"I sang [the chorus], and they knew I was OK," Hackel says from the Grooveyard Recording and Duplicating Studio that he operates in Akron.
That Hackel would remember the lyrics to a Cyde song before anything else suggests the extent to which he's devoted to the band. It's a Sunday afternoon, yet he and drummer Brett Lashua are hanging out at Grooveyard, which Hackel says generally opens around 10 a.m. and is occupied until 2 a.m. Located next to Ron's Crossroads, one of the only venues in Akron that books original music, the Grooveyard is an inauspicious building that doesn't even have a sign out front. There's a long soundboard and a group of mismatched sofas, but little about the Grooveyard is pretentious. And yet plenty of bands know where it is -- Hackel estimates that between 10 and 25 acts record there each month.
Wearing cutoff cargo shorts and T-shirts, and instantly recognized when they walk into an Applebee's for lunch, Hackel and Lashua look as if they could have stepped off the boardwalk of a beachside community in Southern California. Their casual mannerisms have undoubtedly contributed to Cyde's regional success -- the band has one of the largest followings in Northeast Ohio and can regularly sell out the Odeon. In fact, the group has already sold over half the tickets for its July 29 show at Nautica -- a venue that few local acts could fill.
Hackel, who started teaching himself to mix and engineer music when he was in his early teens, fixed and sold motorcycles to pay for the recording gear that's now housed at Grooveyard. When Cyde initially formed nearly three years ago, Hackel had been in Java Bean (a group he describes as "fast ska-funk and not song-oriented at all"). After Java Bean broke up, he took some drum samples and guitars, and created the track "Rock Star," which he sent to WENZ (the now defunct modern rock station). After Pat "The Producer" Johnson started to play the song, Hackel knew he was onto something.
"Cyde never would have taken off had Pat not picked 'Rock Star' and saw the validity in it," Hackel says. "I don't think I could have talked the other members of the band into starting the group."
The song also started to get airplay in other cities, notably Boulder, Boston, and Columbus, Georgia. It finally made its way into the hands of Tom Englerth, the production manager for Rage Against the Machine. Englerth, who now manages Cyde, played "Rock Star" for Rage guitarist Tom Morello, who liked it so much he invited the group out to Los Angeles, where it played several gigs and met high-profile players such as Henry Rollins and Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins. While still in Los Angeles, the band worked with Morello on a remix of the song, which appeared on Cyde's self-titled debut in 1999.
"It was a little overwhelming to be sitting in [Morello's] living room and jamming with him," Hackel says.
After meeting with reps from several major labels (including A&M) during its stay, Cyde appeared to be on the verge of signing a deal. But two weeks after returning to Akron, the band's bubble burst when the record industry underwent an overhaul, and their recording company contacts lost their jobs.
"We got stuck in the middle of it, and everything that was becoming something for us dissipated into nothing," Hackel says. "Our drummer lost interest in us, and it just didn't work out. It was a tough blow to come from that kind of a high and go through that letdown. Honestly, if we didn't have this place, it would have been tougher. Being that this is what we do all the time, it's not like we can just say, 'Oh, this blows. Screw it. Let's go back to the day job.' This is our job, so we were back at our jobs whether we wanted to be or not."
Cyde regrouped by recruiting drummer Brett Lashua, who had played locally with the Frans. Lashua, who just completed a master's degree in leisure studies at Kent State University, where he now teaches part time, has an easygoing attitude that complements Hackel's and says he immediately connected with the group.
"It was an interesting situation to step into," he recalls. "While I liked what they had done before, it wasn't anything that I could do or wanted to do stylistically. As soon as I started playing, I clicked with them. We just locked ourselves in the studio to see what would happen."
With Lashua, Cyde was able to focus its energy on recording a new album, Drawn Toward the Sun, which will be released on July 29 at the Nautica show. Several other bands will also play that day, all of whom record at Grooveyard. ("All the bands hang out and drink, and there's no competition at all," Hackel explains.)
While Cyde doesn't play "pound the pavement" shows, as Hackel refers to the club circuit, it does play at least twice a year (and occasionally does word-of-mouth shows at Ron's Crossroads) and tries to make every show an event. As a result of the letdown it experienced after its first brush with major labels, the band is more realistic about Drawn Toward the Sun, but has again redone "Rock Star," which now concludes with a salsa send-up. It has also altered its sound so it's now less "produced."
"We're still convinced -- and so are many other people in the industry -- that 'Rock Star' should have never missed," Hackel says. "It should have hit right on the money, and circumstances beyond our control prevented that from happening. Several people told us to put it on this record. The Verve put their song 'Bittersweet Symphony' on every record for four records -- they were so sure that song would be a hit. They wouldn't give up on it. And then it finally hit, and it hit hard. We're taking the same attitude. I hope no one thinks we're flogging a dead horse."