Anything that can go Wrong – Part 1

I’m happy to inform you that I’ve been tapped to write the biography of local icons Ockym’s Razyr. These guys hail from New Philadelphia and are legends in their own mind who have contributed absolutely nothing to our music scene. It is my honor and privilege to bring you the true story of a pretend band. Which I will do in blog form over the next few months with “Anything That Can Go Wrong.”

Chapter 1 – Health and Human Services

Ode and Gillis several years ago.

Ode and Gillis several years ago.


“We just never anticipated the thought that we wouldn’t make it,” Adam Gillis tells me. Gillis is the front man and singer for the local heavy rock band Ockym’s Razyr. I’m unclear whether he’s acting out an imaginary interview he’s having with me or if he’s preparing for the appointment he has in a few minutes with a social worker who will decide if he can continue to receive welfare.

We worked so hard for this for so many years it just never occurred to us that we wouldn’t be able to make a living playing music,” He adds.

“Sometimes we nearly break even,” bassist Matt Vance offers. Three-fifths of the band are unemployed or underemployed. The trips to the local Department of Jobs and Family Services are a monthly ritual among them. Sometimes the members switch up, but for the past two years at least one of them has been in this office on a monthly basis.

Ockym’s Razyr was founded in 2002 by Gillis and Vance. They’d just graduated high school, had more dreams than plans and set out to make their fortune in the world and grab life by the horns. But like a lot of other people with the same goal they found that making a fortune isn’t as easy as it seems right out of high school. And sometimes when you grab life by the horns it bucks you off.

Over the past eleven years the group has played countless shows, recorded several albums, had numerous lineup changes and toured the area extensively. The current incarnation consists of Gillis on vocals, Vance on bass, Paul Ode and Hal Levatine on guitar and Joshua Randall on drums.

Josh Randall is in the office with Grace Green and his girlfriend Vanessa Hill. Ms. Green will decide whether or not to keep them in the WIC program to help them buy groceries for their two young children. Vanessa works as an STNA at a local nursing home while attending class part time to get her nursing license. Josh was just fired from Burger King for excessive absenteeism.

Matt Vance hasn’t worked in three years. He still lives with his mother.

Gillis shares a place with guitarist Paul Ode. He occasionally does landscaping in the summer’ odd jobs and hauls scrap metal around. The guy is a whiz with a wrench and fixes all his friends’ cars.
Ode and Levatine are doing well. Levatine has a mobile home he’s buying with his longtime girlfriend and Ode works at a factory for ten dollars an hour.

But money, rent and housing problems don’t deter Gillis’s positive outlook on life and the future of his band. “We’ve been dicking around and laying the groundwork for things for so long, we can’t give up now. I’m thinking that this will be our year. We had a few shakeups last year but things are looking good so far.

“I wish I had planned for the future a little bit more. I didn’t really apply myself in high school and when I went to the vocational school is did even less work. I guess I just always wanted to make music for a living. That’s really the only thing I’ve ever been interested in doing. And I don’t care how long I have to wait in the unemployment line, or how many nights I have to go without food or how many times I have to beg for change to get to a show. I was put on this earth to make music and that’s what I’m going to do.”

It’s hard to not share his enthusiasm until the receptionist calls his name and he walks past the other bums and women in bathrobes and slippers to make his case for why he needs government assistance.

We can only hope that his case worker is as much a fan of music as he is.


3 thoughts on “Anything that can go Wrong – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Anything That Can Go Wrong – Part 3 | Almost Famous

  2. Pingback: Anything That Can Go Wrong – Part 2 | Almost Famous

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