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Tripping Over Himself

In Pittsburgh - Feb. 23, 2002
Tripper © 2002
Tripper © 2001

He started introducing himself as Tripper three years ago. At first he did it with a self-mocking smirk, as if he couldn't believe he was actually telling people this stuff seriously. But at the time it seemed the thing to do: He was one classically fucked-up 26 year-old rock and roller, as busy experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol as he was playing music, and he felt it would be an embarrassment to his disapproving family if he kept allowing the name Rob Garrison to be associated with the bad-boy antics of the increasingly popular Buzz Poets.

He wore eyeliner, had black and silver stripes painted down his nails and had his hair stripped to a crazy platinum blond - and was prone to approaching young ladies in bars with lines like "What brings a woman out alone on a night like tonight to a place like this?" Not exactly the persona of a good Johnstown Christian High School Grad. So Tripper was born, leaving Rob to fade into the background.

Three years, four albums and a whole lot of popular attention later, Tripper's rough edges are finally starting to smooth down a bit. Not only does the newest Buzz Poets' disc reflect a surprisingly mature mix of diverse musical styles, but Tripper has also put out a solo album - of club dance tunes, of all things, titled 'I Look This Way For A Reason' - featuring lyrics that are almost Zen in their meditative gentleness, with imagery of floating and flying pervading every track.

He attributes some of his newfound peace of mind to a relationship that's finally proving sucessful - not with a woman, but with prescription medication. A sufferer from bipolar disorder; much of Tripper's past was typified by an uncontrollable psychic rollercoaster that lurched between manic spells of creativity and depressive periods of pain and helplessness. His former cocaine habit didn't help. "I didn't know what end was up or down," he remembers. "Half of my emotions were false or exaggerated by the drug...[Now] I'm getting well-adjusted with the medication."

His attitudes towards different types of drugs, he says, are often misunderstood by fans. "We have a song called 'Cocaine'," he says, "and everyone thinks it's pro-cocaine because there's the line 'Put me in a plane and I'll fly that mother fucker.' But they miss the lyric 'When I vaporize, I could be my enemy.'"

Sometimes those lyrics are all Tripper's; sometimes they're the product of his creative relationship with bandmate and co-songwriter Phil MacDowell ."We take the Beatles approach to music by exploring sound and topics," he says. "Pretzel Sex wasn't made as a concept album - rather, as a collection of songs. It's an honest record. There are lyrics that are basically hallucinations written down, and there are ones that deal with suicide, lost love, a dream I had about my mother, smoking marijuana - it's thematically all over the map."

Tripper and MacDowell have shared more than writing responsibilities: Tripper's ex-fiancee was MacDowell's girlfriend at one time. But while the pair have written numerous Buzz Poets songs about twisted and screwed-up relationships, Tripper maintains an ideal vision of romantic love, saying that he's looking for "the one, my soulmate. I want to be successful in music, remain brothers with the guys in the band and find my soulmate. Those are my life goals."

And don't assume from the Buzz Poets' party-all-night reputation that Tripper's idea of a soulmate is anything other than romantic. "Girls need to know that it's not about blond hair, big boobs, and blue eyes," he says. "What's more important is what's in your heart."

Tripper

Tripper © 2002


© Kimberly S. Grimm 2001
Last updated August 28, 2002
Tripper © 2002