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Glamorous Youth

Sharon Osbourne put the local kids of Pure Rubbish in front of millions on MTV. Then things fell apart.

On that June evening in Paris last year, it seemed the whole world was at the feet of Pure Rubbish. Only a couple of years before, the Houston band was playing small clubs like the Blue Iguana and Instant Karma. Tonight, they were opening for Offspring and their heroes AC/DC in the Stade de France, where 65,000 screaming French rockers packed three sides of the 80,000-seat stadium. Neither of the two leaders of the group -- the Dunivan brothers, then-14-year-old drummer Evan and 17-year-old singer-guitarist Derek -- was old enough to vote. Bassist Mike McWilliams and rhythm guitarist Jarrett Gardner were barely in their twenties.

"That was excellent. That was awesome," remembers Derek. "To walk out on that stage was just cool, overwhelming. When there's that many people out there, it's almost like you're playing for nobody. It's not like when you're at a small bar and can see faces. It's that there's so many that you don't focus on any one of them."

No Houston rock band had ever come so far so fast. And over the next few months, things kept getting better and better. At Sharon Osbourne's behest, the band toured with Ozzfest, where they shared the stage with many of the country's top hard rock acts. Better still, they went into a studio in L.A. with legendary producer Mike Clink, whose credits include Guns N' Roses' landmark 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction. With Clink, the band recorded Glamorous Youth -- what should have been their debut album.

Le monde at their feet: Pure Rubbish's Mike McWilliams at the Stade de France.
Courtesy Willie Dunivan
Le monde at their feet: Pure Rubbish's Mike McWilliams at the Stade de France.
The boys got their goals from their dad but their hearts from their mom, Tracy Dunivan.
Jeff Fitlow
The boys got their goals from their dad but their hearts from their mom, Tracy Dunivan.
Sweet Sixx-teen: Derek with Mötley Crüe's infamous bassist.
Courtesy of Willie Dunivan
Sweet Sixx-teen: Derek with Mötley Crüe's infamous bassist.
Mike, Derek and Evan in their home away from home: Francisco Studios.
Jeff Fitlow
Mike, Derek and Evan in their home away from home: Francisco Studios.
The master plan hangs on the studio wall.
Jeff Fitlow
The master plan hangs on the studio wall.
Beatles or Stones? For Derek and Jarrett, the answer used to be a no-brainer.
Jeff Fitlow
Beatles or Stones? For Derek and Jarrett, the answer used to be a no-brainer.
Willie Dunivan (center) and the boys in the rock shrine that is his Montrose apartment.
Willie Dunivan (center) and the boys in the rock shrine that is his Montrose apartment.
How much mischief Rolling Stone accurately reported (or left out) depends on which Dunivan you ask.
How much mischief Rolling Stone accurately reported (or left out) depends on which Dunivan you ask.

Sharon's star took off like a rocket in December when the MTV reality show The Osbournes premiered, and the Rubbish kids seemed to be along for the ride. Sharon's daughter Kelly tapped them to back her on her televised performance debut, a hard rock rendition of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" that aired on the MTV Video Music Awards show, a spectacle that was viewed by an estimated 35 million people worldwide. In addition to another appearance on MTV, a five-minute interview segment with Kurt Loder, the band also appeared on VH1's Rockshow. Spin called them a "band that mattered." They even got a four-and-a-half-page spread in the hallowed pages of Rolling Stone. It seemed that Houston's rock-and-roll heir apparent to ZZ Top was upon us, and that Destiny's Child would soon have some company as a bold ink act from a town with far too few.

And then, as they say on VH1's Behind the Music, "triumph turned to tragedy." But it wasn't the typical "dark descent into drugs and alcohol" that took the band off its "fast track to fortune and fame." It was a force far outside their control: Priority -- the parent company of Sharon Osbourne's label Divine Recordings -- merged with EMI and subsequently was dissolved. Glamorous Youthwill never be released. And the band has gone from being a major-label act playing national stadia to an unsigned act that doesn't play in public at all.

Cue narrator: So now the young men of Pure Rubbish are facing a crossroads.

They have a shot at returning to the 80,000-seat arenas of the world, but only if they stick with the simple, straight-ahead, powerful hard rock that got them noticed in the first place. Trouble is, Pure Rubbish just isn't interested in that anymore.

"I'm the Earl Woods of rock and roll. If there wasn't no Earl, there wouldn't be no Tiger, but if there wasn't no Tiger, nobody would know who Earl was."

So says Punk Daddy, a.k.a. Willie Dunivan, a 25-year veteran of the Houston rock scene, with stints in bands like Apeshit, Stinkerbell, Personality Crisis, Hip Cat's Alley and the original version of Pure Rubbish to his credit. If you're worried about not being able to pick the elder Dunivan out of a crowd of rank-and-file Houstonians at the West Alabama Ice House, you shouldn't be. He's the guy with the curly, shoulder-length black hair, the shades, and the faded jeans and vintage tongue-and-lips Rolling Stones T-shirt. Over a brace of Heinekens, he talked about his rock dreams, which went largely unfulfilled, and those of his children, which still have every chance in the world of coming true.

He wants all the facts straight. So he presents me with what amounts to the most unusual band bio I've ever seen: four pages of white paper on which Punk Daddy has scrawled the Pure Rubbish story in ballpoint ink on both sides. It's boastful, sure -- all press releases are. But this one is different. Dunivan wasn't paid for any of this, and when he brags about his children's accomplishments, it's no different from the guy in the ball cap and Dockers talking about how many kids his son whiffed in Little League last week.

Willie and his former wife, Tracy, always knew their kids were musical, but they say they never pushed them. Two-year-old Derek begged to see not Barney videos but a Johnny Winter concert film; and future drummer Evan liked to bang on pots and pans. But mainly, their early interests ran toward more typical childhood passions like the WWF and playing with action figures. Both boys excelled at sports, especially basketball and karate. Derek wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, and Evan -- fascinated by the way sanitation workers rode by on the outside of their trucks -- wanted to be a garbage man.

But it's not much of a leap to think that the kids were deeply influenced by their parents' entertainment industry examples. Willie was always about rock. But Tracy had a much broader range of artistic interests. She was about rock too, but also dance, R&B, acting and musicals.

"People ask me how I ended up with Willie," she says.

"I saw an amazing personality with a passion for art, and someone very, very intriguing in their passion. Derek and Evan needed to be born, and it had to be their daddy to baptize them. Because they were gonna be musicians no matter what. When most kids were watching sports or Disney videos with their daddies, my boys were looking through their daddy's record collection…That's really cool, and that's what their daddy did for them. They would never have had that with me. Yeah, they would have had music, but it wouldn't have been the same. I think they got their hearts from their mom and their goals from their dad."

Like her sons, Tracy was something of a wunderkind. An attractive, fair-haired woman with piercing blue-green eyes, she was a champion baton twirler and equestrian as a child. At all of 16, she sold her prize-winning show horse to fund the opening of her own dance studio, which she ran while maintaining straight A's in high school. Ever since, she has worked as a dance teacher/ acting coach specializing in a young clientele.

Tracy says her parents indulged her dreams and talents, and everything worked out for the best. Who is she to stand in the way of her children wanting to do the same? "When I see that my kids have an ability for something and they enjoy it, my job as a parent is to notice it and maybe bring it to completion," she says.

Early in their lives, she signed the boys up for classes at the Houston Ballet Academy. Evan gave it up after showing his parents he could do it. "He did one performance, and when he came off the stage he was like, 'Okay, I can do this. I'm done,' " says Tracy. "He was really good at it. I thought I had a little tap dancer on my hands, and I think that rhythm shows in his drumming. But he wasn't interested." Derek, on the other hand, performed scores of Nutcrackers at the Wortham Center. Punk Daddy says it prepared him for his rock career. "By the time he jumped on stage with Pure Rubbish, he had forgotten how to freak out from stage fright."

Ballet, basketball and karate all went out the window one day in 1994, when the boys were ten and eight. Punk Daddy walked in the door of their Spring Branch home from another day's work at Rockin' Robin, and according to his telling of it, the boys greeted him by saying, "Daddy, we were born to rock." It sounds like that 1980s Twisted Sister video -- the one where the square father (played by the actor who was John Belushi's nemesis in Animal House) berates his son at length and closes his tirade by asking, "Just what are you gonna do with your life?" The kid says, "I wanna rock!" and blasts out a power chord that sends his father flying against the wall. Punk Daddy agrees. "Except I did the opposite of Niedermeyer. I was like, 'Great, let's do it.' "

He's concerned about the perception that he force-fed the boys the gospel of rock and discouraged them from developing other interests. "A lot of people are under the misconception that my kids are trained monkeys," he says. "I've been in this stuff for 25 years, and it's not nice. If my kids found something better to do, I would have been behind 'em." People who saw how fast the boys were progressing with their music assumed that Punk Daddy had been drilling it into them for a long time. "The truth of the matter is they had already listened to all this music and they had this giant foundation under them when they decided to learn how to play," he says. "A lot of the garage rock bands out there today are pretty good, and I'm not saying Pure Rubbish is better, but those other bands don't have the '70s base that the kids have," he says.

It was the boys' desire and burgeoning talent that won over his misgivings, he says. And once he was convinced, Punk Daddy had a lot to offer them. "You spend two decades in a business and fall on your face enough times and you learn what not to do," he says. "You may not still know what to do, but you know what not to do."

He's being too modest. The Dunivan brothers certainly had the talent, but Punk Daddy put them in the right place at the right time for some magic rock moments that most screenwriters would reject as clichéd.

we begin with the First Jam, where the boys sat in with punk demigod Cheetah Chrome of the seminal Cleveland band the Dead Boys. Punk Daddy was a friend of Chrome's, and when Chrome found himself drifting in Houston for a few months, the elder Dunivan would occasionally have him over for dinner. One night the boys jammed with Chrome on a cover of the Ramones classic "Blitzkrieg Bop."

Chrome later repaid the Dunivans' generosity by wangling the whole family backstage passes to meet his friends -- the Ramones -- on what was to be their last show in Houston, which took place at the Bayou City Theater in 1994. And so we have the following Passing of the Torch scene:

"I remember thinking that was, like, the best back then. They were my favorite band," Derek remembers.

"That day was one of those vivid memories, you know?" Evan says. "I remember all these weird little details about that show. I remember we sat up top and we were listening to the Ramones and watching all these people down below just going insane. And then walking backstage. Joey signed my ticket stub--"

"And he bought us a Coke!" Derek interrupts.

Evan continues. "Yeah, he was like [decent Brooklyn Ramones impersonation], 'You guys wanna soda or sumthin?' Everybody else was getting sloshed, and we were back there drinking Cokes."

At the time, Derek was about four foot eight, Evan a few inches shorter. The late Joey Ramone was six foot six. The whole scene brings back shades of the old Mean Joe Greene "Hey, kid…Catch!" commercial, which of course the boys don't remember since they weren't born yet.

More moments like these were to come, but for now Derek and Evan had some woodshedding and studying to do. Building on the Merle Haggard and B.B. King records their parents used as lullabies, they started poring over their father's huge collection of LPs and rock histories, one of which furnished their band name: Pure Rubbish was Mick Jagger's assessment of rival British Invasion band Herman's Hermits.

Punk Daddy was amazed by how fast his children caught up with and then exceeded his talents. The whole family calls Derek "the Sponge" for his ability to absorb. At first, Derek was the drummer and Evan was the guitarist. Then, like Eddie and Alex Van Halen before them, they switched. By 1996, the boys had enlisted another kid -- female bassist Morgan Donor, the stage name of the daughter of local musician David Thompson -- and were backing their father in local bars, opening for the likes of Poor Dumb Bastards, Carolyn Wonderland and the Jinkies. It was at one such show in 1997 that they came to the attention of former Houston Press music editor Hobart Rowland, who called them "Houston's anti-Hanson."

"The boys can actually play," Rowland wrote. "And they're naturals on-stage. Even when they flub their parts, they conduct themselves like professionals. Actually, they ham it up like born entertainers. At the Zocalo show, Evan donned a latex mask of a Mohawked ghoul, wearing it while playing a cover of the Ramones' 'Pinhead.' Derek tried his hand at balancing a toy fireman's helmet on his head, until a tepid breeze sent it scooting across the stage."

One night at Instant Karma the band got the first in a series of Big Breaks. Pure Rubbish opened for Atlanta raunch-rock band Nashville Pussy, and Nashville Pussy was impressed enough to ask the band -- still fronted by Punk Daddy -- to tour with them. Pure Rubbish agreed to the tour, with the stipulation that they would play only shows that fell during their summer break from junior high. While most of their contemporaries were at camp or playing Little League, Pure Rubbish was touring the country's raunchiest rock bars with a band whose name most kids would get sent to their room for merely saying.

Getting a band like Nashville Pussy in their corner was vital. Very few bands get signed to major labels by sending out demos blind. It's not what you play, it's who you play in front of. Nine times out of ten word of mouth is the key to success in this business, and Pure Rubbish is no exception. Nashville Pussy discovered them in Houston and invited them on tour. When Nashville Pussy shared a bill with Motörhead, they raved about the Houston kids. Thus Pure Rubbish got to do some shows with Motörhead, and Lemmy -- the fierce English rocker whose decades-long indulgence in Jack Daniel's, hard drugs and the favors of groupies is the stuff of rock Olympus -- was impressed.

"The first night we ever played with Motörhead was at First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince filmed all the Purple Rain stuff," Punk Daddy remembers. "I'll never forget that night. Lemmy took the kids in his dressing room and gave them a pep talk. He was like [growling English accent], 'Stay off the needles, kids. I've had a lot of good friends and they ended up dead because of needles.' He took 'em under his wing right from the git-go. Next thing I knew I opened up a magazine and he was like, 'Best band I've seen in ten years.' Shit! You can't buy that kind of publicity."

Lemmy sang their praises not just to reporters but also to his community of hard-living limeys in Los Angeles. Most important, Lemmy mentioned Pure Rubbish to Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.

A showcase gig was arranged at Instant Karma, and Sharon jetted in from L.A. just to see them. "That was Derek's debut as a singer," says Punk Daddy. "I did a few songs, Derek did three or four. Next thing we knew she was on the back porch calling Ozzy saying she's got to sign these kids. A couple of weeks later, negotiations started."

Welcome to the Big Leagues, kids.

Even for a mother as well prepared for the task as Tracy Dunivan, raising two young rock stars hasn't been without its special problems. After their touring schedule picked up in 2000, the Dunivans had to pull their boys out of Awty International School and start homeschooling them.

Also, whenever a scandal brewed up among Derek and Evan's Houston contemporaries, the guilty teens often found it convenient to blame the Rubbish kids, the rock stars in their midst. "I've gotten phone calls from angry mothers saying my kids were having a beer party," Tracy says. "And I tell them, 'That's funny, because they're sitting on the couch right next to me.' "

Tracy had to handle a certain battle of wills with Sharon Osbourne as well. Was Sharon really interested in Pure Rubbish, or were the Dunivan brothers just going to be playtoys for her daughter Kelly? "When Kelly started singing, [Sharon] enjoyed the idea of the boys being right there to help Kelly out," says Tracy. "I'm not saying she was being selfish by any means, because she was getting the best band to help get Kelly off the ground…But they have to do what she signed them to do. And that's make records and get out there and tour."

Of course, Tracy and Sharon weren't always on different sides of the fence. After all, they have a lot in common: They're both unorthodox rock-and-roll moms who come in for lots of criticism about how they raise their kids. So far, much of Pure Rubbish's media attention has focused unfairly on Tracy. What kind of mother would let her boys tour with a band called Nashville Pussy, or on Ozzfest or -- heaven forbid -- with Motörhead? What kind of mother would allow her kids to be around all that bad behavior?

First, Tracy thinks it's unfair that the mother has to take those raps. "I don't know why the mom is always criticized," she says.

Second, she's a big believer in learning by experience, if not necessarily direct experience, then at a very close remove. "The best way to teach my children is to let them see it firsthand," she says. "You can preach and preach and preach, or you can make them learn by example. And there were always a lot of outside influences around them that were not setting good examples. The best I could do as a parent was let them see. 'See your hero over here. Look what happened to him.' Even local musicians -- you'd see them in the daytime and then you see them at night acting like idiots. Let them know what does it. When you witness something like that, when you feel that great disappointment, it teaches you everything."

According to the Rolling Stone article, Pure Rubbish had plenty of chances to be disappointed by sordidness on the last of their two Ozzfest tours. While the Stonescribe did make note of the fact that Pure Rubbish won over many metal fans with their pure, raw rock, music wasn't really the focus of the story. The writer was more interested in mischief. Pure Rubbish was the youngest band on the tour, and they were hanging out with some of rock and metal's most unsavory scumbags and the groupies who love them. In the story, Evan boasts about autographing a pair of nude breasts. Later, the band peruses a porno mag, and the article concludes with Evan getting busted by his mother in a mildly compromising position with a groupie.

"I thought it was pretty comedic," Punk Daddy says, laughing. "Evan getting shot down in flames by his mom…"

Still, like the rest of the family, Punk Daddy was miffed by the story's focus. "That guy followed the band around for three days and then wrote, like, a paragraph about the music. The rest of it was about their mother and her dealing with teenage kids doing what they would naturally do on a tour like that. And they didn't get in a bunch of trouble like they could have. It wasn't like they were hanging out on Hatebreed's bus or something," he says, referring to the menacing, party-hearty metalcore band from Connecticut. "It's not like they were doing a bunch of blow; they may have cadged a smoke or a beer or something, but nothing too bad."

Tracy is even more defensive about the boys. "I sent Rolling Stone an e-mail, because they requested my response," she says. "They didn't print it. I said we were under the impression that the article was going to be about a young band living out a dream through a great experience. And they did a little of that. The stuff about the music was wonderful. But a lot of it was just fabricated. The guy just assumed when Evan was going to catering with Mike that they were going out looking for girls. They may have told him that, playing and joking. But he wasn't with them long enough to know their personalities. Half of what they say they just do to entertain themselves."

Later, Derek says the Stone writer didn't tell the half of what they got up to. "He could have just toasted us," he grins. "Thank God he left the really bad stuff out. My mind was just gone by that point of the tour." It's hard to know if he's just entertaining himself or not. One suspects not.

Punk Daddy's Montrose garage apartment, where he moved after his separation from Tracy last year, is a sacred shrine of the rock religion if ever there was one. The walls are covered in its icons: Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, AC/DC and Aerosmith posters clipped out of tattered copies of Circus magazine, piles of which litter the floor. Johnny Thunders's New York Times obit is tacked up near a picture of the enormously busty Samantha Fox in a Union Jack one-piece bathing suit. The apartment is crammed with the sacred texts of rock, with books about music spilling off the shelves. Then there's his bedroom, in which he keeps his holy of rock holies: approximately 5,000 immaculate LPs stacked neatly face-forward in record store-style bins.

And there on the couch are his rock masterpieces, his two sons. Evan, with his curly dark hair, looks a bit like Darlene's boyfriend David from the TV show Roseanne. Since the band's last publicity photo, Derek has let his bleach-blond short hair grow out and back into its natural color. The rest of the band is there, too: Mike McWilliams and Jarrett Gardner, whose beard, middle-parted long hair and bloodied forehead (he had been in a car wreck the night before)

make him look eerily like Jesus shortly after the crown of thorns was removed.

Soon our interview lapses into a rock theology debate: Beatles vs. Stones. "That was the only important band we've ever disagreed on," Punk Daddy says. "They had to grow up a little bit before they liked the Beatles. And I understand, because we're a Stones household, man."

And the Stones are fated to win this argument, which is put forth as a question of pure theory. The Beatles don't have a chance with the Dunivan brothers or their friends. As if to prove it, there's a pile of the just-released, newly remastered Stones records on the coffee table next to the stereo.

"Where would the Beatles have been if they didn't have George Martin?" Punk Daddy asks rhetorically. "If they had Andrew Loog Oldham producing them, they probably wouldn't have been as good as the Stones."

"And they were all scumbags, and we love scumbags," puts in Evan.

"Yeah, we love scumbags," smiles Derek.

"Think of all the scumbags we love," continues Punk Daddy. "Aerosmith, New York Dolls, GNR. Then there's the Beatles -- closet scumbags." He's right. It's a little-known fact that Paul McCartney turned Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on to pot, not the reverse.

In the grand scheme of rock, Pure Rubbish has always been a grind-it-out, keep-it-simple-n-sleazy, Stones-type band. "Trash rock," Punk Daddy used to call them.

But lately that's been changing. Derek is into texture now, and Evan is reading a coffee-table book about the Beatles.

The old three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach that charmed everybody from Lemmy to Sharon Osbourne is evolving, for better or worse.

Derek sees it as progress. Those who want to sell their records don't.

Today the boys' interests are all over the map. "When I come home I never know if I'm going to be hearing Bach or the Beatles," Tracy says. "Derek is very, very into piano right now. As a parent I can say this -- he won't tell you this -- but because of his age, Derek has mastered probably everything he can in his life on guitar. He hasn't yet experienced some of the emotional motivations that will make him go to a different place on the guitar. He is very challenged and intrigued by the piano now, and so is Evan. And now Evan is becoming an amazing guitarist. And they are both doing great things on piano. If being very, very good at your instrument makes you go to something else, then I'm all for it. It keeps music alive and not boring for them."

But what about everyone else? "A lot of people are scared that their music is changing in a negative way," she says. "But we just tell them it's a fact of life. It's a change and it's for the best. What's rock in it is gonna rock you even more. And you think if AC/DC comes on the car radio, they still don't turn it up full blast?"

Still, you get the impression Tracy wouldn't lose any sleep if the boys decided that being touring musicians wasn't the life for them after all. She's been on two too many Ozzfests to want that for her boys. "I could see Derek scoring films someday," she says. "And I could see Evan owning his own label and production company. He has a wonderful business head. I love hearing him talk to their management."

It's just the sort of dream you'd expect from a loving mother, but it's a Pure Rubbish producer's nightmare.

I arrived early at the hulking, windowless, converted factory in a silent, godforsaken stretch of no-man's-land that's not really the Warehouse District, nor the Third Ward, nor the East End. Francisco Studios -- a grim, three-story brick building -- has been changed into something like a

rock-and-roll hotel. The fluorescent-lit hallways are bare, save for a Coke machine and a pay phone on the bottom floor. Padlocked doors hide the heavily soundproofed rooms that house the hopes and dreams of dozens of Houston bands. At this early-afternoon hour, you can't hear a thing. Since there's nowhere to sit, I lie on the cold concrete floor and flip through the current issue of Vanity Fair, wherein, lo and behold, I find an Annie Leibovitz photo of Pure Rubbish's friends the Osbournes. Small world, though that sort of fame seems a long way from this dank hallway.

Suddenly I hear singing coming from the parking lot. It's the Who. "But my dreams / They aren't as empty / As my conscience seems to beeeee / I have hours, only lonely / My love is vengeance / That's never freeeee." It could only be Pure Rubbish.

The Dunivans head up the stairs and unlock the door to every musical teenage boy's dream. Inside their rehearsal space, Pure Rubbish has made a home away from home. A couple of ratty old couches are shoved in one corner near a mini-fridge (contents: one can of Bud, one bottled water) and a small coffee table. In the other corner are a soundboard and studio equipment. Evan's drum set is the room's centerpiece, and a multicolored disco ball hangs from the ceiling. The walls are festooned with guitars, black light posters and a huge picture from the Beatles' Abbey Road photo shoot.

On a white bulletin board, the band has made a to-do list. Under "top priorities" someone has scrawled "write songs." Derek cues up Abbey Road on the system, skips forward to "I Want You," adjusts the atmospheric red, blue and black lighting, and joins Evan and me on the couches. Derek says he and his brother spend the better part of every day here -- sometimes slaving away on a new demo, sometimes not.

The kids are having a tough time with their new producer, whose name -- along with that of the new major independent label they're working with -- they don't want to become public yet (the deal's not sealed and all that). They respect him a lot, and they're listening to him, but so far the results have been frustrating. What people have seen and loved from Pure Rubbish has always been the unbridled pure hard rock/punk/metal energy of their live performances. And that's not where Derek's and Evan's heads are right now. They're listening to a lot of late Beatles and peak-period 1970s Stevie Wonder. Asked about his favorite recording artist of the moment, Derek says it's Alicia Keys -- not the answer you'd expect from a guy fresh off two Ozzfest tours. He says he wants to make albums that have elements or even whole songs of flamenco or reggae-style music.

I had spoken with the producer a few days earlier and I read the Dunivans his prepared statement: "These kids have the world at their feet -- the world is their oyster. But now it's what they make of it. They need to get in touch with what people are interested in, not what Pure Rubbish wants them to hear. They need to get in touch with who they are and how that's connected with the world. Because right now I don't think that's where they are."

When I finish, there's some anger -- there always is when somebody tells you that something you've worked hard on isn't good enough. Each brother uses the word "ridiculous" a couple of times, but it seems more a defense mechanism than something they're going to rally stubbornly around.

"They say we don't have enough energy," Evan says. "We're young; whatever we do is gonna have a lot of energy. That youth is gonna translate."

Derek then cues up a couple of the new demos. The first isn't very memorable, but the second is much better. On that one, Derek says, they thought they had rocked stuff up enough to suit their producer. But he says they aren't there yet.

"I thought I was compromising to make that song," Derek says. "I guess we're going to have to go all-out cheese rock. Something like She's! Got! Looks that kill!"

Right now, Derek's head is swirling with philosophical questions, musings that come out in musical form as overly textured and complicated songs. The music he's making now is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a hugely talented young man, but it's not going to get them back to the Stades de France of the world, if that's indeed where they want to go.

Suddenly, apropos of almost nothing, Derek turns the chat on its head. "What are your spiritual beliefs?" he asks, and then answers his own question with talk of karma, reincarnation and his "weird fascination with that force field that is God." He ponders the insignificance of man in the grand vastness of the universe, and then he says that God is sending him messages through TV commercials.

Huh?

Perhaps realizing how strange that sounds, he backs off a little. "I've just been seeing all these ads about education and graduation lately," he says. "Sometimes I think I should have stayed in school. Maybe that's not really God but my conscience."

Then he asks Evan what person from history he would most like to have met.

"Sigmund Freud," young Evan replies.

"Dude, that would be so boring," Derek says. "He'd probably just snort up a bunch of cocaine and talk your ear off. In German."

The producer may be right in suggesting that the boys need to get in touch with who they are. But they seem more interested in thinking about their place in the universe than their position in the music business. As for whether Pure Rubbish will continue to be the band that won over the world's hard rockers, we'll just have to wait and see. Evan and Derek are giving no straight answers.

"There's such a thing as evolution, and you can't do anything about it," Evan says, sounding very much like his mother. "Time goes by, certain things happen, you have more time on your hands, and you start coming into your own and seeing what you really can do. And if that's the case, then so be it."

Cue VH1 narrator: A little older and wiser, the boys of Pure Rubbish balance their artistic integrity with their nascent commercial appeal and gaze into a future that seems limitless. The rock-and-roll world could be their oyster. Shucking it is up to them.

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