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NIGHT LIFE

Band Becomes Ventura's, Gain and Australia's Loss : Loadedzilla quartet takes pride in never playing the same song the same way twice.

September 30, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The name Loadedzilla brings to mind images of Godzilla staggering across the grounds of the Sapporo factory. Actually, the buzz building around this guitar-crazed quartet is purely musical.

These reptile rockers will be interrupting their busy tour schedule to headline at the Midnight Hour in Ventura on Saturday night.

"We're on the couch tour," said rhythm guitarist Morgan Ray during a recent interview at the band's practice room. "We play music and travel around; that's all we do. We like playing. We live our life. That's it."

Ray is from California while his three band mates are from Australia. David Hilder writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Andrew Webster is the bass player, and Michael Templeman is the drummer who missed the practice I attended, but apparently shows up for the gigs.

Ray met Hilder a few years ago and began Loadedzilla as a duo between recurring attacks of the dreaded Polynesian paralysis.

"I met Dave on Maui, picked him up hitchhiking, and it's been all downhill since then," said Ray. "We started playing Canned Heat songs and just living the good life, but we also ended up with a pretty large following on the jungle side of Maui, out there in the rain forest, miles from the nearest TV."

After the duo ran its course, Ray came back to California and Hilder went back to Australia where he formed another band. When Hilder couldn't find a rhythm guitarist he liked, he called Ray, who went to Australia to join the new and improved Loadedzilla. According to Ray, the Australian rock scene was a little less than advertised.

"Most of the dance-club owners didn't want original music," said Ray. "DJs made more money than musicians. Also, no one could understand me when I talked. Everyone thought I was Canadian, German or Irish. And all the little rock 'n' roll kids under 18 wanted to be homies and all seemed to be wearing flannel shirts. Dave tried hard to get it going in Australia because that's what he does, but Sydney was a weird place."

Things seem to be working out better since 13 months ago, when the band moved to Ventura County.

"Being an artist is a full-time job," Hilder said. "It's not all fun and games. In Australia, you could get by on the dole, which was enough to keep you out of jail and also enough to keep you from ever getting a job. It's a lot more crowded over here, but the girls are nice. When I talk to my friends at home, they say I'm turning into an American. I guess their accent rubs off on me."

The first stateside Loadedzilla gig was about a year ago at Pine Mountain, a guaranteed over-nighter. Since then, the band plays mostly in Ventura, with one road trip down the coast to Malibu.

"One time we played for a bunch of Buffys and Chads in Malibu," said Ray, less than impressed by the Malibu mystique. "We got the gig from some Betty our drummer was dating. Anyway, a lot of people liked us, but some didn't, and we finished just in time before the cops came."

One of the things that endears Loadedzilla to local club owners is that the band is becoming quite the draw without commanding a steep price. One reason for the band's popularity is the jamming quotient popularized by the Grateful Dead. Much like current concert favorites such as Blues Traveler, Phish and the Spin Doctors, Loadedzilla never plays the same song the same way twice.

"My favorite jams are the ones we just make up that night," said Hilder. "Every night we play is completely different than any other night. We've got 25, closer to 30 maybe, songs. Ya gotta have the product, gotta have what it takes or no one will listen to you for more than five minutes. Ventura seems to be the breeding ground for local bands. There's as many good bands here as anywhere except for, maybe, New York City or L.A."

Also not plugged into the rock star mentality is Ray.

"Hey, we don't worry about it if people don't like us; that's their loss. Pretty soon, some dude from Sony is supposed to come and check us out, and until then, we'll just keep playing and see what happens."

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