By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Shawn graduated from high school after all, and at the age of 17 he entered the work force. “I got out and worked a year straight and hated it. Laundry at a nursing home. There were a couple of jobs, but that’s the one that took the cake. Holy shit, a nursing home‘s like death row. I hate to talk about it like that, but, uh, I was there. I was writing lyrics about how I want to die young. The last job I got before I moved in with my father was at a glass company, which was horrible. Bloody every day.”
One day his father pulled him aside. “He talks to me and says, ’What are you doing?‘ I’m like, ‘I’m working.‘ He tells me, ’You should get the fuck out of this state before you get a kid. Go find a music school.‘ And so I looked around and I found M.I., and I was like, ’I‘m moving to Hollywood, what do you think of that?’ And he was like, ‘Go -- go have the time of your life. Because you’re gonna be old before you know it.‘”
Dan grew up less than a mile from Shawn in Uxbridge. His dad is a state police officer. The two didn’t know each other until Dan started practicing his drums every day after school. “Shawn showed up at the house one day and told me, ‘I heard there was a drummer around, so I went and found you.’”
Dan had actually been in the audience to witness Shawn‘s infamous talent-show debut years before. “I just thought it was cool seeing kids my age playing Metallica,” a
he says. When Hostile Groove’s original drummer left, Shawn quickly recruited Dan. Out of high school, they both found themselves working full time and playing around the area. Then Shawn called with a proposition.
“He called me up and was like, ‘Man, come over here. I want you to read something.’ I went over and he had this brochure from M.I., and he handed it to me. I sat there and I started reading, and I read the whole damn thing. And I was like, ‘When are we going?’”
Shawn nods. “I told him, ‘We can stay here and work, or we can go out there and maybe play music for the rest of our lives.’”
Inside a darkened classroom, a dimly lit stage is crowded with students jamming on a song called “Just Friends,” by nouveau-soul singer Musiq Soulchild. Sitting in a chair facing them is a man in an electric-blue suit, bowler hat and two-tone shoes. He looks a bit like the late blues legend Willie Dixon back in his prime. His name is Masta, and he is their teacher. The class is called “Stagecraft.”
Masta sings in a clear, strong voice, then beckons various students to improvise their own lyrics. He motions to a small, waiflike blond girl, and she tentatively steps forward. Masta sings to her, then waits for her response. She shakes her head and shyly declines in a thick Swedish accent. Masta smiles and sings to her again, coaxing her to join in.
The girl, Lina, takes a deep breath and starts to sing in a surprisingly strong and expressive soprano. Masta rocks back and laughs warmly. “That‘s it, Lina, sing to me!” She smiles and starts swaying to the music, closing her eyes as she sings.
Aytunc Akdo is from the island of Cyprus, just off the coast of Turkey. He came to Hollywood a few months back to learn how to sing American R&B music. His first night here, the delicate-looking teenager found himself all alone in a local youth hostel. This was not the Hollywood he had expected. “I couldn’t sleep,” he says. “I told myself that in the morning, with sunlight, it‘s going to all be better.” It wasn’t.
On campus, Aytunc started telling people he wanted to go home. They suggested he talk to Masta, who invited him to his class. Aytunc loved it. “We were singing, and Masta heard me and stopped the class and told them about my situation. I feel like, first I came here and it was bad dream. Now it‘s just really good, I have friends, I have school. And I feel they are like me, and I was like them. Yesterday I was talking to a girl, and she was telling me that she was going to go back to her country, Japan. I told her, ’I was just like you. You should try.‘”
The school’s coffeehouse is called the Green Room. Sitting at a table outside, drum student Jon Udell looks like your average “alternative” type -- pointy goatee, blondish dreads, mirrored wraparound shades. He is discussing musical influences when he throws out a solid curve.
“I was 12 years old, and I went to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see Motley Crue. I‘m there with my buddy, and we look and Tommy Lee is [suspended above the audience] at a 90-degree angle. And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I want to do.‘ I wanted to be a rock star. I saw Tommy Lee, and it just changed my life.”