Psychotic Waltz Revisited

El Cajon garage band five years later

Dan Rock: "Lackey didn’t like how the band came off in the first interview and wasn’t interested in talking to you."
  • Dan Rock: "Lackey didn’t like how the band came off in the first interview and wasn’t interested in talking to you."
  • I'm gonna see my picture on the cover
  • Gonna buy five copies for my mother
  • Wanna see my smiling face
  • On the cover of the Rolling Stone
  • — DR. HOOK

Local band Psychotic Waltz never made it to the cover of Rolling Stone, but they made it to the cover of the Reader on August 3, 1989. In the spirit of VHl’s Behind the Music, I tried to catch up with the five members of Psychotic Waltz.

Dan Rock: "In 1998 Psychotic Waltz did a CD in Europe. We were there for six weeks. My dad died in a car accident, and I came back."

Dan Rock: "In 1998 Psychotic Waltz did a CD in Europe. We were there for six weeks. My dad died in a car accident, and I came back."

Guitarist Dan Rock had a website that gave information about the band. It mentioned that, after their eighth and final tour of Europe in 1997, they disbanded. Apparently independent record labels didn’t promote their stuff properly or ripped them off.

When I called Dan, he said, “Oh, so Psychotic Waltz is now residing in the ‘Where are they now?’ category.”

He said he was an independent contractor doing Web design. I asked if he was still in the music business, and he said, “Nope. Not doing anything with music I did a side project called Dark Star in 1995. In 1998 Psychotic Waltz did a CD in Europe. We were there for six weeks. My dad died in a car accident, and I came back. The Dark Star record didn’t get distributed properly, and I was pretty depressed about that — and my dad.”

Brian McAplin: “We sued for $5 million. But after all the lawyers, I got a check for $765,000. So now I work at Guitar Center in Escondido."

Brian McAplin: “We sued for $5 million. But after all the lawyers, I got a check for $765,000. So now I work at Guitar Center in Escondido."

I asked if he still played guitar, and he responded enthusiastically. “Oh yeah. I’ve got two guitars right here next to the computer. Sometimes when the computer goes down, I’ll pick up my acoustic.”

“Do you ever run into people who remember the band?” “All the time. I mean, there were five of us onstage, and we’re pretty recognizable. We played for thousands of people.”

“Is it flattering to be recognized?”

“It’s both flattering and frustrating. It gets you thinking about if we would’ve made it.”

“You said in that Reader interview from 1989 that being onstage was better than sex. Do you still feel that way?”

Norm Leggio, who runs Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon: “I’m not really down for doing this. When the Reader did that story, it actually was yellow journalism."

Norm Leggio, who runs Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon: “I’m not really down for doing this. When the Reader did that story, it actually was yellow journalism."

“Well, since I don’t play anymore, no. But at the time, my girlfriend gave me a hard time about that statement. It wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Both are great and both can be frustrating, too,” Dan says with a laugh.

“A large portion of the Reader article was about the neighbors complaining about noise when you rehearsed. Now that you’re older, can you understand where they were coming from, like if you hear rap blaring out of some car?”

“We were actually not that loud when we rehearsed. It was one guy that would complain and call the police. Even the guy behind us didn’t mind. We would go to where this guy lived and stand in the alley. You could barely hear the band. The police came out a lot, and even they said it wasn’t that loud. They were just doing their jobs.”

“Speaking of cops doing their jobs, you talked pretty negatively about them in that old interview, even writing a song about them called ‘The Fourth Reich.’ ”

“Well, I have no problem with the police. I have friends that are cops, and they put their lives on the line all the time. That was just one event. There are good cops and bad cops, just like in every profession. But at a Fourth of July party, the band was playing in the back yard. The police showed up and said we were too loud. We were going to turn it down, and the cops busted into the house. I said, ‘Do you have a warrant?’ They started pushing us around, even pushing a pregnant girl. They were yelling at everybody and acting like Nazis. That song we wrote wasn’t that good. We never put it out.”

“Does it bother you when other San Diego bands make it, since Psychotic Waltz played for over ten years and it didn’t happen?”

“Sometimes I think it’s a sad state of events. We had talent and were kind of unique. We practiced four or five days a week to get our chops down.”

“But do you hear a band like blink-182 and think that you were better?”

“I actually think blink is a pretty good band. I’ve seen them live, and they can actually play. They write their own songs. We were around for 11 or 12 years, and we had some good times. I don’t regret anything. We didn’t get rich or famous. We liked the music, and I’m pretty proud of that. We had no record company bugging us to have a hit or change our style. We had great fans. Although I guess if we did have a record company bugging us for a single, maybe we would’ve been rich and famous,” Dan adds, laughing.

“So you’re still friends with the guys from the band?”

“Yeah, we’re on good terms, pretty much. We talk on the phone. We kicked out the bass player back then. He and I weren’t getting along, and it came down to me or him. They chose the lesser of two evils. Now we’re older and all that stuff is in the past.”

“Will you guys ever play together again in some kind of reunion?”

“Yeah, we talk about it. It’s probably too soon now.” I thought it was interesting that Norm Leggio, the drummer whose parents’ deli Psychotic Waltz used to practice in, stated in the 1989 interview that“...other bands that were the big thing — like Victim and Bible Black— all those guys have stopped playing, and they’re either living at home with their parents still, without a band, or managing a music store.”

Now he’s running a music store: Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon.

The few times I called Norm, he said he’d get back to me. When he found out I had already talked to Dan Rock, he said, “Let me talk to him first and I’ll call you back.”

He ended up saying, “I’m not really down for doing this. When the Reader did that story, it actually was yellow journalism. The guy, Mani [Mir], that interviewed us was asking legitimate questions. But when the story came out, it was just all the stuff where we were goofing around. It kind of made us look bad, and I think it actually hindered the band. So I don’t think I want to do another interview, especially if you’re going to be referring back to things from that interview.”

I told him we could talk more about things he was doing now, like the band he’s in, called Tea-Bag, or his record store. He responded, “Nah, I’m still not interested.”

One of Norm’s employees at Blue Meannie Records told me that singer Buddy Lackey was living in Vienna and playing in a band called Dead Soul Tribe. I checked out the band’s website and sent him an e-mail. When he didn’t respond, I called Dan Rock. He laughed and said, “I got an e-mail from him this morning. He said the same thing Norm said. He didn’t like how the band came off in the first interview and wasn’t interested in talking to you. Hopefully you can find someone else from the band, other than me, that isn’t too chicken to talk to you.”

After Psychotic Waltz, Buddy Lackey released the CD The Strange Mind of Buddy Lackey. He formed the band Dead Soul Tribe and changed his name to Devon Graves.

In an interview with InsideOut America with Ralph Geiger in 2001, Buddy said,“I’m writing songs and suffering immeasurably with what my wife has been putting me through. We are now going through a divorce. This is personally the worst days [sic] of my life. I didn’t know someone could be so heartless. I’ll bet my first wife would laugh her ass off at me if she knew what I have been going through. I really miss her.”

When asked if his real name was Buddy Lackey or Devon Graves, he responded, “My mother named me Buddy. I think that name is stupid—unless I was a country or blues player, or a comedian. It’s a good time for a name change, I think, because I really am a different kind of artist with the guitar. A fake name for the real me.”

Asked about Psychotic Waltz, he said, “I’m past that now. I should say that without my years in Psychotic Waltz I might not have the chance I have now. I don’t regret leaving. I look at PW as 11 years of intensive rock college. I loved many things about that band and hated many things. In the end, as a singer, through all those years I have been leaving behind the other part of me, my guitar. Now I finally get to do what I have always set out to do as a musician, performer, and songwriter. I don’t claim to be more exciting than Dan Rock or Brian McAllen — but I certainly have my own voice with the instrument.”

When asked about his plans for the near future, Lackey/Graves said, “Cry, record this album, cry, tour, cry, write new songs, cry, then hopefully after more crying, eventually heal. Then repeat as necessary. I really can’t wait to laugh again.”

When I finally reached the band’s other guitarist, Brian McAplin, he told me that Lackey/Graves was doing well. “He has a house with a home studio and just got married to his third wife, and a second kid is on the way.”

McAlpin is remembered as the guitarist in the wheelchair. Since the first Reader interview talked primarily about sex, groupies, partying, ESP, and other things, I thought I’d ask him what it was like being a musician in a wheelchair.

“I was in a car accident when I was 16,’’McAllen told me. “Sometimes during the sound check, the sound guy would say, ‘Are you going to bring that thing onstage when you play?’ And the crowd sometimes wouldn’t notice, because they can just see over people’s heads.”

“Did you ever see guitarists like Chuck Berry with his duck walk or Pete Townshend with his leaps and wish you could have that kind of stage presence?”

“Oh yeah. But I got over it. When we sued after the accident, I got a lot of money. It was supposed to last me a lifetime. It ran out pretty quick. I was 16, I wasn’t an adult, and didn’t think about saving it. I bought a guitar, spent a lot of money on Psychotic Waltz, made some bad investments. My mom would sometimes go on shopping sprees. Actually, my dad wanted the higher amount of money, but my mom and I wanted the lump sum, which was less.”

“How much did you get?”

“We sued for $5 million. But after all the lawyers and everything was said and done, I got a check for $765,000. So now I have to work. I can earn a living. I work at Guitar Center in Escondido, and now I’m taking money from people: $30 an hour for guitar lessons.” “Do you play in a band now?”

“No, but I might at some point. It’s great that I can work in music, since it’s something I love. Psychotic Waltz was around for ten years, and I quit the band. I didn’t want to do it anymore. The usual band cliché of ‘musical differences.’ But we got to see places when we toured, like, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, the Netherlands.”

The youngest band member was Ward Evans, who was 20 years old in 1989. I couldn’t track him down, and when I called Dan, he reminded me, “That was the one I wanted kicked out of the band. Evans isn’t his real last name. He just used that with the band. I don’t know how you can reach him. He’s in a group now called DB99.”

Norm Leggio said, at the end of the 1989 interview, “...if we get signed, and we make albums, and we do really well — after we’re gone, we’re still on this earth. John Lennon’s still here. That’s what I want It’s more than becoming just an average person. After you’re gone, that’s history. But if you’re signed, and you influence an era, and they came to see you — that’s special. That’s really special.”

In the movie High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character never seemed happy, either in relationships or at his job owning a used record store. The love of his life finally tells him that he needs to be working with music, working as a DJ, which he loves. I wanted to ask Norm if he was disappointed that he didn’t become a John Lennon but instead became a John Cusack If you’re doing what you love, do the fame and money really matter? But Norm wouldn’t answer.

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