December 31, 2018
Before all of the bad press and ugly accusations that resulted in years of silence, Mr. Charlie and the Masters of the Tunaverse were the band almost synonymous with “the Sound of the Deep.” If not the founders of Ocean Rock, they defined it. A mainstay in the marine music scene for 25 years, The Masters played thousands of gigs, released 13 albums, and 32 hit singles. Now, eight years after their last studio album, two members of the reclusive rock act have agreed to an interview.
It is late in the afternoon, and Eddie Diver, guitarist for The Masters of the Tunaverse, seems anxious to start. He looks good for a fish his age. His scales don’t shine the way that they used to, and a slight crust has gathered around his gills, but he’s lucid and alert. He still looks youthful in the face, and although he has lost the lip-hooks, he still has the trademarked sneer and swagger of his stage persona. Next to him is Paula Brackish, the bass player. She is wearing heavy makeup, her fins are dyed bright red. She is taking long pulls off of a cigarette and blowing smoke-filled bubbles out of her gills.
Q: I’d like to thank you two up front; it has not been easy to get an interview with the founders of Deep Sea Rock.
Eddie Diver: “People are always calling us Deep Sea Rock, or Ocean Rock, but I think we are more specific than that. I mean, we’re Albacore all the way. At least, back then we were.
Q: “But this new album is a departure from that?”
Paula Brackish: (sighs) “This new album—I think Charlie has gone off the deep end, pardon the expression.”
Q: “I hear that Mr. Charlie spends a lot of time in the studio and that he has hired extra musicians to finish the album. Is creative control an issue?”
ED: “Honestly I just want to get back on tour. I miss the teeming fans. But Charlie won’t play live anymore. He calls this project ‘his baby.’ Like any of us give a damn about our babies.
PB: “Yeah, I’ve had thousands of babies.”
Q: “I’m detecting animosity here. Are you both still upset with Mr. Charlie because of the Chesapeake Bay show in 2009?”
For those who have been living under a rock for the past decade (eels, urchins, etc.), this is the infamous show where Mr. Charlie stopped one of their slow numbers (You’re My Starfish) to yell slurs at a group of rowdy crustaceans in the second row.
Paula Brackish: “I think he misjudged his audience. If this had been 20 years earlier, his comments might have been met with applause—calling someone a bottomfeeder just isn’t PC these days.”
Eddie Diver: “It caused a wave of bad press that led to the cancellation of the tour. Of course I blame Charlie.”
Q: “Eddie, weren’t you having drug problems at that time?”
ED: (looking at his fins) “I’d rather not talk about that.”
That line of questioning ended, but it is common knowledge that in April of the same year, Eddie was arrested at the Great Barrier Reef, in possession of a drug known to be a scourge among the undersea rock elite: Heroin.
Q: “Do you think you will go on tour after this album is released?
Paula Brackish: “You mean if it gets released. It seems like we have been on hiatus forever. Charlie has spent years on these songs, but he still says he isn’t finished.”
ED: “I am certain he has been re-recording my guitar tracks, and he already replaced Dolph (original drummer for the Masters) with an entire percussion section—gongs, chimes, djembes, penny-whistles, and castanets…”
PB: “And don’t forget all the loops and samples of waves crashing; god.”
Q: “Speaking of lineup changes, Mr. Charlie and the Masters of the Tunaverse have gone through a lot of keyboardists throughout the years—why the high turnover?”
PB: “Well, you know that old joke about you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish? (laughs) I’m sorry I know that was in poor taste, but they just keep getting caught, you know?”
ED: “Hazards of the occupation. When you’re touring constantly, there’s this pressure to live up to an image. It’s as if you are fighting this current you are caught in, and it is often easier to go with it. A lot of them died of mercury poisoning. Some fish go further out there than others. Take our last keyboard player, [Brandt Offland], he was swimming in shallow water with a bad group of guys, trying to prove he was hard, and he ran into a net. He surfaced, but never came back under. No one ever found his body, but if he’s been out of the water this long, he must be dead.”
Q: “Very sad. Well, we are about out of time here. So to sum up, Mr. Charlie and the Masters of the Tunaverse are mired in debt from their new album, drowning under bad press from on-stage hate-speech, hooked on drugs, and fishing for yet another keyboardist. Did I miss anything?
PB:(looking insulted) Yes, you did. You forgot we want to play live shows again. That was the whole point of the interview.
Q: “I’m sorry. Of course, tell me more about your desire to play more concerts. Any big arena shows in mind?”
ED: I just want to play the Marianas Trench one time before I die. Is that too much to want out of a career? I saw The Krill play there when I was in college and it changed my life.
PB: “Yeah, that would be the best. I can’t wait to be back on stage; if Charlie ever finishes this album, that is.
Six weeks after this interview was recorded, Eddie Diver and Paula Brackish left the band and formed their own short-lived side project, The New Masters. A promising tour was cut short when Diver was eaten by a shark just before he took the stage.
Mr. Charlie is still in the studio. His anticipated album, Chinese Ichthyology, was scheduled to be released later this month but has been pushed back yet again. No word on a new release date has been given.