They lived with his grandparents for a couple of months, until things stabilized. Jeff ended up going to 3 different schools in the fourth grade, and though this did not help him learn how to multiply and divide, three different schools meant three different girlfriends. Then, he ended up in the fifth grade in San Bernardino with a teacher named Mr. Reader who was the #1 most boring person that ever lived. He was, in fact, a complete nut case, rambled on endlessly, and talked about his daughter every day for hours. He went so far off the deep end one time, that he taught the class to sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and forced them to sing it over and over again, practically all day. One time, Jeff passed out from trying to beat his last record of holding his breath. This is the year Jeff played trumpet, his first actual musical instrument. The big recess activity at this time was tetherball, which is actually a really cool and aggressive game. Jeff can't remember his record time for holding his breath, even though he almost killed himself.
His family moved again, this time to Upland, CA (closer to LA). Now, Jeff was looking at 6th grade and a whole new ballgame. He made friends quickly. When school started, his class had 5 or 6 hot girls, and his teacher was Miss Wedby, and she was hot too! As luck would have it, Jeff's family settled in this location for many years.
At first, Jeff told his parents that there was no possible way he was going to an all boys school, and recommended they seek mental counseling, since they were obviously out of their minds. But they were persistent, and Jeff was able to negotiate a new dirt bike just to consider the proposition, and at least take the entrance exam. On the day he took the test, he discovered that Webb School had a "sister school" named St. Lucy's, which, of course, was a girl's school. Once they explained to Jeff that they actually delivered the girls from St. Lucy's to Webb in big yellow buses, Jeff was in. Actually, he failed the entrance exam the first time, but they let him take it again because he had made friends with the Headmaster's wife at lunch that day, and she put in the word. Jeff's I.Q. went up 8 points, now that he was used to the test. And it was all true, they really did bring in the girls on buses. It was a beautiful sight.
Attending this school had a multitude of positive effects on Jeff and his future. From a musical standpoint, the diverse student body in a boarding school environment exposed Jeff to a lot of new and different music. Initially, Jeff got into Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, then Queen, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, etc. By the time he was a Senior, however, Jeff's tastes had shifted quite dramatically towards Elton John, the Electric Light Orchestra, and David Bowie. By the time he graduated, David Bowie was by far his favorite artist.
After Webb School, Jeff went to USC for 2 years, partied a lot, and listened to Elvis Costello, The Cure, and was introduced to Steeley Dan. By this time he was also going through a jazz phase, but his first love was the new "80's" rock that sounded unique and seemed more creative, like Bowie. At the time, this music was like the "alternative rock" to things like Journey, Bad Compay, Boston and that stuff. Unfortunately, they didn't think up the term "alternative rock" yet, so it ended up being called "80's rock," or "New Wave," which somehow has a lame connotation, and conjures up associations with drum machines and weak synthy sounding music. This new music, however, was potently innovative, and a lot more alternative (relative to the norm) than the music that became labeled "alternative rock," in the 90's.
So Jeff ended up going to college for 5 1/2 years, instead of 4. He got an extra year of general education (a lot of politics), and graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration. The extra 1/2 year was spent getting a double major of Management and Finance. He did take one beginning piano music class and got a big fat easy A, but it wasn't much more than a novelty event at the time.
Ever since Jeff went to Webb School, he had become a source of family pride. He was destined to be a doctor or a lawyer. All this was fine with Jeff, who had developed a sizable ego, and loved the idea of success. By the time he got into business school, he was very motivated to make a ton of money, and then race cars and stuff. He had seen his dad make and lose large sums of money, and he had observed, and to some degree experienced, the lifestyle money can buy.
Jeff was always much stronger in English and History than he was in Math and Science. Issues and ideas were no problem, but anything with an ugly formula stopped him cold. He probably would have made a good lawyer, but was talked out of it by a teacher at Webb who had been a lawyer and quit because he said it required you to be dishonest in order to succeed. This concept, true or not, turned Jeff away from the lawyer idea. He got straight A's in business law too, but he never thought about being a lawyer again.
So Jeff ended up in business school mostly by default. His family-fueled ambitions buried any possibility of pursuing a career in the arts, even though by nature, he was far more inclined in that direction. At the time, however, everything was about money. It was the 80's.
Towards the end of his college career, Jeff bought a bass guitar for $50 at a garage sale. It was a total whim, but it occurred to him that the bass was played one note at a time (no complicated chords), so it should be fairly easy. He had the notion that he would learn one song really well, then blow his friends' minds at the next party. He has maintained that system to this day, one song at a time.
He bought the bass so impulsively, it did not occur to him that he would need an amp to play it. So after going down to the local music store and buying an amp, he set down to learning something. Within 3 days he was playing the entire Zenyatta Mandatta album by the Police. He ended up impressing himself more than his friends. The bass seemed to be a completely intuitive instrument. It was the first thing since riding a dirt bike or dropping a T.V. set off the roof that seemed totally natural to him
Jeff has outstanding rhythm and an amazing ear. Since the bass is rhythm oriented and could be more of a "feel" instrument than a technical one, it was a natural instrument for him. The "ear" came in handy because it made it easy for him to hear the bass lines and reproduce them.
Musical talent is by no means foreign in Jeff's family. Both his grandfathers had been musicians at some time. On his father's side, his grandfather had been a drummer. On his mother's side, his grandfather had been a band leader (the band leader was cool Uncle Alan's father... Uncle Alan, by the way, became an outstanding bass player and played in a lot of funky soul music bands). This musical connection was the only commonalty between two families that otherwise couldn't have been more different.
Jeff is actually the product of an odd gene pool mix between his mother and father. Personality-wise, his parents were as different as night and day, and Jeff was a combination of both. His father was pure Sicilian; intense, ambitious, funny, generous, and good with people. He was also impulsive, temperamental, uncultivated, insensitive, reckless, and sometimes irresponsible. His mother, on the other hand, was introverted, highly intelligent, stable, kind, and artistic. She was a painter and sculptor and consistently made time over the years to be creative (perhaps to keep her sanity).
The discrepancy between these two personality types might account for Jeff's childhood tendency to blow things up. It also helps explain why his artistic side took so long to reveal itself. Ambition and money were always the dominant forces of Jeff's environment, and artistic creation assumed the role of a pastime or hobby - not nearly as exciting as money. Money meant "action," and "action" was the name of the game. This money-oriented mentality would remain in effect until Jeff was about 25 years old.
This lasted about a year, then Jeff started his own business. He bought a distributorship for espresso/cappuccino products and set out make even more money. By this time, Jeff's lifestyle was fairly high, with 3 cars, a house to himself, and a lot of musical toys. However, Jeff was becoming increasingly distracted by his bass, and music in general. This is when things really began to change.
By now, Jeff had a complete home studio with the most modern keyboards, drum machines, sequencers, and the very cool new samplers that played back anything you put in. It was an amazing time, technologically, and the potential for new kinds of creative expression in music seemed limitless. It was too enticing for Jeff, and impossible to ignore.
In mid-1988 Jeff merged his coffee business with another distributor, sold practically everything he owned and moved to Munich, Germany to investigate his musical talents. He lived with his German girlfriend and was later joined for several months by a few musical friends from the states. He met and made home-recordings with musician friends from Greece, Cameroon, Yugoslavia, Italy and Germany. He wrote songs, learned his equipment, played bass, and read a lot of books.
So after nearly two years in a foreign country - in an environment of pure creativity and invention with little constraint or distraction -- Jeff came home determined to start a band. Jeff set up shop in Claremont (an artistically thriving "College Town," right next to Upland, about 45 minutes east of L.A.) There were lots of musicians around and lots of hot women. Jeff found the best ones he could and started playing and recording.
So after coming back from Munich, Jeff was in a pretty good position to start a viable band. He was already a trained businessman, highly organized, and quite convincing. At the same time, he had a cohesive musical vision and a lot of interesting material to back it up. He also had his hot little studio going on, and had a lot of interesting sounds and samples to use within the music (at the time, this kind of thing was still pretty new).
Within a year after returning to the States, Jeff had established a "New Wave" band called Love Game. Two singers, guitar, bass, sequenced drums, keyboards, and a lot of orchestra hits. This band was extremely tight and technologically advanced for its time. More importantly, the songs were well-received and immediately memorable to audiences. The band enjoyed a reasonable following, but it became obvious to Jeff that he could only go so far without a live drummer.
The band was becoming more of a studio project, because playing live just wasn't cutting it for Jeff without a real drummer. But at the same time, what was really exciting to Jeff was the new digital recording equipment that made it possible to record real productions instead of amateurish sounding demos. This was a second technological wave, and Jeff was determined to be on top of it. It represented the power to record industry-quality masters in your own living room. (This technology has since changed the face of modern music forever).
By this time, Jeff was more motivated than ever because his first band had shown him the seeds of success, and he knew he could take it much further. He also had a capable partner named Derek Pippert, who was good at the engineering side of things, and was totally in tune with Jeff creatively. Jeff put all his credit on the line and invested everything he could borrow into a digital recording studio. This was the birth of Freak Productions.
Having a digital studio at his fingertips tuned out to be quite a diversion for Jeff. Before he knew it, he was doing psycho remixes of Herbie Hancock songs (he actually got interest from Herbie's publisher at the time). The computer driven studio was initially more suitable for hip-hop type production than for recording Jeff's full-blown pop songs, so much of the learning curve was spent doing remixes.
The development of expertise in digital production techniques was well worth Jeff's time investment, and he knew it. He instinctively accepted that he needed more production experience before he produced his own songs. At the time, he was more inspired by experimenting with loops and samples than by getting his own songs recorded. (This turned out to be very important, because working between the digital domain and a real band situation is fundamental to Velvet Chain's sound).
During this period, Jeff also delved into scoring and recording music for film, theater, and performance art. Working with people from the Claremont Colleges, he did projects in all these areas. It was, in fact, his association with a local performance artist named Jane Brucker that spawned the song, "Don't Leave A Diva." Jeff had the music and the "Don't leave a diva·" chorus, but wanted the verses to be spoken word. Jane came over while he and Derek were working on the song, and wrote the verses in about an hour, inserting elements of Jeff and Derek's production conversation along the way.
Tunnelmental was a hard edged, militant post-punk band with techno flavorings. Kind of like Nine Inch Nails, a couple years in advance. It was cool music, but the band didn't get any serious interest at the time, and the project inevitably broke up.
Heat Your Shack broke up pretty much at the same time, leaving Jeff wide-open to start a brand new band. Jeff had recently replaced the female singer in Heat Your Shack with a vocalist named Erika Amato. After working together for a couple of months, they were both aware each others' talents, and both were keen to start a new band. The band they formed was called Velvet Chain.
In September, 1993, in Los Angeles, they first recruited a new keyboard player and a horn player. Then they recruited the drummer and guitarist from the old band, and that was the original lineup: Jeff on bass, Erika up front, Craig Van Sant on Drums, Tom Calzini on guitar, Sarah Josephs on keyboards, and Jay Stolmack on horns. Since then, all of the original members other than Erika and Jeff have left the band and been replaced -- and the band now has a DJ instead of a horn player.
Jeff's current musical tastes still run strictly alternative, although "alternative" doesn't mean anything anymore. Essentially he likes trip-hop and eclectic pop music like Dead Can Dance and Portishead. He still likes Bowie. He likes Herbie Hancock music from the 70's, and Tower of Power. He is a real big Radiohead fan. His all-time favorite bands are Roxy Music and the Beatles because he thinks they were the most creative.