Tony was my first real best friend. One of those life changing friends you meet when you’re in those horrifying, formidable teenage years. Now, looking back he was the most pronounced influence on who I am. We met in junior high and quickly became very close. We would draw this comic strip of this fake band named Ho Scale, where the characters were all stick figures. They would have adventures and battle their nemesis, a maniacal yet perfect elf named Kits. We would record old records onto tapes and make fake album covers and pretend they were the new Ho Scale release. We’d try and impress the other one with a new obscure Ho record. Tony would choose Deep Purple a lot. We were weird kids.
There was a lot of firsts with Tony. We had our first band together. Well, it was hardly a band. He was already a pretty decent guitar player and I was just the nerd trying to keep up with him. We would cut school and go to my house and make tape after tape of songs. Goofy tunes filled with inside jokes about our classmates and surreal weirdness only freshmen in high school can come up with. But even then, you could see how talented Tony was. I played “drums” with these giant duct taped drumsticks and would beat on this huge blue Tupperware clothes hamper we dubbed the “blue thing.” I still have it. Tony seemed to have endless riffs and melodies and would just knock out like ten songs in an afternoon. He could scream relentlessly one minute and seamlessly strum a beautiful ballad the next. Okay, maybe the ballad would be about how some guy in our class had like a weird shaped head or something, but still. Dude had range, even then. I couldn’t believe my best pal was such a talent. And that I got to jam with him. I was hooked. I knew I had to be around music from then on.
So many firsts. We smoked our first cigarette together. I first heard the Misfits at his house. We would obsess on the Misfits. We’d spend hours and hours deciphering lyrics and debating which single was the best. (I still say Bullet.) We would take the bus to Tower and just devour punk records. Minor Threat, Descendents, Black Flag, all the greats we would discover together. He taught me how to play power chords, which opened the door to writing my own songs. Life changing. I remember when he made the transition to become No Use For A Name’s singer/songwriter and how nervous/excited he was about it. But I knew (he might have as well) how great he was going to be. The people around back then remember how important NUFAN was to the little scene we had. They were the kings. Those years of going to Gilman and being blasted into submission by all the great shows NUFAN was a part of was the defining point in many of our teenage lives. Tony and the band were the ticket into this new limitless world outside of Sunnyvale that was just this complete eye-opener into what music/life could be. For me, and many of our crew we were never the same again.
Tony was very generous in a lot of ways as well. He was always quick to want to play music with his friends even though NUFAN was a full-time job for him. He'd be touring the world and recording tons of records, but still would take the time to hear and help me with whatever primitive nonsense I was writing. The first time I ever played live with a band, we opened up for NUFAN at The Edge. We had no reason being on that stage with them, but we were his friends and he insisted on us opening even though no one knew who the hell we were. I was so goddamn nervous about playing I could barely see straight. And that set remains a complete blur except for the memory of Tony giving me a thumbs up midway through, and how that completely alleviated any worry of mine. If Tony thought it was okay, that was all that mattered. He was a very thoughtful guy in that way. He was very politically minded and cared deeply about injustices in the world. NUFAN played tons of benefit shows for real people that needed help, an admirable trait in this fairly cynical, self-promoting world of music today.
Tony had a quick wit, a huge heart, a big talent and a unique spirit. He was a hilariously funny guy and that’s probably what I’ll miss most. He was a devoted husband and father and had a million other qualities to look up to. It’s very rare in life that one of your heroes can also be a best friend. Whoever knew Tony well can attest to that. It’s one of the stupid mysteries of life why you’d never say these sorts of things to someone while they’re around, but in times like these it’s the only thing you think about. I guess we would have been too busy laughing our asses off and arguing about fantasy football rules to bother. As I type this with a heavy heart and tear-soaked keyboard, the main thing I want to say is thanks. Thanks pal, thanks for everything.