When asked what drew him to the hard rock in the 1970s and made him want to play in bands, David Resch broke into a grin and recalled, “Wild loud abandon! The wind in your hair, the guitar, the Marshall stack! Teenage rebellion!”
While most kids are content to play air guitar and eventually get a day job, Resch bought a real guitar and pursued his rock ‘n roll dreams from Fairbanks down to the West Coast for more than three decades before returning home after a lifetime of adventures.
Resch was born in Fairbanks. His teenage years coincided with the pipeline boom when downtown was hopping with live music joints. His parents, musicians themselves, owned an underage club called the Upper Limits, where he and his brothers got their first jobs.
“I was 12 and my brother Chris was 10 or 11, and we were the cooks there. We made all the burgers and pizzas and stuff,” he said. “We had a restaurant called Sgt. Pepperoni’s Lonely Heartburn Stand.” Resch added that, “seeing all the crazy rock ’n roll lifestyle and all the kids and the loud music and stuff, we knew then and there we wanted to be musicians.”
After starting out on drums and piano, Resch bought his first acoustic guitar at Music Mart, which he described as “really horrible with the strings like an inch off the neck,” and found himself “playing ‘Smoke on the Water’ on one string.”
He quickly added an electric guitar, practiced daily, and before long he and his two brothers formed a band called Demon and began playing around town.
“About ’78, ’79, we started writing our own songs. We thought we were getting pretty good, and thought, ‘Is Alaska all there is to this?’ So the three of us sold everything and moved to L.A.”
They landed in Southern California just as the heavy metal scene took off in the early ‘80s, where they changed their name to Pandemonium after learning that a British band was recording as Demon. “If you think about the word ‘pandemonium,’ the word demon is right in the middle of it,” he said.
Within two years they were headlining legendary clubs like the Roxy, Whiskey A Go Go, the Troubadour and more, and were soon sharing stages with Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Metallica and the Scorpions. They also caught the attention of Metal Blade Records, the pathbreaking independent heavy metal label that was central to the growth of the L.A. scene. They were the first Alaska band to score a recording contract.
Pandemonium cut three records and played around California, Nevada and Arizona. Being from Alaska “really made us stand out,” Resch said. “It was one of our hooks to attract attention. When magazines started to write about us, it was always in the first paragraph. Three brothers from Fairbanks Alaska. It was a device to get attention, but we still had to have talent to back it up. And I think we did.”
While they were big on the metal scene in L.A., Resch said they were somewhat out of step with the increasing focus on noise, hairspray and the obligatory power ballad. Pandemonium’s influences were primarily drawn from the previous decade, when skillful musicianship and strong vocals were highly valued. “I grew up in the ‘70s,” he said. “I’m more of a hard rock guy than a metal guy. My favorite bands to this day are Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. I love prog-rock too.”
While the Resch brothers enjoyed moderate fame, they weren’t able to quit their day jobs. By the end of the ‘80s, the L.A. metal scene had mostly played out while Seattle was taking off. So Resch and his brother Eric moved north. “Being from Alaska, we missed mountains and snow and seasons,” he said.
They relocated in 1991 and tried their hand at writing grunge-style songs. But, Resch said, “We saw we could make really good money playing the covers. Playing the hits and making people dance. We fell into that whole bar scene, just touring a different club every week.”
What followed were two decades as full time professional musicians, playing bars in the Northwest. This time they were able to make their living at it. By 2015, though, Resch was longing for home. “I’d been in L.A. for 10 years and Seattle for twenty-something and I missed Alaska,” he said.
He didn’t quit music, however. Upon his return, Resch put a band called CrimZen together and got a job at Music Mart “where I bought my first guitar in like 1976. Now I work here forty-some years later.”
Two years ago, Resch was asked to join the locally popular Benefield Blues Band, who he regularly plays with around town. “It’s kind of a misnomer,” he said of the band’s name. “We hardly do any blues. It’s all classic rock. Sixties, ‘70s and ‘80s classic rock. We do a little bit of ‘90s alternative stuff, a little bit of metal, some Zeppelin and Sabbath.”
“I’m 64 now and I did my whole thing, chasing fame and stardom and success,” the now semi-retired Resch said, looking back on his musical career. “There’s so many bands who would have given everything just to have one album, and we had three albums out. We played all the huge famous clubs, opened for tons of big bands. We achieved a certain level of success. We didn’t take it quite as far as we were hoping to. But boy, we did so much better than 99% of the other bands.”
“Now I just love being back in my hometown,” he concluded. “I love nature, I love to go on long bike rides. I love being back in Fairbanks. It’s peaceful and quiet and nice. And a couple of times a month I get my guitar out and go play in a packed bar to a bunch of people drinking beer, and have some fun.”
Benefield Blues Band can be found on Facebook at bit.ly/2YdBh3e. Their next performance will be the Halloween party at Badger Den on Oct. 30.
David James is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks. Creating Alaska is an ongoing series documenting the lives of artists and creators in Fairbanks. Feedback and suggestions for future interviews can be emailed to [email protected].