My son Ty Douglas has always loved music. We have pictures of him as an infant with drumsticks furiously beating on my electronic drum kit. Even then, he wasn’t simply banging in a chaotic manner but showed aptitude for rhythm. Before long Ty imagined the kit to be his personal property and had been fully ready for his first acoustic drum kit before he was eight years old and we actually got one for him. Ty is now 14 and for the past six years he’s practicing on that thing a few hours every day. Ty turned out to have amazing musical gifts. Besides his beloved drums, he also plays the guitar and bass. He has a marvelous ability to listen to a musical track one time and then faithfully reproduce the chords and rhythms on his own instrument.
When he was in kindergarten, Ty met Ivan Sang, and became close friends. They not only both loved music but, just as importantly, grew to have enduring passion for the same kind of music — gravitating towards such punk bands as Green Day, Ramones, and Nirvana. In Bristol Middle School, Ty studied music and musical theory under the incredible Mr. Morello. People say that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree because I’m a professional musician myself and have been playing guitar since I was 12 years old. I’ve been playing and performing music for 36 years and have been a member of more bands than I can remember, often belonging to several bands at a time. It is wonderful to share my musical passions with my gifted son. I will listen to a song with him and then the two of us will have a conversation about the piece, often delving into musical composition theory and deconstructing the composition together. I’m continually delighted with how Ty really “gets it.”
I currently play lead guitar and do some vocals for a band called Sun Beast. I also have devoted myself to helping Ty become a successful musician. In particular, I serve as the manager for the band that Ty and Ivan have put together, which they call Mammoth.
Ivan and Ty talked for years about becoming rock stars and would get together to jam once in a while. A couple years ago, they decided to take the big leap. The two of them began writing their own songs and playing covers from their favorite bands. They liked a heavy-metal band from Georgia named Mastodon, so they came up with a cousin name Mammoth. Ty has some graphic abilities (which he gets from his mom) so he created the logo for the band, arranging the central graphic and choosing font styles for the text. When the band began to find gigs, they started each performance with a rousing rendition of the first song Ty ever wrote, called, “Are You Ready to Go?” In true punk fashion, the piece is only 32 seconds long.
Six months after they began playing, we met Officer Mike Rucker, who is a community resource officer for the Brentwood PD working with the Brentwood PAL organization. Officer Rucker had heard Ivan playing guitar and told him about PAL Rocks, which is a program that brings together gifted kids who share love for a particular musical style so they could start a band. Ivan told Officer Rucker about Ty. Things really came together when I had a conversation with Officer Rucker and told him about my daughter Adia who owns a local business called RPM Records. We’ve installed a fully equipped practice space above her store. When he learned about the possibility of the PAL bands using the space above RPM records as a practice space, Officer Rucker was ready to do everything he could to promote Mammoth.
Mammoth’s connection with Officer Rucker reached a higher level when he introduced us to his son, Isaac. Even though Isaac is only 15 years old, he plays tuba as a member of Concord’s world famous Blue Devils Marching Band. More importantly for our purposes, Isaac was hoping to play bass in one of the PAL Rock bands, so he became the third member. All three members attend Heritage High. Ty and Ivan are freshmen; Isaac is a sophomore. All three musicians contribute to composing original music.
Mammoth began performing in PAL-sponsored gigs and fundraisers, and found an increasing number of performance opportunities on their own. Wanting to reclaim their roots after a year of growing success, they began concentrating on their own original music with some tributes to their favorite bands. They would vary their set-list but continued to open every set with Ty’s “Are You Ready to Go?” signature song.
“Mammoth is an amazing story. Even though they still are only 14 and 15 years old, they are fully qualified professional musicians.”
Mammoth got a nice feather in their performance cap early last spring when they performed at Berkeley’s famous 924 Gilman, which is the holy grail of punk venues in the Bay Area. It proved to be a tremendous accomplishment for teenage performers because the musically sophisticated audience greatly approved of their performance. The crowning recognition of their talent came when the 924 Gilman management invited them to perform a second time. Their reprise appearance last month was greeted with the same enthusiasm as their first.
Darryl Schwenke, who does marketing for PAL, continues to help put together a couple performances a month for Mammoth, as well as the other PAL Bands. They are also getting more gigs on their own. The fact that they are teenagers is a limiting factor because they would have to be 21 years old to perform in a majority of locations that would otherwise love to have them play. People are blown away when they hear them without seeing them. They are shocked when they see it’s young boys who are generating this level of music. Mammoth really does sound like a high-quality professional unit. A number of times we were contacted by people who had heard their recordings and became interested in scheduling them only to back away at discovering they were “just kids” who couldn’t legally enter their premises.
We use the space above Adia’s RPM Records as a venue for showcasing new talent. We schedule Mammoth for a couple gigs there a month. Last spring Mammoth cut its first album “Are You Ready to Go”. We market the album through social media including Instagram and Facebook. We also make it available at PAL events and at Mammoth’s own concerts.
All three members are fully invested in their musical careers. All members of teenage bands wish and hope to become rock stars, but the Mammoth guys are going beyond wishing and hoping; they are certain that it is going to happen and doing everything they can to make their dreams come true. They have a lot of new material and are planning to release a second album early next year. They practice for an hour a week at the RPM studio, but that is simply the tip of a large iceberg of ongoing commitment and effort. Each of the musicians practices constantly on their own. Ty, for example, practices for hours every day, beginning on the drum set and then moving to the guitar. Each of them might write a song, record it on their phone, and then text the file to the other two. Ivan the lyricist, will put words to the song, so by the time they get together for the weekly practice, they only have to flush the song out and by the end of the hour they have the new piece down and ready to record or to perform.
A team of people is working with the three of them to make the band a success. I am their manager. I guide them through the processes of writing, flushing the songs out, helping them conduct the practices more efficiently, and in general leading them to becoming fully professional musicians. I wish someone had been around when I was their age to give me the directions and guidance I am giving to them.
My band, Sun Beast is a 3-piece Power Trio like Mammoth. My two partners have guided each of the Mammoth performers on their own instruments and have been a tremendous influence on each of the boys. Ty, Ivan, and Isaac (as well as the other PAL bands) have full access to our Sun Beast practices so they can see how we handle ourselves and manage our own practices. Mammoth sometimes covers Sun Beast songs just for fun. None of us gives them instructions; they just listen to the songs and pick up on the chords and rhythms.
Mammoth has turned into a huge commitment. The band is like a traveling baseball team — often performing at distant venues like Sacramento and Berkley. Most weekends they are doing something. All of us parents are doing whatever we can to support the kids. Officer Rucker, in particular, has stepped up. He is providing support for the PAL Rocks bands with a number of non-musical morale building events including camping trips, baseball games, concerts, and dinners.
There are currently three bands in the PAL Rocks program. Besides Mammoth, there’s a four-member metal band called An American Tragedy and a four-member Alternative/Rock band called My Dog’s Hero. PAL Rocks has also spawned a fourth collaboration band because Ty and Isaac have teamed up with Max Collette from My Dog’s Hero to perform under the name Warsaw.
On October 20, you will be able to see all four bands, plus Sun Beast, performing live at RPM Record’s Third Annual Halloween show.
Mammoth is an amazing story. Even though they still are only 14 and 15 years old, they are fully qualified professional musicians. They have an album under their belt but still won’t be able to drive for two years. The three Mammoth band members are probably a full decade in advance of their peers. Most 20-something professional musicians aren’t as prepared for big time as these high school kids are now.
I feel privileged to be part of something already this good with this much potential for true greatness.