Pulse 18: they have it covered

Pulse 18: they have it covered

By Denyse Bayer

By Denyse Bayer

Entertainment Writer

For Rockford’s Pulse 18, 2001 ranks as quite a year. Within the first six months of forming as a band, the group won a Rockford Area Music Industry Award or RAMI in the Hard Rock/Metal category and proved themselves as one of the biggest draws of all the bands performing in the Rockford area. After paying several artistic dues, Pulse 18 managed to overcome the stereotypical rock band image and find peace by playing the music their fans want to hear.

With talent, a unique style, and exciting stage show, these veteran musicians learned to overcome pitfalls in their individual experiences with the local music scene and give themselves and the local community a band everyone enjoys.

Formed from the ashes of bands such as Burn, Blind Obsession and Final Warning, the current line-up consists of five very distinct musical talents who each bring their own magic to the mix. The group combines powerful vocals of Frank Madonia, the aggressive style of percussionist Matt Bryden, the high speed precision of guitarist Paul Bronson, the funk-metal styling of bassist Russ Kutak and the rhythmic solidity of guitarist Mykl Macias.

According to Macias, another reason Pulse 18 differs from other bands in sound relates to the guitars themselves. “What makes Pulse18 different from most of the bands in this area is that both guitarists use 7-string guitars for the majority of the material they do. This adds a lower “B” string to the equation and eliminates them from various tunings of a standard 6 string guitar.”

With the current line-up in place since November of 2000, the members of Pulse 18 scored their first RAMI Award this past spring. The award both represents the loyalty of their strong fan base and the appeal they have with local club owners, who book them repeatedly. Clearly, Pulse 18’s fans rate some of the best in the land.

Kutak met Madonia and Bryden several years ago while working on side projects, one of which evolved into the band Final Warning. As Kutak explains, “Bands came and went. Some of us went our own ways (but) I stuck with Frank. We tried other people. It took almost two years to get this line up. It started out me, Frank and my brother and a couple other guys. We eventually came to this arrangement in November of last year. One thing I found out, it took us a long time to get this line-up and this line up works. It’s comfortable, and apparently it shows.”

Pulse 18 plays music for pure recreation. As Madonia states, “This was put basically to have something for people to have fun. People love to be involved. And you start jumping around, and it’s got that groove going, without a doubt you’ll see heads moving around. It’s just great and I love it!”

Since winning the RAMI award this year, Pulse 18 received many congratulations from fans and flak from some local musicians over their lack of original material.

Kutak advises that the need to feel comfortable with each other as a band seemed more important than writing songs just to bring original material to the shows. “I’ve been in band situations before when we got a band together and said, ‘OK, we’re a band; now we’ve got to write some originals, bam bam, bam.’ I’ve ended up with not as good of a product as I could have ended up with. It takes time to get in with guys like this. We’re working on originals as we go. I think we’re starting to get comfortable with the stuff we’re coming up with, but we’re not going to rush it. The way we are, if we never wrote an original, it would be OK. The point was to not come out with something as good as it ‘could be’ because we wanted it out there. Being a band, whose line-up has been together for eight months, is it really appropriate to expect original music?”

Kutak continued, “I watched a cover band get inducted into the Hall of Fame. A cover band. I didn’t think this was an original talent contest. I did think it was a popularity contest. It was put up to a popular vote. We’re a band, we play in bars, and we live in Rockford. That makes us part of the Rockford area music industry. And that’s what the award was. Otherwise, we had fun with it. We’ve heard positive things. For as many people who did not support all this, there were two people who do. It definitely adds to your prestige. It was a great feeling being up on that stage receiving it. It was something that was very cool for us. We’d love to be considered grateful. This town has been good to us, and we’d like to return the favor.”

Madonia adds, “We do not discredit anyone who writes original music. God bless them for freedom of speech and freedom of press. Different people have their sights set differently. We’ve got our sights set on what we want and what we want to do. We do not want the pressure on from each of us to each other or anything like that. There’s no reason for it. Everyone is relaxed, and everyone is cool. People like what we do, and it makes us happy. That’s all that matters. We support everybody else. We hope those guys out there writing their original stuff actually get lucky and hook up. It was never really a goal to me to become famous or become a rock star or anything like that. I just love to do it. But anyone who has their sights set on that, God bless them.

“If something does happen, and they become rich and famous, I hope they remember me,” Madonia said.

Commenting on some local musical acts finding success outside Rockford, Kutak points out that the members of Pulse 18 wish those musicians the best, but prefer to stay in the area and keep the music local. However, Kutak also expresses the need for more national attention on some of the acts currently based in the Rockford area. “There is a lot of good original talent in this town. There are a lot of good things happening with the Midwest right now. The Pimps did what they did. Aunt Flossy, they’re from Rockford. They’re happening now. I don’t know if you remember Wayne Drinkard. He’s the lead singer for One Way Ride out of Santa Monica, Calif. There’s things happening with this town. It just depends on who’s going to push hard enough. That’s the thing with us, we don’t want to push. In search of new ways to build their mailing list and add to the fun of a live show, the creative minds of Pulse 18 came together to bring the audiences Bar Bucks. Starting out as a marketing tool thought up by Kutak to get the band’s name out in circulation and another way to include the audience in the show, Bar Bucks stand as a popular way to reward the audience for signing up for the band’s mailing list. According to Kutak, “In order to help make our mailing list bigger, we print up four or five fake five-dollar bills, and we prepay the bar owner for these bills and have them sign it, and we sign it. What we do is, as the show goes through the night, we will raffle those off for five dollars at the bar. We get people to fill out the mailing list forms and come up and put them in the box. We draw their names from the box for the winner of the raffle. We’ve built our mailing list from that, and it involves the crowd. And that’s half the thing right there.”

According to Kutak, during a recent show at LT’s, Vern Smith, “Rockford’s Number One Music Fan,” gave the audience a motivational speech while the band swapped gear. “Vern came up on stage and said ‘You’ve got to get down with these because it’s time to party here with these guys.’ It was really funny because we were doing a song with a little switching around trying to get some diversity. Matt gets up and does kind of a rap thing with Frank and Myk plays drums.”

The members of Pulse 18 remain thankful to all those who have helped them along the way. Kutak states, “We’ve been helped by so many people. Greg and Bill from Hard Times they’ve always allowed us to play in their club. We’d also like to thank Jon McDowell from JB Productions. He’s always done us a lot of favors, and he’s done a lot of hard work for us. Todd Gage at LT’s, he’s allowed us to go in there and put our shows on.

“And we thank Frank’s wife, Linda, who puts up with us twice a week without fail; my wife Tara, who allows me to leave twice a week; she gets stuck with the kids all day. Stuff like that. Paul’s wife, Chris, has done a lot of promotional stuff for us. She created our logo. She’s had faith in us. She’s helped us quite a bit. And we thank all the people who come to see us. Without them, there would be nothing to play for. That’s always been really cool.

“We have our web site (www.pulse18.com). Thomas (thomasita) Beroniack, he is the guy behind our web site. He does all the updates and keeps the line running for us.

And what does Pulse 18 plan for the future? According to Macias, “Obviously, you want to get some cooler shows.” Kutak added “There’s a difference between playing South Main as opposed to playing the On The Waterfront. As you grow and get better and as your name grows, those doors open up. I’d like to see that happen. It is happening. Our schedule is fairly full. Most of the places we’re playing in the next month are fairly new to us. That’s starting to happen. I’d love to play the Waterfront.”

The band also promises its audience some original material. According to Kutak, “Sometimes frustration builds up. I’m deciding to let it out on paper. And if that’s where our originals breed from or wherever it breeds from, it will come when it comes.”

See Pulse 18 at their next show on August 3 and 4 at The Pitchers Mound, 2745 Prairie Ave., Beloit, Wisc., and on September 8 at Hard Times Bar, 4846 E. State St. in Rockford.

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