By Hanson Meyer
Our band typically recorded every practice on cassette, and early on I had also procured a reel to reel tape recorder that we used to record our earliest demos. All of our early recordings with the exception of this one that I found were lost when I moved to San Diego in 1986. I had been moving all day and arrived exhausted at my new place late at night. I decided to unload my car in the morning which proved to be a major mistake as my car was broken into that night and everything was stolen. The only things that survived were the items that I unknowingly left behind at my dad’s house in this particular box. My dad gave me the box years later and I just shoved it into a closet where it waited for me to get to it later.
The following is a reconstruction of my life during the formation of Uniform Choice and the time I spent writing songs and playing bass for the band based on my memory, my daily diaries and other information I found in the box.
|Original Line-Up of Uniform Choice Left to Right: Myke Bates, Eric Hanna, Hanson Meyer, Elliott Colla|
|Sticker from Bate Skates|
|Myke Bates playing with Black Flag in Palm Springs, 1981|
|Rodney on the ROQ, Volume 2|
|Early Subservice Flyer from 1981|
We bonded immediately and started hanging out in Balboa regularly talking about our favorite bands and the shows that we had been to. I began to think that he might be a good addition to Moral Sin because we had lost our original singer and we were having problems finding a good, committed front man. But all Myke talked about was playing guitar and didn’t seem as interested in being a singer. We already had a guitarist and I knew that Myke didn’t have a guitar amp… so up to this point, I had put off asking him to join the band.
It was the second week of April when Myke called me very excited. He told me that Greg Ginn of Black Flag gave him an amplifier to use. I couldn’t believe it and was genuinely excited for him and I was even thinking in the back of my mind that maybe he might be able to play guitar with our band after all.
But as quickly as he had the amplifier, he lost it. It happened in the early Monday morning hours of April 12, 1982 that a fire broke out in the Bayview Hotel where Myke was staying. People woke in their sleep to the smell of smoke and dashed out of the hotel in their pajamas. Myke, alongside
everyone else, ran out of the hotel leaving all of his possessions behind. At
the time he said that all you could hear were people screaming and running
towards the exits, so his immediate instinct was to get out of the building as quickly as possible.
Once he made his way through the hotel lobby doors and into the street, he realized that much of the hotel wasn’t visibly on fire yet. And when a woman was screaming that she still had a pet inside, Myke ran back
in for the woman’s small dog. After he made his second trip out of the building and returned the small pet to the woman, he thought that he might have enough time to
rescue some of his belongings but just as he decided to "chance it", the fire department showed up and wouldn’t
let anyone back in the building. He was forced to just stand there and watch
the hotel, with all of his possessions, burn to the ground. I remember him
taking me by the hotel the next day, and from Palm Street he pointed up to the
burned out wall and window of his room where you could see the side of the
Marshall guitar amp badly burned out with the four Black Flag bars visibly
spray painted on the side. Like most of the other hotel guests, he didn’t have
any form of insurance and the best the Bayview Hotel’s insurance could do was
to get him a room down the street at the Bay Shores Inn and give him several
hundred dollars to make up for a portion of what he lost in the fire. After
buying clothes and food, all he had left was enough money to buy a Gibson
“Mini-Paul” guitar. It was a nice cream colored guitar with rounded edges, but
he was back to square one in regards to an amplifier.
|Bayview Hotel in Balboa on Fire in the Early Morning Hours of April 12, 1982|
It was less than a week later that Myke, although a little depressed about the fire, started to press me about starting a new band with myself and Eric. He told me that someway, somehow, he had to get an amplifier because royalties were owed to him by Posh Boy Records for the Rodney on the ROQ song, and he wanted to use the royalties to put out a new record with his next band on the Posh Boy label. This all sounded great to me and appeared to be the real deal. So at that point I told him that maybe he could join Moral Sin as a second guitarist and we could give it a try with his songs. I did tell him that nothing could be done until I had the approval of the other band members. He quickly agreed and said that he would get to work on trying to find another amplifier.
I immediately mentioned the prospect of Myke joining the band to the rest of the guys and the idea was received with mixed feelings. Eric thought it was a great idea and that it would be a move in the right direction, but Dave was not so optimistic. After I pressed the issue, Dave reluctantly agreed and I was off to break the news to Myke.
I explained the delicate nature of his joining the band and that Dave was not real excited about the idea. I also told Myke that since Dave was a good friend of mine I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize my friendship with him. Myke was amiable and said that he would sing initially and that he and Dave could share guitar responsibilities… We had another friend named Paul Thiel who said that he might be interested in singing and so we invited him to our first practice.
The only real band equipment I had besides the Fender Musicmaster bass I had bought in March was a small 15 watt practice amp, a Rickenbacker 2 channel amp I used for a synthesizer I had and a couple of Les Paul copy guitars. Since Myke didn’t have a guitar amp and I didn’t have a bass amp, I decided that in the interim, we could both plug into the one Rickenbacker amp with each of us using a separate channel.
The first practice happened on April 24, 1982 and was a little disjointed to say the least. We couldn’t all meet at the same time so Paul, Myke and I met early in the afternoon and went through some songs together. Afterwards, I had to go to work so Myke and Paul then met with Eric that evening and jammed together. After I finished work later that night, Myke shared with me that he thought Eric was an amazing drummer and was really excited to get this new band off the ground. We practiced one more time before the end of the month, but Paul decided that it was too much work and didn’t make it past the second practice. During this second practice with just Eric, Myke and I, we recorded our first four songs on a small tape recorder. For some reason Dave wasn’t at either of the first two practices but things went really well and sounded full with only the three of us.
Every time I went to a punk show, it pumped me full of enthusiasm for getting our band off the ground. I wanted to be on stage performing and creating all the energy that surrounded a band’s live performance. So every opportunity I had, I went to see my favorite groups play. The Sex Pistols were one of my favorite bands, but after their break-up following Sid Vicious’ death, the closest you could get was to see John Lydon perform in PIL. That was… until the Professionals did a tour of the USA. I had never heard of the Professionals at the time, but some of my friends told me that Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols were in the band, so we had to go. I had a friend named John Liechty who was an amazing guitarist that played with the ska band, Secret Service. He had an appreciation for all music and said he would drive me and my friends Hayden Thais and Scott Murdock up to the show.
|John Liechty's Car|
The show was amazing… CH3 opened the show and they were great. KROQ had been playing their song “You Make Me Feel Cheap” on the radio constantly and they did a great live rendition. They were followed by the Flesh Eaters who had John Doe and DJ Bonebreak from the band X in it as well as one of the Alvin brothers from the Blasters. The Professionals came on as the headliner and the crowd went crazy both in the pit and from the stage doing dives. I did a number of stage dives as well until I took flight off of one of the monitors and came down inconveniently between the bodies below and landed directly on my elbow which immediately swelled up to the size of a large orange… Fortunately, I didn’t break it.
On May 1st we had our first full practice with Dave. Dave was learning Myke’s songs and was a little agitated as Myke had seemingly taken control over the band. But he bit his lip and we made it successfully through our set.
The main questions that always seem to come up are "How did we come up with the name Uniform Choice for the band?"... and, when was the exact moment that we started to call the band by that name? Well, in the beginning of May we continued to practice together and in addition to several songs Myke had brought from Subservice, he and I had started to collaborate on songs; I had written some riffs, and he added lyrics. We also at this point discussed changing the name of the band from Moral Sin to Uniform Choice. This is where we have to rewind about a year and go back to when Myke was still in Palm Springs working at his skateboard shop. While working there one day, Pete Nelson from Target 13 was hanging out killing time and without a word grabbed a pen and paper on the counter and scrawled on it "You Are The Uniform Choice" with an arrow pointed at Myke. To this day, Myke doesn't know why he did it, it just happened. And although he was a member of Subservice at that time, Myke embraced the name that Pete came up with and knew that if and when he started a new band, it would be called "Uniform Choice". He actually liked the name so much he wrote a song called Uniform Choice while he was still in Subservice. Once Subservice had disbanded in early 1982 and Myke moved to Newport, he was determined to find new musicians and form a band that would be called by that name. When Myke first introduced the name to me, we discussed how it applied to us and our band, and
Since Dave and I were close friends, it was strange that he wasn’t showing up to our practices and he was seemingly becoming more distant from the project. I think he may have felt “slighted” and it became obvious that he was looking for other bands to play with as he asked me on May 5th to practice with another band that had him and another high school friend named Morgan Livingston in it. After Dave and I practiced with the other band, he took me up to Eric’s house where we all practiced with Uniform Choice until the end of the night. Myke drove me home while Eric talked to Dave and it was after that point that Dave was no longer in the band.
The show was awesome and was full of craziness including multiple fights and guys doing dives from the top of the PA speaker stacks into the crowd below. Pat Dyson remembered that somebody dumped a bucket of water over Tony Cadena and he was so pissed off about it, he refused to play… so although all the members of the Abandoned were there, they cancelled just before playing. TSOL was good as usual but in my opinion, Flipper stole the show. Ted came out on a dark stage under a lone spotlight, plugged his guitar into his amp, struck a perfectly tuned chord and then walked up to the microphone in the middle of the stage and said, “Hold on… I need to tune my guitar”. He carefully took his guitar off pulling the strap over his head and while looking upwards, crouched down and then launched his guitar up some 25 feet into the air where it came plummeting down with a crash onto the stage. The guitar screamed and moaned with feedback while he gently picked it up again. He then turned it face down to the floor and hurled it across the stage so that it slid like a sled on the strings until it made a sudden impact with the bass amplifier. The guitar wailed continuously with feedback as if it were in terrible pain while Ted slowly made his way across the stage to retrieve it. At this point he gently picked the guitar up again, this time pulling the strap back over his head as he walked calmly up to the microphone. All the while, the rest of the band had taken their positions under the cover of darkness awaiting Ted’s signal. He strummed a terribly out of tune chord and then softly announced, “Okay, we’re ready to go”. All the lights came up on the stage and the band started their set. It was pure poetic chaos!
|My Fender Bass Amplifier|
With only three of us in the band at the time, it was easy to coordinate practices and so we practiced all the time at Eric’s house. Myke, since he had sang previously in other bands, decided to sing for the time being while playing guitar. I even sang a few songs and we were a power trio while shopping for a
new lead singer. During this time, I borrowed a 4-Track recorder
from a school friend of mine named Bill Nord and we were able to start
recording some of our songs including the song “My Life”.
|Early Song List from Band Practice|
After a little over a month of writing songs and practicing, we had a dozen original songs under our belt including: Uniform Choice (Theme), Non-Forgotten Hero, Anti-Fascism, Filthy Rich, Religion is Recruiting, My Life, War is Here, Self Respect, Light Weight, On the Front Line, The World Evolves and Don’t Take the Car which was our song speaking out against drinking and driving through a satirical spin-off of a PSA commercial that was running on local television at the time. We had tried practicing with two of our previous singers that month, Paul Thiel and Scott Brandon. But as it turned out, both of them were still undecided and neither one of them wanted to commit to the band and so we found ourselves still looking for a singer as we entered the month of June.
|First Flyer Drawn in Pencil for June 5, 1982|
It was at this time that I had approached a schoolmate named Elliott Colla about singing for us. Elliott and I had some mutual friends and I had heard him guest DJ on KUCI’s college radio station where he spun a lot of punk and otherwise good underground music. Elliott seemed upbeat about the prospect and on June 4th he came to his first practice with us. Elliott had a decent voice, good tone and excellent timing. It seemed that we had found our guy. We were supposed to play our first show at Balboa Theater on June 5th but we cancelled it so we could focus on getting Elliott in shape for a real debut of the band. We practiced with him the entire month of June and recorded a number of songs with him.
|Lft: Hanson and Elliott. Right: Myke. Lower (LtoR): Elliott, Hanson, Eric and Myke.|