Unofficially formed in the south suburbs of Chicago, My Happy Life was comprised
of classic underachievers. Keyboardist Mike Danger and guitarist Andrew Dare met
in 1987 at Northern Illinois University, where they majored in video games and
sleeping through classes until both were expelled for failing to live up to
Meanwhile, singer Scotty Thrill was hard at work at a community college back
home where he and Danger eventually hooked up later that year - ironically enough,
in Music Theory 101 class. Both received passing grades and were now looking to
put the time tested theories into practice. And so, My Happy Life was born.
They began with a single keyboard (a Roland JX-8P), a twenty dollar microphone,
a four-track tape recorder and the sort of boredom that terrorizes contemporary
young suburbanites. Self-respect and pride were recklessly abandoned in these
early days and no original composition was too embarassingly bad to see through
to its completion.
As their songwriting skills improved with time, so too did their inventory of
musical gadgetry. Drum machines, additional keyboards and cost-efficient "effects
processors" (really just low quality, battery-operated guitar pedals) opened
new doors to a fuller sound and effectively concealed their true musical
Whatever free time the band could muster up during the week, they directed
towards improvisational songwriting sessions. While Mike Danger worked out
chord progressions and new melodies, Scotty Thrill was busy scribbling down
accompanying lyrics. When both completed their respective tasks, the end result
was etched onto cassette tape. The whole process took usually no longer than
two to three hours and continued to be their songwriting method of choice until
the very end.
Influences came from all directions, but most noticeable was their fondness for
The Cocteau Twins, The Cure, New Order, and The Wolfgang Press. And although My
Happy Life's ultimate goal reportedly never came up in conversation, they began
amassing a large collection of demo tapes by mid-1988. During this productive
period, Danger, Thrill and Dare had recorded many of their finest songs,
including "Another Wired Feeling" and "I Fall Down".
By the fall of 1989, the daily grind became a bit of an obstacle for My Happy
Life. Mike Danger had just been pardoned by and accepted back into his former
university. Andrew Dare had taken on a job with an international parcel delivery
corporation. And Scotty Thrill found himself behind the desk of a children's
educational book publishing company. The once frequent impromptu recording
sessions were now limited to holidays and special occasions that would permit
time for the band to get together.
To fill the void, Mike Danger teamed up with Paul Risque, an industrial music
devotee on campus, and formed Technotrash. Success seemed too easy for the new
project with Danger's connections to local disc jockeys. Technotrash's first
single, "Perish the Thought", became a favorite of the staff at WKDI where it
was aired nearly every four hours for three weeks straight in 1990.
Coming off a relatively successful debut, Danger and Risque were approached by
an up and coming industrial music magazine and asked to contribute a new track
for a compilation that was to be distributed nationally. Shortly after the new
single, "Sezame Street", was completed, the up and coming publication went
belly-up and any plans for Technotrash's potential future stardom were quickly
In late August of 1991, My Happy Life was reunited following Danger's final
exit from the college campus - this time with more successful results. It was
believed that the band would pick up where they had left off and begin working
together on a more steady basis as they had done in previous years.
Ex-Technotrasher Paul Risque joined in on bass guitar during several improv
sessions which produced hours of instrumentals, some of which were used as the
soundtrack for a film none of the band members have ever seen (nor have they
even been told the title).
Scotty Thrill's continued work with the band had tapered off slightly following
his move northward, but ensuing songwriting sessions resulted in My Happy Life's
strongest material yet. "Broken Skies" combined a full spectrum of the band's
influences and was perhaps the most purposeful sounding song they had recorded,
however unintentional it may have been. "The Right One" had Thrill and Danger
swimming through a sea of pseudo-psychedlic sounds and bodysurfing on waves of
words that wondered about love and loneliness.
As 1992 approached, however, My Happy Life's creative well suddenly seemed to
run dry. The less frequent meetings were growing increasingly unproductive and
several tracks were scrapped midway through their recording. The only completed
work to come from this creative drought was perhaps better left unfinished - the
disastrous "In the Dead of Night", in which Thrill battled through a bad case
of laringitis to keep the session from being a total bust.
Seeing the end now clearly in sight, Danger and Thrill met for what would be
their final session and walked away on a positive note with the surprisingly
upbeat "New Depths". With that, My Happy Life was just a happy memory. When
asked who was at fault for the band's dissolve, Danger replied, "To quote Howard
Jones, 'No one... no-OOOOOO one... no one ever is to blame.'" Words to live by.
The apparent burnout carried on beyond My Happy Life for the former members of
the band. Mike Danger continued working solo for a short time, writing lyric-less
dance music (ironic in and of itself due to his refusal to dance in public). His
frustration grew until he turned his back on songwriting altogether in favor of
the degree in video game studies he had left unfinished in 1987.
Andrew Dare parted ways with his former employer, but remains in the delivery
industry. He is still playing guitar, though it isn't known whether or not he has
recorded any new material on his own. Last we heard, Dare has become a Bob Dylan
cult member and is able to sound off entire albums-worth of lyrics without even
blinking - quite a feat considering the average person couldn't distinguish
single phrases in any of Dylan's songs.
Scotty Thrill's departure from music making was more sudden it seems. The
one-time word-Smith of My Happy Life has since put down the pen and picked up a
paintbrush. He spends the remainder of his time with new bride (the woman
formerly known as Thrill-seeker) and managing his own Chicago antique shop.
While the rise and fall of My Happy Life may not qualify as headline news, it
seems only appropriate that their story be told with the 10th anniversary of
their first session together drawing near. They didn't aspire to change the
world through their music.
They succeeded... merely a handful of people
(literally) in the world have even heard of them. They didn't desire to anchor
themselves firmly atop the Billboard Music charts. They succeeded... not a single
one of their songs was even muttered in the same sentence as the word "Billboard".
They did hope to find something to pass the time. Something creative. Something
musical. They succeeded in doing all of the above.
So you see, this is a real American success story afterall. Headline news or not,
Danger, Dare, Thrill and Risque were all a part of My Happy Life. And now you
know the happy history.