Nate Alan began his guitar string rusting career in the wonderful inspiring city of El Cajon, California where he would find himself working with a wide range of local musicians. The early years began with Nate sneaking into seedy bars, claiming he was 21 years old, when he definitely was not. Playing on stage during open blues jams led to playing as a sideman to San Diego classics: Tom Cat Courtney & Rickie James and the Flames. You could sometimes find the kid walking the streets with his Fender amp, Stratocaster and Fedora hat. Hitchhiking or taking the local trolley without fare as was common occurrence in those years. Learning blues guitar from the stages of East County, Nate began to understand the importance of writing original songs.
During a cold, rainy evening, a voice was heard in Nate’s head, somehow telling him to go to the local jacuzzi and bring a Hendrix CD. Without questioning this voice within his head, Nate quickly grabbed a boom box and the CD titled “Electric Ladyland” while off to visit the spa. At the spa a man entered and begun to dig the tunes playing on the boom box radio. This man asked if Nate played guitar, of course the answer was, yes! Jon gave Nate a proposition to play at a local jam studio. The gentleman said, “My name is Jon come to my house at noon on Saturday with your gear and we will go jam at a very cool place.”
Saturday at noon Nate showed up to Jon’s house, both hands full of gear. Nate stood in the doorway, he could smell the scent of dead fish and dirty dishes coming from directly inside of Jon’s house, Nate resolutely set down his amp and knocked. Jon opened the door and led Nate to his ride (car), which was a Dodge Dart filled with used coffee cups and crumpled up Taco Bell wrappers. Entering the old Dart, Nate was curious on how the placing of equipment in the cars available space was going to end up? A quick five minute car ride, they arrived to a dirt lot with a shed located in a field near the El Cajon Library. Inside this shed was a mangy sweat covered stage, full PA system, a pair of well used couches, worn tables, and a bathroom. The Freak studio had it’s “flare” with posters, bra’s and band shirts decorating every inch of the walls. This was FREAK Studio, an absolute “Mecca” for locals that want to make music and play whenever they wished. The Saturday Nate arrived day three bands rehearsed before an open jam Zwingles Quarry, Yabutifida & Sissy La La, who would have their take of musical debauchery and then leave the room. With the studio cleared Nate hopped on stage to plug in. After being electrically shocked by the sockets and microphone, he played a version of “Little Wing” that drove the musicians from the outside into the stuffy studio, winning the respect of all the musicians at the Freak. The relationships made on that first day became lifelong friendships.
Jon and Nate jammed with great friends for many years, creating 2 bands that were: Joe Nasty, a hard core edgy 3 piece band & Jonny and the Goiters, a blues based 5 piece psychedelic band. Joe Nasty eventually recorded an EP “Fifty More Since” that received positive commercial response. Jonny and the Goiters were famed as “The Worst Band in San Diego“, compliments of Dave Goode and the San Diego Reader magazine. This accolade was in good fun and no animals were hurt in the writing off the article. The Goiters had steady gigs in Santee and North Park playing with stand-ins while calling out random chords to improvise songs. The band had to come to an end releasing two albums titled “Cereal Thriller” and “The Wedding Song”.
Many friendships and experiences were made during this time while working with Jon. Nate met and played with many local musicians in this time that were in the “Kmak Circle”, they were: Joel Kmak, Jeff Kmak (brother of Jon) along with other members of the Beat Farmers & San Diego music history like, Jerry Rainey, Mighty Joe Longa, Joey Harris, Paul Kamanski, Steve Poltz, and Mojo Nixon. Nate met a young Nathan Rainey and Josh Kmak a little brother in Nate’s eyes. These were good times!
Performing live on three continents and chalking many recorded performances, Nate decided to hang up the guitar and focus on life. He had a child and lived a home life that was not perfect. The guitar was dusty hanging on the wall. A new project without the old crew was born! N/A Sound Project (Nasp) was an experiment to see what this new feeling of being married could musically create. Working with home recording tools and computers, a new online presence came to be. Hip-Hop artists, local punk musicians and poets joined in for this experiment. Two albums were recorded along with hundreds of drunk and drug induced recordings.
Divorce, loss of family and anger had created the spawn of a new musical chapter. Life was no longer being experienced it was a living nightmare. In the downward trend child hood friend named Carrie Lewis, who had taken care of Nate since high school, stepped in and became a great supporter. Carrie had attended Nate’s first performance at a coffee shop and rarely missed a performance since! In this time Nate was a rabid musician writing new songs at a near death pace. Carrie saw this creative spike and decided to introduce him to Hollywood for inspiration, late night parties and the meeting of likeminded musicians & artists. Great memories were made at the Rainbow and Troubadour. Carrie was involved with part of the Hollywood music scene, like: HIM, Vains of Jenna, Tattooed Millionaires, Sign of One, 69 Eyes. and Jackass master Bam Margera. After nights in Hollywood and conversation with a new stubborn girlfriend, Nate pushed back into the scene with a new crazy type of energy. Cyanide Vogue a band of No Worries was created. Nate recruited old friends from the Freak studios Johnny Hall and Kevin Nelson of Yabutifida.
Alcohol and drugs were becoming a daily routine as Nate was gaining a reputation of being a burn out musician. There were many sordid storied of Nate getting thrown out of clubs for being very intoxicated. Nate remembers waking up in a wet gutter, literally thrown from a club on El Cajon Blvd. during CInco de Mayo. Things had to change!
Parting ways with Johnny and Kevin brought a new positive feel into Nate’s life. Chris Stead (an old friend from the Freak) & new blood Keith Kaonis (drummer of San Diego punk band called Meat Wagon) found each other. Chris acted as an older brother and tried to keep Nate on a nondestructive path while Keith promoted Nate’s self-confidence and creativity. Cyanide Vogue performed throughout Southern California with the backing of local and continental airplay. Keith and Nate worked together tirelessly writing, recording and building a studio where all can feel free. With the new energy and comfort self destructive behavior began again. Cyanide Vogue started to fall apart. Chris left the band, new bassists joined, new bassists left, then Chris joined again. This rejoining of Chris brought old friends back together. Chris admitted he loved Nate like a brother and needed him to get out of the cycle. Shortly after this rejoining, Cyanide Vogue split ways with Keith and Nate not speaking since that last handshake.
While playing in Cyanide Vogue, Nate met a lady named Lisa that meant the world to him. She wasn’t just any lady but a girlfriend and confidant. After the band broke up the time to hang up the guitar equaled normal life. Nate moved to North Park with Lisa and begun a new career as a videographer for Bill Bachrach, a promotional motivational speaker. Chris also lived in North Park, which meant that a new project had to be started. The Launderers were born based off the Freak studio days. Nate & Chris were jamming with acoustic guitars, sitting in a small and grimy laundry room, legs hanging off a folding table. They used the sound of falling laundry and machine spin cycles as a drum beat. The last Launderers last recording was of the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”, but unfortunately it was lost to the tide.
The time of being a rock star had passed. Chris was getting married and Nate was his best man. Nate played “Sleepwalk” live with a 16 piece swing orchestra for the newlyweds’ first dance. The sun had finally came over the horizon in this life. Family values were alive once again, when Nate met his girlfriends’ illegitimate little brother Mike Marabeas.
Nate was going through a reconstruction with Lisa, this thing they called “Life” suddenly started to feel normal. Nate would find himself being a part of family events, days at the park, fishing and playing music were starting to be fun again. During the family holidays, Mike Marabeas and Nate played guitar together sharing a lead and rhythm sound that everyone appreciated. Soon all family events would see Mike and Nate bringing a guitar in arm to jam for the family. One holiday in Spring Mike brought up a guy he met who had a “Voice!“, he asked Nate to meet up and simply jam. After a few days, a guitar came off the wall, rusty strings were changed and Nate met Dan Anderson. Dan really did have a voice! Mike also had a guitar…this was awesome! Mike, Nate and Dan continued to jam, only to find out the three had a deep musical chemistry. Over several months the three started to record and brought in a co-worker, TJ Myers on drums. This was a new band, this was Swamp Yeti!
Dan, Nate, Mike and TJ had a sound that was their own but needed a bassist. The past of Cyanide Vogue trying to find a bassist was impossible, frustrating and Nate did not want to go through that ever again. Over dinner with Chris and his wife, Nate played a live recording taken in a parking lot, it was of Swamp Yeti recorded over his phone. Nate remembers Chris clearly saying, “I’m in!“ The band was born, the family was complete. Swamp Yeti turned into what is now Black Levee and that’s all there is to tell.