Goodbye Epic Soundtracks
Pat Thomas (December 1997)
Epic Soundtracks is dead. His music is not dead, but unfortunately as a living and breathing object creating more more music and art, he's gone. For those who don't know, he committed suicide a few weeks ago in his London apartment.
It's so hard to know where to begin. We lost a lot of interesting and creative artists this year. We lost the best minds of previous generations; Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and the most creative vocalist of our generation; Jeff Buckley. And let us not forget singer/songwriters Ronnie Lane and Townes..... And just when it seemed like the year could not get any worse with losses, Epic become the last casualty for 1997.
When I think of the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis, the thing I think about the most is all the great art, all the music, all the ideas ideas that did not happen because these people did not live. How many Dylans, Ginsbergs, and Einsteins got gassed or shot before they could create their masterpieces? Neil Young once talked about a special museum in heaven, where all the art & music that never got out because of heroin overdoses is sitting. That's my point about Epic Soundtracks - I feel sad not only because he's gone, the loss of a young life, and I won't get to see or talk to him again, I feel sad for all the albums he will not record, all the songs he will not write. When he died, his future art died with him. All the genius and art that won't get out. It's trapped inside him. (just to make it clear - Epic did not do heroin).
German journalist Christoph Gurk turned me on to Epic's first album, it's one of the few nice things that Gurk ever did for me and when I stop and think about it, it's the last nice thing that Gurk did for me. Around the same time, I was working as an A&R man for Normal Records in Bonn, Germany (and living there) and was receiving monthly calls from Bar None Records asking me to release a number of (mostly) uninteresting singer/songwriters - never once did they have an album that interested me (although they have released some very cool records thru the years). Then I heard they had released Epic's second album Sleeping Star. The next time the guy called me, I said 'now you've got something I want.' I convinced the other Normal guys, and soon it was out.
Epic and I began a telephone friendship- he trusted me and could sense that I believed in him and what he was trying to do. Like myself, he was not afraid to mention influences as 'uncool' as Carole King or attempt playing a Dylan song from Planet Waves even if he could not remember all the words. He worked outside the music business, outside the industry and away from the hype (even if he could count Evan Dando and Sonic Youth among his friends and fans).
After the release of Sleeping Star, I convinced him to release a Return To Sender (special 'mail order only' division of Normal Records) collection of unreleased songs and demos. Again he was not afraid of being uncool or out of fashion by recording and releasing an obscure song by the late 60's British band Free.
Although I did not know him well, I considered him a friend and when I would least expect it, I would receive a telephone call out of the blue asking for my advice or suggestions; what label might be interested in releasing his next album in Germany (none of them were at that point), what booking agents should he contact and who could he trust, and the last call I received was about year ago - when he was banned from America by customs officials for playing a show without a work permit. Bar None Records seemed either unable or uninterested in protesting this in court.
Through the years I have acquired dozens of tapes of out-takes, demos, and live material from the artists that I've been involved with, but some of my most prized tapes are the stack of live tapes that Epic sent me last year. He was a big Alex Chilton & Big Star fan, so we did a trade for some Chilton tapes that I had. Him being a massive Alex fan and me being an Epic fan - we each thought we had gotten the better end of the trade.
Recently Epic was back in America working on a new album for an American label that I don't know the name of. I had not heard from him and had no idea how to get in touch, so I was waiting for him to return to London, so I could contact him there and get another batch of tapes.
The story I heard was that his American girlfriend had recently left him and he went back to London depressed and alone during the recording of the new album. I don't know if the album was finished or not.
I do know about the pain of having a woman leave you while making a record, I took a bunch of drugs and made the Valium CD earlier this year. Sadly Epic did not take the same path - his escape was quicker perhaps, but was it less painful for him? More painful? Until we break on through to other side, none of us will ever know what it's like.
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