May 19, 2009
By Christian Caple
It wasn't the best idea, he says with a laugh, looking back on it. But when UW junior walk-on center Gregory Christine and his best friend, Samson Szakacsy, got done recording their first song while the two were in high school in Camarillo, Calif., they wanted to hear how it sounded on a real system.
So they went to a friend's house, put the song on his surround-sound stereo system and basked in the glory of their hard-earned auditory achievement.
Christine cringes when he talks about it now.
"We were so excited that we couldn't hear how terrible it was," said the 6-foot-2-inch, 286-pound Christine. "Looking back on it, man, that was so embarrassing. That was terrible. I don't know what we were thinking."
As grassroots as his music career started -- at his mom's house with a $10 microphone from Radio Shack and $30 computer-recording software -- Christine has grown into a certified recording artist, co-producing the recent release Daily Thoughts with his group Bent Twig, which consists of Szakacsy and himself. A release party for the album is scheduled for May 29 at Pravda Studios.
It's a unique sound, more laid-back than mainstream rap, with thoughtful lyrics and an easygoing flow that suits Christine's friendly demeanor. But what's most unique about the album is that Christine and Szakacsy put it together via the Internet. Because Christine plays football for the UW and Szakacsy is a quarterback at Arizona State University, the duo never have a chance to actually work together.
Szakacsy said he would record his verses using GarageBand and send them to Christine, who, along with their producer, David Thomson, would take them into the studio and put a beat to it. Then, they'd each add to the track until they had a final product.
"Thanks for the Internet, I guess," Szakacsy said. "We just took it from there."
For Christine, the album is a culmination of a lifetime devoted to music. He grew up in a family full of church-choir singers and musicians and learned how to play the piano when he was 7 years old at his mother's urging.
"I had to get him into instruments because he had no rhythm," said Christine's mom, Maria Christine. "I can't have a son that can't dance."
Piano fell by the wayside, Maria Christine said, once her son became busy with high-school football and other obligations. But he never stopped experimenting with music, teaming up with Szakacsy in high school to start trying to match verses with beats.
There was one problem, though. Gregory Christine and Szakacsy had to record all of their songs in one take, without stopping, because of the poor quality of their aforementioned recording software.
They needed better equipment. The solution? Sell their demos to classmates in the schoolyard at $5 a pop until they had enough money -- about $600 -- to buy a new 8-track digital recorder.
"It was, `You got $5? Here's a CD,'" Gregory Christine said. "Samson transferred schools and started selling like crazy. I went to a private school, so people were a little more uptight. But he sold a ton of those things."
They sold enough, eventually, to buy the recorder -- or so they thought. In their excitement to upgrade their equipment, Gregory Christine had forgotten to factor in the cost of tax.
So Maria Christine, who had watched the two progress in their makeshift recording studio in a room of her house, gave them the money to make up the difference.
"They're good kids," said Maria Christine. "And when you have good kids, you want to do good things for them."
Gregory Christine wasn't surprised that his mom came up with the cash for them.
"She's my everything," he said. "I'm definitely a mama's boy."
Maria Christine recalls phone conversations with her son during last year's frustrating 0-12 football season -- he spent the season on the sideline behind senior starter Juan Garcia -- telling her son to keep working hard and keep doing the things that had caught the eye of college recruiters when he led his team to a 14-0 finish as a senior in high school.
"`It'll pay off one day,'" she'd tell him. "I don't know when, but it will some day. Maybe not in football, but in something. It's a life lesson that it's not always easy."
As if he doesn't already know. Remember, this all started with a $10 microphone from Radio Shack.