more passive than his ambitious younger brother and didn't like being in a band with Andy. Bryan Guter and myself were also self assured guys and Todd never felt comfortable being in a band with us in the past. Todd was one of those guys that liked to learn scales and chordings and in Torrod Bryan and I use to call upon him to figure out some of the cover songs we played. The bass player Billy "Rock & Roll" Pierce I had known since my childhood and through high school. We were music friendly but he also was probably intimidated by certain aspects of my personality. Like Jeff, Billy had really started to come into his own. His family had a long standing country band called "Family Tradition". Billy was left handed but he played a righty bass. He simply flipped the bass upside down with the volume knobs on top and the string positions reversed and played it in that bizarre way. Billy and myself were alot alike as players. We weren't technically precise but we always were capable of coming up with original stuff and always put an interesting spin on our playing. We were worlds apart in personality types.

The first Harbinger function I showed up at was Jeff's second marriage ceremony. The band had a road manger-do it all named Rick "Mosh" Turner and the story goes that he found about my joining at the wedding and turned to Todd and said "he's in the band, I thought he was an asshole". I sure don't think that was true but I was not afraid to offer my opinions. First off, the demo they made had some impressive songs that I mentioned earlier. They also had a number of other songs that were very pop-ish and soft. Todd is brilliant at writing that style but Jeff sounded weak and straining though I know he has a soft spot for some of them. I learned all those songs for the first practice but Jeff knew how I felt about them. At the first practice I got introduced to drummer Scary Gary S. He wasn't the most reliable or talented guy and personality wise he was flaky at best. I don't remember what went down in him leaving the band but I don't think he made another practice. I think he didn't show one day and maybe he didn't like me. I definitely was glad to see him go.


Jeffrey Harris:
Tom was good about learning material which I knew he wasn't really interesting in. He began bringing some of his own originality to the plate. It was less popular but had a heavy edge. It was fresh and heavy and I liked it. This would prove to be Gary's last hoorah. He was more into the glam thing and Tom and he were like fire and ice. Gary kind of bowed out and we were drummerless. We were back to auditioning drummers or should I say "dummers" as that was all we seemed to be able to attract at this time for some reason. Tom had a drum machine and instead of wasting precious time while looking for a drummer, we seized the opportunity to write new material and rehearse our brains out as Tom had programmed some of our more serious tunes in his drum machine along with the new material we were writing. It is my opinion that Todd and Tom working together was beneficial to both. Their styles were different and a little rubbed off on each other which made our tunes "original". There was a phat rhythm section in solo sections and the harmonies were a great addition to pull off in a live application. Our sound was full although some of us were never totally sold on the drum machine concept. The greatest thing about the drum machine is that it is a steady clock. We were tight and solid. In hindsight, I have to say that even though I was disappointed in playing with a drum machine, it probably made us well rounded musicians because it gave us an impeccable sense of timing. This is something all musicians should encounter at some point early in their career.

Tom Mody:
At that point there wasn't any reason to play some of the pop songs and I started to craft together some new songs we could practice with the drum machine. My more progressive style and the two guitar possibilities rubbed off on Todd and he began to write some cool pieces that I would arrange and program. I noticed that I had made some pretty large strides as a player since Torrod which had ended 2 years earlier and I was starting to feel real good about the situation. We rehearsed at Jeff's house and everyone started to get along and dissipate any preconceived notions of each other. Though with Billy and Todd there were alot of insecurities and occasional surfacing of some quirky attitudes but much of it was known and expected. We auditioned drummers and though some were good they were either much older or not really into what we wanted to do.

Looking back, some would definitely have sufficed but when Brian Blaine joined us a few years later it's obvious that we'd have been settling. So we plugged along with the drum machine and in early 1991 we decided to record our own 10 song album. We rented some recording equipment and with Jeff handling the logistics of it we were able to produce a decent product.

jeff harris, Billy Pierce, Tom Mody
Jeff, Billy & Tom recording album

Jeffrey Harris:
At some point we decided to record the ten song cassette without a drummer so that we could showcase our talent and maybe pick up a solid drummer with it. Tom has always been a man with a plan and a fair amount of patience and resolve. We took our time with the recording and after hundreds of hours and numerous altercations, we completed our project and began rehearsing again.

Harbinger cassette art
Cassette J-Card insert
Tom Mody:
Most demo's from bands were no more than 4 songs so to us the 10 song package was quite an accomplishment. It was titled "the Inevitable" and we had cassette printing and packaging done for it. By the summer we started to work on our performance and write some new songs to round out our show.

Jeffrey Harris:
At this point, management of certain aspects had shifted to be handled by Tom as he had the means and better resources and contacts to publicize, promote and package us. Tom's plan was for us to play larger venues and not waste our time at small clubs. So he put together this SADD (Students Against Driving Drunk) tour at high schools. We would once again play on a big stage with massive PA and lighting. Before we would embark on this tour, we would have to do a trial run with our drum machine in our area to see if we could conceivably pull it off. The show would be at local bar Nardi's where I knew the owner well and he owed me a couple of favors in exchange for being the DJ with my equipment for his stripper nights. We had run of the place for four days to put our show together the first three days and Play to an audience on the fourth. Sometime before this show I had contracted mono and developed sinusitis. I was concerned right up until show time but we pulled it off and all was fine. It was now time to get serious about the school tour.


Tom, Jeff & Bill at Nardi's
Tom Mody:
We scheduled our album release first show in September at a club called Nardi's near Hamilton New York. It was attended by mostly people we had known through the years that were interested in our progress and it was a good ice breaker. For myself it had been 5-1/2 years since I played live in Torrod 1. It also was good show to see if we could manage playing live with a drum machine. We pulled that off fine from a performance stand point but I'm sure it was awkward for the audience.

Tom Mody:
My next plan of action was to revive the Highschool tour concept I had devised in Torrod 1. This time I would target a specific school organization to bat for us. I chose SADD, Students Against Driving Drunk. I personally visited about 30 schools and spoke to the SADD organization heads. The plan was to create a SADD awareness day in the school with literature and local law enforcement all contributing to inform kids of the organization. As a band we would be on hand as well to promote SADD and our show. The ultimate goal was to show that SADD was an organization that not only gave out a strong message but also that they could cater to kids social interests by promoting a rock concert at the school.

There was alot of red tape and alot more stiff administrators than I had expected but we did get some shows through including a 3 consecutive day run in Tioga County. We sent the schools some interview video footage in advance and of course, posters and our CD. I conducted interviews with the SADD advisors and we were on hand in at mid day to sign autographs, do interviews and promote. It was a blast. I know the first school we played had 32 new members join that day. We hired a PA and lighting production company to give things the full effect and though I can't complain about the turn-out, it wasn't the sell out success I had hoped. Musically the national scene was changing to grunge and alternative. Big stage productions and black leather were on the outs.


Billy, Tom & Todd on SADD tour

Jeffrey Harris:
I have fond memories of the SADD tour at high schools. Our first, Waverly NY on the PA border, is the one that sticks out most in my memory. What a fun time. Big lights, big PA, big stage. The only thing which was uncomfortable was we had no drummer. All of our drum sound was programmed and sequenced. I had to literally start every song by pushing a button on a foot pedal which was tucked up under a monitor with my foot. At one point, in the middle of a solo section of Birds of a Feather, I accidentally hit the button with my foot and the song started over. Looking back it is incredibly funny. We have it on video and no one else caught it but us. It took Todd some time to figure it out because he just went into this solo until he caught on and caught up. Staying at the hotels was a blast although I'm not sure Tom, Billy and Mosh shared the same reaction. Todd and I would keep everyone awake with our shenanigans practically all night long. It made for long days which began in the morning for publicity with the students signing autographs and filming Q & A type interactive interviews. This would last throughout most of the school day and then we would help Bill Reindhardt of Star Fire sound and light company set up. Then after a break, it was crunch time. It was during this time that I change my signature to an autograph. Anticipating that we would have numerous autographs to sign, I change my signature to be cooler and quicker. I still use it today. I am glad I did this because we were hammered with hundreds of autographs each day which is evident on film. The last school we played was at Sherburne Earlville NY where Billy, Tom and myself attended. It was grand being able to perform a large production at our alma mater but for some reason my recollection of this show is a bit fuzzy.

Tom Mody:
We definitely were not fitting into the new look. I had come up with a black and gold motif for the logo and even our attire. It was sadly a relic look to the 80's metal scene. Musically we may have been able to pull it off but the lack of a drummer was a glaring omission in an already dated and out of place presentation. These shows were by no means a bust but I remember as a kid that anytime a band played your auditorium or your dance the place was packed. But back then you weren't exposed to music visually on a daily basis. Maybe the SADD association hurt as well but it was the path of least resistance. We didn't want to play clubs. We wanted to expose ourselves to larger venues and a touring type schedule. The last show at our alama mater was not the triumphant return I had hoped. Looking back on the video we played quite well but it didn't start or end that way. We came out completely off with the drum machine on the opening song and didn't get back on until mid song- ouch. I was very upset with the sound and light production and had words with the rental company. My rig also went down at the end and we cut the show short. Jeff may not know this but I was quite upset with him as well because he got frustrated with my rig malfunction and may have inadvertently made this noticeable to the audience. I think he was just trying to be funny to deflect the frustration and I knew that but it may not have been apparent to the audience. (after reading this he quite sincerely apologize). I know my (future) wife still refers to my surliness after the show and I had some friends that were not impressed but we actually got a positive review from a local rock paper and from the stage we actually played great. Still it was a microcosm of us not having control of everything, our gear, our hired help and particularly our frail emotions. We put everything we had into 1991 but by years end we had no more bookings and the drummerless situation was a problem.

In early 1992 we filmed a documentary type video of the previous year and I compiled all our rehearsal, live and recording footage and sandwiched it in between band interviews. It was cheesy from a production value but jam packed with footage. I sent a copy to a local rock magazine reviewer who gave us a favorable write-up from one of our SADD shows and he really enjoyed the video so we packaged it for sale. We also auditioned drummers and at one point a drummer had agreed to join but that didn't last more than a few rehearsals. Some new songs were put together but then in early March Todd decided to quit. It was a decision he changed a few days later but both him and Bill were not very good at looking long term. They were easily frustrated and down. After early 1992 it's a bit hazy what went down from there. We had another SADD show schedule at a Catholic school of all places but it was cancelled due to the L.A. Riots over Rodney King's police assault- 3000 miles away. I couldn't go out and comfortably book shows with Billy and Todd not seeming to be fully committed plus the school year was coming to an end. I kept a daily log and Jeff and myself were still active in meeting and hangin' out but I think Billy and Todd just left any progress up to us and for the most part the band was defunct until Jeff and I could give them a reason to start up again. In November we'd find that reason and change our name to Archivon.

Harbinger has a special place for Jeff and myself which was evident by my album write up and our liner notes. The first 12 months were filled with singular commitment and the realization from everyone that each member had grown from marginal garage musicians to a level of semi-professional. Ironically, the grunge scene on the early 90's was more rooted in the garage band sound but my point is that I could see the huge growth in people that were only pushed by their own desire. That growth can be hard when there's no other local measuring stick but we accomplished it by being original, obstinate and practicing like we played. Another inevitable growth issue was age. We were not teenagers anymore. Everyone had responsibilities and life issues to resolve. Fortunately drugs were not in the equation but women on occasion were, money of course, and the feeling by some that it was all a pipe dream. So the growth we gained as musicians was at the expense of our own beliefs that maybe we were getting too old for this.

 

 
Band Histories
Tom Mody | Jeffrey Harris | Torrod | Lynx | Harbinger | Archivon | End on reality | I Storm | UDM
 

 

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