The beat goes on, they say. I was still reeling from the sudden death of my former landlord and Kingston legend Victor Ruzzo when I got the call from my sister, Cambria Evans, that our father, Thomas Vink-Lainas, had passed away. Suddenly my thoughts went from feeling bad for Victor’s daughter Ashley and her nice family to relating on a personal level to their grief. I know a lot of great drummers who have passed away. As a musician the last 20-odd (and I do mean odd) years of my life, there have been some amazing percussionists who have come into my orbit. My dearly missed friends Pat Howland or another old pal Ryan McKenzie, who passed far too young, were both great drummers. I am not trying to be impersonal, because first and foremost these were people. It is just strange that most of the most impactful deaths in my life experience have been of people with that instrument as their calling. Perhaps they were drawn to the drums because life beat so brightly in their chests, they had to express it through music and the warmth they tried to give to the lives around them.
My mom has early-onset dementia. She is watching Cosmos in the other room and hadn’t seen the new show yet. I hope somehow the beautiful stars and pictures of our galaxy might comfort her. While her memories are clouding in her head, I find mine are outlined in stark relief, like a brightening frost on upstate branches. My father emigrated from German displaced-person camps as a child with virtually nothing, his Estonian family fleeing Stalin’s insane tyranny (and fake Communism that was really a dictatorship). My dad always reflected with pride on reaching Ellis Island. He thrived in New York City, first living in Queens. Eventually my great aunties got a place on Sullivan Street. Dad hustled and bustled. Drawn to music, young Tom played in a wedding band called Zebra (black guys wearing white suits and white guys wearing black). He played behind the curtain as a silhouette on the Ed Sullivan show for the Del-Vikings. He worked at Macy’s. Dad got a job as a graphic designer (then called a draftsman) at Sports Illustrated under Marc André Laguerre and got to work on some covers featuring Wilt Chamberlain and numerous other sports figures. Dad hung out in the Greenwich Village scene seeing Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Blue Note shows. He insisted Dylan still owes him 20 bucks from the Cafe Wha? and that Bunky and Jake or The Fugs were criminally underrated. I remember the serious look on his face showing me the Fugs song “Boobs A Lot,” haha).
Thinking on the arc of my father’s life, which eventually included him moving upstate and starting an advertising agency called Emphasis Group, I’m pulled to emphasize that life is a miracle. Every stupid person, speed bump or cup of coffee that is too hot never had to exist at all. We are so lucky to be in this flourishing arts community with vibrant energy and history. Don’t be the 1800th Grateful Dead cover band (unless that is your true calling). Instead, try to be the next band that takes risks and has an impact like the Grateful Dead.
My dad said it is better to have ambition than never to glimpse the life you really want out of fear. Cambria and I grew up for many years in a house with no electricity because Dad was fixing it up, so I played in the woods of Shokan and read next to kerosene lamps. My dad encouraged me, so even after I dropped out of Onteora I believed in music and booked shows constantly around here. Some of the bands I booked went on to become prog-rockers Three and Coheed & Cambria (yes, Claudio got the name from my sister, whatever else he claims. Their original drummer Nate Kelley is my best friend).
Coheed are amazing and have done huge things like touring with Dio and Slipknot. I’m thrilled by that, though we’ve had some hard times over the years.
Like my dad, I struggled with drinking. I was really upset when Mic Todd of Coheed got a drug problem and spoke out against it, which burned many bridges for me around 2006 (it didn’t help that we were in love with the same girl and that my old band Divest shared producers with Coheed). But eventually most of those burnt bridges healed, I hope. I credit it to adopting the PMA philosophy full on that mutual-influence Bad Brains espouse, a band that has been pivotal part of the local and national scenes as well as my life and the lives of the Coheed guys. Doc from Bad Brains even dates my cousin. John The Baker, punk rock uncle of Coheed’s current drummer Josh Eppard, really helped me along with local Dave Daw to stop drinking and see how it was destroying my life the way drugs had almost destroyed Josh’s and Mic Todd’s in Coheed. I had been really jealous because my band Divest fell apart while they were successful. I saw them harming their bodies and blowing cash while my dad was struggling with cancer and I was broke. But they had their own demons and path and I love those guys deeply.
Positive thinking on top of encouragement saved my life, as much as I miss blacked-out PBR can-throwing/mosh battles at the Basement. I am glad we are all still alive and I could show my dad before he died that I have two years off booze. Much love to Josh (a.k.a. Weerd Science) for getting clean himself. So proud of you, man. As Weerd Science, Josh has now made a new song with upstate rapper Cage you all should Google — another artist who had a crazy upbringing and we are blessed to have. I wish we could all gig together like the old days and squash any resentments completely once and for all.
Look around you at our thriving town, people. Be a part of O-Positive Festival, local events, one another. We can have amazing lives together. I just saw next generation Nu-school post-hardcore band Islander (who have worked with Bad Brains singer H.R.) at Terminal 5 in New York rock the house. We can carry the past into the future with joy. One love. PMA.