Archive for July, 2011

Essence of Grunge

Posted: July 29, 2011 in Quotes

(From the inimitable Leighton Beezer of the improvisational punk band, the Thrown Ups.  The Thrown Ups arguably championed the essence of the grunge aesthetic, and at one time featured Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney.  Note this quote actually made the book.)

“It was not necessary to finely polish your stage act. To whatever extent you felt was necessary to have structure, go for it, but don’t overdo it.… In fact everybody knew full well that a show that turned into a train wreck was probably better than one that didn’t. It’s OK to get up and forget your song.

“So, instead of a bunch of mathematicians on stage going, ‘Is this the third verse or the fourth verse? Is it time for the chorus or the bridge?’ [Rather] there are people on stage who are just going, ‘AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!’”

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The Corona Bottle Incident

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Interview Clips

Back in July of 2008, I interviewed the U-Men’s Tom Price at Hattie’s Hat in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.  Accompanying us was Tom’s friend, Brother James Burdyshaw, who set up the meeting.  In this interview clip, Tom thoughtfully discusses the last days of the U-Men, including his evolving musical tastes and songwriting style.  Suddenly, Brother James accidentally knocks over an empty Corona bottle…

Date of interview: July 14, 2008.  Used with permission.

Rob Morgan post-Squirrels gig

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Squirrels

(Another selection that didn’t make the cut for the chapter addendum: “Pop Lust for Life: Rob Morgan and the Squirrels”)

Following the Squirrels’ demise in 2009*, Rob Morgan was invited to attend a Kinks tribute show to benefit MusiCares, an organization that assists musicians in financial, personal, or medical distress.  Fronting a friend’s band called Jodie Watts, Morgan decided to perform two Kinks’ songs, one of which was the quirky and rather complex “Jack the Idiot Dunce.”

Morgan rehearsed with the guitar and bass players but the drummer was nowhere to be found.  About an hour before show time, the percussionist showed up at the band’s West Seattle rehearsal space, having not yet listened to “Dunce.”  In desperation mode, the drummer pulled out his iPhone, found the song on Youtube, and learned his parts as best he could.  The stop/start dynamics in “Dunce” made this learning on the fly approach nearly impossible, however.

That night, Jodie Watts took the stage, with Morgan nervously hoping his bandmate could handle the Kinks’ challenging time signatures .  “And so I go out there, and we go plowin’ through “Jack the Idiot Dunce” by the skin of our teeth,” says Morgan.  “I mean, I turned around and looked at the drummer, like, ‘Stop! Go!’”

* – the Squirrels reunited for one show in April 2011.

From friendships formed at Woodshock, the U-Men were invited to play a show with Agent Orange, the California surf-punk band, in Norman, Oklahoma.  With no idea where to go, the U-Men met some local college radio people at an apartment and proceeded to follow them to the concert site.  The band promptly started up the school bus, heading down the road to parts unknown.  “And all of the sudden the road turns to gravel,” says bassist Jim Tillman, “then it turns to dirt.  Then we’re driving through this corn field, and the corn is like brushing against both sides of the bus—covering the windows.  And I thought, ‘Shit, we’re gonna get killed.’”

After driving through corn for a while, the bus arrived in front of a graffiti-spray painted building, surrounded by about a hundred cars.  The U-Men then proceeded to share a bill with Agent Orange.

The U-Men’s final tour led them all the way to NYC in 1985.  The return trip to Seattle was not without its highlights (or lowlights).  After an Ohio performance, the band partied at a fan’s apartment.  The revelers partook in beer and acid, and proceeded to party throughout the night.  Tillman, suffering from a 104-degree fever, crashed in a bedroom.  “And I wake up [at] about two in the morning,” Tillman recalls, “hearing somebody chanting, ‘Redrum! Redrum!’ [murder spelled backwards…comes from The Shining, a 1980 horror flick] I opened my eyes and [kneeling] over me is [roadie] David Duet…chanting ‘Redrum’ in my face, and he was holding a loaded handgun.”

Fortunately, Tillman obtained the weapon from the acid-rattled Duet and avoided disaster.  Tillman then rubbed his eyes, still somewhat in shock from the handgun incident, and wandered toward the main gathering.  There, the weary, flu-ravaged Tillman witnessed the partygoers reveling on the floor completely naked, except for a coating of shaving cream.

In Indiana, the U-Men found themselves at a psychedelic frat party after a show, joining their hosts in some acid-taking.  Drummer Charlie Ryan, clad in a top hat and lederhosen, proceeded to LSD himself into a dramatically altered state.  He then wandered outside into the pouring rain.  Then, for no apparent reason, he took off his shoe and fired it at the back of the bus—so hard that it cracked the window.  Satisfied with his work, Ryan stumbled down the road and fell into a ditch.  The drummer began brushing himself off, and noticed a powerfully repulsive odor eminating from the ditch.  Turns out he fell into a pile of manure.  “So me and [singer] John [Bigley] had to haul him in to this house,” says U-Men guitarist Tom Price, “to the bathroom and hose him down while he was on LSD.”

Despite all the mishaps including police run-ins, canceled shows, and lack of money, the U-Men never regretted their road experiences.  Those experiences, as haphazard as they might have been, effectively blazed a trail (or a cornfield) for Seattle’s up-and-coming musicians.

Cutting Room Floor Quotes

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Quotes

Rob Morgan (the Pudz/the Squirrels): describes his Two Katz and A Toaster comic strip (which has been recently revived in paintings…see his Facebook page at http://facebook.com/2KAAT)

“It’s just one cat named Ivan and one cat named George and they lived with a talking toaster,” says Morgan.  “There was no explanation of it beyond that.”

Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M., etc.) discusses the Fellows’ use of instrumentation beyond the standard guitar, bass, and drums:

 “We also, [in] those early first couple years, often had a Farfisa organ…which we used quite a bit until it got too much beer poured in it…”

Scott Vanderpool (Room Nine, Chemistry Set) talks about the basis for Seattle musicians’ group housing culture (Note: this quote actually did make the book, except for the last sentence…):

 “When I was a little kid, we were watching the Beatles’ Help and the Monkees.  You know, every damn cartoon seems like was about a band somehow…Josie and the Pussycats, and the Buggaloos—all that shit.  We were trained.  Just ’cause the Monkees didn’t actually show their bong on TV didn’t mean they didn’t have one.”

Vanderpool, who was doing sound for an early Soundgarden show, talks about a pre-gig conversation he had with front man Chris Cornell:

 “But [Cornell] came in with this Shure high school debate PA, which he wanted me to set up in front of the main PA, then mike it up.” (laughs)

“I thought, ‘Why would he want me to do that?’”

     “‘Aww, it’ll sound cool!” [said Cornell.]

     “‘Fuckin’ that’s gonna sound like shit!’” [Vanderpool responded.]

“And, sure enough it sounded like shit and I had it off halfway through his first song.  I don’t think he knew.”

Rob Morgan (the Pudz/the Squirrels): describes his Two Katz and A Toaster comic strip (which has been recently revived in paintings…see his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/poplust)

“It’s just one cat named Ivan and one cat named George and they lived with a talking toaster,” says Morgan.  “There was no explanation of it beyond that.”

TAD’s Balls

Posted: July 18, 2011 in Interview Clips

Our next post comes from the one and only Tad Doyle of TAD (band name written in all caps), one of the nicest and funniest people I chatted with.  [Warning: if one is sensitive to irreverent religious comments, please do not read on or listen.  If you do choose to be brave, note that this is all in good fun… in a Seattle way.] In this clip, Tad discusses the band’s 1993 major label debut, Inhaler.  Perhaps thinking Inhaler would offer accessible songs along the lines of Nirvana’s Nevermind, the label set themselves up for a rude awakening…maybe not realizing the kind of band they signed—a band who previously released a record called God’s Balls.

Date of interview: November 7, 2006.  Used with permission.

On the Road With the U-Men (Part 3)

Posted: July 18, 2011 in U-Men

The band returned home to Seattle having barely dented Southern California.  That winter, the U-Men hosted the Butthole Surfers—in from Texas—at their Graven Image practice space.  It was Christmas Eve 1984, and the Surfers found themselves stranded in Seattle with no money to get home.  The U-Men and manager Larry Reid came up with an idea: have the Surfers play a show at the Gallery, with all the proceeds going to their return home fund.  Reid supplied the beer.

With little time to promote the show, the U-Men and their friends and friends of friends began making phone calls.  The Surfers performed to about 80 people and promptly left the audience speechless.  “And it was a fierce, fierce show—so much so that they actually didn’t just blow up the PA,” U-Men bassist Jim Tillman recalls.  “They set one of the speakers on fire because it was cranked up so high…the speaker coil in the back of one of the PA speakers overheated and ignited the paper cone.”

With smoke pouring out of the speaker, the U-Men acted quickly.  The practice space was in the basement of the Gallery, with only one exit—a staircase up into the gallery.  Fortunately, the band put the fire out and the U-Men successfully sent the Surfers back to Texas.

The U-Men and the much obliged Butthole Surfers formed a lasting friendship.  Three years later, the Surfers released a U-Men tribute song called “The O-Men.”

The following summer, the Surfers invited the U-Men down to a festival in Austin.  The so-named Woodshock event would feature Texas alternative bands like the Surfers and Scratch Acid.  So went the second tour, another loosely organized trip based on Woodshock.

The band packed up its school bus, and headed down to Austin in the summer of 1985.  The experience was amazing, as the U-Men took in Scratch Acid live, a band that had an indelible impact on Seattle.  The U-Men performed well.  A live recording of “Shoot ’em Down” made it onto the band’s 2000 Solid Action retrospective.

The bus, however, became unbearably hot during the Texas summer, especially for sleeping.  “And it was so frickin’ hot that we ended up sleeping on top of the school bus a couple of times,” Tillman remembers, “which is dangerous because it’s very rounded.  Of course, we didn’t really seem to think that was a big issue so…” 

During downtime in the South, the bored U-Men created a fictional southern rock band called Raising Cain.  “[With] hits like ‘God, Guns, Guts, and Glory’…,” guitarist Tom Price recalls.