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Gene Andrusco
Gene Eugene
March 20, 2000
Age 38 
Cause of Death Pending 
 
 
  

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OBITUARY 
 
     
  Music Falls Silent in a Magical Green Room
 
                                              Fans nationwide are shocked by the death of 38-year-old Gene 
                                           Eugene, the man who set a new tone for Christian music.  

                                           By WILLIAM LOBDELL 
  

                                                In the Green Room this week, the talk was all about Gene 
                                           Eugene.  
  
                                                His gifts as a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter, musician 
                                           and producer.  
  
                                                The role he played in shaping more than 300 records over his 
                                           career.  
  
                                                The alternative rock band, Adam Again, he started in the early 
                                           1980s that brought Christian music out of the Dark Ages.  
  
                                                And his funky recording studio--the beloved Green Room 
                                           itself, on the first floor of his Huntington Beach home--which 
                                           served as the breeding ground and flophouse for hundreds of 
                                           bands, Christian and secular, famous and struggling.  
  
                                                So when Eugene, 38, died unexpectedly Monday, mourning 
                                           musicians and friends from across the country immediately hopped 
                                           on planes and flew into town. They headed straight for the Green 
                                           Room, where old friends talked long into the night about the 
                                           remarkable life of Gene Andrusco, known to everyone as Gene 
                                           Eugene.  
  
                                                "He was way too young and way too vital for this to happen," 
                                           said John Thompson, founder of True Tunes, a magazine that 
                                           coversthe progressive Christian music scene.  
  
                                                "Pulling him out of the equation is a huge loss for Christian 
                                           music. If you were to combine Phil Spector, John Lennon and 
                                           Booker T. [Jones] and make them into one guy, it's about that 
                                           devastating."  
  
                                                Early Monday morning, friends found Eugene dead on the floor 
                                           of his studio. An Orange County Sheriff-Coroner's official said the 
                                           cause of death hasn't been determined, and it could take as long 
                                           as three months before all the test results come back. But friends 
                                           say Eugene hadn't been feeling well in recent weeks and 
                                           complained of headaches the day before his death.  
  
                                                His death shocked his fans, who turned to the Tooth and Nail 
                                           Records Web site (www.toothandnail.com), which put up a 
                                           moving tribute, to share their grief. The volume of more than 400 
                                           e-mails--70 pages' worth--froze the memorial bulletin board.  
  
                                                "He was musically so talented that it was never truly 
                                           recognized," as in cases of musicians who excel at just one thing, 
                                           said Brandon Ebel, president of Seattle-based Tooth and Nail. On 
                                           some albums Eugene would do vocals and instrumentals and mix 
                                           the tracks as well.  
  
                                                He began in show business early, working as a child actor on 
                                           such TV shows as "Bewitched" and "Wait Till Your Father Gets 
                                           Home." But he carved out his niche in show business by upgrading 
                                           Christian rock music in the early 1980s through his band, Adam 
                                           Again.  
  
                                                "Christian music in the early days was in the minor leagues," 
                                           said Tim Taber of Prayer Chain, a band Eugene produced. "The 
                                           thought was: 'It's just a Christian record, that's good enough.' But 
                                           Gene said, 'I want to make a record that's good enough for MTV, 
                                           for KROQ.' And he did it, working with budgets that are a 
                                           fraction of what the big bands had."  
  
                                                                  * * * 
                                                So with his own group and then others--bands like Starflyer 
                                           59, Plankeye and Swirling Eddies--Eugene produced records that 
                                           finally measured up to their secular counterparts and helped propel 
                                           record companies like Tooth and Nail.  
  
                                                "He wasn't one of the inventors of alternative Christian music, 
                                           but he was a perfecter," Thompson said. "He took a lump of coal 
                                           and shined it up quite a bit. By the '90s, he was absolutely 
                                           dominant."  
  
                                                The center of Eugene's world--and arguably the center of the 
                                           Christian rock world--was the Green Room, his studio and home 
                                           in Huntington Beach.  
   
                                                "The place is just legendary," said friend Lori Lenz. "Bands 
                                           would come into town and just want to hang out there. It became 
                                           its own little society."  
     
                                                The open-door policy created an atmosphere where musicians 
                                           would play on each other's albums or simply crash for the night.  
                                                "You never knew who was going to pop up," Taber said. 
     
                                           "Big-name musicians [would] walk in and give their two cents' 
                                           worth. The studio wasn't spectacular, but there was magic there. 
                                           The whole Orange County music scene plugs into the place."  
  
                                                So much as that Eugene rarely ventured outside the Green 
                                           Room, unless of course it was baseball season and the Dodgers 
                                           were playing. Rumor has it that Eugene would secure cash 
                                           advances from recording contracts just to buy a single season 
                                           ticket.  
    
                                                "He'd sacrificed food and water to buy season tickets each 
                                           year," Thompson said.  
     
                                                Though Eugene spent his career giving legitimacy to Christian 
                                           music, friends say his faith was private.  
   
                                                "He was a Christian, but he wasn't evangelical," Ebel said. 
                                           "People saw Christ in him through his kindness and generosity and 
                                           his servanthood."  
  
                                                But he wasn't a saint.  
   
                                                "I spent months of my life hating the guy," said Mike Roe with 
                                           a laugh. Roe was a good friend who played with Eugene in the 
                                           all-star band Lost Dogs, a Christian version of the Traveling 
                                           Wilburys.  
   
                                                "He was a flake with a capital F. Any adjectives I use to 
                                           describe Gene would fall short of the truth. I can't imagine this guy 
                                           gone--he's just a three-ring circus. He balanced everything out 
                                           with his extreme generosity."  
  
                                                That's what people remembered about Eugene: a musical 
                                           genius with a generous spirit.  
  
                                                                  * * * 
                                                "He was a friend to everybody," Taber said. "The kind of guy 
                                           everyone wanted to be around. He had a quality that drew people 
                                           in."  
    
                                                Michele Palmer and Eugene were divorced in 1994, but the 
                                           two always remained close. "He really valued his friends. I mean 
                                           he really valued them," Palmer said. The couple had no children 
                                           and he did not remarry. "He's caring, sweet, funny and had a very 
                                           twisted sense of humor. Most of all, he was just an incredible 
                                           talent. He's my favorite songwriter. He's brilliant that way."  
    
                                                While Eugene's studio was filled with talk about his life, the 
                                           music--for this week, at least--had died.  
  
                                                "The Green Room's been incredibly quiet," Lenz said. "It's 
                                           really strange to be in the studio and have no sound."  
    
                                                Funeral services for Gene Eugene will be at 9 a.m. today at 
                                           Echoes of Faith Church, 11255 Central Ave., Ontario.  
                                                                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

William Lobdell, the Editor of Times Community News, Looks at
Faith as a Regular Contributor to the Religion Page of The Times' 
Orange County Edition. His E-mail Address Is  Bill.lobdell@latimes.com
    
Gene Eugene
1961-2000 
  

           The news has traveled far and wide and thousands of us are in shock. One 
            of the brightest talents in our family has gone home. We are left with 
            memories, music and grief. Forgive us for what will no doubt be seen by 
            some (those who didnít know Gene or the music he touched) as a 
            preponderance of Gene Eugene coverage for the foreseeable future. He 
            meant a lot to us. 
  
             Gene Andrusco touched every aspect of this "alternative Christian music" 
             scene we call home. As an artist he was the center point of the seminal 
             Adam Again, a gritty, funky and simply amazing band that slowly and 
             methodically cranked out music from 1986 to the present. In fact, Gene was 
             scheduled to begin the new Adam Again album in April and premier it at 
             Cornerstone this July. He was also one fourth of The Lost Dogs. A sort of 
             "supergroup" comprised of the front-men from the most important and under 
             appreciated bands in Christian music, The 77s, The Choir, Daniel Amos and 
             Adam Again. The Dogs were unlike any of the bands the members came 
             from, delving headlong into all aspects of musical Americana from blues to 
             rock to country. Additionally, Gene had become a master engineer and 
             producer, having crafted amazing albums for The Prayer Chain, Starflyer 59, 
             Mortal, Fold Zandura, Mike Knott, Plankeye, The Lost Dogs and countless 
             others. And as if that wasnít enough, Gene was a partner in Brainstorm 
             Artists International, a formative alternative Christian label that broke ground 
             in the 80ís that labels like Tooth And Nail would farm to great success in the 
             90ís.  

                             He was quiet, warm, funny and immensely talented. 
                             His songs tapped a deep well of human emotions, 
                             usually the darker ones. Geneís ability to shed light in 
                             the corners helped the rest of us find faith in the things 
                             that remain. If we have anything to say about it, neither 
                             the artist nor the music will ever be forgotten. 

                                

             This Lost Dog Goes Home: 

             There have already been various theories and rumors as to what caused 
             Geneís death. What we know for sure is that on the evening of Sunday, 
             March 19th Gene was in his studio-home, The Green Room, working with 
             drummer Frank Lenz and some others on a demo project. At what was 
             considered an early hour for Gene, he said he wasnít feeling well, and had 
             been sick to his stomach. He went to bed. At some point that night, Gene 
             died in his sleep. One early morning visitor said he was found in the same 
             comfortable position he had been sleeping in, thus leading all to believe he 
             passed quietly.  

             Gene had been in a car accident recently, and had complained of severe 
             headaches since then. Some of the headaches were bad enough to prevent 
             him from working, but that was rare. Gene was always working. In fact, just 
             days before his death he sent a hurried email to his fans who had been 
             bugging him for details about the upcoming Adam Again record. He teasingly 
             said, "Thatís for me to know and you to find out." He also elaborated on his 
             current life-schedule in the following segment of that email: 

                  "I work at least 12 hours a day in the studio, usually several hours 
                  more than that. Some of these studio days are in other cities that I 
                  have had to fly to. No matter where I am, I have a full-blown studio 
                  that is in operation day and night here in Huntington Beach, with 
                  constant scheduling, maintenance, clean-up, rentals to arrange etc. etc. 
                  etc. I get 20 to 30 phone messages a day, and up to 50 emails. I don't 
                  have days off, generally, and if I do, 
                  there are 5 or 10 of my friends who 
                  have been waiting for months for 
                  me to mix or record something for 
                  them as a favor, or to play on their 
                  album or whatever. One of my best 
                  friends died suddenly last week, 
                  and I was barely able to go to his 
                  funeral, coming back here 
                  afterwards to mix a record that was on a deadline. So what else?.... 
                  songwriting, dating, Dodger games, a movie once in a while, 
                  sleep...these fill my idle hours to overflowing. I had no interest in 
                  sharing this kind of pithy complaining to anyone, because I love my 
                  job and am blessed to have it. I DON'T work so much because of 
                  money, but because I have MANY fellow artists who depend on me 
                  to help them catch their vision on tape, and wait months to get me, 
                  and I love them, and don't want to let them down." 

             It was certainly love that kept Gene on a schedule like this; love for his 
             friends, love for great music, and love for his fans. It is unclear what 
             contributed to his passing, but as soon as the coroner releases that 
             information we will update everyone. Meanwhile, speculations are just that. 
             Some reports have listed a brain aneurysm, which would be impossible to 
             know until the coronerís report is in. For now we are left without answers. 

             The Gene Eugene Memorial Fund 

             In lieu of flowers, there has been a fund established for donations. The family 
             is hoping to collect enough to cover the cost of the funeral. Tim Tabor, 
             formerly of The Prayer Chain and currently manager of Transparent, an artist 
             management company, is administering the fund. Donations can be sent to: 

                  Gene Eugene Memorial Fund 
                  c/o Transparent Artist Management 
                  14151 Newport Ave. #203 
                  Tustin, CA 92780 

             Please spread the word about this fund, and if you have a rich uncle, give him 
             a call. These guys never make the living they deserve in this life. And it is 
             impossible to estimate the value their music has had in our lives. If you have 
             been touched by Geneís life, please consider donating to the fund. 

             Remembering Gene 

             Memorial services are planned for Friday March 24th and Saturday March 
             25th, in Ontario California. 

             Viewing: Friday Night 7:00 PM at Draper Memorial in Ontario CA 

             Funeral: Saturday 9:00 AM at Echos Of Faith Church 11255, Central 
             Avenue, Ontario CA 91761 Ö  

             Mike Turrentine (pastor at Echos Of Faith) and Pastor Johnny Bunch 
             ("Rikki" Michelleís father) will be officiating. 

Truetunes
 
NY TIMES
        
 
 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
 Adam Again, an alternative rock act from Southern California, anticipated the synthesis of rock and funk to be later expressed by groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spin Doctors, etc. The band consists of Gene Eugene (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Riki Michele (backing vocals), Paul Valadez (bass), and John Knox (drums). Saxophonist Dan Michaels was a full-time member for the first album but has only sporadically appeared as a guest since then. Group leader Gene Eugene is also a talented producer in Christian alternative music. -- Thom Granger, All Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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