Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NO USE FOR A NAME - "Hole" demo 1991

Turns out today is the one year anniversary of Tony Sly's passing.  Tony is best known as the frontman for No Use For A Name. He was always an awesome guy.  I don't think I ever had a disagreement with him.  Always very even-tempered, mellow, reasonable, likeable, and I always felt like we were on the same page... overall, just a good friggin' guy.

As mentioned in prior writings, I was in and out of NUFAN no fewer than 3 times.  The third and final time I was on 2nd guitar.  At that point, I was establishing an identity in extreme music (in other words, everything NUFAN was not) through my reviews of all noisecore, grind, thrash, hardcore, and power violence releases in Maximum RockNRoll, and also through my label, Slap A Ham Records.  So, what was I doing in this melodic punk band?  First off, I was itching to play, since STIKKY no longer played, but I couldn't find anyone in the SF Bay Area to start a pissed-off hardcore band with.  It just wasn't "cool".  Secondly, with the ever-revolving door of NUFAN members, I tended to be the default guy they'd call when someone else quit. I was childhood friends with the NUFAN guys and had co-founded the band with Steve & Rory.  So, me & my tacky yellow BC Rich made the rounds with No Use yet again in the early 90's.

At that point, Tony was starting to tap into what would eventually become the NUFAN sound. It wasn't fully there, but in retrospect you could tell it was starting to formulate, especially in comparison with the earlier releases.  Steve was taking classes at a place in the South Bay somewhere called the College For Recording Arts.  The recording students needed a band to experiment on, so we went in for a couple hours & recorded one of our newest songs, "Hole".  Still a pretty good track, which ended up being re-recorded for the "Don't Miss The Train" album.  Tony wrote it, and was clearly showing some Bad Religion thesaurus-core sensibilities.  I remember we sort of gave him a hard time about using the word "mendaciously" in a song. Although I'm willing to bet money this is the only song in recorded history with "mendaciously" in the lyrics, so that's saying something right there.

Anyhow, for those of you who are die-hard NU-fans, here's that extremely rare demo track.

Cheers to the memory of Tony, and much love to the Sly family!

NO USE FOR A NAME - "Hole" demo 1991

Thursday, July 25, 2013

JESUS PHILBIN / BASTARD NOISE - collaboration 2002

As mentioned in my EAST WEST BLAST TEST posting below, around the turn of the Millennium, I was trying to figure out "what's next".  Aside from my allegiance to hardcore, I listened to a bit of everything, but was intrigued by noise.  As a kid, I used to make strange cut-and-paste cassettes of odd samples from various records and spontaneous moments taken from the radio.  Little did I know until many, many years later that people have been doing such things for 50-60 years plus, and actually had fans!

In the 90's, Eric Wood used Man Is The Bastard as a vehicle to broaden the scope of extreme music, by merging violent instruments and vocals with searing electronics. A unique combination that has since inspired untold legions of musicians and noisemakers alike.  Wood and I had been friends since about 1988, and aside from my occasional guest vocals with MITB, we had never collaborated musically. 

In 1999 I finally got off my ass and figured out how to create some decent noise tracks, something other than simply looping distortion and delay pedals.  Out of this exploration, JESUS PHILBIN was born.  I released the "Subterranean Electronic Blasphemy" album on Jon Kortland's (Iron Lung / Gob / Pig Heart Transplant / Dead Language) label Satan's Pimp.  After that followed a handful of smaller releases. But I'd never performed live, doing the noise thing.

In 2001, I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and after spending many hours with Mr. Wood, a collaboration was eminent. MITB had broken up, and BASTARD NOISE was going strong with a stripped down line up of only Eric Wood and John Wiese.  After much discussion (and ultimately a show invite from Enterruption), Wood, Wiese, and I ended up collaborating live... strangely enough back up in San Francisco.  I returned to SF a year after moving.  I had worked so hard to escape The City in 2001, and finally had the mental wherewithal to return.  The former dotcom douchebag-generating conveyor belt had finally ceased operation, and many parts of SF looked like a ghost town.  A "new economy" based solely on greed had finally collapsed, leaving a swath of vacant storefronts and a lack of culture in its path.  The perfect setting for an electronic onslaught.

This is the only recording of BASTARD NOISE and JESUS PHILBIN, Wiese / Wood / Dodge.  It was released many years ago as the first track on the long out of print Bastard Noise "Sound Engine" CD.

Expand that melon!

Bastard Noise / Jesus Philbin - live collaboration 2002

EAST WEST BLAST TEST - home demos (2000)

Dave Witte was always one of my favorite drummers.  He's one of the rare players who "gets it", who understands that brutality still needs a groove, for lack of a better word.  His blast beats were not only executed with precision, but also with style.  And thus, I spent the better part of the '90s wishing I could be in a band with this guy.  The problem is we lived 3,000 miles apart.

I used to record a lot at home on my Tascam 8-channel cassette recorder.  Whenever I recorded, I always started with the drum track, then I'd build the guitars on top of it.  After realizing neither Dave nor I would be in the same room long enough to write songs together, let alone record, I came up with the idea of a East Coast / West Coast long-distance collab via the postal service.  We would approach it the same way... without any lead from me, Dave would go in the studio and record drum tracks, based solely on improvisation.  Then he would send me the drums and I'd add my parts to whatever it is he came up with.  These days with easy home recording & file sharing access, this isn't a big deal, but at the time it was a semi mind-blowing concept.  No really.  You need to put it in the context of the time, around 1999. People flipped out when I told them how we were doing this album.  I'm sure similar efforts existed in the past, but in our scene, it was something largely unheard of.

Dave recorded drums to 16-track 2" tape back in New Jersey, then he sent the reel to me in San Francisco, and I recorded guitars, bass, noise, and vocals in Oakland with Bart Thurber.  This was a time in my life when I was trying to branch out and figure out what my "next thing" was going to be.  I still loved hardcore, but I was searching for something to push the boundaries. In listening to this album, it's clear I was incorporating a good share of Agata / Melt-Banana worship into these tracks.  This album was in the can in 2000 and was released on my own Slap A Ham label, on CD-only, because people had stopped buying vinyl at that point (and very soon after, stopped buying CDs as well).

The name of our project was actually NOT East West Blast Test.  I released this album under our names.  It was actually a CHRIS DODGE / DAVE WITTE album, and the name of the album was "East West Blast Test".  It wasn't meant to be egotistical... I was actually doing for a new angle in hardcore, inspired by my favorite jazz releases.  At the time, I was listening to a ton of early '60s releases on the legendary Blue Note label, and all of these albums were released under the names of the players, not a band name, per se.  And if you look at our album art, it was also intended as a tribute to those Rudy Van Gelder era Blue Note releases:

Overall, did we succeed?  Not really, but it was a valiant effort.  It's a short album, maybe too short.  It's an album that could have used a little something extra.  We experimented, but after it was completed I knew I hadn't pushed far enough.  Any shortcomings about this album can be attributed to me 100%.  Despite that, some people really liked it.
This album was re-released a few years later by Relapse, with slightly updated artwork, and at that point we agreed to properly name our project EAST WEST BLAST TEST.  We maintained the Blue Note art vibe, a bit more successfully this time.

Several years later, we released a second album on the Ipecac label.  It's much more varied than the first, but also arguably a lot less focused, and somewhat random.  Not a success by any means, in fact most fans of the first album didn't even know the 2nd album existed.  It was written and recorded during a very odd and turbulent point in my life, which was both exciting and soul-crushing.  More about that another time.

The first album is still in print via Relapse, so out of respect I'm not posting it for now.  But before I went to record my guitars in the studio, I made a cassette of Dave's drums and fleshed out some demos on my trusty Tascam at home.  Here are 4 songs from the home recordings, heard by no one but Dave and myself until now:
EAST WEST BLAST TEST - home demos (2000)