Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Found an old board recording of The Clutters from September 12, 1997 when we played the Gold Dollar in Detroit ... we're nimble as always, pretty well blasted and blasting through each number like an underwater fistfight, not our finest hour, but there is a good take on one of guiterrorist Ramirez's songs, a heavy outlaw number called "From Here To There" that we used to play all the time but never got to a studio. It's up now on the Clutters Myspace page.

I remember this particular night, the Clutters opening for Two Star Tabernacle and Easy Action ... I found the flier for this show reproduced in a book about the White Stripes because apparently Jack White was playing drums for Goober at the time. I don't recall that, but what I do remember is the joint emptying out halfway through Easy Action's headliner set to watch a vacant building behind the Gold Dollar go up in flames. EA joined the rest of us in the parking lot after they wrapped up, quietly drinking and considering the inferno -- standing next to John Brannon as the city burned was a quintessential Detroit moment for me.

Tyson and I have held preliminary practices for a hard country band lately, scoring ourselves a father/son rhythm section and drafting J. Blacktree for the voice. We tank up at the Tin Hat and then holler at each other for a while ... so far nothing that anyone else should have to listen to, but it's good to be loud again.

PS. Now that I consider it, I think you gotta see Easy Action, too ... sorry, guys. But seriously, this band is for real. "There's no pension plan for rock and roll," sez Brannon. "This shit for life."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More photos from our show at the Skylark available if you check out Tyson's Flickr page. Check out the radiant look on my face as we debut the new lineup. Finally, a reason to smile.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008


Face it, you don't have anything going on today, so shut up and watch the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers ... see them declare war on cops, educators, prohibition, organized sports and everything else, spreading more anarchy than any puny two-bit mohawked numbskull. At 3:40 Groucho launches into the greatest protest song ever written, "I'm Against It" (not the Ramones tune, but that one's righteous in its own right).

We had a fine showing yesterday for Xmas, more than in most years -- the weather eased up a great deal, but plenty of folks' official plans got scuttled nonetheless, so I had to deal with people all day long (thanks a lot, nature). I drank too much and ate too little, so the day was a total success. Unfortunately, the VHS copy of Silent Night Deadly Night Part 3 (the best installment of the series) I rented wouldn't play, robbing our guests of a true Christmas miracle. See you all next year, and not a minute before.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

As with every year since Lori and I moved to the Left Coast, we celebrate this most obnoxious of holidays by opening our doors to anyone with nowhere to go, or somewhere to go that they'd rather avoid. Christmas doesn't mean so much to me ... like New Year's Eve, the desperation to feel something that other people are apparently feeling drives many a good man out of his/her head, and it's a cliche even to bring it up, but the commercialization of the season makes me sick. To all of you who sincerely believe that Jesus Christ is mankind's saviour and mark the holiday by celebrating His birth, I wish you the warmest of holiday wishes ... for those of you decorating your house with plastic holly, cellulose tinsel and spray-on frost, I say leave me out of it. None of us need any more toys, and we already have the Fourth of July for celebrating America's withering dominance over the global marketplace. Check the tag on your festive Santa hat ... it's made in China out of flammable materials because they hate us.

That said, I welcome anyone in earshot to our house anyway, even if you think I hate you. We got plenty of liquor and candy and I just rented the entire Silent Night, Deadly Night series (well, except for Part 2, which is a total ripoff composed of flashback scenes to the original), so it's gonna be a riot. You haven't lived until you dig Mickey Rooney as "Joe Petto" the evil toymaker in Part 5, we got Clint Howard as slave to a coven of witches in Part 4 and just wait til you see what the great director Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter) does to the series in Part 3: You Better Watch Out! (I elaborate windily in this Allmovie.com review). We live in the Green Lake neighborhood, right by the Green Lake, so give me a call for directions, or email me for my phone number, or ask someone else. Or don't worry about it ... the weather is awful, and really, Christmas is just another day and it only has the power to oppress us if we let it. But because of all the pressure, some of our friends might feel lonely, and that is just obscene.

The Skylark gig came off much better than the Blue Moon, in that we were allowed to perform. For most of the day I didn't think it would happen, for although much of the ice on major roads had melted off, anything less traveled caused our Scion to spin and slip like a cat on buttered glass. And where it wasn't a solid slick there were great chunks of packed snow to dodge -- certain sections of the city are like a war zone. But the management didn't cancel and neither did we, so we played a ragged first set to no one (sorry, Summer and Andrew were there, but you know what I mean), which I felt fine about. I couldn't relax enough to enjoy myself, but that's usually the case no matter what I do, and I made it home alive and sober. So fuck all y'all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nuff said.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Well, I am proud to say that The End Times' reputation as Seattle's hardest band still stands, with no others even coming close ... the region has been hit with some Michigan-style heavy weather that this puny city struggles to withstand and comprehend. Since apparently salt is illegal out here, the roads are treacherous, as much for the layers of ice that remain as novice drivers with no idea how to navigate on slick streets (see illustration). As I'd crowed about in earlier posts, the band had negotiated a spot at the historic (some Beats visited once about fifty years ago) Blue Moon Tavern to unveil our latest girl singer Abigail on December 18, an appointment we took seriously, and we braved the elements to make our destination. As usual, bravery led to disappointment and disillusionment ... the bar was still open, but the other acts lost their nerve and cancelled by phone, the soundman decided to blow off the night and we didn't learn about it all til we arrived. We toasted our accomplishments regardless. After all, we booked it, we advertised it and we made it, so the seal has been broken and our first show is officially out of the way. Performing is only a tiny part of the equation. As a once-funny man once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

We'll do it again next Tuesday at the Skylark Cafe. The weather threatens to hold and even worsen, but we have no plans to concede.

PS. Happy Birthday, baby.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Maybe it's just the hangover talking, but I'm revisiting the Beatles' Hard Days Night LP today and finding it refreshing like a cold Coca Cola on an upset stomach. As a youngster (pre-drinking age) I used to listen to the Beatles all the time, because when you're young you haven't yet learned that they're the most consistently overrated pop group in history ... when you don't know anything yet it's easy to let pompous baby boomer rock crits convince you that they singlehandedly invented psychedelia or the rock opera, or that their cultural relevance is still as strong as it was back in the self-important 60s.

But this fawning, yawning chasm of obsequity eventually drove me away, as did the constant exposure to the Beatles catalog via radio and TV commercials, songs played so many times that they eventually faded into the background, as stimulating as Muzak. Jim Diamond taught me to appreciate the Hamburg-era Silver Beatles noise, when the Fab Four were gobbling amphetamines and blasting Chuck Berry tunes til they were hoarse and finger-blistered (those murky old bootlegs are hot, and Lemmy says they were great live at the beginning, so it must be true), but I got tired of the Beatles as a phenom long, long ago ... there have just been too many great bands with songs that equal or better the Beatles (Big Star -- nuff said) to keep slavishly playing those records. I don't have that kind of time.

But I'm currently finding new excitement in Revolver and the aforementioned HDN sountrack, both of which feature gems too perfect to completely ignore. A couple decades have passed since I last cared, so I guess my palate has been cleansed and I'm ready to hear those songs anew. But I haven't been wrong about my prejudices, far from it. Is Sarge Pepper still an insufferable ego trip that did more harm than good? You bet. Are the Monkees still way more fun to listen to? Absolutely. Is Paul McCartney still the biggest pussy in the music business, and is anyone who follows his career beyond the late 70s as big a pussy as he is? Indubitably. But that isn't gonna stop me from playing "I'll Cry Instead" on repeat all day long today just so I can hear John Lennon holler "I'll show you what yer lovin' man can do." That is a fucking moment.

Friday, December 12, 2008

L to R: Malcolm, Bon, Angus

Thanks to Kerri for taking photos of a recent End Times dress rehearsal ... I'm looking downright Nixonian in my middle age. We hit the studio again last night and completed three new demo tracks, which one can hear here.

"Eye On The Storm": I wrote this while living in Chicago, facing facts for the first time in my life. Giving in is the only freedom.

"To Fail With Grace": I wrote this a few weeks ago for Abi to sing, which she really does. A seasoned loser counsels a novice in the ways of the world.

"Got Caught Waiting": I don't remember when I wrote this, but I do know I was loaded at the time. They say someday it all catches up with you.

Thanks again to Conrad for allowing us to pay him for his services. We'll see any interested locals at the Blue Moon next Thursday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday a new neighbor in our apartment building knocked on our door to introduce himself and let us know he was planning a small party next Monday, so if the gathering got too loud to not hesitate to say so. As he was a stranger, I regarded him with suspicion and doubt until he left, at which point I realized that he was only doing what every respectful neighbor should do in such circumstances … what have I become? What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, it’s no excuse, but my nerves have been shredded as of late. I’ve been sleeping badly, plagued by vague nightmares in which the only threat is dread itself. Plus this cast in my mouth is killing me … the surgery itself and its aftermath was relatively painless, the torture comes from having stiff plastic wrapped around my teeth and adhered to the roof of my mouth. My tongue is raw from constant exposure and eating is difficult, which for someone like me with a sporadic appetite equals malnutrition. Work at the office is oppressive, moreso than usual, so I’m doubting my worth as a productive adult and despairing of spending the next twenty years (if I’m lucky enough to live and remain employed that long) in fluorescent cubicles. Lori aside, the band is the only thing I feel confident about – we sound great and we look great and I don’t care who disagrees with me. After so many long months of worry over The End Times’ future, this strength buoys me. But I still feel like biting someone.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What's that? Yeah, I noticed too. It's all a big, stupid mistake and I'm really angry about it. Let's just ignore the whole thing, okay?
The End Times' initial recordings were made at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit, MI on 7-07-2007. Jim Diamond officiated. Five songs were pressed into CD-R form and distributed casually, but earned airplay on local station KEXP 90.3FM nonetheless. We have just learned that these recordings are eligible to be chosen as one of KEXP's "Top 90.3 of 2008," in which listeners may vote for as many as ten 2008 releases to be judged as the top ... well, you get the idea. If you're the type of person who goes in for this kind of thing, I certainly encourage you to click this link and give The End Times a running start at being roundly defeated by a bunch of bands I've never heard. After all, you cannot lose if you do not play.

In related news, The End Times return to Egg Studios on Thursday to continue documenting the new lineup. I'll let you know if anything happens.

Monday, December 08, 2008


OK, so like I was saying, I joined Facebook for some reason and within days was friendsterd by a couple dozen people who date back to my early 20s, a time of great enjoyment and strife for me that took many years to reconcile. Some folks I'd been in constant contact with since leaving East Lansing, MI, others I hadn't spoken to or even thought of in years, and then the photos started coming ... everybody apparently had cameras back then, I don't remember that part, but the deluge of memories has been jarring for me. Aside from the shock of comparing old and new versions of friends I'm still in touch with (when you see people on a regular basis, you don't quite see them age) and being faced with people I was once close to but now have no feelings for, there was the narcissistic thrill of gazing upon myself at such a vulnerable stage of my life. For better or worse, my personality took root in East Lansing and that's where I became the person I'd continue to be, so looking back to that age repels and attracts in equal measure. I was in as many places as I could be back then, so I figure in a number of photos, drunk, sober, on stage, at parties, with friends and enemies alike, and for some reason I seem to be wearing the same two shirts in all of them.

I was in a band then called El Smasho, and as we were the loudest thing going at the time, we ruled our backyard for a year or two. We released three 7" singles, played every fucking weekend and took out of town gigs whether it made sense or not (we went down really well in Flint, but otherwise crickets). We were at it for three years and change, a huge chunk of a person's life when that person is only 24 years old and doesn't have anything to compare it to ... the band set me on whatever path I'm on now, and while I cringe at many of the decisions I made then both social and artistic, there's nothing I regret. Looking back, I think I can say that El Smasho were a great band that wrote some pretty lousy songs ... on a good night we were enormous, but each of us wanted the band to do different things (except Tim, he just wanted to play drums) and we all had different ways of spending our free time, so it sputtered to a close in 1994.

These are the best of the El Smasho-related photos that have been recently Facebooked. So many doors I thought I'd closed, so many conclusions I thought I'd drawn ...

Gettin' serious at some co-op party. This photo ran on the front cover of the MSU newspaper's Welcome Week edition one year ... less a statement of our local popularity and more about having good friends who ran the rag.

Early attempt at "attitude." Utterly retarded.

Practice space.

El Smasho was protected onstage (and off) by The Smashettes, at first a trio but gradually a duo of broads far tougher than any of us pansies. Yes, they looked great, but they seriously earned their keep at crowded basement shows, standing in front of the band with their baseball bats and deflecting bodies when the energy of the pit got too strong. They were as much a part of the band as any of us, and we once pulled out of a show with a restrictive door policy that refused to admit the girls as bandmembers. After they quit, there wasn't much of anything left.

Early press shot. I had the flu that day.

Our first recd, featuring "Clown In The Family," the only song the four of us wrote together, and "Red Devil," the only song Brian and I wrote together.

Second release, with "Notorious," which I never thought much of back in the day but now recognize as a true teenage blues classic ... "I know I'll never stop loving that girl/But I hate her too much to be her friend." That's a great line, Tom.

Final vinyl. "Foster Brooks" might be the first honest song I wrote. With lines like "You fucking bitch, you put a spell on me" and "I'll marry anyone who wants me," I'm clearly taking a proud stand as an angry, confused, immature time bomb waiting to explode on someone's front door step at four in the morning. But my music is still my only revenge ... I have a few copies of this one left if you need one.

The Dave Hill often joined us on stage to showcase his own anarchic style of performance art ... that is, HIS LIFE.

Tom and me onstage at the 1993 MSU "Homegroans" show, a local rock fest that drew some 500 souls ... probably the peak of El Smasho as both a creative and a financial venture.

Terri and Brian onstage at the same gig.

Tom Deja and his hammer, same gig.

May I take a moment to point out that this is a pure, totally non-ironic action shot? I REALLY BELIEVED, MAN. I still do.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Me at the height of my powers. Thanks for capturing the moment, Kathy ...

Friday, December 05, 2008

This is how I remember the early 1990s ... me hugging girls I'd only vaguely recall fifteen years later, Tom Potter smoking as much as humanly possible, and Mark Deming effortlessly being the coolest motherfucker in the room. Oh, and Soren was there too.

Within the hour I'll be strapped to a chair with knives in my mouth. I'm having grafting surgery to repair some gum recession, so if over the next few weeks you see me in the street (yeah, right, like I'm ever out on the street) and I don't give you a warm smile and stop to make small talk with you, well, this time I have an excuse. I'll have an oral bandage over part of my front teeth, so til it heals, mouth movements will be minimal. I've had this procedure before for a different part of my mouth, they cut out a chunk of my upper palate and then sew it in where its needed ... sounds nightmarish, but with lorazepam and nitrous oxide it's actually fairly pleasant and passes before you know it, and then they give you vicodin as a consolation prize. I filled up the Ipod with surgery-appropriate music (Stackwaddy, Electric Banana, Venom, Blue Cheer) and I can't wait.

I promise more skunky old photos stolen from Facebook in future posts as I gain the strength to face my past ... the nostalgia in that place is often overwhelming.

Thursday, December 04, 2008