80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Boys’ Entrance/Tim Cain

One of the enormous perks of being a part of the David Marsden family of fans and musicians is the priceless opportunity to hear new music that David promotes. A simply fabulous band I first heard on David’s streaming show via NYTheSpirit.com is Boys’ Entrance. What makes Boys’ Entrance even more endearing is that they are based practically in my back yard.

Boys’ Entrance currently hails from the Tampa Bay region of FL. Front man Tim Cain has a timeless alto voice that draws the listener in to the music like a bee to honey. According to the intro on their website, they have been making wonderful music for 28 years—an amazing feat. BE has earned accolades from throughout the music industry—well-deserved and acquired through hard work and talent.

Even though we share a state, I’ve yet to have the pleasure of experiencing Tim Cain and Boys’ Entrance live. I know—sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I’m several hours away (Florida covers a LOT of territory!), and solo road travel is never a favorite adventure of mine. One of these days, though, I’ll find a road-trip buddy and drop in on a Boys’ Entrance show. It’s a bucket list goal I’ve got my sights set on.

In the meantime, Tim Cain has graciously accepted my invitation for a Rave and Roll interview. I’m excited to share his thoughts and opinions on the state of music, the world, and just about everything in between. I think you’ll find him just as real and as captivating as I…and the music…I believe it will be as irresistible for you as it is for me.

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Missparker: This is something I tend to ask most of the musicians I interview, because I’m very curious to uncover the “why” behind what you do: What made you decide to form a band and perform in front of people?

Tim Cain @ the original Boys’ Entrance, Chicago, IL

Tim Cain: First of all, Sandy, I want to thank you for your gracious invitation to speak with you. It is a privilege to speak with a fellow traveler in music. We are both devoted to music and I think it feeds our souls. So I feel comforted to know we share a friend, Mr. Marsden and music itself.

My father had a gift. He could play any song on the piano if he heard it. His right hand was where this gift resided. There was a direct channel between his “ear” and his right hand, and he amazed family and friends throughout my childhood.

His left hand was erratic and unguided by his ear. He would bounce back and forth between two or three notes—in time—but not necessarily in key. I suppose he had seen “stride” players play in honkytonks and wanted to emulate their style. But he had never been taught. So, it was a crazy thing to me to watch him, because I had the “ear” as well. I knew how amazing his right hand was, but his left hand drove me crazy.

Years later, I don’t know, maybe I was in my 20s, I callously said, “What are you doing with your left hand? The notes aren’t right.” I never heard him play again, and that is one of my biggest regrets in life. I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. But I opened my mouth and the toad leapt out and there was no taking it back. I know he has forgiven me though.

Missparker: It would be great to have a do-over—I think we all long for that ability at one time or another during our lives.

Tim Cain: I think my whole career—now 45 years—has sprung from my father’s ear. I was always a singer. That came naturally. My proudest moment was when I sang “The Lord’s Prayer” in rehearsals for my sister’s wedding. My mom and dad were sitting in a pew with their backs to me. I sang and the voice that sang through me was astounding. Everyone started to cry. They all turned to watch me, except my dad. When I was done, everyone applauded. My dad sat motionless, until he turned, and I could see he had been weeping. I felt a power I had never known, and I never wanted to stop using it.

My first actual band was called Flyht—our logo was a drawing of Icarus. (Strangely, my husband who is also the bassist in Boys’ Entrance was also in a band about the same time, and it was called Icarus!) So this was about 1975. We covered popular rock songs, and broke up after one show.

“The Wolf Is at The Door” single cover by Julie Perry

My second band was, Talltrees. This band was way more successful. We played around Central Illinois from 1979 – 1986. We appeared on a compilation album of bands from Champaign/Urbana. We had two major labels express interest, and even had a video play on Musicbox Television, (an MTV precursor, in Europe).

I moved to Chicago in 1987 and joined a prog-rock band called, Random Axis. I am still friends with two of the guys from that band to this day. In fact, the bassist, Tom Heslin plays on our “Tunnelvision” album! That band only lasted a couple of years, though.

That takes me to Boys’ Entrance. In 1991, I traveled to San Francisco and met up with my friend, Jon Ginoli. We had been rivals (as DJs), lovers, and co-workers (in record stores), during our college years.

He played me demos for his new project, Pansy Division. I was blown away by his audacity. The songs were the most blatantly QUEER songs I had ever heard. They were in-your-face and unapologetic. While I was the first queer musician Jon had ever known, my songs were always couched in universal pronouns. He schooled me and dared me to do more with my music. Twenty-eight years later, we are both still at it.

Missparker: What an amazing journey! What can you tell me about the current members of Boys’ Entrance, and have you always had the same line-up with them  throughout the years?

Tim Cain: Boys’ Entrance began as just me on keyboards, bass, & guitar. It was enabled by my Ensoniq VFX workstation. This keyboard is a sequencer, and it allowed me to record my musical ideas and store them on floppy discs. I am on my third VFX as of this interview. This keyboard allowed me to have a three- decade career with this band because, like my father, I have a great “ear” and “right hand.” I cannot play a song on a piano, using both my hands. But I can compose using this tool. My dad never had that option, but I did.

The first “live” Boys’ Entrance band was a trio—my keyboard sequences, and three guitars! We had no drummer, or bassist. All that came from the Ensoniq. It was I,  Cie Fletcher on lead guitar, and Mike Ferro on rhythm guitar. Later we added a percussionist, Amelia Soto.  The band broke up after a few years when Fletcher died of AIDS.

Mike and I continued and brought in a real drummer, Christine Anderson, and a Serbian lead guitarist named Vojo. That lasted a year or two. There was a punk trio version, with drummer Timmy Samuel, Mike, and I. There was a version of the band that incorporated my friends from Random Axis. You can see that version on our Jon-Henri Damski video.

All this took a toll on me. My personal life was always in turmoil. I was depressed and sometimes suicidal. I began preparing to die. I had written a lot of material over the years, so I went to my friend, Timmy Samuel and asked if he would record the songs, to document them. I don’t know if he knew why, but he recorded them all. These are the DEMOcrat records on iTunes. There are actually three—only the “Songs from Tunnelvision” is iTunes.  There is a record of instrumentals, and a record of covers, too. Once the recording was done, I was preparing myself to depart.

MissParker: I am so sorry to hear that—how awful. Obviously, I’m glad that you didn’t depart this lifetime. Is this how you ended up in Tampa?

Billy Ramsey and Tim Cain at David Bowie Is exhibit in Chicago

Tim Cain: Oddly, when my then-partner placed a gun in our home to facilitate my departure, I realized the problem was my life in Illinois. I fled to St. Petersburg, and have never been happier in my life. I met my husband, Billy Ramsey. I completed the Tunnelvision album with his help in 2016. When the rock opera was produced at Studio@620 in St. Pete in 2017, we were the “pit band” for 8 performances and were singled out by critics as being “amazing.” We were nominated that year in Creative Loafing’s “Best of the Bay” awards as Best Local Band.

The band has had a few guitarists since we began in Florida, but now has solidified into the current lineup: Billy and I, drummer John Spinelli, and lead guitarist Keith Otten.

Missparker: I think I know one of them, but who are your influences, and why?

Tim Cain: Yes, you and I share an avatar in David Bowie. He dominates my aesthetic, musically and artistically. As a songwriter, I emulate his atmospheres, but not his subject matter. I tend to bounce between the poetic and political—much more definitive than Mr. Bowie. But I would say I am filtered through the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, T Rex, Cars, Devo, Talking Heads, and more.

Missparker: Personally, I always find this type of question difficult to answer, and sort of stupid. But, I think it gives people some insight into what makes a person tick, so bear with me. If you were marooned on Mars and only had 5 albums with you, which ones would they be?

Tim Cain: Oh dear! Well here goes: Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane,” Beatles’ “The Beatles” (White Album), Prince’s “Sign of the Times,” Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key of Life,” and Brian Eno’s “Another Green World.”

Missparker: I love the glam look you project onstage. You seem perfectly comfortable with it and well-suited for it. Who does your make-up and clothing?

Tim Cain: You are so sweet, Miss P. I am guilty of my costumes and make-up.

Missparker: Who writes your music? Is it a solo effort, or collaboration?

Tim Cain: I am the sole writer of Boys’ Entrance.

Missparker: What inspires your music? In other words, where do you gather the ideas that you translate into aural artistry?

Tim Cain: Sandy, I believe I am a conduit for music from elsewhere. I am also a filter—so I influence the outcome. When I am in a situation where I have a receptive band, and the ability to record, 7 songs pour into (or out of) me. Once the band learns those 7, seven more will come. It is not always 7, but this is frequently the case. I have experienced riding a bicycle and having a song hit me in the face as though I rode through a spider’s web—the music and words—all at once. Back in the day, I would carry a tape recorder with me and capture the songs as they came. Today it is easier with cell phones.

Frequently, when I am drawn to the Ensoniq, I go into a trance, and the whole song is completed without my remembering how it came to be. I think I am channeling—who knows who—maybe my Dad? Maybe Fletcher? I don’t know. If you listen to the song “Hush” on my “In Through The Out Door” record, that is a one-take trance song.

Missparker: That’s amazing. Additionally, does the current disarray so prevalent in our own world also fuel the creativity as a pressure-valve release, so to speak?

Tim Cain: I sometimes brood over a song or a theme for a very long time.  Case in point is a new song that took a decade or so to write. The song is called, “Chant For The Hauntlings” and is about the spirits of all the animals I pray for when I pass their lifeless bodies along our roads. I pray, “ God bless you sweet spirit. Return to the Mother. Return to the Light.” That is the chorus to the song. It will be on my next solo record, I think. So yes, I frequently write about ecology, politics, and spirituality. The songs help crystalize my feelings about life.

Missparker: You’ve shared that you’re working on a collection of David Bowie covers, along with covers of other well-known glam bands and singers. What led you to go in that direction?

Tim Cain: While we are rated the #1 Alternative Rock band in the region on Reverbnation—one of the most amazing reasons I love Florida—the music venues are not geared toward original music. I thought it might be easier if we did our own spin on Glam rock. So I came up with the term, 21st Century Glam Rock. We can play the “tribute band” circuit.

Boys’ Entrance LIVE, cover of China Girl

Missparker: How did you decide which songs and artists to cover?

Tim Cain: Our new project is called, Bowie’s Entrance, and it is all music inspired by Bowie from the 70s, 80’s 90’s and 2000’s.

Missparker: What can we expect to see from Boys’ Entrance over the next 5 years?

Tim Cain: First up, we have a new live album called, “Boys’ Entrance presents, Bowie’s Entrance.” We recorded it this month live in a studio—12 songs in 5 hours and the band is astoundingly good. This is the 42nd anniversary of the release of “Heroes”.  So you know we had to record it. The result is amazing. It sounds so alive. All of the songs do. That is what this is all about- keeping the music alive! It is so good to hear it as an audience hears it. Thereafter, who knows? I am sure we will continue recording original music—I have too many sitting around.

Boys’ Entrance LIVE 2015, cover, All The Young Dudes

Missparker: What advice would you give to aspiring singers and musicians? How would that advice differ for members of the LGBTQ community?

Tim Cain: PLEASE, do it if it is important to YOU! Don’t do it for external reasons. Make it MEAN something. Content is key. As for the LGBTQ audience, I wrote music for them for 30 years. They never wanted to hear any of it because it was rock. We have always been more popular with straight audiences because they like rock. Oddly enough, our most popular song with straight audiences is “Mr. Sissy.” I don’t know if it is the novelty of hearing someone say those words, or the defiance in the song. I don’t suppose it matters. For some reason they love it.

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I’m very grateful to Tim Cain for his time and his gracious insight. Please get acquainted with, and show your support for Tim, Boys’ Entrance, and this wonderful musical experience.

www.boysentrance.com

www.reverbnation.com/boysentrance

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