By Lisa Morgan
“We didn’t know what we had.” This is the reflection of every single member of the band Wiseman who stole center stage in the local desert music scene from 1999 to 2005 with their post-punk rock creations. Listening to their music today for the first time, I have to agree. In my humble opinion, with the right exposure, this band should have become a household name in venues far outreaching the Coachella Valley. One can only imagine (that is, if like me, they weren’t there) the mind blowing, experience this band was live. Tracy Dietlin, this paper’s owner and publisher WAS there. “I am so excited about the Wiseman reunion and that Zach Wiser, the original front man, will be traveling all the way from Oklahoma to perform with his old band mates. Back in the early 2000’s Wiseman was one of the most popular local bands here, with a devoted legion of fans. Their music was very unique compared to some of the other desert rock bands.”
I on the other hand, had to find out for myself what the hell had my publisher so ready to throw her panties on stage. Guitarist, Robert Bowman invited me into their secret lair (aka rehearsal studio) to witness first hand, the power of Wiseman. I have to say, the respect was immediate. I instantly began to understand what made this band and their music so influential. I FELT the music as much as I heard it. In a small studio, mistakes are highlighted, weaknesses are spotlighted and any lack of finesse becomes a blaring ear-sore. What I heard, was seasoned perfection. It’s the kind of magic that doesn’t happen often. It only happens when great music and great musicians join creative forces and make music that imprints itself on your internal hard drive. They manage to do this as much through the music’s tight and tasty, pulse altering rhythms as the soulful guitar lines dancing around straight forward, hauntingly honest, vocals and lyrics. The music is just as relevant today as it ever could have been a decade ago.
It all started at the Red Barn, growing from an acoustic format into a full rock ensemble, playing clubs like the Village Pub, the Village Lounge and others, among bands like the Hellions, Mighty Jack, Vega and Se7en4. The band grew so much in popularity; they played almost 300 shows in one year. Wiseman could bring out the rocker in even the most pristinely dressed, after hour, office secretary. But in 2005, after a long day of setting up and tearing down for two shows, the tensions and well… “life” brought the band to an end. “We’d played two shows that day …we were still young and trying to figure out what to do; some of us were trying to focus on other careers at the time. We called it quits in 2005, in the parking lot after a grand opening gig. We didn’t really talk much for a few years,” says, Wiseman’s original guitarist, Robert Bowman. The reunion began to take root when drummer, Mike Webb’s girlfriend, requested that the guys play Wiseman songs. “With only 50% of us here, we recruited Jeff Bowman on vocals and bass (currently drummer and founding member of Mighty Jack) and, Jamie Hargate (the band Hellion’s own guitar monster). They do QUITE well,” Robert said with a gleam in his eye, smirking at the blaring understatement. Wiseman performed without front man Zach in 2012.
“My point of view,” interjected Jamie, “I’ve been a super fan from day one. I was in a band called Vega at the time. If I wasn’t there sharing the stage with them in Vega, I was there in the audience. I was at every show, and I appreciated every show. These guys were a huge deal in early 2000. They worked their asses off. When this all came about (the reunion), I gave it two thumbs up and a thank you, especially since I’d be playing with super musician, Jeff Bowman.” (Side bar: Jeff Bowman is an extremely understated talent, well known and respected among musicians, having played for the band Unsound and producing some of Wiseman’s favorite recordings)
According to the super-musician himself, Jeff Bowman, “The music actually got itself. They created a whole new ‘thing’. Mikes drumming fit perfectly. The way Robert’s guitar danced around the simplicity of what Zach was doing was amazing. And the more they wrote the more of a ‘thing’ it became.” From somewhere among this group of musicians came the statement, “Chicks loved it!” Apparently, it wasn’t a joke because there were only sober nods in acknowledgement to the fact. Jeff concurred by adding, “That’s why I’d get up there whenever I could and sang back ground vocals.” The statement was followed by another round of silent reflection, grins and nods of affirmation.
If they didn’t know what they had then, this group of prodigious musicians absolutely knows what they have now. “We played last night – our first rehearsal since our last show together in March,” shared Robert. “Last night after rehearsal, we were talking about how well it sounded. Everybody was on point. Jeff said, ‘You know if you guys want to do this…’ I was like on cloud nine. My wife asked me, ‘What is wrong with you! You’re acting like a frickin school girl!’” Robert just smiled. There will be no booking in the near future. They’re going to sit down and write and get a set together. (The Bro-mance was getting a bit thick between these guys as they considered their future together. I watched and listened as they each murmured something about getting chills and hard nipples at the thought of it. Someone said, ‘don’t print that!’ Someone else shouted, ‘Fucking print that!’) Finally, snapping out of their musings of the not so distant future, and getting back to the immediate future, Robert stated excitedly, “Right now, it’s all about Wiseman. This is for Zach and the Wiseman fans. Zach is coming all this way with his new band The Secret Post. Mighty Jack is playing too and the whole thing is going to be bad ass. We’ve got a few surprises and tricks up our sleeve, so you really don’t want to be the one to miss this show.” (Try as I may, I could not pry any information regarding the “tricks and surprises” from these guys…guess we’ll all just have to be there to find out)
“We’ve all grown up and we can look back and be glad that our relationships weren’t so damaged that we couldn’t rekindle it. That’s what it’s all about. I’m so excited to share the stage with my best friends, and with a new band too- The Secret Post. I’m freaking thrilled,” said Robert. Watching his excitement, I began to understand the “school girl” reference made by his wife.
Zach’s arrival almost, but not quite, completes this potentially epic reunion. One member is missing. Original bass player, Tap Howard, whose love for making music with Wiseman inspired him to follow Zach to Oklahoma. Tap played with Zach up until 2011 when he joined the military. Howard is no scrub; he is part of the United States Army Honor Guard, a position awarded to the best of the best by military standards. And it is ONLY his honor to our country that keeps him away from this event. Let this be a reminder to us all ~ underneath some of those camouflage uniforms and those dress greens and blues, beats the heart of a bad ass rocker like Tap.
Zach Wiser: Robert, Jeff, Jamie and Mike, some of whom have not seen front man, Zach, in 7 years, are not the only ones excited about Saturday’s show. Flying out from Tulsa, Oklahoma on Thursday night, Zach too is anxious to rejoin his friends for whom he still holds in the highest regard. They’ll rehearse, and then enjoy the obligatory party of rock stars before regrouping on stage with their various brands of awesomeness.
Looking back, Zach says, “We were going in different directions before I moved to Oklahoma. But we truthfully just didn’t realize what we had at the time, and took it for granted. Then, I went through a divorce, and my son’s mom wanted to move back to Oklahoma to be near family. Of course I moved back to my home state. I wasn’t going to be away from my son. Our bass player, Tap Howard, moved back here with me.”
I asked Zach how his new project, The Secret Post got started. “It actually started in California. Wiseman was moving in a post punk direction. But I’m heavily influenced by post punk and new wave – bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and things like that. I started working it out as a solo thing on a little four track recorder. It’s more along the post punk genre, but softer. The guitar is still present, but not quite so heavy. There’s a lot of keyboard in the music, and the bass is more along the line of The Cure or Joy Division… they are more the meat instrument, not just in the background. They’re softer songs so I don’t have to scream it out. I can just take my time and sing.” The music has struck a golden nerve among post punk and indie web-radio stations, as it has cultivated a huge international response and following over the last year.
I asked if there were any similarities in the production process to the work done on Wiseman EPs. “Yeah. Most of the stuff we (Wiseman) did would be self-produced in a studio. I kind of have a vision and a feel when I write a song. Bowman (Robert) is one I’ve always referred to as ‘my musical soul mate’. I could bring a melody and lyrics to him, and in one listen, he’ll add something to it that worked. We worked together very well. I also self-produce with The Secret Post. I’ve been called a little picky, or a little diva sometimes, but that’s the sound I want… it’s my song and it’s coming out of my soul. I want to hear the song like I hear it my head, or as close as you can get it. Bowman was always the same way. He had no problem with me being like that, and I had no problem with him being picky with his guitar. Secret Post is the same way. They are all very trusting of my judgment. But Bowman will always be ‘my’ lead guitar player, whether we’re playing together or not. The Secret Post is getting very popular overseas. If we ever went anywhere, I always knew I was going to have to pay him to be in my band.”
“I’m very excited to show my old band to my new band, and my new band to my old band. We’ve got some tricks and surprises up our sleeve and it’s going to be a great show.” (Again with the surprises, tricks and secrets tease!)
Do NOT miss this show, Saturday, June 29th at The Hood Bar in Palm Desert. The show starts at 9 pm. The world will be watching for video shot by our desert’s own Robert Wolfgang Laster , (RobertWolfgang.com) but YOU get the chance to be there in person.
Follow Wiseman @ https://www.facebook.com/pages/WiseMan/114690801914270 or https://myspace.com/wiseman#!
Follow Zach Wiseman and The Secret Post at the following links: