Evolution of the Hi-Techs

I was working in Record Theater in Midtown Plaza in ’78 and somehow found myself at a New Math show- at the Record Archive I think. There were only a few of us and it felt amazing to see a local original music scene starting. I met Paul Dodd and his wife Peggi Fournier at those early events (Paul was New Math’s drummer) and started jamming with Peggi, a guitar player named Sue and a singer named Michelle. Paul’s brother Tim played drums. Years later I was in band with Tim and Brian Horton called Blue Hand (another Scorgie’s story).

None of us really knew how to play- I think I might have had a guitar at that point and I still can’t play guitar. We shared New Math’s practice space in the Cox Building and really just made a bunch of noise. Sue and Michelle and Tim later got together a great band whose name escapes my ancient brain (commenters please…).

I digress. Paul and Peggi and I became friends and Paul was interested in doing something different than New Math. We were at a party on Park Ave and there was a guy I knew from Irondequoit High School there, Ned Hoskin. Ned had always been a pretty straight guy so I was a little surprised to see him wearing a Never Mind The Bollocks button, an unusual sight in Rochester those days. Turned out he was playing guitar and writing.

Al Kirstein and the Hi-Tech's Ned Hoskin at Schatzee's

Al Kirstein and the Hi-Tech's Ned Hoskin at Schatzee's - photo by Paul Dodd

Long story short, the four of us started the Hi-Techs, an intentionally poppy name that I think I get credit for. We needed a bass player so I traded my Fender Jaguar for a bass. Then the obsession began.

We practiced every night, seven days a week at P&P’s, drinking huge amounts of coffee and learning how to write, how to arrange, how to play. Before we ever played out we recorded a song called Pompeii for a compilation LP called From The City That Brought You Absolutely Nothing that Marty Duda produced. The song was a great one but we sounded oh so teeny. Duane Sherwood, who later did lighting and videos for PE, played a synth riff.

After a few months we had a set and opened for New Math at Scorgies. Even though we still had that tiny sound the music was catchy and different and it went over pretty well. By the end of the first year we had a 45, about a hundred originals (some only got placed once or twice), a following and the sound was a lot bigger. It was probably our obsession with listening to records like AC/DC’s Back In Black and ABBA’s Greatest Hits and trying to figure out how they produced those huge sounds (I’m not kidding, we really liked both records). That obsession with production was a factor in in our eventual evolution into Personal Effects.

The Hi-Techs were a really fun band with goofy dance pop stuff and darker, more intense things like Screamin’ You Head, released as the first PE record but actually a Hi-Techs session. I can legitimately say that playing in that band changed my life for the better in a lot of ways.

  1. Peggi’s avatar

    Sue, Tim and Michelle’s band was the Targets. That first Hi-Techs gig came about last minute when New Math called us from Scorgies and asked us to open for them that night. We were in our pajamas (it was 9pm or so) so we got dressed and got down to Scorgies. That was the first Hi-Techs gig.

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  2. JLaben’s avatar

    I, too, worked at Record Theater downtown with Martin (They closed the RT in Gates and I was able to transfer to the downtown location in 1978). It was a fun gig…got to hear and “borrow” (and never return) lots of great new music…met lots of extremely hip “downtown people”…and we were only a 5 minute walk to Scorgies for lunch.

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  3. Simon Ribas’s avatar

    Hey, can we start a “I Remember Record Theater 4” website too? I worked there too, so did Todd Bradley.

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  4. J.L. Brown’s avatar

    I, uh, bought some records there. And a W.C. Fields poster.

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  5. MartinEdic’s avatar

    I think we could blog about ‘records borrowed’, not that I ever borrowed any.;-)
    Music store employees probably were 50% of the indie band members in Rochester!

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  6. Simon Ribas’s avatar

    I’m not sure I ever “borrowed” any, although when all the ice capades skaters came in, they got a real nice discount. Sadly, there was no payoff for me.

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  7. JLaben’s avatar

    OK…so it was more than a few records…It was a few “stand-ups” FULL of records.

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  8. StanTheMan’s avatar

    By the time I moved back to Rochester, the Record Archive was the predominant “hip” record store in the area and so I hardly ever set foot in Record Theater except to say hi to Todd Bradley. I never even filled up my book of Record Theater stamps!

    I would occasionally pick up product from the Onestop if we ran low on a release, but that only happened when there was a credit problem with one of the major distributors.

    Record Theater appears to be the nexus of the first wave of Scorgies bands, subsequent band members also found employment at the Record Archive, House of Guitars, The Bop Shop, Record Time, Music Lovers, Record Grove and Fantasy/Fantastic Records. I’m sure there are a few others. I don’t think anyone worked at Lakeshore Record Exchange before Andy Chinicci bought it from Ron Stein.

    As I watch my son grow up (he plays bass) I joke that he needs to wear a “Future Record Store Employee of America” jacket, cuz he will probably follow in his old man’s footprints. It’s in his blood.

    Disclaimer: I provide IT support for the Bop Shop (Tom Kohn) and their employees: Greg Townson (Hi Risers), Rob Filardo (Veins/Priests/Quitters/WhiteDevils/You Name It), Ian Downey (Iandowneyisfamous) and John Grasso.

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  9. MartinEdic’s avatar

    I seem to remember that Kevin Patrick (New Math) worked at Record Theater for a little while…though I doubt he’d admit it!

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  10. Sue Metro’s avatar

    Back when I was jamming with Peggi, Martin and Tim I remember leaving the “group” because you guys didn’t want to play out! So some of us left and formed the Targets with Robert from New Math. Regardless, I wish I had some tapes of that very beginnings stuff (and Martin’s old Fender Jazzmaster guitar). It was part of my formative years of bands. I’ve never stopped playing since then. Didn’t we ever record that stuff? Gary had a 2 track tape deck set up and actually, come to think of it I do have an old cassette of the very first time I jammed with Peggi and Michelle and Gary! Better get that out of the drawer.

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  11. Martin Edic’s avatar

    That Jazzmaster had a bunch of switches that didn’t seem to do anything. Nobody wanted those guitars back then- I think I bought a sixties model for $100. Wish I had it now! When P&P and I decided to start The Hi-Techs I traded it for a bass…
    I’m not sure I’d want to hear those tapes- I suck on guitar. I think we might have tried to do a version of Pompeii, a song Peggi wrote that was the first thing Hi-Techs recorded.

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  12. Jason L. Brown’s avatar

    I first heard “Pompeii” when I was still in high school. I taped it off of Rock & Roll Joel’s RUR show and my friend John and I played it on his boom box in the hall at Sutherland outside of one of Peggi’s Spanish classes (her night-life alter ego was largely unknown at Sutherland in ’79). I recall Peggi (or rather, “Miss Fournier”) opening the door with utter nonchalance and asking “Do you mind turning that down? I’m trying to teach a class in here.”

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