HALEY: Blazing A Trail To MTV
Tuesday, June 06, 2000 02:00 PM
One Band's Trip Into The World Of MTV's Talent Contest And Busta Rhymes' Heart.
Way back when I was a young 'un during the early days of MTV, there was a program on the fledging music channel that held my hummingbird-like attention for over an hour, no mean feat for a kid who was hopped up on a case of Twinkies and a liter of Pepsi. Held every Sunday night, MTV's Basement Tapes was a free-form show that played just about any unsigned band's video that came across the producer's desk. They'd play anything - from early rap to thrasher metal. My favorites were the clips that had a budget of $10, most of which consisted of a handheld camera flailing about while the band does the same in their parents' garage. The videos were narrowed down during each show by popular vote, finishing with a big win from a band who's big hit was called "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard."
how times have changed. Basement Tapes has been relegated to the
basement, the "Lifeguard" band has been lost to the sands of time, and
MTV rarely gets around to showing videos anyway, preferring instead to
provide an endless stream of Real World shows and sketch comedy
that's neither real nor funny. However, someone at MTV recently decided
to breathe life into to the unsigned band contest form. MTV's So-Cal
Launch, MTV's latest foray into the world of recognizing underground
talent (that MTV Karaoke shit doesn't count), gave underground
bands a shot at national exposure and bestowed the winner with $10,000
and a record deal with Epic Records. For some inexplicable reason, Santa
Barbara, CA's own free-wheelin', fist-fightin', booze-houndin', bare-knuckled
rowdy punkabilly rock band Blazing
Haley recently forced their brand of four-on-the-floor rock n' roll
on to an unsuspecting crowd of TRL betties and johns, all dolled up in
the latest in fashion swimwear.
Blazing Haley? On MTV?? How th' hell did this happen? These guys whip up a hurricane-like frenzy not seen on MTV since..well...ever. So why did the powers-that-be decide to grant the Blazing Haley boys a shot at televised fame? According to David Kruger, upright bass (which is covered in green fucking fur), it was a series of odd circumstances that led them to the beach house in San Diego that doubled as MTV's production home for the duration of their Summer Break programming (essentially an excuse to show teenaged gals in thongs, but who I am to question the ways of Viacom and their subsidiary media outlets?). "There were, unbeknownst to us because we never watch MTV," says Dave, "12 radio stations across the country that gathered up all these videotapes of unsigned bands. KJEE, the local station for Santa Barbara, called us and said, 'You could guys could be contenders for this thing. You should send in a video tape.' And we said, 'Well, we don't have a videotape.' So we didn't give it much merit because we didn't think we'd stand a chance, honestly." However, after some digging, the foursome found a live video of the group performing at a local outdoor festival. "The quality wasn't fantastic," recalls Dave, "but the sound and the performance was good, so we sent it in." Once it sent, it was forgotten by the band. "We didn't even read the rules. If we would have we would have been a lot more prepared."
the tape winded its way through a series of cuts, eventually landing in
the laps of the show's producers. Then the big call came outta nowhere.
"MTV called us and asked us to come down for the taping. They made us
commit to being on location for 10 days for the whole thing." Shooting
at MTV's Beach House in San Diego, the band performed their rock-solid
brand of take-no-prisoners rock n' roll with 12 other groups in front,
all the while thinking they'd be axed by the MTV overlords. After getting
through the quarterfinals and the semi-finals, Blazing Haley moved on
to the final round, where they performed along side with a Backstreet
Boys-like band, Undecided, and a Korn-esque group called Severence. "All
the bands were really good and were incredibly talented," says David.
The judges for the event were rapper Busta Rhymes, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, an A&R exec for Epic Records, and MTV VJ Ananda Lewis. In the final scoring, Undecided was eliminated, leaving Severence and Blazing Haley locked in a tie. The MTV execs weren't too sure what to do at this point, but Busta came up with an idea. "He wanted to let the crowd decide, which would've been good for us," but the producers wouldn't let democracy run free. To break the tie, the producers went back to all the scores for the elimination process and gave the award to the highest score, which went to Severence. However, the band found a strange ally in Busta Rhymes. "He was really supporting us and wild about us, which was kind of crazy. We could have walked away at that point and we would've been happy, getting support from that kind of guy." Busta said on camera, "If it was my choice exclusively, it would've been Blazing Haley."
Even though the band lost the battle, they feel like they won the war. The record deal offered by Epic was merely a development deal, where the label doesn't have to pick up the album once it's recorded. If Epic picked the band up, they would be in for a 7-album deal. "We feel like we won anyway," says Dave, "because we didn't get locked into the record deal, we got massive publicity and our website's going off the Richter scale. We got one thousand emails in two days from around the country. Busta's even been talking to us about getting the band on his own label."
the Blazing Haley gang got a chance to blaze their way through MTV, eat
for free, and gain a dreadlocked, wild-eyed, rap star fan. Not bad for
four grease-rockers who didn't even think they had a chance.