The long, sordid history of my old band, ChiaroscurO

Peter Gric and Jason
Image by JaSunni Productions, LLC/Cycatrix Press via Flickr (Left is Peter Gric, on the Right is Jason V Brock in Gric’s home in Vienna)

From the blog of Henry Covert:

ChiaroscurO was founded by Jason V Brock in 1985 as Circa. (Brock’s musical career was storied and influential; his step-father was in the seminal 13th Floor Elevators, and Brock was an intern at Reflections Studio in Charlotte, NC. He worked there with Don Dixon, Steve Albini and others. ChiaroscurO’s influence was vast: there were at least ten acts that evolved directly from interacting with Brock and company during their frenetic tenure as THE prog-rock act in the Carolinas, as determined by Fred Mills of Spin Magazine.)

By 1986, the group began rehearsing as ChiaroscurO, with Jason on guitars and vocals; Michael Lillard on drums and percussion; and Charlie Burts on vocals and bass.

Over the next 2 years, 2 demos and a short video were recorded, and one gig played (Brock was a dynamic and prolific songwriter, with over 80 compositions to his credit). Silver Oak joined for a time on keyboards and was considered for bass when Charlie announced he’d inevitably leave for college. In 1988, Thomas Woody replaced Charlie on bass, and many vocalists were considered over the next year, including yours truly, twice. Only Missy Ritchie lasted on vocals for any appreciable amount of time, in 1989.

In mid-1989, drummer Lillard invited me to sing full-time with ChiaroscurO, but the band had 2 gigs scheduled for the fall and no time to rehearse the material in-depth with anyone new. Jason recruited Charlie, back from college, to sing, but kept Thomas Woody on bass.

Shortly after the first gig, Thomas announced his upcoming departure, and Burts returned to academia for good. A college pal of mine, and of Michael’s, named Scott Terry, revealed his ability to sing, and was immediately recruited. A classmate of mine, Reggie Dennis, answered Jason’s ad in Creative Loafing, and was soon brought in as bassist to replace Thomas.

Thomas’ last gig as bassist, and Scott’s first as vocalist, was at Central Piedmont Community College in October 1989. Reggie attended, as did other future members of ChiaroscurO and related bands. I was brought in as moral support and tech, and helped Scott to learn the material, as I’d already been doing so. I ended up singing a duet with Scott on the band’s cover of Danzig’s then-recent song “Twist of Cain”.

After that, the band’s line-up congealed for a healthy period. With the Brock/Lillard/Terry/Dennis lineup in place (soon supplemented by 5th member Brian Reel on percussion, keyboards, vocals, stage production, and eventually drums – another fan and friend from college), the group played over a dozen gigs in the next year, though plans to record a new demo were continually stymied.

In January 1990, I joined up with bassist Don Miller and an ever-rotating lineup for Epitaph for Oneida. By fall 1990, EfO had evolved into my own first band, Epiphany, with Don and various EfO members and several past and future ChiaroscurO members and hangers-ons. Epiphany continued until March 1991, finally gaining a strong, solid lineup (and a decent following).

Reggie Dennis left ChiaroscurO in September 1990, and was quickly replaced by Alan Wyrick. The group did one show with Alan (a Food Not Bombs benefit) before Michael Lillard quit after over 4 years in the band to attend college out of town (after several unsuccessful entreaties from a favorite band of his asked him to join — AntiSeen), but he agreed to fill in as possible. As a result, Brian Reel was bumped up on the food chain to debut on drums at the group’s seminal spot on the Food Not Bombs all-day fest in October 1990. Though this show cemented the group’s place among its avant-punk fanbase, it was to be their last statement for some time.

Alan remained with the band for a while, periodically rehearsing with Brock and Terry, but left just as drummer Scott Rodziczak came in as an on and off replacement for Lillard. Reggie returned to “jam” with Brock, Terry, Reel, and Rodziczak a bit, but declined to commit to the band.

Rodziczak waffled on officially joining, even as bassist John Lomax (not the same Lomax from Misguided Youth), who’d tried out as Don Miller’s replacement in Epiphany, came on board. He replaced Alan, but Brock grew disillusioned with this lineup’s lack of committment to recording a new demo, playing gigs, or even writing actual new material, other than “jams”.

As Scott Rodziczak refused to join the band outright, he nonetheless became close friends with both Brock and Covert. Brock came to mentor and play part-time in Covert’s Epiphany, as a pleasurable diversion. Brock and Covert also began helping each other with finding (and often competing for) new bassists and drummers. Inevitably, Rodziczak mentioned Brock working with Covert instead of Terry, but the 2 units remained separate, Brock working with both.

Finally, Kevin Massey (drums) joined Covert and longtime sideman Matt Summer (guitar, keys) as regular drummer in Epiphany in January 1991. Lomax was out of the ChiaroscurO picture, and Jason helped Epiphany and on and off bassist Luke Plaetnik record an ill-rehearsed demo of two Covert compositions.

Luke dropped out, and Don Simmons (later AKA “Fossil”) answered Epiphany’s add for a bassist. After one rehearsal, the new quartet lineup solidified, although relations between Brock and longtime colleagues Terry and Reel became even more strained.

Finally, Scott Rodziczak agreed to give ChiaroscurO one last shot as a possible permanent gig. After a handful of rehearsals and lo-fi recordings, Epiphany had a solid, tight lineup, and Covert was moving forward as a vocalist and composer.

Jason, however, proposed a jam between he and Rodziczak and Covert and Simmons, whose playing Jason admired. Jason believed Matt, despite his newfound commitment, would lose interest as he had several times throughout his partnership with Covert. Covert reluctantly agreed to a test jam, which neither drummer could make, but which gave Covert a lengthy rehearsal of Brock’s material, actually playing beside Brock for the first time ever. This also introduced Brock to Fossil on a personal and creative level. Jason mentored Covert in his vocal and songwriting techniques, even as Terry, Reel, and Summer all, predictably, began to show further signs of musical ADD.

It was during this period of transition that the band was playing gigs on a semi-regular basis. There was a lot of activity on the part of Brock to continue ahead and write new material. Brock was also engaging in gallery art shows, writing competitions and doing a great deal of floundering about trying to comprehend the opposite sex.

Some exciting new directions came from all of this, though the band was considered somewhat atypical of the times, as their live shows were very Peter Gabriel-era Genesis (again, Spin Magazine’s rock critic Fred Mills, an early and enthusiastic proponent of the band) and Ziggy Stardust/Bowie inspired. Additionally, all of the musicians brought a multitude of differing styles/influences to bear: Progressive rock, Jazz, Classical, Noise, Pop-rock, vintage Punk– no sonic possibility was left untried…



ChiaroscurO/GRAFT (1989; 1991-1992):

(At differing times…)

Jason V Brock: guitars, synthesizer, vocals, recorder, percussion, FX, music, lyrics, demo production

Goblinfoot: lead vocals, music, lyrics, recorder, drums, percussion, synthesizer, electric autoharp, harmonica, FX

Scott “Flyman” Rodziczak: drums, percussion, synthesizer, vocals, FX, music

Don “Fossil” Simmons: bass, fretless bass, percussion, FX, music

Michael Lillard: drums, percussion, lyrics, music

Randy McMillan: bass guitar

Bill Buck: bass guitar

“Tone Deaf James”: saxophones, clarinet, harmonica, guitars, bad vibes

Brutus: bass

Other: numerous bassist/ keyboardist/ female vocalist auditions…


GRAFT (1992-1994):

(At differing times…)

Jason V Brock: guitars, FX, vocals, percussion, recorder, synthesizer, drum machine, music, lyrics

Goblinfoot (as Zeo Epiphany): vocals, percussion, FX, lyrics, music

Rob: bass guitar

Scott Rodziczak: drums, percussion, music

Kerry: drums, percussion

Josef: keyboards, synthesizer, vocals

E-Curb Moschops: synthesizer

Brian Esposito: bass, FX, drum machine


ChiaroscurO/GRAFT (1994-present, including soundtracks):

Jason V Brock: guitars, bass, FX, vocals, percussion, theramin, recorder, synthesizer, drum machine, music, lyrics, production

Others: as needed…

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