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In Music

Behrendt explains "The West Allis Makeout Sessions"


"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Tom Behrendt references Rutger Hauer's replicant character's classic pre-death lines in "Blade Runner" to help explain his intentions behind his debut CD, "The West Allis Makeout Sessions."

"It's a really cheesy example, but basically, what that gets at is history doesn't remember the losers," he says. "It remembers people who distinguish themselves or the people who have bucks. But the poor parts of town ... the whole ups and downs and interesting things of people's lives are forgotten in two decades."

Behrendt, a West Allis native and graduate of West Allis Central High School who now lives in Bay View, says he tried to convey small stories about people he knew and things he saw and heard in his hometown through the songs.

"Taking a lot of mental pictures and stories and characters that I don't think otherwise will be remembered and putting them in more permanent form," he says.

Two years in the making, "The West Allis Makeout Sessions" combines Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits storytelling models with jagged indie rock and pop. The songs came together shortly after Behrendt was laid off from a job he had held for nearly a decade.

"It kind of motivated me to write a lot, so I wrote most of the songs as one batch," he says. "I kind of had a rough concept and wrote the songs in quick succession to make an actual album out of what I had in my head."

The album was recorded in bits and pieces over time in different locations, with Behrendt relying on friends to help out. Bassist Matt Turner and drummer Jeremy Kuzniar from the Westfall and Deepspace Shuttlecock were among those lending a hand.

"Those guys made my work way, way easier," Behrendt says. "They're such good players that they can learn a song one day and be playing it better than I the next day."

Behrendt, who has previously played with Mark Waldoch of The Mustn'ts in a band called Polite and with songwriter Andy Puechner's Dutch Courage, began focusing on his own music about five years ago. He says he had never gone out on his own before because he didn't really think his musical ideas were very "marketable" in Milwaukee.

"When I was college age, I wasn't interested in playing in a college funk band or a jam band," he says. "Those things didn't really interest me. I was always into stranger stuff. I guess I didn't up the gumption to actually bring it to people until a few years ago."

As people heard the music Behrendt made on his own, he got positive feedback, encouraging him to continue solo.

"A lot of it was kind of a 'Where did this come from?' response," he says. "They're kind of surprised that this guy that they see at the Hi-Fi on weekend mornings is making this kind of strange, interesting stuff, which is gratifying."

Behrendt says he's hearing good things from people who have listened to the new CD, but he feels like he still having a tough time finding a niche in the Milwaukee music scene.

"One issue with Milwaukee is, because it's not a gigantic city, it can support multiple scenes, but it's a challenge trying to work a small niche," he says. "If someone like Tom Waits lived around here instead of Los Angeles and New York, I think he'd have a hard time working a niche. The quantity of music fans here is such that it can support a handful of scenes, but to find those little nooks and crannies (is difficult)."

Behrendt cites Dutch Courage's Puechner as a like-minded musician without a "scene to call home."

"He's not in the emo mode, not garage rock, not jam music," he says. "You can't join the ranks of the 10 bands in each of those scenes and have the we'll-all-go-to-each-other's-shows support system."

While Behrendt says that he has considered leaving Milwaukee, he admits that doing so would have its disadvantages, namely, not having a group of musician friends to enlist for free.

"There's some really underpriced musicians here that will do you a favor that in other cities might charge you $500 for that favor," he says.

For now, Behrendt is trying to firm up plans to do some shows around the area this winter to promote "The West Allis Makeout Sessions," which is available at Atomic Records.

Songs from the CD and other information about Behrendt can be accessed at myspace.com/tombehrendt and he can be contacted at tbehrendt50@earthlink.net.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Jan. 31, 2006 at 9:10 a.m. (report)

brenda said: No offense but what the lines quoted from Rutger- actually written by him is meant to show how prescious life is and what it means to lose it so early. Those replicants only wanted to live and went to exteme measures to attempt to gain more...Rutger's character did not lose, no, he just ran out of time. Just had to have my say- as for history-well it is best to remember that it is written by man and it is frail to say the least- that is why we so often repeat it.

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