2003 was a tough year for Steven, full of uncertainty all around. It seemed as though all that could go wrong, did go wrong (or at least was perceived wrong at the time.) Steven was living with his grandparents, and his great-grandmother was staying with them after injuring herself in a fall. What started as a simple broken bone would eventually result in her death. Steven had to watch her disintegrate over several months, and stand by helplessly as she succumb to sundowning, and Alzheimer’s took over. This was incredibly difficult for Steven because of his close relationship with his great-grandmother. The only way he could deal with the loss of his Mamaw was to hold up in her deserted house for many days and make a record.
Feeling uncertain about his future, where he was going to go, what he was going to do and even if he was going to continue making music at all, he gathered up some of his favorite songs from different eras of songwriting between 1995 and 2003, and compiled a personal “greatest-hits” collection. New recordings that continued his tradition of “doing what you can with what you have” resulted in a collection entitled, “The Truth About Life (as told by the Dementia Cookie Box.)” All of the instrumentation was finished and music tracks complete in 2004, but Steven felt he didn’t have the proper gear to lay down decent vocals. The record sat on the shelf for 2 years before the vocal tracks were added. During that time, the songs witnessed not only the passing of Mamaw, but also the dissolution of a 4-year engagement and decision to move (run?) to the opposite side of the state to start fresh (escape?)
What began as years of sadness, confusion and darkness ended up being the push that Steven needed to move on to the next phase in his life. Between 2003 and 2006, Steven found himself, some new musicians to help with the DCB, a newfound faith in God, and an overall new direction with hope and potential.
In 2005, Steven decided he was going to try to audition for some bands as a drummer and see if anything came of it. There was a band in Phoenix, Arizona, that was signed to a label and getting ready to start touring, but needed a drummer. Steven bought a travel trailer and hit the road. He had asked God for guidance and decided that if he got the gig, then that’s what he was supposed to do with his music. If he did not, then he would continue working on his own music. He spent 8 days in Arizona and it looked like he was going to get the job, the band told him they had one more audition left on the 8th day, and that person ended up getting it instead. After receiving the disheartening news, Steven called Matt Talbott (former frontman from HUM) in Tolono, Illinois, and booked studio time to make a new Dementia Cookie Box record.
With nowhere to go and nobody waiting for his immediate return, Steven’s sister flew out to see the sights with him. They checked out Hollywood, then shot up the coast to Oregon to visit some friends. He had always been curious about the home of Grunge rock, so they made a pilgrimage to Seattle, Washington, and then returned to Kentucky via the plain states. When he returned, he enlisted the help of bass playing buddy, Landon Miller, and the two hit the road for Illinois.
Steven’s music has always been heavily influenced by 90s rock, namely bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Jawbox, Tripping Daisy and HUM. When Steven first learned that one of his biggest musical influences owned an analog recording studio in Illinois, he added the trip and experience to his bucket list. The studio was complete with apartment upstairs, and grocery store within walking distance. He didn't have a complete plan going into the studio, but he had many songs to choose from for the record. He knew he wanted to include White Debbie songs, as well as several songs that were left out of the Truth About Life sessions. Steven and Landon would track during the day, and listen to demos at night to figure out what they would try to record the next day. For over a week, Steven worked side-by-side with Matt Talbott to sculpt the first true, studio experience for the Dementia Cookie Box. The original guitarist for the band, Barry Corman, was even able to come to the studio to lay down some guest guitar parts.
The result of their efforts was a concept album continuing the White Debbie lineage. The idea of White Debbie is a story from the future. Earth’s atmosphere has become so polluted that it is literally impeding spirits’ passage to heaven. If you could see the results from space, It would appear as though there was a ring or “halo” around the Earth, much like Saturn or Jupiter. The ring is a condensed buildup of spirits pressed against the polluted atmosphere. White Debbie is the heroine destined to save the trapped souls. No Rest for Heroes is the story of White Debbie and the Halo Earth.
Steven had decided he was going to go to school to become a draftsman. He had taken drafting classes in high school and enjoyed them. He was developing the desire to get into the visual arts. Many years of designing posters, album covers, and T-shirts for his band (as well as others) had revealed hidden talents. After speaking with an architect friend and realizing that he may not be fully happy with such a career choice, Steven decided to go to school to become an art teacher instead. He had worked as a substitute teacher before, and had taught young people how to play and record music, and felt that he would be successful in education, but foremost wanted to beef up his visual arts knowledge.
Steven went in with interests in Graphic Design, but after experiencing how easy it was to learn how to draw, paint, and sculpt, and realizing that anyone can learn how to do these things if they want to… it's not something that you have to be born with, he was very much inspired to want to educate others in the gifts of the arts. Steven knew what it was like to be an adolescent in search of something and longing to communicate uncommunicable sentiments. If there was a way he could help others through those difficult years, he wanted to.
(to be concluded)