Armada guitarist Dennis Rohde can tell you about hell. "I've been at practice rooms. I leave and go outside and vomit and go through all kinds of hell. But I know I have to go back in and be peppy and happy."

Rohde, who has played guitar for ten years, says his path to substance abuse started when he was playing JV football at Santa Fe Christian. "I was 120 pounds," says Rohde, 25, who says he now weighs in at 125. "I played on the defensive line. I had to hit 300-pound guys as hard as I possibly could." He got hurt. "That and a snowboard incident introduced me to the world of painkillers." Rohde says he became immersed in drugs, which included but was not limited to painkillers.

"I was the scourge of Rancho Santa Fe." He says he ended up at Torrey Pines High after he was kicked out of Santa Fe Christian "for bad grades and giving drugs to other football players. The principal hated me. I was infiltrating a circle of cleanliness."

Rohde graduated from Torrey Pines, although he still was using serious drugs. "You name the opiate, I got it." He ended up in rehab.

"They wouldn't let us have records so I would steal CDs from a record store nearby. I listened to Johnny Cash records every single day in rehab. The reason certain rehab programs don't work is because they don't allow people to have an outlet during the program to let out their emotional baggage. It was always their way or the highway."

In Rohde's case, it was the highway. "I got kicked out the first time because a nurse walked in on me and a girl and a mountain of blow."

After his ejection from rehab, life wasn't pretty. "I kept crashing and burning. My body began deteriorating. I was close to dying. I had seizures that were so long I shouldn't be here. I contemplated killing myself every day for months."

His second rehab stay was more successful. Rohde says he's been clean for two years without the benefit of a 12-step program. "You don't have to do it that way.... If I didn't have music and wasn't allowed to have my band, I would be dead. This is my only escape."

All Armada songs ("We call it 'experimetal,' dark-space rock") tell a story about the struggle. " 'Whoa Is Me' is about when you reach the base of hell and there is nothing south of that. 'Icicle' is about letting go of the anchors that hold you down, frozen in one place. 'Gargantua' is about staying focused. I think there isn't a person in the world who hasn't been through something cyclic in their life. Anyone who has had a low point in their life knows what we're driving at."

The Armada (myspace.com/thearmadamusic) appears at the Casbah on Sunday and at 'Canes August 16.

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