Article by Geo Folkers
Before The Marked or Smashing Pumpkins were conceived, Greg Bates co-founded Coat of Eyes with Billy Corgan. Not much is known of this band, but at least one full cassette tape of music was recorded (see pictures below). Last week, Greg and Billy reunited forces at the opening of Billy’s new Tea House in Highland Park, IL, called Madame ZuZu’s. They played Smashing Pumpkins’, Today. I had a chance to sit down with Greg and ask him a few questions about the band that very few people know about. Here’s what he had to say.
1. How did you meet Billy Corgan and how did Coat of Eyes come to be?
“I met Billy Corgan with a group of friends that used to hang out in front of a teen night club named Medusa on Sheffield and School St. in Chicago. It was around 1984/85 that he was walking down the street with another friend or relative (I don’t recall) and stopped to talk with our group. Billy and I hit it off quickly as we started to talk about music and bands we liked. We decided that we would get together to work on some music as we thought we could collaborate on some cool ideas of songs we had. Shortly after that within a few days Billy picked my friend Angel Espada and I up in his old Camaro from my house in Wrigleyville and drove us over to his Dad’s house near the Portage Park area in Chicago. After we recorded a song, Billy and I decided that he and I clicked more musically so we decided to start working on music together minus Angel. We were deciding if I would just play rhythm guitar or keyboards as Billy obviously had lead guitar covered. After some time it was decided he didn’t like his voice and I would in addition to keyboards also be the singer. We went for a long time under the name Bates Motel as a play on my last name. Shortly after that we changed our name based on a visual idea Billy came up with based on a ‘coat of arms’ meets a long trench coat in which he thought would be freaky with a bunch of eyes on them and so we decided it would be Coat of Eyes.”
2. How often would Coat of Eyes record/play?
“We played and recorded almost everyday. He would either pick me up or I would take the bus to his house. He had a black Fostex four-track machine that we would record on very often. He was very particular to sound quality and also having a unique type sound.”
3. Who were your musical influences?
“We had a wide range of musical influences. We had both gone through a heavy metal phase and enjoyed some of the classics. At the time we had really loved the sound of New Order and I was a big Depeche Mode fan. We would go to local concerts at the Metro and also saw INXS live at the Aragon Ballroom together. The Cure was a band that we both really liked a lot. But we enjoyed stuff from Metallica to Tears for Fears.”
4. Was there something special about Billy then?
“Billy was always very unique and had qualities that I had never experienced before meeting him. He had a passion and drive that was far and above the strongest even to this day of any person I had ever met. He was a musician and was fiercely determined that, that he was going to do music. No matter what came of it. This is what he did; ‘I write songs and play guitar’ he would say. He didn’t care how he had to live as long as he was able to write and play music. It was about expressing his deep passion through his words and music and simply that.”
5. How did Coat of Eyes end?
“When Billy met Ron [Roesing] and Dale [Meiners] we started to play together as a band. Billy and Ron had rare birthmarks and they decided that it would be cool to rename the band The Marked. We rehearsed a couple of times and shortly after that they decided they were going to move to Florida because the Chicago scene wasn’t a good place to be. I talked about it briefly but since I was still in high school at the time I stayed home. That is when The Marked began.”
I would like to thank Greg for taking the time to share this information with the community. Hopefully, we can all one day hear what Coat of Eyes recorded!