Interviewing Sir Larry Reid (Part 2)

Posted: January 12, 2012 in Other Key Interviews

In the summer of 1982, Rosco Louie hosted a standout gig featuring the Fastbacks and the Living.  (See “From the Cutting Room Floor/Narrative/The Living” for  details about the Living.)  “I remember the [Fastbacks] drummer was Duffy McKagan,” says Larry.  “He went to LA later and…he had [a] big arena rock band—brain cramp—you know, Guns N Roses, that’s the band.”  (Duff also played guitar with the Living that night.)

An artist from New York approached Larry about painting the Fastbacks as they performed.  “He was painting them while they were playing,” says Larry, “….And that turned out to be really interesting.  You know, just a real nice element, having this painter—he was a little flamboyant.  He was a lot flamboyant.  He was very, very—not that it matters—gay.  Visually, with the Fastbacks, it was just wonderful.

“I’ll tell you another thing about that night that probably nobody knows,” Larry continues.  “A guy named John Bigley who I just sorta met—you know, he was one of these patrons of Rosco Louie, came up to me—told me about his band, the U-Men….The U-Men—I recognized that [name] as sort of being an element of this absurdist Alfred Jarry play [Ubu Roi], a French absurdist poet that was associated with the surrealists.  I thought, ‘Well that’s pretty sophisticated.’  And then I kinda went to see ’em and all hell broke loose.  Oh man, it was great.  It was just utterly chaotic.  I don’t even know if they performed.  It was just kinda this riot going on.  That totally appealed to me.”

Larry would go on to manage the U-Men over the next few years.  “That Fastbacks/Living show,” says Larry, “was the beginning of a very interesting relationship I had with the U-Men.”

Larry closed Rosco Louie in December of 1982 as he felt it was becoming “just another gallery,” to use his words.  He opened a new art space—called Graven Image—the following fall.  His new gallery was smaller than Rosco Louie, but it came with an entire basement that the U-Men would use as their practice space.  Furthermore, Graven Image would become a key element of a vibrant all-ages music scene happening in Seattle’s Pioneer Square in 1983 and 1984.  Within a square mile of each other, young punk fans could attend shows at the Metropolis, Ground Zero, the Grey Door, as well as Larry’s gallery.

In the fall of 1985, Larry’s U-Men performed at Bumbershoot, Seattle’s annual outdoor music festival.  You may know about this legendary exploding moat show by now, and I won’t repeat it here.  You can find out the about it in the book, as well as this youtube clip:

Around the same time as the Bumbershoot show, producer Chris Hanzsek was recording the seminal Deep Six compilation, the opening salvo for what would become grunge.  Five bands had been chosen for the record: Green River, Malfunkshun, the Melvins, Skin Yard, and Soundgarden.  Given the U-Men’s enormous popularity in underground Seattle, Skin Yard’s Daniel House wanted Larry’s band to be number six.  While the grungy acts contributed two songs apiece to Deep Six, the U-Men would only offer up one—called “They”—as they were set to go on tour.  “[The U-Men] didn’t wanna do it at all,” Larry recalls.  “But Daniel was just insistent.  And they went in and they just did it in one take.

“I remember going in there,” he continues, “and [saying], ‘One take and we gotta go.  I mean, we gotta go.  We’re not being obnoxious, but we gotta be on stage 300 miles away—tonight.’”

So they did it as a favor to Daniel?

“A favor?” Larry responds.  “Yeah.  To shut him up.”

(Chris Hanzsek’s C/Z Records would release Deep Six in January of 1986.)

Following his stint with the U-Men, Larry became director of CoCA (Center on Contemporary Arts.)  In August of 1989, CoCA hosted a show headlined by Mudhoney and Nirvana.  In the book, I state:

Mudhoney went on after Cat Butt to an adoring crowd.  Mark Arm and Co. were on that night and for their finale opened up a box of confectioners’ sugar, placed it in front of a fan, and blew it out into the crowd*.  The sweaty bodies instantly became sticky messes.  The fans loved it, further adding to Mudhoney’s phenomenal live repertoire.  Nirvana had to follow that.

*Cat Butt’s James Burdyshaw disputes this.  He recalls a CoCA organizer heaving the contents at the crowd from the stage without Mudhoney’s participation.

On the day of my book’s production deadline—last July, I think—Mark called me up and mentioned that Brother James was right.  The CoCA organizer happened to be Larry Reid.

Despite Larry’s various art affiliations over the years, he still keeps in touch with the musicians that comprised the legendary U-Men.  “I just produced the first show of the Tom Price Desert Classic, which [features] Tom Price—the guitar player from the U-Men,” Larry mentioned in our 2008 interview.

“[Tom’s] a freakin’ genius,” he continues.  “I’m still really close with both Tom and John.”

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