Concealed Weapons

Despite some misfires, The Pistoleros keep looking for a break and say that rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated

Zubia went back into the room to confirm that Hopkins was indeed dead. But he says it wasn't until he was talking to police several minutes later that he fully realized that Hopkins had killed himself. Zubia hadn't seen the gun, which had fallen from Hopkins' hand. Zubia doesn't know where Hopkins obtained it.

"It's really a good thing that I didn't see the gun," he says. And when he's asked to explain why, Zubia says, "I don't know. I don't know how to explain it. It's just better that I didn't know it was there.

"I went to Mark's house and cried in his lap. Forever. Just forever. That was a bad thing for me to come upon. I was really fucked-up at that point," Zubia says.

Lawrence spun further out of control and deeper into depression, and frequently contemplated suicide. The Chimeras, meanwhile, had amassed a considerable local following, and in 1994 and early 1995 recorded several songs for a self-released album, Mistaken for Granted. Zubia says today he can't listen to the album, which sounds muddied, as if Zubia's voice is sinking under the other musicians.

"I was singing badly," Zubia says. "I was not at the top of my game, because I was really hitting the bottom with the drugs and the alcohol. I was struggling to do my parts. I think we buried my vocals on purpose on the mix because they were mediocre."

A month after the tracks were completed, he would barricade himself in his Tempe house, determined to end his life.

Lawrence Zubia checked himself into Maverick House in February 1995, and noticed that he was the only patient there voluntarily.

Ed Pinnow, the Glendale nonprofit's lead counselor, says that Maverick House has a reputation as a place of last resort, where the worst of the worst are sent for treatment of drug addiction after they've failed at other programs.

Still, Zubia stood out.
"He was in bad shape," Pinnow says. "He was closed off. He was paranoid. As a matter of fact, for the first week to 10 days, he wasn't willing to leave the facility with other patients to go for recreation. He chose instead to curl up on a chair in my office and watch me do paperwork."

One of the things that terrified Zubia, Pinnow says, was the prospect that his recovery from substance abuse might end his career, that he might never again be able to work in bars and nightclubs. But Lawrence rapidly improved, and Pinnow admires the singer for not forgetting how far he's come.

"Since his recovery, Lawrence comes back. He came back on an anniversary date recently, bringing cigarettes and cookies for people at Maverick House. He just wanted to give back to addicts still in treatment. That's one of the things that keeps him strong. And he keeps in mind how fast he could be back here if he didn't do what he needs to do."

Lawrence puts it another way: "I mean, one sip of alcohol, one little pill, and I'll be in some hotel with a titty dancer smoking crack for a month, man. I just have to keep a close watch on myself."

While Lawrence battled his addictions, Mark Zubia had his own worries: Would Lawrence's stay at Maverick House mean the end of the band? Like Lawrence, Mark wondered if his brother could ever stay sober in a job that would keep him around so much drinking. And he wondered if their bandmates would wait around to find out. Then he got a call from drummer Gary Smith. "Gary said, 'I guess we should get into the shed and do some rehearsing while Lawrence is gone.' That meant the world to me. Still does to this day," Mark says.

Two days after he left Maverick House, Lawrence got back onstage. He says singing in bars for tight fans hasn't been a difficult test. "If I've missed an experience with drugs or alcohol, it can't be that great. I just have no desire to drink. It wouldn't be festive, it would just be completely self-destructive," he says.

Besides, he points out, his new house, wife Janna, and one-year-old daughter Daniela are far more beguiling than any mind-altering substance. "You want to sober up a drug addict? Have a baby."

Several months after his stay at Maverick House, Lawrence Zubia was offered a chance to room with a friend. He took it despite the fact that the apartment was in the same complex where Hopkins had killed himself, and that from his bedroom window, Zubia could see Hopkins' front door.

"Looking at that door, man. That's where I wrote songs from [The Pistoleros'] album like 'The Hardest Part'; 'Somehow, Someway'; 'Nothing Lasts Forever'; and 'Hang On to Nothing,'" he says.

In 1996 the group got a break when someone passed a Chimeras tape to Rob Seidenberg at Hollywood Records. Seidenberg flew out for a performance, and soon the band had a contract with the label. Before a record could be produced, however, the band had to change its name to avoid a copyright problem. Lawrence says that for a long time he'd had the name Pistoleros in mind.

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