I grew up in Los Angeles County and I went to school at Palos Verdes High. When I was in high school it was all ‘70s music. You know, I loved The Who, I loved the Grateful Dead, obviously, Pink Floyd. All those great bands. Jimi Hendrix, I was very big into the British rock scene.
Music was strong in my mom’s side of family, so she had me taking piano lessons when I was about 6 or 7 I guess. And then that was three years and then I just insisted on getting a drum set and it was just all over from there. I think I saw The Kids Are All Right, The Who documentary, and I saw Keith Moon, and I was—instantly had to get a drum set.
He is probably the—like the whole reason why they came up with that Animal character (the drummer in the Muppets), was because he was just such an animal. Once I saw the Tonight Show, maybe it was the Muppet Show, but it was a competition between Animal and Buddy Rich was on and it was like a little drum off between them. It’s so classic. Animal actually holds a candle to Buddy Rich, whoever is doing the drumming behind Animal is really good. I think it was the Tonight Show drummer.
My first band, I was 12 or 13, was called the Rat Pack. I was supposed to go out and get a bass because I was the only who knew any kind of theory behind music. And I ended up being a drummer, so the Rat Pack ended up being three guitar players and a drummer and a terrible singer. Yeah. We didn’t last very long. But that was our band in the 7th grade. It was kind of a priceless experience. We would play “My Generation” and I would smash my drum set at the end of—I was told there was an easy way to kick over your drum set to make it look cool and not really destroy anything, you know.
My next band was called Mud. We were actually really good. We had some original stuff and then we would throw in our Grateful Dead. We threw in the Grateful Dead. So we would get them on the dance floor playing “Franklin’s Tower” and “Fire on the Mountain,” probably all the easy Grateful Dead songs. Then we would throw our original music at them, so they got used to our originals.
Grateful Dead was always in my life. I think there was a 10‑year period where I didn’t listen to anything except for the Grateful Dead. We got into tape trading, and I remember going up to Tower Records and getting a little 10 pack of TDKs and they all went to Grateful Dead, you know, we had to have our rack of Grateful Dead tracks. There might have been some Pink Floyd. I loved Syd Barrett, and Pink Floyd, because we were eating a lot of acid back then. But I think there was like 10 years where I totally absorbed everything about the Grateful Dead, everything about them.
I got down to San Diego to attend college at San Diego State. I studied jazz. I was a jazz minor, piano major, I tried for a while. Then I was a percussion major with a jazz minor. I had the greatest jazz instructors and some great jazz theory teachers. We studied Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock.
In college I was still playing in Mud. We ended up playing like some graduation stuff. We continued to work at that high school, and it seemed like for several years after that, they kept hiring us for certain things. And so we ended up playing, I call it the Three, Two club, it was the club right outside the USC campus. So we’re driving out to the USC campus and playing out there once a week. I think that lasted three or four years before we kind of all ended up one by one slowly moving to San Diego.
Our guitar player came first and he had a little, like he was part of one of the fraternities out here at San Diego State, and we ended up playing parties out here. And we absorbed this quickly. It was awesome. Ocean Beach was kind of nice. It’s even more of a hippie town now than it used to be. But it was a nice little hippie town, you know, 75 percent of the community listens to Grateful Dead, and we all have this thing, you know. It’s the home of Winston’s, where Electric Waste Band started.
Photo by Stu Weisbuch Photography
It’s a great bar where people enjoy going to see music. You go downtown, it’s a different vibe. A lot of the bars have killed live music all together and are using DJs and stuff. Here in Ocean Beach It’s a different scene, a real live music scene, and people actually go out to see bands that play original music and you know are still trying to do the music thing.
EWB started 31 years ago on Monday nights at Winston’s. Cubensis started a bit before, in 1987. I wasn’t quite a founding member of EWB, but close. I joined in maybe three or four years after they were established and the drummer had moved out and I jumped right in. I have been playing Winston’s even longer than 31 years.
Mud was going strong at that point, and we were playing a lot of shows at Winston’s as well. We all moved, one by one, here to Ocean Beach and kind of just established ourselves here. And I think shortly after that, it was kind of like Mud breaking up and Electric Waste Band needing a drummer, almost exactly, it just timed perfectly.
Of course, Electric Waste Band was terrible back then. We were called the Elastic Waist Band, and we had a saxophone player and boy, we were bad. We shouldn’t even be keeping the same name. But we all enjoyed playing Grateful Dead, so that is all that mattered, and everyone that came to see us was in the same vibe. Everybody in the audience enjoys what we’re doing as much as we do. It’s just awesome.
I started playing with Cubensis maybe 15 years ago, probably more than that. No, probably more about 17 now. But I came in as our old drummer, Steve Harris, God rest in peace, he used to have really bad migraine headaches. And sometimes just five hours before gig time, I’ll be getting a call you know, you have got to cover for Steve. I just started out doing that. Just kind of slowly, just kind of slowly but surely working my way in there.
I was a fill in for a while, then I got a call from Craig, they were doing a show at the House of Blues, and maybe the first show at the House of Blues, where it was a bigger thing. And they wanted to have two drummers, so that was the first time I and Steve actually played together. After the show, I just – I was just going to show up with my drums, you guys don’t have to pay me. I just want to be a part and that is just kind of how it happened. They were doing Tuesdays at the Marlin in Huntington Beach, and I would just show up.
As I said, I was a jazz minor at San Diego State, and I studied a lot of great drummers. Tony Williams. Elvin Jones, Max Roach. I love those great jazz drummers. All those guys are such a huge influence as they were on Bill Kreutzmann too, because those guys were all huge to him, jazz heads. I’m not sure Mickey as much as Billy. You can hear how all that stuff is influenced, and now they got—even have, you know, that sort of Ron Carter playing with them, you know the Wolf Pack (at the time of the interview, Carter had played with Weir’s Wolf Pack at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, 12/23). It was exciting for me.
I said EWB was bad at the start, and we’re a whole lot better now, but we still make mistakes. If we were a Frank Zappa cover band we would be really screwed, because there is no room for mistakes when it comes to a Frank Zappa sort of band. You go see the Eagles, and it’s just like picture perfect sound, just everything, just perfect, every show. You know it’s like that. It seems like the Grateful Dead there was a lot more room for error.
But it was whole different thing they brought to the table with the excitement and energy and, gosh, there were so many times where I saw the Grateful Dead, when I thought my head was going to explode, they were jamming so hard. And that’s kind of what we, especially, the Electric Waste Band, maybe not so much the Cubensis side of things, but Cubensis concentrates on rocking your head. You think you can’t take any more and we keep rocking you. We keep throwing it at you.
And then rocking that hard, having dynamics where you can come back in the third verse and come in kind of mellow, and that whole dynamic changes. That I find really, really intriguing about the Grateful Dead. I think that the most important thing about the Grateful Dead, because you listen to like even their albums, there are mistakes everywhere. And Garcia is—some of the solos you can hear fumbling and mistakes, but like, you know, same thing with Jimmy Page I mean, two of the greatest guitar players in the world. They’ll be fumbling all over the place. But they would find some place to make up for it, you know.
Skull & Roses is such a trip. I told Chris (the promoter) from day one that I thought he was crazy for doing it. I’m like it’s never going to work, dude. I don’t know what you are thinking, trying to get 40 Grateful Dead cover bands in the same place. I don’t think everyone is going to be there for all three days, I think you are crazy. But I was totally dead wrong. It started off—man, he had it good. I thought he got foiled by Phish a little bit last year, but he really had it.
I was like so proud of him. I am like, man, you really—it was by the third or fourth year, we finally got inside. And we weren’t just playing outside the fairgrounds, you know. I thought it was—I’m really, I am blown away that the last few years with Phil and Friends filling out the weekend—you know finishing off the weekend. A couple epic years, the last few years. I’m seriously looking forward to 2024.
Photographs by © Bob Minkin
See Ed Fletcher with Cubensis and Electric Waste Band at Skull & Roses Festival