In the Spring of 1990, I sure was an impressionable young twerp. I was finishing up my studies at York College of Pennsylvania, falling in love with my first serious girlfriend (who’d later prove to be a complete and total psycho) and was getting more and more immersed in underground music. The record stores over in Lancaster (Web of Sound and BBC Records, both RIP) were a constant source of how I would get my weekly injection of new music. The radio station I was at (WVYC, 88.1) was a joke. The music director would speak glowingly of the new Sinnead O’Connor single and all I wanted to do was put on a new Pussy Galore bootleg I scored. And then again, it was York, so what did I ever expect?
One of the best purchases I ever made was the "Richie’s Dog" and Siltbreeze "live" seven inches both by the Minneapolis band Halo of Flies. Without too much to go on (as was common for any band back then), I immediately tried to find out as much as I could which was next to impossible. I wrote to Siltbreeze (never got a reply) and then to Amphetamine Reptile which, as I later found out, was Halos guitar player Tom Hazelmyer’s record label. Friendly letters and packages would follow. Other Halos and AmRep releases, friendly suggestions of bands to check out (many of which are still all-time favorites) and then the odd show that might be in my neck of the woods would come to my mailbox in York and then to Pittsburgh and, later, to Athens.
Being notified of Halo of Flies performing at the 9:30 Club in March of 1990 would be a permanently life changing event. Now, let me try to explain here…..just living in York meant that going to see anything was a chore. And seeing as how my curiosity of what was going on in New York, Philly and DC was bursting at the seams, I traveled to these cities a lot in an attempt to see shows and buy records. DC was a 2 hour trip one way which was compounded by the fact that I always had early classes the next morning which’d mean I’d be getting back around 4a.m., tired, ears buzzing and, more often than not, completely broke after buying everything any given band was selling.
The old 9:30 Club was inarguably legendary, and back in the pre-gentrified days of seeing shows there (and at DC Space right around the corner), it was always a dodgy proposition when I was taking my mom’s car down into "the shit". However, looking back on the line-up for the show, it is still an all-time favorite: Halo of Flies, Surgery and Tar. Tar and Surgery were great, but Halo of Flies were…..well, simply devastating.
All three members — drummer John Anglim, bass player Tim Mac and guitarist Tom Hazelmyer — all looked like they wanted to beat the hell out of each other (and then the crowd) the second they hit the stage. I can’t remember exactly what songs they played, but I do remember just feeling that it was savage, sloppy, gruesome and it left the crowd leveled. Unquestionably leveled. Still one of the top 10 shows I’ve ever seen. EVER.
As years have gone on, I’ve met numerous people from different cities who were all at that crucial show from my youth. Furthermore, every last person who I’ve talked to about this show has said the exact same thing. Damon Che (Don Caballero) was there. Justin Chearno (Pitchblende, Turing Machine, Panthers) was there. And, of course, Chris X (Reptilian Records) was there. And we’ve all bonded over how over-the-top and threatening the show was. I’m just glad that I’ve finally found people who were there that agree with me.
And you know what? Halo of Flies did that one teeny tour I saw them on and that was the only time Americans (outside of Minneapolis and Chicago) ever got to see them.
Halo of Flies quickly disintegrated after the Ugly American Overkill tour the next spring at a venue in London. Hazelmyer continued with AmRep, Mac worked for him in the basement of his dentist office-turned-record company headquarters (until he "got weird") and Anglim went off to journalism school. So Halos kinda just stopped. No fanfare, no sentimentality, no nothing.
As the new century dawned, Hazelmyer and I started an exchange that I never would’ve imagined where he wanted me to write THE book on Amphetamine Reptile. Although I was certainly flattered, I couldn’t think of anybody else who would be better qualified for the job. Through Chunklet, I feel like I’m more synched up with what Tom has always been doing not to mention just having the organizational and writing abilities to get things done. Many e-mails were exchanged, a flight to Minneapolis was booked to discuss the whole project and then all we’ve had to do is find a publisher. Which, as you can guess, has yet to happen. However, things change. I’m not writing it off. In fact, I’m ready to start on this the second Tom says that we have financial backing.
And so it was with great glee that I got a few mp3s sent along from Tom about a year or so ago of some soundtrack music he was writing for the artist Dalek. Much like Halos, the music is 100% Tom, but this stuff is much more damaged. Kinda like a post-modern Chrome seen through the eyes of Flipper. So this was the first music he’d written since Halo of Flies’ demise in 1991. I was stoked.
Last week, Ipecac released a deluxe glossy book with a CD and DVD for this project between Hazelmyer and Dalek — Purge of Dissidents. Apart from Hazelmyer (who now almost exclusively goes by Haze XXL for the Juxtapoz crowd), there’s the guys from The Melvins backing him up, cameos from Grant Hart (Hüsker Dü), Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard) and old Halos drummer John Anglim. Although I’m not terribly familiar with Dalek’s work, this entire package is certainly compelling if not downright demented. But let’s be honest here, it’s inarguably got style.
Haze also just released a 7" under the moniker H-O-F on AmRep last month. Definitely worth checking out.
Oh, and for a bit of hilarious/delusional ranting by Hazelmyer, check out this interview at Terminal Boredom.
I’ve included a few mp3s of Halo of Flies to further reaffirm my point of their importance. The first is a tape I’ve had for years which was turned into a live LP called "Fuck The World" and the next two mp3s are the live tracks from the Siltbreeze 7" which still completely blows my mind. And while I’m at it, does anybody know the story behind the "Pubic Pop Can" record label that put out the "FTW" LP? They also did the "Reverse Willie Horton" LP by the Blues Explosion and so I’m sure it’s somebody we can easily trace. Suggestions?
Halo of Flies – Live in Chicago
Halo of Flies – Richie’s Dog (live)
Halo of Flies – Garbage Rock (live)