“Call me RamKING Sharma,” Omardath Maraj, a joint winner of this year’s Chutney Soca Monarch, jokingly said as our interview was about to begin.
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The evolution of a rock ’n’ roll band
“This might sound a little arrogant, but I was born to do this.” So says life-long rock ’n’ roll guitarist, singer and songwriter Joel Beazer, AKA “Reckless Johnny.” Beazer has played with several bands across the US and UK, but his musical journey led him right back to to T&T. You can find his latest music project, the rock band Brain Coral, in Tobago. The band is named after the world’s largest brain coral colony, which is in the waters off Speyside. Beazer got his first taste of rock music at around nine years old while growing up in Mayaro and Rio Claro. “It’s my mother, really. She had records and I started playing Frisbee with them. Talk about licks!” In school a friend gave him his first cassette tape: Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N’ Roses. Beazer’s still a fan and calls it “the best rock and roll record ever. It really helped me understand rock.”
At 14, he picked up his first instrument, a guitar he had for weeks begged his parents to buy. Not long afterwards he formed his first band. “I was so into music that I forced myself to play. There was a guy who lived upstairs from where we rented, Stephan Mahabir, who taught me my first chord—a C chord—and from there, that was it.” His first band, Eve’s Apple, he formed with two classmates after moving to San Fernando to go to Asja Boys’ College. “I was the only one with a guitar. We had a logo and everything, and at that time we really didn’t know how to play sh--,” Beazer joked, “...but we played sh-- together! Every morning we bonded, I would tell them how I wrote this song and we’d play it.” Then came Foolscap Binders (named after the notebook paper binders), followed by Infernal, a death metal band. “My first real band was Korre, which turned into Alexes Machine. That was the band we formed in UWI, there were flyers everywhere, we had a huge following and we were rehearsing every day.” The band made a live and a studio album, and got media attention. “Around that time, everything was moshing. Playing five years of head-banging music? Your teen angst runs out. I had more things to write about,” Beazer said.
His desire to write more thoughtful and introspective music led to the formation of Astral Garden, which he identified as the phase of his life when he wrote the most music. With Astral Garden, Beazer went on to record a four-song EP and did a showcase for Sony and Universal through the first DeciBel conference. They got a lot of great feedback, but nothing materialised from the opportunity.
Touring the US
“After that, I really wanted to do this music thing. I sold everything, sold my car, quit my job as a graphic artist and I jumped on a plane, went to New York and crashed by my cousin.” He worked as a session guitarist with two bands, Dust to Dust and Pure Dream Ladder, and toured the southern US with Minerva Veil. The best moment of his musical life was going on tour with T&T band Orange Sky, he said. The tour of the US lasted four months. Beazer came back home and got deeper into songwriting. “I could hear the songs in my head,” he said, and credits jointpop’s frontman Gary Hector with the advice that “the best way to get your song across is to just sing it yourself.” Beazer now has some 70 songs of his own. In 2012 he went to London to play with the band Fast Lane, where he stretched his vocal ability even more. There he played the Kilburn Festival Showcase, and, in London, the Salisbury Live show.
After that period, he hooked up with Sil Israel, and worked his music out with an electronic composer, eventually recording a ten-song album under the title Gene Locust. Tracks from the Beazer/Israel collaboration were frequently played on the Total Local radio show on 95.1 FM, T&T’s signature station for rock and alternative music. Enter Marsha Farfan. “I knew Orange Sky,” said Farfan. “They used to rehearse in my house when I was growing up in Cascade. I kind of grew up with them.” Other signature local bands developed out of the Farfan’s Cascade house of rock. “My brother Darren plays the guitar. He formed the band Nylon Pool with Jason Apparicio. They used to rehearse in my house too.” Farfan linked Beazer with Apparicio. “When she told me about Jason, I ended up going to Tobago and I met him at a surf competition,” Beazer recalled. Beazer felt he and Apparicio were kindred spirits and he immediately wanted to form a new band with Apparicio—whose stage name is “Animal”—on drums. Then, Sid Mohammed, dentist by day and rock bassist by night, who also surfed with Apparicio on weekends, came into the picture.
Birth of Brain Coral
With Mohammed’s solid bass lines, Apparicio’s command of reggae and ska riffs and Beazer’s heavy rock/punk style and original songs, Brain Coral was born. Brain Coral has a huge sound and its repertoire is versatile. The band mixes heavy punk songs with lighter more relaxed, reggae-infused hard rock ballads. “With Brain Coral I’ve learned that you can be searching all over the world for something, and then you find it right here at home. Nothing beats having your own kind of vibe and playing your own sound. It’s more fun and it’s real,” Beazer said. Beazer believes in the strength of his current musical project. Even though the band has played together for less than four months, they were recording literally from the first day of rehearsal and haven’t stopped since.
Farfan, Brain Coral’s manager, confirmed that Brain Coral will soon be recording two or three of the Beazer originals in Jamaica. She also believes that the UK and Europe are searching for an original and authentic sound, which she believes Brain Coral can provide. “I love Brain Coral and I think it’s going to go far. I really want to have a long run with it,” Beazer said.