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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mody Harris Band history

 

Mody Harris Band History

 

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The bands of Tom Mody and Jeffrey Harris  

musician Tom Mody 2006

Tom Mody
Personal Music History Page

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Tom Mody
Fighting 50
2016

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Tom Mody - Fighting 50  album

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Tom Mody
Christmas & Queens
2014

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Tom Mody - Christmas & Queens album

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Tom Mody
Resonant Aggressor
2014

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cover artwork for Tom Mody' album Word

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Tom Mody
Word
1995

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cover artwork for Tom Mody' album Word

 


Merchant 1982
Christmas Songs


Frehley Tribute

 

 

 

 

Tom Mody

My first exposure to music was actually by my father. I use a surprised tone because I didn't come from a musical family. No one was passionate about any particular style or artist. No one played an instrument or sang. But my dad did liked Elvis alot and at some point around age seven I became fascinated with him. And like most of my influences that followed, fascinated meant completely invested. I had about twenty Elvis 8 tracks and I would fall asleep every night to Elvis. I owned tons of Elvis memorabilia and in 1976 I was lucky enough to see him in concert in Syracuse and actually have about three minutes of super 8 bootleg video. When he died in 1977 I was crushed. The phone rang off the hook from my friends telling me and I dreaded going to Pop Warner football practice that day because I knew I'd get ribbed. In the 5th grade in 1976 we were allowed to put pictures we liked on the classroom wall and it was a battle between my Elvis and some other girls Kiss pictures from the Alive album poster book. I despised Kiss. They were the anti Elvis. But over Christmas of 1977 my friend kept playing the Alive II album and by the holidays end I was hooked.

Elvis was dead, Kiss was "alive". I went crazy with Kiss. Every inch of my walls and ceilings was covered with Kiss posters. I had all the memorabilia Every month I bought 16 Magazine. My older friends dumped all their old kiss crap on me (or I paid them for it). I suffered through the "Unmasked" and "Elder" years but was rewarded in the mid 90's when I attended Kiss conventions as a vendor and made thousands of dollars selling the stuff. Van Halen started me to see beyond Kiss but it was the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" and Eurobands scene in 1980 with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions & Def Leppard that hit me like I was home. For once I wasn't reveling in the past and was actually a few years ahead of a monster music explosion. well ahead of any kid in my grade. Those bands along with my discovery of the Queensryche EP in 1983 would shape my music writing style.

At some point in my childhood my mother had a classical guitar in the house though she didn't know how to play it. It was just in a case and I'd take it out every once in a while and make noise. During my kiss heyday I must have developed an interest because she had some older gentleman come over and give me lessons. I had a Kiss song book and he taught me how to figure out the single note melody to "Beth". By the second or third lesson I was playing the song and noticed he fell asleep. Omen #1 that I should have quit. He never came again. I never got further than being able to pick a few notes on the acoustic. One day in 1978 I went to my friend Scott Braun's house and he had one of those Montgomery Ward type electric guitars with the cheap plastic amplifier. I thought it was so freakin' cool and he plugged it in for me. I put it on my knee and hit the low E string a few times and I swear that moment resonates more than when I lost my virginity. I remember saying "wow, that sounds like Barracuda (by Heart)".

It was definitely one of the few defining moments in my life and come that Christmas I bugged my parents everyday to get one. In case my children read this they'll be glad to know that Santa delivered and I got a guitar and amp for Christmas. It was a Memphis brand guitar with a small Fender amp. I ran upstairs to play it and when I plugged it in it didn't work. The fuse was blown in the amp. Omen #2 that I should have quit. But the next day I replaced the fuse and like most kids with this dream I played almost every day. Sometimes for hours.

About a year and half later I convinced my dad to buy me a Les Paul style Hondo. At that point I really only knew the basic chords. One day I ran into an acquaintance of the town name Bryan Guter and he came over and taught me bar chords. Finally I got it, how this rock guitar thing works and from there I could play the songs like they actually sounded on the records.

Tom Mody 1st guitar 1978
Tom's First Guitar
Christmas 1978

Kids today can learn things awfully quick with excellent sounding equipment, tablature, and easy to play drop D fingering. In the early 80's you mostly had crap equipment with high string action, feedback prone distortion pedals and no road maps. Being in a rural area you also didn't have a lot of contact with other good musicians. You were influenced by one or two area guys and had to work on your own to get to the next level. In fact, for years I never knew how to pick in a continuous up/down stroke. I mostly went against the norm and did an up stroke. It wasn't until the Harbinger days that I realized it was up/down, up/down as opposed to up, up, up, or down, down, down. Though this hurt me technically it did probably help to keep me original which is all that matters in the end. My strength has never been technical proficiency and I'm horrible in a jam. I have a limited knowledge of musical scale. My strength is timing and road mapping what I'm hoping to play.

In 9th grade I would jam with some guys including the one and only Billy "Rock & Roll" Pierce and at some point I went to Jeff's house as he played guitar at the time. We use to call him Jeffrey Ace (as in Frehley). I don't remember first meeting Jeff. The earliest it could have been is when I was in 5th grade and he was in 6th. All 6th graders that were attending school in Earlville, New York were bused to Sherburne until they graduated. I most likely met him on the Pop Warner football team and since we had the same musical interests we would have got to know each other in Jr. High a little better.

My first official band was called Alliance which was a few guys from highschool. I would pick up a few pointers from guitarist Joe Sulton who was a bit ahead of me but a bigger influence in that band was a wacky creative bassist named Tim Wilson. Tim was probably the top graphic artist in school and easily adapted his creative talents to music. We never did get out of the school band room though Tim and I would jam often at our homes and years later Tim would invite myself and Jeff to record on an Ace Frehley tribute project.

In late spring 1982 I was becoming a competent rhythm guitarist and received a phone call from my only mentor at the time, Bryan Guter, who was two years my senior. He had joined the local rock band of which we only had one- Zappaz. I remember seeing Zappaz at the high school talent show and I went to a party once when Bryan joined them to watch them play (and drink, meet girls, etc..) Every time I saw their leader, Greg Hodge, in school I would try and start up a conversation with someone who was standing next to him about my guitar but he never noticed me. Well, Bryan wanted me to come over and try out for Zappaz. I went to his dad's house and I remember we played "Swords and Tequila" by Riot and "Long Stick Goes Boom" by Krokus. He was impressed and I soon after went to a rehearsal though Greg wasn't there. After we ran through "Swords and Tequila" everyone was just floored at how good it sounded and they called Greg at work to play how tight it was over the phone and he was impressed so I was now a member though we soon changed our name to Merchant (as in metal merchants.)

Tom Mody & the band Merchant 1982
Merchant: Bryan Guter, Shawn Fisher, Tom Mody,
Greg Hodge (Charlie Hoysradt on drums
)
I played my first gig at age 16 at a huge beer bash. It went off great but do remember nobody really treating me any different the next day. Omen number 3 that maybe I should quit. I played a few more shows over the summer including two bar shows. I tended to be quite dramatic at times playing the guitar behind my head, jumping on tables, laying on the floor.

I even sang my only vocal solo during Priest's "Living After Midnight". By summer's end the band decided to let me go as they were all out of school and I had two full years left. I was bummed but things shrug of pretty quickly in high school.

For my 18th birthday I went to Nicotera's Music in Utica and bought my Gibson Flying V. The same guitar I've used on every album to date. I faked sick the next day to stay home and play it. A few months later I was really sick in bed when Bryan Guter came over to hang out. He was playing my V and stood up while stepping on the cord and pulled the guts right out the front of it. To fix it I bought a back plate and screwed that to the front then drilled a hole for one volume knob and the chord input and that's how the guitar is to this day. Back then you did crazy things to keep on going when your town didn't have a music shop. If I broke a string I simply would loosen the head peg to get some slack and tie the broken pieces together in a knot. It actually worked fine.

As early as the summer of 1983 Bryan's band kind of was broken up and we discussed forming a band. I didn't play football in highschool but was thinking about it my senior year until I realized it would get in the way of my music (though I did play basketball). Greg felt he could not sing in the style of music we liked so he became the sound man and practiced country music on the side and a few years later made some type of run at Nashville. We put a band together through most of the fall without a singer but that eventually just fell apart. Bryan and I still were determined to start a band and I made a bold decision not to go to college. Bryan got an apartment in Norwich and in the summer/fall of 1984 we again put a singerless band together with a long time area bassist Jim Tyler and wonderkid drummer/electrician Andy James, the younger brother of Todd Hensley. Andy at age 16 was already a talented drummer, coveted sound man and to put it nicely, a cunning negotiator. We rehearsed for a few months but Jim had already been through this routine many times by his mid twenties and was getting tired of it and we again disbanded though Bryan and I hung out like brothers and we stayed in touch with Andy. The rest of the story picks up with the Torrod Era Section.

By the time I graduated high school I had become able to play acceptable lead guitar and was clear as to my musical direction. I knew my strengths and always played to them and was capable of not being run over by older or more persistent people. I knew I wasn't the greatest musician, not by a long shot, but I did feel I had the most going for me and was curious how far that would get me. In the coming bands I was very determined to carry these guys along, not musically but as a source of common sense and trust. I wanted more than anything to make it with these people I had grown up with musically. To write the story my way. Some of the faces would change but the determination was the same, to not give up on people I had sweated with and developed with. What I knew but didn't really admit to myself was that with them my strengths outweighed my weaknesses. If I could pull them along with me then I wouldn't have to confront certain things. Also, as main song writer I could stay within my technical comfort zone. The big truth is that I was very much lacking in probably the most important element a musicain needs to be successful- live experience. I would never gain that comfort until the mid 1990's and then other undisclosed health factors would make playing live a chore unto itself. My health issues would also tie me to people that didn't always share my commitment to success and kept me from moving outside my comfort zone.

Ultimately, though, everything I have that is good in my life is because I was forced down that path and at this point no amount of success could replace that. Technology now allows me the freedom to be what ever I want. I'm as hard edged as ever in my writing. I can celebrate a lifetime of musical partnership with Jeff and hear every song as if we could have recorded it today. My mind makes all the corrections for sound quality and performance flaws. I can package a collection of old demos and call it a solo album simply by burning a disc and creating a cover design. The world is just one link away from hearing music I created. The passage of time no longer labels past albums as out of step with the times. It's simply old stuff and not judged against the other music fads of it's date. The bands that shaped me as a guitarist have proven over time that I aligned myself with the best quality metal in the world. Bands like Kiss, Priest, Maiden & Queensryche all have long distinguished careers and to this day and are making some of their best music as of this writing. I think Jeff and I can do the same thing but for our own peace of mind. There are more possibilities to create than even before and no excuses not to. Be it in collaborations I've developed with other musical friends and writing partners or for licensing opportunities through my web site www.modymusic.com. There's no end in sight.

Tom Mody

 

 

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

 

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