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Drowning at High Tide: Lonn Friend Takes A Look Back at Dave Williams

By Lonn Friend, Senior Contributor
Friday, August 16, 2002 @ 1:13 PM

Lonn Recounts His Encounters W

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I am a man of God and a man of the Devil. To each his due. Nothing eternal, nothing absolute. Before me always the image of the body, our triune god of penis and testicles. On the right, God the Father, on the left and hanging a little lower, God the Son; and in between them the Holy Ghost. I can never forget that this holy trinity is man-made, that it will undergo infinite changes-- but as long as we come out of the wombs with arms and legs, as long as there are stars above us to drive us mad and grass under our feet to cushion the wonder in us, just so long will this body serve for all the tunes that we may whistle.

-- Henry Miller

Forty-eight hours ago, I'm sitting in Steven Tyler's dressing room after the exhilarating opening night of the Aerosmith/Kid Rock/Run DMC tour at PNC Bank in Holmdel, New Jersey, talking about LIFE! Theresa, Steven's wife, a beacon of light and warmth herself, is recounting for me the last year at home around the Tyler camp, how daddy fell in love with his son, Taj, now age 10, for the first time. "He was truly present, Lonn," she said with a gentle, honest smile. "It was the most remarkable thing to witness."

Then Kid Rock bounces into the room for his debut audience with the Dalai Lama of song and magic. "You look really good," Steven says to the tanned, slightly filled out Kid. "I haven't done a line of blow in eight months, man," responds Rock, "and I'm not smoking weed, either." Steven's eyes sparkle at this revelation. Kid is excited. This tour is a dream come true for the veteran grinder done good. His atypical humility is only superseded by his awareness of how unbelievably cool this moment is. "You know, my dressing room is your dressing room," says Tyler. "I mean that."

Theresa tells me of her husband's awakening as I tell her of mine. Most journalists don't write about this stuff. It's not as sexy as tabloid or Soundscan. I don't give two shits about who's fucking who or how many units Bruce Springsteen sold in his second week. We should all be hailing Mary that The Boss is back, E Street in tact, and his message is one of love and compassion. Anyone who finds fault in that mission because the riffs don't fall in the perfect slot for their assholier than though medulla subjectiva can stick a fork in themselves 'cause they are D. O. N. E... done! If your words are not designed to elevate, then do humanity a favor and choke on 'em. The times appear desperate only to individuals desperately seeking approval.

Forty-eight hours ago, your humble Bedouin journalist, off the online rant radar for a bit due to a tidal wave of new experiences and devoted book composition, is in the throes of that space he knows better than most in his field...that sanctum called celebrity. But something is happily askew. The talk is not old school trash, it's new school flash; blinding white flash, the kind that comes from waking up, figuring it out, getting conscious and casting fear and those nasty demonic trappings of super success adrift so faith can come aboard and set the soul's feet dancing up the stairway to heaven.

I stood there with my arm around an old friend as this blue jean'd not so bad boy planted his ass down on the master's piano bench and commenced to bang out a spontaneous rendition of Ray Charles "What I Say?" that could be heard and felt all the way to Asbury Park. His name is Kid but he's done grown up. He's survived success and excess and the evil mistress and now he's dressed to impress, no stress, keep the more, we got the less.

Forty-eight hours ago, I saw the promise, the hope, the fraternity, the glory of rock n' roll, played out in a concert amphitheater of 20,000 and in a dressing room of three. The wave is cresting. High tide for the high of mind, body and spirit. I carried the prana of that night throughout the next day as I wrote, paused, breathed, and communicated with my beautiful peeps in this transcendent virtual world. I was connected, liberated, positive. And then, as a perfect, balmy, beautiful evening fell on the south shore of Jersey, where my quill has taken flight like a gull over the choppy sea, a news item popped into my mailbox, and the world stopped its rotation.

Drowning Pool singer Dave Williams, 30, was found dead on the band's tour bus Wednesday (Aug. 14) afternoon in Manassas, Va., enroute to the next Ozzfest date.

I just stared in disbelief at the Allstarmag news headline. No way. Not again. Not.. Dave. Spring of last year I think it was, Pantera was playing the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. After their smoldering set, this tattooed fella with short hair, comes up to me. "You're Lonn Friend,'” he says politely, his Lone Star accent instantly detectable. "I am your biggest fan," he says. “I have every issue of RIP magazine ever published. It's an honor to meet you."

I was humbled. “What's your name, dude?'”I asked. “Dave,” he says. “I'm in a band called Drowning Pool. We're signed to Wind Up, got a record coming out this summer. We're from Texas, like Pantera; they're old friends." We talked a bit longer about 'those days,' the ones the generation after me love to hear about. The ones VH1 can't stop interviewing me about. Dave gave me his cell number and asked me if he could send me his record when it was finished. I replied how much I would love to hear it.

Over the next several months, I got involved in the ‘this n' that’ of my ever-changing life while Dave and his band Drowning Pool did something incredible. They broke through the muck and mire of emo, homo, domo, promo, lameo crappo musical mediocrity and made an impact, not just commercial, but cultural. They slid a heavy metal groove in a postmodern pocket and connected. Dave Williams found a lyric within that resonated without and the kids came a slammin'.

My eternal friend, Peter Baron, produced Drowning Pool's debut video for the track, "Bodies." Being an original Sex Pistols fan, I dug the name, whatever the intended homage. Peter called me from the shoot and put Dave on the phone. “I got someone here who wants to talk to you, buddy," he says. I told Dave how proud I was that they were making a clip with someone I loved and trusted, and to enjoy the ride. But not too much. Maybe I forgot that last part. Damn.

Three months ago, I'm standing in front of the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Blvd. It was Rage Against the Machine/Civilian guitarist, Tom Morello's birthday. The loft was rockin.' I'd brought Tom a special gift. My Anthrax Persistence of Time gold record which I signed, 'To Tom, the conscious rocker. Love Lonn.' Tom holds Anthrax in high esteem. I knew he'd love it, just as I was certain Scott and the guys wouldn't mind my passing something on that was given to me a decade ago with great affection. It's all about passing it on.

The party's still sizzling upstairs but I'm tired. The five minutes flirting with Gwenyth Paltrow wasted me for the night. "So, do you ever rap with people outside your world?" One of the lamest opening lines these conversationally seasoned lips ever uttered. I'm surprised I lasted five minutes. As I'm preparing to hand the valet my ticket and book, this face from the past stops me.

”Lonn Friend!'”he says, an ear to ear smile on his instantly recalled baby face. “Paul Bassman!” I reply with equal tremor. “I haven't seen you in years, dude. Still golfing' in the wind?'” Paul was shopping a baby band back in my Arista A&R days. I flew to Dallas to check them out. He took me golfing on a day that turned into the Tiger Woods nightmare weather beaten third round of the '02 British Open. Wind, rain, hail, lightning, fire, brimstone. It was nuts, but we had a blast. I liked Paul because he had a good heart, and he loved music.

”What are you doing, dude?” I asked. “I'm managing Drowning Pool,'” he said proudly. His band had eclipsed the platinum plateau by this time. The news made me feel wonderful. Another good guy does good. I live for that. There are dozens of arrogant, power-gluttonous, massively successful players in this business but I'd rather spend five minutes in a parking lot with a guy like Paul Bassman than a month in the most decadent mansion on Conde Nast's number one exotic island on the planet with someone who built his city on lies and greed.

”I have to introduce you to someone,” Paul says excitedly. “You'll dig her, man, I know it. She's a trip. You'll connect." Enter Diane Meltzer, the freaky, mystical, music industry madam who discovered a group of good Christian boys named Creed and later, some good ol' boys called Drowning Pool. This bizarre, delightful little woman is a Tracey Ullman character waiting to be portrayed. On her petite shoulders the giant Wind Up empire was built.

Through her thick, smokey, New York drawl, Diane told me the story of how she'd lost someone in her family, many years ago, someone close, a partner in soul; and how she believed that the spirit of this prematurely departed loved one had been passed on in some cosmic way to Creed vocalist, Scott Stapp and that she recognized the miracle the first time she met him. As she pulled her sunglasses down onto the bridge of her nose so I could see into her eyes, she told me that the fame and fortune she and her artists have shared are a direct and divine result of this event. And I believed her, every word, and she believed that I believed.

Every sudden death touches people differently. We do our best to make sense out of what doesn't. We weep and mourn in our way, light a candle in memory or fire up a CD at high volume, a clarion blast to the sky that says, ''Hey, big fella, make room for one more. And take special care of this soul, Father, because he was one of the good guys."

Vinnie Paul from Pantera sent me a note. "I've known Dave 18 years. I loved him. It's fucked up. I'm off to see his Mom." Peter scribbled this. "I've been sitting here all afternoon, dumbfounded. When I heard, I immediately thought of you, and that day at the shoot, how he embraced me after I put him on the phone with you. But he would have embraced anyone because that's the kind of guy he was." But the note that rattled my windows most was from VH1 producer, Denise Korycki. It was a personal correspondence but I have her permission to share it.

"Dave said I was the love of his life and that he wanted to marry me. I'm sure he said the same to tons of other girls, but... fuck! Dave had more spunk than most. I thrived off of his energy. The first day I met him we were moshing together. The last day I saw him, he blew me a kiss from the stage at Ozzfest just a few weeks ago. I embrace that moment now. He called me two days later at three am giving me shit for not coming back to say hi. I could kick myself. If I had known that would be the last chance to see him alive, but how do we know something like that?

"The fears of regret overcome me as I am reminded all too well just how quickly a life can be taken. But then again, the theory that I try to live by -- living life to the fullest -- that was Dave’s undoing. He died on tour with Down, that was such a dream for him. Ozzfest, a platinum album, a new CD on the way. Passion oozed out of him always. His love for people and music was on another plateau.

"I had a shot of Jaeger for him on Wednesday. I wanted to immortalize him yesterday so I set the Drowning Pool CD in my Discman and pressed play. But none of the tracks would play more than 20 seconds. "I'm tearing away/ pieces are falling I can't seem to make them stay/you run away/Faster and faster you can't seem to get away/hope there's a reason" and then, it just stops playing.

"That's all that would come out. You understand this, Lonn, I know. I think it's a sign from Dave. Maybe he's trying to tell me to stop being a cheeseball. Maybe he's telling me to stop being sad. Maybe it's just his way of saying that he's still here with us. I put Down in and the songs rolled out without a hitch. I laughed out loud. I knew he'd let me play Down! I love you, Dave, you fuck!"

I wish I had gotten to know Dave better than those brief encounters. The eulogies from his peers that appeared on Allstar yesterday convey a universal affection for a warm and gregarious individual whom everyone liked. Dave died on a tour bus, like Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon. A lonely departure. I remember the moment I heard that news as well, where I was and how I felt, and how that tragic passing didn't make any sense either.

Okay, one detour. No more Mr. Nice Guy. This is about cocaine, snow, the A list white toxic fairy dust that took out the Who's bass player and apparently (or allegedly, whatever term cushions the, uh, blow) may have had a hand in dear Dave's departure. How this Satanic substance ever got back in vogue only, well, Satan knows for sure. It is the single most seductive and destructive lie ever perpetrated on the pop culture. Let's do a line, get our hearts pumpin', and rule the world! Wait, that blast is wearing off. Let's do another one, a fatter one, and suck it up really high into the nasal cavity, the canal that leads right to our brain! Oh man, do I feel good! But wait, that rail is losing its pull. Hey, blast-tender, gimme one more for the road. The road to perdition.

When Kid Rock told Steven he'd put down the powder, an incredible lightness of being permeated the dressing room. One life saved, one rock star eulogy postponed. But the crystal rapids continue to flow, seeking new victims to suck up and drop downstream in the drowning pool. This is a hideous scrurge on our population. It corrupted the Studio 54 ‘70s, the Scarface ‘80s, went underground for a bit in the ‘90s for some, uh, refinements, and has returned like a dormant Herpes blister with a new millennium mandate to plunder anyone foolish enough to believe that the truth lies in the belly of a rolled up Benjamin. 'Nuff said.

I don't enjoy writing eulogies yet two of the last three pieces I've chosen to disseminate via this medium were inspired by rock n' roll deaths: Layne Staley and John Entwistle. Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to write or die. I hope what I say in remembrance of Dave Williams does justice to both the high and the low, the joy and the woe, the rock and the roll. Bodies. Who needs 'em, anyway?

Lonn Friend
The Water's F.I.N.E.

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