Deputy Zero
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Deputy Zero

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Sean Campbell: American Dream
Deputy Zero: Wild Future

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It’s Gonna Be A Wild Future

Deputy Zero front man, Sean Campbell, has a gig tonight. More like a moonlighting thing than a sanctioned L.A. club date. The audience is not composed of Jack-swilling rockers and low-cut Betty rollers. On the contrary, the crowd of over a hundred sits crossed legged on rubber mats, eyes closed, ears tuned into world-renown six-string toting Kundalini yogi, Guru Singh, as he leads another Thursday night Yoga West packed house through post exercise mantra. This evening’s special guest guitarist, seated to the master’s left and plucking his heart out, is an artist in transition.

Sean Campbell’s personal musical journey began in 1987, the year I became editor of RIP Magazine and started writing about rock n’ roll. “Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, there was a piano and guitar in the house where my mom, my grandma and me lived,” Sean remembers. “But I didn’t play them. No one did. They just sat there. I saw KISS in ’77 at the Forum and Rush’s Moving Pictures tour. Great shows. I dug the spectacle. And I spun the albums. But I never had an urge to play an instrument or perform. Until one day, just before graduating from college, I drove up from San Diego to hang out with a friend in L.A. My buddy wasn’t home and neither was his brother next door but his roommate answered the door with a black and white Squire Telecaster hanging around his neck. ‘Cool guitar,’ I said off handedly. ‘You wanna buy it?’ he asked. ‘Hell no, I said. ‘What do I need with a guitar?’ Then as I’m walking through the courtyard leaving the apartment complex, I hear this little voice in my head say, ‘Dude, your birthday’s coming up. Do something for yourself.’ I walked back up the path, threw down $75 and I had my first guitar. I took it back to San Diego and immediately bought a book on how to play rock guitar. Not reading music; tablature, where you use pictures and numbers, I got pretty good pretty fast.”

The Tao Te Ching says the thousand-mile journey begins with a first step. Sean Campbell paid attention to the unseen voice and started walking his walk, no destination in mind save exploring whether he was, in fact, destined to make rock n’ roll his life’s calling. Naturally, the road to success or revelation is often, forgive the expression, rocky. “I had different jobs in the 90s,” he says. “I interned at Sony Music in the A&R department but no scouting, mostly administrative stuff. I remember one day I was in the stock room and saw this tower of boxes containing CD singles by a hot new band on the label called Pearl Jam. I took one of those ‘Alive’ discs home. It was inspiring. I started fooling around with writing my own songs. Riffs that I attached poems. The day job wasn’t inspiring. It was busy work. So I bailed.”

As he developed his own chops and material, Sean was introduced to a local singer / guitarist who would have a profound effect on his life and music. “His name was Jeff Powell,” he recalls. “He played bass in a band called Dr. Whiskey, fronted by a guy named S.C. “Stuart” Bailey, Axl Rose’s brother. I’ll never forget cruising up to Axl’s Malibu house, that living room with those radiant white couches, grand piano, giant glass windows and hypnotic view of the Pacific.

“Jeff’s talent was undeniable. I knew he was the shit so I built a band around him called Swamp and became their manager. But along with immense musical gifts came a gamut of personal demons. His mom committed suicide and that haunted him. He often escaped into the ‘snow’ fields. One day in the spring of ’94, someone called me and said that Jeff had driven his car into a wall at 85 mph. He was killed instantly. I’ve felt his presence a lot the last couple years as the Deputy Zero incarnation began to take shape.”

Sean Campbell has just finished writing, recording and producing his debut effort which features some genuinely smoky riffs and potent phrase twisting. Sean’s gift for alliteration marries nicely with heavy hooks and dynamic production. “Blazing the trail of a new generation/Fighting the shadow of a bad reputation/Come together and give a demonstration/Don’t be a part of the common population.” In the track, “Common Population,” the archetype of the leader on the path comes through. In the bold, progressively tinged, “Eye in the Sky,” the metaphor again evokes evolution, and elevation. “The things we see below don’t matter/Fight the fear of heights and climb the ladder/Walk away from the disaster/Turn around and face the Master.”

In 2009, Sean Campbell is beginning to acknowledge who that Master truly is. Though his accelerated devotion to self examination and acknowledging the Synchronicity that has brought forth a phenomenal rhythm section and a fellow Guru Singh student who just happens to be a rock journalist in the throes of his own elevation, Sean is beginning to see the reflection of his own talent, purpose, humility and humanity. “I don’t