Droge, Pete

views updated

Pete Droge

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Pete Droge has suffered the one-hit wonder tag since his 1994 alternative-radio hit, If You Dont Love Me (Ill Kill Myself). The song helped make his debut, Necktie Second, a commercial success, but his record label was undergoing financial distress by the time his 1996 follow-up was released, and Finds Door predictably went nowhere with no marketing effort to help it. Yet singer/songwriter Droge, an interesting by product of the Northwest grunge scene who has sometimes been compared to Tom Petty, is fortunate to possess well-connected friends who have great faith in his talents.

Droge was born in the late 1960s and grew up in Seattle, Washington. His mother was a music teacher, and his father, also a music-lover, taught Droge to play his first instrument, the ukulele, at the age of four. As a young adult, Droge worked in a pizza place and befriended Mike McCready, who would later go on to fame as the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam. By the time the Seattle-based group achieved massive success in the early 1990ssecond only to NirvanaDroge had his own roots-rock outfit called Ramadillo. We didnt have the attitude,Lets get it perfect, so it was alternative, Droge told Rolling Stones Kim Ahearn, and said Ramadillo was just part of a subscene at the time that the Artist and Repretoire (A&R) people who were flocking [to Seattle] didnt pick up on.

Droge next spent time living and playing around the Oregon city of Portland, which boasted its own thriving, though less legendary music scene. McCready, still pals with Droge, gave one of his demo tapes to Pearl Jam producer Brendan OBrien, who liked Droges sound so much he engineered a deal for the relative unknown with American Recordings, the label owned by rap impresario Rick Rubin. OBrien would produce all three of Droges releases, in between helping out artists like Neil Young and Soundgarden in the studio.

Droges debut, Necktie Second, was released in 1994, and its first single, If You Dont Love Me (Ill Kill Myself), quickly climbed the Modern Rock charts. A somewhat insouciant, stalker-with-a-sense-of-irony tune, Droge had written it in the summer of 1993 in his Portland home. He would later have to endure criticism for the lightheartedness of its lyrics, which were part of its commercial success in the first place; some critics termed its lines downright absurd. Droge, who toured for a year and a half in support of Necktie Second, soon tired of the hassles from those who seized upon this part of the songs character. At the time of writing a tune like that you dont think that somebodys going to be calling you up and asking, So what exactly is an Eskimo freeze? Droge complained to Billboards Eric Boehlert in late 1994. The rest of the record offered a more diverse range of fare, and it would sell over sixty thousand copies. The sense of quiet longing in most of his music has little in commonbarring the universal subject of heartachewith the blatant goofiness of You Dont Love Me, wrote Ahearn.

With his second effort, Find a Door, Droge ran into some bad luck when his label, American, underwent internal difficulties. The 1996 record was given little promotion, and accordingly did not do well. Yet Droge had, by this time, assembled a permanent backing band that grounded him and certainly lent support during some rough times. The band, which was first called the Sinners, included Peter Stroud, Dave Hull, Dan McCarroll, and vocalist Elaine Summers (who would later release a solo album that Droge produced in 1997). He had also invited session musicians from the world of gospel to round it out musically. On Find a Door, Droge credited the band with helping him focus his talents into a specific style. A lot of the reasons this album will work, if it indeed does work, is due to the strengths of all five of us, Droge told Douglas Reece in Billboard.

By this time, Droges clear roots-rock style was earning him comparisons to up-and-comers Hootie and the Blowfish and the Dave Matthews band, but Droge was simply sticking to what he had always done, especially in his former musical incarnation of Ramadillo. Having

For the Record

Born c. 1969.

Droge had an early 1990s band called Ramadillo; Self-released independent Ramadillo LP, 1991; signed with American Recordings, c. 1993; released debut Necktie Second, 1994; released Find a Door, 1996; signed to Fiftyseven Records, c. 1997; released Spacey and Shaking 1998.

Addresses: Record company Fiftyseven Records, 1770 Century Blvd., Suite B, Atlanta, GA 30345.

cut my teeth in the Seattle club scene when just about every band in town got a record deal but me, Im not all that swayed by whats popular, and I have a hard time putting anybody in a category, Droge told Reece in the Billboard interview. But, yeah, I see a lot more music that isnt hard rock beginning to reach people.

True to form, Droge ventured into new territory with his third record, the 1998 Spacey and Shakin. By then, Droge had spent months opening for acts such as Tom Petty, Neil Young, and his friends in Pearl Jam, and the experience had led him away from his acoustic sound. Spacey and Shakin, released on producer OBriens Fiftyseven Records label, put forth a much heavier electric guitar sound, which Droge explained as a natural progression for any guitarist after playing so many large venues. You have so much adrenaline running when you hit the stage, he told Guitar Worlds Alan Paul, and you just want to get the audiences interest right away and keep it, especially if youre an opening act.

Despite the title, Spacey and Shakinwas not that far-out a record, though there was some clear nods to 60s psychedelic bands and evidence of Droges love of the Troggs (Wild Thing) and Bob Dylan. He recorded it with the same assemblage of musicians, now renamed the Millionaires. The alternative paper Boston Phoenix gave Spacey and Shakina positive review, and noted that Droges voice splits the difference between Jim-mie Dale Gilmore and Tom Petty. Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis called it Droges most ambitious album to date, and termed it one of the most outstanding examples of the year in its overcrowded guitar-rock category.

McCready remains one of Droges biggest fans, and even penned a homage to him in Guitar Player. He praised Droges songwriting abilities, and confessed that Droges lyrics and plaintiff acoustic guitar riffs could easily reduce him to tears. He termed several songs from Necktie Second as crucial in this generations landscape of ideas. Pete paints auditory pictures of every day life in its pleasures and struggles.

Selected discography

Necktie Second, American, 1994.

Find a Door, American, 1996.

Spacey and Shakin, Fiftyseven/Epic, 1998.

Sources

Billboard, December 17, 1994, p. 73; May 18, 1996, pp. 14, 21.

Boston Phoenix, April 24, 1998.

Chicago Sun-Times, April 5, 1998.

Guitar Player, February 1995, p. 16.

Guitar World, July 1998.

Rolling Stone, March 9, 1995, p. 32.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Epic Records publicity materials, 1998.

Carol Brennan

About this article

Droge, Pete

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article