“These kids aren’t my problem.”
It’s hard to imagine such a calloused and self-centered individual had such humble beginnings, but such is the case for Jason Shepard. Born into a single-bedroom apartment (literally; his mother couldn’t afford insurance and had him at home), Jason grew up without luxuries like toys, disposable diapers, or medical care. His mother worked three jobs to provide for them, after his father walked out soon after he was born.
Jason attended a poorly rated public school, where he was mocked behind his back for his limited wardrobe and the lack of a hot shower every day. The constant taunting led to many fights and an ever-increasing build-up of anger and frustration.
Yet at home, Jason seemed content. He enjoyed spending time with his mother at least once a week, and spent the rest of the time plucking away at a guitar she had bought him at a yard sale. It was his most prized possession, and on it, he taught himself how to emulate the sounds around him. He spent hours listening to the rock stations on the radio and picking out the tunes, then playing them himself.
Unfortunately, one of his mother’s job was working in a local mill, where she contracted a serious lung disease that prevented her from working. After a friend offered legal counsel, she sued the company and the money won from the lawsuit allowed her to finally give Jason the kind of house and life she had always wanted for him.
High school turned things around for Jason. His mother – with her health deteriorating – invested some of the money from the lawsuit and managed to make enough to provide for herself and Jason for a long, long time. No longer ridiculed, Jason reveled in newfound popularity due in part to his impressive guitar skills.
Jason found himself escaping more and more into his music as his mother’s health declined. He began writing songs, putting the lyrics to paper and then making up the tune as he went. He also began casually dating Amber DiSoltes, a fellow Senior. His mother had desperately wanted to see her son attend his Senior Prom, so he took Amber. She told him how happy she was and how proud she was of him, giving him a strangely long embrace before he departed.
The next morning, Jason returned home to find his mother had died in her sleep. He was devastated. He was invited to stay with his grandparents, but chose to move to New York instead, in the hopes of escaping his old life and pursuing a music career. He left Saint Paul without so much as a goodbye, refusing even to take part at his own graduation.
Working as a Taxi driver in New York, Jason met up with Silas Bishop, a fellow aspiring musician. Silas was playing a gig at a night club with his partner, Nathan “Nate” Reinke. Their third man cancelled at the last minute, and Jason – who overheard this on a cell phone while driving the two to their engagement – offered his services.
The trio performed a few cover songs, and a few tracks written by Silas and Nate (which Jason picked up on after hearing the recordings just once). By the end of the night, people were asking for EP’s and demos. Silas and Nate offered Jason the job permanently, and Damned Azkus was born.
The band met with great success, eventually signing on with Interscope Records. The band kicked off a brief tour in the Northeast to celebrate. The album was a regional success, and a world tour was in the works. Meanwhile, Jason had married Katherine “Kat” Veneziano. A groupie for the band from age 16, she fell in love with Jason and married when she turned 18.
Twin boys soon followed, and “Kat” ended up leaving the road life to raise the kids. Jason grew more and more distant, unable to find satisfaction at home or abroad. He turned to drinking, had several affairs, and fell into a deep depression. This life wasn’t what he had hoped it would be, and he had no hope left for any other kind of life.
After a late show one night, Jason took a groupie back to the hotel with him. Both were seriously drunk, and the girl, Tiffany, decided she didn’t want to wait until they were back in the hotel. She climbed atop Jason, and the subsequent coupling resulted in a terrible car accident. A piece of shattered windshield nearly tore Jason’s hand off.
After surgery, he was told his nerves were shot. He could never play guitar again. The band was unable to find a replacement and their future deteriorated. When Kat found out how the accident had happened, she took the kids and left. Jason was utterly alone once more. He spent several weeks in rehab only to fall back into old habits. He landed in jail, lost his license, got it back, and repeated the cycle.
Perhaps it was fate that Jason ended up taking a trip into Virginia. He had been drinking again, and was pulled over and arrested near Saint Paul. The arresting officer recognized him, and made a phone call on his behalf. Jason went before Judge Harold Slate and was sentenced to community service, in the hopes of rehabilitating him.
Though he’s had a difficult life, it’s hard to feel sorry for Jason. Most of his current troubles are his own doing, and he doesn’t seem to care or look out for anyone but himself. Yet deep down, there is a small part of him that is still that sad, lonely little boy who had only a guitar and a loving mother to get him through each day.
Fate has a funny way of bringing things full circle, and of forcuing us to confront the ghosts of a past we thought we left behind. And so it goes with Jason Shepard, now standing at the beginning of a journey that will bring him face to face with shadows of his past and that will change his future forever.