Archive for August, 2011

Radio Interview, WXRX

Posted: August 31, 2011 in Radio

Here’s the interview from the WXRX website:

WXRX-FM (Rockford, IL), Monday, September 26, 5:15 pm on the Stone & Double T show, via phone.

They’re in Rockford, Illinois, I’m in Philly, and the book’s about Seattle.  So, what’s the connection? 

I don’t know.

U-Men road trips weren’t like tours in the traditional sense.  They were more like tribal (sorry, Tom) migrations.  In 1985, the band built a tour around the 1985 Woodshock alternative rock festival held that summer in Austin, Texas.  The gig resulted from the U-Men’s kinship with Texas’ own Butthole Surfers.  In addition to the Surfers and the U-Men, Woodshock featured seminal ’80s indie bands Scratch Acid, Tex & the Horseheads, and Tales of Terror.

U-Men bassist Jim Tillman discusses the trip, which began with the band driving down from Seattle in their 1960 Chevrolet school bus with no emergency brake…

Date of interview: January 28, 2009.  Used with permission.

On March 5, 1977, the Ramones played the Rocker Tavern in Aberdeen, Washington.  The bar, like Aberdeen itself, was populated by hard working and hard drinking loggers.

Stephen Rabow, then a student at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, attended along with several friends.

A cover band opened, playing the popular songs of the day.  Bands playing Rocker’s had a very specific between-song procedure: they were expected to stop for a minute or two after each number.  During this time, couples would leave the dance floor to refresh their drinks and/or look for a different partner.  This ritual was repeated after each song.

The cover band finished its set and the Ramones began setting up their equipment.  Rabow and his friends braced themselves.  “Just the hiss of the amplifiers…[we are] like looking at each other in fear,” Rabow remembers.

The Ramones took the stage, leather-clad punk rockers fresh from New York City.  Joey announced, “Wuh the Ramones!  Glad yah heeah!” in his thick Queens accent.  Then the band did their standard ‘one-two-three-four’ and launched into a two-minute blast of deafening noise.  As was the Ramones’ style, they finished up the first song and Dee Dee immediately counted off ‘one-two-three-four’ and the band lurched into the next tune.  The Ramones continued at their frenetic pace, not allowing patrons off the dance floor.

For the audience, the scene became surreal.  “They’re stuck,” says Rabow.  “These people are stuck on the dance floor.  They don’t know what’s going on.  It’s louder than hell.  It was like an alien invasion.  They didn’t know what had happened to them.”

The entire show made it onto a 1979 bootleg recording called At Your Birthday Party.

Tom Price Desert Classic will play!

Place: Feedback Lounge, West Seattle

Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Times (tentative):

7 to 7:30 pm, signing with me, the mystery author; 7:30 to 9:30, rock trivia night featuring my stupendously wonderfully great book; 10 to 11, performance by The Tom Price Desert Classic.  (Tom is a Seattle legend, having previously played in the U-Men and Gas Huffer, among others.)

I unofficially began The Strangest Tribe back in 2004, when I met Jack Endino at a restaurant in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.  At that time, I was just starting a class on rock n roll history, and I wanted to chat with Endino about Seattle’s place in music.  About two years later, he became my first interview.

Since then, I’ve done about 120 interviews in an attempt to penetrate a very insular music scene.  Non-Seattleites have to understand that the locals have become quite jaded, and understandably so.  Since Nirvanamania, countless writers have come in from out of town to carve out their own “angle” on the grunge phenomenon.  I didn’t want to be just another carpetbagger.  I had to do it right, and that meant–in addition to conducting interviews–looking through newspapers, magazines, fanzines, record liner notes, pictures, and listening to tons of music.

It took awhile.  I think I only did maybe a half-dozen interviews in 2006, and then it began to pick up slowly.  I knew virtually no one when I began this project, so I had to allow time for the word to spread that I wasn’t a typical out of town asshole.  I at least wanted to be viewed as an atypical out of town asshole.  So, I used time as an ally.  Some people took two, even three years to finally nail down for an interview.

Despite prevailing cynicism, I found the Seattle music community to be quite gracious.  I enjoyed every interview…maybe because my style is more Larry King than Mike Wallace.  Initially, I had a list of questions for each interviewee, but I noticed that I would typically deviate from the script depending on what the subject was talking about.  So, by the time I was about 40 or so interviews in, I pretty much ditched the pre-fab questions.  That style allowed the dialogue to progress more naturally, and thus better enlighten me about that person’s life within the music community.  I listened to each interview at least three more times–sometimes up to a dozen repeats–just to get the feel for each one.

I also noticed the further I went back in time, the more people appreciated talking with me.  Pre-grunge musicians from bands like Chinas Comidas, the Enemy, the Pudz, the Blackouts, and the Moberlys were generally thrilled somebody actually gave a shit about their story.  The grunge folks were naturally more hardened, but even they were pretty open with their stories.

I conducted most of my interviews by telephone since a) I’m in Philly and most of my subjects are in Seattle and b) sometimes in-person interviews can be awkward.  It’s hard to feel natural when a running tape recorder rests on a table between you and the interviewee.

Some highlights:

  • Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows/Minus 5/R.E.M./Baseball Project/Tired Pony…I think I’m missing a band).  Scott is such a nice guy and funny as hell.  My book would have sucked without him.  I needed an entrée into the Fellows, perhaps Seattle’s greatest underground band.  Scott provided that and then some.
  • Green River’s Alex Shumway.  Alex may have been the funniest of all of my interviews.  His recounting of Green River’s 1985 CBGB’s show was priceless.
  • The late Ben McMillan of Skin Yard.  I loved him.  He was absolutely hysterical, brazen, and totally honest.  When I asked him about his lyrical inspiration, he told me it was a ridiculous question.  Knowing Ben meant no harm, I burst out laughing.  He then provided the following answer: “Love lost…punch in the face.  Pissed on.  Not pissed on.  Fed.  Not fed?”
  • Jack Endino.  Jack is, in some ways, the gatekeeper of the Seattle grunge scene.  I interviewed him three times, but it took me until the third conversation to inquire about Nirvana’s Bleach.  And no, I didn’t ask, “What was Kurt like?” or “Did you really record Bleach for $600?”
  • Dawn Anderson.  Dawn provided a nice cross-section of Seattle underground music.  She was one of the few scenesters to admit liking Kiss way back in 1983, when it wasn’t cool for punkers to admit it.  She attended the slick Eastside metal events and the urban noise shows, and at least symbolically laid the basis for Deep Six with her Backfire fanzine.
  • Calvin Johnson, founder of K Records and member of Beat Happening.  Calvin became irritated when I asked him why Beat Happening played without a bass.  I didn’t laugh this one off since he was dead serious.  You’ll have to see the book for his response.
  • Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard.  Super, super gracious guy.  I’m doing a separate write-up on this interview next week, I think.
  • Mudhoney’s Mark Arm.  Another cool guy.  I was interviewing Mark for about an hour, when Skype cut out from my end.  I called him back, and ten minutes later, Skype disconnected us again.  He then patiently waited for another few minutes while I hooked up my old tape player to record the remainder of the conversation.  At the tail end of the interview, you can hear my wife yelling up to my dog (who was hanging with me), “Coco!  Dinner!”
  • The Squirrels’ Rob Morgan.  Rob may be the funniest person in the universe.  You just have to spend an hour with this guy.  I think I interviewed him six times.  You’ll have to read the book to find out why.
  • Paul Hood (the Meyce/the Enemy).  I originally wanted to begin my story in 1978 with the opening of the Bird, Seattle’s first punk rock club.  Paul basically said, and I’m paraphrasing: ‘Nope, you gotta start with the 1976 TMT Show, the city’s first punk rock event.’
  • Jim Basnight (the Meyce/the Moberlys).  After speaking with Paul, I called up Jim.  In 1975, Jim’s first band, the Luvaboys (which included Paul), performed after lunch at a high school assembly.  Jim came out glammed-up like Iggy and had vegetables tossed at him by irritated jocks.  That event essentially began the Seattle underground music scene.  (Note: if you’ve ever seen The Runaways, there is a scene where a young Cherie Curie stands up in front of a high school audience singing a Bowie cover while wearing Aladdin Sane make-up.  The audience threw garbage at her.  It made me think of the Luvaboys.)
  • Metal writer Jeff Gilbert.  Jeff was my last interview, back in February of 2011.  As I talked with him about Seattle’s vibrant metal history, I thought, ‘Why did I wait this long to interview this guy?’
  • Conrad Uno, producer and founder of Popllama Products.  I actually did a “pre-interview” with Conrad at a sandwich shop near his house.  We chatted for about two hours off the record.  It was about the funniest two hours of my life.  We then did an official interview at that same shop about a year later.
  • The Thrown Ups’ John “Leighton” Beezer.  I had already interviewed Leighton, and about a year later I had hit a snag.  I just couldn’t get from 1983 to 1985.  So, I called him up.  Interestingly, he had been revisiting those same years and helped get me from point A to point B.
  • The U-Men’s Tom Price.  I interviewed Tom, along with Cat Butt’s James Burdyshaw, at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard.  Tom was my first direct inroad into the U-Men, a band I wrote about more than any other.  If you read the book, you’ll see why.
  • TAD’s Kurt Danielson.  Kurt was living in Paris at the time, and I called him up at 6 am ET.  We spoke until 10 am.  It was great.
  • Nirvana’s Chad Channing.  I briefly met Chad at Geezerfest back in 2007, and interviewed him by phone afterward.  We spent most of our interview talking about Nirvana’s place within Seattle’s underground music scene, again avoiding the “What was Kurt like?” line of questioning.
  • The Walkabouts’ Chris Eckman.  Chris was great, and provided the book’s closing quote, which of course you’ll have to wait to read.  I know…I suck.
  • Nirvana biographer Everett True.  After reading two of Everett’s books, I braced myself for a confrontational interview.  Didn’t happen.  Everett turned out to be truly nice, and walked me through his discovery of grunge back in 1989.
  • Terry Lee Hale.  I interviewed Terry Lee once as a musician and once as a booking agent.  On both fronts, he was an invaluable cog in the Seattle music scene.

Rob’s Squirrels took the stage at Bumbershoot about fifteen years ago.  For those not aware, Bumbershoot is Seattle’s annual music festival held over Labor Day weekend.  For this particular performance, Rob and the band brought along a trunk (yes, a trunk) of Cabbage Patch dolls to launch into the audience.  To assist in this effort, Rob constructed a makeshift slingshot out of surgical tubing.  I’ll let Rob take it from there.

(Note: see the “Introducing…Seattle’s Squirrels” interview clip for discussion of the Cabbage Patch dolls and the world-famous Baby Cheevers.)

Date of interview: August 4, 2010.  Used with permission.

28) Dan Peters.  Dan makes it not just because he plays drums for Mudhoney, or that he’s a fine percussionist and arranger–he also played drums for a couple of Mudhoney’s key predecessors: Bundle of Hiss and Feast (and of course manned the traps for Nirvana’s notorious 1990 Motorsports Garage show.)

29) Tomata du Plenty.  Tomata was part of Seattle’s original punk scene as a singer with the Tupperwares (later LA’s Screamers) in the mid ’70s.  He also basically changed Seattle’s glam community into a punk scene when he returned from New York with a Ramones tape.

31) Terry Morgan.  Terry is already mentioned as part of the “Showbox guys,” but he deserves special recognition here.  In addition to providing a key venue for the developing music scene, and promoting shows, Terry also managed two key Seattle bands: the Blackouts and the Posies.

32) Damon Titus.  I had previously given credit to Roger Husbands for opening up the Bird, Seattle’s first punk rock club.  But as pointed out by the Enemy’s George Gleason (and confirmed by Damon), Damon hired Roger and thus provided the momentum for the club’s genesis.