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Members include Patrick Dahlheimer, bass guitar; Chad Gracey, drums; Ed Kowalczyk, vocals; Chad Taylor, guitar. Addresses: Record company--Radioactive Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, 3rd Floor, Universal City, CA 91608.
Two words are consistently used to describe Live's music: honest and serious. This seems to be a reflection of what the bandmembers are all about. Not many people keep in touch with the friends they had when they were 13 years old, much less work with them into adulthood. This small-town band, with their strong values, were propelled into popularity thanks to their deep, personal lyrics and their intense live performances. Elysa Gardner in Spin remarked that despite lead singer Ed Kowalczyk's usually mild-mannered demeanor, "A physical metamorphosis seems to occur when he performs, transforming boyish singer into whirling dervish."
Live started out in their hometown, York, Pennsylvania, as four 13-year-olds called Public Affection. In 1984, singer Kowalczyk, guitarist Chad Taylor, drummer Chad Gracey, and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer decided to form a band for their eighth-grade talent show, and they kept playing together. The members of Public Affection faced a crossroads when they all graduated from William Penn Senior High School in 1989. They each had to make the choice between college and pursuing the band. "We were bound for college and decided not to do it," recalled Kowalczyk in Musician. "That was the serious turning point, deciding not to go to college," echoed Taylor.
Determined to take the band to the next level, Public Affection independently released their first album, called Death of a Dictionary, in 1989. Two years later, Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison named Public Affection his choice for up-and-coming rock and roll rookies in Rolling Stone. "Public Affection has rock appeal, but they still have acknowledgment of other types of music," said Harrison. "That's what excites me about them."
Soon, word had spread about Public Affection from York, Pennsylvania. Radioactive Records heard their demo tape and signed the band to a contract. "You listen to so many bad tapes and see so many bad showcases that it gets discouraging after a while," Phil Schuster, a representative of Radioactive Records, said in Musician. "I listened to the first two songs on the tape, and I knew they had something unique. With a band like that, you just know. I saw them play several times, and they always performed with the same intensity, whether it was to a full club or 15 people. They just love to play."
Once the group joined the Radioactive roster, they decided to change their name to Live. Next, they started working on their first project. Harrison produced the band's Four Songs EP debut. "Unlike most demo tapes, theirs had real melodies," Harrison told Musician. "Ed can sing in the classical sense, but it doesn't cut down on the fervor. He has honesty and intense beliefs. I think that living in York, out of the mainstream, has made them less derivative, more indigenous. When I made suggestions, they weren't looking over their shoulders at what some other band was doing."
In 1992, Jerry Harrison took over production once again, and Live released their first full-length album, Mental Jewelry. The band kicked off the beginning of their success with the hit "Operation Spirit." Mental Jewelry focused on four young individuals struggling with the outside world. As part of the tour supporting the album, Live joined Big Audio Dynamite, Public Image Ltd., and Blind Melon on the "MTV 120 Minutes" tour.
The music industry took note of Live's potential, as did the press. "I'm really excited about this band Live," radio consultant Jeff Pollack told Rolling Stone. "The lyrics are really impressive, and this from a bunch of unjaded kids from York, Pennsylvania. It's the sort of record that reminds me of the old days. It just refuses to be ignored. There's just something irrepressible about their talent." Don McLeese wrote in Rolling Stone, "It's hard to imagine a more serious band than Pennsylvania's Live, whose moral earnestness makes early U2 sound frat-band frivolous."
Live went back into the studio and released their next effort, Throwing Copper, in 1994. Elysa Gardner in Spin remarked that the release, like their previous album, was "rife with spiritual imagery and social commentary." The first single from the album, "Selling the Drama," delves into the relationship between musicians and their audience. "Being on stage and talking at people is a strange thing," Kowalczyk explained in the band's label publicity bio. "You can rape your audience with ambiguity and distance, and they can rape you with prejudice and preconception." "Selling the Drama" and "I Alone" went into heavy rotation on MTV, furthering the band's popularity.
Another song on Throwing Copper, "White Discussion," describes a conversation between two people just before the world ends. "We've tried to make Throwing Copper more than your average trip down angst lane," continued Kowalczyk in the bio. In all, Kowalczyk felt Throwing Copper marked significant growth for Live. "We like to say that the soundscape of Live has totally transformed," he said. "A lot of good things happen to guitar amplifiers when you turn them up all the way, and a lot of good things happen to lyrics when you don't think about them as much." The New York Times' Neil Strauss wrote, "The difference between Live and many of its slacker contemporaries is that Live treats songs reverentially, as if they are truly inspired by a higher force."
Live recorded Throwing Copper live in the studio, as opposed to the technique of each musician recording his part separately, to be mixed with the other instruments later. They played together, as a band, the way they've worked since junior high school. "We're always out playing," Chad Taylor told Jon Sutherland in RIP magazine. "Even if we are writing songs for a new album, we'll go out and play. That's how we remain a good band." That's also how they earned the right to their name. Live will continue to stay on those stages performing their serious rock and roll, just like they did when they were 13 years old, competing in the school talent show.
by Sonya Shelton
Band formed in York, PA, as Public Affection, 1984; released independent album Death of a Dictionary, 1989; signed with Radioactive Records and changed band name to Live, 1991; released EP Four Songs; released debut album, Mental Jewelry, 1992; appeared on MTV Unplugged, 1995.
- Selective Works
- Death of a Dictionary (independent release), 1989.
- Four Songs (EP), Radioactive, 1991.
- Mental Jewelry, Radioactive, 1992.
- Throwing Copper (includes "Selling the Drama," "I Alone," and "Lightning Crashes"), Radioactive, 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 17, 1995.
- Guitar Player, February 1995.
- Musician, April 1992.
- New York Times, April 23, 1992; June 9, 1994.
- RIP, August 1994.
- Rolling Stone, April 18, 1991; April 16, 1992; May 14, 1992; August 11, 1994.
- Spin, February 1995.
- Variety, May 11, 1992.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Radioactive Records publicity materials, 1994.
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