Friday, July 31, 2009

Cruevo vs. Brainoil

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since both of these bands played their first shows. With all of the bands and records that the local scene has spawned since then, it’s possible that both Cruevo and Brainoil have been reduced to mere footnotes in this decade’s history. However, they deserve to be a much more significant part of a chapter, which is why we’re here today.

Cruevo initially played a couple shows as “Rivers of Uriah aka Cruevo,” and I think we’re all thankful that they opted to shorten the name. Once they settled on a vocalist and got themselves together as a band, the potential for Cruevo to become one of the definitive Oakland bands was certainly high. It’s true that they were the main band at the time that connected different aspects of the local punk scene. Guitarist and principal songwriter Paul Kott was in Medication Time, and was certainly friends with the Life is Abuse/Dystopia crowd. Pamella Ausejo was a veteran of the San Francisco music scene, and her old band Squat was included on the Shit Gets Smashed comp in the mid-‘90s. Bassist Rueben Luna had just played in the short-lived crusty HC band Exitwound, and was a regular at the same Oakland dive bars where the late ‘80s/early ‘90s generation of East Bay punks hung out. Drummer Scott Plumb was the vocalist for a short-lived local hardcore band called Conviction, and was one in a group of punk kids who’d moved to Oakland from the suburbs of Concord a few years before.

Brainoil started around the same time as Cruevo, and connected some dots in their own right. Guitarist Nate Smith was “Cybernate Scabies” in Destroy, and had quietly relocated to the East Bay in the late ‘90s. Greg Wilkinson had gotten some attention from the Slap a Ham crowd by shredding his bass in the Man is the Bastard-esque Lana Dagales. After parting ways with ex-Resist drummer Ty Smith and their short-lived crusty hardcore band Squalor, Greg and Nate formed a new band that would sound decidedly different than what they had done previously. The result was Mrbrainoil, playing heavy stoner sludge with noise effects. They played at least one show with a drum machine and another with Etay from Lana Dagales on the kit. Shortly thereafter, they acquired the services of ex-Grimple/Ojorojo skinbasher Ira Tollah, de-formalized their moniker, and Oakland’s newest badass sludge band was born.

It was natural for these bands to team up, and they both played together on a regular basis. The best example of the Cruevo/Brainoil series took place at Burnt Ramen in June of 2001, which is one of those shows where a lot of people claim to have attended, but weren’t actually physically there. The show had been running entirely too long, and most of the crowd had cleared out. Brainoil and Cruevo were the last two bands left, so they set up their gear and staged a battle set, much to the approval of us tired folks that still happened to be there. It ended the show on a high note, and made it seem like less of a disaster than it really was. Another great show took place that same summer at Paul’s house in the Dogtown area of West Oakland. In a glimpse of what the Oakland punk scene used to have (and would have again), all of the punks were getting together in the backyard over beer, buds, BBQ, and bands. Leechmilk also played, and not a single person refused to donate a few bucks for the touring band.

Cruevo became the more popular band right off the bat, and at first glance was the better band. Dubbing themselves “rotgut rock ‘n’ roll,” they had good, memorable songs that caught on with the Oakland crusty crowd. The energy they generated onstage was—here’s the word most used in conjunction with Cruevo—infectious, and you just had to figure that the next great band from Oakland’s heavy punk scene was already here. But as it turned out, Cruevo had hit their peak early. Pamella left the band, and they brought in ex-Eldopa/Murder Takes No Holiday guitarist Bryan Ward (currently of One in the Chamber) to replace her. Bryan is a very good guitarist, but this lineup change did not go well. Then Rueben left the band, and Greg was pegged to do double duty between Cruevo and Brainoil. The final nail in the coffin occurred at a Gilman show where the sequel to the Burnt Ramen battle set was to take place. Instead, Cruevo’s vocalist Chad was arrested by the Berkeley police just before their set. If I recall, the battle set idea was scrapped, and Cruevo stumbled through a less-than-inspired set before calling it quits a couple shows later.

But to me, Brainoil were always the more interesting of the two. I really enjoyed how they took sludge and stripped it down, keeping the heavy and punishing riffs and disposing of the excess. Their driving pace made me think of bands like Buzzov-en—bands who didn’t play particularly fast, but kept the power and retained their hardcore tendencies because of it. Much like early Corrosion of Conformity, Brainoil had the right kind of drumbeats that made them one of the only slow bands that the hardcore punk crowd found acceptable. The show that sticks out the most in my mind is when they played with Dystopia and Ludicra at Gilman in November of 2002. It was the worst set I’ve ever seen from Dystopia, and I seem to recall that Ludicra wasn’t up to their usual standard either. Although plenty of people were gushing about Dystopia, the real talk of the show for weeks afterward was Brainoil’s crushing set. If there was any doubt that Brainoil could get out from under Cruevo’s shadow, they were erased for good that night. But Ira was constantly on tour with his ex-Grimple cohorts in Watch Them Die, so opportunities to capitalize on Brainoil’s successful outing didn’t happen as often as they should have. When Nate started playing more with Stormcrow and Greg with Laudanum, the writing was clearly on the wall. I think Brainoil’s last show took place about three years ago—a horrible show at Gilman where their set was cut short after the rest of the show ran too long. They certainly deserved better than that.

This split CD is one of a couple releases that captures that time of rebuilding the underground East Bay punk scene. Both Cruevo and Brainoil contributed so much to that process, but whether or not the majority of this scene’s bands and participants realize that is up for debate. But you can realize it by clicking here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unpublished Catheter interview 7/27/02

What you're reading here is an unpublished interview with Catheter, which took place at Gilman in the summer of 2002. It's a pretty good interview (if you ask me), and this was done right after their excellent Preamble to Oblivion LP came out on Six Weeks. I believe only Haroldo and Jeff remain from this lineup. Enjoy!

If you were to ask me whom the best grindcore bands in the US were a couple of years ago, I would have emphatically told you to listen to Phobia, Excruciating Terror, and Assuck. But times have changed. Assuck is no longer with us, and rumor has it that neither is Excruciating Terror. As for Phobia, it's my honest opinion that they're not what they used to be. However, there is a band that has managed to eclipse all of those bands with flying colors, and they hail from the unlikely locale of Denver, Colorado. Instead of triggering their drums and playing what is really nothing more than mundane death metal, Catheter finds inspiration from past greats like Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Repulsion, and Disrupt. They're also totally into old thrash and black metal, as their crushing and vastly superior cover of Sodom's "Outbreak of Evil" indicates. While they could probably do very well for themselves on a big label, and even briefly had a deal with the Necropolis sub label Death Vomit, Catheter instead chooses to "keep it real" and DIY...drummer Haroldo Mardones runs his own label by the name of Bad People Records, which is responsible for just about every Catheter record unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Originally this interview was going to be done utilizing the magic that is electronic mail, but when the band came out here and headlined the most recent Six Weeks Records showcase, we opted to do the interview inside Gilman on July 27, 2002 after the show had ended. We left members of Kalmex and the Riff Merchants in the parking lot, and my friends that were to give me a ride to West Oakland that night had no choice but to wait patiently. Thee Evil Loki asked most of the questions, with Susan stepping in when needed.

LOKI: Okay, start off with a brief history of Catheter, including who is currently in the band.
JEFF: We started off in the spring of 1997, with...
HAROLDO: No, it was before that.
JEFF: No, it wasn't!
HAROLDO: I joined the band in '97.
JEFF: No, you joined in '99! No, wait, you joined in 1998. (A small commotion ensues over the very year Catheter formed, which was nothing short of amusing to Susan and me...)
HAROLDO: The tour, if you look on the Violence tour with Laughing Dog, it says '97 on all of the tour shirts.
JEFF: No, it was 1997. In the spring of 1997...
HAROLDO: Fuck that, he's lying!
JEFF: ...with Tony, Justin, Spike, and Zack.
HAROLDO: The Castle show was in '97, blood.
JEFF: No, it was '98. Yes it was, it was 1998!
HAROLDO: When was the tour with Laughing Dog then? Was that in '98?
JEFF: That was in '99.
LOKI: Wait, when you guys came out here with Laughing Dog and Jeno, and played at Gilman with Dead and Gone? That was just two years ago...
Ah, whatever...
JEFF: Anyway, we did one tour and then Haroldo joined in. We first started out as a crust band, but then Tony left and Haroldo joined in and we did our first tour, in...
HAROLDO: 1998.
JEFF: '99.
HAROLDO: It was not in '99.
JEFF: Yes, it was. 1999 on the East Coast. Later on, we added Porkchop on bass...we've had a lot of different members, but right now our current lineup is Keith on guitar, Wally on bass, Haroldo on drums, and me on guitar.
LOKI: And you're the only original member left, right? You're the last of the dying breed?
JEFF: (Laughs) Yeah, something like that.
LOKI: What's up with the lineup changes? Is there bad blood or anything?
Nobody really wanted to keep it going, as far as...
HAROLDO: Nobody wanted to show up to practice, but they'd show up to shows.
JEFF: Everybody had their own personal lives to deal with, but the lineup we have now, everybody really wants to put forth the effort and actually go out and do shows and support what we've always believed in our lives, which is DIY and being punk rock and hardcore.

LOKI: What bands were you all in before Catheter?
I used to do a doom band back in 1990 called Bereavement. It was just a doom/death band, we only played one show. Later on, I was in the Nobodies for like two weeks and that went awry, and then I started this band called the Zipperheads, which didn't go very far. It was like a local band, just drinking beer and blah, blah, blah. And then there was Catheter.
HAROLDO: I was in Reform Control, both of us were actually. I was also in KGB, went on tour with Disassociate, and was in the Messy Hairs too.
KEITH: I was in Jeno and a band called Opposite Dream a long time ago.
WALLY: Man, I don't even know where to start!
JEFF: Didn't you play here, at Gilman with another band?
WALLY: I've been in various projects, ranging from jazz to country to this. I've probably played in like thirty bands. Most recently, I played in this kind of acid-induced noisecore band called Fallen Angel, plus an improv almost rock and jazz project called What's Up With Jupiter 24.

LOKI: So, what originally attracted you guys to the hardcore/punk/grindcore scene originally? Were you guys metalheads previously?
There's just so many different bands that I think we all got really into. Back in the late '80s, there were bands like the Crumbsuckers and Agnostic Front that were crossing over between metal and hardcore, and I think through that we got into punk rock and all of that shit too.
HAROLDO: I was a metalhead to start off with.
JEFF: Oh yeah!
LOKI: What was that one record that did it for you?
What did it for me was seeing Kreator and Voivod live, on the Pleasure to Kill tour. That blew me away.
LOKI: I would imagine so!
JEFF: My sister had all of these records and there were bands like Mercyful Fate, Corrosion of Conformity, and DRI that she got into. I just listened to those and I was into really intense music.
LOKI: The louder and faster the better, right?
Not only that, but the older bands she got into like Black Sabbath and fucking ZZ Top and bands like that.

LOKI: So who's John Santos? His artwork's fuckin' awesome, so I have ask how you guys hooked up with him.
Santos used to sing for a band called Sistema Nervioso. He's done artwork for Logical Nonsense, Word Salad, Jeno, the Fanatics, and he's doing some stuff for Neurosis and High on Fire now. I met him through Sistema Nervioso and liked his artwork, so we kept in touch and he's hookin' it up!
LOKI: I take it you have to pay him for all of that artwork, right?
We gave him a certain amount of copies of the LP and CD. Pretty much everything we put out, I give him as much as he wants.
LOKI: And get him stoned a few times?
(Laughs) Oh yeah, I kick him down a bag here and there.
LOKI: Staying on this subject, do you think there's a lack of original artwork in the packaging for records these days? It just seems like there's very few artists involved in the scene, except maybe for Pushead and a few others...
I think there's definitely a lack of good creative stuff, what with bands just cutting stuff out of magazines.
LOKI: Yeah, it's just like, how many more photos of dead bodies do we really need? (Laughter) It's always cool when bands go that extra mile to set themselves apart from the pack.
I've even seen record covers of people shitting into each other's mouths! I think punk rock has always stayed the same with their stuff, and you've got metal bands with their evil Satanic artwork. I think it's always stayed the same, but the artists...
HAROLDO: All of the best covers are the ones that...look at Cryptic Slaughter with Money Talks, for instance. Those covers look fuckin' killer.
LOKI: Sean Taggart with the Agnostic Front album covers...
Gaither's always done killer artwork, and of course, there is Pushead. LOKI: Pushead just kinda goes without saying, though.
All of that old original art is totally what drove me towards buying albums. You know the Accused album Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told? Just looking at
that album, I was just like "Dude! Holy shit!"
JEFF: Not only that, but who's the guy that used to do the Entombed covers? I can't remember, but he also did a Dismember album and a lot of old death metal bands. He was an intense artist too.
LOKI: It just seems
like all too often these days; bands are coming from the cookie cutter standpoint, hastily throwing their records together...
We've done it sometimes too, though.
LOKI: But at least o
n your records that are really good, it seems like you guys went that extra mile to make sure that the packaging was intact...
I think it was more important to make that impression that we actually meant it when we put it out.
HAROLDO: It's also
good to support fucking DIY artists in our scene and give them the chance to show their stuff.

LOKI: So tell us about the scene in Colorado. Are there plenty of bands and venues and all of that?
Colorado is real sick at times.
JEFF: It's starting to pick up really good now. I think it's actually at its high point right now.
KEITH: A long time ago, it was actually better than it is now.
HAROLDO: In the late '80s and early '90s it was pretty much at its peak, but that's when the peak of every scene was. Now we have a venue called Free Tomorrow, which is where everyone has played; like DS-13, Voetsek, Iron Lung, Bongzilla, ETA, Cephalic Carnage, and Phobia. It's a cool DIY venue in a total junkyard and the bands play in the garage. We've had some amazing shows there.
LOKI: How many people usually show up?
The most was at the Phobia show, with Weedeater, Cephalic Carnage, and Eviscerated Soul. I think that had about two hundred people paid at the door.
JEFF: Colorado has some really good bands right now. In Denver, we've got Scott Baio Army, Eviscerated Soul, and Tab, who are really good and have old members of Catheter in the band. Planes Mistaken for Stars is good too.
LOKI: Are a lot of different styles getting represented?
Oh yeah.
HAROLDO: Totally.

LOKI: What was your initial reaction to the Columbine High shootings? I know it's an old subject and you touched on it in a song, but the lyrics seemed to be more about the media circus surrounding the whole thing. Do you feel like those kids were justified in "striking back against their tormentors," or do you think it was a "tragedy," as the media put it?
I think the media actually hyped it up really bad. Actually I think a lot of things were worse...
HAROLDO: They really over hyped what was going on
KEITH: I think it just shows you how fucked up our society is, in that somebody can just get a gun and just because someone picked on them, they think that they can just go shoot all kinds of people that probably didn't have anything to do with it. That's just typical American Wild West bullshit, and I really don't know why everyone was so shocked by it.
HAROLDO: It just kinda sucks if you're getting picked on by a guy that's totally going to whip your ass. What is the only way you can retaliate? Eventually you're going to get tired of getting your ass kicked all the time. I'm not supporting what they did; killing those guys was going way overboard.
JEFF: It was just their way of getting revenge...
KEITH: I think a lot of it as well came from watching too many fucking movies, and so much violence on TV contributed to it too.
LOKI: Did you guys get asked about that a lot when you went on tour after the fact?
We talked about it in a few other interviews too.
JEFF: There was this one band that didn't even like the fact that we wrote about it at all.
HAROLDO: There were a lot of people that just got offended over some of our song titles in general. We have another old song that we still play once in a while called "Fuck Jon-Benet." That song's not about raping little girls or anything, and I've seen shit about Catheter on message boards where people were saying, "Oh, they've got songs about raping little girls in the ass and shit."
JEFF: That song is our way of saying there's more issues out there to take care of.
HAROLDO: It's not even really an opinion, it's just something written about a subject. Whatever, I don't even sing the lyrics when we play the song anyway! (Laughter)

LOKI: Are "Otherwise Unknown" and "Make Up Face" directed at anyone in particular?
Basically it was against the whole black metal scene in general. Some of those bands take it way too seriously.
LOKI: You can kinda draw a few conclusions on different bands with those songs.
: I think in every style of music, in some sort of way, there's a gimmick to it. Look at right now, you've got all of these new bands, the "thrash" bands, dressing up in bandanas and trying to look like Suicidal Tendencies. I think it just goes with that flow and there's not much you can change about it, it's just a way of flagging yourself socially.
LOKI: Yes, in the end there really isn't much of a difference between "true Norwegian black metal" and "bandana thrash." (Laughter)
JEFF: It's a gimmick. It's just a way of initializing what style of music it is. You can wear big ol' spikes and face paint, or you can wear bandanas, and you know what kind of music it is.
LOKI: There's just no equivalent to Burzum in bandana thrash, though! (Laughter)

LOKI: What do you think of bands like the Meat Shits and Anal Cunt? Do you think they give grindcore a bad name with what some people will say their oftentimes racist and sexist lyrics? Or do you think they're just going out of their way to be offensive?
They're getting reactions out of people. They're not allowed to play here and they're pretty much getting what they want by pissing people off. Personally, I'm into music. The politics are cool and all, but when it comes down to it, you're just listening to the rhythm. That's all that matters, it's all about music to me.
JEFF: There's numerous grind bands who have put out records and they don't even have lyrics, but you still listen to the music by itself.
HAROLDO: Plutocracy was backing the Meat Shits when they first started, ya know? The music was brutal...
LOKI: They don't talk about that now!
Oh, no!
JEFF: There's some bands in the grindcore scene that sounded like total shit and the stuff they talked about, like shitting on each other and stuff like that, it's like how can you really take it that seriously?
LOKI: Well, a lot of bands from the early '80s or whatever that people are into would get totally bashed as being racist, sexist, or homophobic these days. Like the Meatmen.
Oh, of course! Back then; punk didn't have as many politics.
JEFF: It was a lot more liberal.
HAROLDO: The songs were about "let's fuckin' get fucked up..."
JEFF: Say what we want to say.
HAROLDO: And do things that fuckin' rock stars do.

LOKI: Haroldo, tell us about Bad People Records, like what made you want to start a label and so on.
Basically I put out records before, but it was like my own band where I put out our seven-inch or whatever. But then I heard this band in Denver that I really liked called Dratsab, and that was the first record that I did as Bad People. And just because I love hardcore, I was like "Fuck, what better way to build my record collection and trade records with everyone," you know? Right now, I'm up to twenty-four releases; so if you want a discography, just send me an email for a list.
LOKI: What's your impression of DIY record labels and distribution these days?
I love it, because there's a ton of people doing it. I get to hear records from other countries and bands that probably hardly anyone over here would get to hear. So I take it as a privilege and I think if you want to start a record label, do it! I'm all about everyone, the DIY kids starting their own record labels because I want to hear all the new bands coming out.
JEFF: Yeah, he's cool about it. He'll put out a record that he totally believes in, like this band Eviscerated Soul. He loves their music so much that he wants to put out their seven-inch and even go on tour with 'em. Haroldo just does it for the love of the music and what he believes in.
LOKI: What, you don't get the chicks from it or anything? No limos or gold chains or anything? (Laughter)
HAROLDO: I'm working on building up the BP Soldiers, and Jeff's gonna get the gold medallion with the logo on the front... (Lots of chatter that pretty much pokes fun at modern hip-hop culture and certain ridiculous mannerisms ensue.)

LOKI: What do you do for jobs?
I do a lot of stagehand work, and I work in the studio randomly. I went to a recording school and everything, so I record a lot of local bands. Most of the stuff on Bad People I recorded myself. Sometimes the label brings in some extra money.
LOKI: That's always nice when that happens.
Yeah, it's nice.
KEITH: I do the stagehand shit sometimes too.
WALLY: I'm a waiter, and it sucks.
LOKI: What kind of restaurant is it?
I work at a Cajun restaurant, and I'm not going to give them a plug either, so that's about it.
LOKI: Well, no one was asking for that. Is it at least good food?
It's all right. The thing that sucks is that I have to kiss people's asses when normally I want to kick their asses. It sucks having to work for two bucks an hour plus tips for that kind of shit.
JEFF: I've been doing printing for almost twelve years. It's nothing I really like to do.

LOKI: How much touring has Catheter done? Apparently you've taken a shit in the backpack of a Black Market Fetus member and saw Kindred from Plutocracy jump into the middle of a roaring bonfire, but what other funny or frightening tour stories would you like to share?
I got a good, good one. One time, this was the Disassociate/Corrupted tour...we played in North Carolina and the show was real small, there were like ten people there. Cattlepress got their amp head stolen. These two kids came up there and they were heckling me the whole time I was playing, and I wanted to kick their asses so bad but I refrained from doing it. But these kids were the ones who wound up stealing Cattlepress' bass head, and I saw one of the kids jump into the car with the amp head and I didn't think anything of it at the time. But then we found out that it was gone and I saw the kid, and I told another local kid "I know what he looks like, I know what he looks like." He showed me a picture, and yeah, it was him. So we found out where they lived, and we went to their house. (Laughter) They were gone. I'm gonna say now that Ralphy, and I don't know if he wants his name mentioned...
LOKI: Maybe we'll send him a copy and see what he thinks! (Laughter)
Ralphy Boy just fuckin'--BOOM!--kicks the door and the door didn't open, and he was like "WHAT?!" So--BOOM!--he kicks the door again and it flies open, and he was all pissed. I was like, "What's wrong?" And he said "That shit shoulda broke open on the first kick!" (Lots of laughs) So we all run in the house and we're looking all over, and I see the Cattlepress guys with guitars just going out the door. These were definitely the kids who stole their head in the first place, a killer Mesa or something like that. But they went in the house, they took all of these guitars, and the dudes in Corrupted were just like "What...the...FUCK?!" (Lots of laughs) Just looking at each other, they were so freaked out! So I said, "Fuck it" and took this little stereo with a CD player and ran out of the house. We jumped in the van and took off. (NOTE: For those of you that don't know, Ralphy Boy is the singer for Disassociate [pictured above], and he is a very large man that no one in their right mind wants to meet in a dark alley. That door really should have opened on the first kick.)
LOKI: That's a good story! Are you guys ever gonna go to Europe?
Hopefully next year.
HAROLDO: Yeah, we're not doing any more tours this year. Next summer, we want to go to Europe for a couple of months.
LOKI: How was the tour with Unholy Grave?
Amazing. Those guys are so cool, so easy to get along with.
HAROLDO: Every show was really good except for Kimo's, which was real weird. The first show on the tour got kinda fucked up too.
LOKI: I thought the Kimo's show was all right.
Yeah, it's just weird. If it could have been at Burnt Ramen, it would have been so much better.
JEFF: That's what it was; we just played in front of our peers. All they did was sit there with their hands crossed and didn't really do anything.
WALLY: All ages is better. I like to see the children jumping around and getting crazy.
KEITH: Those sixteen-to-twenty-two year olds rip it up.
LOKI: That's how it is with bars, though. They don't like to get into the pit.
Some bars won't even let that happen.
LOKI: Weren't you guys telling me that only one of the guys from Unholy Grave had smoked pot before that tour?
We got all of them except for the guitar player to smoke pot with us.
JEFF: Takaho was the one who had smoked before...
HAROLDO: We got them all to smoke weed, and they loved it! Their singer Takaho was kinda weird about it sometimes because of his throat, but after the tour, he comes up to me and he's all like "All right! I'm ready to smoke all night!" (Laughter) Now you tell me when we have to drive twenty hours back to Denver!
WALLY: Their drummer smoked pot the first night and it didn't take much!

LOKI: If you could set up the ultimate show, who would be on the bill?
Terrorizer headlining, the Accused, a Cryptic Slaughter reunion...
JEFF: It's good that Nausea is back together.
LOKI: Nausea LA, that is.
Yep, the old Oscar Garcia Nausea.
WALLY: They were fuckin' killer...
JEFF: Yeah, we actually played with them the second time they played a show...
WALLY: I thought it was their third show back together.
KEITH: I thought it was their first!
JEFF: Naw, it was their third. Phobia played before them. There's just so many bands that it'd be cool to play with, like the old COC, Negative many to mention!

SUSAN: Why don't you describe your relationship with the West Bay Coalition?
HAROLDO: I met those guys back in '94 or '95 at the Resist and Exist festival in Eugene. No Less played and fucking blew me away. Me and Stinko were the first to bond; we smoked a bunch of bud and hung out, drank, and had a lot in common at the time. We were both kinda like little thugs into punk rock or whatever. I asked them to put out a record, the split with No Less and Agents of Satan. Me and Frankie also got along real well too. And Stinko was all like "Dude, I'm in Agents," because I'd heard the record that Max put out and I thought it was great. So I lined up that split with No Less and Agents, and from there we've been tight bros ever since. I went on the Agents/No Less tour, and needless to say...
JEFF: And I know all of those guys through Haroldo.
LOKI: No Less was one of the most amazing bands and no one gave a shit. They'd play here to practically twenty people.
They were just really original, not following along with any clique or anything like that. They just played music that they wanted to do, their way.
HAROLDO: And doomryde with the West Bay...

LOKI: So who would win in an exploding barbed wire ring match between you guys and Laughing Dog?
Aw shit, we'd knock those dudes out! (Laughter)
LOKI: You don't think they'd find some speed somewhere in Santa Fe and just go nuts on you guys?
Ah, those guys don't do that shit; they just smoke a lot of weed. A LOT OF WEED. Too bad they broke up.
LOKI: I only saw them on that one tour you both did together.
You didn't even see the full Laughing Dog, with their old drummer Chino...
JEFF: Chino was the sickest fucking drummer ever.
KEITH: I'd see that dude checking his drumkit and thinking that it just sounded like fucking crap, but then they'd play and they ripped.
LOKI: I remember listening to the vinyl version of the split you guys did together and thinking that their snare drum sounded like a fuckin' coffee can or something.
HAROLDO: Oh, god. That snare drum, he brings it in and he has this marching head on it that looked like it was about five years old. I was like, "Dude, you didn't even change your heads for the fuckin' studio? There's a fuckin' drum store down the street, let's do it." And he's just all like, "Nope, nope." And I was like, "All right man, if that's the sound you want."
LOKI: So you had to do some serious remastering for the CD I bet.
Shit, it took some big time mixing for his drums.
JEFF: They were just fucking intense, a sick fucking brutal band.
HAROLDO: They did that whole East Coast tour with us and every night we were playing shows to like ten people...
JEFF: And they ripped it up every night no matter what!
HAROLDO: ...That was Laughing Dog in full effect.
LOKI: That Dead and Gone show that you guys played, with Catheter, Laughing Dog, and Jeno...nobody showed up, but you guys totally blew Dead and Gone off the stage. And it was cool because you guys rose up and crushed them to the point where half the band that I was talking to was just like, "Dude, they fucking killed us."
That's one hell of a way to hear that. Fuck, I don't know what to say to that!

LOKI: What's the dumbest thing you've ever done under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol?
No comment!
JEFF: I got really fucking drunk one time and we went to this party with a bunch of skaters. I was just so pissed fuckin' drunk, and I'm kinda like a big guy and people think I'm really intimidating. So I'm on the stairs, and I can't remember this, but I ended up pulling out my dick and pissed all the way down the stairs...and the next thing you know, I fucking land right into it. Fall face first down the stairs and right into that shit.
HAROLDO: When I was thirteen, I took a hit of acid and drank a bunch of beer and got in a fight with my "first love" or whatever. I don't know what I did but I blacked out at a certain point in time, and woke up hogtied in my fucking bedroom and my dad was just sitting there! And I looked up and I was all like, "Why the fuck am I all tied up?" And he's all, "Because you're getting all fuckin' crazy and shit!" I guess I tried to jump out of my window and my girlfriend told me that she cheated on me and I lost it and did all this shit and woke up hogtied.
WALLY: I don't do drugs! Actually, I can't think of anything too incredibly embarrassing at this moment.
KEITH: The dumbest thing I did, me and my friend went to this stupid sports bar down the street from my house. They had two-for-one drinks all night and we drank just fuckin' pitchers and big old rum and cokes and vodka and shit. Later that night, we're in the bathroom, and my friend can puke practically on command. He just fucking started throwing up all over the walls and I was just drunk and crazy and we just totally destroyed their whole fucking bathroom. Then we went outside and sat down and the bouncers came up to us and were all like, "Did you guys do that to the bathroom?" Right away, I go "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU ASKING ME FOR?!" and made a big scene. They just freaked out and backed off. I was talking massive shit; they should have called the cops on me and had me taken to jail. After that, anyone with a leather jacket was banned from that bar, and I wasn't even wearing one that night! I don't know where they got that one.
JEFF: One time, me and Haroldo got in this brawl at the Planes Mistaken for Stars house. I don't remember this, but I guess I headbutted Haroldo right in the fucking nose and pushed him down the stairs.
HAROLDO: He headbutted me in the nose and all I saw was this white flash, and I dropped right to the ground. The guys from Planes were all like "Oh shit, he knocked out all of his teeth!" I got back up, and I was all like "Aw, Jefe, look at my nose!" He came over to look at it, and I was just like BOOM! The dudes from Planes were all freaked out, 'cause of the size of us and shit.
JEFF: We were just wrestling all night...
HAROLDO: They came up to me at the end of the night, and they were like, "You guys had us scared there for a minute because we've never had two guys like you, this big, doing this kinda shit in our house. It was cool though!" Those guys are good buddies of ours.

LOKI: Haroldo, tell us about your recent experience with the police and how you might become a victim of the "War on Drugs."
No, I am a victim of the war on drugs. Basically what happened was that I was cultivating and got busted. I almost violated my probation and was looking at some time there for a little bit. But I got out of it. I got a good, basically DIY lawyer who likes helping out guys without much money that are struggling and helped me out big time. His name's Michael Andre. I got out of it pretty good, ended up doing two years probation. I was sober off pot for two years. I didn't drink or anything, I'm not a big drinker. I'm glad it's almost over. In September I'll be off probation completely.

LOKI: What's coming up in the future for Catheter?
Just writing a shitload more songs, putting out more splits, another full-length probably with Six Weeks.
HAROLDO: I want to try going to other countries now, like Europe, Japan, and Australia. If we can. A lot of underground bands like Abstain have played the whole world pretty much.
LOKI: Are you taking Jay from Urban Guerrilla Zine's suggestion seriously that you guys should just move here? (Laughter) He seems hell-bent on getting it to happen!
Well, the West Coast is closer. I don't know how we got so lucky to be able to play here two times in almost less than a month, and some bands never get to play here. We lucked out big time.
WALLY: Three times in the past two years.
JEFF: We're just fucking thankful that there's people that get into us and like us.
In Colorado we're kinda like pioneers of DIY shit and a lot of people look up to us. We like to help everyone out. If we weren't there, there wouldn't be shit, Colorado would be fucked. I want Colorado to be one of the strong points, because man, in the Midwest it's really hard. Des Moines, Iowa is cool because you have the Black Market Fetus guys there. But Salt Lake City? Wyoming? In New Mexico, you have a strong little scene. Colorado and New Mexico are like the strongest points in the real Midwest. I'm not talking about Chicago or anything like that. Bands coming from Des Moines are just fucked because there's nothing between there and Denver, and that's like a fifteen-hour drive. You've got the Wasteoid guys in Lincoln, Nebraska at least. But from Kansas to Denver is a ten-hour drive alone. Denver to Wyoming is only a couple of hours, but I mean, it's Wyoming. (Laughter)
LOKI: Yeah, that's generally what people say. "It's Wyoming." Or "It's Montana."
Exactly. Utah is like ten hours away, and there's nothing between there and Reno. We're trying to help it out so other bands can come through more often.
LOKI: I guess that wraps it up. Any last words?
Thanks a hell of a lot for the interview. We actually got a real fucking interview for once, and in an awesome fuckin' magazine that supports the scene down here.
HAROLDO: Just use the grammar check and take out all the fuckin' shits and whatever.
JEFF: Play fucking Catheter as loud as you fuckin' possibly can.
HAROLDO: Anyone that wants a Catheter discography or a Bad People discography can email me.
JEFF: Stay DIY! Please!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dead as Dreams

Years after their demise, Weakling still manages to stand tall (at least in my mind) as the undisputed kings of San Francisco black metal. Considering that I never really dug that deeply into black metal, I’m not sure how authoritative I can be making that statement. But as far as this listener is concerned, virtually all other bands of that nature are reduced to irrelevance when listening to Weakling’s sole vinyl offering to the world. For reference, Weakling was John Gossard’s band well before he joined Asunder. In between the two, he also played with bassist Sarah Weiner in the Gault. Josh Smith from the Fucking Champs also played guitar for Weakling, and their drummer Sam was in Sangre Amado and now plays with Saros.

I don’t remember how I heard about Weakling, but I definitely remember seeing them for the first time. It was Metalween at the Tip Top Inn, a trashy bike messenger bar in the Mission. Although I was six months away from 21, I had an ace in the hole: Pete from Benumb. With Pete backing me up, it wasn’t hard to bullshit the door guy into letting me in without checking for ID. As it was, I wasn’t there to drink anyway. Instead, the two of us were there to get a taste of San Francisco’s small but loyal metal scene. It turned out to be just as tasty as the steaks we ate down the street before the show. Weakling played last, and laid waste with an epic set of ungodly metal thunder that threatened to put a crack in everyone’s Metalween corpse paint. In fact, I had already forgotten what the preceding bands—Black Goat and Unholy Cadaver (later Hammers of Misfortune)—had sounded like. Add on a smokin’ hot stripper with an equally smokin’ hot joint for me, and I was in metal heaven.

Supposedly this is hard to come by (although it was reissued relatively recently), and the fact that I paid $7 for a used double LP copy is a cause for envy in some circles. Whatever its collector status may be, Dead as Dreams was a black metal masterpiece when you still thought Dimmu Borgior and In Flames were the pinnacle. Since you now pretend you never listened to those bands in the first place, pretend you were on the home team from the beginning here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

We Don't Play, We Riot

Negative Trend played at Gilman with the Zeros about a month ago, and it wasn’t so good in my book. Hopefully that’s been enough time for anyone else who felt the same way at that show to forget about it and enjoy this upload of their awesome We Don’t Play, We Riot EP.

I first read about Negative Trend in Noel Monk’s Sex Pistols tour biography 12 Days on the Road. Apparently feeling that the Pistols had already become a commercial act like Rod Stewart, Malcolm McLaren decided to find a local San Francisco band to open for them at their ill-fated Winterland Ballroom show. According to the book, McLaren had asked then-KSAN DJ Howie Klein who the worst punk band in San Francisco was. Klein was of the opinion that Negative Trend took that title without question, and was told to find them immediately.

Negative Trend met up with McLaren, who went to bat with Graham to have them play as an unadvertised band before the Sex Pistols. Graham wasn’t going for it, but offered to have them play directly afterwards. Unbeknownst to Malcolm McLaren, Graham had a standing tradition at his clubs to play a tape of “Greensleeves” to let the audience know that the show was over. Instead of having Negative Trend play, Graham played the tape after the Pistols’ set and all but a fraction of the crowd took off.

I came across a twelve-inch version of We Don’t Play, We Riot a couple years after reading that book, and was certainly interested in hearing the supposed “worst punk band in San Francisco.” Of course, they were anything but the worst…more like one of my favorite early San Francisco punk bands. I think I also picked up a repress of Crime’s “Hot Wire My Heart” single that same day, but I liked Negative Trend more. I think most people know about the bands that spawned from here—the Sleepers, Flipper, Toiling Midgets, among a bunch others—and the record came with a neat family tree-style diagram that mapped out virtually all of them.

None of this really matters much, but it’s how I’d rather remember Negative Trend than what I saw on the Gilman stage a month ago. If you’re with me, then this one’s for you.

They package all our heroes here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Withering Strands of Hope

Here we go with another one of our underrated Bay Area favorites: motherfucking Benumb.

I first met Benumb vocalist Pete Ponitkoff in the summer or fall of 1996 after a show at Lindee’s Bar & Grill in Concord. Being in a shitty punk band that rarely got shows, it was always nice to meet new people who were actually supportive and encouraging like Pete was, and still is. Some months later, I got to see Benumb for myself—at the same show where I first saw Excruciating Terror—and they quickly became one of my favorite local bands. In fact, when I was working on my first show booking at Gilman Street, Benumb was one of the first bands I called. Back then, the club’s bookers had an irritating propensity for bumping the smaller local bands off the show in favor of some touring band that you usually never heard of or cared about. Pete was aware of this. In a show of solidarity that is uncommon amongst virtually every band around here, Pete said that if anyone needed to get bumped, Benumb would volunteer to be that band so everyone else could have the opportunity to kick ass on the Gilman stage. Benumb had played the Slap a Ham Fiesta Grande earlier that year and weren’t hurting for shows the same way some of the other bands on the bill were. But nobody got bumped, and the show went on.

In January of 2000, I helped set up an entire weekend of shows to celebrate Pete’s birthday—two at Gilman Street and a Sunday matinee at Mission Records. We had bands like Capitalist Casualties, Morgion, Noothgrush, Progeria, Self-Inflicted, Exitwound, Lana Dagales, and Deadbodieseverywhere, as well as the reunited Plutocracy with their first show back on the scene. Somehow, everyone involved managed to keep the occasion a surprise until I made flyers and had to tell Pete what the deal was. The appreciation shown proved to me that we were doing these shows for the right guy.

Benumb weren’t about playing scene politics or being fashionable. If anything, they had to have been one of the most tragically unhip bands around here—their guitarist wore Korn shirts regularly, and even adorned his guitar with their stickers. Their blue-collar vibe should have been off-putting to most, but nobody in attendance could bring themselves to deny the brutality. Instead of trying to look cool or pretend to worry about the latest empty political causes, Benumb concentrated on playing hard, fast, and brutal music that would leave heads spinning in their wake. When Benumb started doing records with Relapse, I remember people claiming that they’d “sold out,” but nothing was further from the truth. Benumb never stopped playing shows in the underground scene, and the closest they ever got to big-time fame was the second stage of the Milwaukee Metal Fest. Nor did they ever treat anyone in the scene with any degree of wanna-be rock star arrogance or take advantage of anyone’s good will like some newer bands I won’t name. They even took the time to compile lists of contact info for similar bands for the Relapse crowd to check out, in the hopes of boosting the scene and broadening some horizons. If anything, Benumb were one of the only bands that deserved to be on a bigger label like Relapse at the time.

I could go on about Benumb all day long if I wanted to, but let’s get to this CD instead. Withering Strands of Hope was Benumb’s much-awaited second album. Unlike most sophomore efforts, this actually happens to be their best effort and captures the band at their peak. Around the time this was recorded, Benumb were far and away the most crushing band in the Bay Area underground, rendering the headliners and all other bands on the bill irrelevant. Remember that when you listen to this CD.

Let your hope wither completely away here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Daddio of the Raddio

This is a bit of a departure from the normal punk and metal fare, so hopefully you can find it in yourself to accept that occasionally. DJ stands for disc jockey, and that’s exactly what Porky Chedwick is. When I was a little kid living near Pittsburgh, I’d get to listen to Porky’s show on a regular basis since my dad (RIP) was a huge fan of his. In fact, my dad was such a big fan that he would often record the show straight off the radio. Apparently Porky Chedwick would break out long lost gems that even my father hadn’t been able to dig up in his searches. Porky would occasionally get on my nerves with his patter, but in an age when the airwaves are run by the heartless bastards at Clear Channel, I have to say that I miss legitimate personalities like this one. Stuck in the early ‘60s and loving it, he was the Blonde Wonder with the Record Thunder. The Daddio of the Raddio. The Platter Pushin’ Papa. Pork the Tork, the Boss Man, porkulating and getting you porkafied with his groove porkology. When it rained on you, the sun shone on him. He wasn’t a Spaniard, and he wasn’t from Spain. He was Pork the Tork, and he’d fry your brain. The last I heard, he’s STILL at it, doing what he does best on some small Pittsburgh station. LaMont and Tonelli will probably never have anyone re-record their songs to pay tribute to them on the Bone, but Porky got different groups to do that for him. And we’re not strictly talking about your one-hit wonders doing that either. If he said, “the talented Del Vikings will rule forever,” you can bet that he meant every word. Sometimes you’d listen to his show and hear the record jump or skip at a crucial point in the song. But it wasn’t because Porky didn’t take good care of his records…it was because he was getting worked up into an oldies dance fever and accidentally hit the turntable!

They just don’t make disc jockeys like that anymore.

Although I don’t think this CD was actually recorded from one of his shows, it fits the standard format. Intro and outro songs, re-recorded tributes, promos for local businesses (“Bruno’s Sunoco station”), and of course the Porky patter. None of the records skip here, unfortunately. We’ll get back to the punk and metal next time, but while you’re here, why not enjoy a change of pace with some golden oldies?

“It’s later for the Porkulator! And right now, my man, I’m GONE!”

Get Porkafied!

1. Porky Intro/Theme

2. Whispering Bells [The Del Vikings]

3. Love Walked In [The Flamingoes]

4. Fannie Mae [Buster Brown]

5. Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You) [Nino & the Ebbtides]

6. Flip, Flop & Fly [Big Joe Turner]

7. This I Swear [The Skyliners]

8. Hey Señorita [The Penguins]

9. Heart and Soul [The Spaniels]
10. 10 Commandments of Love [Harvey & the Moonglows]

11. Blue Moon [The Marcels]

12. Porky Theme/Platter Pushin’ Papa Promo