The last issue? Hmmmm. That’s a good question.
But think about it. Magazines are drying up left and right and Paste Magazine still stands. End times? Fuck, we think so!
I was someone who had never heard the Mission of Burma when I first heard the Volcano Suns. There probably was a small window in time for that to happen, and I was in it- an un-hip late ‘80s college DJ with more concern for listening to records in the back corner of the radio station than actually studying. Popular music was going through a real bullshit phase, with MIDI making it possible for one man to precisely play soul-less myopic riffs born of electric devices with no natural musical foundation. A drum machine or synthesizer doesn’t naturally radiate with melody- it spits out its sounds from tiny chips dealing with electrons. Although the waveforms could be proven to be perfect in a sense, the sounds didn’t give you the impression that someone had put them there with purpose or emotion. It was all created by some “maximized placement” algorithm.
That wasn’t what I got from “White Elephant”, the Suns contribution to the essential Homestead Records Compilation CD “The Wailing Ultimate”. I didn’t even have a CD player in 1987, but WSBF did, and I was dying to try it out. That purchase is one of those magical times where you plunk down a measly seven bucks on something without expectation, but it ends up smacking you in the face like a frying pan and changes your life. I picked it up for the Big Dipper, Naked Raygun, and Big Black cuts but fell much harder for Dinosaur, Death of Samantha, and the greatest surprise of them all, The Volcano Suns. “White Elephant” opens with a wail, a shriek, a squeal, and then a sputtering eighth-note riff that demands attention. The song chugs about for a few minutes, a rollicking beer-hall sing-along with some great hoots and hollers. It wasn’t precise, it wasn’t measured, but it sure was powerful. They were so sure of what they were doing, and that blew me away.
The radio station had the two existing Volcano Suns records, and I loved them so much I actually bought my own copies, instead of just taping them. I loved the clanging, open chords- I loved the relentless drive of the bass and then drums, but it was the scream that tied it all together. Peter Prescott has one of the great Rock n’ Roll screams. It’s a real guttural Howitzer-blast of a yell that I’ll bet really tested the electronics of a studio. It has the kind of force that you expect from the meanest drill sergeant as he’s making you do another forty push-ups in the mud and rain. Somehow, he managed to find the perfect setting for his voice: a three-piece power trio. Chunklet needing a glorification piece is a nice excuse to bug the early members and ask about the formative period.
The first lineup of the band was Prescott with two youngsters, Gary Waleik and Steve Michener. Steve recalls, “We answered his ad in the local paper looking for musicians. Gary and I were fishing around for a real band and liked the idea of playing with one of our idols. I had never met him before but we became friends through the band due to a shared love of music and movies.”
“There was a sense that it was Pete’s band but Gary and I were encouraged to contribute songs right from the start,” Steve says, explaining the balance between total democracy and Prescott as the leader. “The first stuff I wrote was because of Pete’s urging and encouragement. In fact our first radio tape (speaking of the good old days–no CDs) was a song I wrote the music to and he did the words called ‘Bright Orange’. It never made it to record but became the title of the first LP.”
Since names like “Waleik” and “Michener” pop up now and then on Suns releases, it seems that there weren’t any bitter feelings about their time in the band, despite the change in lineup before the first album. “Pete was a difficult person to be in a band with because he was so intense. Of course, that is what made him such a great artist and performer! Gary left first so he could focus on college and I kind of hemmed and hawed but ultimately quit. At the time Pete and I were both working at Copy Cop so I still had to see him every day. It was awkward, like any breakup, but eventually we got back on good terms. I thought it was really a nice gesture for him to use another collaboration, ‘Balancing Act’, on the first LP and thank me. Jon and Jeff were great, but Gary and I had a lot to do with shaping the sound of the band and especially Gary deserved that shout out.”
Jeff Weigand was a teenager in Newport, RI, when his band opened for Mission of Burma. “(They) were incredibly nice, and I remember that Clint was sorta dumbfounded that we had done a New Order cover, ‘Ceremony’, right after it came out.”
As timing would have it, Jeff moved to Boston for college right as Steve was exiting. He explains, “(I) saw an ad Pete had hanging around, looking for a bass player. He remembered me and I went and met him and Jon. I showed up with no bass or amp. I asked Jon later why they had ever asked me to be in the band. Jon told me that I played two notes if the song called for two notes, unlike some of the Berkloid freaks whom had shown up for auditions.
“We used to rehearse under a record store and pizza place on Boylston. I think it used to be Burma’s. We shared the place with the Del Fuegos. I will never forget when they got their Miller beer ad thing- Jon and I came down for rehearsal and could barely push the door open because of all their new equipment. Sitting over in the corner was this fucking Miller beer bottle guitar.”
The Bright Orange Years was recorded for $800, which didn’t leave any room for second guessing. The studio was called Radiobeat, a Pizzeria Uno stands there now. “Jon’s work on the records is incredible. He wasn’t just a player, he was an incredibly creative guitarist. If anything, I think Jon is the one who makes those two records what they are via his style and way of playing the guitar. I think he is underrated as a guitarist.” Jeff likens Jon to Andy Gill, “I think that even now twenty five years later as a listener. He did some pretty interesting things people overlook. Jon was amazing in the studio as well…those records sound the way they do largely because of Jon.”
I have to agree with Jeff over Steve here. I am a huge, huge Dipper fan, and I love Gary’s playing in that band, but his sound on the early Big Dipper records doesn’t have near the ferocity that Jon laid out. I would offer that Gary is the best match for Big Dipper fellow members Bill Goffrier and Steve Michener, but Jon and Jeff laid the classic support for Peter on those first two records.
“The only thing I grafted upon was to not do the traditional bass thing of playing along with Pete’s kick. I never tried playing along with his kick, which is what most do bass players with drummers. I would always try to play ahead of him, lead him on a bit. He is a more interesting drummer when you lead him. I like Burma a lot, but always found the cymbal thing a bit too much. One of the things I love about the re-masters is losing some of the cymbal stuff. Because of the tape and how Bob re-mastered it, there is not so much of that sheesh-ing. I never understood why drummers use cymbals as much as they do. Drummers should just be issued with a high-hat, that’s it!”
Touring for the record sounded interesting, “I was going to U/Mass at Boston while in the band. I got lucky in the sense I was a philosophy major and had a few cool professors who would just let me read all the books on my own and send papers in.
“I remember one very bizarre gig we did at Princeton. It was in this campus dorm house where the kids lived, but had what was called an ‘Eating Club’. They were paying us like a grand to play their party/ banquet. So we walk in and there are all of these rich kids dressed in medieval garb- they are having this medieval banquet- and gnawing on chicken legs, throwing food while the wait staff serve them at these big tables and clean up after them. Outside there were kids riding around on golf carts and I thought, ‘So this is the rich, huh?’ [They were] just total spoilt fuck ups. So we set up and all three of us are in a bad mood. We have been arguing and we don’t know why the fuck we are in this place- we pretty much hate everything about it. We had three hours until our time to play, so they put us in this big conference room with a long board table and Paul Klee watercolors on the wall and we have to wait while these kids party downstairs. And we start getting more and more worked up. [As we played] we just started antagonizing these kids and they hated us. I remember Jon walking out into the crowd while plugged in and knocking baseball hats off these jocks heads while I am playing and just waiting for Hell to break loose and having to dive in.”
All-Night Lotus Party was recorded for a grand at a more proper studio, White Dog. And while there was a growing buzz about the band- there was a general feeling that it wasn’t going to work right for them. Prescott had been through the wringer before with Burma, and he wasn’t entertaining any stardom hopes. Remember, this was all before “Grunge” hit and cracked the “rock” market wide open for a signing glut and eventual watering down. Cue Candlebox cut here.
“Jon and I just saw this with a chance to fuck around with stuff… it’s amazing the bullshit you can get away with and the access you have in a rock band if it’s got some hype behind it, and that ended up causing a lot of tension between us and Pete. Jon and I started sort of ganging up on Pete. If anything the breakup had more to do with us than Pete- that’s certain and it was unfair. Pete was actually a good guy to work with and a good friend of mine- he still is. But I never saw myself as being a musician forever anyhow…” He then recounts a story about removing an EMI A&R man’s name from the guest list and telling the bouncer to ditch the guy. Apparently the fellow showed up with an arm-candy girlfriend in tow and was bounced- HARD.
So Jeff quit the band to pursue his PhD and he moved to Belgium in the process, but he has no regrets, “[I have ] no profound thoughts about it. It was a great thing to be involved in and something you look back upon, listen to…whatever. It was done right, you feel proud of the work…you do it and then move on to other stuff. I think everything has its own ‘run time’ whether that be a rock band, or a love relationship or whatever. When it is done, it is done and I think we ended it when we needed to. I have no regrets at all on that level.” (Damn Philosophy PhDs- ed.)
Obviously, this shakeup didn’t slow Prescott down one bit, because before another year was over, he had a new lineup and released another awesome record, Bumper Crop. But that’s another article.
Here’s to the guy that gets ten percent.
He’s 38, but his folks pay his rent.
by Brian Teasley, Henry H. Owings, Emerson Dameron & The Chunklet staff
Art by Aye Jay Morano
The music business attracts some of the lowest life forms on the planet, from the coke-shoveling narcissists on stage to the castrated nerds who review the shows. But few are as slimy and unreliable (or as likely to misuse the word “logistics”) as the booking agents. Most eighth-graders could do their job with one Excel file, but booking agents find myriad ways to fuck up everyone’s game. Here are a few common problems to watch for.
You have to love it when a particularly young agent changes into a smug arrogant bastard/bitch because he/she just picked up a “hot” band.
They are non-responsive flakes, only interested in padding their personal booking portfolios.
They are either failed or burned-out musicians who have forgotten how crummy it is to deal with the kind of turds they’ve become.
They’re never at the shows they’ve booked, telling the bands (usually a day before arrival) gems like, “Scabby the bartender will be there, though…and he’ll take good care of you.” Complete bullshit.
Deposits: if you don’t trust me, don’t do a show with me.
Double or even triple booking has become a way of life for them; most places have way too many people booking for the same stage, none of whom ever bother communicating with each other.
They think that because Boston and Austin rhyme, they’re okay to book on consecutive nights.
They’re never nice, are always condescending, and have lousy emo/outdated grunge-era haircuts that they’re constantly fiddling with.
If they offer you a place to stay after a show, you might as well find the local homeless shelter and sleep in its back alleyway.
They’re so caught up in getting bigger acts into the venue they forget about the hard-working people they consider to be “nobodies.”
They’re either jaded scenesters, drug addicts, schizophrenics or some other variation of hopelessly unorganized, deluded fuck-offs.
They’re constantly gouging small promoters for high guarantees with complete disregard for how well a show will actually do.
“I’m just calling to check on ticket sales.”
Using SoundScan as a prop to get a band higher guarantees. “Look! They sold 677 copies in your market!”
In smaller cities, booking agents always try to leverage a $1000 guarantee for a band (whose only debatable selling point is that the drummer was once in Sonic Youth) by saying they played a sold-out show in a major city like New York or Chicago.
They try to book a worthless band or get more money by telling you said band is going to be on the cover of Spin or Rolling Stone.
They hold their big bands over your head, forcing you to kiss the asses of virtually unknown, farm-league, upstart bands they hope like hell will take off once their big acts move to William Morris.
They call to enforce the most picayune items on the rider like the amount of ice available backstage. [I think that was for the band Bracket, who no doubt has all the ice they could ever need now.]
They’ll make a call on a show that was a percentage deal and complain about why the band didn’t get paid more. “Hey, you booked the Warlock Pinchers tour, asshole. Now take your 10% of $46 and consider finishing that fucking art history degree.”
You realize how much you love booking agents when having to deal with some munch-head from Monterey Peninsula and finding that you need to talk to another agent because they only do the band you need in stadiums. “Oh, you need to talk to the small club guy.”
They force you to take a hit on one of their baby bands in the hopes that you’ll get a local band that actually has a fanbase. Then after the baby band hits, they book the band with another promoter.
Getting a “your contract is late” notice when the show is, like, six weeks out.
by J. Christopher Arrison, Ben Blackwell, Billy Carter, Emerson Dameron, Antonio Depietro, Shane Gillis, Michael Higginbotham, Iain Hinchliffe, Neil Jendon, Tony King, Scott Sosebee & Brian Teasley
Art by Lauren Gregg and Craig Sheldon
Like religion, fandom is usually a one-way street. We project our highest and lowest qualities onto our favorite entertainers, who vacuum up our money, bogart our hash, and ignore our requests for that one song off the first record. But we here at Chunklet like to think that our favorite musicians need us as much as we need them, particularly when they stop giving a shit about their own careers. If we could get backstage at the Echoplex, these are the folded-up napkins we’d leave…
Why did it take you over 15 years to figure out that people wanted you to shut up and rock?
How much plastic surgery and/or photoshopping did it take to make your new album cover?
Dear Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket,
Do you not know it’s your volume (and not your reverb knob) that is supposed to be on ten?
Dear Stephen Merritt,
For your Distortion album, why did you think mixing the languid show tunes of the Magnetic Fields with My Bloody Valentine-esque wall-of-guitar-vomit would be a good idea? It most certainly wasn’t.
Dear Juno Soundtrack,
Why did you make the world a place where I can’t escape the childish out-of-tune ramblings of the Moldy Peaches?
Dear Beach House,
Who told you having a disco ball on stage makes up for having a live show?
Why are you guys so afraid of taking showers?
Fifteen years later and “Wingwalker” is still your best song?
Dear Melody Maker, NME and Rolling Stone,
How does it feel to be completely obsolete?
Dear Interpol, The Strokes and Hot Hot Heat,
So what are you guys doing for work these days?
Dear Stephen Malkmus,
Who threw away your Fall records and replaced them with the Gentle Giant Discography? Also, I know you’re a sarcastic guy, but when your music was listenable, were you just kidding?
Dear Amy Winehouse,
Why are you on a quest to have your face fall off even quicker than Michael Jackson?
Why would you make a record so shitty that people don’t even download it for free?
Why did your old goth asses make a new record and then break up before its release?
Dear Mick Jagger,
Please pass away. It’s over. Watching you prance onstage is like watching elderly women fuck. The Stones haven’t rocked since possibly 1982.
Dear Alternative Press,
Is your existence an ironic joke on the rest of society by championing otherwise really shitty bands?
Dear Ian MacKaye,
Would you please start charging more than five dollars a show? It’s been over two decades already, there’s been a lot of inflation. Please, I like the music. I want to give you money. Take it.
Dear Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Do you realize that overweight soccer moms and aging lame yuppies trapped in 1993 are your fanbase now?
Dear James Hetfield,
Please wake up and look around you. Those are hangers-on. All of them. Especially that Lars guy. He’s a douche.
Dear Kurt Cobain,
Why do people forget how petulant and ordinary you were just before you rode the shotgun highway?
Dear Sonic Youth,
Please pass the torch on already.
Dear Jim O’Rourke,
So how’s the smart guy thing working out for you?
Dear David Cross,
We know you can’t be ‘on’ all the time, but it’s starting to become a real chore liking you.
Dear Dan Deacon,
Have you considered doing burlesque?
Dear Garth Brooks,
Bring Chris Gaines back and do a ska album. We need laughter back in our life, like, now.
Can I have my spare change back? I didn’t realize who you were.
Dear Nick Cave,
God doesn’t care about you, and we miss the girlfriend-killing stuff.
Dear Every Guitar Hero,
Now that you’re video game musicians, you’ll get laid even less.
Why not let your child lead a normal life instead of having her sit in the shitty backstage dressing room of every shitty club across the globe?
Dear Michael Hutchence,
Would you please say hello to Ian Curtis for me?
Dear The Polyphonic Spree,
“Up With People” happened. Please note the tense.
Dear The Mars Volta,
It’s getting embarrassing… and I’m a Rush fan.
Dear Iron & Wine,
Heard you in that M&M’s commercial. Is it easier to stick hippie tail now that you are awash in candy?
Dear Ben Gibbard,
Mu-st y-ou o-ver-e-nun-ci-ate ev-er-y syl-la-ble?
Dear James Murphy,
LCD Soundsystem is most likely not playing at Daft Punk’s house.
Dear David Lee Roth,
See that kid to your right? Get him laid.
Dear Sam McPheeters,
Has the trust fund run dry yet?
Dear Fat Mike,
Oh, I get it, that song title/album title/tour title…was a pun! Man, that shit never gets old.
Dear Bradford Cox,
I totally enjoyed your brave, unvarnished evocation of the pain and exhilaration of youth and early adolescence. Anyway, are you available to dogsit this Thursday?
Dear Page Hamilton,
Did Winona ever take you shoplifting?
Dear Paul Weller,
We regret to inform you that you may have silly hair.
Dear Vampire Weekend,
Just what does Satan’s cock taste like? Oh, and Peter Zaremba called, he wants his haircut back.
Dear Iggy Pop, Ron and Scott Asheton,
There is some awful sixth-rate garage punk band going around using your name. They even released a terrible album called ‘The Weirdness’ last year. I thought you should be made aware of this.
Dear Dean Spunt (No Age),
How much did you get when the Backstreet Boy ran you over with his car?
Dear Greg Dulli,
If we can accept your John Belushi impression, can you try accepting that we really just want The Afghan Whigs back?
Dear Vice Magazine,
Can you please stop sucking the cock of hardcore music these days? Just because a band has put out a million singles or they’re from Brooklyn or they know about the ‘80s….shit songs are still shit songs.
Dear The Pipettes,
Since you were able to find people to tolerate you, is it also possible to make a pickle by soaking a horse’s dick in ginger ale?
Dear And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead,
Here’s an idea: instead of smashing up your gear, try to do the really shocking thing and actually play a good show.
Dear Warren Zevon,
Do you think you might have actually died from making the Hindu Love Gods record?
Dear The Evaporators,
Can you please annex Dan Bejar into your band so that I can quit enduring New Pornographers shows?
Dear The Hold Steady,
Using a stage at a rock show to blather on about Catholicsm is bad enough, but how long do you want us to wait before telling everybody exactly which Cheap Trick songs you are shamelessly covering and calling your own?