We went to Toronto a little while ago and played at a three show sort of festival that centered around the band Fucked Up. We played three shows, one of them was us on the radio and also being interviewed. I found this footage of us playing the second night, so what the heck...here it is, in all of its..uh..splendor:
Friday, November 30, 2007
CARTOON ARTWORK I DID FOR THE BAND VALIENT THORR AND THE SONG, "EXIT STRATEGY". IT WAS DONE A YEAR AGO, AND WAS A FUCKING LOT OF WORK.
A year ago, the bearded rock band Valient Thorr requested the assistance of one Charles Cardello to make a video for one of thier songs, which has a pretty direct political message. They needed some cartoon animation from someone who could draw but has never done anything like that before...so they got me. It was four months of sweating bullets and hard work. I drew so much it seemed like my arm would fall off. I don't think I will be giving Disney any competetion soon but all in all it came out pretty good. So here it is. P.S. There are a lot of little references scattered about. So good luck.
Posted by brian walsby at 2:27 PM
This interview was done on my very first visit to S.F. to hang out with these guys. They had just restarted the Melvins with Lori Black on bass, and it was literally ground zero for these guys, who were starting over in a new town. They had played just one show at this point. They were writing the material that ended up being on "Ozma". No one liked them or heard of them. I remember watching them practice and taking pictures and just being floored. I couldn't believe it! I have fond memories of that trip, and on the last night I interviewed them for NOT YET DECIDED. This actually has a lot of historical interest. You might like it.
Brian: Buzz, since you have been in the band all along, why don't you give us a very brief but uh...but..
Brian: Concise. Give us a concise history.
Buzz: I'm Buzz. I started the Melvins. (laughter) No, I helped. Me and two of my friends started the band about five years ago,probably...Me, Matt and Mike. We kicked out or we dumped Mike or he left or whatever..We got Dale, and me and Dale decided to move down here and start the band without Matt. And it seems to be a..a very mutual agreement.
Brian: You are cutting a very big chunk of history out of here.
Lori: You just skipped over a couple of years. Three years.
Brian: Didn't you exist as a band?
Buzz: Yeah, we existed as a band. We did a couple of records that so far have been really unsuccessful, did a couple of tours and stuff.
Brian: So you are pretty much a unsuccessful band.
Buzz: Yeah, we are the unwanted Melvins.
Brian: Until now.
Buzz: Yeah, we got record companies beating down our doors. "We want to sign you! Here is a whole bunch of money."
Dale: (singing) "We are the world's forgotten band.."
Buzz: "The one no one can understand"..
Brian: Why did the Melvins break up and then reform down here?
Buzz: Well, all it was was that I wanted to leave the place where I was living, come down here and start a new band or something. That was last October. I really hated it. I just wasn't happy and so I moved down here.
Dale: We wanted to move down here a long time ago.
Buzz: Yeah, we always talked about it.
Dale: Things were going slow in Aberdeen (Washington).
Buzz: We didn't like Aberdeen, had shitty jobs there.
Dale: He had the opportunity..
Buzz: ..so I moved down here.
Dale: Then I had the opportunity. So I did.
Buzz: We had to talk it over and it became more obvious after awhile that our bass player wasn't...it's just better this way because it is a mutual thing where I now understand a whole lot better that we shouldn't have been together in the first place, so you know..we just kind of grew apart. This is a lot better situation for everyone involved.
Brian: For diplomacy and trivia buffs, Matt is in a new band.
Buzz: Mudhoney, who we haven't heard.
Brian: And Lori is the new bass player. You used to be in the band Clown Alley. Care to comment?
Lori: It was a lot of fun.
Brian: Is that it?
Brian: Why did the band break up?
Buzz: No drummer.
Lori: We got sick of looking for drummers, and our guitarist decided to move back to England.
Dale: They were a good band.
Brian: Do you like being in the Melvins.
Lori: Oh yes.
Buzz: It's like, "The Melvins? I have heard of those guys but they have girls in their band and with a name like that? Ha ha ha ha.."
Brian: Alright, let's do a quick vinyl rundown. Your first stuff was on that "Deep Six" compilation that had no distribution. That was like 1985, right? You had like three or four songs on it?
Buzz: Yeah, it was alright. That was back when we were listening to a lot of Void and stuff like that.
Brian: A year later you put out that six song single, right?
Dale: My mom paid for it.
Dale: (in a deadpan voice) My mom paid for it.
Buzz: Yeah, Dale's mom put in some money. It's on C/Z records, too.
Brian: That is hard to get, right?
Buzz: I think..actually, I think that the guy has like seven hundred of them sitting in his house. For some reason he won't sale it to distributors.
Brian: And then the Alchemy Records deal for "Gluey Porch Treatments".
Buzz: They said they wanted to do a record with us. They put up the money to do the record and now..it's not in the stores! It's not getting distributed. Supposedly it is all over the world but we have gotten like two letters from people who said they got it. And we have heard from at least a number of people who have said that they would like to get the record but just can't find it anywhere. We're hoping to find a better label to..communicate with a lot better.
Brian: Out of all of the stuff that you have done so far, what are you the most happy with?
Buzz: I like the album the best..even though if I had to do it over again now I would do them differently. There are some things there that I am not happy with, but that is how it basically is with any band, you know? They are not happy with everything. (sarcastically) No, our record is the best, you know?
Dale: We just recorded it and never listened to it. It's..
Buzz: I never listen to it. In fact, I don't even remember a lot of the songs on it. I don't even know the order of the songs. I just don't listen to our stuff, you know?
Brian: The few people I know that like you guys all say the same thing.."I can't make out a word that guy is saying." Is that done on purpose?
Buzz: Uh no...that is just the way that I sing.
Brian: And it almost seems like that you have an aversion to people understanding what you are saying. Is that why there is no lyric sheet in the record?
Buzz: We never had any plans for a lyric sheet. Had a lot of plans for this record that we wanted to do but it never happened, you know? Not because of us, but because of communication with the record company. Things just didn't work out. Anyways, lyric wise I am more concerned with how the whole band sounds as a whole, the voice along with the instruments.
Brian: So it is like the voice to you is like a whole other instrument?
Buzz: Yeah, it is. The lyrics..I feel..if I put down the lyrics I fell they could really easily be misinterpreted as something that they are not, and I am not going to be there in someones living room to be able to describe to them what I was talking about. It is like if you put a lyric sheet in there you think it's clear enough that people will understand them.
Brian: You like the idea of people trying to figure it out for themselves?
Buzz: Well yeah, that is okay..if there is a lyric sheet in a record I will read them but its like..lots of the albums that I like had no lyric sheets in them and it didn't stop me from liking them, you know?
Lori: I could understand a lot of the Melvins lyrics before I knew them.
Buzz: I have a hard time writing lyrics. You read our lyrics. What did you think of them?
Brian: They were pretty good. I really liked the ones about Ronald Reagan and nuclear war.
Buzz: Yeah, the anti-war song.
Brian: So you guys just played your first show down here at the famous Maximum Rock And Roll club, huh? How did it go?
Buzz: The mighty MRR? (Laughter)
Dale: It went alright. We got paid.
Buzz: They paid us well. They paid us as much as we ever got living where we used to live.
Dale: They asked us back so I guess that they liked us.
Buzz: (sarcastically) We are playing there again with the world famous Vandals, who we played with before, and who love us..loved us to death, and we love them. They are hot...they are really good.
Brian: Yeah I bet. Well, since we are on the subject of other bands, let's hear that Die Kreuzen story!
Buzz: This was way before Lori was in the band, she was in Clown Alley and they came up to Seattle to play a show, and Die Kreuzen were on the same bill. And before the show, I was walking around and I went up to their singer and I was talking to him and I said, "yeah I like your seven inch and I like your new album". What is it, "October Files"? is that it? I kinda didn't like the middle one and I said something to that effect. I was basically giving the guy a compliment, you know? I thought that his records were good and he basically blew me off and made me feel real stupid for having an opinion about that record. He treated me like a jerk and I was real pissed off. So for the rest of the night, Me and Matt were just walking around bugging the shit out of them. We'd go up to them and say (in a really redneck hick accent) "Hey, I got a fanzine! I was wondering when we can do a really long interview?" and we'd just say it to them over and over.
Then we switched to a Texas accent and say stuff like, "Are you guys in Diiiiie Kruezen?!" (laughter) They were trying to move their gear and we kept getting in their way like we were trying to help them, just doing it a million times.
Lori: Getting in their way, saying this stuff over and over..they never cracked a smile.
Buzz: They were just stoned face, staring at us, you know? We are just bugging them and this went on for at least an hour. We ended up chasing after them in their van as they were trying to drive away from the club. (stupid accent again) "Wait! Wait! We really want to do this interview!! It was really funny, you would have had to been there.
Brian: No, it sounds great. How about the Seven Seconds story?
Buzz: (maliciously) Seven Seconds. That is one band that..I dunno, I am just not into it. We played a show with him and all of the rest of them were nice except for the singer. I don't know..he never said anything to us, which is fine with me. So we just stood by the side of the stage while they were playing and screamed at hem throughout their entire set. (laughter) We were screaming at them about stuff like trying to sell them acid and pot and stuff like that. And we also screamed at them to play "Freebird" and "God of Thunder" over and over. Between songs, you'd hear us going, "PLAY FREEBIRD, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!! PLAY IT, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!!" And he was getting really pissed off and it was really funny.
Brian: Alright, well back to the band. It seems like your popularity is based on word of mouth or something.
Buzz: No, our popularity comes from all of the massive advertising that Alchemy did for the record. I think a lot of bands, not to name any names, but a lot of bands on these major independent record labels. If they weren't on these labels..the only reason that people like these bands is because they are on these labels. if they weren't on these labels no one would give a shit.
Brian: Lori, do you get any shit for being a woman in a band?
Lori: Not actually, no. Not when we played. A lot of people like to perpetuate the myth of the female musician. It lives on.
Brian: My prediction for you guys is that some of the very same people that didn't like your band will be coming around to you in a few years.
Buzz: Well, I think that those people that might end up liking us now aren't even going to remember seeing us when we played. We played shows with bands like Beyond Possession and RKL on the tours that we did and both of those bands play a lot faster kind of music then we do, and are a lot more accessible to these kids that want to skank or whatever, you know. When we played, it was a lot easier for them to go "they suck", and then wait for the good band to play. I wouldn't think that they bothered to remember. But our music is a little bit different now. I think if we keep practicing and playing..it'll be alright.
Brian: You seem to practice a lot and are pretty tight at this point.
Buzz: Well, that depends on what night you see us practice! I don't want to get too big headed about things, like thinking (in an obnoxious voice) "Yeah yeah we are cool..yeah we are really good!" You know, it will just fall apart, I know it. I always try to write new songs and I am always looking ahead on things to do. I don't want o put out the same record over and over. I just think that there are too many bands milking these trends. There have been a lot of bands that I once thought were really great a couple of years ago and they have really disappointed me. I don't want to be one of those bands. I don't want to name names.
Brian: Like maybe Black Sabbath?
Buzz: Those guys suck! (laughter)
Dale: They suuuuuck!
Buzz: We don't like Black Sabbath at all!
Brian: Yeah, I could tell. Did you guys ever dress up as members of Kiss for Halloween?
Dale: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Buzz: Dale's mom has pictures of him dressed up as one of the members.
Dale: I was Paul Stanley.
Buzz: Lori, what about you? You gotta have some bass playing influences, right?
Buzz: What bass players do you like? Mike from NO-FX? (laughter)
Lori: Yeah..Mike form NO-FX, Malcolm from Christ on Parade..
Buzz: The new bass player from RKL!! (laughter)
Brian: It is funny that you said Mike from NO-FX. I can see it!
Lori: Well, not just as a bassist, but as a person, too.
Brian: ..spiritual guidance.
Lori: Yeah..he really holds the lantern for me..John Entwistle..
(the phone rings. It is for me.)
(I leave to answer it.)
Buzz: (to Dale) I'll ask you a question..what do you think about that slut Walsby?
Dale: Aw, the band slut? He's just over here like, "the band the band" and all of that stuff..
Buzz: He just chats those bands up!
Dale: He's going to get all kinds of diseases!
Buzz: Every band that comes to town, he is all over them, just to be cool..here Dale, finish up the interview.
(Buzz and Lori assists the band slut with directions over the phone.)
Dale: Okay. So what do you have to say about all of the new bands that are starting out, Dale? "well, first..you gotta have a formula, you know? Play fast. Nobody plays fast anymore. You can pick up a guitar and learn a few chords and then play really fast. But first you need a real slow part. I can demonstrate. (starts to make guitar noises slowly) DAH.. DAH...DAH... DAH..DAH......1234! (speeds up superfast) DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH..
(tape runs out. The End!)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
(THIS ARTICLE IS AT LEAST SIX YEARS OLD..MAYBE MORE. IT IS KIND OF STUPID BUT WHAT THE HECK... HERE IT IS...)
I wrote about a few bands a few issues ago & used the phrase "Wuss Rock", to articulate a few things. A few months later, my friend John (who plays guitar in the local Metal band Iscariot.) e-mailed me & asked me what recent "Wuss Rock" I had been checking out lately. That & a few other incidents have made me proud to think that perhaps I have spearheaded a label for all the wussy music a lot of us like but face ridicule for enjoying. I don’t seem to know what could define "Wuss Rock", but I think some of the traits might include the following:
Music that has a certain grace to it, a non-macho thing. Maybe even rock music that females like.
Lyrics that at times center around confusing feelings involving the opposite sex, occasionally even non-gender specific lyrics about confusing feelings. (I know what some of you are thinking: "Fag." Yeah, whatever.)
Rock music that features other emotional qualities besides, "let’s fucking rock!" or "isn’t this loud stuff annoying? How liberating. I feel like a badass!"
"Badass" probably wouldn’t be words to describe the following bands that I have included here in this article. A lot of people I’m sure hate most of this shit, & that it gets on their nerves, or that its "gay" or whatever. I understand all of that. But to play "Wuss Rock" & pull it off, to sing like some of these people, takes more nerve & guts then a roomful of Lemmys, Ted Nugents or Bon Scotts.
Nothing against Bon Scott, mind you. He was a badass.
SHUDDER TO THINK: When I think of the term "Wuss Rock", I think of the recently deceased Shudder To Think. Originally a post hardcore Dischord records band, they grew by leaps & bounds & annoyed everyone within earshot who wasn’t into them. Most of this, heck.all of it, fell on the shoulders of the bands lead singer Craig Wedren, whose fey vibrato drenched art rock voice was the deciding factor in anyone’s enjoyment of the band. Everytime I saw this band play live, they would enrage people due to the fact that the stage vibe was fairly homosexual, which they played on to great effect. The rock god sexual poses of goateed guitarist Nathan Larson didn’t help either. But if you were on their side, it was fucking great. One time between songs, I witnessed Craig bending down delicately & biting into a ginger root that was placed near his mikestand, along with a glass of water, which he sipped. It was too much! The last time I saw them was opening for Pavement. A lot of the audience did not like them AT ALL & they rose to the challenge by playing a great set, pouting & posing times ten! Not since the heyday of the early Melvins have I seen such a glaring example of "audience versus band." I will miss these "Wuss Rock" pioneers.
WHAT TO CHECK OUT: "Pony Express Record" on Epic records. A masterpiece.
JEFF BUCKLEY: Okay, he is dead. & Oh yeah, he was also very good looking. Oh! & There is a very soulful & romantic dreamy quality to his music. Women loved & threw bras at him onstage. Most of the guys I know think that he was "a pussy". I can’t think of a finer "Wuss Rock" recommendation then that.
& Although its true that there is a tendency to romanticize the dead, let’s face it, Jeff Buckley was a pretty daring guy that was all over the map & held it together with his hard to pinpoint singing, which was kind of like Robert Plant meeting Chris Cornell at forty five speed. His only real record "Grace" continues to influence & amaze, & the fairly recent live recording "Mystery White Boy" is a great example of Jeff & his band in the live setting. My girlfriend pointed out to me that one of the things that she likes about Jeff is that his singing is pretty fearless, & that he was not afraid to sound ridiculous. & Even that sometimes his singing was kind of bad, but since it was so daring it suddenly became good. I never thought of it that way.
Jeff Buckley: "Wuss Rock" explorer.
SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE: I haven’t heard a note from this band until I picked up the recent "Rising Tide" C.D., which is easily a recent "Wuss Rock" fave of mine. The playing & the guitars are often big & expansive, but it is all very melodic & the vocals of Jeremy Eniqck come on like a sensitive blend of (get ready for this) Geddy Lee & Cat Stevens. & I THINK ITS FUCKING GREAT. The dense shimmering sometimes "Kashmir"-ish wall of guitars further cements their obvious "Wuss Rock" status. Like Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren, Jeremy’s voice will be the deciding factor in whether you think these guys are a bunch of sissies or not.
KATATONIA: Not since the days of the early Cure has a band achieved such a rabid ascent to owning the mantle of dark depressing "Wuss Rock". From Sweden, Katatonia started out as a silly kind of extreme death metal kind of band. But slowly they mutated with each release until they came out with the epic "Discouraged Ones" a few years back, which is a record so good that even after a thousand spins I still like
Just as much as the first time. Poundingly heavy yet delicately sad & dark, "Wuss Rock" just wouldn’t be what it is without Katatonia putting a new wrinkle on the map. New album out soon.
SMASHING PUMPKINS: There is a huge offramp in "Wuss Rock Expressway" that goes straight to "Guilty Pleasure City", & this is where the Smashing Pumpkins live for me. I think the hardest thing I will ever do is try to defend this band, for there is a lot to hate about them, & yes, they are pretty "wussy". But the couple c.d.’s that I have tucked away far from prying eyes reveals a lot of heavy dense guitar riffing set against pillow biting arrangements & the annoying (to put it lightly) singing of head baldie, Billy Corgan.
His singing is so bad that I kind of dig it in a Celtic Frost "Cold Lake" sort of way, but really, if you take away the singing you are stuck with a "Wuss Rock" band firing at all engines. Has anyone ever sat through the entire "Mellon Collie" double c.d.? Well, I have! Several times! & Besides, in the end of the day, liking a band like this is the most punk rock thing I could imagine. Anyways, since they have called it a day, it is now officially okay to come out of the closet & say, "y’know…I like some of their songs!"
KING’S X: Another band I have liked for years, King’s X is a power trio of spiritually moving/old guys that somehow embellish certain elements of "Wuss Rock" without fully falling into the form of it. I have seen these guys once & it was like being inside a church made up of the sort of people that love Rush & wear baseball caps. People were hooting & hollering over EVERY single note they played while they just smiled & soldiered on, surrounded by candles. I know a lot of people think these guys blow, but I don’t think anyone has really heard any of their records, which is too bad, because they are all good listens. King’s X tried for years to get noticed by mainstream America but it didn’t quite work, so now they just continue to play their borderline wussy YET heavy rock to sell-out places around the country. Bass player Doug Pinnick intrigues me as well. Who else do you know is fifty years old playing loud rock music that has intelligently deviated from his religious beliefs, clarified that he was not heterosexual, & in the process has been a bigger threat to Christianity then a thousand Glen Bentons ever could? Hey, go on line & you’ll see what I am talking about.
THE POSIES: From the Grunge capital comes the often-ignored Posies. Heavily praised in only the wussiest of wussy power pop publications, the Posies had been criminally ignored for almost all of the years in their existence, the closest that they came to being noticed was during the time that their 1993 c.d.
"Frosting on the Beater" came out. And even then they were sort of ignored, due to the rage of the then current grunge explosion. It seems that no one had any time for songs like "Flavor Of The Month" & "Solar Sister", which both feature ass kicking powerhouse wuss rock combined with the vocals of Kenneth Stringfellow & Jon Auer, two guys who could actually (try this one on for size.) SING AND HARMONIZE BETTER THEN ANYBODY DURING THAT TIME! Seriously. And "Frosting on the Beater" is definitely the bands landmark release. Jon & Ken did time in the semi recent Big Star reunions, which is ironic since besides playing with some of their heroes, they also got a chance to join the likes of Big Star as being seminal wuss rock pioneers like their heroes! It’s a weird world that we live in!
INTO ANOTHER: Who said former straight edge punkers can’t make wuss rock? This now defunct New England band started when two ex members of some famous crappy hardcore band combined forces with a death metal bass player & a "classically trained" (always a bad sign.) guitarist. The end result was a sound that fused sissy emotive vocals with Bad Brains like fervor & wacky arrangements as a bonus. The major label c.d. I liked, "Senseless", vanished without a trace, & Into Another vanished without a trace. Buncha pussies….
THE LEFT BANKE: The true pioneers of wuss, the Left Banke were perhaps the first true example of wuss rock, as their pioneering sound was lush & deeply melodic at the same time. If you buy the "Calm Before the Storm" anthology, you will hear more fey harmonies & harpsichord then anywhere in your entire life. & A lot of the tunes definitely rock, in that wussy kind of way. Everyone knows about their oldies station hit "Walk Away Renee", but that is just the tip of the iceberg where these sixties sissies are concerned. & They just don’t make songs prettier or more dainty then "Ivy" or "Pretty Ballerina". When I think of today’s emo rockers carrying on on their guitars & bleating out their (to their minds, anyways) heartfelt lyrics, all I can think about is how all of those guys need to be force fed the Left Banke to see how it is really done. At times, they are even more cloying then the Beach Boys. That says a lot.
SHOES: I think that these guys were from the Midwest or something, & that they enjoyed the briefest amount of success in the early eighties, when they were lumped in with all of the other "new wave" bands of the time. The Shoes were more or less the sappiest example of "power pop" that I could imagine, way more cutesy then the Raspberries, only with snappier arrangements & economical playing. The album, "Present Tense" is the kind of record that would have probably gotten your ass kicked if you were in junior high at the time of its release. From the first note to the last, lush sounding understated catchy tunes about the opposite sex where the word "GIRL" is mentioned so much you’ll want to hurl at the end of it all. But as far as wuss rock goes, it’s a pretty great little record. Bonus points for the semi-arty front cover featuring all of the Shoes with their feathered back hair looking moody & in pain. One of them looks just like Alex Van Halen, too! Amazing. Killer cuts: "Tomorrow Night", "Now & Then" & "I Don’t Want To Hear It".
THE CURE: The undisputed kings of eighties wuss rock, if you think about it. The influence of the Cure is extremely widespread, showing up even in extreme heavy metal of all things, to great effect I might add. What is it about these early eighties English poofters that seems so engaging? Yes, there is the gender-bending look & the death rock pose, but at the end of the day it has to be leader Robert Smith & his songwriting & pained wuss rock voice. Face it, a lot of their output is pretty great & a lot of it holds up pretty well. Try spinning "Faith", "Seventeen Seconds" or "The Top" for obvious proof of some of the finest (& most dramatic, I might add.) wuss rock ever put down on tape. "Pornography" is probably my favorite release by the Cure, but its overall effect is DEFINITELY not wuss rock, more kind of like a attention seeking thirteen year old threatening to kill him/herself by swallowing a bunch of baby aspirin.
But up until "Head on the Door", the Cure hit paydirt in the wuss rock mining fields.
PAUL McCARTNEY: The master of wuss rock. I am here to stand up for Paul because although he will never be as cool (or as dead) as his former songwriting partner, Paul wrote a lot of great songs that one tends to forget about. I mean, think about it for a minute. & Not just the Beatles, there is a handful of solo songs that are in all honesty pretty cool, like "Jet" & "Junior’s Farm", for instance. I am sure a few of you are now sitting there thinking to yourselves, "y’know. He’s right…that song is pretty kick-ass!" Plus there are a lot of other non wuss-rock qualities to Paul. Did you know that he’s been a painter for years? That is pretty cool. & Did you know that he actually did a musical collaboration with Alan Ginsberg when he was alive? I bet that was probably pretty interesting. & Did you know that he wrote "Helter Skelter?" I mean, think about it…that’s also pretty cool. I will not, however, defend his duet with the clown prince of wusiness, Michael Jackson, so don’t worry.
I could go on & on but I will stop here. Wuss Rock. Are you man enough to dig it?
Posted by brian walsby at 1:14 PM
AN INTRODUCTION TO GREG SAGE AND THE WIPERS by Brian Walsby.
It may have been when I was in eleventh grade in high school when I first heard the Wipers. I think that it was on the infamous L.A. radio show "Rodney On the Roq", which was hosted by notorious L.A. rock personality Rodney Bingenhiemer. By this time I was this little kid who was discovering all kinds of new music to listen to, & by that time I was completely into the hardcore punk rock scene of underground music that was happening & was very new, fresh & exciting. The Wipers song in question was "Romeo", from one of their early singles. I didn’t know if they even had records out. Turns out they had a few, & that they were from Portland, Oregon & that the bandleader, Greg Sage, had formed the band in the late seventies.
But going back to the song "Romeo" for a second. It completely blew me away with its desperation & power. It wasn’t quite like a lot of the stuff I was really into at the time but it obviously had something to it that made me curious. I remember a little while later reading a interview with Greg Sage in a early issue of the magazine Maximum Rock & Roll (which was actually in those early days quite a good magazine to
read.) The interview really impressed me. Greg Sage seemed to me like a really smart, really individualistic
kind of person. He seemed to strive for complete control of his music & his vision, preferring to home build all of his own gear, produce his bands records in basements instead of actual studios. He also offered this prophetic viewpoint of what was going on at the time: "I have a lot of respect for hardcore punk rock but how do you classify music without putting limits on it? We tend to attract more individualistic types. People who decide for themselves whether they like us or not." After that, I became a fan. The Wipers have something like eleven records out, & I honestly think all of them are good. There are some that I like better then others but if you think about it, that is a incredible track record. Greg Sage’s vision of his band has remained virtually untouched over the years. His original idea of putting out a massive body of work with as little interference from anybody has to be admired. His refusal to play the game has also admittingly meant that besides a very loyal cult following, no one really knows much about this band, & never will. But for those who are willing to open themselves up to the Wipers, there are many rewards. Wipers records are epic testimonies to individualism & the sacrifices that come with it; being misunderstood, being lonely, feeling like you don’t fit in with anything, & the quiet power of melancholy feelings. There is something unique about this band that makes virtually EVERYTHING that they have done perfect music for rainy days, or snow, or hanging out in your room at three in the morning staring out of a window into darkness. Greg Sage’s lyrics perfectly articulate confronting some of the more confusing aspects of life, & then crushing the negativity with a statement about it. Never before did alienation feel so good.
Then there is the guitar. Crushing. Huge. Not in a typical "rock" sort of way, but Sage’s guitar playing is easily some of the coolest I have ever heard. The only reference point that I think I can see is maybe Neil Young sometimes, & that is only a compliment. Whether doing delicate runs or piercing frenetic single note attacks, the mans playing is simply fucking awesome, dude.
Before I run down a few of my favorite Wipers records to try to explain the appeal, let it be known that this isn’t for everybody. A lot of the Wipers stuff takes time to grow on you. & the singleness of Sage’s songwriting means that sometimes he repeats himself, which is perfectly understandable after twenty plus years of recording. The Wipers sound is pretty basic on the service, like one song over & over. I don’t think that is true, but even if that is the case, what a great song!
IS THIS REAL? l.p. (Issued in 1980, I think. Re-issued by Sub Pop some years ago, after Nirvana got big.) This one is quite a big favorite at the King’s jukebox, I’ve noticed. The first one is a good one. Probably the most "punk" sounding record, with a little bit of a "new wave" feel thrown in, "Is this real?"contains twelve or so numbers that all fly by real quick, setting up the template of the earlier, more direct Wipers sound. Speedy tunes, a knack for good songwriting, & the usual doom & gloom lyrics dominate the record. The highlights are numerous, but I think I’d go with "Window Shop for Love","Alien Boy" & "Return Of The Rat" as being some of my favorites. Can’t forget about "Up Front", the most frenetic song on here, which also boasts one of the greatest guitar solos in existence. Due to its availability, "Is This Real?" is probably the most popular of Wipers records, & is as good a place to start as any. But better things were on the horizon.
YOUTH OF AMERICA l.p. (came out in 1981, re-issued in the late eighties on Restless, recently re-issued again.) "Youth of America" is one of the GREATEST RECORDS OF ALL TIME. Its possibly my favorite Wipers release. More experimental & much denser then the first l.p., "Youth Of America" boasts six songs which are fleshed out by numerous guitar overdubs, piano & some truly demented production. The band sounds ten times more desperate & intense as well. & the songs: "No Fair" starts off with a quiet melancholy introduction that blasts into a song that features another amazing Greg Sage guitar break. First time listeners will have their jaws scraping the floor as they listen to this winding ascending fucked up guitar break that still blows me away. The title track is an epic ten-minute plus song that is simply amazing. The whole middle part of the song features some ungodly guitar pyrotechnics, effects & screams, as the rhythm section chugs on for what seems like an eternity, building in intensity. & then there is "When It’s Over", which blazes along for over three minutes before the singing even starts. This song just keeps on building & building & is easily the most frenetic sounding Wipers song ever. A complete and total masterpiece. This is the one, baby.
OVER THE EDGE l.p. (Came out on Braineater records in 1983, I believe, & has been re-issued recently.)
"Over The Edge" comes damn close to being my favorite Wipers record. Recording in a basement in Portland, "Over The Edge" doesn’t boast the production values of say, "Dark Side of the Moon", but that is not the point, anyways. A little more stripped down & less experimental then "Youth Of America" but its better then "Is This Real?" & boasts a ton of classics: "No One Wants An Alien", "No Generation Gap" & "So Young" are some of them. The song, "Doom Town" is one of the most popular Wipers ever, & with good reason, as powerful & bleak as anything they have done. Can’t forget about "Messenger" & the aftermentioned "Romeo", finally making it onto an album. This is the studio record that more or less ends the cycle of the earlier more direct Wipers style, & it is unquestionably recommended. Good luck finding both this one & "Youth of America", they are hard to find. Well worth it, though.
WIPERS LIVE l.p. (I think this came out in 1985, on Restless Records.)
Don’t know the time period of these recordings, but this record is a personal favorite of mine. Besides being the first one that I could find, it also features live versions of songs that if anything are even better then the studio versions. That is true in the versions of "Now is the Time", "Window Shop For Love", "D-7" & a blistering version of "Doom Town". Greg Sage’s echoey overdriven guitar is all over this thing, & the harsh live recording captures perfectly what I would imagine what these folks would have been like in the live setting. Also includes a couple tunes unavailable anywhere else, like the cool as shit "Moon Rider". This is also impossible to find, but I hear it is getting reissued really soon. Does anybody sense a pattern here?
I am getting short on space here, but the Wipers second phase of their career begins with the following records: "Land Of The Lost" boasts great songs with a slight decrease in intensity, but has tunes like "Just A Dream Away" & "Different Ways". It also has one of the worst covers ever. "Follow Blind" is one of the mellowest Wipers records, but the beauty of the title track cannot be denied. Simply a beautiful song, timeless & gorgeous. "The Circle" kind of brings the two phases of the bands career together. Maybe the most consistent studio set since "Over the Edge".
Around this time, Greg disbands the Wipers. Quite possibly a year later, the "grunge explosion" starts & several people in famous bands at the time start spreading the gospel about the Wipers to others. Suddenly, with Nirvana especially talking about the virtues of the Wipers, a lot of interest begins to circulate. This inspires Greg to reform the band & suddenly during the season of grunge, "Silver Sail" comes out. People were lead to believe that Sage was the original "king of grunge", & Greg responded to the expectations by putting out a non-grunge, more quiet record. Nirvana then got the Wipers to open up for them several times & was horrified to discover that their audience just didn’t get it, some of them booing the band tremendously. Nirvana would then get onstage & tell their audience how stupid they were for booing Sage, which I know I would have done. No doubt about it.
After the grunge thing tapered off, "The Herd" came out. It should be said that at this time I was kind of let down by all of these records simply because they weren’t like the earlier recordings. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I see that all of these are still quite good. But honestly, nothing is going to touch the first four records.
Afterwards, the Wipers broke up again. Then all of a sudden last year, the Wipers record "The Power In One" came out. It’s the best thing Sage has done in years. After that, who knows?
So that is it. There might be a newfound interest in Greg Sage & the Wipers going on now. Greg himself has put up his own Wipers website, & it has been interesting to read so many passionate devoted messages from fans who obviously care very deeply about this band. More re-issues are happening all of the time, & more people are discovering the Wipers all of the time, as their timeless sound seems to get better to my ears all of the time.
Here is Greg Sage’s e-mail address: http://www.zenorecords.com/
Posted by brian walsby at 1:05 PM
As if I am not on this thing enough. My name is Brian Walsby, and this is my blog. I think I will be enjoying this a bit more then some of the things I have on the net ; a horribly outdated website, and that last gasp chance domain of the under twenty year old set, MySpace.
Not everyone can go to MySpace, or desires such a thing. But everyone can go here. I can make it interesting if I want. It is all up to me. Here is to a new start.