It’s been a weird week for me. I’ve gotten some positive feedback on my writing, and after going through what I’m starting to call my May-June depression (from around the middle of May to around Father’s Day), it was welcome. I did some spontaneous things with some buddies, and it seems like I’m on the path to have my most successful release of a book yet.
But it’s all bittersweet.
As I get older, there’s one thing I can’t shake.
Last year, Death took my best friend. Death has ravaged my close friends, taking some of their loved ones with pharmaceuticals or worse. Shit, I recently learned my sister’s high school & college boyfriend was eaten alive by Satanic cannibals a few years back. Most often when we learn of these things we are caught off guard, unprepared for the revelation. We are shocked, we weep, and we mourn. Sometimes, though,the death of an associate isn’t a surprise at all.
I lost a long time friend last week. We put him to rest today. And I didn’t cry. Which shocked me. Until I realized… This person’s death was expected, and I had prepared myself for this years ago.
Jeff Kimpland passed away last week. He produced my old garage band’s demo, and was the karaoke DJ my core group of friends rallied around for a number of years. He was an enigmatic person. The women who went to karaoke with us wanted to fuck Jeff, and the guys wanted to be Jeff. He had a perfect tenor, with a 4 octave range. He put Geoff Tate to shame. We had Jeff sing Geoff’s Silent Lucidity at every show. So we could hear the song sung correctly.
Jeff came into the metal scene at the wrong time, as grunge started to take over. His band, Saharra, was set to become the next big metal act, blending aspects of hair metal with the progressive sound of Queensryche. While I learned my announcer-craft at WGFR in Glens Falls, the A&R rep for Columbia records gave me their demo to play in Spring of 1992. They opened up for Dream Theater and Queensryche. But Saharra went nowhere really quickly when spandex, guitar solos, and epic vocalists were kicked to the curb.
So Jeff moved back home to Syracuse. He started up his karaoke business, and prepared to launch his metal comeback. As he did so, he recorded demo albums for many of the karaoke singers in town in his private studio. My band, Zed’s Dead, was the first band he recorded. It wasn’t without flaws, the drums are over-condensed, but the guitars and vocals shine. Jeff was a real pro and gave many people in the karaoke community the confidence to go on and do more with their lives. Jeff was someone I called a friend. He even DJ’d my wedding.
And now, Jeff is dead.
And I know it sounds cold, but I’m not surprised one bit.
Shortly after our heyday of hanging out, from roughly 1997-2002, Jeff experienced a tragic accident at his employer, a national home goods chain. He fell off the loading truck, and broke his back. It changed everything. But the worst change of it all? Jeff became addicted to opiates and painkillers.
Staying in contact with the man became a chore. He’d be so fucked up on pills he wouldn’t even know what we were talking about. You can’t reason with a pill popper, I learned. He started asking people for money, and that was a clear warning. So I distanced myself from him.
Then Jeff went to rehab and met Charlie Thomas from the Drifters. Jeff cleaned up, with Charlie as his sponsor. Jeff found a new life singing with cover bands on Cruise ships, singing non-metal songs. He started DJing in town again, and we started to go to his shows. He was healthy, and happy.
Then he fell off the wagon.
Opiates are evil. They consume a person. And prescription painkillers are the worst.
But Jeff never gave up. With Charlie’s help he cleaned up again, and found a new love and gave birth to a son.
But once again, those fucking Opiate demons reared their ugly head. It cost him his employment, it led to him separating from his son’s mother, and I won’t be surprised if we learn he died as a result of his addiction. His body might have just given up, or maybe he found some really good drugs on his trip to Canada the week before, who knows. All I know is a great talent passed away, and the world is a lesser place because of it.
Here’s some examples of his work, for your listening pleasure.
RIP, Jeff, your pain is gone, finally.
Enjoy some Jeff…