The Sand Rubies Rise Up From The Ashes Once Again.
By Jennifer Murphy
I knew very little about the intricacies of the record contracts we signed. I kept way out of it. To be honest, the only interest the band and I had was, "How much do we each get?" Like true humanitarians. Quite frankly, you can't tell an 18-year-old to think any other way. It's impossible....
It became necessary to surround myself with lawyers and accountants...There are some things you cannot do on your own; anything to do with the law is one of them, and finance is another....
A lot of musicians in the United States don't even enter the wonderful world of music until they are 20 to 25. In England you start at about 16 or 17, even earlier--a major tragedy because you're absolutely open to the hawks. They'll tear you apart, and there's not a lot you can do. Your parents are as dumb as you are. The American record contract with Warner Bros. was signed in perpetuity, forever and ever....
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
--From ROTTEN: No Irish-No Blacks-No Dogs, by John Lydon with Keith and Kent Zimmerman
THE SAND RUBIES disbanded in 1993, eight years after they had initially formed as the Sidewinders. The break-up between vocalist David Slutes and guitarist Rich Hopkins was stormy, grievances were aired publicly (one particularly scathing exchange was reported in the Tucson Weekly), and the whole mess simmered for a while until each went on to pursue other projects.
Fast forward to 1996. Hopkins and Slutes are reuniting along with bassist Mark Perrodin and drummer Bruce Halper to play a few regional dates to support the new album, Sand Rubies Live, with some wondering how this project came about.
"Rich has a predilection for putting out albums--he loves doing it. We've had quite a bit of material floating around and he wanted to get it documented one way or another. There were these live tapes around and for him the live shows were always the best thing," Slutes told me just before heading up to Phoenix to play two sold-out nights with the Sand Rubies at Nita's Hideaway.
Slutes confirms that some of the material was recorded while they were under contract to RCA and some of it while under contract to PolyGram, leaving Rich open to the possibility of litigation from both companies.
"I don't think they're going to care too much, but that hasn't really been worked out yet. I think Rich's attitude is if somebody wants to take it, great. But I don't think it's going to be an issue," he says.
I ask him about the current status of his relationship with Hopkins:
"We've actually been getting along famously for a year now and we're looking forward to doing the shows.
"Time heals, basically. Memories kind of edit out the tough parts and we hadn't seen much of each other. We both have our own bands going, and it's been much more of a struggle. They've not seen any of the success the Sidewinders had. So you start looking back on those times and see what you built and created and you begin to see the good side of that person again," Slutes says with sincerity.
The Sand Rubies signed with Mammoth Records after their showcase at SXSW in 1988. Their next showcase was in New York City for RCA, which signed the band and then did nothing to promote the album. Their manager invited the RCA execs to dinner only to announce in the middle of the festivities that he was glad they could be his guests but he was getting his band off their label as soon as possible.
After that it was on to Ensign/Chrysalis in 1991, who had an impressive roster of new acts consisting of Sinead O'Connor, the Waterboys and World Party. Chrysalis was then bought up by EMI who shelved the Sand Rubies. The band moved on to Atlas/PolyGram, which released the album that had been recorded for Ensign.
"We had the MTV video, we were in Rolling Stone, we toured with all the bands--Pearl Jam opened up for us on a show. At the time all these things seem like a natural progression, you just keep moving upward--but you look back and think what an exciting time it was," Slutes fondly reflects.
Bouncing from label to label wasn't the only frustration. The Sand Rubies had a case of frayed nerves resulting from endless headbutting with industry lawyers. Hopkins and Slutes reacted to the tension and began fighting with each other.
"A lot of it was the fact that we seemed to be in one lawsuit after another. We signed a really Bogus publishing deal--we were kids--and we had trouble with them. Then there was the issue over the Sidewinders name and we had trouble with that. By the end we were talking to lawyers all the time. It wore us out. I think we had more lawsuits than records, really. It wasn't what we imagined when we were playing at Nino's.
"When we lost Mark and Bruce, we lost the core band and that was a major blow; we just weren't the same. The problems just kept adding up," says an exasperated Slutes.
Touring across the country several times and three album releases garnered a small but loyal following for the Sand Rubies. The new album is reportedly selling well in both Phoenix and Tucson
"It's really funny, we still get fan mail and it's three years on. There are people flying in from Minneapolis, Detroit and Houston to catch these shows. I don't know even know how they're finding out about them.
"I had a teary message on my answering machine from some guy saying 'I hope this is David Slutes' number, 'cause--oh man--I was just listening to one of the records and I just hope that you and Rich can patch things up. I hope you haven't given up music--I don't know what you're doing, but this is great stuff.' And on like that. After I get past the intense weirdness of it, it really is gratifying," he laughs.
Dry your eyes, whoever you are. They've patched things up.
Catch the Sand Rubies, Dog & Pony Show and The Flys starting at 9 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is $8 at the door for this 21-and-over show. Call 622-8848 for information.
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