Memorial Today for Longtime Flotsam and Jetsam Guitar Tech Killed in Alleged Drunk Driving Accident
The heavy metal music community is one that's pretty close. Last weekend, a well-respected veteran of the scene was killed.
According to Phoenix police, on June 7 around 1:30 a.m., Chris Kutcher was driving east on Cactus Road when an intoxicated woman accelerated behind him, striking his SUV and sending it off the road into a tree and a concrete wall. Forty-seven-year-old Kutcher died from his injuries, and the woman, Michelle Ayers, had a blood content that was more than three times the legal limit.
Kutcher was a part of the Flotsam and Jetsam crew since the late '80s. He helped out an array of bands with his technical skills, like Prong, and was already helping bassist Jason Newsted in Flotsam and Jetsam before Newsted joined Metallica. Kutcher was a guitar guru, technical expert, a stage manager. He was the owner of Scottsdale-based Aartistic Tile & Stone. He was known as a loving father to his two sons, both in their early 20s, that he had with his lifetime partner -- friends described him as a family man all the way.
Kutcher was part of the Flotsam and Jetsam family for decades, and his death has hit the band very hard.
Vocalist Eric "AK" Knutson knew Kutcher for more than 35 years; he says they were best friends.
"I can't say enough about Chris. He was my brother and best friend for 35 years plus. I could go on forever about what a great person he was, but this is about the impact he had on the music industry, so this story might help shed light on what kind of a tech he was," says AK. "This was in the early '90s. We are mid-set, somewhere [in] middle America. Packed house. Jason Ward [former Flotsam bassist] broke a bass string, which really doesn't happen very often.
"Before I knew what was going on, Chris comes sliding out on stage, on his knees, right in front of Ward, with new string in hand. He cut off the old string, threaded the new one, and tuned the string, while Ward was playing. We finished that song with all four strings on the bass, and in tune.
"All techs out on the road could take a lesson from Chris about the old saying 'The show must go on.' He was the same way in life and with his friends. Whatever it takes. He was afraid of nothing, and faced the world head on. The entire planet is worse off without him."
Flotsam and Jetsam guitarist Michael Gilbert remembers Kutcher for his positive attitude and values.
"Its difficult to lose a member of your family, and there are no words to express how great of a loss it has been. Chris was a very good friend above and beyond all that he did for the band and I," Gilbert says. "He always gave 110 percent and was deeply committed and loyal. He would bend over backwards for his friends and was always there, and I'm not talking about just his involvement with the band. His role was much deeper with us. As I said, he was a brother. He was family. He always carried a great attitude. Even when things would get rough he kept a sense of humor and kept smiling and he kept me laughing, for sure. I'm proud he was a part of our family circle and I'm going to miss him tremendously. Things will not be the same without him."
"Chris was one of my best friends. He saw me at my worst and also at my best. Never did he judge," says former guitarist Ed Carlson. "So many memories being on the road together; he was my right hand man. He taught me a trade that still pays my bills today. I know I let him down numerous times but he always cared about me. I'm in denial he's even gone, I will miss him terribly the rest of my days. May his spirit be in the presence of the Lord."
Being a part of the mainstream heavy metal scene also means he had a huge impact on what was happening locally. He was known by so many musicians, production specialists and media. Heavy Metal Television was founded in Mesa, Arizona, and the founder and general manager were friends with Kutcher for decades as well.
"He was genuine. He was real. And he's the kind of guy that would do anything to help you out, whether he hadn't seen you in 10 years or had just hung out with you," says Phoenix Romero, the general manager of Heavy Metal Television.
"I think one of the most important things that needs to be said is about how drunk driving has to stop. His death can't be in vain."
Eric Braverman, the founder of Heavy Metal Television, attests to the fact that Kutcher has a major impact on the music with his technical abilities.
"A band would have nothing, and he could go in and make a production happen. He would make it work. He could've run off and been the guitar tech of the world but he stays loyal to the bands he works with," says Braverman. "I remember the Pantera guys coming in saying they wanted to work with him. Working with Dimebag Darrell? That in itself speaks volumes. He could do the work of two or three people, and he would always get the show done no matter what and be on time. He was a pleasant person to work with. His history went back to the beginning days. ... He did Flotsam's first tour ever of Europe, I think. He was also a family guy, so he was precise about what tours he wanted to go on."
"He was so good at building things and figuring things out. The tile I'm walking on right now in my house? He did that for me," Braverman says. "He could do stuff like that all day and then go put on a huge rock show. He was as respected as much or more than any musician out of the metal scene ever locally, and was also a real guy. Not Hollywood- or show business-type crap. And when Jason [Newsted] was coming back here recently to help Flotsam with their last album, Chris Kutcher was right there because Jason wanted to work with him."
Kutcher's son Michael told ABC 15 that the community should look and the tragedy as a lesson to never drink and drive.
"Do whatever it is to make sure that you have control and ability of your sight and sound before you even thinking about doing that. Just take that moment right now because I am now suffering because of it. I am," Michael Kutcher said.
"I wish I had more time [to spend with my father], but it got cut short by a drunk driver. So, if you're out there drinking, think twice... think twice."
The love for Kutcher, not to mention the mentality behind celebrating his life, was summed up nicely in a post by Flotsam and Jetsam on the band's Facebook June 8:
We are sure Chris would want everyone to hold their heads up, not wallow in sorrow, but revel in the memories that were shared together.
We ask that you send a positive prayer, vibe, or thought in the direction of his close friends and family. Make a toast, light a joint, hit the bong, whatever in salute of a great person, great man, great friend.
Dimebag has a great tech in heaven once again.
Horns held high to our brother, you will forever have a spot in our hearts.
Famous quote from Chris, "I'm just sayin." Sincerely, Flotsam and Jetsam
Funeral mass will be held today -- Monday, June 16, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Scottsdale at 10 a.m., with lunch reception to follow. Please visit www.hansenmortuary.com to place online condolences.
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