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A Tale of Two Chads: More Drama From Nineties Band Live

As we recently revealed in an in-depth feature, the collapse of Nineties rock band Live was a very complex situation, and nobody can agree on the exact cause. What’s indisputable is that lead singer Ed Kowalczyk now tours with an entirely new version of Live. Original guitarist Chad Taylor and drummer Chad Gracey were best friends from childhood, but now they don’t even speak. Bassist Patrick Dahlheimer is caught in the middle.

“I don’t ever want to play with Chad Taylor again,” Gracey told Rolling Stone. “The best way to deal with a narcissist is to not deal with him, so I don’t want to. Every time he opens his mouth, he’s either manipulating you, trying to control you, or bully you.”

Taylor has a different take on the situation. “I’d do a show with all the boys tomorrow,” he said. “I love them — even Gracey and all his screwed-up shit. I love them, and I love the music we made.”

Our article goes deep into the weeds of what went wrong, giving voice to all sides of the conflict, but there was one story we simply didn’t have the space to reveal. It involves an injury that Gracey suffered on Live’s 2017 reunion tour; the addition of replacement drummer Robin Diaz; the band’s strained attempts to record new music; and a lot of anger and resentment. Here is the complete story, in the voices of Taylor and Gracey — who, again, are no longer on speaking terms and were interviewed separately. (It’s worth bearing in mind, as you read this, that nearly anything one of the Chads says is likely to be contested in part or in full by the other Chad.)

Chad Gracey: I injured my arm in 2017.

Chad Taylor:  He was making fuckin’ macaroni and cheese for his twin daughters. One of the girls pushed the hot water dish he had heated in the microwave off the counter. It fell onto his bare feet and he jumped in the air. When he landed, I guess he stuck out his arm.

Gracey: I fell in my kitchen and then tore my tricep tendon on my right arm, 90 percent.

Taylor: They were like, “You’re going to need surgery.” “I’m a drummer,” he says. They’re like, “Yeah. You’re fucked.”

The injury came just two days before the group was set to play the Arroyo Seco festival in Pasadena, California, on the same evening as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was an enormous gig.

Taylor: So Gracey calls me back and he’s like, “Dude. They’re already scheduling my surgery.” I said, “Do you want me to cancel the show?” Ed and Patrick were on the same flight, and they were flying from the East Coast, so they were up in the air. He said, “No, no. Don’t cancel the show yet.” I said, “Well, what do you want me to do?” Now we’re down to less than a day. “Do you want me to find somebody to play drums?” I wanted him to make the decision, not me. And he’s like, “Look. I don’t know what I think about any of that yet, but you better start looking.” I was like, “OK.”

Taylor started by calling up Kevin Martin from Candlebox to see if he knew anyone.

Taylor: I’m like, “Do you know anyone that could potentially do this gig?” He was like, “Yep. I got you a guy. I’ve been using Robin Diaz on drums.”

Gracey: Robin Diaz is a great studio drummer.

Taylor: I’d never heard Robin’s name, but he’s like, “He played with Candlebox. He’s played with Hole and Billy Corgan.” I get Robin’s number. I call him up, still not knowing if we’re going to even do the gig. He’s like, “Dude. I don’t even need to rehearse your songs. I grew up on your band. I know every fuckin’ song. I can play the drum parts right now.”

Taylor still didn’t know if the other members of Live would agree.

Taylor: Ed could have been like, “Fuck that, I’m not walking on stage unrehearsed in front of 50,000 people without my drummer.” So Gracey and management called me back and they say, “Tell Robin he’s got the show.” I call Robin and I’m like, “Dude, we’re going to do the show. No rehearsals, just walk on stage.” We literally met Robin when he showed up a half hour before the show time.

Gracey: He came in actually on that day. I played one-armed, with my left arm, and Robin played all the parts.

Taylor: We set up two drum risers side by side with Gracey only with one arm. His other arm was literally in a sling, playing like chicken scratch and cuing Robin visually. He became a conductor, I guess, with his right arm. He could play fills and maybe play the hi-hat some. He could be a part of the show.

They managed to make it seamlessly though the entire set.

Taylor: We walked off stage and we were like, “How was that for you?” Specifically to Chad Gracey. He was like, “I don’t know. It was pretty cool. It seemed like it worked. This crowd didn’t boo or something.”

Live had other dates lined up throughout the rest of 2017.

Taylor: Management starts hitting us with the realities of canceling. They were like, “You guys would be out millions. I’m not talking about gross revenue. We’re talking about unfunded deposits. You’d have to cancel ticket sales. This is a global tour. It’s not very easy to unwind.” So, from a business standpoint, I’m like, “God, this is a nightmare.” Chad was like, “No. We got to push on. We got to do the tour.”

Gracey: We decided to keep Robin around until I was healed.

Taylor: We found a doctor that managed to heal him without surgery. But there’s a strange thing that starts to begin happening, which is as he’s healing, now he is starting to play as loud as, if not more aggressive than, Robin. We got the chance to play some shows with Guns N’ Roses. During that tour, Gracey was like, “Hey, fuck this drummer guy. I don’t want anything to do with him. I’m back to full health. I’m at 100 percent. Fuck that.”

Gracey: When I was finally healed in about August or September of 2017, I told Chad, “I can play again. We don’t need Robin anymore.” He’s like, “No, I want to have two drummers now.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “No, I just want to have two drummers. You’re both going to be in the center of the stage.”

Taylor: We re-mic the stage and we make Gracey the primary drum sound that’s in the PA, but management is like, “Robin’s an in-demand concert and session guy. If we let him go, we’re not getting him back.” So I called management and I was like, “I don’t want to get stuck in the middle of this, but Gracey’s pissed off.” It was almost like an ego thing: “This is my drum throne, get the fuck off my stage.’” He was even being hostile to Diaz off-stage. Not all the time, but snarky shit.

Gracey: I’m not a very egotistical person in general, but I wasn’t going to let him encroach on my territory like this. I am the drummer of Live, and I’m going to be in the middle of the stage. I’m not sharing it with this guy.

Taylor: I’m like, “This is just fucked up. He saved your fuckin’ ass. He stepped in. He hasn’t done anything wrong to you.” Finally that tour comes to an end. It’s clear Gracey can handle playing his parts. We’re now booking the 2018 tour, and I get this call from management that’s like, “Hey. It’s only been two or three months since Gracey’s been back and healed. What happens if he gets hurt again? Why don’t we come up with a new stage setup, and we’ll take Diaz, and he won’t be at the center of the stage, but we’ll push him off far to one side?” I’m like, “You guys are creating a fuckin’ nightmare.”

Gracey: I actually quit the band in Rochester. Ed got involved, and we decided we’ll put Robin on the side and I would play in the middle. So all of ’18, we had two drummers on stage.

Taylor: I don’t think fans really complained or anything. It was just a different look. There would be some fans that said, “I just want to see the four original guys on stage.” It’s like, well, look. I don’t have time to explain to 10,000 people every night, “We had an injury, and this fucking needs a backup plan.” It’s just too complicated. Just enjoy the show.

Diaz left before the 2019 tour, and Live brought in another musician named Clint Simmons to play percussion. Things were relatively stable until they decided to enter the studio and cut a new EP, Local 717.

Gracey: Unbeknownst to me, an EP was being made without me.

Taylor: Gracey comes into the studio on day one. Everything’s all mic’d up. It’s just me, Gracey, and Patrick. Ed didn’t want to stay there since he always used to clash with Gracey in the studio. And dude, an hour goes by and it’s almost like Gracey had barely even played on the song. We hit playback. And Patrick says, “Well, this is clearly not working.” And then Gracey clicked into his talkback and he said, “Guys, I’m out of ideas. What do you want me to play?” I turned around and looked at Patrick and he goes, “Oh fuck. When the drummer is asking us what to play, we’re fucked.”

According to Taylor, they gently escorted Gracey out of the studio and attempted to regroup. When he came back, they played him tapes from the session.

Taylor: Gracey was like, “I’m just not hearing the song. I can’t find my way into it yet.” And I said, “Hey, let’s not overthink this. We own the studio. Let’s turn off the gear and walk away. You tell me when you’re back into the vibe.” Three, four days go by. I get a phone call from Ed. He’s like, “Hey, how are drums going?” “Well Ed, it’s fuckin’ dreadful. It’s terrible. We don’t have anything recorded.” He’s like, “What do you mean you don’t have anything recorded? We made Throwing Copper in 10 days. We’re four days into tracking just a handful of easy songs. What do you mean you don’t have anything?” I was like, “Dude, I don’t know what to do.” And so Ed says, “Have you thought about throwing Diaz a track?” I’m like, “Well, no.” He’s like, “He’s out at Dave Grohl’s studio right now tracking.” I basically said, “That call is above my pay grade.” Ed said, “Let’s at least hear what it sounds like with a different drummer.” So I call up Diaz.

Taylor says they sent Diaz the Pro Tools sessions at the studio where he was working. They came back three hours later with new drum parts.

Taylor: I can’t articulate or put into words, even as a musician, the difference… This is what I can say: One was right and one was not. So of course I have to send it to Ed. He’s like, “Dude, this is fucking insane. This is amazing. Holy shit. Now the record sounds alive.” Of course, that phone call ends. And I think to myself, “Now we have our first real problem as a new band.”

There were a mere five songs on the EP, so the sessions with Diaz went very quickly.

Taylor: One of the songs was a Velvet Underground cover [“Venus in Furs”], and I think Patrick originally played drums on that. Even on that original recording, the drums are basically an afterthought. It was so easy. We already had the one song, so we just had to cut three more with Diaz. He did them in one day. We were about to leave on the Counting Crows tour. Management was like, “The EP is done. Release it.”

Taylor had to call up Gracey to tell him they finished the EP with Diaz on drums.

Taylor: I called Gracey and I said, “Look, management’s all over me to finish up this EP. We don’t have drums. So we elected…” I always use the word “we.” But I might even have said to him, “I elected,” to try and deflect maybe a little bit from the band. “I wanted to hear what a different drummer would do.” And he said to me right away. “OK, well, I understand that. I want to hear it. Send it to me.” What I wanted to hear was, “Fuck that. I’m on an airplane, I’m coming in.” But what he said was, “That’s not how I would play, but it sounds pretty good.”

Taylor admits he has some regrets about the situation.

Taylor: I probably failed him in that moment as a friend. I should have said, “What the fuck is going on with you? We worked so hard to get our band back and reunited and now we’re making a new album. It’s our first album in 12 years or whatever the fuck it is. Why are you not showing up? What’s wrong?” But I didn’t do that. I did call Patrick. We call him “Switzerland.” I said, “What the fuck am I supposed to do?” And so Patrick said, “Just finish the EP. It’s only an EP. Just finish it with Diaz.”

Gracey: Chad gaslit everybody and told them I wasn’t mentally able to do it, and management believed him. And so we put out this new product. I’m not even playing drums on it.

Taylor: This is where management fucked up. We needed a real producer because, by default, I wound up having the conversations with bandmates as a producer that I should have not been having. I should have just been allowed to be a songwriter and guitarist in my own band.

Gracey: I was told to basically pretend that I was the drummer on it. And I’m a very loyal person. I don’t like to rock the boat. I don’t like to make waves. And so I was like, “Well, I hate this, but I’ll go along with it so the band doesn’t look bad.” At the time, this is the worst thing anyone’s ever done to me personally. And he was just kind of like, “Tough shit.” He and I were best friends. We grew up together. We slept over each other’s houses all through middle school, high school. We’re inseparable. And I go to him as my best friend still at the time, and go, “You’ve just done the worst thing anyone’s ever done to me.” And he’s like, “Tough shit.”

The band carried on through 2019 and into early 2020 with the original four-man lineup intact. But after the pandemic, Kowalczyk let his three bandmates go and began gigging as Live with three new musicians. Zak Loy is on guitar. Chris Heerlein is on bass. And on drums? Robin Diaz.

Looking back, Taylor can only sum up the whole two-drummers thing, and how it all went down, one way.


 Taylor: It was fuckin’ horrible.

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