By Michael Essington
On Monday, February 1, 2021, we lost a brilliant musician, and I lost a friend. He had a birthday two months prior, and what should be a celebratory season turned out an ugly continuation of 2020.
Taz Rudd was one of those guys I could sit with for hours and every band or musician I threw at him he’d have a connection. I’d say Guns N’ Roses, and he’d say, “I sold a guitar to Slash.” Then to take this further, he’d say, “I was in the Atoms with Izzy Stradlin.” He was a great musical encyclopedia and humble as hell.
I remember one night after Symbol Six opened for The Adicts at The Key Club on the Sunset Strip, some guy asked Taz if he wanted to come to play at a backyard party. Taz ran over to Eric Leach and said let’s go play this party. Eric asked where, when, and the usual details. Taz said, “It’s in Monrovia, in somebody’s garage.” Eric passed on this. But the conversation was funny because coming off the stage at the Key Club, Taz was more excited about the garage show.
Taz has played in dozens of bands since the 80s. These are the ones that I can remember; Decry, Der Stab, Funeral, Flower Leperds, Voodoo Church, Pirates of Venus, Rock City Angels, Atoms, Symbol Six, Wrecklords, Aces and Eights, Shanghai with Brent Muscat of Faster Pussycat and Stahlin with Izzy Stradlin and Hot Fuck Sundae (I’m not kidding).
I had known Taz for many years, and he’d never talked to me. If I bumped into Eric Leach (vocalist of Symbol Six), Taz would walk up and stand there and listen to us, but wouldn’t talk to me. He wasn’t rude, just observational. Then in 2011, I published my first book, Last One To Die. One night I was standing in some dank back alley, behind a club and Taz walked up to me and handed me $15.00 and said, “Give me one of your books.” I gave him one and thanked him.
The next day Eric Leach called me and said Taz was raving about the book. Something about a story I had done about what it takes to be a man. Here’s the story:
MY DEFINITION OF MANHOOD
“Growing up in the shadow of such an imposing guy like my dad, I think my brother and I picked up a lot of his, for lack of a better word, boldness.
You see, my dad didn’t back down from anything . . . ever. I remember hearing a story where an ex gave two black bikers some money to “finish” my dad with tire irons.
My dad opened the door and invited them in. This spooked them and they talked some shit and left. My dad more than likely had a shotgun just inside the door.
Anyway, I had developed my theory on being a man. I always knew how to fight and I was pretty decent at it, that together with my dad’s never-back-down attitude.
My theory was based on a guy’s actions after he was hit. Might sound strange, but being hit says a lot about a man. Watch somebody in a fight, after they are hit, do they tear up, retreat, or does the punch amp them up to win the said fight?”
Michael Essington – excerpt from Last One To Die, © 2011
Now, I’m not sure what about the story hit him, but Eric said he wanted to talk to me right away. I told Eric it was cool to pass along my phone number. Taz called me minutes later. Raving, He said finally somebody understood. Taking a punch means so much in being a man. And the aftermath, do you get back up, or do you crumble.
We talked for a couple of hours, he told me a story of having to escape a rehab in Spain where they beat the patients. He spent the night on a rooftop of a building (in the rain) waiting for the American embassy to open the next day. He woke up, found the workers of the rehab waiting at the gates of the Embassy, he ran for it, they beat him, and he dove over the threshold and was saved by the U.S. Military.
Then he told me another story about being in a courtroom here in Los Angeles, and when the judge read the guilty verdict he jumped up and over the table and ran for the door. The guards beat him at the door. The escape attempt was enough to hit the news.
My friendship with Eric and Taz led to me designing a couple of hundred fliers, liner notes, and record design for the Dr. Strange re-release of their Posh Boy EP and hanging out with them all over Southern California.
Unfortunately, Taz relapsed and it was a stronghold. My last conversation with him was at Cafe Nela. He was mumbling and nodding. Kind of depressed. I told him I had faith in him, stay strong and kick this, so you can get back on that stage again.
He opened his eyes, kind of wide, and nodded. The look was the one you get when the person thinks you don’t know they’re on something.
I’m going to try and forget Taz that way.
Taz exemplified my definition of a man. He took every punch life threw at him and got back up. Until he couldn’t.
Maybe, tonight, I’ll turn the lights down, put on Monsters 11 and remember Taz wailing on the guitar, making it sound like an ambulance racing through the hall. I can almost smell the stale Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rest in peace, Rock Star.