“[Red Dress] would throw you a curve ball. It’d punch you in the face. They always did that. And it always worked. I mean, you got [singer] Gary [Minkler] up there like a marionette. He’s being jerked around by the strings that come out of his brain. And [the musicians are] just the accompaniment.”
–producer/label owner Conrad Uno describing Red Dress
Name the quintessential “Seattle band.” Nirvana? Pearl Jam? Soundgarden? That’s what comes to mind for most Americans.
While each of them were innovative in their own ways, none of those bands was truly original. Instead, they fused together disparate sounds of metal, ’70s riff rock, and punk and created something different. So, they were unique in a mixing and matching kind of way. Unlike the famous northwest grunge artists, however, Red Dress represents something completely new, and totally northwest. (And don’t get me wrong, I obviously love the grunge stuff.)
Red Dress consists of an artistic genius (Minkler) surrounded by musical prodigies (guitarists John Olufs and Pete Pendras, bassist Bill Bagley, and drummer Bill Shaw.) Minkler’s odd cranial constructions essentially fueled this band. Early Red Dress shows often followed a fantasy story line drawn from Minkler’s head.
Olufs describes an early gig. “And [Minkler] had a concept about what this show was about,” Olufs remembers. “About this guy who’s in love, and the moon is like drawing him up. He’s being drawn up by the moon beams through space, and then he hits a pane of glass, and it cracks. And then the crack is like a spider web. And then the giant spider’s coming to get him.” (laughs)
“The name Red Dress comes from that story, too,” Olufs continues. “’Cause…‘Red Dress’ refers to the stomach of the black widow. It’s kinda that hourglass shape red thing on their stomach.”
Red Dress’ other musicians somehow channel Minkler’s currents into a coherent statement, without necessarily understanding what that statement might be. “Lots of times I wouldn’t know what the back story of the song was,” says Pendras. “You know, we’d just play it, and learn it, and develop it. Only later would I find out [the back story].”