The day I got my driver’s license, the first disc I put into the CD player of my gunmetal gray ’91 Honda Accord was Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. And the first place I drove from my childhood home in Kula—taking me all the way from “Fight Fire with Fire” to “The Call of Ktulu”—was the Pauwela Cannery, where my so-called all-girl metal band shared a small practice space with Maui’s long-lost (to Colorado) rockers Krinj.
My parents were at their wits’ end over the fact that I’d culled my closet to nothing but black, and my mom was mere weeks away from stripping my room clean and throwing away all the spiked-leather I’d acquired from Malice in Wonderland (formerly in the basement of Requests). These days, I’m not afraid to admit that despite my earnest efforts, I was the biggest poseur on the island. Regardless, for those late-middle and early high school years I listened to and loved nothing—nothing—but metal.
It was then that I first heard the legend that is Anesthesia—the metalheads who’d notoriously opened for The Red Hot Chile Peppers and Metallica on Oahu, back when I was in the third grade and my biggest influences were Free Willy and celestial dolphin painter Christian Reese Lassen.
While the girls and I tried desperately to put our own twist on Radiohead tunes, I came to kind of know Anesthesia’s drummer, Kai Katchadourian, who shared our centipede- and mold-infested hovel in Haiku. I mentioned this history during a recent interview with Kai and bandmates Tim Prest and Ian Smith (Gibran Vincente and Russell Carbonnell were unfortunately absent), ahead of their big reunion gig at Stella Blues Cafe (Friday, January 15, 9:30pm, $12).
Katchadourian doesn’t remember me—which is a good thing. Again, I was a loser. An annoying hanger-on doing every edgy-ish thing I could think of to distance myself from my Michael Jackson “Will You Be There” days. A cigarette or two. Sips of Bud Light. A dragon tattoo. A Cradle of Filth sticker on the back of the Yamaha Pacifica I’d purchased for a Benjamin from Krinj’s bass player, Ian.
It was my fishnet-clad bandmate’s boyfriend Will—a redheaded thrasher who worked at Bounty Music and must have owned stock in Metallica T-shirts—who imparted upon me a little Maui metal mythology that has stayed with me to this day.
Story has it, Will said, that Katchadourian’s sticks and kit skills were so bad-ass that after Anesthesia opened for Metallica, Lars Ulrich nearly refused to go on, feeling he’d been upstaged. “Well, that’s nice,” Katchadourian laughs, “but that isn’t exactly how it happened—at all.”
He, Prest and Smith relate their memories of that March 1993 show, how they’d found out the night before they were to pack up and fly to Oahu to open for one of their idols. They say Metallica—touring for their eponymous release known as The Black Album—was more than gracious. They say James Hetfield himself even stood offstage and watched their set, and that when Katchadourian was later neck-deep in a trash can emptying his belly of vodka, Ulrich shook his head endearingly and said, “Don’t do that man, it reminds me of how I used to be.”
OK. Myth dispelled. It was good while it lasted. Still, Anesthesia remains at the heart of metal on Maui, and stands to take on a whole new dimension as they reemerge into the island’s burgeoning music scene. “We were the guys that broke the ground as far as playing heavy music, no question,” Katchadourian says.
“Right after we started out, around ’89, we were just practicing in the bushes at a construction baseyard,” remembers Prest. “We didn’t have a place to play—so wherever there was access to electricity, we’d play there.” When they finally found a consistent place to play, they were relentless. “We’d practice six days a week, at least,” says Smith.
The band’s first-ever gig was at Makena’s Pillbox (pictured, present-day) in 1988, helmed by Smith. Kihei was then Maui’s unofficial rock headquarters, and their self-produced gigs at the old Maui High, Maui Tropical Plantation or Kalama Park were one-of-a-kind—especially for underage listeners.
“We’d be playing for 600 kids sometimes,” Katchadourian says. Prest adds that it was at shows like that where they came to know guys like Kale Boverman, now-owner of Stella Blues, who they credit with inspiring their reunion.
But don’t call it a reunion, really. A nostalgic throwback, if anything. “Bands break up, but it wasn’t like that, it wasn’t bitter,” says Prest of the band amicably dissolving in ’95. So why reunite now?
“The timing is right, and the chemistry is still there,” Katchadourian says. “Ultimately, that’s never gone anywhere, and it was apparent the first time we all played together again.”
After the Stella Blues gig, Anesthesia plans to return to the studio to revisit their stored-up work, plus new things they’ve written in the decades since. They hope to have completed an album this time next year and to host a huge CD release party—hopefully an all-ages thing, to harken to “back then.”
Local legends though they may be, in undertaking this new chapter they’re excited by how they’ve continued to mature as musicians—and broadened their musical palates. “A great thing is we listen to a varied amount of music—in fact, I don’t even really listen to a whole lot of metal anymore,” Smith says.
“But,” Katchadourian is quick to add, “we’re still connoisseurs. This show is definitely going to exemplify and represent Anesthesia then—and Anesthesia 2011.”