Thursday, May 30, 2013

Carefree Highway: Recent interview on the CARGO CULTE podcast

Recently my pal Isreal Lawrence aka TheAllSeeingI invited me to be part of his podcast.  I got to choose a playlist of anything I wanted, and we were going to chat about whatever came up.

We ended up talking a lot about the beginnings and endings of Slap A Ham Records, Spazz, Despise You, Infest, my move from SF to LA, and my personal failures and new beginnings throughout the new millenium.

Music-wise, I chose not to go the obvious "power violence" route, and instead chose all '70s and early '80s Comfort Rock songs (my own phrase for what's known as Soft Rock, Yacht Rock, etc.).

It's a long one, over 3 hours (!), but if you're gearing up for a long roadtrip, or need a cure for insomnia, this may be a good starting point.

If you want to listen to a streaming version, go here:

You can find it in iTunes: 

And you can also download an MP3 version here:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

BURN YOUR BRIDGES - demo (2002)

I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2001.  SPAZZ had just broken up because I was moving, although in spite of my move it also felt like "it was time"... we could keep putting out the same records over & over and become stale, or call it quits while people still cared what we were doing.  So, my relocation was good timing for preserving the integrity of the band.
When I got to LA, I wasn't really sure what my next move was.  I had a ton of friends down here, and I'm always driven to do something creative, but band-wise I didn't know what direction I was headed.  I jammed with a few drummers, like Etay Levy from Lana Dagales (we have some practice recordings somewhere that I recall sounded like early Italian HC meets Melt-Banana).  But overall the hardcore scene felt different.  I was still running Slap A Ham Records, but it's popularity was quickly waning.  Everyone was buying CD burners, so creating CDs was pointless.  No one wanted vinyl, so I stopped pressing it. And a most folks acted like hardcore/power violence was "over".  I felt it, too  In general, musically it didn't seem like anything new & exciting was going on.  Of course there were new bands & new releases here & there that I liked, but nothing truly grabbed my attention. It felt like the past decade was spent observing a brutality contest. Who can be the most brutal, the heaviest, the fastest, the most extreme.  Extreme music had reached a cookie-cutter level and nothing stood out as being exceptional anymore.  I was fed up with the word itself and the approach to everything "extreme".  So, I started thinking about what I loved about hardcore in the first place. Riffs you could hear, shouted words you could understand and sing along with. Songs that actually stuck in your head after you heard them once or twice.
When I started jamming with my old pal Bob from Deep Six Records / Lack Of Interest, he clearly had the perfect straight ahead hardcore style to drumming.  He's not about the double kick and blast beats; his approach was traditional hardcore: fast, tight, and stop-on-a-dime precision.  His style of playing inspired me to go back to the roots of it all. We started writing songs together, but instead of following the Spazz path, I wanted to pull it back a few notches, and just write straight forward hardcore that sounded more like the early bands.... the stuff from my pre-teen & teen years of trading demo cassettes through the mail. Songs that were aggressive and fast, but not overly fast, with snotty shouted vocals that you could somewhat understand, not just gruff grunts and growls. Less "power violence" (yes, kids... two words, not one), and more HC.
We wrote about 30 songs together, and struggled for months to figure out a name for the band.  Bob was pushing for DEAD MAN'S GLORY (it was a phrase he was really driven by, for some reason) which we kept for a while, but after really thinking about it, there were way too many bands in existence, past and present, that had the word Dead in the name. All of the lyrics I was writing were reflecting my negative attitude towards the hardcore punk scene in general, and disappointment in my own life, primarily my unhappiness in my then-marriage to my first wife. With lyrics like these, I was bound to burn some bridges. Hence, I came up with the name BURNING BRIDGES.  Bob liked it, but after a few weeks it kind of sounded like Burning Britches.  Instead of people thinking of us as "that underwear band", we modified it to BURN YOUR BRIDGES.
Although we knew a million bass players, we really didn't feel like bringing anyone else into the fold.  So BYB remained a two-piece.  I recorded our demo on my Tascam 8-track.  Slap A Ham was closing up shop. Bob still had his own Deep Six label.  But we still sent out our demo to a few friend's labels to see if they'd be interested in releasing anything.  No bites, and little interest, so we eventually recorded our one & only album for Deep Six.
Over the next few years, BYB played a handful of shows, which I barely remember, and after the album, Bob & I wrote around 20+ new songs, but they were never recorded.  I was very self-critical of our material, and only used what I considered to be the best tracks. There are actually 7-8 unused studio songs we recorded for our album, which I never added vocals on.  Maybe I'll post those some day.
Overall, reaction to BYB was lukewarm.  I don't think a lot of kids knew what we were trying to do.  The scene was still in "brutal" mindset, and we were decidedly non-brutal.
Here's our demo in all of its glory.  Until now, probably less than 10 people have ever heard it.  Basically just home recordings of what eventually ended up on our album.  Enjoy.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

STIKKY - Demo #3 + unreleased track (1987)

In 1986, I was doing vocals for a skate punk band called THE LEGION OF DOOM, comprised of guys from my high school.  I was always pushing my bandmates to play faster, and be more hardcore.  After a couple years, they were now getting over their "punk phase", and wanted to "turn metal".  I saw the writing on the wall, and clearly LEGION OF DOOM was not going to become the hardcore juggernaut that I envisioned.
Around this same time, I discovered a demo from a local band called STIKKY.  I bought the demo from Sessions skate shop in Sunnyvale.  Turns out STIKKY guitarist Chris Wilder was previously in another local band I really liked called ARSENAL, where he played a bass guitar that he built himself, which was shaped like a machine gun.  I remember seeing ARSENAL open a huge show (can't remember, maybe it was Agent Orange?) at the San Jose Convention Center, where they played a thrash version of the "Sesame Street" theme song.  It being my teen years, this was comedy gold.
I don't remember how, but I ended up being STIKKY's roadie and biggest fan. They were doing exactly what I wanted to do... they were playing every song fast.  Drummer/vocalist Todd Wilder was one of the most talented & unique hardcore drummers around, and no one realized it (and still don't).  He had a trademark method of rolling his kick pedal, basically making his single kick sound like a double kick.
I hung out at all of the practices, and eventually The Wilder Bros, myself, and Big Wayne became a close knit group who spent nearly every day listening to hardcore, going to shows, and mostly hanging out and acting like dorks. In early 1987, bassist Jamie Porter stopped showing up for practice.  Not sure why he was flaking, but he seemed to be getting bored with it all.  The Wilder Bros called me up and said "If Jamie doesn't show up today, you're going to be our new bass player."  Jamie didn't show up; I was in the band.  I actually didn't own a bass or an amp, so I borrowed this enormous Gibson from Big Wayne.  It was awkward for playing hardcore, and it weighed a freakin' ton. Within a month or so, I found a good fit with a cheap Peavey bass, which in retrospect was a piece of crap, but I loved it at the time.
In April 1987, I played my first show with STIKKY:  At Gilman with MDC and Gang Green. The opening band was Operation Ivy (it was Op Ivy's first club show... their actual first show was in Dave Mello's garage, I saw them there as well).  Either that evening or the next time we played, Tim Yohannan hit us up to contribute to an upcoming Maximum RockNRoll compilation.  I felt like I'd hit the big time.  MRR zine was my monthly bible, and the "Welcome To 1984" MRR comp LP was one of my all-time favorite records. And now Tim Yo was hitting up one of MY bands!  I couldn't believe it.
By June 1987, STIKKY had written several new songs & it was time to record Demo #3. Our friend Fred Sablan recorded it on his 4-track in his garage. Many years later, around 2006, I played a one-off show with Fred at the Knitting Factory for his project Birthday Twin. There were about 15 people there. If you look up Fred these days, he's playing bass for some skinny goth dude named Marilyn Manson.
Anyhow, STIKKY Demo #3 was the "Choose your own title" demo. 11 songs of that patented, sing-songy hardcore mayhem.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Todd Wilder is one of the earliest, unsung drummers to play a blast beat before it even had a name.  It was just his way of figuring out how to play even faster than he already did.  Listen to "Pollution Rules", "Russia Nuked Themselves", or the end of "Don't Look Now", and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Maybe it's not "fast" by today's standards, but keep in mind this was 1987... many, many years before there was a grindcore band loitering on every street corner.
In addition to the standard demo, I've included the demo recording of "Moshometer" which was never released.  We recorded this the same day as the demo, and gave it to Tim Yo for the compilation.  Instead of using our thin, 4-track recording, MRR decided to spring for studio time, so this first version of "Moshometer" was scrapped. Later in the summer we re-recorded "Moshometer" and another track for the "Turn It Around" 2x7" comp.


STIKKY - Demo #3 + unreleased track (1987)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Possessed To Skate

Back around 1997, SPAZZ drummer Max Ward's 625 Productions & DESPISE YOU vocalist Chris Elder's Pessimiser Records co-released the landmark thrash/punk/hardcore/power violence compilation album "Possessed To Skate".

Long out of print, and not reissued on any of the three "Sweatin' To The Oldies" volumes (*Post Script: actually they were, but that collection is out of print as well), here are the SPAZZ tracks.

As a bonus, you get the equally as hard to find DESPISE YOU tracks from the comp.  I played with DESPISE YOU many years after this comp was released.  I'm not on these tracks, but I checked with Elder and he gave the OK to post these tunes as well.

Prepare for a 90's West Coast style blindside assault!

Possessed To Skate - SPAZZ / DESPISE YOU

BACTERIA CULT - Suicide Pact 3" CDR

Noise.  That's what this post is all about.  Noise in the literal sense.  Random, free-form electronic sounds.  Some people dig it, most people don't.  "Noise is the new punk", said my pal Eric Wood.  Well said.

Ever since I was in elementary school, years before I had any idea what "noise" was, I used to create weird, cut 'n' paste, sound collages on cassette, mostly consisting of random segments from different records, and between-station sounds on the radio.  Years later, it turns out there has been a scene of noise dating back who knows how long (I've heard experimental recordings that date back to the 1940's).
One of my first "official" noise releases was the JESUS PHILBIN "Subterranean Electronic Blasphemy" CD, released on Jon Kortland's (IRON LUNG, GOB, PIG HEART TRANSPLANT) label Satan's Pimp back in 2000. Maybe I'll post that one here someday.

In 2006, I got together with my friends Kevin Fetus (TO THE POINT, FETUS EATERS, WATCH ME BURN) and Jay Howard (CIRCUIT WOUND, WIRE WEREWOLVES) at Fetus' apartment.  We all brought some gear, hooked it up to Jay's mixer, and recorded several hours of sound exploration. After hours of debate via email, we agreed that our collaboration would be named BACTERIA CULT.

This initial BACTERIA CULT session resulted in a 3-part series of 3" CDRs released on Fetus' own Vomitcore label. This is one of those rare CDRs... a 23 minute piece entitled "Suicide Pact".  Hand numbered & limited to 50 copies.  All CDRs were spray painted silver by Fetus himself.

Since this initial recording, we've added Eddie Nervo (+DOG+, DESTROY DATE, FINAL SOLUTION) to our personnel. BACTERIA CULT still performs live, usually once a year when a cool, touring noise unit comes to Los Angeles. Watching us live is a cure for insomnia, but I'm quite proud of the sounds we produce.
We have a decent discography of releases under our belt, and I'm betting 999 out of 1,000 readers of this blog have never even seen them.

If you're willing to step out of your comfort zone for 23 minutes, this may be a good starting point.

BACTERIA CULT - Suicide Pact