Phillip Lawless: Baritone
How did you hear about/find us?
Facebook or a concert flyer, I think. I mainly remember finding out about the band and being really excited to tell Wendy (my wonderful wife/trumpet player) that it existed. One of the things we’ve always had in common was our history of high school band nerdage. When we found out about CCB, we were still living in Pinson, so we knew we couldn’t make the practices after work. Joining the band became a long-term goal after our planned move back to civilization.
What is your musical background/history?
I became a tuba player in 1987. The summer before 7th grade, they had try-outs in the Bragg Junior High (Gardendale) band room. The director let you try playing different instruments, and then he suggested what would be the best fit for you. I was amped to go, and I
just knew I was destined to be a super-cool drummer dude. When he suggested French horn or tuba for me I wanted to cry. Time would prove he was probably right…personality and talent-wise, tuba/low brass ended up being the perfect fit.
We moved for 8th grade, so I was thrown into a marching band for my second year playing tuba – the Fyffe Red Devils in Fyffe, Ala. Tiny school, but we had a good band director and did well in marching competitions around Alabama. The year I was there was also the year they had all the UFO sightings in Fyffe, so that was cool.
We moved back to Birmingham, and I was in marching band and concert band for three years at Huffman High School, 1989-1992. We had four tubas total, and we were all goofy as hell. We always had a good time, but, thinking about it now, we had to be annoying and obnoxious as all get out. In 11th grade, I was 6th chair All-City Band. I don’t think I practiced at all before the tryout. I mainly tried out to get out of my 7th period class to go to practices. We played a Christmas show at Boutwell Auditorium. I followed that momentous achievement by quitting band before my senior year so I could hang out with my ‘cool’ friends at pep rallies.
I hadn’t touched a horn since 1992 when we joined CCB. I switched to baritone because tuba prices are too damn high.
What is your favorite “Band Song” to play?
I have a hard time remembering what we played in high school. The only thing I remember is Janet Jackson’s ‘Escapade,’ but that was never a favorite. What I do remember was a ‘tuba jam’ rivalry with the other Birmingham City Schools. Every city band’s tuba section had short riff type jams, and we’d duel back and forth during football games. One of our jams was the bass line from ‘Cusswords’ by Too $hort, and I figured out one jam based on the ‘Heat Miser Song’ from a Rankin/Bass Christmas special. The drums would join in, and we’d be blowing as loud as we could … swinging and leaning back … basically acting a fool. Sometimes the director would have to stomp up the steps waving her arms to get us to stop jamming.
What do you do when you are not playing music? (work/hobbies/for fun???)
‘Professionally,’ I shovel editorial/content/media all day/night/weekend. I made the move to digital media a few years back after watching print media slowly wither and die. My hobby is basically collecting hobbies.
Heavy metal/punk/hardcore/weirdo music shows
Comic book reader/collector
Watching/attending independent pro wrestling shows
UAB football/basketball fan
Horror/sci-fi/trash film cinephile
Horror/sci-fi/trash literature connoisseur
Bank and creek bass fishing
Thrift store picker
All imperial stouts all the time beer nerd
Expensive cheeseburger expert
Writing but hating every second of it
My most time consuming/expensive hobby is live music though. I have chased underground metal bands all around the Southeast for decades. (If you need to know anything about small or mid-sized concert venues in Birmingham or Atlanta, I’m your guy.) I really, really love multi-stage metal festivals where I can run from stage to stage and see dozens of bands performing in the same place. I’ve been able to attend metal fests in Milwaukee, North Carolina, Atlanta, Baltimore, Las Vegas and Tennessee over the years.
What type of animal/breed of dog/cat/bird/fish/other etc…. best reflects your personality and why?
I want to say a soaring, dangerous bird of prey. You know, a falcon or war hawk that’s alert and circling …always ready to shoot down from the heavens for a vicious blitzkrieg attack. In reality, I’m probably more like a koala bear. Once I wake up and eat, I’m generally ready to go back to sleep. I guess I’m getting old.
What is your superpower?
Ugh…the only time I ever felt like a superhero was when I worked at a magazine. I never drank coffee up until then, so when I started cranking down three cups of coffee a day, I was an animal. I would write like a manic, proof dozens of pages, send all the emails and feel like an invincible editorial badass. One problem: I would crash around 2:30 p.m., and then I became this
unstable, emotional wreck. I’m going on a year coffee free, amen. One skill I do have is the ability to get on people’s nerves … I’ve cleared many, many rooms just by being myself. Thankfully I’m 99.9% less obnoxious than I used to be, but I can always rev up the reverse charm when needed.
Tell us something fun! You know, like "That one time at band camp..." Or elsewhere. (funny anecdote/story/amazing coincidence/hidden talent/celebrity encounter, etc...)?
Quick band anecdotes:
In 9th grade we had one big road game in Hartselle, Ala. The band didn’t have to go to school that Friday. The plan was to eat lunch at the mall and then bus up to the game. We were all excited as heck about this trip; it was all we talked about for weeks. Well, I got the damn flu and ended up missing school for a week, and of course I missed the game. All I heard about for weeks after was how much fun the trip was and all the cool/funny/exciting stuff that I missed. Still slightly miffed about that one.
Every year, the first chair tuba player’s mom would have a big spaghetti dinner and invite all the tuba players over before a football game. I remember one year, we went over there and destroyed what felt like 20 pounds of spaghetti, garlic bread and desserts then headed to Lawson Field. Obviously, this was a horrible idea. I’ll spare you the gory details, but that was the only time I listened to the band play the national anthem while I was in the bathroom.
My 7th grade year, my first cousin was in 8th grade band at Bragg. The 7th and 8th grade bands used the band room during separate periods, but we shared tubas. The tubas were huge, and they stayed out in these racks so we didn’t have to pick them up or move them around. Well, my cousin was a jerk: He figured out which tuba I used and he dumped a bottle of Brut cologne down the bell. It was horrible. Every time I breathed in while playing, it felt like I was huffing an entire YMCA men’s locker room.
Cool thing about playing a sousaphone: Getting to wear a beret instead of those dorky bucket band hats. Bad thing about playing a sousaphone: People wadding up cups and paper and throwing them at the bell like a basketball goal. Few things filled me with burning rage like some yahoo throwing garbage at my sousaphone.