by Dan Emmons
As a young aspiring rocker, Chris Tapp spent many of his early days covering Pearl Jam tunes in his father’s auto body shop. After losing a drummer from his band, Tapp heard from a friend that Brian Mullins, a drummer from a town less than 30 miles away, was fit for the job. Mullins would later audition, bringing with him a giant metal drum kit and the hair to match. His image didn’t quite fit Tapp’s vision for his rock band. A few years later, the two bumped into each other and Mullins had a new haircut. With that new “doo” Mullins also proved he had found a new sense of music and the two began playing in blues based bands like Shelby, who had sniffs at a major release but never really broke. After a few stints with success, Tapp and Mullins linked up out of boredom, jamming from time to time. The duo decided to move from jamming to taking things more seriously and started writing songs for what became The Cold Stares. Their first gig was in front of a crowd of fifteen in Kentucky. The next show, fifty. However, they would come to know adversity all too well. After a two-day recording session turned legal struggle, major label interest turned canceled tour, and front man Tapp’s personal battle with cancer, The Cold Stares were ready for a major turn of the tables on their fortune as well as the music industry.
There are not many popular two-piece rock acts because the sound of rock and roll is hard to generate through just two instruments. The duo capitalized on areas where the four or five piece bands would be able to capture, using a certain formula that utilized the bass rig and three separate amplifiers. The Cold Stares switch guitars an octave down and kick in a bass line on top in layers to give a fuller sound. Tapp believes in a type of rock without all of the theatrics, “Keep it simple, no 30 minute solos” and added that people want to hear something they can immediately enjoy, “(our) lyrics are simple enough for people to understand, its just what comes natural.”
Tapp believes that the audience needs to feel the eruption of a song. He even decided that the band would be louder than any other rock band to attract the attention of the local bar scene. His explanation of the idea was based off when “acoustic songs are playing and people are drinking, and trying to get laid- so instead we play so loud no one can ignore us.”” It is Tapp’s opinion that the crowd can sense right away if the music is forced or fake and offers the advice, “play what you like, and don’t try so hard.” He believes that when you are true to yourself and your music, “it’s like putting on clothes, if it’s not your favorite pair of jeans, you are just trying to impress somebody.” Apparently the audience was getting the memo about The Cold Stares.
With the popularity of the band growing, the two decided to take their material into the studio. Recorded in two days, their self-titled debut captured the raw sound that was so enjoyable live. While waiting to release the album, shows were growing, their name was spreading and they had some major label interest. Unfortunately that all came to an abrupt end with Tapp getting some life threatening news, he had cancer. The tour was canceled, and Tapp started Chemotherapy immediately. “They (doctors) missed a spot under my arm thinking it was safe.” Tapp endured 15 weeks of treatment and followed up with a month of radiation. Afterwards, he had three separate surgeries on the side of his body, each one possibly taking away his chance to play an instrument ever again. If the thought of loosing his life was not tragic enough, he was faced with the realization that even if he survived, his music career was over before it ever really began.
Miraculously, Tapp survived the treatment, has had a few clean checks since then, and made it out of the surgeries with full use of his arm. When asked about the success, “Not trying to be a preacher but I feel blessed by God.” His family and community organized a charity show and a few other fundraisers to help the financial burden the whole year had taken. Through a little luck and great deal of kind hearts, Tapp was able to pay off all of his medical bills.
The Cold Stares are an amazing band with and an equally amazing story. The odds are always against a two-man rock band, but the odds could not have been more stacked against Chris Tapp. He continues to get treatment, but the record deal and tour talks have started again. You can see him rock on July 26th in Mojos in Evansville for their first show back since he was diagnosed, and February 9th in Nashville. Tapp believes he is truly blessed to be living the life he is and that The Cold Stares have a bigger purpose than as a rock band. The Cold Stares have already overcome enough to destroy most of their four-member counterparts and show no sign of stopping anytime soon.