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Blessed with quick fingers and a restless, expansive, native intelligence, he's managed the difficult feat of writing good songs in three widely divergent styles--punk-pop (the Jetzons), twangy cow-punk (the Strand) and retro-distorto rock (the Cryptics). Born in Phoenix and raised in the area of 40th Street and McDowell, Connole dropped out of Phoenix Eastside High School before finishing his sophomore year. "I kept running away from home, which interfered with my academic career," he says with a grin.
A lifelong guitar player who also took a stab at the violin, Connole joined his first band, Billy Clone and the Same, in 1978. The Same had a sound that Connole calls "more cerebral than punk." After releasing one EP called X&Y, the Same broke up in 1980 after front man Mike Corte died of a heroin overdose. After a short stint as the Burning Flamingos, Connole and ex-Same member Damon Doiron recruited keyboardist Brad Buxer and drummer Steve Golladay, and the Jetzons were born.
After two years in the Valley, the Jetzons split up. But that wasn't the end. After an abortive session with a Texas producer, Connole moved to Los Angeles and, along with Buxer, re-formed the band. The L.A. version of the Jetzons quickly regained most of the band's lost momentum and was soon packing clubs again. The group also recorded a demo that Connole still considers one of the best things the band ever did.
After the Jetzons broke up for good in 1986, Connole returned to the Valley. Reacting to what he calls "the whole L.A. rocker thing," Connole began writing tunes with a country twang--songs reminiscent of Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds. In 1987, after getting sober yet again, Connole hooked up with Doiron and drummer Allen Ross Wiley to form the Strand. It was nearly two years before Connole's familiar addictive cycle took effect and the Strand split.
Despite the upcoming Jetzons show, Connole's current songwriting and performing energies are focused on the Cryptics. Made up of guitarist Jason Huff, bassist Mark Cady and drummer Rick Trobman, the Cryptics have quickly become one of the best- known and most controversial bands in the Valley. Most of the backlash comes from fans of Connole's former bands. Jetzons fans just can't understand why the neo-Black Sabbath Cryptics are so loud. Strand fans just can't understand. Connole shrugs it all off.
"It's simple," he says. "None of the kinds of music I've ever written or played have been marketing moves. I've been sincere about all of them. "The Cryptics came out of reading Baudelaire's poetry, William Burroughs' writings and listening to Ministry and Big Black. This is coming out really cliched, but those horrible depths gave new meaning to my life."
Still, Connole knows the Cryptics have a lot of old fans wondering.
"It's weird that the people who come to see the Cryptics don't even know who the Jetzons are. It's really bizarre to have rockers coming up after the show, saying things like, `Oh wow, dude, you guys really rock,'" Connole says in his best Bill-and-Ted accent. "What can you say to that? `Hey, nice black Reeboks'?"
Playing only original material, most of it penned by Connole, the Cryptics have finished a new cassette, Kill Me, which will be released locally in January. Using that tape as a demo, the band plans on moving to L.A. next May. But like the Jetzons before them, Connole says they'll return to the Valley on a regular basis.
Although he knows his track record makes him a bad risk, Connole seems willing these days to work for a larger measure of success. Eternally uninterested in the business side of music, Connole says he's keeping an open mind.
"If a record deal came along for the Cryptics, I wouldn't turn it down," he says. "But in my experience, record deals are just like what would happen if someone comes in and hands you the keys to a Jaguar. For three days, it's great, but then it'd need a tune-up, which costs a fortune, and you're screwed. They [record deals] can be a short period of excitement followed by more problems than you had before."
The Jetzons will perform at the Mason Jar on Tuesday, December 31. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Connole is a songwriter and performer of real substance who has swung between long periods of sobriety and precipitous slips into darkness. "I hit bottom the day [Saddam] Hussein invaded Kuwait. I thought, `The whole world's going down with me.'" "I kept running away from home, which interfered with my academic career," he says with a grin.
The Cryptics has quickly become one of the best known and most controversial bands in the Valley.
"Record deals are just like what would happen if someone comes in and hands you the keys to a Jaguar. For three days, it's great.