He Rocked Until Until He Dropped
by Tom Warner (Baltimore or Less)
BALTIMORE, MD – On October 2, Baltimore police shot and killed former Vamps and Skin & Bones bassist Steve Mach, 52, in his South Baltimore home after he allegedly pointed a pellet gun at officers responding to a distress call. According to the (pre-paywall online subscription) Baltimore Sun, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi stated that the police received a call shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday evening “from a person inside a house in the 3600 block of St. Victor Street in the Southern District, saying that another person in the house was armed.” That person turned out to be Mach’s roommate, who was concerned for his own safety; when responding patrol officers entered the Brooklyn house, they found Mach sitting on his bed with a weapon they claim he was asked repeatedly to put down. When Mach turned to face them with what turned out to be a pellet gun, he was shot by four-year veteran officer Joseph Schanamann (who was involved in a prior shooting from 2009 when a police dog attacked him). Mach was later pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospial. As per department policy, Schanamann is on routine administrative suspension while detectives investigate the shooting.
According the the Sun’s October 5 “Update on fatal police shooting in Brooklyn“:
There’s been an outpouring of grief among friends of victim Steve Mach, stretching from Baltimore to New York City, where he worked for years as a lighting tech at the famed CBGB’s rock club. Before that, he played in a few glam rock bands, including a local group called The Vamps.
“It’s a shock to us all,” said Jackie Luther, who worked with Mach at CBGB. “He was a very gentle person. I can’t see this happening – it’s very out of character.”
Luther said Mach had moved back to Baltimore a few years ago after the death of his mother. He was an animal activist who worked with BARCS, the South Baltimore animal rescue shelter, and owned several cats, she said. He did not have a criminal record here.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers were called to Mach’s home in the 3600 block of St. Victor St. after his roommate called police to report that Mach was armed and said he was fearful for his own safety. Officers entered the home and went upstairs, where they found Mach sitting on his bed. The officers demanded that he drop a weapon he was holding – police describe it as a pellet gun that resembled a .45 caliber handgun – and fired at least one shot when he refused to comply.
“You have to follow police commands, especially when you’re holding a weapon in your hands,” Guglielmi said.
Fans quickly created a R.I.P. Steve Mach Facebook page for the departed Baltimore musician. Friends posted information stating that Steve Mach had no living family and were “asking everyone to please help so that he may have a proper burial.” Until a donation memorial fund website is set up, donations can be made via PayPal using Duchess627@aol.com.
I had never heard of Steve Mach or his bands (Charm School aka Skrap, Pillbox, Skin & Bones – a band he formed in New York in the ’80s with Billy Idol’s former drummer – and local glamrockers The Vamps, aka Vamp City, who played a reunion show last December at the Recher Theater in Towson) until I was clued to his identity by local musician Adolf Kowalski (nee Ross Haupt of Thee Katatonix), who said he was attending his memorial service. But apparently the Vamps – formed in Baltimore in 1982 and later relocating to New York City and morphing into Skin & Bones – were a big deal in the ’80s in their respective glam-metal circuits (Girard’s and Maxwells here; Cat Club, Limelight and The Ritz in NYC). The Vamps/Vamp City line-up was: “Johnny Vamp” (Johnny Vance) on lead vocals and harmonica; “Jimi K. Bones” on lead Guitar, “Pete Pagan” on rhythm guitar; Gregg Gerson on drums; and Steve Mach on Bass.
Guitarist Jimi K. Bones, who played with Mach in both the Vamps and Skin & Bones, talked to Love-It-Loud.com regarding the tragedy and paid tribute to his close friend as follows:
“I met Steve Mach when I was seventeen-years-old. He was standing in his basement covering himself with fog from a dry ice machine he had just made out of an old fifty-five gallon drum and dryer hose. I thought to myself, “I’ve got to be in a band with this guy”.Steve and I worked together over the next twenty years in several successful bands. We first came together in The Vamps, which later morphed into Skin & Bones. We travelled to Europe and all over the States, having one crazy moment after another.
Steve was one of the funniest guys I have ever met. Politically incorrect, outrageous, and was brilliant. He is a light that will truly be missed by many. I am honoured to have had called him a friend. Rest and Rock in Peace!
A memorial benefit show was scheduled for October 23 at the Surf City Bar & Grill in Perry Hall, with support from numerous local bands (including various members of The Ravyns, Face Dancer, The Vamps and, yes, Adolf Kowalski) as well as the NYC Punk Collective.
There are a bunch of videos for Mach’s various bands on YouTube, including one for the Vamps on the Baltimore late-night television dance program Shakedown – a show Kowalski’s Katatonix also appeared on (Shakedown was also one of John Waters’s favorite shows):
Watch the Steve Mach Tribute (photo montage set to Skin & Bones’s “Cover Me with Roses.”
Watch Vamps’ bassist Steve Mach and singer Johnny Vance play “Strangers” at the Recher Theater renion show.
For more Steve Mach videos, see singer Johnny Vance’s YouTube channel.
Steve Mach was also revered across the Pond, as UK music magazine Black Velvet (www.blackvelvetmagazine.com) published an obit for him, “R.I.P. Steve Mach” (October 5, 2011). Small wonder, as Skin & Bones moved to England in 1990 to record Not A Pretty Sighton Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor’s Equinox label. Released in 1990, the album was engineered by Mike Fraiser (Aerosmith, AC/DC) and co-produced with Taylor (later of Power Station).
Finally, as fans and friends alike shared their shock, outrage, condolences, memories, and love on Facebook and other social network sites, Darlene Harris – manager at BARCS, the South Baltimore animal rescue shelter where animal activist Steve Mach worked – updated supporters about the status of Mach’s only surviving family members: “As far as Steve’s cats they are right outside my office, have been fully vetted and are being given tons and tons of love…I will not let ANYTHING happen to his cats, and am working to get them to good homes where they will be loved as much as Steve loved them.”
Harris added perhaps the perfect coda to the Steve Mach tragedy when she concluded, “In the midst of sadness, I have found beauty in meeting so many wonderful music and animal lovers. Thank you, Steve, for adding these amazing people to my life.”