Published on August 12th, 2018 | by wemf0
Band on band: The Music of Nathan James
Skies that Never End
Nathan James, Triax Coalition, and an all-too short lifetime of music
By Mike Breen
What do you call a concert / tribute / party celebrating the life of your best friend? That question bubbled around in my brain for a while. It had to be something catchy, positive, and preferably drawn from the lyrics of Triax Coalition. Those lyrics are somewhat cynical, political (without taking sides), and creative, but “positive” isn’t really how I’d describe them.
I met Nate Dunne, a.k.a. Nathan James, in the mid-90’s after he answered an ad I’d placed looking for a bass player. In those days there was no internet as we now know it today. No Craigslist gigs page, no websites, and no MP3s to email. In fact, email back then was limited to services like AOL and CompuServ. Communication with prospective band members was through newspaper classifieds, snail mail, landlines, and cassettes. After speaking with Nate on the phone, we met face-to-face and he liked the music. We also immediately hit it off as friends. Within 3 months we were gigging and recording. Within a year we were sharing an apartment, writing songs together, and building a makeshift home recording studio out of two 4-track cassette machines, a 4-channel Radio Shack microphone mixer, and a ramshackle assortment of microphones of varying quality.
We introduced each other to many wide varieties of music. I introduced him to obscure post-punk and alternative bands from the late 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s while he (re)introduced me to heavy metal and techno. We had a bit of success and positive buzz. The sound of the band shifted from power pop to something more atmospheric and dynamic, and then a couple of years later shifted again to a kind of mish-mosh of gothic rock and heavy metal, with Nate moving to second guitar and his then-future wife joining on vocals.
Eventually that band had run its course, but it was great and long. Not many bands at any level last for five years. We lasted nearly twenty. During that time Nate’s health took a turn but that did not slow him down one bit.
Once his health stabilized, he turned his attention back to music – first with Safety Tested and then with his most fully realized musical creation – Triax Coalition. Triax was his baby, he was incredibly proud of it. He had always talked about putting on a SHOW, and when they played live Triax was a full-on production with dancers, loops, synths, drums, guitars, and lights – some on the instruments themselves. Three people using their instruments, talents, and technology to sound like half dozen at least. As one of our close friends said to me after a show, Triax was the culmination of a lot of ideas he’d had through the years.
As first Safety Tested and then Triax played across the Boston area, Nate made many new friends from the bands he played with and the clubs they played in. Through all of this we collaborated one more time. In October of 2016 my then-new band Sonic Eclipse was ready to begin recording our debut album and Nate stepped up – offering his now near-professional home studio to record some of our basic tracks and lending a hand as the recording engineer. He captured such a great drum sound for us that the rest of the album fell into place relatively easily. 2016 was a great year for him musically.
Unfortunately, as great as 2016 was for his musical creativity, it was not for his health. After the Sonic Eclipse sessions there was one more Triax gig, then he planned on a long break to get his health back on track. Things did not go as planned, and within a few short months he was gone.
I often think about what he would have done next had things gone as planned. Obviously he would have recorded a second Triax album. My band would most likely be actively talking with him right now about helping out with our second album, and maybe he and I would do a low-key collaboration of our own. Or maybe collaborations with some of the friends he’d made recently would have been in the cards. Or maybe even all of it. We’ll never know the creativity that we’ve been robbed of.
Which brings me back to the concert / tribute / party, being held August 18th at Sammy’s Patio in Revere – it is going to be a celebration of the music he left for all of us to enjoy. When I approached the members of Sounds of the Fallen – now in the bands Bottlekapp and ¡Nandayo¡ – about a benefit / tribute concert they were all in from the beginning, even securing the venue and date.
And the name of this event? It turned out to be easier than I thought once I buckled down and thought about it. As I was listening to the Triax album one particular phrase struck me from the song “Land of Milk and Honey”: Neverending Sky. I had to listen back two or three times to make sure I’d heard it right because earlier in the song he sang “Neverending Lie.” But I’d heard it right, and it struck me as perfect – catchy, positive, and drawn from Triax lyrics (even if they were taken out of context).
All of the bands are looking forward to a great night of music and memories, and each brings something different to the table. The rock and funk of Bottlekapp, the prog-rock of Sonic Eclipse, the metal of ¡Nandayo¡, and the blues rock of Pardon My Inebriation will prove to be an eclectic evening. Opening the night will be a short set by myself and drummer Jeff Aufiero, who had played with Nate from those early days all the way through to Triax. Along with Sonic Eclipse’s bassist, Jeff and I will be performing some of those old songs that we played so many years ago in tribute to a friend who, although gone, never seems to be far away.
Doors at Sammy’s Patio for Neverending Sky will open at 5:00pm and the first band will begin at 5:30pm. Admission $10.00 donation / pp at the door. Silent Auction & 50/50 raffle throughout the evening.
Pardon My Inebriation:
Nate’s old material:
Safety Tested’s Bandcamp page:
Triax Coalition’s CDBaby page: