Archive for the ‘Narrative’ Category

that you should hear…

 1)      The Green Pajamas, Summer of Lust (Self-released, 1984.)  Recorded in Jeff Kelly’s bedroom, this collaboration between Kelly and Joe Ross could only have been made by two naïve young artists in love with the Beatles and psychedelia.  (Try ebay or contact Tom Dyer via greenmonkeyrecords.com.)

2)      3 Swimmers, The Worker Works To Live (Engram, 1982.)  Accused by some of ripping off Gang of Four, 3 Swimmers’ friendship with G of F certainly created an influence, but regardless, this EP showcases Seattle at its post-punk finest.  3 Swimmers did subscribe to a similar British socialist philosophy, but this EP—particularly the title track propelled by drummer George Romansic—captures Seattle during the peak of its early ’80s post-punk years.  (Ebay.)

3)      Room Nine, Voices…Of a Summer’s Day (C’est La Mort, 1987.)  Room Nine’s only full-length offering showcases Seattle’s leading Paisley Underground act.  (Ebay.)

4)      Capping Day, Post No Bills (Popllama, 1990.)  Combining the velvet harmonies of Laura Weller and Bonnie Hammond, Post No Bills features the classic “Mona Lisa,” and offers another wonderful contrast to the Seattle Sound stereotype. (Try emailing Conrad Uno at info@eggstudios.com.)

5)      Bundle of Hiss, Sessions—1986-88 (Loveless, 2000.)  Due to the efforts of drummer Dan Peters and producer Jack Endino, audiences get treated to two periods of Bundle of Hiss.  The CD, of which one track came directly from a cassette, begins with the blues/hard rock version of the band, with Jamie Lane on lead vocals and goes back in time to Bundle of Hiss’ post-punk days with front-man Russ Bartlett. (Try info@lovelessrecords.com or iTunes.)

6)      Soundgarden, Screaming Life/Fopp (Sub Pop, 1990).  Issued as a double EP set, Life documents early Soundgarden at their weird alga mum combining metal, punk, and post-punk, particularly showcased in “Hunted Down.”  (Try subpop.com.)

7)      TAD, 8-Way Santa (Sub Pop, 1991.)  TAD’s could-a-been record recorded by Nevermind producer Butch Vig, offers metal-esque sludge like “Jinx,” “Stumblin’ Man,” and “Jack Pepsi,” but showcases the band’s sensitive side with the melodic “3-D Witch Hunt.” (Try subpop.com or iTunes.)

8)       Swallow, Teach Your Bird to Sing (Flotation, 2007.)  Swallow’s third effort, recorded in 1990 for Sub Pop but not contemporaneously released, finally saw the light of day in 2007 after mastering by Chris Hanzsek.  Nothing really grunge about this one, just one great hard rock song after great hard rock song by a band with two guitar players and songwriters (Chris Pugh and Rod Moody).  My favorite is the Pugh-penned “40 Days.”  (Try flotationrecords.com.)

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The following story relates to a show Nirvana headlined at Seattle’s downtown “Center on Contemporary Art” (CoCA) on August 26, 1989.  The line-up also featured the Black Supersuckers, Cat Butt, and Mudhoney.  The first part of this tale shows up in the book and relates to Cat Butt’s James Burdyshaw’s interaction with Kurt Cobain before Nirvana’s set.  The second part appears below.

CoCA had emptied out, and the Cat Butt guitarist needed a ride home.  According to James, band mate David Duet crammed some girls into the Cat Butt van and sped off.  James found himself stranded on 1st Avenue, save for his guitar and amp.  “There I was,” he recalls, “we’d played this big show and everything seemed to be going really well, and there I was sitting on 1st Avenue…and I’m just on the fuckin’ street.

“I looked down the road,” James continues, “and I see Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic just kinda lingering outside the club, and I waved to them.  And so they came up the street towards me.  And it was one of the cutest images I ever remember is watching the two of ’em walk up 1st Avenue towards me, because one guy is like super-tall and one guy is really short.  And they literally were bopping up and down.  They looked like—remember that cartoon Mutt and Jeff?  That’s what I thought [of] when they were coming.  It was like, ‘Bee-bee, bee bee bee.’

“And they come up and they got big smiles on their faces.  And I asked Kurt…I was trying to ask them if they’d give me a ride to West Seattle.  They were like, ‘We gotta go to Gig Harbor and I don’t know if we have enough room and…’  But they were all concerned about me bein’ on the street.  And they were like, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’

“Then, all the sudden this cute girl [said], ‘I’ll give you a ride.’  And I turned around and I looked and I saw three cute girls.  I looked at Kurt Cobain, and I looked at [the girls.]  And I was like, ‘I’m gonna go with them.’

“I ended up haulin’ my gear into this pretty girl’s car…and we ended up going to a party.  At the party, I ended up hookin’ up with her.  And this guy like let us sleep in his bedroom for the night, while my gear was in her car.  And then she took me home the next day.

“So, yeah, that was a good night.”

Kurt Danielson (TAD, Bundle of Hiss) recounted the following story to me during our 2007 interview.  It took place in the Summer of 1988 in Seattle’s University District and involved members of TAD, Mudhoney, and their friends.  My book does mention the event, but in a very summarized version.  Here you can read about it in all of its glorious detail.

“One weekend,” Danielson recalls, “we decided to go out and have a few beers.  We decided also to drop some acid, and we do.  We’re sitting in this bar on the Ave–which is University Avenue–in the U-District of Seattle.

“I’d noticed that the Ave at night was getting to be a sinister place.  At this time, you’d see gangs of big black guys, weightlifter types, roaming the streets at night, looking for Greeks–you know, frat boys–to beat up.  And on this particular night, little did we know, a similar gang was patrolling the streets looking for action.  And they all had these big, thick, leather weightlifting belts that they were wearing around their guts.  So, they could take those off and use them as weapons, swing ’em around their heads like lassos and beat people with ’em.  Pretty amazing when it happens.

“Imagine sitting in a place called Georgio’s, which is a dumpy Italian restaurant/bar up on about 55th and University, and in it is Tad [Doyle from the band TAD], Dan Peters [from Mudhoney], myself, my brother, a couple other friends–and we’d been drinking all day–and then we get the bright idea to take acid.  And acid hits, and I’m wearing a t-shirt I designed myself that says: SUCK MY COCK on the back in big letters and on the front it said: STINKY PUSSY STINKS.  I wrote it with a black felt pen.  It looked like I was just a complete moron–clown–and I felt like one, too.  Anyway, I was talking to all these chicks, and they were all just appalled by my shirt, and I was just laughing and laughing.  Acid was hitting.  There was a non-existent wind blowing–like sometimes happens on acid–and lights were flickering.  We decided to go out on the street.  Actually, no, we didn’t decide, they kicked us out.  That’s right.” (laughs)

It was about 1 am.  The streets were deserted except for an occasional carload of drunken frat-boys.  Danielson’s group decided to venture back to his apartment, which was about four blocks away.

“We [begin] to walk down towards my apartment,” Danielson continues, “which is in a brick building with a very ornate glass–leaded glass–foyer…

“We see on the opposite side of the street–me and Dan were walking out front–we see this big group of black guys, BIG black guys, coming up on the same side of the street.  So we discreetly shifted over to the other side–the right side–which is closer to my place anyway.  And, the other guys [Danielson’s friends] follow.  And we’re kind of like, ‘Fuck!’ sensing the bad vibes, even then.  So, we round the corner, and the rest of the guys are following.  But one guy, a friend of mine who shall remain unnamed, sort of legged back.  The black guys passed all the rest of us.  This guy legged back about a block, up on the corner.  We turned around, like ‘Where is so-and-so?’  There he is on his back like a dog, with his feet in the air, and his hands also.  And those guys are glowering over him.  And I don’t know what the fuck is going on.  We’re watching from a distance.

“Finally, Dan runs up there–’cause he knows him best–and talks him out of his craziness, and gets him to come with us.  He does.  [Our friends] around the corner join us, so we can finish the last, oh 40 yards to my front door–which is locked and I’ve got the only key.  We hear this thunderous avalanche of footsteps.  And it’s that group of black guys and they’re swinging those belts over their heads like lassos, and they’re howling like wolves.  And they came just down on us.  We all turned, and we’re like, ‘Hey, hey, we can talk about this.  What’s going on?’  We had no idea what our friend had said to them when he was up there acting like a dog.  Turned out he was soliciting crack from them.  And these guys were like anti-crack warriors, little did this guy know.  We had no interest in crack.  This particular guy did, apparently….

“So these guys are running right at us.  It just freezes the blood in our veins.  Remember, we’re on acid.  It totally is blowing our minds.  ‘Is this real?  Is this really happening?’  [Our friend] Dick Johnson is the first they come to, and he’s like trying to placate them.  He’s putting his hands up.  He’s kind of shrinking, cringing down, trying to talk to them.  They immediately just are on him with their leather belts, and smacking him down to the ground, and he’s down AND out.  Next they come to Tad, and I’m hiding behind Tad.  And they do the same thing to him.  Tad goes DOWN, and the Juniper bush that he landed on–died that instant.  [It’s] dead to this day.  I’ve been by there recently, well, couple years ago.  It was still dead. (laughs)

(Photo I took of the dead Juniper bush in August of 2007.  Don’t ask.)

“There I am: ‘Hi.’  And I try to talk to them, too.  Same thing happens to me.  I’m down.  It’s like, suddenly this white light and you’re out, and you wake up and you’re on the ground.  I look, and what’s happening, but Dan has made it to the door–Dan Peters–and they’re all on top of him, ’cause he’s fighting back.  The rest of us had just crumpled, but Dan was kicking them and hitting them.  And so they all jumped on him, and were stomping him.  They picked him up and they threw him through the leaded glass window, dislocating his shoulder, and glass everywhere.

 “[But] it was not a serious dislocation, and it healed by itself, and he was able to go to Europe and do the Mudhoney tour with Sonic Youth and history was not interrupted, thank God.

“This became the basis for the first song on [TAD’s Sub Pop debut LP] God’s Balls–“Behemoth”–which I wrote about that night.”

Coffin Break On Tour, 1988

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Coffin Break

Coffin Break, formed in 1987, was one of the first Seattle bands to move beyond grunge’s slow/heavy/sexy aesthetic.  Also, unlike their heavier brethren, Coffin Break’s song titles and lyrics were an integral part of their music.  They even had the audacity to make fun of the “serious” bands with song titles like “Noise Patch” (Soundgarden) and “Flesh Field” (Skin Yard.)  This little snippet talks about the band’s 1988 tour.  An abbreviated version made the book.

Coffin Break’s 1988 tour is particularly intriguing since the band had not yet released a recording.  The three-piece formed in the Spring of 1987.  “I think it was May 18th[1987], because that was the [anniversary of] Mount St. Helens [erupting],” bassist Rob Skinner remembers, “and also Hüsker Dü was playing at the University of Washington, on the ‘warehouse tour.’  So I remember going and trying out [for Coffin Break], then going to the Hüsker Dü show–which I promptly got thrown out of in the first song.

“I did a stage dive,” he continues.  “I was big into jumpin’ off of things at that point.  The more I drank–fear of heights, of course–so the more I drank, the more I wanted to jump off stuff.”

By 1988, the band consisted of David Brooks on drums, Pete Litwin on guitar, and Skinner on bass.  The name was a parody on doom and gloom metal outfits, even while Litwin brought in his Black Sabbath and speed metal influence into the band.  Skinner’s pop/punk sensibility brought a unique dynamic to Coffin Break, not allowing the band to fit too nicely within any rock n roll subgenre.

Bored with the small Seattle club scene, Skinner led the charge to tour the country.  The band had no real “plan” to groom itself for a career.  The six-week excursion was simply an excuse to get out of town.

Skinner helped put the tour together by calling promoters around the country.  Coffin Break’s association with the San Francisco band Bomb provided helpful connections.  Locations were chosen based on word of mouth and local scene reports in Maximumrocknroll.

Seattle’s music scene began to get national underground recognition by 1988.  That certainly helped an unknown band get gigs across the country.  “We sent out a press kit and a [demo] tape,” Skinner told James Bush in Backlash, “Sometimes it was almost too easy–just one call and we’d get a show.”

“Three dollars per day–that was our per-diem,” Skinner recalls.  “We got five bucks a day when we were in New York–for three days.  That was our big expenditure.  We went out with three people and a roadie named Kyle in a ’68 Dodge Sportsman.  And, just did it.”

The tour had its share of mishaps of course, like the time the band got thrown out of a Dearborn, Michigan movie theater because Brooks wore an offensive t-shirt. “We scraped together money–which was a big expense, ’cause that was our three dollar a day tour,” says Skinner.  “And so at that point, movie tickets were like five bucks, seven bucks.  So, we did a band excursion, spent the money, go sit down, get about fifteen minutes into the movie and some jackass is telling us that we have to leave.”

The manager was offended by Brooks’ t-shirt.  On the front, it had the words “Green River,” referencing the band.  On the back, it had a picture of a six-pack of soda also called Green River, accompanied by the words, “Ride the Fucking Six Pack.”*  “And the worst part of the whole thing,” Skinner continues, “is they didn’t give us our damn money back.  And that still burns me.”

Then there was the van incident at a convenience store stop.  Brooks had gone in to get a cup of coffee while Skinner and Litwin had fallen asleep in the van.  The only problem was that Brooks had forgotten to set the parking brake.  Brooks told the story to James Bush in Backlash.

“‘Isn’t that your van rolling through the parking lot?’” Brooks recalled the counterman saying.

“I turned around and looked and it was gone,” Brooks told Bush.  “I just said ‘Oh fuck’ and kept stirring my coffee.”

Brooks watched helplessly as the van containing his band-mates rolled toward the gas pumps and other vehicles in the lot.  “And I was just frankly too hung over.  I couldn’t move,” Skinner recalls.  “But Pete just kinda jumped out of the loft [inside the van] and jumped up over the front seat head-first and pushed the brake with his hand, and stopped it.  And we didn’t hit anything.” 

Despite the tour’s issues including van problems, personality conflicts, bad routing and the like, the band accomplished what it set out to do: get publicity and possibly sell some demo tapes.  “And more importantly,” Skinner adds, “avoid day jobs.”

* – Note: Mark Arm wore the same shirt when fronting Green River at their 2008 reunion show.  See the story in the “My Seattle-Related Concert Experiences” section.

Green River Plays CBGB’s, 1985

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Miscellaneous

In 1985, Green River consisted of Mark Arm (later in Mudhoney), Bruce Fairweather (Love Battery); Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam); Jeff Ament (PJ); and drummer Alex Shumway.  Green River was one of the few Seattle acts to make it all the way to the East Coast.  A highlight (or lowlight depending on whom you talk with) was a visit to NYC’s legendary CBGB’s.  Shumway recounts that evening (a much more summarized version ended up in the book).

Despite these tensions and guitarist Steve Turner leaving the band, Green River did tour the country in 1985.  Their travels led all the way to New York’s CBGB’s, the legendary punk club that launched the Ramones and Talking Heads.  They played to an almost non-existent audience on a Wednesday night, yet drummer Alex Shumway remembers the show fondly.  A legend developed that the band’s audience consisted of a handful of Japanese businessmen.

“I don’t quite remember [the Japanese businessmen,]” says Shumway.  “I do remember some jocks.  It was almost like a bachelor party kind of thing….They came in, ‘Hey, where are you guys from?’  These guys are all dressed up in tuxes.  ‘Oh, we’re from Seattle.’  ‘Alright!  Where’s that?’  ‘Seattle, Washington.’  ‘Oh, like by D.C.?  Around in Virginia?’ ‘No, ALL the way across the country…all the way across the United States.’ “Oh, cool! Ehhh…’”

“The first band was this band called Les Techno.  And the singer looked like an even dorkier version of [Talking Heads’] David Byrne….We were all sittin’ there in the back, and these guys came out, they started up and the bass player’s like clapping his hands in the air going, ‘Les Techno!  Les Techno!  Les Techno!  Les Techno!  Okay, we’re not gonna get going until we hear you all clap your hands and say Les Techno! Les Techno! Les Techno!’  And nobody did SHIT.”

“The second band got ready to play–set up all their stuff, and we waited for them for about 45 minutes until they eventually figured out that their drummer’s not showing up.  So they took all their stuff down and we eventually set up and I think we played around midnight.”

 “And we just ripped the place apart….got paid nothing, but the only people [that] were there to see us I believe were probably the same Japanese businessmen and the staff.  And the staff thought that we were great, so they gave us all the free beer we wanted.  ‘Hey, you guys are great.  Here.  You’re not getting paid shit, but you can have beer.’”

Meet Steve Albini

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Miscellaneous

[The following excerpt relates to the band TAD’s experience with legendary misanthropic producer Steve Albini.  TAD, then consisting of Tad Doyle on guitar and vocals; Kurt Danielson on bass; Gary Thorstensen on lead guitar, and Steve Wied on drums, in some ways inspired their friends in Nirvana to follow their lead in choice of producers.  The first three TAD records were produced by Jack Endino, Albini, and Butch Vig…the same three who recorded Nirvana’s Bleach (1989), In Utero (1993), and Nevermind (1991), respectively.]

Just before TAD’s 1989 European tour with Nirvana, Sub Pop had quickly booked the band to record another EP.  This time, the label bought time in Chicago with legendary eccentric independent producer and ex-Big Black front man Steve Albini.  Locals had come to know him after Big Black closed out their career in August of 1987 at Seattle’s Georgetown Steamplant.  Furthermore, after Big Black’s demise, Albini’s stature as a producer grew immeasurably after he recorded the Pixies’ influential Surfer Rosa the following year.

For TAD, a slight problem remained.  The band hadn’t written enough songs for a full record.  “So we had one week to write five tunes (we all had day jobs then so we did this at night) and then we flew off to Chicago,” bass player Kurt Danielson recalls in an e-mail.

Unlike the more relaxed God’s Balls sessions with Jack Endino, TAD had to deal with Albini’s offbeat and extreme personality.  The band stayed with him in Chicago and that meant living according to his rules.  As such, TAD ate a steady diet of meat and enjoyed a post-session 3 am screening of Caddyshack.  “…and each morning I was awakened by a double barrel shotgun that Steve poked me in the face with,” Danielson states in an e-mail, “rousting me from my dreams so that I had to confront the twin blue black gleaming barrels extending, lengthwise, to Steve’s insane eyes, which peered down the barrels at me; he was wearing only boxer shorts…”

 

Where Are They Now?

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Where Are They Now?

Some of the movers and shakers and donut holers (well, probably not them)…what they’re up to:

John Leighton Beezer (the Thrown Ups) is an Internet product manager in Seattle. He plays in a number of bands including the Thrown Ups, Stomach Pump, Empire Vista, and Stereoton.  He still refuses to practice.  See more about Leighton at https://thestrangesttribebook.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/interviewing-the-thrown-ups-john-leighton-beezer/.

Kurt Danielson (Bundle of Hiss, TAD) keeps busy playing music with Misericords and Vaporland.  Kurt’s bands include former members of Bundle of Hiss, Love Battery, TAD, and the Fluid.  He is also writing four novels entitled Amnesomnia, Brand World, The Silver Tenant, and Brancusi.

Tom Dyer (Green Monkey Records, the Icons) is president of Argosy University in Seattle.  He recently issued a Green Monkey retrospective featuring the Fastbacks, the Green Pajamas, Mr. Epp, Al Bloch, the Walkabouts, and the Icons.  He continues to put out music by the Green Pajamas, the Icons, and solo projects.

Gillian Gaar (The Rocket) has authored several books including Green Day: Rebels With A Cause, The Rough Guide to Nirvana, She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll, Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback, was an assistant editor on Krist Novoselic’s Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy, and served as a project consult for the Nirvana With the Lights Out box set. She still owns a “Lamestain” t-shirt.

Neil Hubbard (Engram Records, and early punk scenester) has played the bagpipes professionally since 2007.  He teaches the pipes to individuals and three different firefighter pipe bands, and plays at over 250 different events each year. Visit him at www.neilbagpiper.com.

Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows) plays and records with only six bands: the Fellows; R.E.M; the Minus 5 with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck; the Baseball Project with Buck (and sometimes Mike Mills) and the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn; Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3; and Tired Pony with Buck and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody.

Peter Litwin (Coffin Break) plays in a band called Plaster.  Litwin periodically joins Rob Skinner in a re-formed Coffin Break.

Peter Barnes (the Enemy) is the co-founder of Clatter&Din, a media production company and studio in Seattle, www.clatterdin.com.

Jack Endino (Producer, Skin Yard guitarist) remains an active producer in Seattle and has recorded artists all over the world including Hot Hot Heat, Flipper (with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic), High on Fire, Rich Riggins (of Chinas Comidas), and the Sonics.  Jack recently mastered the Screaming Trees’ Last Words posthumous release.

Rob Morgan (Pudz/Squirrels).  Since retiring the Squirrels in 2009, Rob has focused on various projects, including reinventing his Two Katz & A Toaster comic strip in painting form. http://www.facebook.com/#!/2KAAT

Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts) lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia with his wife.  He has worked on solo projects and is involved with two collaborations called Dirtmusic and LONG.  He also works as a producer and soundtrack composer.  The Walkabouts will release their 13th studio album in October of 2011.

Dennis White (Pravda Records) runs Dadastic! Sounds which is involved in music, publishing and video. The label’s latest release, That’s Dadastic!, is a compilation of 20 old and new songs by artists from Seattle, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Portland and more. He devotes the few hours he has left over to volunteer work.  Dennis is currently planning to save the world.

Amy Denio (Solo artist, Couch of Sound, FoMoFlo, Tone Dogs) remains as exciting and eclectic as ever, composing for hungry puppets, and touring the world with gypsy-core band Kultur Shock and singing sax quartet the Tiptons…and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Faith Henschel-Ventrello (KCMU Music Director) runs a wine distribution/brokerage/importing business in the Napa Valley with her husband Steve.  They also own Parador Cellars, which produces Napa Valley Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.  She dreams of starting a local community radio station.

Baby Cheevers (The Squirrels).  B.C. retired with the Squirrels’ 2009 demise.  He is contemplating a solo tour.

Rod Moody (Deranged Diction, Swallow) currently plays in The Fuzz, who recently released their debut, “Fun Forest.” He is also the website manager for Easy Street Records, Seattle’s premier independent music store.

Nick Scott (Psychopop, Popdefect) lives in LA and plays in 2 ½ bands: the Swords of Fatima, the Shards, and Project K2.

Robert Roth (Truly) has been active as a solo artist, and has reformed Truly with Mark Pickerel and Hiro Yamamoto.  Truly has 10 new songs nearing completion and has recently played for about 12,000 people in Spain.  The band has also shared bills with the Sonics, the Sex Pistols, Ray Davies, Gutter Twins, Dinosaur Jr., and Blue Cheer.

Larry Reid (Rosco Louie and Graven Image Galleries, CoCA, managed the U-Men) serves as curator and events coordinator at Fantagraphics Books in Seattle.  “That’s a sophisticated job title I assigned myself,” Reid commented in an e-mail, “which translated means ‘a clerk in a comic books shop.’”  The store hosts art, readings, and musical exhibitions.

Chris Hanzsek (C/Z Records—released the Deep Six compilation, producer, owner of Reciprocal Recording, Hanzsek Audio) relocated to Snohomish WA, but continues to record local artists in addition to his steady gig as mastering engineer (Hanzsek AV).  In his spare time Chris is an active photographer, hiker, climber, and cyclist.