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PP BIO BY JASON SCHWARTZMAN

*the following is an extended story of the making of Phantom Planet, as told by Jason...

Chapter 1: Getting Darren
Chapter 2: Getting Alex
Chapter 3: Getting Jacques
Chapter 4: Getting Sam
Chapter 5: Getting the Band Together
Chapter 6: Getting Our First Show

CHAPTER ONE: GETTING DARREN
     I can remember the day exactly...
     "HEY MAN. MY COUSIN DARREN CAN PLAY GUITAR; MAYBE HE CAN TAKE ANDY'S PLACE." Those were the first words ever uttered that gave mention to the person we all now know as "D." My friend Simon and I had formed our band in third grade. Through the years we acquired members and lost them just as fast. But it was during my sixth grade term that Darren and I met. The first numbers of the equation had been grouped.
     Simon had volunteered our services at school to play at the sixth grade graduation. Simon had composed a song entitled, "Life Will Never End" that he thought suitable for the ceremony. But at that moment in time, the band was only Simon on my grand piano and myself on my white drum kit. This Darren-person seemed like the man for the job not only because I was told he played a "mean" guitar, but also because he was in junior high - the epitome of cool on my sixth grade "cool-o-meter."
     "Sure. Have him come to rehearsal at my house."
     And that is just what he did. It took a week or two to get a hold of him, and another week or two for him to coodinated his travel arrangements. You see, none of us drove and thus his cross-town schedule had to fit in with his dad's cross-town schedule. So finally after a week lost here and a week lost there, we had him. (For reference: Simon had been talking to Darren's people to get him to my house. Since I had not yet met him, I had no responsibilities with regards to him at all.)
     It was a nice day out. "Enter Sandman" was still huge. So was "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The clouds looked like animals and limousines and the sun was a-shining. Oh yes, a-shining. RING!!! RING!!! Someone was at the gate. Darren. I had brought my drums up from where they were downstairs in my house to the living room where my piano was. It was an odd sight really: a piano...a fireplace...couches and chairs...art...and DRUMS???
     Simon went to greet Darren. I sat and waited behind my drums. I waited and waited until finally I could make out faint noises, possibly echoes, from down the hall. Yes. They were definitely echoes. Echoes of a man and his guitar. The echoes became murmurs, and the murmurs became voices, and then the voices became strangers. A short kid a little taller than me with an amp in one hand and a guitar case in the other, and his dad following him in, making sure this band was legit. He put his things down and Simon introduced us.
     I said, "Hi, Jason. How are you doing?"
     He replied, "Great. Great day out. I am Darren."
     
CHA-CHINK!
     Darren's father identified himself as Harvey. He had a beard. He bore a heavy resemblance to Richard Dreyfuss, but I tried to just accept him as Harvey (or HARV). Harvey was then introduced to my parents, which is just a customy-play-date kind of act that was preferred by parents alike, if not expected. Before I knew it Harvey had left, and the three of us remained. Alone. In my living room...with the art.
     Before Darren even took out his faithful steed, Simon explained to him our new situation. He told Darren about how we had had some other guys but they hadn't worked out, and that now we were stuck with only us two, with our first real gig approaching fast ot our elementary school. Simon explained. Darren tried to understand. I provided the humor. That was how Darren and I first connected; through humor. Laughing together is bonding together. They say laughing with another man is probably the most infectious thing they will ever experience with the same sex.
     Simon finished and Darren understood his mission. He ran his hands through his hair, inhaled for a moment, exhaled for two moments, and then took out his baby. His cherry girl. His Satan power tool. His six-stringed lover, his rock n' roll diving board. His resonating wang. There it was: THE RED PEPPER! An oxygen-rich blood red Fender Strat. Six strings.
[insert loud guitar noise here]
     He plugged it in and gave it a good strum. It sounded great. I was so red. It also had a rabbit's foot dangling from the head stock. I asked if his guitar was named "Lucky." He said, "no," and then played the ever powerful yet sweet and meek F POWER CHORD!!!
     After a quick tune and quick showing of the chords, we gave "Life Will Never End" a go. I think for the sake of this biography I will skip this part of the story. Suffice to say, "Life Will Never End," was no "Don't Cry." The morning was gone and afternoon ending as we entered dusk. Darren's dad was on his way, and we had unanimously voted on telling the school that something went wrong and we were unable to perform. Our first gig had become no gig in a heartbeat. So as we sat there in the living room of my house feeling pretty flunky, Darren started to play some chords. I came in on the drums, Simon came in with the piano, followed by a big smile on my face. This was what I was looking for. As in the fashion of most bands of that era, we jammed for about twenty minutes...on the same three damn chords. After it ended I told the guys, "That's it! That is our 'Don't Cry,' guys! That...what should we call it?" Then Darren chimed in with, "That song already has a name." "Great!" I retorted. "What is it? 'Death of Darkness?' 'Running From Nothing?' WHAT? WHAT?" "It is called 'Hey Joe,'" Darren said, "you know, by Hendrix?" Hope was not a word in my vocabulary at that pint. The glass was half empty from where I saw it. After a long silence, I came to a wonderful conclusion: that was awesome!
     I believe that moment between Darren and me was the beginning of the Planet. I knew he and I clicked. After that day, I didn't see Darren again for another four months or so. Simon had lost the number, and there was no way go get it. I was really saddened by the knowledge that this Darren guy, whom I'd "hit it off with" so well was now nothing more than a lost piece of paper with seven digits on it. (Ten, including area code.) Then out of the blue, a pharmacist who worked at the drugstore near my house told me he knew Harvey, and that Darren was trying to get a hold of me. So I left that day with some pills, a candy bar, and D's number.
     The rest is history. Darren and Simon and I were a band. We played well into 7th grade. By then I had bought a new drum kit, and Simon had purchased a keyboard and amp. We had rehearsals downstairs in my mom's vacant ballet room. I set my kit up facing a wall sized mirror; the other two set up behind me, in reflections. For a year I thought Darren was left-handed. We called ourselves Mind Over Matter. It was the deadly combination of The Doors meets...all kinds of stuff. We would jam every weekend from around 11am to 7pm. Just the three of us.
     Other members came in and out via our different high schools. Simon would ring me up and tell about this 10th grader who was known to be a singer, or I would tell him about this kid at my school who played bass. People came in and out, and yet nothing felt right. By the end of 7th grade the band had become just Darren and me. Simon was no longer with us for reasons that belong between him and Darren and me. He is still one of my closest friends. For that whole summer before 8th grade, Darren and I just jammed. We would play blues a lot. And some rock. That was the most fun then. Uninhibited creation. We had moved to my garage, because my drums were too loud, and there was household trying to live.
     That summer was also the first summer I didn't sign up for my film class that was taught at my elementary school. For the summer prior, I had attended a film class in which we would write and act in our own movies. Another student who attended the class and also went to elementary school with me was a boy named Alex Greenwald. He was a whole year older than me, so we never saw much of each other at school. We were boy scouts together though. We had lots of mutual friends, and we often reminisce on our boyhood adventures. Alex was in the film classes with me, and it was there that he and I sparked a pseudo friendship. He was an actor and so we got along.
     But the summer I left the class, my little brother Robert attended. He really befriended Alex, and the two spent a lot of time together that summer. Robert would bring Alex home with him after class. They would come home and Darren and I would be playing. I do have one memory still clear in my head, when one day after class Alex came over to the house and knocked on my bedroom door. He came in to find Darren and me talking while D played an acoustic guitar. Without really asking, Alex took the guitar from D and started to play some song. I think it was "No Rain." He sang rather well I thought, but f*ck him; he can't be in this band. So after a bit, Darren and I excused ourselves and headed out to the garage. We jammed for a bit. Alex watched some. The day was over.
     Over the course of the next year the band had grown to another guitar player and a bassist named Bret. The guitar player had crazy long hair, only wore heavy metal t-shirts, and said the phrase "hell yeah" too much. As the band progressed, the sound morphed from harder stuff to weird stuff, back to just rock. I would like to point out that it has now been years since I had a free weekend. We played every chance we got, or at least every time everyone in the band could get a ride.
     Fast forward to June of 94. I was fourteen years old. My 8th grade year was coming to a close. This time it was I who volunteered the band's services to the school to hopefully rock out at the old 8th grade graduation. The school thought that would be a nice treat for the kiddies, so it was on...finally THE FIRST REAL GIG.
     Oh yes - of course, one small problem: no singer.
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CHAPTER TWO: GETTING ALEX
     NO! NO! 6th grade grad repeat. "THE LET-DOWN OF '94," they'd call it. At first I thought perhaps we could manage without vocal help. Perhaps maybe a nice hour long session would suffice as a treat for the kiddies. But after about ten minutes of intense toying karound with the notion, the idea was killed. No one in their right minds would enjoy that cacophony. Maybe we jam for 20 minutes or something, but we had to have at least one song with a vocal. I had no idea what to do so I ordered a pizza, drank some diet Coke and thought. And thought. Who did I know? Who was the right man for the job? Where, oh where could my singer be? I thought. And thought. And thought. Nothing. I was at a blank. An emotional standstill.
     BOING! WHAM! WHACK! SWOOSH!
     Like a bag of f*cking bricks it hit me...like a weasel on an arson spree...like candy on a tooth...like a glove to a face...like chocolate to Jesus...it hit me. Damn, oh how it hit me! Why not Greenwald? I recalled that moment when he sang for me in my room that day, and remembered how good he was. It had to work. He was my only hope.
     For an entire week I tried to track him down. I called our old school. I called mutual friends. No trace of him. He had vanished from LA. And then, as by some divine act of our lord, the phone rang...
     It was the film school teacher calling to see if I wanted a copy of a movie I had made years back in one of the sessions. I said, "sure," and asked him if by any chance he had Alex's number. He told me he would check and call me back. Twenty minutes later I get a, "47*-4***." I called almost immediately. As I recall, Alex picked up the line. We talked for awhile. I asked him how he was and where he was going to school. After ten or so minutes of chit-chatting, I broke it to him. "Remember that band I had?" I asked. "Oh yeah, that other guy, right?" he replied. "Yeah, right...well since then we've got some more guys and some more songs, and..." breaking it down for him slowly. He was silent after I finished, then replied with, "Sure. Sounds cool." I told him when the next practice was and he said he could make it. I was glad because it was going to be the last practice we would get to have before the big day.
     Just as it was when Darren and I had first played, that particular day when Greenwald came over was beautiful. Blue and crisp. The kind of day where one could get a nice tan and a mean chill at the same time. It was dreamy. Perfect for rocking out in the ballet room (we had left the garage after too many complaints). Darren and I and the rest of the band were already playing when Alex arrived. I guess someone had le him in and shown him to us, because mid-song I realized he was watching us play. I stopped. So did the band. I introduced everyone; reintroduced D and Al. They exchanged a strange look. The kind of look gunslingers throw at each other before a quick draw.
     Al set down his amp and guitar case. This seemed strange to me; se already had two guitars. Well, he probably brought it just in case one of ours broke or something; good thinking on his part...wishful thinking on mine. I figured it was my duty to host it the rehearsal, for it was I who had brought this new guy in. "I guess we could just play you all of our songs." And that's just what we did. He said that he liked them and so all seemed well. I showed Alex some lyrics I had written for a song called "Try." He looked at them and asked how I thought the melody would be. I sang it for him and then he tried it himself. BOOM! It sounded great. Just how I thought it would sound. So, this was it: THE BIG MOMENT! The first time this band would ever have vocals on it. "1! 2! 1! 2! 3! 4!" And there it was: "TRY!" At this piont not even Darren could help but grin at the sound of us. It is hard to explain that kind of feeling: the feeling that comes over someone when something feels so right. Darren was smiling by the end of the song. I was smiling by the end of the song.
     But the others weren't quite as thrilled. It wasn't as death-metalish as the other guitarist had hoped it would be, and it wasn't as innovative as the bassist would have hoped it to be. At that point, I realized D, Al and I were supposed to play together.
     The show went great. I felt great. I had this attitude like, "YO! All the people out there...CHECK OUT THIS LITTLE TREATY-TREAT-TREAT I GOTS FO YOU ASSEZ!" We opened with "Try." I could tell that my friends were sunned. For years I had talked up my band. They knew that music was what I was about, but they hadn't heard any of it. They hadn't really gotten the chance to hear what I was making. They just knew I was never around on weekends to party. After "Try," the set kind of fell apart. We played "Hey Joe" for about 17 minutes, then played a new song we had been working on for about 12 minutes. Just music. After that, we really didn't have anymore songs. Yet the crowd still stood there expecting more. Than Al suggested "Longview," a new song out by a band called Green Day. I kind of knew the drum beat and so I started. Quickly Al showed the other guys the song and we were off. Al did his best Billie Joe impression and I drummed my ass off. I sucked though. The beat was too weird for me or something, and I blew the whole thing every chorus. After that, I did a drum solo and the show was over. Actually it was more like the audience got sick of seeing five guys doodling around.
     By the end of the show, half the audience had migrated into the dance that began on the side of the school. The other half that still hung around cheered and applauded. Our sound guy, who was also the school band's teacher, said we had potential. "Oh yeah. With a couple of years of rehearsing you guys could maybe get a gig. A wedding or something. You'd be surprised...they pay well." I was blown away by that statement. I thought, "You mean we could get more gigs?!" That was awesome, but the part of practicing for two years, ha! That was just wrong. I wanted to go, go, go! Screw time. Now. I was very Buddhist with my ways I guess. I packed up, and went to the dance. Apparently we were a hit, or at least everyone said we were. Alright!
     Days after the "gig," my father passed away. On the same day as his funeral I received a call from my cousin Sofia asking me if I would mind bringing down the band to play on a t.v. show pilot she was directing. I guess I was stressed out, and the idea of playing seemed right to me, so I accepted. Bu wait, that meant practicing our songs. So on the day of his funeral, which was also my birthday, I invited over the band to play on the t.v. show Hi-Octane. The next day, we went to some strange alley on Highland near Selma to the set. There were ten other bands there who were also scheduled to shoot. Each band was supposed to write their own Hi-Octane theme song. The idea was to show two-second clips of each band doing their version.
     We unloaded, then watched the other bands, who were all much, much bigger than us. Darren was our only weapon. He was one of them. He was in 11th grade. He was...A MAN. The taping went well. The song came out nicely, and I think we were all pretty contented. That was how the summer kicked off...
     After that gig I took a short trip to Napa Valley. When I returned I called up the band and arranged for a practice. We set up our stuff and began to play. Half way through the first song I realized that we really didn't have any songs. All we had were "jams" - chords put together with five minute long solos from each member, including drums. We tried out the Hi-Octane song, but even proved the point further: something was wrong. With my hope and excitement deflated, I called for a band meeting in the living room. There, we discussed the problems. It was clear from what the others were saying to me that the band was now really Darren, Alex and I. The others were not into the same things. Kindly and without any hard feelings, the others left the group. The equation was now simplified.
     That was a fun summer. Most days were spent playing downstairs, and most nights were spent going swimming, eating pizza and seeing films. It was the essence of summer. It was also during that summer when the first real songs were written. Alex called me up one night and played me a song over the phone that he had written called, "So I Fall Again." He first read me the words, then played it to me. He even recorded a backing vocal part on his little home tape recorder. I offered my ideas, asked him some lyrical questions, and that was pretty much it. Not long after that call, D and A and I, were playing "So I Fall Again." We even recorded the song on my four track. I came out pretty well for our first real recording. Soon more songs followed, including "Butterfly D-Cup," "FBI," "Never Rings Twice" and "Pitchshifter." They all had a pretty great way about them. It was evident even then the sound we were going for: hooky songs with a catchy melody. I hate a song without melody. The guys used to mock me, because I often would shout out from behind my drum kit, "MORE MELODY!"
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CHAPTER THREE: GETTING JACQUES
     And so the summer trekked on. Soda, chicken, board games, water, sunshine, and moon glow. School started in September, and so life reumed to its strain on all of us again. Tests and traffic hindered our everyday practices, and so they were once again pushed to only happening on the weekends. One Friday after school I went to a local music store to buy drum sticks for the next day's practtice. I picked out my sticks and went to pay for them. As I signed the receipt I heard something behind me: a guitar solo. It sounded really great and really hooky. Casually I turned around to watch this person play the solo. I guess I expected some old guy with a mullet, because when I saw what I saw, I was shocked. There, sitting on an amp, with straight-parted hair hanging over his face, a strange shirt on and one big boot on a wah pedal was JACQUES. He was skinny as all hell too. Hmm...Hmmmm. Maybe this is the man I have been looking for. Maybe he could join the group. Yes! Yes! Y......No. I just couldn't do that. Could I? Go up to a stranger and just...ask? No. I mean, yes, one could take that approach, but that "one" would have to have some courage, and I was not that man. I didn't have t guts to talk to him. So I quickly gathered up my things and left. I fought with myself as I waited out on the sidewalk waiting for the light to change. The fight sounded like this: "DO IT YOU FOOL!" "SCREW OFF! HE PROBABLY DOESN'T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH." "THIS COULD BE IT! THE GUY THAT YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR! IF YOU DON'T DO IT NOW YOU MIGHT ALWAYS HATE YOURSELF...ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF, 'WHAT IF...?' DO IT!" You know that cliche "crazy guy" that all movies set in New Yourk have? Well, I was that guy. FIGHTING. Halfway through the cross walk, I turned around and walked back in. Without even thinking, taking the "rip-the-band-aid-off-quickly-so-it-hurts-for-a-second-and-then-is-over-with" theory, I went up to him and said, "Hey, I am in a band and we need a guitarist. Want to play together sometime?" A little taken back by such a short, feisty, young fellow like myself, he replied with, "I kinda am already in a band." "What band?" I asked as my heart slowly broke. "Latemgnikcuf which is F*CKING METAL backwards," he replied, "What's your band called?" I forgot what my reply was. Whatever. I had been rejected not by him, but by fate. Well how much worse would it be if I asked him again, differently? "Well, maybe when you guys aren't practicing, you could come down and check us out." Preparing for his second negatory answer, I was getting ready to say goodbye and thanks when he said, "SURE." TAAAA-DAAAAA!!!!!!!!!! Thank you, oh thank you, lord! We exchanged numbers. He told me his name was Jacques, and I remember thinking how cool that name was. That was just the edge we needed: a Jacques. He then introduced me to his mother who was there with him. She was nice. The wall was being built. Hooray.
     I left that store feeling so good about everything. Goddamn how sweet life was that fine, fine Friday afternoon.
     The second I got home, I called D. I told him about this kid I had met named Jacques who played a mean guitar and who seemed really kind and normal. I told D that Jacques and him looked like one another. That obviously turned out to be a faux pas on my part.
     Now, talking about getting together with Jacques and actually getting> together with Jacques are two very, very different things. I called Jacques up a few days after our chance encounter to discuss a possible time to get together. But for every day I proposed, he had reason why he could not attend. The routine would be:
          a) I call
          b) we chat
          c) I ask if "x" day is ok for him
          d) he replies with, "Actually, I can't I've got __________"
          e) "Oh ok. Maybe next time."
          f) END
     That was my relationship with Jacques back then. But being my sweet and kind self, I never realized that in truth waht was really occurring was that Jacques was continually giving yours truly the slip. He was lying. He gave me everything from, "I have a doctor's appointment" to "I am leaving the country" or "I am in a school play, so call me in three months when it is over." I fell for each one. I would in fact call him after his "play" was done, or his "surgery" was over...and boom, he'd just slip me the next line.
     Life was still good though. School was tough, but I was managing. September had come and gone, and October was just beginning, when I got wind of the annual Homecoming event. To me Homecoming only meant one thing: a gig. And so I as you probably guessed, offered my band's services for the annual celebration. I was really excited. I would often just picture the gig. Us on a huge stage, loud as all hell, while hundreds of students rocked along with us. Oh god! It was going to be great!
     Who would have ever guessed that in actuality it was going to end up with us playing on wet, muddy grass with a barely functioning PA system, while families paid no mind as they played games and lost raffles, and as the guitars rocked away, the football squad got tackled and hurt?
     The way I saw it, Jacques definitely could not turn down this brainchild. I mean, c'monn - HOMECOMING GIG! But as luck would havve it he had plans (these ones for the record were real - the P-SATs). But this time Jacques threw me a curve ball, and instead of just hanging up the phone, he suggested that maybe I call a friend of his named Sam who played guitar and might be available. I wrote down the number.
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CHAPTER FOUR: GETTING SAM
     This Sam thing did not sound like such a bad idea. I decided to give him a call. But before I could pick up the receiver, the phone rang. "Hello?" I said. "Uh...hi, this is Sam; my friend Jacques gave me your number." "Oh, hi. How are you; my name is Jason." And then conversation went on normally from there. We talked for a bit, and then he asked if I could call him back in five minutes. After hanging up with Sam, I called D. We talked about the "Sam" idea, and he thought it was cool. We called Sam back on conference call. D and Sam talked about guitars and influences, while I sat back in amazement over how low his voice was. He was as old as D, but he had a really manly voice. It sounded cool. He sounded like a good fellow to know, and so we made plans for a rehearsal. Just like the year prior, the only ay left to practice was the Friday before the gig. Sam was free and so BOOM, the dye had been cast.
     D and I talked for awhile after that and he could not stop talking about how much he liked this Sam-character. I told Al about it, and he was fine with the whole thing. All that was left was Friday.
     At the time I played with a bunch of drums and cymbals. Compared to my kit now, it was huge. But since that Friday was such a special occasion, I added more things to the kit just for taste, to make the whole situation amazing. The phone rang, and it was Sam on the other line asking if it was ok if Jacques came down with him. Great! Then he asked me for directions to my house. Only a few short minutes later he arrived. He pulled in, driving a red Izuzu Trooper. He had chin length hair. He and Jacques got out of the car. Sam seemed warm; Jacques seemed on edge and nervous. I helped them carry their stuff downstairs where the others were waiting. From what I could make of it, Jacques was just coming to watch. Darren was on guitar. Alex was on bass. I was on the drums of course. Sam plugged in, hooked up all his pedals, and tuned. He was so inviting as a person. His voice seemed less low than I recalled, but nevertheless, he possessed a kind and gentle manner about him. Jacques found himself a stool and sat quietly in the corner with his chin in his palm.
     What next? We decided to play our songs for him. First we played "So I Fall Again." I couldn't tell if he liked it nor not. He had this "Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Cool" kind of thing happening. Either he loved it and was imploding or he found it fair and was just not telling us. Then we played him the rest. I am not sure if he just came in on the guitar, or if we showed him the song structure, but regardless, within only an hour of meeting, we were all totally playing together. After our quick stint of originals, we decided to give a go at playing some cover tunes. Besides, that was what we were going to have to do at the Homecoming gig anyways, simply because we did not have anywhere near 45 minutes worth of our own stuff. He knew every song we picked. It was again one of those moments when you just smile because everything is working out effortlessly. Things were great. Jacques still sat , chin in palm, in the corner.
     I could not quite gage Jacques. Why was he here with us? Why had he no plans on a Friday night? Such a busy man? Why? Whatever.
     We were mid song - some cover, when out of nowhere I heard a harmony being sung underneath Alex's lead. My head jerked up to find Jacques singing back-up into an extra mic that we had lying around. He sounded really good too. After that, Jacques apologized for his unlawful entry. We didn't care, in fact we were pumped up that he would do that. Next thing I knew, he had his guitar plugged in and we were all playing. Sam on guitar. Jacques on guitar. Darren on guitar. Alex on bass guitar. Myself on the drums. None of us knew it, but this was the lineup that was one day going to be known as PHANTOM PLANET.
     The view from behind my drum kit was so cool: those guys all rocking out, playing loud and hard. But it was at this moment when reality hit me hard. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute. You can't have three guitars in one band. It will sound like a big mud trench or something. This can't be!" Obviously I had little knowledge of the fact that The Eagles had pulled it off, and most recently the band Radiohead had done it too. After playing for quite some time, we took a break and went upstairs to the kitchen. Sam and Jacques sat on my kitchen counter looking rather skinny and meek, in comparison to Darren and Alex who were befriending Alex. After all, he by this time did have spiky bleached blonde hair and a punk attitude about things. He was kind of a "Sid Vicious meets Jiminy Cricket": a jerk who had a conscience. But Sam and Jacques soon figured out that he was not a bad guy and all became well.
     The night ended and the next day was going to be long and hard. Jacques now had a smile on his face and could tell that this night had really been a test...a test to see if this band had any potential. I guess he figured it did. He parted with the words, "Call me. Tell me how it went." My reply was, "Ok. And good luck on the SATs." "P-SATs" he corrected. The next day went great. We even had a sound check. Looking back, it really was just making sure the one mic Alex sang on worked. But regardless, it was a GODDAMN sound check. We played all our songs well. The covers even came out great.
     The gig did leave me puzzled though. Who was going to be the guitarist in the band? Jacques? Sam? They both were so right for this group. I foresaw a problem.
     After that show I didn't speak to Sam for months. Jacques though, was now coming over to my house for practice on the weekends. He had a friend who played the bass, and so now Alex just sang, occasionally playing guitar. Things went smoothly for a little while. Then out of the blue we lost our bass player for reasons that will remain personal between him and us. We now were back to square one. Alex could play bass, but I don't think he really wanted to. Discussing the dilemma over pizza one night, Jacques offered the idea of perhaps Sam playing bass. "Sam could play bass." "Does he know how?" I asked. What a dumb question! Did it matter? It was Sam for heaven's sake. This was it. The perfect set up: Sam and Jacques. This was going to be the last decision about a band lineup ever to be made.
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CHAPTER FIVE: GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER
     Jacques was the one who called Sam and asked him if he'd like to come over and play. He came over, driving that same red Trooper, with the same chin-length hair, with the same mellow voice. Only difference was that this time he pulled a bass out from his car and not a guitar. His father owned and still owns a lot of musical equipment, among them a plethora of guitars and basses. So it was a cold switch for Sam; he didn't have to go out and buy a whole new instrument.
     At this practice we only played our songs. We worked on "So I Fall Again" and "FBI" mostly. I don't really remember if Sam played the songs well or not, but I do remember the way it all felt: good. It was all too clear at that moment on that night, that these were the guys I was looking for.
     For the next few months we just practiced every weekend, usually Friday night and all day on Saturday. During the week I couldn't concentrate on school. My mind was going a thousand thoughts per minute. I was a dreamer. All the things this band was going to do...the stages, the crowds, the songs, the future...
     And so this is how 9th grade progressed. After a short while our catalog of songs had grown to be about five or so. My cousin Roman liked the band a lot and offered to record us at my house. For an entire weekend downstairs in the ballet room, we made our first demo under the band name Lithium Blue. The demo included: "So I Fall Again," "My Side," "Terra," "FBI" and a new song called "My Friend Liz's Dad," a tune Al and I tried to record on our own once but failed. The demo to our standards, sounded great. Things were moving.
     Things really got moving when one day at practice Al told us that his friend's band was playing the Whiskey and might have a slot on the bill for us. That was it. You could have killed me right there and I would have been ok. Ever since I was real young I have dreamed of one day taking the stage at the Whiskey. I think we all freaked out. I think we even hugged or something. There was only one problem: songs. We only had five songs done. There were many in the works, but they were far from playable. We needed a miracle. It was late in the week, Thursday perhaps, and we would find out whether or not we had the gig on Monday. The show would be the following Friday. If we knew the news was going to be bad, yes, it would be a let-down.
     Aware of the pressure, Sam offered the band his father's recording studio (in his house) as possible "shack-up-for-the-weekend-and-work-our-asses-off" practice space. The light was bad in the ballet room and we needed a change of environment, so we agreed. Besides, a band-weekend sounded like trouble in the making. Trouble was what it was all about.
     That weekend was one of the defining moments in Phantom Planet history, for it was after that weekend when we emerged with 12 new songs. The already completed songs were harnessed and polished, and the new songs were finally orchestrated and played loud. I think we slept for five hours over the course of that weekend. It was great. We would learn the songs, play them, go eat somewhere, come back, play them again, watch t.v., play, then sleep.
     One night during that weekend - I guess Saturday - we were all out eating dinner. Afterward, we set course back to Sam's. I am not sure how it happened, but we noticed a car full of girls following us. After it was positive that they were indeed following us, I told Sam to pull over. Someone else and I got out of the car and approached the girls who were giggling and listening to some Grateful Dead record. We asked the girls if they wanted to come back to Sam's and check out our band. They said they wanted to, and so it had begun. I don't know about the others, but I felt pretty f*cking slick.
     While we were tuning and getting ready to play, we asked the girls some questions: who their favorite bands were, etc...It was clear just based from the bands they listed that the following 45 minutes was going to be rough. It was.
     Here we were playing for thes girls, rocking out these new songs (which we were proud of), and they were just giggling and whispering to each other. Great. That was all we needed. Our slick night as a rock and roll group was over. They played it as cool as they could, but regardless, it did hurt a little. After they left, my cousin Sofia and her boyfriend Spike came over. They were a bit more responsive. Sofia immediately started thinking bands we should open for. Spike just took pictures and filmed us playing cover songs. That was real fun. That night, today, feels like a dream.
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CHAPTER SIX: GETTING OUR FIRST SHOW
     The news regarding the Whiskey turned out to be negatory. We were pretty down about that. At least looking on the bright side, we had 12 songs now. That is all you need. 45 minutes. The Whiskey gig didn't matter. We were confident that something was going to happen. Something did happen, and it came in the form of a phone call. On the other end of the phone was a friend of older brother Matthew, named Belinda. Apparently Belinda was cleaning out Matthew's car, and found in the backseat the demo that D and Al and I had made; the one with "So I Fall Again" on it. She told me that she really liked it, and that she might be able to get us a show at the Dragonfly, a 21 and over club in Hollywood. I guess she wanted our permission to try and get the gig. I guess she was also out of her mind..."GO AND GET IT, GODDAMN IT! DON'T ASK ME! OF COURSE I WANT TO PLAY! GO, GO, GO!"
     She called me up ten minutes later. "March 5th."
     This was it. The real gig. The clubs. The audience. The cigarettes. I told the guys, who in turn went pretty crazy. The weeks that succeeded were filled with practices and meetings with the band at Belinda's house up in the canyons off Crescent Heights. There we talked about the set, the fliers, the music and of course the new band name: Phantom Planet.
     The story of the name goes a littel something like this:
Alex's room is notorious. There is no ground, I am convinced. It is just CD cases, shirts, note pads, and Nintendo games. The room should be a landmark as far as I am concerned. The room is also the kind of place where things just magically appear. For instance, one day I was sitting in his room and I just found a pair of Arnet sunglasses on the ground. "I didn't know you had Arnets," I said. "Neither did I," Al replied, as he happened to find a laser pointer pen inside a turkey sandwich he was eating. The story states that one day, while toiling around in his room, Al found a CD called Neil Norman's Science Fiction's Greatest Hits: Volume One. Curious, Al popped the CD in the player and gave it a go. A little more than halfway through the record, a song came blasting on that caught Al's ear. It was a combination of odd times, muted guitars and funky drums. It was a sonic onslaught. Al quickly snatched up the case to see what the song was called. As he counted down the back with his finger, he came to the song, "Theme From Phantom Planet."

BBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!

     That was it. Al liked it so much that he called us all and asked us what we thought. My call went a little something like this: "Hey J, I think I got the band name. Ready?...PHANTOM (beat) PLANET. What do you think?" I liked it. "Phantom: you know, because we're mysterious. Planet: we are kind of universal and futuristic-space-age," he offered. I liked it. I didn't need to be sold on it. Neither did anyone else for that matter. Committing to a name is a hard thing to do. But it worked out.
     The preparations were all being made. Sam took an old comic sketch of a phantom, and put the band name in with it. It looked good. Real. We had shirts made up of the same look. Everything was in place. We also thought...
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