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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mody Harris Band History

 

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The bands of Tom Mody and Jeffrey Harris  

musician vocalist Jefrey Harris

Jeffrey Harris
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Pi$T & Broke


 





 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey Harris

My dad and his wife were owners of a bar in Rockdale NY when I was a kid. The juke box always had country and pop hits and it would crank on Friday & Saturday nights and then on Sunday morning when all of my dad's friends were there with hangovers cleaning the joint. Faithfully, the song Sunday Mornin' Comin Down by Johnny Cash would be the first song cranked on Sunday morning. The man in black was probably the first real musician which I idolized. It is funny how, through all those years, that is the only 45 which never was removed from that jukebox was that Johnny Cash record. Now then, my sister & I would always get the 45's that would be changed out from the jukebox since the vendor, Bob McCarthy, was one of my dad's best friends. So as one could imagine, we had stacks of singles with "B" side songs on the on the flip side. I have no recollection what we did with all of those records, but we did collect may of them for years. When I was a little older and sharper, I had tried to convince my dad that the younger crowds wanted to hear some rock-n-roll on the jukebox. That didn't work as my dad is pretty stubborn when he has his mind made up about anything. So, I had to take my quest to my step mom who was a little more hip and even though she was strictly country, she had and still has a keen sense for business. I explained to her that the younger crowd wanted more variety in the selection of music on the jukebox. Gradually she would have golden oldies replaced with rockabilly then light rock until I finally convinced her to acquire Heart, Starship, Foghat, the Who, Hendrix, Led Zepplin and eventually KISS! My plan had worked. I was getting my hands on the music that I wanted and didn't have to spend a dime. As the new came in, the old went into my collection. One night, I was able to attend one of the live bands which gigged at the hotel. As I watched in total awe, I knew that I wanted to be a guitar player right there and then and that music was going to be what I would do. Ironically, I ended up being the vocalist which I am today. We'll cover that ground later.

So here I am 15 years old and I want an electric guitar for Christmas. I told my mom that there was nothing that I wanted more than an electric guitar. No, my mom back when I was a child was a country bumpkin. I have fond memories of my mom holding me while she danced to songs like "Rose Garden" for example. She has always been this cheerful upbeat and hip person that has been the foundation of what makes me, me. She has always been behind my musical endeavors 100%. It could have been the loudest band in the area but her and dad would always be there to support me and have a good time to boot. How cool is that?!


Jeff's Christmas guitar
So anyway, On Christmas morning of my fifteenth year, I opened up an electric guitar. Now as I am writing this, I cannot for the life of me recall what the brand name is and I just checked since I still have it in my possession but there are no markings on it. It was some sort of copy of a Gibson SG Standard complete with hum buckers and a tremolo bar.

I think I may have etched out the brand name so no one would know that it wasn't a Gibson. I was ecstatic! Imagine my surprise when I went down to my dad's and opened up a Montgomery Ward amplifier. This was a cool Christmas. My step mom was an advanced guitar player and she showed me chords. But Country wasn't my thing and I wanted to know how to play rock. My oldest sister was married to an older man in Maryland who had played with the likes of Earl Scruggs & Glen Campbell among others at a very young age but was an accomplished blues rock guitarist at this point. Well he taught me how I could accomplish the bar chords that my favorites like KISS were using. From there I learned more and more on my own and I don't think I ever set that guitar down. I almost think I slept with that guitar in my hands.

The last I remember playing that guitar without process gear was at the East Sidney Dam reservoir where me and some friends were camping. I was playing outside on a picnic table picking the opening chords to a Who tune which Pete Townsend had written and this guy walks over from his camp and turns my amp down and sits next to me. The next words that came out of his mouth mortified me. "Son, I can be a nice guy. I get along with just about anybody. I could even get along with you. But if you are going to play that shit, we're not going to get along and I could be a real asshole." Well...as you probably guessed...I had to tell him that he was right. I began with a polite word..."Sir, we will not be getting along because you are an ASSHOLE!" He reported me and I couldn't play my guitar here anymore or I would be banned from the campground. If I could have turned around and belted out "I WANNA ROCK!" like Twisted Sister, I would have done so right then and there. This experience changed my life. I was going to go out and get a distortion pedal and rock out in defiance and anger. I would show all the disbelievers. So, I got myself an MXR distortion+ and an MXR Flange pedal. I rocked so hard my Montgomery Ward Amp speaker blew. This is where I first learned the technical and engineering side of music. I began discovering about speakers, switches, tubes and pick-ups. I would tear into everything trying to get the best sound I could out of my equipment. The louder and more distorted, the better. I had gigantic television speakers hooked up lying outside of my amp because they didn't fit inside. My friends would come over wondering if I was a guitarist or mad scientist. But it sounded cool.

Now Tom and I had yet to cross paths in the music world. We played in Pop Warner football together and went to the same high school together, but never did anything musical together. It wasn't until after high school and after I got out of the Navy that I decided to get serious about music. With money that I had made in the Navy, I purchased another guitar. It was the Polaris Wizzard. It was an X shaped guitar with this deep bluish/greenish color with the edges colored in smoke black. It sounded awesome right off the shelf. I also purchased a Fender Champ amp and an Ampeg half stack which was actually made for bass. As I tired of whipping out my stuff at parties and playing bits and pieces of songs, I decided to form a band. I decided to hang out with the local drummer of Lebanon -Ronnie Morgan and gain experience as he had a band which rehearsed in his two car garage. They were older than me but were cool. Ronnie's nephew Charley was this crazy friend of mine who I wanted to sing because he not only acted like Ozzy Osbourne, he kind of sounded like him. So he was the singer. Now I needed a bass player and a drummer. We enlisted Billy Rock-n-Roll as I had jammed with him before and we were pretty good friends. After some time we had Bill Adsit sit in on some sessions at my cabin for some of the wildest parties anyone could ever imagine. We pulled off Ozzy, AC/DC, Scorpions, Motley Crue and a few others. Billy and I sang all the back-ups. We decided to take our show on the road. We played at the Lamoreaux boys graduation party (Tom was at the party) and that was it. We fizzled out.

I recall at some point after this calling Tom up to jam and he agreed and invited me over to his parents house where he lived. Of course we both liked Judas Priest & Iron Maiden so I brushed up on some of these tunes. Was I in for a shock?! Now I was a rhythm guitarist and could barely play any lead. Upon jamming with Tom it was evident that I had much work to do. I was intimidated by this experience and was in awe of how accomplished Tom was. He could play almost all of the Priest and Maiden stuff all the way through with the albums. Back to the drawing board. I then pursued another band this time with Billy on bass, myself on rhythm and Joe Sultan on lead. We searched high and low for a drummer and singer. Finally, Kurt Reymers, an awesome drummer from high school at the time, decided to give us a shot. We still had no singer. I decided since I wasn't much of a lead guitarist I might be able to hold down the vocals as well. It was a difficult transition but with a lot of practice, I was an ok singer but either my playing or my singing would suffer at times because of one another. At some point we had to recruit another drummer. Enter Rick Condon. He was a pretty good drummer with a talented step brother that was his ride. Enter Rich Law. He was the talented guitarist / keyboard player that had to give his brother a ride to rehearsal. We decide to add him to our band to keep interest in bringing his brother. From this point on, if they showed up at all, Rich would be drunker than hell even at 9 a.m. This ended soon but Rich did feel bad and turned us on to another drummer. Enter Rich Lala. Rich was this geeky looking high school punk but he could keep time and hold a beat not to mention, sing some backing vocals. Ok. The band was complete. Let's rehearse. Well kind of.

Rich told us of this battle of the bands in Norwich in a week and a half and we needed to enter now if we were going to at all. We entered and had little time to get tight. It still wasn't comfortable. Joe coerced me into putting my guitar down and being the vocalist in the band. To this day, I do not know if his motive was to better benefit the band or to be the sole guitar player. I tend to believe it was the later. So here I am 19 years old, changing my forte late in life and I have one week to hone my new skill for this battle of the bands. What was our song list? Rainbow In The Dark, by DIO - Rock-n-Roll Crazy Nights, by Loudness - Into the Fire, by Dokken - and Hell Bent For Leather by Judas Priest. Talk about jumping out of the pan and into the fire. We showed up to this huge PA system which Andy James had put together complete with JBL scoops and huge EAW wedge monitors.

We were intimidated and excited at the same time. I had such butterflies that I though I was going to pass out. It was hot and we were the first on. I'm not in the loop these days but back then, only the headliners had the best of everything and we were first on the bill not to mention outsiders not in the Norwich click. Andy was running sound and I think Tom and Todd were back there somewhere.


Jeff's vocal debut, Norwich Park 1985
In the opening intro to our set I could hear the music through the PA thinking this is going to be cool. Until, that is, when I began singing and noticed nothing at all coming out of the monitors. I made every gesture possible during and in between songs to no avail in attempting to get sound so I could hear myself. Finally, after noticing that the crowd seemed like bumps on logs, I decided that I would go out in front of the PA and get the crowd going.

In doing so, I discovered two things. I could hear myself and I could make the audience participate. It was an educational experience that also made me realize my potential. I still have a recording of our performance recorded right from a boom box. I thank Joe Sultan for persuading me to become a vocalist. We disbanded soon after this gig which also had another band on the bill including musicians I would work with in the future like such as Chad Darrah and Gary Dalton.

I would soon feel dejected by Tom Mody and his new band Torrod (1) as I wanted to audition for them but they must not have been impressed by my outing at the Norwich battle of the bands so much so that they didn't deem it necessary to even audition me. I then decided to become serious and hit he papers in search of a serious band outside of the area because in our area we didn't have much of a pool of talent other than the band which had recently rejected me. At least I didn't think so at the time. I found these guys in the Utica area and called them up. Again, with butterflies, I headed up to audition and landed the job. Enter Andy Clary on drums, Tim Creaser on bass and Tom Helmstadt on guitar. Billy Rock-n-Roll ran sound for us. I had a modest PA with some decent gear. These guys were good and tight. I was excited. We rehearsed our asses off. We were ROX. We played parties at my cabin. Then Tim and Tom didn't want to make the trip anymore. So Andy and I stuck together and recruited a couple of guys.

Jeff Harris - Snow White
Snow White
Enter Spundey Dey on bass and Mike Tomacelli on guitar. These guys went on later in life to become big fish in a small pond in different directions. The name of the band at this time was Snow White. When Spundey left the band we recruited Billy as the bass player, naturally. After a few gigs, we decided to cut a demo that we could call our own. We did three covers, and an original WOW! This was where it happened. Originality was cool. And then, everything spun out of control.

At this point in my life I had an experience which would forever change me. Without getting into it, for deep personal reasons, I had to withdraw immediately from everything I was involved in with music. My fiance at the time was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which would eventually claim her life years later after we were married. Through all of this time, Billy had kept in touch with me and while my wife was going through the end of chemo, I was offered an audition with this new original band that Billy was now in. He had told me that these guys were rock solid. I knew who they were and that a couple of them were very talented. This really sparked my interest and I felt, even under my circumstances, that if I was ever going to make it in this business, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.

Enter LYNX. The band consisted of Andy James-Drums, Todd Hensley-Guitar, Chad Darrah-Guitar and good ol' Billy Rock-n-Roll. Most of these guys had heard my talent at the battle of the bands which, I had mentioned above. Billy slid me a cassette which had some originals on it with Andy James and Gary Dalton singing what they had intended to be the lyrics and vocal melodies. I studied with fervor. I only had mere days before my audition. I wanted in when I heard what these guys had to offer. They were that good! I was focused. The first song on the cassette was called "

"Beg for Mercy". It was a song which was appropriate for the period. I made my ad lib revisions to the song and rehearsed in my basement with all of my gear. I changed the pitch of the vocals to a higher octave and added the appropriate screams which was the thing to do in the eighties. I did so with the rest of the songs as well but knew this was going to be the song that they would use as their bench mark. Man, was I nervous. That's how bad I wanted in. To add to my anxiety, I discovered upon my arrival that I would be auditioning in front of these guys to the very same tape recording which I brought with me. As nervous as I was, I knew the tape thing would work to my advantage as it was what I rehearsed to exactly. Brilliant! I can still see them guys today admiring what I had done with the song up to this point in the verses. And then...the chorus leading right up to that defining moment when I screamed and not only did jaws drop, people dropped to their knees with hands lifted toward the sky as if to exclaim, "Thank you Lord!" I swear to God, that's how it happened. And I was in the band. We played the largest gig that Norwich will probably ever see by a local original band and filmed it. Then I was kicked out. Then I was rehired for the recording of a 4 song demo at Hamster Cage studio engineered by Tony Gross of Head East fame. Then we parted ways. After the passing of my first wife, Tom Mody and I corresponded and Andy James also came into the picture. Enter Torrod (2) The rest of the story can be reviewed in the liner notes of the SONIC BLEED section.


Jeff's 1988 Promo Shot
What is not documented in that section is the fact that upon returning from LA after Torrod parted ways, I worked aggressively throughout the years as a sound and lighting engineer with a local band named Call Me Crazy consisting of Ronnie Morgan on drums, John Natolie on bass & vocals and a host of guitarists but mostly David Saunders. I would run sound and lights including singing background vocals for the first two sets, and then I would get on stage and be the singer for the third set. This along with all of the projects up until EOR kept me very busy but was very fun.

I enjoy working with Tom immensely these days in his studio(s). He will be the first to tell you that back in the day, I used to do a majority of the set-up, even ran sound at the side of the stage simultaneously while performing and engineered most of our recordings until we moved to Mars. He will also be the first to tell you that I always complained of having to do so and constantly explicated that all I wanted to do is show up and sing. Nowadays, with advanced technology, Tom has pretty much afforded me that luxury. It's too bad we didn't decide to move to Mars years ago.

Jeffrey Harris
2011

 

 

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

 

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