Pioneers of the Los Angeles underground art damage electronic music scene, Grey Factor has been more myth than legend for over 40 years. In 1978 Joey Cevetello, Jon Pospisil, Paul Fontana, and Jeff Jacquin found each other.
Hailing from the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, they had one thing in common, they were outcasts stuck in suburban sprawl, a paradise to the middle class who bathed in its sameness and its uninspired vastness. It was a sense of belonging that brought the members of Grey Factor together and in forming a band, they stumbled onto a way to express all the frustration and isolation they felt while living in a place that didn’t recognize them.
Hollywood and the downtown Los Angeles art scene were like another planet — unreachable to four kids from “The Valley”, which was never taken seriously as having any kind of scene, let alone a music scene. That proved to be a blessing in disguise as the members of Grey Factor were left to their own devices away from the petty squabbles, infighting, and competition that happens in any scene that usually eats itself. They created in a vacuum, unencumbered by the pressures of groupthink and the star searching that Hollywood was built on.
In 1978 bleeps and blurps were finding their way into modern music and the machines that produced them were being made available to anyone interested in knob turning and button-pushing. Kraftwerk, Tuxedo Moon, Telex, White Noise, Suicide, The Normal, Throbbing Gristle, Pere Ubu, Human League, and others had started to break down barriers and prove guitars weren’t always welcome.
Without even knowing it at the time, Grey Factor was exploring the same roads created by electronic music pioneers like Edgar Varese, Karlheniz Stockhausen, Raymond Scott, Daphne Oram, Luc Ferrari, Delia Derbyshire and John Cage building Musique Concrète into a more “song” based form and giving it a feel that only kids from the San Fernando Valley could. After a few months of working out “songs” in Paul’s bedroom studio, using what would now be considered, a goldmine of vintage electronic equipment — Roland 606 Drum Machine, Echoplex, Mini Moog, Arp Odyssey, EMS Synthi AKS, Korg MS-20 and an ARP 2600 — they were ready to take their sounds out into the world.
As invaders, Grey Factor launched an assault on the Los Angeles underground music scene, playing numerous shows at Madame Wong’s and The Hong Kong Café — famous hubs for punk rock and art damage in the late ’70s. They also played The Anti Club, The Masque, Moms, and the ultra-hip Joey Kills. Word got out after a couple of shows and they became a must-see. The “too cool to care” underground art damage crowd crammed their way into view of this new phenomenon and were always given more than they knew what to do with.
Near the end of 1979, Grey Factor appeared on the first-ever episode of “New Wave Theater”, the revered and beloved alternative music television program broadcast on local UHF Channel 18 in Los Angeles and hosted by the outrageous but lovable Peter Ivers (Ivers was later bludgeoned to death in his apartment in an apparent love triangle or a drug deal gone wrong). It would be Grey Factor’s swan song and their last time ever playing live. The performance sizzled! Afterward, they perfected an anti-anti group posture by refusing to answer the host’s questions. Grey Factor ended their post performance interview in fisticuffs with the off-camera production crew — an auspicious ending and a classic moment in Los Angeles music television rebellion. Then, in a blink of an eye, they were gone.
Their contribution unquantifiable, their influence on the Los Angeles music scene in so short a time only to be marveled at. Over the course of two years, it is estimated they played approximately twenty live shows while creating two EP’s and one live recording: The Perils Of Popularity EP and Grey Factor Live at Hong Kong Café were recorded in 1979. Only synthesizers and drum machines were used on the 1979 recordings. In 1980, Paul Fontana left the band and was replaced by Anne Burns and Joey’s brother, John Cevetello, to create The Feel Of Passion EP. For the Feel Of Passion sessions, the new line-up introduced guitars, real electric bass, female vocals, and even saxophone. We can only imagine what direction things might have taken in 1981 and beyond, but all things must end and so Grey Factor disbanded when the members agreed there was just nothing else left to do.
After a decade’s long search, Grey Factor’s two EP’s (The Perils Of Popularity and The Feel Of Passion) and their Live album (Live At The Hong Kong Café 1979) have been unearthed, ending all speculation of their non-existence. With these releases, Grey Factor, a band truly ahead of their time, may finally get the recognition they so greatly deserve.
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