In the summer of 1982, after a few years of waiting for something cool and interesting to happen in San Pedro (I'm still waiting), I answered an intriguing ad in The Recycler for a band looking for a bassist. I went to their rehearsal space on Lookout Mountain in Laurel Canyon, and I was immediately hooked. Besides finding the music totally fascinating, I was also struck by what cool folks they were - in particular the drummer, M. Segal.
We would get together twice weekly to work out songs and do a LOT of jamming. It was the first time I had ever found a musical situation of this calibre, and it was a truly inspiring period for me. It was a real contrast stepping out of that cold concrete garage into the pastoral suburbia of Laurel Canyon, and the small group of friends who would come by to soak up the sounds provided much additional good will.
After nine months of this, we decided it was time to take our show on the road. We also needed a name, so somehow we decided on Middle Sleep. We quickly discovered that there wasn't much interest in 1983 for what we were doing, and whatever concessions we made - concentrating on songs rather than improvising onstage - didn't help matters any. After three months of this, the band fell apart, but fortunately several hours of recordings still exist of what we accomplished in that garage, much of which helped form the basic idea behind Paper Bag.
M. Segal and I realized that, as much fun as the songs were to play, it was the improvising that gave the band its life. We decided to form an all-improv band with his brother Greg on guitar, and that became Paper Bag. (Greg tells me he had similar intentions at that time and had been trying to steal us away from Middle Sleep for this very purpose for months.) We soon found a fourth member in Ken Rosser (and what a find THAT was!), but after a few months, I was finding it increasingly difficult to commit myself to a band at that point in time, especially given the 80-mile round trips to rehearsals. Fortunately, the band soldiered on, and I even had the pleasure of "guesting" with them a few times over the years (playing guitar).
I have been fortunate to recruit M. Segal, Greg Segal, George Radai, Ken Rosser and Tom Shannon in various musical projects through the years, and still do. But for me, the best part of all this would have to be the great friendships that remain to this day. And when all is said and done, what could be better than that?
Richard Derrick, 1/24/00
BAND NAME MYSTERY SOLVED!
Over the years many meanings have been attributed to the band name by members and press alike, but it was Richard who gave Paper Bag its name when he booked our first shows (2 nights opening for Middle Sleep at the Olio Theater in Silverlake). In correspondence, I asked if he would please put into his own words what the name meant to him. His response:
"The name just means anything can be put into a bag - see the connection? Improv? Fresh canvas? I thought it was kinda obvious."
So there you have it.
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