Alternative Music Pioneer Gene Eugene Dies at 39

CCM Update March 27, 2000

Alternative Music Pioneer Gene Eugene Dies at 39

CCM Update March 27, 2000

By Thom Granger

Death leaves irreplaceable void, industry says

EUGENE ANDRUSCO, BETTER known in music circles as Gene Eugene, died in his sleep in the early hours of March 20 at his The Green Room studio in Huntington Beach, California. The cause of death had yet to be determined at press time. He was 39 years old.

Andrusco, best-known for his work in the bands Adam Again, Swirling Eddies and Lost Dogs, was a key figure in the development of modern and "alternative" rock from a Christian perspective. He was given encouragement and opportunities by those who preceded him, and went on to share his prodigious talents with the generations of young artists and bands that followed.

Aside from his work with Adam Again (as chief singer and songwriter, as well as guitarist and keyboardist), the satirical Swirling Eddies (under the moniker Prickly Disco) and more recently, Lost Dogs, Andrusco spent most of his time in the studio as producer and engineer. Though his contributions to recordings are far too numerous to list, Tooth and Nail Records President Brandon Ebel remembers, "I think he's probably been involved with 200 or 300 albums. He's been involved with 57 records for me."

Ebel's Web sites featured a story on Andrusco's passing within hours of hearing the news, which gave fans, friends and industry associates an opportunity to post their remembrances. "We've had more than 300 responses on our Web site in the first nine hours without any advertisement or anything," Ebel said.

Hailing originally from Canada, Andrusco moved to Southern California at an early age, and made his mark on Hollywood, acting in a variety of TV roles including the "young Darrin Stevens" on the '60's sitcom "Bewitched," and roles in episodes of "Cannon ," "Jake and the Fatman" and "The Bold Ones." He also did voice acting for the animated TV series "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home," "Charlie Chan & the Chan Clan" and "The Barkleys."

By his teenage years, however, music had became the love of Andrusco's life. He learned piano from his musician father, and played in the requisite cover bands (including one in seventh grade that brought him together with Paul Valadez, who would later play bass for Adam Again). After graduating from Garey High School in Pomona, Calif., he attended a church in Ontario, Calif., later serving as youth pastor.

During the early '80s, Andrusco played in Christian bands like Zion and Martus, whose members included future Adam Again members Valadez and Greg Lawless. Undercover leader Joey Taylor invited him to join the band on the road, running live sound and acting as their road manager, roles which he would play for The Choir as well.

His band, which had evolved into Adam Again, released its first album, In a New World of Time in 1986. The sound was unique, featuring a lean, tough modern rock approach that incorporated funk and R&B influences. It was a sound that was later to be adopted (and made very popular) by L.A. bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction.

The albums that followed garnered critical acclaim, but little sales success. Regardless, the band became legendary for its rare, breathtaking performances at events like the Cornerstone festival, featuring the group's exemplary musicianship and improvisational skills, Riki Michele's dervish-like dancing and Andrusco's moving, melancholy vocals.

In 1987, Andrusco, Taylor and another investor formed Brainstorm Artists International, which became an important label in the development of the West Coast Christian music scene. Though primarily identified with modern rock, the label also released significant contributions from early rap and hip-hop artists like Dynamic Twins and Freedom of Soul. One of his most unexpected Christian music contributions was his discovery of Myrrh Records artist Anointed, whose first recordings were produced by Andrusco.

In 1993, Andrusco and Brainstorm art director/photographer Anna Cardenas took over the management, and later, ownership, of The Green Room recording studio. Anointed's debut project was the first record recorded there by Andrusco. For the past seven years, the studio has been a creative center for Orange County's alternative Christian community, with scores of albums recorded there, nearly all of them bearing Andrusco's engineering or production touch.

Most recently, he was involved with Essential Records' upcoming modern worship project City on a Hill. Producer Steve Hindalong (The Choir) brought Andrusco to Nashville two weeks ago to record a piano track for an early Adam Again song to be used on the album ("I Remember You," with vocals from Third Day's Mac Powell), and a vocal on another song called "Marvelous Light," written by Hindalong.

Andrusco's funeral was held Saturday morning at Echoes of Faith Church in Ontario with EOF pastors Mike Turrentine and Johnny Bunch officiating. Cards or flowers may be sent to the Andrusco family in care of Echoes of Faith Church, P.O. Box 3100, Ontario CA 91761. Those wishing to make a donation to help defray the costs incurred this past week [Andrusco did not have insurance] may make checks out to the Gene Eugene Memorial Fund, Transparent Artist Management, 14151 Newport Ave. Ste. 203, Tustin, CA 92780. Andrusco is survived by his mother Carole and father Gene Andrusco, Sr., as well as younger siblings Lisa and Todd.

Music Community Remembers Musician, Friend

Robert Beeson (president, Essential Records):
"I had the greatest amount of respect for Gene, and his ability to deliver Christian music projects that didn't compromise his integrity or art. If it wasn't for his approach to this, I probably wouldn't have gotten involved in Christian music myself. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Gene was how unassuming he was. He had this way of creeping into your life and affecting it for the better."

Anna Cardenas (co-owner, The Green Room):
"We laughed together and cried together, we dreamed and schemed together. Fought and forgave and never doubted one would be there for the other in times of trouble or triumph. He was my brother and my comrade, and he will always be in my heart. I love you, Gene."

Derald Daugherty (The Choir, Lost Dogs):
"He's definitely one of the most musically gifted guys I ever met. He never got cynical -- seemed to find the good in everything he worked on. His lyrical approach and melodic applications influenced me greatly. There's been a huge void left to fill in this music."

Brandon Ebel (president, Tooth and Nail, BEC Recordings):
"He was humble, he was kind, he was generous. If you were in need of something he would help you. He would help any kind of artist -- someone who wasn't signed or someone who had a lot of money. There are all kinds of stories of someone needing money and he'd have $100, and he'd just give it to them. He always over-extended himself. He wanted to help everyone."

Steve Hindalong (producer/songwriter):
"He had a really timeless musical sensibility -- he was never trendy. He was part of that L.A. scene that kind of had a disregard for the market. The mentality at The Green Room was all for the sake of the painting, the sake of the art. Gene was a genuine artist, a great engineer, a character, a gambler in all ways in life, a risk-taker, one of a kind, an enigma, really."

Michael Knott (LSU, Aunt Bettys, et. al.):
"Gene was by far the most talented musician, producer and engineer that I have ever know in my life -- a dear, dear friend, and I can't believe that we all have to go on without him at this point. Without his help over the years, I would have done basically nothing in music. With all his help getting me into the studio, working with me on all my projects constantly, what he's given me and my family is totally immeasurable, and he'll be dearly missed."

Jon Knox (drummer, Adam Again, WhiteHeart):
"Gene really introduced me to Christian music. I joined Adam Again when I was fresh out of high school, and my life was never quite the same. Gene was a prolific songwriter, gifted musician and good friend. I love him like a brother, and I'm glad God brought him into my life for a while. He really helped me tap into my creative expression and expand the musical talents that God has given me."

Phil Madeira, (keyboardist, songwriter):
"Gene was an exceptionally talented person. He had a beautiful voice, full of passion and sweetness. He was a great mixing engineer and great player. I had the opportunity to work with him a couple of times. Once, Riki Michele had asked me to play a showcase with her at the infamous GMA week. I was playing with [Phil] Keaggy that night as well, and during the soundcheck with Riki, I said to Gene, 'I love the Dogs, if you ever need B3, let me know' to which he said, 'How 'bout tonight?' I sat in a back room with the band as they played each song and I charted the tunes. I had a great time sitting in with them that night."

Riki Michele Palmer (vocals, Adam Again, singer and songwriter):
"Gene and I were family. We went through all the things that families go through, and we still came out as family. There are bonds that can't quite be explained, and our whole circle of friends has those bonds. There were so many things that Gene couldn't say, but that he certainly felt. That's where the songs came in. They were vehicles to try and make sense out of so much. Those songs still make me dance, laugh, cry and sing. They will be with me always."

Mike Roe (77s, Lost Dogs):
"My life has turned an irrevocable page today. I will never be the same after this. God finally got my attention. Life is precious and short. If Christ is not at the center animating all of it, I might as well be dead, too. Please pray that this very big wake-up call will inspire, rather than crush, all of us that remain together in this veil of tears. Perhaps I will learn to love more and better because of this."

Tim Taber (Prayer Chain, Transparent Artist Management):
"Gene was one of a kind. I've heard a lot of people talking about him, and the same thing comes up. It's this intangible knack Gene had to make people feel welcome, appreciated, loved, cared for. You met Gene, and you wanted to be around him."

Joe Taylor (artist, co-owner, Brainstorm, Innocent Media):
"Beautiful Gene, lovely Gene, can we meet at your place or mine to go over some things? I love you, beautiful Gene."

Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, Lost Dogs):
"Gene was the kind of person you wanted to get to know. You loved him instantly. He had that power, charm, charisma ... I tend to think that was the most spiritual part of him, that part that people responded to most instinctively. Gene was also a guy that struggled with his faith, who had dark things in his life -- like we all do -- but who lived his life authentically. He truly was an artist, and he truly managed to make divine, holy things out of the darkness of his life."

Paul Valadez (bassist, Adam Again):
"I first got to know Gene when I was in seventh grade in south Pomona, where a few of us in the neighborhood formed a band that started off playing Top 40 songs we heard on the radio. We have been playing together ever since. As far as his musical talent, Gene made all of his hard work seem easy. He was a natural in the studio, and on the stage."