Kevin Pate Remembered by Brian Smith of Beat Angels and Gentlemen Afterdark

Categories: R.I.P.

Kevin Pate photo
Michael Molumby
Bassist Kevin Pate
Brian Smith, onetime member of Gentlemen Afterdark and Beat Angels (and onetime New Times staff writer) reminisces about his late great bandmate, Kevin Pate.

My old band Gentlemen Afterdark once had a demo deal with A&M Records. We were very, very young, and living in L.A, and recording at A&M Studios with this guy Rob Jacobs producing. He'd recently engineered and mixed some huge multi-platinum albums, including U2's Rattle and Hum.

Now, we knew Kevin Pate was incredible, that his was a skill that couldn't be taught. We just figured Kev slid from the womb that way, cigarette dangling.

His musical intuition stunned us; he had that sense of when to pull back, when to sustain, when to push, when to flood.

See also:
- Serene Dominic remembers Kevin Pate.

- Two Kevin Pate memorials scheduled for this weekend.

We're in working on a song called "Holiday" and Kevin just strolls in and plays this elaborate but deceptively simple bassline, a classic Pate melody that had all this rock 'n' roll sexual stuff in it, that added musicality to the song without losing any punch. Wasn't just a bass part for a pop tune -- it was more than that.

He nailed it in one pass, which really wasn't surprising. He always did that. In fact, it was never his fault if a take had to be redone. Jacobs was this sort of hyper guy who at that point had already manned the console for some of the best rhythm sections around. He just shakes his head and turns to Robin Johnson and me and says, "This guy is the best player I have ever heard."

Cut to several years later, late 1995. Pate and I are in the Beat Angels, recording our debut album, laying down foundation tracks at this large studio in Phoenix. Guitarist Gilby Clarke's producing, and he'd just survived Guns 'n Roses' massive multi-year Use Your Illusion world tour, and Virgin had just released his Waddy Wachtel-produced debut solo album.

Guy knows his shit. Again Pate ambles in, trailed by smoke from the cigarette dangling in his mouth, this sort of slight, loose-limbed guy with a Keith Richards-y mien, and nails his bass parts in one pass. At one point, Clarke turns around and looks at us. Says, "Kevin is the best player I've ever heard."

After completing his parts, Kevin steps into the control room and looks at us with genuine credulity, and says, "Aw, hey man, sound okay?"

We're like, "Dude, you're fucking McCartney on Abbey Road . . ."

Kevin nods once quickly, grins and, in his voice that's strangely both scratchy and calming, but with a peculiar twist on consonants due to a combination of his mother's thick Irish brogue and his mouthful of fucked-up teeth, says, "Aw, okay, man. I guess I'm headin' home."

So he turns and goes home. That was it.

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I see and hear him like it was yesterday, eyebrows arched and smiling, cigarette actually dangling from fingers rather than lip, for the moment, asking, "dirigible?" I'm thinking WTF?!... cuz I'm lookin' at my TV and seeing the Goodyear blimp... I love the way he talked. It just made me smile. I don't remember when I actually MET Jon or Kevin... but I most associate both coming off stage at the Jar... each such an incredibly talented musician/performer..both of 'em such goofs. I lived in Phoenix, a little rougher neighborhood than the ones inhabited by my mostly Tempe bar friends (that's what us old folk had before there were FB friends)... What's gotten me through this great sadness of Kevin's departure is that I realized that each and every time I think of Jon Norwood, I'm smiling... and so is he.  Every time. So I KNOW that days will come and go, until one day I realize that I didn't even realize that every time I've thought of Kevin lately, I've been smiling.  I know that day will come.  

In the interim, I am so glad to have learned, thru those FB posts de Yuma prison hospital, that Kevin's sister is just as wonderful as he was... and he had her there with him thru that time. I thank her so for that virtual tether to him in that place... without that, my mind would have imagined such horrible things over his last days. Thank you.

Brian Smith, I always felt so silly in your presence, but I felt like you were okay with me being a dork, so I ALWAYS loved seeing and talking to you at the bars... AND at all the other places we probably ran into each other at.....   I pray each nite the remaining angels of beat are finding comfort in their loss...

As ultra-corny as I DO KNOW it sounds... my small-town, Catholic-reared mind kind of LIKES this childish thought that, now, Jon AND Kevin really are Beat A N G E L S !... so I'm sticking to it.  I love you both, and I know where you are, I'll miss you 'til I see you again. If there's a list, put me on it... I'm sure I'll be broke when I see you again...even if there's not a cover, I'll feel I've a better chance of gettin'  past the doorman if I'm on the list.....  Thanks for brightening my time here. XXOO XXOO



Kevin was so kind. Kevin's talent always awed me. I am richer to have met him; the world he departed is now poorer.


Beautiful tribute Brian.

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