DAMONE drummer DUSTIN HENGST has passed away at the age of 39. He had been hospitalized in his home state of Texas for the past three weeks dealing with health issues.
"His liver just shut down and couldn't function anymore," Michael Vazquez told the Phoenix earlier today. "He stopped breathing last night."
Vazquez was Hengst's bandmate in Damone from 2002 to 2008. Before their split three years ago, the power-pop rock band from Waltham released three albums, toured globally, and were signed to RCA and Island Records. Vazquez said the surviving members of Damone, including vocalist Noelle LeBlanc and guitarist Mike Woods, might "put something together in the new year," and "play a few songs" as a tribute to Hengst, who also drummed for Bleu. This afternoon, the musician organized a PayPal account to raise money for Hengst's wife.
Though the drummer's death was fairly sudden, Vazquez said he was battling heath issues his entire life.
"He's never really had the best health," said Vazquez. "When he was a baby, he had to have a lung taken out, and that obviously complicated things. Most people are born with a certain enzyme to help filter alcohol, and he wasn't born with that. Even if he was a mild drinker, that wasn't gonna help. He hit it pretty hard."
This morning, Leblanc posted this note on her Facebook wall: "Rest in peace, D-man. Your legacy lives on. Your works and talents put a stamp on this world and will continue making people happy til the end of time. I'm grateful for all you've done. I will love and miss you forever, you crazy mutant. ♥"
Around noon, Woods uploaded an acoustic song to Soundcloud. He wrote: "Back when it became obvious that Damone was coming to an end, I wrote a song for all of the amazing people & places we we're lucky enough to meet, know, & befriend along the way. It's sung here by the extremely talented Juliet Simms. If there was ever a time for me to share this with all of you, I think that time is now."
Pillow by M.Woods
Vazquez also further reflected on Hengst in an email to the Phoenix:
Dustin was one of my closest friends. The things that we went through together no one could ever truly understand other than Dustin, Woods, and Noelle.
Dustin and I grew up with so much of the same music and set us on the course to what we did with Damone. We achieved so many childhood dreams we had while most people never even get the chance to! I can still remember the first time I played with him, and being amazing how completely solid his rhythm was. Ask anyone who has played with him and they will tell you the same thing.
I'm grateful to have known him and stand on stage every night with him. I'm grateful for him introducing me to his family and extended family down in Eagle Lake, Texas. Eagle Lake feels like a second home to me because of his family and friends’ kindness and generosity. I'm grateful he was my friend.
For better or worse I have lived many rock & roll clichés in my time, but I never expected to live this one. It’s sad, but then I remember so many times jumping on his kick drum in the middle of song with my bass in the air and he would look up at me and smile like I was the biggest asshole ever. That’s the way I'll always remember him.