Ricochet Music Magazine - The Indie Beat

"We call it urban country music. It throws people off!" Mike Housen jokes which incites laughter from the rest of us present. As I'm sitting with East West in their rehearsal studio, I realize there is much more to these four young men than the eye can see. It seems to me a person could tell this band anything and they wouldn't be shocked or upset by your revelation.

In 1993, Mike Housen, DHL courier, met Mike Tubbs while making one of his normal stops. They became friends and found out they were both involved in bands which weren't working out. At the time, Housen's band was recording a demo and Tubbs was asked to fill in on guitar when needed. "It was kind of going downhill. When Mike [Tubbs] came on we had some new life. We started taking it in another direction - more like the grunge sound. We were kind of alternative at that point. He [Tubbs] has a lot of the same influences I did so we started going towards the direction of Nirvana and Pearl Jam," Housen explains.

Housen ended up asking the other members to leave the band and then started East West with Tubbs. For close to a year they searched for a drummer. Through their mutual friend Ted Su, they were directed to Ben Dacanay, who was playing with another band at the time. "At first I was kind of apprehensive because they were like a real band. I listened to the demo and my first impression was these guys are like Metallica - totally hard-core," Dacanay admits. After auditioning, he joined as the third member.

After Dacanay came on board, they began focusing on finding the right bass player. Su auditioned for the position and was accepted as the final member. "When you hire someone to your corporation, you hire them because they're going to make your corporation better. Ted just added so much to the music that it was undeniable that God brought him our way," Housen shares.

It is clear Su feels the same way about the talent of the other three East West members. "I hear what they're doing on the guitar and in songwriting and it motivates me and inspires me to come up with something. It's not something conscious," Su explains. "This group of musicians has never been matched before in bands I've played in before. The dedication, the musicianship, the personality also - it's an unusual combination," he adds.

Unusual is one word to describe the wide-ranging music of East West. Influences such as Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, U2 and Midnight Oil can be heard. Their music is as intense vocally as it is musically which allows their energy and emotion to enfold you.

This energy can be heard in Rachel's Silence, East West's first full-length album, which was recorded and released in 1996. It was released under TISUMI Recordings, the band's own record label. This album was the result of Su using his life savings to pay for the recording. "None of this would have been possible if Ted hadn't believed in the band. It was definitely a blessing," Tubbs explains.

Rachel's Silence is fourteen emotion-filled songs dealing with real issues and personal struggles. The music takes the listener through a series of emotions including anger, fear and a sense of bewilderment towards society. It is, in essence, an extension of all their lives.

"Rachel's Silence is during a period of Mike's [Housen] and my life which was tremendously turbulent. The one thing about us is that we are very transparent people. If there's something bothering us, the way we explain it is through music. I think God really gave that to us to be almost therapeutic in a way," Tubbs admits. "Rachel's Silence is more of a personal journey. The flesh is being tamed. To die to your flesh is hard to do. You really need God to do that because we don't have any strength in ourselves. Basically that's the theme because all this hurt, all this frustration and all this anger is being bridled by God."

The release of Rachel's Silence has opened a lot of doors for East West. One of which has been with Back Street Productions. Currently Back Street is booking Social Distortion and Porno For Pyros into the Ventura Theater. East West is being considered as an opening act. "It really opened a big door because we're definitely a Christian band, but we have a secular heart. There are a lot of Christian bands going into the secular market and I think that can only be a good thing provided that the Christian bands and people involved have a pastor or somebody they can be accountable to. It's definitely our calling," Housen stresses.

"From the beginning, Mike and I never sat down and said let's start a Christian band that's going to cross over at some point. We've always pushed for the secular," Tubbs explains and then continues with an anecdote. "There's a Christian lawyer. He's being a lawyer and at the same time, he's a believer. It makes him different in the sense that he's probably going to have more integrity."

"Basically the point is that we're different. Everybody notices that when we play at places. People tense up sometimes when they find out you're a Christian. Their first incline is that you're going to judge them and then they're kind of turned off by it. Christ didn't come to condemn the world; He came to save it," Housen continues.

"We don't pound people over the head with a message. We play music. Later on they find out that this is a Christian band and they're not so put off by it cause they already enjoy it," Su adds.

"You have to attract somebody to Christianity first. You can't really reason with them because it's not something they can comprehend at that point," Tubbs ends.

This is one reason East West caught my attention. In today's world, being a Christian is not an easy person to be. There is a lot of pain, suffering and hatred to overcome. It seems to me East West can relate to this. Through their willingness to share personal experiences of pain and hope, they have given the gift of their music, faith and belief in a better world.

"Our music is a testimony of four lives. I've heard people talk about how uncomfortable it is to listen to some of the songs because of the screaming or whatever. It was uncomfortable being in the situations we were in that made that music come out of us. It's easy for people to identify with hurt and with frustration or with being let down. People identify with music, and in turn, identify that we're real people," Tubbs says.

Real people with real hearts is what impressed me most about East West. If you get a chance to see them live, be sure to talk with them afterwards. They are easily approachable and extremely friendly. Just one word of warning: Dacanay has been nicknamed Benny the Stick-Chaser. "Do not stand in front of the stage or you will be nailed!" Tubbs laughs.

Contact East West online at: tedsu@aol.com
Rachel's Silence can be purchased at Golgotha Music Center and Bionic Records for $10 or through mail-order.
East West
10 Del Sonata
Irvine, CA 92614

East West will be on The Ground Floor (KFSG is on 96.3 FM) on Saturday, March 8th. They will be playing at The Whiskey in Hollywood, CA with Sin Dizzy and Blackball on Friday, March 14th.