The Unknown

Story and photos by Paul Moffett

At T. K.'s Pub on an unusual (for 1996) warm spring evening, the crowd had already gathered by 9:45. The young men were hanging around the back, eyeing all the young women crossing in front of the stage on their way to the restroom. The smoke was steadily thickening and the volume of conversation was slowly, inexorably rising. Although the band logo declared "The Unknown," it was plain the crowd knew who they were.

The Unknown's singer Nick Haas clearly meant to get kicked out of the Unemployed Artists' & Musicians' Nonunion when he began traveling around to various clubs making notes about what songs and bands were effective at what club.

Nick Haas, front, and Quentin James

"That's how I put together our songlist," Haas explained. "We're a cover band and I wanted to do the songs the audience wanted to hear."

More than that, Haas went on, he thought that the band should make the songs sound as much like the record as possible, including his vocals.

"I studied how the [various singers] sang their songs, their vocal tricks and tried to do that."

"I'm into marketing this band," Haas continued, "that's why we picked the name. We wanted it to be kind of vague, so that it wouldn't immediately identifiable [to the audience]."

His purpose was to avoid being slotted into a given style and to allow the band to do a variety of things.

"I knew we were going to do a lot of alternative as well as classic rock stuff, but we didn't want to be known just for the alternative or the classic rock." Haas warmed to his topic. "It was really to suggest a step into the unknown, kind of Twilight Zone-ish."

After the band had assembled their list and rehearsed, they went looking for work.

"We tried to book ourselves for a while, then signed with Triangle Talent. The first week [with Triangle] and we were doing better," Haas said.

The band has been working steadily since, playing rooms that they couldn't get in before, according to Haas.

Quentin James

"The Nugget, T. K.'s, the Phoenix, we've played all of them since signing."

The band recently changed drummers. Jack Hall has been with them for a couple of months. A studio drummer who has worked in New York, Hall has frequent calls to do sessions.

Liam Smith, bassist, previously played with Nature's Call. Quentin James, the lead guitarist, has been running a guitar show called the Eyelid Theater on TKR public access on Fridays.

The band has plans to move ahead in the business. They are currently doing a band-written tune called "Losing My Mind," written around a chord progression Liam Smith brought to the group.

"Other bands try to put out whole CDs without even knowing if they can sell them or get any airplay. We're going to record a four- or five-song cassette and just give them away," Haas said. "That should help our image."

Liam Smith

"We kept our long hair, 'cause that's our image," Haas elaborated. "We talked about it. You got to work with what you got," he went on. "That's what we do."

Back at T. K.'s, the lights and the smoke machine had gotten cranked up and so had The Unknown.

They sounded a whole lot like radio. The crowd liked it and that made The Unknown happy.