Phil "Zel From Hell" Schuster:
vocals, guitar, acoustic percussion, tape loops
Chalk it up to a combination of overzealous ambitions and imaginations, with a good dose of soap-opera melodrama, too many cooks in the cauldron, and a name cribbed from a bus stop shelter, and you still wouldn't even begin to imagine what kind of a band this was. Even we didn't know. Suffice it to say that it was more of a lifestyle choice than entertainment - the phrase "art for art's sake" never rang so true.
For one reason or another, it soon became clear that Melne and I were bound to be the nucleus of whatever Borrowed Time would become next. The growing pains of this unruly child which we had created reaffirmed not only our inspiration, but also our determination and resourcefulness. We performed several shows as a duo, incorporating tape loops and percussion backing tracks into our live performances, and I would often double on congas and various African and Latin percussion instruments. On more than one occasion, we were joined onstage by various local figures, including Robert Wilkinson of Flamin' Ohs, and the late Jay McHale of 2i.
In a small kind of way, the band was catching on. We got gigs opening for other "up-and-coming" bands like DA!, Bohemia, Blind Dog Stares, 2i and INSOC. People came out to see us, our tapes and t-shirts were selling in stores and in clubs, we were played on the local radio stations, but we eventually came to realize that we were sort of stuck in what seemed like a holding pattern, and we weren't getting any headline slots.
We had become pigeonholed in a sense, but no one was exactly sure how that worked. On one occasion, we practically begged for the opening slot on a bill with Pere Ubu, but were turned down because the club thought our band was "too political". Another time, we asked if we could open for Gang Of Four, but that time we were described as "too artsy" - not political enough, apparently. The booking agent at First Avenue/7th St Entry once confided in me that she knew we could draw a good-sized crowd at our shows, but our audiences weren't drinking (unless, she surmised, they were sneaking in their own booze), and the bar needed to sell drinks in order to make a profit. That was a political concept we hadn't reckoned on.
Evolution ain't as easy as some folks might think. Although Melne and I were quite willing to perform in whatever context was available, we auditioned numerous "professional musicians" for months, hoping to assemble an actual band. My personal favorite was the bassist who called in response to our ad in City Pages, asking to speak to "Mel". Upon learning that Melne was a woman, he blurted out, "I ain't playin' with no chick!!" To which I concurred, blurting out a suggestion that he probably hadn't expected to hear.
Unfortunately, that was a sentiment we heard far too often among some of the local rockers. A lot of male guitarists - most of whom struck me as being fairly derivative and uninteresting themselves - were often eager to offer their opinions to the effect that "girls couldn't rock", or that we needed to "get someone with some balls", if we hoped to succeed as a band. Not that we were soliciting opinions, of course. I don't recall ever hearing anyone complain about the fact that I wasn't really a "singer", but merely a poetic writer who preferred a musical backdrop to the stuffiness of certain local writers workshops, but I digress.