Killdozer: Twenty-Seven Years and Countin'
POSTED FRIDAY 03.06.09
In high school, I remember often wondering if I would still be listening to a lot of the same music when I was much older. Fast forward twenty-four or twenty-five years and the answer is an obvious, "yes." Jesus, how time flies.
My love for music really blossomed after I discovered a lot of interesting music around seventh and eighth grade. Like most people, more often than not I can still remember the exact person or introduction behind every band I have ever discovered. My friend Steve's older friend turned me onto Alice Cooper at the age of around twelve. A few years later, this same person led me to the river with another two important introductions, the Cramps and Killdozer.
While I fell in love with all three of the aforementioned bands, Killdozer were from Madison, Wisconsin, a town not too far down the road from my own hometown in Wisconsin. In other words, they were Midwesterners and that was especially relevant to me. Fact was, they also had some hilarious lyrics accompanied with some fantastically fucked up bluesy music not unlike a mix between the Cramps and CCR. Brilliant shit.
Killdozer in repose.
"Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite" was my ubiquitous bathroom music during my teenage years. I remember like it was yesterday the time I left the bathroom only to have my mother approach me and ask me what I was listening to in the shower. After telling her "Killdozer," she then proceeded to tell me she was disappointed in me. (This was coming from the same mother who, a few years earlier, after having discovered I had gone to see Ozzy Osborne at the tender age of thirteen, had told me the exact same thing after she and my father read about Ozzy and the concert in our local paper. My parents also added that they would have never let me go see such a "sick person" had they known who he was.) I can only guess mom did not appreciate the lyrics to "Pile Driver." Just a guess. Perhaps it was the lyric, "this man drank all of my beer and filled the bottle with piss." Perhaps it was the lyrics, "this is the man who stole my woman. This is the man who killed my dog. This man fucked my wife. This man fucked my mother." I'm not certain.
Anyway, after high school, I moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin in 1986. Killdozer, by this time, had put out "Snake Boy" and the "Burl" EP. Upon moving to Madison, it was quickly obvious that Killdozer, along with the Tar Babies, ruled the local music scene. I managed to see Killdozer play out live now and then, though certainly not as often as I should have.
In 1987, "Little Baby Bunting" was released. The back of the record sported an x-ray of Edward Gein's skull. Bill Hobson later told me that it was "borrowed" from the University of Wisconsin-Madison by one Killdozer's friends who worked at the hospital. Among my circle of friends, the song "Hi there" was an instant favorite and still is to this day. Never has such a beautiful string arrangement worked so well or been more unexpected in a song than in this Killdozer classic.
After releasing "12 Point Buck" in 1988 and the brilliant covers-only "For Ladies Only" 7-inch box set in 1990, Killdozer called it quits.
T&G press photo circa "For Ladies Only"
Killdozer's hiatus lasted three years. Since Bill Hobson had issues with touring, Killdozer replaced Bill with Paul Zagoras of the local Madison band the Burning Earnies, a move that Bill was not aware of until he eventually got wind the band was carrying on without him. This lineup released two full-length records, the first of which was "Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat" in 1994. The scorcher "The Pig Was Cool" clearly showed that the 'dozer were still a force to be reckoned with. In 1995, they released "God Hears the Pleas of the innocent."
Eventually, Dan also "left" the band, and like his brother Bill before him, it was not exactly on mutual terms. Dan had by now had a kid and since touring obviously does not mix well with fatherhood, he was eventually replaced; again, like his brother Bill before him, he was not aware he had actually left the band until he eventually found out the band was carrying on without him.
The new lineup added drummer Erik Tunison of Die Kreuzen, second guitarist Jeff Ditzenberger (A.K.A. Green River) of local Madison band Power Wagon, and Scott Giampino from Cash Money. This lineup would eventually release Killdozer's final full-length record, the aptly titled live "Last Waltz."
Touch and Go's 25th Anniversary show in 2006 allowed Killdozer, in Michael Gerald's words, "to bury the hatchet and rekindle our friendship; we weren't speaking to each other for over a decade." Since then, Killdozer has sporadically toured, mostly on the weekends since all three now have steady jobs. Michael is currently a tax lawyer in Los Angeles, Bill is a grip in the movie business in LA, and Dan lives in Madison and is a nurse.
Last year I contacted Michael via email in an attempt to get them to play Seattle, a show that has not yet panned out. However, I am, as always, hopeful that Killdozer will play here sometime soon. I did recently recount to Michael the story of my mother getting upset at his lyrics, to which he replied in classic Killdozer fashion, "I forgive your mother for her foolishness."
Killdozer played a live show in New Jersey on WFMU on November 6, 2008. They may not be spring chickens anymore, but as you'll hear from this live radio show, they still sound great.
(postscript: Henry's including a live show by Killdozer v.2 from '94 when they played Athens with Steelpole Bathtub at the Atomic. He was drunk on something wacky that night. Listen for various Athens colleagues smack talking Chunklet into the microphone.)