Friday, May 22, 2009

Shit Gets Smashed

Here’s an all-but-forgotten comp of (mostly) East Bay bands that were around during the scene’s supposed “dead” period of the mid-‘90s. Green Day were blowing up on MTV, rendering the local pop punk scene to irrelevance save for a few stellar bands like Tilt and American Steel. (Believe it or not, both of those bands were SOLID live.) In response to mainstream pop punk, a number of ex-members of melodic East Bay bands formed new groups that shifted to a much darker sound—what people refer to as “Oakland crustcore.”

This sound was also the product of people who moved here from the suburbs to be a part of the East Bay punk dream expressed on records or in zines like Absolutely Zippo or Cometbus. Instead, they found that those fantasies often had very little in common with the gritty reality of Berkeley and Oakland’s streets at the time. The drugs of choice became harder, the music was heavier, and most of the lyrical content didn’t exactly carry the upbeat, positive energy that many of the earlier East Bay/Gilman bands had. (That is, if you could even figure out what the fuck they were actually trying to say aside from wanting to commit suicide.) The old guard—such as former Lookout Records mogul Larry Livermore and Absolutely Zippo editor/ex-Blatz guitarist Robert Eggplant—weren’t down with this darker vibe, and with good reason. That lifestyle ruined the lives of some of their old friends, in particular Rich “Lucky Dawg” Gargano (ex-Fifteen/Crummy Musicians/etc.), who met a most unfortunate demise in the winter of 1997.

But there was no denying that this new sound—influenced by bands like Buzzov-en and the late ‘80s UK stenchcore scene—was much more compelling than the typical pop punk or ska/punk that the East Bay was known for during the 1990s. Unfortunately, most of these bands would crash and burn within a year or two after this comp was released, causing certain “movers and shakers” in the scene to believe that this generation of East Bay punks were unreliable. Subsequently, when they formed new bands in the late-‘90s, groups like Murder Takes No Holiday and Pig Iron were treated unfairly and denied opportunities to play bigger shows because they were seen as a waste of time. Sad, but true.

Shit Gets Smashed was released in December of 1995 by East Bay Menace, a short-lived label run by Lenny Rokk/Strychnine and photographer Murray Bowles. I remember buying my copy from Lenny at a show my crappy old band played at Berkeley’s Old Northside Theatre, where we opened for a few of the bands included here. It’s not often that I break out this comp, but when I do, I’m reminded of a time when yours truly attended “Oakland crustcore” shows as one of the only punk kids in the crowd that still had a big Mohawk and a pair of Doc Martens. As much as I enjoyed the bands, I was very much against the rising crust trend taking place in the East Bay. Kids were cutting off their spiky hair in favor of dyed-black dreadlocks, and trading in their punk records for crustcore stuff that they’d completely dissed practically a week before. If you were a younger kid like me and kept your Mohawk or liberty spikes, chances were you’d get made fun of and have to endure constant peer pressure to conform to the newest trend. In response, we would call those kids “insta-crustys” (“add dirt, watch crusty grow”), and slam the shit out of them in the pit. Out of all of those stupid kids, there wasn’t even one who managed to remain consistent and stick around. And to this day, I have never given in and gotten dreadlocks, thank you very much!

The older people in that scene wouldn’t exactly demand that you conform to their standards the way kids my age would. Instead, they’d just be complete and total assholes. Or they’d simply pretend you didn’t exist. There were exceptions to the rule though. The Skaven guys were friendly enough, particularly vocalist Zeb and infamous bassist and womanizer Mike Matusio. Greg Valencia from Eldopa could always be counted on for ‘80s thrash metal recommendations, in which he would express much regret over cutting up his old metal record covers to decorate his bedroom as a kid. Ira from Ojorojo was always a friendly dude. Can’t forget DaveEd from Neurosis, who was worshipped like a god by those people. There certainly were others, but for the most part, the so-called “Oakland crustys” were a bunch of rotten scumbags who had no time for anyone outside of their social circle…unless you had drugs and booze for them to leech off of. Fortunately, most of those people have grown up (literally and figuratively) or moved on from the local scene.

Despite my feelings towards that end of the scene at the time, those shows were fun. And influential in a way—I figured out which direction I DIDN’T want my life to go. Meaning that I had no interest in trying to impress others by being an alcoholic/drug addict, living in dicey neighborhoods that would only further fuel my misery. I watched friends go down that path and never return. Some of them are dead, while others are still in the throes of heroin addiction more than ten years later, and any grasp of reality that they had was lost a long time ago. I wish I could turn back the clock and enjoy that time with my friends all over again…when we were young, dumb, and enthusiastic about brutal punk rock, attending those backyard keggers on Fairview and Adeline. As harsh as some of these words are, those are the memories that I have which revolve around Shit Gets Smashed.

Enough of my reminiscing about the scene. Let’s take a quick look at each band on an individual basis, shall we? And then I’m outta here.

HOT ROD SHOPPING CART: Featured Dave “KoKo” Chavez, bassist extraordinaire for Sick Pleasure, Code of Honor, Verbal Abuse, most recently Slightly Creepy, and undoubtedly many others. It’s a bit more of a rock ‘n’ roll take on the early ‘80s SF punk style. Not bad, but they never really did much for me. An unreleased recording supposedly puts this material to shame, but since I’m not a part of the East Bay in-crowd, I’ve never heard it. Such is life.

MULTI-FACET: When I first saw them in late 1994, they were a melodic pop punk band, and a laughable one at that. Within a few months, they’d dumped those songs, started wearing black clothing, and were actually one of the first bands to adopt that dark hardcore sound. Vocalist Jenean was something of a wet dream to teenage punk boys in the scene who had yet to lose their virginity. (Personally, I had a much bigger crush on Adrienne/Spitboy when she still had that Mohawk with the spider web patterns shaved into the sides. Fucking. Hot.) Uh, anyway, Multi-Facet released a 7-inch and a split EP with Sheephead before splitting up in October of 1995.

OJOROJO: I’ll never know why the mighty Cancer Alley chose to change their name to Ojorojo and frankly, I don’t think I want to. “Ojorojo” means “red eye” in Spanish, so we used to make fun of them for the obvious marijuana implications. Jon Sumrall from Econochrist teaming up with Grimple’s rhythm section had a lot of promise, but this band never seemed to be able to keep it together long enough to become an unstoppable force. Sumrall sings on these tunes (“there are no lyrics, just random rantings”), but Ojorojo had become an instrumental band by the time this comp was released in the winter of 1995. Shortly after, they adopted Jenean/Multi-Facet as their vocalist and recorded a full-length that I’ll post here at some point. Ojorojo fizzled out in late 1997 or early 1998.

MICKEY & THE BIG MOUTHS: I used to love chugging those grenade-shaped bottles of Mickey’s, and obviously, these guys did too. A fun drunk punk band from the North Bay that never played much around the Oakland/Berkeley area, and I believe they were down with the original Pirate Punks crew long before Marcus da Anarchist (aka Chief Blackdawg) even thought to use that name for his shows. I still love their song “Chonch,” which is unfortunately not included here. But these songs are good too.

LOADED: Drunk punk outfit from the San Jose area, and that’s really all I know. “Suffer in Pain” did a better job of articulating anti-political correctness than Oppressed Logic’s “PC Full of Shit,” in my opinion.

SQUAT: Squat was a San Francisco band that I knew very little about. I definitely saw things from an East Bay/Gilman perspective, which didn’t have much room for SF bands that more than likely made their rounds on the bar scene. But these ladies were down with plenty of bands and people around here, so I imagine that they had their fair share of fans and all that. New Red Archives released a Squat CD in 1996 that I’ve seen in the clearance bins. For the most part, the other bands they played in don’t register on my radar, but Pamela went on to play guitar for Cruevo and now plays as “Agnes Young” in AC/DSHE.

ELDOPA: I know bands like AFI and Screw 32 had a much higher profile during this time, but I don’t care. If you were truly down with the local underground scene at this time, you knew for a fact that Eldopa were THEE BAND to see from 1995-1997. No joke, Eldopa was the shit. I believe I saw a majority of their local shows, and would always marvel over how each set would somehow manage to top the previous one’s intensity. The pit action would get violent, but that’s just how it was. You would dance harder and faster when Eldopa took the stage, because that was what the situation dictated. They lost a lot of their momentum in mid-1997 when a Boston band of the same name threatened to sue over the intellectual property, forcing Eldopa to change their name to the silly teenage metal moniker 1332. (Divide that number by half and you’ll see what I mean by that.) However, there wasn’t a single person in the scene who bothered to go along with that name change unless they happened to be a total fuckin’ poser. These songs were recorded when Greg Valencia was still the frontman handling all vocal duties, which is why they don’t sound as beefed-up as their future recordings.

STRYCHNINE: Ex-members of Filth and Econochrist, but this band had more in common musically with Capitol Punishment, the longtime Fresno band that vocalist Jimi Haze (also of Hell’s Kitchen) was in for a spell. I think had Strychnine come together at any other time besides the mid-‘90s, they would have done well for themselves. But there wasn’t much of a place for straight up punk rock in the East Bay at this time, and they were already thought of as old hat by the time crowds outside of the SF bar scene would have been receptive to them. Living proof that it’s not always about who you know. Strychnine weren’t bad, but it really depended on what kind of environment you saw them in. True story: when I was 19, I once managed to keep up with Jimi drinking straight whiskey at a party in East Oakland. NOT an easy feat to accomplish, nor was it something I ever tried to do again.

APEFACE: You can’t help but laugh at a band who consisted of a bunch of (supposedly) crack-smoking crusty degenerates…and clean-cut Rob from Krupted Peasant Farmerz on drums. For an all-too-brief time, this San Jose outfit were considered one of the best bands in the area, which was based almost entirely on one gig opening for Multi-Facet’s last show. Their split LP with Zero Hour was great, but they’d run out of steam by the time they’d released their full-length. However, you will find the very best representations of their music right here.

MASTERBAITER: For some reason, I believe they hailed from the San Jose area. Other than that, I have no clue. And they didn’t even spell their song title correctly—isn’t it supposed to be “Diazepam”?

1. Speed [Hot Rod Shopping Cart]
2. The Snake [Hot Rod Shopping Cart]
3. Ghost [Multi-Facet]
4. Mirror [Multi-Facet]
5. Eight [Ojorojo]
6. Nine [Ojorojo]
7. Less Than Human [Mickey & the Big Mouths]
8. Meth Breath [Mickey & the Big Mouths]
9. Suffer in Pain [Loaded]
10. She [Squat]
11. Misery [Squat]
12. Ed [Eldopa]
13. Repercussion [Eldopa]
14. Sounds of Seduction [Strychnine]
15. Shit Outta Luck [Strychnine]
16. Slaves [Apeface]
17. The End is the Beginning [Apeface]
18. Diazapam [Masterbaiter]



Oh the memories. Those crusties were such pretentious fucks, too cool to be Punks, too cool to be metal heads, too dishonest to be Goths... this all makes me remember that great double show at Lavals/Northside theatre where the mohican dude with the knife got his ear bitten! I had a great picture of that taken by one of those two photo taking old men. I remember when he was in the lobby before he had decided to go after that kid, he was all "I'm gonna go kill a crusty" brandishing his knife, me & Eric were so trashed, i said, "Have fun!"

Jake said...

Yeah, that show was fucked up from the start. I'm going to do a Skaven post sometime in the near future, in which I'll definitely go into detail about that night.

jenean said...

it's fun to find stuff like this online- though it's not necessarily accurate. Murder Takes No Holiday bombed because exes shouldn't play music together, not for lack of getting to play "bigger shows". and Multi Facet never dumped "pop" punk songs, we started playing shows pretty quick after we formed, and our sound changed organically (we never "dumped" songs, we played the original songs for a long time). it's funny to read someone else's perspective on that scene, to me they were all just my friends, (Lucky included) and we were all just having a good time. it was Pete (who did visuals for Neurosis and the Ojorojo cover) who bit some dudes ear. I thought he was a skinhead?

The Evil Eye said...

Hi Jenean! It's certainly nice to hear from someone who was in one of these bands. This is what I remember from that time, in response to some of your points.

* Murder Takes No Holiday played one show at Gilman with you on vocals (were there more shows?), and then re-formed with a completely different lineup at the end of 1998. Or the start of 1999, I don't remember. But it was this second incarnation of the band that I was referring to when I said they weren't treated fairly by the tastemakers of the scene back then. I was volunteering in Gilman booking at the time, so I got to hear a lot of comments aimed at the new Oakland bands by the rest of the booking staff.

* I'll stand corrected on Multi-Facet's change in sound. It did seem a little strange at the time that the band changed so dramatically, but the result was much more compelling to listen to.

* Pete Inc. definitely bit part of a guy's ear and nearly severed it during a fight at the Northside Theater. But again, more details on that when I get around to a Skaven post.

Thanks a lot for your perspective. That time in the East Bay music scene was both fun and frustrating. Hopefully you'll come back with some more when we get around to posting one of the old Multi-Facet records sometime soon. Take care.

Anonymous said...

this was an awesome scribbling about that time and scene and the weird circus of people that made it...brings back memories... thanks dude!!!

monster said...

I Love this post. I don't know if you are actually interested, but I have that fabled "Hot rod shopping cart" cassette. however, I don't think that either of those songs are on it. also I am looking forward to your skaven post.

The Evil Eye said...

Mr. Monster, I would most definitely be interested in that Hot Rod Shopping Cart tape. The Skaven post WILL happen sometime soon-ish.


In retrospect, i think the best band & the most true to everything that it was all about was Oppressed Logic.

The Evil Eye said...

Oppressed Logic had their bad points too, but there's definitely some credence to that. They and Subincision were probably the only bands who looked out for younger punk bands like ours, and at least attempted to network among the varying factions within the East Bay at the time. I want to say more, but should save it for when I post both of those bands in the near future.

Anonymous said...

the multi-facet songs are amazing. I hear they also put out a 7... anyone know anything about it?

The Evil Eye said...

Anonymous (?), Multi-Facet did a demo and then all of those songs were re-recorded for a seven-inch and a split EP with Sheephead. I don't know how easy they are to come by, but I'll be posting one (if not both) of them here in the future.

Anonymous said...

Dude.... The Multi-Facet demo SHREDS with the dueling vocals!! I know it's rough and raw and more punk, but it's still so good. And then the 7" and split are both AMAZING! And don't get me started on the OJOROJO 12" It's fucking beer and titties from the start of the THX-1138 intro. If you thought all of us crusty kids were dicks and addicts, maybe you should have actually come up and talked to us instead of being scared and thinking we were all elitists. Totally not the case. I shared many a beer with a lot of kids during those times, and I would go in my fucking nice work clothes, and they would still chat with me even if I wasn't all crusty looking and smelled like rotten ham.

Anonymous said...

Dude.... The Multi-Facet demo SHREDS with the dueling vocals!! I know it's rough and raw and more punk, but it's still so good. And then the 7" and split are both AMAZING! And don't get me started on the OJOROJO 12" It's fucking beer and titties from the start of the THX-1138 intro. If you thought all of us crusty kids were dicks and addicts, maybe you should have actually come up and talked to us instead of being scared and thinking we were all elitists. Totally not the case. I shared many a beer with a lot of kids during those times, and I would go in my fucking nice work clothes, and they would still chat with me even if I wasn't all crusty looking and smelled like rotten ham.

RyGar said...

Good to hear a healthy debate on 'the scene' from this time period. I grew up in San Jose,but often made trips out to Bezerkley and SF for shows. I've been trying in vain to track down more Loaded, but I think it was all cassette-only and non-existent on the web. I had a split tape w/ Loaded and Headache, but I seem to remember that they were really just different incarnations of the same band. Ojorojo and El Dopa were both amazing, and well worth respect. Jenean had the best voice, so I love the "Can You Keep Your Sanity" disc. Bummed that they didn't release anything more, because it's still a favorite. El Dopa was always an intimidating show, full of sketchy drug addicts and beefy gangstas. After a case of Weideman's, all fear vanished and much slam dancery ensued. I had mixed feelings about the Crusties and Gutter-punks. I agree that there were a lot of elitist attitudes and cliques. I was having a conversation/pow-wow w/ Dino (Dystopia) once, when some scabie infested prick told me I had to leave because I was a "skate punk" and my pants were too baggy (Dickies). Dino was cool and waved dude off. I remember a huge factory/compound in Oakland that was being squatted by some of the fleas & lice crowd, and although many adventures were had there, the PCP/Meth/Crack addictions were definitely a depressing spectacle. I'm not, and for sure wasn't, an uptight person, but being colonized by parasites never appealed to me. Still, some of those kids were cool and had legitimate reasons for choosing the dirty life. Apeface were rad guys and put on killer shows. The full length is rad in my opinion, and the split w/ Zero Hour is near perfect. Anyway, looking back, we were just kids, and kids will form tribes. A lot of us were trying really hard to stay ahead of the trends, to establish ourselves as different and unique, and to create something new. Some of us still are.

Anonymous said...

I was in the later lineup of Murder takes no holiday. It was a strange time for us. Being totally experimental and with three different personalities, it was a chance we were willing to take. Even with the mixed reviews we got, I had a blast. Still have a copy of the demo!

Anonymous said...

i know i'm a bit late, but i'd be really interested in hearing this Murder Takes No Holiday demo, do you think you could post it, please?
Thanx a lot.

The Evil Eye said...

I don't actually have a copy of the Murder Takes No Holiday demo. Whoever that was who commented should upload it!

veganboyjosh said...

Any way to get this re-upped? I'm about to post the Multi Facet 7" on my blog and found this while digging up info. Would love to hear this.