A Black Sailboat With Red Sails

Posted: September 6, 2011 in From Chapter 5, What's Your Heavy?

As 1987 dawned, the Deep Six slow/heavy aesthetic began to expand and evolve. Bands that hadn’t previously worked that territory became sonically darker. No band better exemplified this musical shift more than Bundle of Hiss. In 1987, Hiss made a rather abrupt shift from postpunk to grunge.

Begun in 1980 in Stanwood, Washington, Hiss first gigged in Seattle that year, playing in early punk-friendly venues like WREX and Baby O’s. The band delved into postpunk due to the influences of vocalist Russ Bartlett and bassist Kurt Danielson. By 1984, Bundle of Hiss included guitarist Jamie Lane and drummer Dan Peters and sounded like a speeded-up version of Joy Division. “Like Joy Division on crystal meth,” Lane clarifies.

In 1987, Bartlett left the band, Lane took over lead vocals and Bundle of Hiss became a three-piece. Around the same time, Lane ventured into the Central to catch a Meat Puppets concert. One of the first things he noticed was the Puppets’ combination of Les Paul guitar and Marshall amplifier, creating a deep, sludgy sound. “I went from playing a Fender guitar and amp to a Les Paul and a Marshall,” says Lane. “So that completely changed our sound. We decided we wanted to be heavy and sexy. We wanted to be like Led Zeppelin. We wanted that vibe of rock, but we wanted to add the sludginess to it.”

At the time, Hiss—like many of their Seattle brethren—had been listening to a lot of Big Black and Scratch Acid. Those influences, plus Lane’s Meat Puppets concert experience, helped changed Bundle of Hiss from a postpunk group into a grunge band. “Russ, in fact, had been a bit resistant to this heavy stuff,” says Danielson. “And so, now that he was out, it was sort of a shifting–like a tectonic shift–towards this heavier stuff instantly. You can hear it in the recordings….You could tell the difference between the songs where Jamie is singing and where Russ is singing. The whole aesthetic is different. That’s where the postpunk sort of permutates into the more blues-inflected hard rock-influenced [sound.]

“The band changed–and began to really soak up the heavier aesthetic that was coming,” Danielson continues, “that we could feel coming like a locomotive, a black locomotive, or maybe a black sailboat with red sails, over the water, over the horizon.”

  1. Hi Stephen,
    Just hearing about your book for the first time, and now I have to go get it. As someone who grew up and experienced the scene first hand its always great to see these books come out, and folks like yourself, dedicating the time to researching and putting out this type of material. I hope that you have gone to a bit more length to cover the vibrant Metal scene that was inextricably linked to the Grunge scene, unlike many works of a similar nature miss doing. In terms of Underrated bands and people, I think the Seattle Scene pioneers like R.I.P. (whom The Rocket once called “…one of the biggest and most important cult movements in local music…”) and others (such and Forced Entry, Bitter End, Coven, Sanctuary, Rail, Shadow (with Mike McCready from Pearl jam), Culprit, Mistrust (with Owen Wright from My Sisters Machine), Metal Church etc) seem to always get a ever so short mention or footnote in works such as these, if any at all. It doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the books, just leaves a gaping hole in a historical document that is fairly obvious to those in the know. In reading your comments elsewhere, I am guessing I will find a much more fully rounded history in this area due to your diligent research, when I go and acquire a copy of your book shortly. In any case, thank you for your efforts.

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