Adam Again

views updated

Adam Again

Rock band

Alternative Christian rock band Adam Again was led by vocalist and producer Gene Eugene, whose singing style was often likened to that of Michael Stipe of REM. The band mingled soul, funk, rock, and acoustic elements, and although it had a small cult following, it never saw widespread commercial success. The group disbanded in 2000 after Eugene's unexpected death at the age of 38.

"The Boss of the Band"

The band was formed in 1986 when Eugene, his wife Riki Michele (who would later divorce him), Greg Lawless, and Paul Valadez got together. From the start, the band was atypical in the world of Christian music: Michele, who complemented Eugene's vocals with her own smooth singing style, also danced during the performances, which became somewhat controversial in the conservative Christian world. Michele told Tony LaFianza in The Phantom Tollbooth, the kids who were listening to the music didn't mind at all, but "it seemed to be the adults, the people in charge, just thought it was too crazy, a little too wild." Although she toned down her dancing for some gigs, she refused to stop.

Eugene was "always the boss of the band," Michele told LaFianza. "He was the headstone and the one that did all the writing." As Eugene became busy with other projects, such as producing other bands, Adam Again fell by the wayside. The band never toured widely, and eventually they got together only to play at festivals or to make a recording. Also, as Dave Urbanski wrote in CCM, another reason the band never achieved widespread success was the genre that it played in: "When alternative Christian rock was being invented, bands like The 77s, Adam Again and The Choir were indeed kings of the hill, but it was an awfully small hill."

Eugene had started working in show business as a child actor; he appeared on such shows as Bewitched and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. However, his true calling was music, and in the 1980s he formed Adam Again and began creating a new take on Christian music, which at the time was in the doldrums. Tim Taber of the band Prayer Chain told William Lobdell in a Los Angeles Times article reprinted in The Choir, "The thought was, ‘It's just a Christian record, that's good enough.’ But Gene said, ‘I want to make a record that's good enough for MTV.’ And he did it, working with budgets that are a fraction of what the big bands had."

Eugene worked with his own band, as well as other groups like Starflyer 59, Plankeye and Swirling Eddies, to produce music that was the equal of its secular counterparts. By the 1990s he was a dominant force in Christian music. As John Thompson, founder of the Christian music magazine True Tunes, told Lobdell, "If you were to combine Phil Spector, John Lennon and Booker T. [James] and make them into one guy," that would sum up his influence.

The hub of Eugene's world was his home and studio, known as "The Green Room," in Huntington Beach, California. Eugene had an open door policy, and musicians often walked in and played on each other's albums, stayed the night, or just hung out. Eugene himself rarely left his studio, unless it was to pursue his other love: watching the Dodgers play baseball. Thompson told Lobdell, "He'd sacrifice food and water to buy season tickets each year."

Although Eugene spent his life creating and promoting Christian music, he was not a stereotypical Christian. "He wasn't evangelical," Brandon Ebel, president of the Christian label Tooth and Nail, told Lobdell. Eugene's friend and fellow musician Mike Roe told Lobdell, "I spent months of my life hating the guy. He was a flake with a capital F." However, he added, "He balanced everything out with his extreme generosity." In CCM, musician Derri Daugherty told Dave Urbanski that Eugene rarely spoke about his religious beliefs, but when Daugherty's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Eugene called to say he was praying for her: "So we talked for a while, and we touched on things we never had before."

"Quantum Leap"

Adam Again's debut release was In a New World of Time, followed by Ten Songs by Adam Again. In a chronology of the band on Phileas Phogg, Ibangs wrote that these two albums show "no hint of the creative quantum leap to come." With Homeboys, the band made a big improvement. They replaced a drum machine with a live drummer, Jon Knox, creating a fusion of funk and soul rhythms to back the album's urban rock. During the creation of Dig, released in 1992, Eugene was experiencing a creative block, and he and Michele were on the brink of divorce. Nevertheless, the album had what Ibangs called "a molten soulful mix… a wired fury that could also mellow into a haunting dirge." Despite its breakout style, the album languished and was rarely heard. It did not mention the word "Jesus," and was filled with songs about anger, divorce, and doubt, so many Christian fans wouldn't touch it; and it was released on a Christian label, so some mainstream listeners were also wary.

In 1995 the band released Perfecta, which continued the unique style they showed on Dig. Ibangs wrote, "The album veers from acoustic ballads to danceable jams with ease, and only the inclusion of two jam-oriented songs into the middle of the disc keep the album from bettering Dig."

On March 20, 2000, friends found Eugene dead on the floor of his Green Room. He had not felt well in the weeks before his death, and the previous day before, he had complained of a headache. Later tests revealed he had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. He was 38 years old. Fans and the many musicians he had worked with gathered for an outpouring of grief and mutual support, and the Christian band The 77s began working with the remaining members of Adam Again on a DVD tribute to his life and work. Ibangs wrote, "Gene's music was intensely personal, and this combined with genius is what turned many of his listeners into fanatics. I am convinced that many Adam Again fans were Adam Again fans… because to some degree they identified with his struggles, disappointments, and rare glimpses of peace and joy."

Selected discography

In a New World of Time, Blue Collar Records, 1987.

Ten Songs by Adam Again, Broken Records, 1988.

Homeboys, Broken Records, 1990.

Dig, Brainstorm, 1992.

Perfecta, Brainstorm, 1995.

Worldwide Favourites, KMG Records, 1999.

A Tribute to Gene Eugene (DVD), Eden Z Film and Video, 2000.

For the Record …

Members include: Gene Eugene (died in 2000), vocals; Jon Knox , drums; Greg Lawless , guitar; Dan Michaels , saxophone; Riki Michele , vocals; Paul Valadez , bass.

Formed in 1987; released In a New World of Time, 1987; Ten Songs by Adam Again, 1988; Homeboys, 1990; Dig, 1992; Perfecta, 1995; Worldwide Favourites, 1999; disbanded in 2000 after death of Gene Eugene; released A Tribute to Gene Eugene, 2000.

Addresses: Eden Z Film and Video, P.O. Box 8457, Coburg, OR 97408.



"Adam Again: A Chronology," Phileas Phogg, (February 26, 2007).

"Music Falls Silent in a Magical Green Room," Los Angeles Times article reprinted in The Choir, (February 26, 2007).

"Remembering Gene," CCM, (February 27, 2007).

"Riki Michele Interview," Phantom Tollbooth, February 2002, (February 26, 2007).

"Worldwide Part I: A Gene Eugene Tribute by Adam Again,", (February 26, 2007).