PORT JEFFERSON Station native Tommy Henriksen doesn't have to eat cheap,
greasy drive-thru Mexican food anymore, but he does. After a decade of
subsisting on Del Taco's 89-cent tacos and 69-cent burritos, he got so
used to junk food that he still hasn't completely adjusted to the taste
Henriksen's first single, "I See the Sun," is already in rotation on
dozens of modern-rock stations, including WLIR / 92.7 FM. And the song
is about to get a boost because it's prominently featured on the
soundtrack to the film "Blast From the Past." To mark the film's
opening, Henriksen is playing a free concert Thursday night at The
Downtown in Farmingdale.
The last time Henriksen played Long Island was 1985. He was in a
cover band performing three sets a night. He left to seek stardom in Los
Angeles, where he roadied for Alice Cooper, sold his old clothes at yard
sales for food money and became a regular overnight occupant of his
friends' floors and couches. Now that he's being played on the radio,
Henriksen, 29, says he feels like he's finally proved himself to his
Port Jeff buddies.
"Living on Long Island, it's really blue collar. If you're not using
your back, you're not working," Henriksen says of his friends' response
to his music ambitions. "Everyone was always telling me I was a dreamer.
I was sick of hearing it."
His self-titled album is due in stores in late February. It's a
polished drum-machine-and-guitar pop record that sounds like one-hit
Right Now") joined forces. Beneath the cluttered veneer of odd sounds,
"I wanted to do music that had pop, but at the same time I was
listening to a lot of world music," he says. "I said I'm gonna try to
incorporate different things, like the Irish penny whistle, the sitar
and the Swedish bagpipe. I was into a lot of Sudanese music and Nusrat
Way before Henriksen was even close to a deal, he recorded most of
the album on an inexpensive home studio. He gave himself two years to
catch a break. Then he'd look for a day job.
Just as he neared his self-imposed deadline, he had the kind of
Hollywood moment that transforms nobodies into next big things. Former
Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham heard a tape of Henriksen's songs and
loved them. He hooked his young discovery up with producer Keith Forsey,
who previously made hits with the Psychedelic Furs, Billy Idol and
Simple Minds and promised to get Henriksen a publishing deal.
Forsey and Henriksen had an instant rapport and ended up using all
of the guitar, vocal and instrumental tracks that Henriksen had laid
down at home. Then the deal Burnham promised fell through.
"He said, `Listen, Tommy, the deal's off,' " Henriksen recalls.
"Meanwhile, I had no more money. Keith was giving me $50 to put gas in
my car. I had no insurance. Keith was feeding me breakfast at his house.
I was ready to cry."
Henriksen, however, quickly bounced back. He sent his tape out to
other labels, and the sound he and Forsey created sparked a rabid
bidding war. He chose Capitol after label head Gary Gersh wined and
dined him at Gersh's plush Brentwood digs. The days of Del Taco were
over, though Henriksen confesses that he still goes there to satisfy his
craving for spicy ground beef and tortillas.
"I was actually able to go eat a couple of sushi dinners now, which
was really nice," Henriksen says. "I thank God every day that I wake up.
The guys I know from Long Island, no one thinks this is going to happen.
Everyone always said, `Aww, that don't happen to people like us.' "
Tommy Henriksen: Thursday with Block at 9:30 p.m. at The Downtown,
190 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-293-7700. Admission is free.
E-mail Isaac Guzman at Guzman @Newsday.com with your nightcrawling
tips and comments. Send CDs, promos and other hard-copy hype to
Nightcrawler, Newsday NightBeat, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, N.Y.