NeareSST Relatives

14 Apr

sstsign.jpg

    (Or, Those Who Were Spared The Great SST Backlash By Mere Inches)

I make no apologies: SST Records captivate me like no other music label has, or ever likely will. They unveiled all that early, gnarly, genre-breaking/defining stuff – BLACK FLAG, MINUTEMEN, SACCHARINE TRUST – which blew budding eardrums (like mine!) at the dawn of the 80’s throughout the South Bay and beyond. Reemerging after a couple years mired in legal hell, they then proceeded to release record after record that trashed every preconceived notion held by the then-100,000 strong bonehead HxCx army (BLACK FLAG’s My War side II is the pivotal moment in all this, but do check out most any mid/late 80’s SST record by SAINT VITUS/SACCHARINE TRUST/SWA/SLOVENLY et. al. to have that fuck-you-punker-I’ll-play-what-I-damn-well-please! point rammed into your brain). Hands down, the collective SST roster represent the pinnacle of 80’s independent music. And I’m gonna be the first to say: don’t be quick to write off their 90’s/2000s stuff! There’s more than a bundleful of great (though often unfashionable) music tucked away in there – see SORT OF QUARTET, FATSO JETSON, the 90’s LEAVING TRAINS recs and FASTGATO for proof.

That said . . . this post isn’t exactly about SST. It’s about stuff that didn’t actually end up on SST/New Alliance in the 80’s and 90’s, but sonically speaking, damn well should have.

1. REIGN OF TERROR “Don’t Blame Me” (7 “ 45 on R.O.T. Records, 1983) This band’s molten metal/punk onslaught sound reminds me of nothing so much the great OVERKILL Triumph of the Will LP on SST proper, recorded around the same time, probably in the very same neck of SoCal. But all the info I’ve got on this one comes from the liners of Bloodstains Across California comp. LP, so I’ll quote ‘em here:

Ed Danky was the guitar player in WURM before Chuck Dukowski hooked up with Gregg (sic) Ginn and launched BLACK FLAG. The original WURM never had any recordings, but Ed put this band together not long before Chuck reformed WURM. It’s on ROT Records, but the address is the same one that SST used, so maybe Chuck lied.

Given the ugly legal battles pinning SST to the wall in ’83, I’m betting Chuck did.

2. ACROSS THE RIVER“N.O.” (unreleased demo, 1986) Truly, the beginning of everything bearing the Desert Rock toetag. ACROSS THE RIVER were from the low desert, and were Mario Lalli (YAWNING MAN, FATSO JETSON, SORT OF QUARTET, TEN EAST etc.), Scott Reeder (THE OBSESSED, KYUSS, NEBULA etc.) and Alfredo Hernandez (KYUSS, YAWNING MAN, VIC DU MONTE’S PERSONA NON GRATA, etc.). They were young and totally hot n nasty in a bitchen BLACK OAK ARKANSAS meets midperiod BLACK FLAG kinda way. Sadly, they were too early for all them just-post-hardcore kids to fully grok. Plans for a release on SST (working title: Live At County Line) never came to pass; but the RIVER still impressed the hell out of guys like Joe Carducci when holding down the opening slot for (I’m guessing here) BLACK FLAG INSTRUMENTAL sets. These guys are a big part of the lifeblood of pretty much all heavy rock n roll over the past 15 years. And one day, the RIVER demos will flood into cyber space, and every stoner rock jaw on this dying planet will drop a good 3 inches.

3. MAGNOLIA THUNDERPUSSY“Circle” (from the Starin’ Down the Sun CD on Mar Vista Records, 2004) This 1985 demo finally saw the light of day in 2004, after years of banishment in the land of 3rd gen. cassette-tape dupes played only on boomboxes of guys like SPAIN’s Josh Haden and the CHILI PEPPERS’ Flea. While it also caught the ear of Greg Ginn in the mid 80’s, the band broke up before anything was released. A real shame, too – since it rocks in real heartfelt, idiosyncratic fashion (though with more than one cut sounding as if written Under the Influence of the Meat Puppets). I can totally imagine these guys opening for, say, TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG and blowing them deadheads off the muthafuckin’ stage (no offense, Tom).

Now: when is somebody gonna let us finally hear the demos made by THUNDERPUSSY’s west LA pals EQUIDEMIUS, which (according to Joe Carducci) are just as righteous?

4. VELVET MONKEYS“Rock Party” (from the Houseparty CD on God Bless Records, 1998) Here’s a leftfield one: I stumbled across this thing is a CD bargain bin in Soho a while back, buying it cause it was recorded in ’85 and I half-dug the band they eventually morphed into (GUMBALL; saw em play a big WFMU benefit show at the Ritz in NYC once). And whaddaya know but there seems to be SST connections here as well. I can’t vouch for the veracity of any claims made here (the VM guy is a professional comedian), but I’ll shut-up and jumpcut to the important bit in the liners:

Michael Wittaker, aka “Spaceman” from SST Records had become a huge fan and put together a deluxe US tour to be capped off with a studio session for a new release on SST. The tour started off great, the VM’s double billed with Half Japanese, but as the weeks went by one calamity followed another. In the middle of a cornfield in Kansas at a place called the Outhouse the VM’s were billed with SST head honcho Greg Ginn’s power trio GONE. It was a particularly dry season and the only weed to be found was horrible headache inducing rag weed growing in the corn field. The VM’s discovered that GONE were in possession of some fine hashish and quickly put together a plan of action. A huge bag full of the offending hemp was tarted up to look like the real deal deal and a trade was completed. The VM’s van pulled away to the hacking coughs of a disgruntled GONE. Soon after, all label support ceased and the VM’s ‘Houseparty’ LP was shelved.

Donno how you feel about such things, but I’d say Greg’s decision here was based on some MIGHTY SOUND logic.

5. SPOT REMOVAL“Jigs: Durham/Smartly/Banish” (from SPOT’s Nae Plumb Nor Square CD on No Auditions, 2005) In the late 70’s, Spot was known primarily for his radical roller skating maneuvers in & around Hermosa Beach, CA. In the 80’s he led a nutso music project called ARTLESS ENTANGLEMENTS who had a couple indecipherably cryptic tracks on two seminal New Alliance/SST comps (Cracks in the Sidewalk and Chunks). And oh yeah: he was also the house producer in the early SST days, producing damn near EVERYTHING worth hearing on the label, up through like ’85 or so. This track is by an early 90’s band of his that specialized in a particularly twisted form of Celtic music. Here, Spot’s playing in a relatively-straightforward Dave Swarbrick style – though usually he sounds more like Martin Carthy wearing, like, pink tights and a Groucho Marx disguise. Bonus: Dave Cameron (ex-SWA and OCTOBER FACTION) is drumming here, so you know it’s charter-member SST.

Hot tip: anything you can scrape up by this Spot fella will make you sit up, bark 3 times, and crack a really, really wide smile. Start your search engines, gentlemen!

6. FISHCAMP“The Pac-Man Song” (downloaded from Phil Van Duyne’s FISHCAMP website) Anybody ever see these guys play? This is apparently what some of the SWA guys (ok, Dukowski and Van Duyne) did with ex-LAWNDALE drummer Dave Childs to pass time in Torrance after Merrill split to make commercials in Hollywood. They only released one song proper (on the TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA CD comp.) but threw up a few more tunes on their website for the 3 or so of us who care. And they sound AOK to my ears. Call me a new waver but ain’t this one kinda aping DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee”?!? Either way, with Dukowski on board, the whole thing is bumped up a big notch in the bitchen rockiness dept. Listening to this, I can totally imagine sitting on a folding chair in somebody’s driveway in Lawndale on a hot, smoggy August afternoon, sippin’ a cool bottle of Michelob, watching these aging geezers heave/ho their overweight asses through a fuck-me-if-this-ain’t-great set of ornery, jammin’ rockaction. Yeah!

7. VIDA“Cosmic Slop” (from The Dewey Bushmole Sessions, downloaded from the VIDA live internet archive) The UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS not withstanding, this is the most direct descendent of any of these post-SST supergroups (they featured Tom Troccoli, George Hurley, Dez Cadena and for a time Rob Holzman fr christsakes!), but boy did they pay for that connection. Sure, people came – but they came wanting . . . I dunno . . . “Thirsty and Miserable” or some such nonsense. What they got was just great, hard-hitting twin gtr bluesrock, with maybe a bit of mid-70’s ZAPPA thrown in somewheres (thankfully, minus the stand-up routines). But with Fireman Hurley aboard, their stuff had a whirlwind, hoppin’ modern edge to it as well. They put out a good self-titled CD, but I prefer their later, looser stuff – like this one, thankfully preserved in cyberspace by Mr. Tom Troccoli. Me, I can totally connect the dots: from hard bluesrock guys like JOHNNY WINTER, to FLAG, to this sound, and then on to wildass bluesy stoner stuff like Mario Lalli’s FATSO JETSON. I’m confident that, with time, you can too. And fuck you all but I’ve always reckoned Dez to have a wonderful, soulful voice – in all it’s occasionally cracking, out-of-tune glory. You can feel the notes/words he sings, and that’s all I ever ask of my singers. I really hope he returns from sidemanning to playing his kind of music again, and soon.

8. CARNAGE ASADA“Drive-By Sunday Afternoon” (from the Permanent Trails CD on Travisty Records, 1999) These animals gigged alot in the 90’s with the likes of SORT OF QUARTET and the reformed SACCHARINE TRUST. They whipped asses wherever they blew with a seriously heavy, charred noise that grooved through tortuous inner landscapes and burned through the void of outerspace, simultaneously. Layer on the deadeyed, underclass tales of violence and sickness, courtesy of Mr. George Murillo . . . and the end result is kinda like Hall of the Mountain Grill-era HAWKWIND backing a black Henry Rollins, circa Family Man at a modern-day Circus Maximus. SST? Well, Dave Markey (SIN 34, PAINTED WILLIE, We Got Power Films) drums, Dez Cadena plays some interstellar licks here and there, and Dave Travis (a guy who put together a bunch of wild SST happenings in unlikely locations in/around LA in the mid 80’s) churns the downtuned bass vibeology. The whole CD is great if grim & grimey, in an I-just-got-outta-countyjail-and-wanna-OD kinda way. More folks (outside these guy’s NA biddies) ought to’ve heard it, but by this date, good rock shit was routinely flying waaaay beneath the radar of contempo “indie” consciousness. Ah well. But a decade earlier . . . this woulda stood tall as prime SST agitprop, hairtriggered to explode in the face of every Springsteen/REM-worshipping critic littering the land. This is classic stuff. Now who’s gonna sell me their non-LP 7” 45?

BTW: do check out David Markey & Heavy Friends Vol. 1 internet comp. for a great collection of obscure stuff (inc. CHOP, RAYMOND PETTIBON’S SUPER SESSION, and THE POST TOASTIES) that I could’ve easily chosen to blabber about in this here post.

9. MECOLODIACS“Musicmind” (from their Glamjazz CD, Hazlewood Records, 1998) Post-UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF, which was of course post-SACCHARINE TRUST, which meant nothing short of total Baiza 6-string bliss. The MECOS were basically a striped-down, looser & grittier version of UCO. This broadened their appeal beyond typical jazzbo audiences to ensnare both unrepentant rocker dudes (me) as well as alot of them funky whiteboy DJ types you’d see roaming LA record stores in the 90’s. I saw em rip it up in a downtown LA artloft in ’96 – it was sooo cool. Seeing Baiza – wearing a big wide grin – combining those angular/oddball gtr runs of his with these totally earthy/primeval groovechords, all atop a hard hitting rhythm section (Rafa Gorodetsky & Wayne Griffin) . . . man, the whole place was bumpin’. Never will forget that.

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21 Responses to “NeareSST Relatives”

  1. mrowster April 12, 2007 at 7:09 am #

    Oh, and there’s more to come! Still haven’t blabbed about CURRENT SST offshoots – PUTTANESCA, THE CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET, THE UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS, etc. Check back.

  2. rico vanian April 15, 2007 at 12:54 am #

    I was in college during the sst heyday- 81-86. Since I the music editor of the school paper, and heavily into Punk, I got virtually everything sst released mailed to me. Some great stuff of course, but man, there was alot of substandard stuff too.

    good luck with the blog- i put your site on my blogroll.

  3. Kaspar April 15, 2007 at 11:18 am #

    Isn’t side two of “My War” really is the beginning of the Melvins? We can all go from there,right?
    I too have basked under the glow of SST and even saw people on the label buy Diga Rhythm Band, Jimi Hendrix and Grateful Dead LPs!
    And what was the story with the Stains LP?

  4. Dave Lang April 16, 2007 at 12:10 am #

    Great article; I’m going to link it tonight to Lexicon Devil when I get home from work.

  5. mrowster April 16, 2007 at 6:35 am #

    Kaspar:

    I’m sure Buzzo would agree.

    Oh yes! I too stumbled onto THE GRATEFUL DEAD via SST. Nothing shameful or unnatural about listening to live SACCHARINE TRUST back to back with a better Dick’s Picks set (say, vol. 24) as I am doing right now.

    And I’m not sure why that STAINS LP has been out of print for so long – it hasn’t appeared in catalogues since the mid 80’s. A reissue of that would be welcome and sell fr sure . . . but then I have fantasies of EVERY SST title eventually getting the deluxe 2-CD w/ 36-page booklet reissue treatment.

  6. rico canian April 17, 2007 at 4:01 am #

    Greg Ginn and Henry Rollins were both closet Deadheads. The famous “van” had a Steal Your Face sticker on one of the back windows. Henry once told me that Black Flag dreamed of having the Dead’s “Wall Of Sound” P.A. system.
    Besides, Rollins covered Franklin’s Tower after he left B.F.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  7. JB April 20, 2007 at 9:06 pm #

    Too funny. I may have to go through the old tape collection that is gathering dust at my folks place in the valley. I actually taped a “show” by Equidemius at Crossroads School in Santa Monica on my shitty little walkman in either late ’85 or early ’86 (was a Saturday afternoon concert w/the Treacherous Jaywalkers, Mustard and others). I taped it because of the rumored SST sound. I gotta say that the tape has been the source of much amusement over the years for those friends of mine that were there. For all I know, there was a soundboard recording but I doubt it. Heavy SST/Sabbath influence with the Waco Bros. (?) heavy riffing tearing it up. I seem to recall a clear Armstrong guitar or bass being played. What is amusing about it is that the vocals are not really present. So you get these great song intros and then only some vocals cutting in. But it is short, sweet and heavy. Not quite 10 East (that cd rulez by the way) but not operating on different planets either. I need to transfer the thing to CD before the tape is dust. Nice run through – I will need to check out some of this stuff. I am sure you are hip to the mystic SWA:

    http://vegasvortex.com/teachers.php

    JB

  8. mrowster April 20, 2007 at 9:24 pm #

    JB:

    This Equidemius tape of yours just HAS to reach cyberspace. Do what you can to get it there.

    We love the 10 EAST CD around these parts; word has it they’ll be pulling through London (where I live) with THE PERFECT RAT this summer. I don’t care who’s got grey hair – it’s gonna be goooood.

    • DCS October 23, 2013 at 6:09 am #

      I unearthed an old live cassette recording of Equidemius from a show they did on KCSB FM in Santa Barbara, CA probably around 1989 or thereabouts. I’ve posted on You Tube: http://youtu.be/Xk6XR-f78jc

  9. mrowster April 20, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    JB:

    Oh and LOVE IS THE LAW, LOVE UNDER SWA.

  10. The Automatik April 21, 2007 at 5:53 pm #

    Man, this is good stuff. I need to get my hands on some of this.

    BTW, I had the Velvet Monkeys CD back in the day and I wanted to like it SO MUCH but just never could get into it.

  11. Patrick May 16, 2007 at 9:01 pm #

    Hey, about the Stains LP, I got the story from another blog (now gone) where some of the members posted remarks. Apparently, the band took the record back from SST after not receiving royalties. It has not been reissued because of some disagreements over the rights to the album between guitarist Robert Becarra and original bassist Jesus Fixx (who doesn’t play on the record but wrote or co-wrote most of the songs with Robert).

  12. Phill December 28, 2007 at 11:56 am #

    I have a sneaking suspicion that I did see Fishcamp, although I couldn’t tell you much. I’m pretty sure I saw Vida, too.

  13. d. December 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm #

    can you please post the entire Across the River demo? i’ve been dying to hear it for years now

  14. mrowster December 28, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    I don’t have it. One day, bassist Scott Reeder will unleash it. Until then, well – we got all that bitchen FATSO JETSON/YAWNING MAN/BRANT BJORK stuff to keep us happy.

  15. caldato March 29, 2008 at 1:19 am #

    dude, sst was my life as you well know. it’s greg cameron not dave cameron that drummed for swa and october faction. oh, the many band jam tapes i have listened to from ’84…

  16. SheepShagger December 2, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Whoever has a tape of Equidemius – please put it up! I remember them from when I was going to SMC straight out of high school. I used to have some tapes of them but they were thrown out when I moved out of my mom’s place. They were very Black Sabbath/Hawkwind/Budgie influenced (with a touch of Davie Allan/Ventures type surf in there0 although I don’t know if Rich Waco, Rick Kirkpatrick and John Silverblatt had ever heard Budgie. A number of people offered to put out recordings by them but nothing ever happened due to Rick’s lifestyle (the name purportedly meant “a cruder form of a horse”, a reference to Rick’s habits.) Reportedly Rich is in very poor health now and no longer playing music, and I have no idea as to the whereabouts of the other members.

    • Shawn B. January 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Im a relative of the Waco’s, wasnt directly around them during that time, but my sister did a radio live music interview with them at College in Santa Barbara. Only Rich was in the band, bass. He has had health problems does not play music, but was shocked to hear people acknowledge them, because they were ahead of the curve, as many post-punk SST bands were.There are some recordings his brother has, but from where he lives in the south he pretty much put it down like this..’The only regrets he has about the whole equidemius experience, being in BlackFlag’s slip it in video, etc, is that the only history thats being written is by the (little rich brats)haters that were nobodys, late in the game garage bands, and that the drummer strolled off to Law School In NewYork with all the best recordings.He has been hoarding those recordings for years that alotta people would really be inspired by.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. mrowster - July 8, 2007

    It’s up. The sequel, I mean.

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  3. Heart Attack & Vine « Pig State Recon - May 15, 2008

    […] Jon, aka JB – did indeed discover this blog early on. In fact, there’s a comment from him on my very first post. He recently let me in on the fact that I’d queried him, 21+ years ago as a 16 yr. old […]

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