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John Tabacco

Composer, Songwriter, Producer, Engineer & Recording Artist

Lost In Lahina

…a sealed, surfboard sandwich with the wrapper glued by tiny, transparent ants.

"I already know what’s going to happen". "I wouldn’t worry about it". Those were the last words I heard from Chris Pati as his shadow vanished down the narrow, dark staircase. Here I was at forty-three, an unknown, self-made recording artist who was able to dodge conforming to a 9 to 5 life style for years on end, trapped on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Through some premonitions regarding "Gorgo Twain Has Gone Hah-Why-In" back in 1982 and a wall poster of a Pacific beach plastered inside the cheap but constantly good St. James Chinese Kitchen I had ended up in a $700.00 a month apartment in Lahaina, Maui. Alone. I had four months worth of credit card money to hold me over but that was just for food and rent. I was screwed. It was too soon to come back home. The final farewell the folks threw for me on Long Island seemed so fitting and true. A no brainer. I had to move to Maui. But that was little over a two months ago. It would be embarrassing to return home so soon without even trying to investigate all my options. So I continued to go through the tropical motions caused by what appeared to be a simple mis-communication between native friends and two guys from New York.

I guess I should back up a bit if I expect you to make any sense of this story. But where to start? I had the whole thing worked out in my head as I was walking down Front Street. I could see myself typing this and the words were coming together so fluidly. But that was in my head. Everything works perfectly there. The problem and constipation seems to come when I have to transmit my thoughts into this dimension. I get too distracted by the female gender, the weather, multi rhythmic bird noises and annoying motorcycle riders who need to show everyone just how big a penis they have. So where was I? Ok. Well, I can tell you that this place they call paradise is actually a sealed, surfboard sandwich with the wrapper glued by tiny, transparent ants. Yes, it is a nice place to vacation - no doubt. Amazingly warm, clear, life-affirming air, with morning rainbows swashing across the big "L" on the mountain side and the finest, softest sand your feet will ever touch, not to mention the most picturesque sunsets the Earth has to offer. But really, if you are by yourself - it sucks. This is a "couple’s destination". Not a place for a middle aged Long Island loner. Everything that was supposed to happen here for me disintegrated systematically on a daily basis. Why, you may ask? Well, here’s the scoop:

the most picturesque sunsets the Earth has to offer…if you are by yourself - it sucks

On a sunny morning in May of 2004 I was told that our landlord wanted to sell the house where Marci Geller, Gian DiMauro, Paul Michael Barkan and I had formed Sonic Underground Studios. Naturally this was quite a blow to me, seeing that I did not know where I could to go to continue recording and the studio was the only way I could make a living, meager as it was. I walked around that day feeling mighty low. Sometime in the afternoon I came back to the house totally depressed and noticed that there was a phone message for me from my old school friend and multi talented musician Chris Pati. All Chris said was how would I like to run a recording studio in Hawaii? This sounded intriguing and right on cue. So I called him back. It turns out that Chris produced a few songs for a kid named Darrell Labrado. The songs became big regional hits in Hawaii. One guy by the name of Shane (co-owner of Riptide Records) apparently embezzled some money from his record company and put it towards Darrell’s record. He had nothing signed with Darrell. Chris did not know until later where Shane got his money from so what seemed to be pure initiative and intentions from Shane lead to the two of them signing a partnership to form the Aloha Entertainment Group. After Darrell’s record went off the charts Shane asked Chris if he wanted to produce this young girl named Tani Lynn who had a great voice and who sometimes acted in various TV spots. Chris heard the fifteen-year-old wunderkind and was impressed by her singing. Shane then told Chris that his company would pay him $15,000 to produce an album for Tani Lynn. He also said he had "ins" with the world renown guitarist George Benson’s studio, aptly named Lahaina Sound. Shane knew that the Lahaina Sound Studio lease was up for grabs so he told Chris that if he wanted, he’d put Chris’ production money towards the lease for a year. The studio would be leased under Chris’ company Guru Project. Chris agreed. A few months later, Chris finished a few tracks at his Long Island studio, Modern Voices, for Tani Lynn; some of which she contributed lyrics to. These were straight out of the box, commercial pop tunes, geared for lots of airplay. It was the kind of stuff Chris has been producing in his sleep for years. The record company was very exited about the crossover potential of a Hawaiian artist like Tani Lynn into the USA mainland. Up until then Don Ho was probably the most successful Hawaiian to infiltrate the States.

Meanwhile, Shane and two engineers Brett and Tim who owned the equipment at Lahaina Sound said it would be no problem if Chris advertised the studio on his web sight. The Guru Project could be fully affiliated with Lahaina Sound (now called Studio Maui). Thus, it was a slick addition to see that beautiful studio picture on the website. It certainly impressed me when Chris suggested I run the joint. It seemed like a perfect fit. So I said (holding back my excitement), "Yeah that would be cool I guess. But first I would need to check out the place in person." Chris understood and eagerly invited me to come with him to record vocal tracks with Tani. That was in late June of 2004.

When we arrived in Maui, Shane and his family greeted us with open arms and we got along fabulously. Shane took us all over Maui and fed us, housed us etc… We video taped all the high points of the island (later used to make a DVD with Chris’ instrumental music), saw the fastest cows gallop across a wide open pastel field, ventured up to what was a mouth of a dormant volcano and met a lot of happy, fancy people at hot spot dance clubs. When it was time to get down to studio business we invaded Lahaina with all our New York savvy. Computer tracks in hand. Totally prepared. Sure there was a few studio problems (not on our end) but we got over them quickly and there was no waiting when Tani walked in to the room to sing. It was at that moment that Chris and I met Karey. Karey (a woman in her early thirties) was the silent partner of Riptide Records. She was basically managing Tani’s deal. Although she put out a polite yet suspiciously cold vibe towards us, she did profess that she loved the way the tracks sounded. I would soon find out that she was a very influential political figure in the music world on the island.

We recorded vocals with Tani and her performances were pretty good. Not quite perfect under the microscope but respectable. There was maturity to how she sung her phrases that I found quite appealing. She had a lot of potential. But as the week went on, Tani started to developed a real attitude problem. She became really hard on herself and kept making excuses not finish anything. Sometimes she’d just cancel the session or in the middle of recording, take a break and go to sleep on the couch. It was rather unprofessional. But then again she was only fifteen. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, Chris and I left Maui feeling a bit disappointed at the results.

Melissa Slip 17


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