Well folks, here we are. The final hours of 2016, and the final hours of our year-long anniversary celebration. As I type this I cannot BELIEVE that I have been pouring my heart and soul into this project for TWO DECADES! The Dementia Cookie Box has been with me since before I learned how to drive, and before I was old enough to even rent my own music equipment from the Doo Wop Shop in Lexington, Kentucky, for our shows - Thanks Momma' for co-signing for us all those years :-)
What you are going to read here will sound like a very "final" sentiment. In one way, it will be. However, do not take it the wrong way and do not mistake the words to follow for sadness.
I grew up in a very small, country town in Kentucky. We had to drive 30 minutes just to go to the grocery store, and I didn't have very many friends... especially friends that lived close enough to where I could easily just ride my bike down the road to their house for a visit. Then I met Barry Corman. Barry also lived down the road from me. In fact, I think that it was our close proximity that helped us to become strong friends in the first place - that, and a rap song about Jack London (the author of White Fang.) But more about that later.
Music was my friend when I didn't have friends. I had a basement room with posters covering the walls - Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and many other superstar groups from the early to mid 90s. I didn't have my own stereo, but I didn't let that get me down. I had something better... my sister's dual-deck, K-Mart karaoke machine! I would spend hours on end wearing out tapes of albums by the aforementioned artists, trying to mimic their vocal stylings and lyrical nonsense. After school, after dinner, after the homework, it was a magnificent way for me to spend the rest of my minutes. I did this for several years, until the excitement grew too much. I had to try to make some of my own music.
I was deep into my love for the Smashing Pumpkins by then, already able to recite and decode the illegible handwritten lyrics from the pages of Siamese Dream. I had also memorized the tiny, typewriter print pages of Pisces Iscariot. Other favorites at the time included Aerosmith's Get a Grip album, the debut Counting Crows record and Hole's Live Through This.
I had purchased a small notebook from the school book fair in 1994. It had a blue, holographic cover on it. I began penning some semi-religious poetry to see what would happen. Within a couple week's time I had a couple dozen songs written with timbre and rhythms in mind. I didn't know what to do with them, except come up with a band name and start making some cassette tape cases. I didn't have anything to put in them, but that didn't matter.
Early band names I had thought of included Purple Lotus and the Vultures. Both were met with HEAVY mocking from kids at school, and a not-so-friendly reminder by one dude that Vulture was what uncle Jesse had called his band in an episode of Full House. Sigh. I didn't care. I got together a few times with my drumming cousin, Lester, and we made some recordings of these rap songs. My first tape was called Vultures: Birds of Pray. (Yes, "pray" making the connection to the positive messages behind my songs.)
Anyway, we will fast forward a bit, and if you want to hear more of the humdrum beginnings, then read the "Story" section up top. When Barry and I first started making music together for the Dementia Cookie Box, we knew what kind of music we liked, but didn't really know how to write or play that kind of music. So, we did what we could. I remember our high school newspaper did a story on us once that referred to our crowd-pleaser, Covergirl Love, as "teeny-bopper" music. It wasn't until years later, after we disbanded, that I figured out what was meant by that.
Moving on. Twenty years later, and my life has changed so much since then. My grandmother once told me that you live many lifetimes within your lifetime. Already I feel what she meant so strongly. I won't even begin to try to list the things I have gone through over the last 20 years that have brought me to where I am now... but I will just say that I have no regrets. We learn from our experiences, and it is those experiences - both good and bad - that make us who we are. I will say though, that I am very happy with my lovely wife of eight years, and our two awesome baby girls. And if you were to ask the 1996 Steve if he thought he would ever be teaching visual arts in an elementary school out in the middle of the Arizona desert, he would have probably laughed in your face. But that's neither here nor there. I am very happy with where I am now and with my career choices.
All artists who are also new parents will probably share the same sentiment: how they wish they had more time for their art. All I can say is that in order to stay sane, I have had to do the best I can with what I have, and I am very thankful to have been both an artist and a new parent in a wonderful age of technological advance! There were many nights over the past couple of years when I would go for walks downtown Princeton, Kentucky, with both babies strapped to me in carriers, headphones in my ears, working on mixes with my mobile devices. There were several times I would spend my lunch break at work laying down vocal tracks in the backseat of my car with a USB microphone. And when I didn't have a rock band to play live shows with... I bought a ukulele and strapped a tambourine to my foot. (See the Voltaic Variety Show!)
But, over the past 5 years of transitions and new jobs and new babies and moves across the country, I have somehow been able to piece together 7 final Dementia Cookie Box tracks for myself, and for you guys. Yes, that's right, I said "final." That does not in ANY way mean that I am quitting music, not sure if I will ever be able to do that, nor would I want to. It just means that after 20 years of writing and recording for myself, I have reached a point in my life where I finally feel that I have said and experienced all I ever wished to with the Dementia Cookie Box. I am now ready to write music for a different purpose. (See The Snowflake Babies!)
Of course, there will always be new Voltaic Variety Show music, and new X-Ray Man music when I get bit by the electronic bug... but by me saying "final" here, it just means that it is finally time for me to say my farewell to the Dementia Cookie Box. And with that, I say thank you so much to all of the people who helped me realize my dreams over the past 20 years. First and foremost, my momma, Stephanie Arban Holt, for instilling in me the love of music at an early age, and the knowledge of some of the great musicians she knew growing up. For always believing in me and supporting me in all my creative endeavours (including Rolling Joe's Coffee Conundrum!) My Dad, for putting music in my blood. Papaw for teaching me how to play guitar, Mamaw for giving us a place to practice and the ability to get whatever equipment we needed to do what we wanted to do (and for the rock n' roll dance parties!) Granny for all of the support, driving us around, and helping to buy us red, fuzzy hats when it was too cold to play music outside in the winter :-) Lester, for helping me drum those early songs, teaching me about drumming, and helping me to purchase my own drum set! And my awesome and unique sister, Sheena McLemore, thank you for always cheering the loudest!
To my loving, patient and awesome wife, Stephanie Baker: When I moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, at the end of 2006, I brought with me a fair amount of fear and uncertainty. I had big ideas in mind, but deciding to go back to college well into my 20s was a daunting decision of its own. That said, It wasn't long before recent negative memories were pushed away by an onslaught of great things. Within six months I had assembled a band, had played our first rock show in a real music venue, and had been interviewed as a new band on the local rock radio station. My grades for my first semester came back and I was doing unexpectedly fantastic, all As and Bs in a new field of study that was completely foreign to me - the Visual Arts. I started saying prayers, thanking God for all of his blessings, bringing me out of dark times and helping me to succeed in a new town, with a new band and a new school. I had a specific checklist I was going through and said to God that, since my music was in order, my grades were in order and it felt like things were finally on the right track... there was one other thing I needed. A girl. I placed an "order" listing all of the traits I was looking for in a girl, not the least of which were someone who was willing to travel, wanted a family someday, and that had a job and could take care of herself if she needed to. It was only six or seven days that had passed when I saw a message and friend request from you online. The big guy got my message :-)
Thank you honey, for 9 years of support, love, inspiration, tolerance, photos and good ideas. Thank you for always coming to my shows and for letting me - no, suggesting - that we move the living room couch into the woods for a few great pictures. Thank you for letting me clear out that same living room (and part of the kitchen) in order to record music for a week. Thank you for being understanding all the times I did things or wanted to do things that you didn't understand. I love you. I am sorry that you fell in love with an artist, we are a difficult breed.
And as I dive into the rest of this list, I will undoubtedly leave someone out, but for those who were there, and who remember, and who care... you know who you are, and I love you all.
Barry Corman, Eric Bowman, Daryl Cook, Ryan Rawls, Jason Goodwill, Shawn Demaray, John Price, Jake McDonald, Jason Field, Ryan McQuerry, Josh Deeter, Eric Marcum, Derrick Miles, Todd Burton, Landon Miller, Matt Talbott, Wally Bates, Becca Petersen, Sonya Fry, Keith Oresky, Josh Rios, Nelson Logan, Johnny Thompson, Caitlin Shaffer, Michala Smith.
There are many more, but those were the players - the ones who helped me to bring my dreams to reality on recordings and stages all over the place. Thank you.
So, Jack London. Barry, thank you for being my number one fan. It was your enthusiasm over my early songs and those garage performances that helped to drive me to keep going. It was more exciting knowing that someone else was interested in hearing what I was writing - someone outside of family. And thank you for being so willing and eager to help design tape cases and videos and things like that as well. All of those things helped to form a reality around my vision; helped make it seem real and possible. For you to be my best friend AND have such an interest in my newfound hobby... it only made sense that you should learn how to play so you could help me with it. I wish that we had a recording of our White Fang rap. It would serve as our earliest, collaborative demo tape. The only line I remember is "Jack London is the author, he's not an imposter," but that is enough to remember we were there. That, and the Barry Corman Show! I love you, man.
So, here they are. Seven new Dementia Cookie Box songs. Free for you, the hardcore fans and friends. This EP will eventually be available on Spotify, iTunes and such, but for now I want you to have these songs for free as your final anniversary gift - The Happy Parade. Most of the songs were written and produced around 2012 or so, but a couple were just finished this year and I have remastered everything as a nice icing on the cake. It features some pretty personal stuff, including "Where Are You Now?" which I wrote and recorded in a drafty apartment in Marion, Kentucky, during the three months I had to live separate from my wife when I started a new job. And then there is the Dementia Cookie Box "Promise," which I recorded while walking the hospital hallways during Stephanie's appointments when we were expecting our second baby. Take your time with these songs, and please pass them along to your friends, or anyone you used to come to the shows with. Tell those guys still driving around Bowling Green with the "i like cookies" bumper stickers about it for me, and please keep tabs on my other music projects, The Voltaic Variety Show, the Snowflake Babies, X-Ray Man and the Stevie B. kids' shows. All of these have icon links on the front page and are all active projects.
In addition to this music, I have also uploaded a special video message to the YouTube video archives. This message is for my students, and to all young people willing to listen to it.
Thank you again for 20 years of tolerance and interest.