Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Puzzle...

Here's my new bio. Let me know what you think.

My grandma says my family was made of up horse thieves and preachers. I haven’t touched a horse since I was 4 years old....

I was born in Eugene, Oregon because Oakridge was to small to have a hospital. Eugene is a town made famous by it’s hippies and anarchist. I guess at times I have both traits. Oakridge is where my Dad’s from. It’s proverbial ghost town killed off when the lumber mill shut down when I was two. My Dad was a mill worker so we had to move. We eventually settled in Roseburg a small conservative town made up of suburbs, mill workers and a few hippies. My mom was a hippie. I was raised on a steady diet of whole wheat bread and other healthy essentials. (She constantly tried to trick me into eating TOFU!!!).

I was also raised in church. My earliest childhood memory is dressing up in a suit for Sunday morning and declaring I was gonna be a preacher when I grew up! My first taste of music came in the form of church music. I went to holy roller assembly and it was quite common to see a shouting preacher and red face piano player three times a week. When I was old enough, I was quickly placed in a small private school that was a good example of Christian education gone horribly wrong. Some how I escaped the rod but some of my friends eventually lost count of their beatings. My teachers would always say I was a good kid I just talked to much, even to them.

When I was in 5th grade, I discovered what in many ways was a saving grace: Punk Rock. When Green Day came blasting out of my friend Justin’s stereo I found a reason to live. Going to church and organized religion had become boring but punk rock was alive and fun. In place of hypocrisy, I found acceptance and for the first time in my life I had friends.

When I was 15, while on a trip to visit a bible college in Southern California, I had the good fortune to have my heart broken by a pastors daughter. As I sat down to vent in my journal, to my surprise, a set of lyrics came out. Soon, I started writing hundreds of lyrics and dreaming of the day when I could play in a band. The only problem was I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t play guitar.

About the same time, a guy named Pete Kroll came into my life and for the first time I saw a relationship with Jesus for what it was intended to be: an friendship and an adventure!!! I hesitantly signed up not quite sure where the road would lead. I quickly learned to compartmentalize my faith and my music. No matter how hard I tried the two seemed at constant odds. I was told by my teachers that punk rock was unacceptable and I was benched on the basketball team for dying my hair. So much for grace and mercy.

Two years later, I attended Tomfest (an independent Christian nw music festival). I saw bands like 90 LB Wuss, Havalina and Five Iron Frenzy display honesty and quality I had seldom scene. I happen to wonder by Shorthanded’s set just in time to see them throw out an abundance of merch, including an oddly autographed drum head. Later, I stopped by their merch booth and found out they lived just a few hours from my house. We talked about possibly bringing them down for a show. When I returned home, I relayed the weeks events to my mother and told her it would be fun to invite Shorthanded down sometime. Unbeknownced to me she proceeded to pick up the phone and book Shorthanded for my birthday party three weeks later. Soon I found myself promoting as many shows as possible, and watched the ever expanding world of the music business unfold.

After I graduated high school, I went off to study in Denver, Colorado with Youth With A Mission. Despite my efforts put my faith on the shelf, I never could escape the fact that I new there was a God who loved me and wanted what best for me. When I arrived in Denver with stunning clarity I heard God say, “Send your cd’s home. You’ve made music an idol in your life.” Six weeks later I begrudgingly agreed and packed off 100 cd’s in a box post marked for Oregon. That was Tuesday Feb. 13th 2001. I woke up the next day with a new set of lyrics in head and on Thursday Feb. 14th 2001, I picked up my roommates guitar and beat out the melody for my first song. I had no clue what I was doing. I had to ask my friends I was playing: they told me bar chords. 15 days later I played the songs at a local open mic. It had begun.

When I returned home for the summer, I recorded The Wasted Days EP with my band Miles Mouth Guard. The band consisted of my good friends Tyler Hentschel (Insomniac Folklore) on guitar, Jory Randall on bass plus a 40 year old Safeway clerk named Ken on drums. We recorded on 9-11 and quickly changed our layout removing images of planes and bombs. As we proudly marched to practice with our new cd, we marveled out how punk rock our record sounded. Ken remarked, “Punk rock sounds like shit.” He was right. In mixing stages our record had been flat lined. So much for instant success.

I after I finished my schooling in Denver, I returned home to Oregon to find my beloved punk scene dead. I played a few acoustic shows around town that summer but decided to put down my guitar and start Rock4Reason, a non-profit concert collective dedicated to providing all age music for to Southern Oregon. With the help of my parents, sister and countless amazing friends, I was fortunate to work with many of top up and coming bands from around the nation. I got a chance book tours for bands such as As I Lay Dying, Emery, Showbread and Countdown To Life and learn first hand what it means to be a musician. Around March 2004, I started toying with the idea of leaving Oregon and R4R and in May I made it official. I was moving to San Francisco.

In early 2004, I began to participate in a open mic down at a local country bar. I made it my quest to play the most honest music I could produce. As I wrote new songs, something strange started to happen; elements of country and gospel started to appear in my music. I didn’t know what to do. I grew up hating this music. I couldn’t play it. Gospel belonged in churches and country music came from hell. Soon, I realized the inevitable was happening. I was enjoying country and Gospel music. God forbid!

With my move quickly approaching, all the work promoting and booking shows had got me itching to begin playing in a band again. I soon enlisted some friends and The Southern Oregon Gospel Trio was born. We played 13 shows, with the likes of The Fall of Troy, Akimbo, Big Business, Schoolyard Hereo’s and Believing In June and recorded the Glory Bound EP in just under three months.

Originally, I intended to move to San Francisco to attend seminary and play in a band on the side. Unfortunately, before I could pay my first months rent the seminary closed. I was left with music as my focus. I got a job bagging groceries again and soon I started playing guitar in a hardcore band. But something was wrong, I didn’t feel honest. I wasn’t born to play hardcore. I knew I had to sing my songs. I had to play rock n‘ roll like my heroes: Johnny Cash, Mike Ness and Hank Williams.

That was one year and three releases ago. San Francisco has made me a better musician. With every show things change just a bit and I get a little more out of control. These days, I spend more energy on stage than I ever have in a punk band and Friday night I even sang a Gospel song. Tyler summed things up wonderfully the other day, “Your evolving right before our eyes, into what we don’t know, but we like what we see.“ Honestly, I don’t know what I even sound like these days or what tomorrow will bring but good things are happening. By the grace of God, I am recovering from the pains of my youth. Each day I figure out a little more about the person I am intended to be. Who would of thought but in some strange way I found my salvation in San Francisco. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m one person not two. I’m learning to be honest and at peace with my heritage and my faith.

In about a week, I am getting ready to move for the fourth time this year. Hopefully, I’ll finally get to settle down. I have a hard time guessing what tomorrow will bring much less next month but I know brighter days are bound to come soon enough. In the meantime, I guess I should pack some boxes and fix my CD player.

Please drop me a line or come out to a show and say hello. Without people to listen a musicians life is a sad existence. I can’t thank you enough.


Nate Allen

I don’t know what I’ll sound like tomorrow but these artists have influenced me as of late. Hopefully you’ll get the idea. Mike Ness/Social Distortion, Johnny Cash, Jeff Suffering, Havalina, Hank Williams, The Blackjacks, Old 97’s, Against Me!, Flogging Molly, Green Day, Mike Knott, Arthur, Zippy Josh, The Violent Femmes, Kat Jones, Violence and Valentine, Pedro The Lion and Iknowkungfu.


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