Iraq and Roll

Back from the war, this band of brothers is ready to play.

The control booth at Globalsound Recording Studio in Broomfield rings with artillery fire as the sounds of rockets exploding and rounds firing from AK-47 and M-16 rifles boom through the speakers. In the vacuum of the studio, soundproofed and windowless, it's a violent, percussive wall of noise.

"That's freakin' scary," says engineer John Taylor. "That's like twenty bullets a second. Listen to how fast that is."

John ramps up the audio to full volume.

 
 
Chris Wolfe, Dave Childress, Geoff Burgess and Luis 
Castellanos are Lucid Dissent.
John Johnston
Chris Wolfe, Dave Childress, Geoff Burgess and Luis Castellanos are Lucid Dissent.

"This stuff wasn't recorded during live combat, was it?" he asks Dave Childress, who's carefully watching the levels on the digital readout.

"Nah," Dave says. "During combat, you kind of have a few other things to worry about."

John is helping Dave, Luis Castellanos, Geoff Burgess and Chris Wolfe through the final mix of a CD by their band, Lucid Dissent, which formed in the deserts of Iraq while the guys were serving in the United States Army. Dave, Lu, Geoff and Chris recorded a lot of the battle sounds themselves, using handheld recorders, digital cameras and MP3 players during training missions in the field. More than a year later, they found out that the samples make kick-ass sound effects.

Tonight they're at the board working on "Downslide," a brooding dirge of distorted guitars with a rapped refrain lain over the chorus, like a call-and-response between two halves of the same person. The song's lyrics were pulled straight out of Lu's war diary:

If this is life, then I'm closing the door
Don't wanna feel this pain, see the truth no more
No need to look through my eyes
The world was better in disguise.

"Downslide" is one of four songs that Lucid Dissent is putting on GetAfterIt, an EP of material the four wrote overseas. They've kept John at the studio for long stretches, recording and re-recording vocal tracks, patching over less-than-stellar takes. It's precise, painstaking work. John had a feeling when he met the guys that they'd be hard workers.

"They're definitely perfectionists, but that's okay with me, because what winds up coming out sounds great," John says. "One thing I've noticed about this band is that there's always at least two of them here. They are all really involved in the whole process. There's not one guy who takes the responsibility or all the control."

When the intro is synching up just right, Chris heads into the studio to re-record some of the rap parts on "Downslide." After Chris rhymes into the microphone, John plays the track back through the headset.

"Yeah," Chris says. "I think that's hot. I think that's the one."

In the control room, Geoff, Lu and Dave nod at each other: The general rule in the band is that each guy calls the shots on his parts of a song. If Chris likes how he rapped, the track stays in the song. Democracy in action.

"It can be hard to be in a band with four leaders, because we're all leaders," Geoff says. "But we're pretty good at working stuff out even when we disagree. One of the major things you learn in the Army is that you can't let little things get to you. It puts things into perspective really quick when you're worrying about some stupid things and your friends are deploying to a war."

When Geoff, Lu, Dave and Chris came back from Iraq in the spring of 2004, they had a new mission. Forget fighting: It was time to rock and roll.


First Lieutenant Dave Childress was smaller than most of the guys in Tiger Squadron -- wiry, with glasses and an angular face. But the engineer and West Point graduate was smart, and he was a natural leader. At 25, he was second in command of Apache Troop, a 150-man platoon based at Fort Carson.

Dave had trained for combat at Fort Carson since landing there in 2001, spending freezing nights in Piñon Canyon in the middle of winter -- a spot soldiers joke is the coldest, windiest place in the world. But those were just exercises, pantomimes. Dave never really expected to see an actual war. Then 9/11 happened, and he felt the military mobilize. During a training mission in Egypt not long after the terrorist attacks, he began to wonder if he might soon be back in the Middle East.

Then came the letter from Colonel David A. Teeples in February 2003, as Coalition forces were preparing for the possibility of a ground war in Iraq: The Global War on Terrorism requires that the United States Army deploy to a foreign country and fight an enemy that would do harm to the United States of America. It requires us to defeat the enemy so that all Americans can continue to live in freedom, now and in the future.

Dave wasn't exactly happy to go, but he didn't join the Army to sit on the sidelines. The fact was, America was at war, and he knew he should be a part of it. The feeling around Fort Carson was that it would be a relatively quick mission, anyway. The major ground operations were over. In early May, President George Bush declared from the platform of an aircraft carrier that the war had been won. The job of the Third Armored Cavalry, Tiger Squadron's parent regiment, would be to help clean things up, bring some stability to Iraq and get the hell out of there. It would take six months, tops. Before he left, Dave bought a ski pass, wagering he'd be back in Colorado before the close of the season.

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