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Art for Starters Is a Startup Operation That’s Barely Gotten Started

Living with an addict destroys you.

Either you shut down emotionally to weather the shitstorms or you erupt like Vesuvius because someone has relegated you to secondary status, behind the drug of choice.

An addict only has to keep falling and the world sympathizes with his co-dependency. But how about no dependency? How about being saddled with someone who always disappoints, never comes through for you, and blames you for all his/her own inadequacies? Not so much sympathy there. So you second-guess yourself, you lash out at ghosts, but mostly you seethe, knowing that while your little thrillseeker always has the welcoming arms of a fix to run to, you ultimately have to work out all their shitty deeds alone.

It's that sober-bordering-on-insane outlook that informs every note of Art for Starters' ambitious debut, a double CD titled Drugs Made My Favorite Bands, Drugs Ruined My Favorite People. It's a record that its author, David Jensen (late of Before Braille, a beloved Arizona band that imploded in 2005), needed to make for his own survival but not one that he was ever 100 percent sure he would share with the public. After mixing the album in a marathon 28-hour session, Jensen moved his possessions into storage, and he and his wife pulled up stakes and spent six months teaching English in Korea.

A chance catch of a particularly incandescent set in Scottsdale suggested that maybe there already was an Art for Starters CD out there in the universe. And Jensen's car trunk had bundles of 'em shrinkwrapped and ready to go. Not ready to release its record just yet, the band instead sold bundles of CDs from the members' various previous groups, rubberbanded together, at the Art for Starters merch booth.

Sitting at a round table with Jensen, drummer Chad Martin, bassist David Marquez, singer Ashley Taylor, and keyboardist/singer Ree Boado (guitarist Brad Cole was in Tucson) at Martin's home, Art for Starters seem more like a family than any band you've ever known. The mutual-support-society vibe might also be sickening if it weren't genuine and heartfelt.

Everyone's best face forward could also be a reaction to the tension that usually exists in group dynamics, where at least two sides of musical direction are tugging for control. But here, everyone is more than happy to follow Jensen's lead, because he leads by following. For a guy who played nearly every note of the two-disc set by himself, or with the help of producer Bob Hoag, he is totally amenable to whatever musical contributions other members want to make.

This idyllic working situation was barely imaginable in the dark days after Before Braille's demise. "Yeah, it was painful. A lot of it was business stuff, but it was also that we had gotten so close as friends and it got a little nasty," says Jensen. "I actually wanted to get away, but I also had a lot of Before Braille debt, so I got a job in 2006 as a night watchman and I could work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. And I still had the Before Braille van. The job entailed watching equipment and tractors. People would come to steal tools, that kind of thing. So in the van I had a laptop, a guitar, and a computer mic, and I wrote the record pretty much that way.

"Initially, I wasn't sure that I wanted to be in a band or even play music for people again, but the only thing that felt good was playing those songs," he says. "The recordings were pretty bad."

"Quality-wise, not songwriting-wise," Martin corrects him.

Jensen smiles, thanks him, and says, "The songs came together, so I said, 'Hey, I should record this.'"

He first recorded a slew of songs acoustically with Jason Corman at Bumbles Bounce Studios and later recorded the electric version at Flying Blanket with Bob Hoag. No band was in place, but drummer Martin was tapped early to come in and keep time.

"Chad came in to save the day a few times," says Jensen. "There was a song called 'Disquiet Trembler' that Bob didn't like very much and didn't want to record; he wanted to throw it out. But he said, 'I give you a day to find a drummer and track it.' So I called him up, he tracks it in 90 minutes, and now Bob likes it. Chad was in Batter the Drag, so he's used to playing weird time signatures."

He's also used to being in tense band situations, which he was not interested in reliving.

"I've always been the business guy in almost all my bands," says Martin. "Once I got out of Fivespeed, I decided I didn't want to do that anymore and just wanted to play for fun, if the chance came up. In this project, it's great to just play for the pleasure of making great music, and not have to deal with the undue pressure of trying to 'make it.' Some kind of hippie crap like that."

Art for Starters have had some false-start lineups thus far, but things started to solidify with Martin and Cole, both Fivespeed alumni, on board. "Since I was in BB, it was kind of a dream to be in a band with Fivespeed guys," says Jensen. Bassist David Marquez, an inescapable presence on the downtown music scene, slotted in comfortably and stayed on. Not surprisingly, it was the females of Art for Starters who received the more unique invitations.

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Sorry, I don't know much about this dave jensen guy or his music, but after reading the previous comment from "victim" I could not stop laughing my head off. What a freaking drama queen. Obviously there is something special to this dave guy to get others so riled up. and for that, I can't wait to buy his album and see what he's all about. Seriously, "victim", are you serious?!?

Oh and as a side note - anyone that BLAMES other people for their drug use is an idiot. and a loser.


"Dave Jensen is a terrible animal. I don't know if he's gone through the 12 steps yet, but he's never asked my forgiveness. I was always one of those who thought �oh, he�s just passionate� or �he�s just an emotional guy� when I saw anonymous internet posts attacking him. He is and always will be a victim of his own misdoings, because he relishes being a victim. It�s how he controls us. If you would like to talk about co-dependence, ask those around Dave what it�s like when he loses his temper. How often does it happen? How do they deal with it? They bury their heads and say it�s about the music. They pretend like he�s not a pitiful child who controls his surroundings with big talk of rockstardom and pseudo-ingenuity; a veritable Jim Jones of terrible songwriting. They also, apparently, start doing drugs. This is co-dependence. This is enabling, denying that the problem exists, using unhealthy coping mechanisms, hiding true feelings as to not upset the tyrant, Dave.He more or less asks, �Why does everyone I know get ruined by drugs?� The answer is, because you pitch them an unrealistic lifestyle that is unattainable through music that is as bad as yours is. When these expectations aren�t met, you deal with it through rage, alcohol, and more delusion, while they deal with it through drugs. Are you better than them? Are you superior because you turn to Mr. Hyde instead of a joint? �Oh you�re such a pained soul.� No, you are a self-absorbed perpetual teenager who uses other peoples� pain to feel sorry for yourself, or worse yet, you use other peoples� pain so that others feel sorry for you. What a waste of everyone�s time you are. The pain you feel is the pain that you bring on yourself by alienating those who do not enable you. I do know the 12 steps, and �pretending like you are angry at other addicts� is not one of them.Sadly I do not speak for everyone, but hopefully everyone else will not have to learn how false you are the same way that I, and a handful of others did. Give up Dave, you are terrible."

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