Remembering Gene: Ojo Taylor

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1) When/how did you first meet Gene?
I met Gene in May 1983. I remember the date because the very day the God Rules album came out, we played with Gene’s band Martus. Sim Wilson was also in that band with Greg Lawless, Paul Valadez and Riki Michele, and they would go on to form Adam Again after Sim left to join us in Undercover. The concert was held at Riki’s father’s church in Ontario, CA.

2) What projects were you involved in with Gene?
There were too many to list. We were first involved together with Undercover because after Sim joined us, Gene became our soundman, then our booking agent and then our road manager. In 1986 we recorded Branded and we were initially to have released it on the label we had been on for years, Broken Records, then owned by Maranantha Music. When that fell through for a number of reasons, Gene suggested that we release it through a start-up label owned by Harry Barnes called Blue Collar. Harry had secured national distribution and had released 4-4-1’s first album on his label. Gene had also planned to release Adam Again’s first record on that label. So, that’s what we did. After a very short while Blue Collar was out of business because their distributor did not pay him what they owed, and so the album masters reverted back to the artists.

We recorded our live album 3-28-87 at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Gene was the house engineer for that, but did not engineer the record. So with that album under our belts, the masters from Branded and Adam Again’s Ten Songs, we considered starting our own label and went to Chuck Fromm, president of Maranantha. He was supportive and offered to sell Gene and me Broken Records. We negotiated a deal, secured distribution through Word Records, and that started a long history of albums that Gene and I worked on together over 8 or 9 years. Last time I counted there were about 100 albums we released and/or worked on together at some level.

3) How do you think Gene shaped/impacted the music scene?
I cannot be objective about that. At his funeral I’ll say that I was dumbstruck at the number of people in attendance and how they were all impacted in some way. I had been out of Christian music for about 5 years by then and I guess I had not given it much thought. I knew he was loved and relied on by other artists he worked with, all the guys in Swirling Eddies and Lost Dogs and his own band Adam Again, and those he produced, both on our label and outside. I suppose Gene, like most all of us in So Cal at that time, marched to his own drummer.

4) Three words that you would use to describe Gene and why?
Gene was a complicated person and three words really aren’t enough. He was very funny, very bright, talented, generous, a lot of fun and exasperating. I know the tendency is to idolize him, especially because he died in his prime in many ways, but he was not perfect as his own album lyrics attest. We had stopped working together in 1996, four years before he died, and we didn’t see each other all that much afterwards, perhaps a few times a year. There were reasons why, although in my mind they were not personal. We were just working on different things and I had pretty much disenfranchised myself from Christian music by then. I loved him.

5) As a friend of yours, how did Gene influence you?
I would guess that during the 8 or 9 Brainstorm (Broken) years, we met literally almost everyday (when we were both in town) to talk about our business, to strategize, to hang out, to solve the world’s problems, sometimes just to talk or play poker with friends or something. Then there were the 4, or so, years before Brainstorm where he worked with Undercover. We traveled together often, sometimes for extended periods, like when Undercover was touring overseas. After all that, and all that we went through, it’s not a matter of influence. We had become completely integrated into each others lives. I still see many of his “isms” in me, and I saw many of mine in him too. He was a big part of Undercover. I’m incredibly proud of what the two of us accomplished at Brainstorm, and the ways that he brought me into the creative processes with Adam Again. That was rare because Adam Again was closely held and he was very private about that. So how did he influence me? I find him in my work still during those years. What we accomplished together in our bands and at our label testifies to our mutual influences on each other. He went on to his own accomplishments after that, of course because he was still growing into himself when he died. That was Gene.

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