Friday, August 28, 2015

The Muffs' essential first record gets the Omnivore reissue treatment

Kim Shattuck with The Muffs at the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland in 2014. (Cat Rose photos)

All praise to Omnivore Recordings for reissuing, remastering and expanding the rip-roaring first record from The Muffs!

This was first released in 1993, and we've spun this crucial record mega times over the last 22 years. It's a classic.

The new version's been out for two weeks … so what are you waiting for? Snag it, post haste.

Track List:

Bonus Tracks:
17. LUCKY GUY (Radio Remix)
18. EVERYWHERE I GO (Cassette Version)

Even More Bonus Tracks
(4-Track Demos):
22. MY FACE*

* Previously unissued

Monday, August 24, 2015

Raw Power: Can you feeeeel it? Arm, McCready, McKagan and Barrett -- Seattle's roof-rockers

Raw Power. (TSHIT photos and video at bottom)

"What if they got Iggy to fly in?"

That's what someone in the massive crowd was overheard saying prior to Sunday night's Raw Power: A Tribute to the Stooges free gig at Seattle's Pike Place Market.

According to sarcastic singer Mark Arm, they were the "fake Stooges" for the evening. And there was unfortunately no Iggy, but Arm noted that Pop was the man responsible for the 45-minute set -- which saw the band rock out on the roof of the iconic market. The event was presented by KEXP radio and the Pike Place Market Foundation.

Along with Arm, Raw Power consisted of Mike McCready on guitar, Duff McKagan on bass and Barrett Martin on drums. All notable Seattle musicians from bands such as Mr. Epp and the Calculations, Shadow, the Fartz and Skin Yard. (As Mr. Arm quipped while introducing the band members... no need to mention the obvious bands here. Ha ha.)

Solid performances all around from the four men... and let's just say that Arm was in full Iggy mode, as always!

The setlist was:

 Little Doll (w/some 1969)
 T.V. Eye
 I Got A Right
 I Need Somebody
 Down on the Street
 Search & Destroy

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An interview with Alice Bag | Los Angeles Beat

Alice Bag performs in Seattle in 2012. (Andy photo)

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Beat on June 23, 2015.

By Bob Lee

In the earliest years of LA’s punk scene, Alice Bag was one of its leading lights. The Bags – or Alice Bag Band, as we on the east coast whose only exposure came via the Decline Of Western Civilization on VHS knew them – was a groundbreaker, the first woman-fronted band to hit the Masque. During their brief existence, they rarely played outside LA and released only a single and some compilation tracks, but their reputation and influence persists.

On the day we spoke, she had just completed a musical project of a different sort – teaching at a week-long rock and roll summer camp for girls.

“I’m just finishing a week with Chicas Rocqueras, a week long program that helps young girls build their confidence and gain some useful skills. It’s just a week of camp, they choose an instrument, we have small groups where they focus on just that instrument, and then after lunch we go to a process to figure out what sort of music they want to play, and sort themselves into bands. And that first day they pick a name and start writing their first song. It’s so exciting, it goes so fast… There’s a concert tomorrow! Seven bands, seven songs.” Getting young people on stage a week after picking up an instrument? What could be more punk than that?

Recently, Bag has emerged as a talented writer, publishing the 2013 memoir "Violence Girl," which covers her youth and emergence into the punk scene, and more recently, "Pipe Bomb For The Soul." The latter is a collection of her 1986 diaries during a month-long trip to Nicaragua, where she taught in a local school and learned a completely new way of life. This was during the conflict between the ruling Sandinista party and the Reagan-backed Contras, and learning how to respond to the frantic uncertainty of life during wartime becomes a central theme of the book. While initially challenged by the living conditions, she managed to adapt quickly and find a lot to appreciate in her surroundings.

“It’s like rock and roll boot camp, an accelerated experience. So when you go live in a different country, I was living with a family there so I was forced to experience everything they experienced. At one point, maybe during the first week, we had been eating beans every day and there was nothing else on the menu. And I thought, I’m going to go the store and help us out and buy something, share it with the family. And the woman at the store basically told me, ‘Who do you think you are? That you can come here with your money and get anything you want? We’re not like that here. Here, if something is available, it’s cheap enough that everyone can buy it, so it’s not going to be on the shelves for long,’ So you have to learn very quickly to adapt, and not to insult people, and say, ‘Yes I can survive on beans, that long.’”

Alice Bag reads from her book in Seattle in 2012. (Andy photo)

She also makes some discoveries about the educational process in the country, which was based primarily on intuitive learning through questioning, as opposed to rote memorization. While taking classes on how to improve her own teaching skills, she became deeply affected by the book Pegadogy Of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire, and saw an opportunity to see his ideas play out.

“As I was talking to a fellow teacher, she told me that Freire had been invited to Nicaragua, to develop their literacy campaign. I thought, what a great opportunity to see what this looks like. This whole idea of challenging the banking, the process by which we become receptacles for information, which is what’s happening now. You see it as young as kindergarten, these kids come in, they’re just taught to learn these abstract symbols, memorize sounds that mean nothing that go with these abstract symbols, and string them together to make these sounds that in the end, will maybe mean some words that may or may not have anything to do with their reality. And it’s disappointing to me.

“What I experienced in Nicaragua was students, little kids as well as adults, would go into a literacy classroom, and they’d discuss something from their book. There would be a sentence, it might say something to do with the revolution or agrarian reform, some concept, and there would be this discussion. And you didn’t have to agree, you just had to know what the sentence meant and what it meant to you, and how it affected your life. And respect the other people’s opinions. So that whole process of dialogue, or critical thinking, is missing from our educational system.

“It makes me sad for our educational system, makes me sad for our children, and makes me sad for myself, because I was raised that way. But the whole reason I became interested in going to Nicaragua was because I had just started teaching, and most of the children I was teaching were from Central America.

“Unfortunately some of those gains have been lost over the years. I didn’t go back to Nicaragua, I stayed in touch with the family for a few years, and then I lost touch with them. There still is a literacy campaign, from what I’ve seen, it’s not done the same way… I’ve seen pictures of people looking at a TV during a lesson, and I can’t imagine what kind of dialogue would be facilitated through that sort of situation…

“Part of the beauty of the literacy campaign was you had people of all ages, especially the youth, going out into remote parts of the country, and interacting with people they wouldn’t normally interact with and learning. You know, like the city folks learn from the country people, and they learned about each other’s way of life, and they worked cooperatively to make this dream of literacy and empowerment for all, a reality.”

Don’t expect to see the Bags’ name come up at any of the occasional reunion shows held by her 1977-era companions; following the death of founding members Rob Ritter and Craig Lee, she’s claimed no interest in playing those songs with anyone else. But she’s remained active with several memorable projects in the years since: the Castration Squad with Phranc and Dinah Cancer, the beloved Cholita!, a collaboration with performance artist Vaginal Crème Davis, and most recently, Stay At Home Bomb. She’ll be making an appearance on the forthcoming solo album by Legal Weapon vocalist Kat Arthur, and recently played in the Bay Area with the backing of Frightwig. “I am primarily a musician, that’s always going to be my first love. I stopped playing in bands when I moved to Arizona (from 2007 to 2013)… I lived in a remote area, so I wasn’t surrounded by a group of friends that were musicians like I have in Los Angeles, so I had to find other ways to be creative.”

Now that she’s back at it, and living in LA, let’s hope there’s more to come in the near future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bl'ast! fires up new tunes, blood-red 7-inch on the way

Mike Neider,left, and Clifford Dinsmore of Bl'ast! (Cat Rose photo)

By Andy

Bl'ast! into NOW.

It's been 26 years since Mike Neider and Clifford Dinsmore -- wild-eyed architects of guitar riffage and vocal/lyrical hemorrhage, respectively -- stepped into the laboratory of their devious minds and strung together some new tunes for those who last gripped onto their seat handles on the band's manic ride.

Last week, Bl'ast! unleashed a stream of two new blood-pumpers, "For Those Who've Graced the Fire!" and "The Pulse," which will fittingly be pressed onto a blood-red Rise Records 7-inch slated for an Oct. 30 release.

As if new Bl'ast! music isn't enticing enough, why not invite friends Dave Grohl to pound drums and Chuck Dukowski to manhandle bass for the session?

With Bl'ast! bassist Nick Oliveri and skinsman Joey Castillo unavailable at the time since they were touring with other projects, Neider and Dinsmore were anxious to get something new recorded, hence the one-day session in May at Grohl's Studio 606 in Northridge, Calif.

"At that time, we were in the process of signing to Rise Records and kinda felt we had a deadline hanging over our heads," Dinsmore said. "We just wanted to do something, mostly just to answer the question of whether or not we could still write Bl'ast! songs 25, 30 years later. So it's really cool to let Dave and Chuck sit in."

Added Neider about when the dust had settled and the tracks were complete: "It was a trip because me and Dave and Chuck and Clifford finally have a finished product. Sitting in 606, push play and it sounded like Bl'ast! We're all pretty stoked. Basically I wrote 'For Those Who've Graced the Fire' with wanting to deliver classic Bl'ast! in mind for the introduction of the band back into now. And we delivered."

Dinsmore explained that the Grohl/Dukowski session came about during a whirlwind of riff sharing, phone calls and emails. Neider had a riff ready to go and sent it to Grohl and Dukowski, and both guys dug what they heard and wanted in. So, the Bl'ast! guitar-meister contacted Dinsmore, told him the epic news and asked if he could be at 606 the next week to record the single. While Dinsmore wrote lyrics at his home in Santa Cruz, Neider jammed down from his home in Newport Beach to teach Dukowski the song at his Venice abode. Who knows where the everywhere-man Grohl jetted in from, but he was raring to go once everyone convened at 606.

"It was a lot of pressure, but it was kind of a good exercise in what you can do under a lot of pressure," Dinsmore said. "With Dave willing to do that with his schedule... you can't just (say), 'Ah, that sounds fine, but let's give a little bit more time,' because it would never happen again, not happen for a year or just whenever he has the next available time. With him being available, that was the crucial moment to do it. Made it more fun... for everyone to just bust it out under pressure."

Neider was stoked beyond belief to see what was happening before his eyes at 606. Grohl and Dukowksi's musicianship was stunning.

"Like Dave said, he wanted to do what Bill (Torgerson) always did and capture him and honor him," Neider said. "But he also wants to do what he does and we wanna capture him with Bl'ast!, so he did a nice mix of that, which was a really cool thing.

"And then Chuck, you know, sounds like Chuck! Bad-ass. You look over and see those two guys playing... a total treat. Really fun."

Dinsmore laughs when he shares a Dukowski/Grohl exchange: "I remember Chuck, he was just like, 'Dave, Oh my god, I didn't realize you could play drums like that.' And he's like, 'Well, Chuck, I grew up learning to play drums to Black Flag records. C'mon.' It was cool, old friends, to have that kind of weird musical chemistry come about after all these years. We've been around each other's music forever, but we never really jammed together."

Next up for Bl'ast! is cranking out a full-length album, which they plan to record in September for a January 2016 Rise release. Neider and Dinsmore have already recorded another new track with Oliveri and Castillo for a forthcoming split single with EyeHateGod on Rise.

Neider's already got some songs in his arsenal for the new record and Oliveri's ready to unload a few, as well.

"We'll all sit there and let it evolve, tweak it up a little bit. Everyone's working really well together -- it's like this natural thing that just rolls," Neider said. "I wanna have our Bl'ast! character, of course. I wouldn't wanna sway from that ever, but I wanna make it more today. I wanna try to make it to where it's way better recording, tighter, more open and brutal."

Added Dinsmore: "I think this new record is gonna be like the best of all three records, kind of rolled into one. Looking back in retrospect, it seems like we have a lot more perspective of what we want in terms of how to present Bl'ast! as a whole."

With Oliveri and Castillo as its riveting rhythm section, Dinsmore feels the live Bl'ast! experience is "gnarlier than it's ever been."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Seattle's old G-Note Tavern: Rock n' roll and then some

Rock n' roll, dancing, brawling and AA meetings once took place here. (Andy photo)

By Andy

Sometimes, when you're lounging at a barbecue where rock 'n roll is the main subject bandied about, you snag a kernel of information that you've always wanted in your musical arsenal. It ties everything together and now you can relay a story on to someone else down the line.

We've always wanted to know just what transpired within the checkered walls of the 4,300-square-foot building at 300 NW 85th St. in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.

It's empty now and for lease, but it once housed the G-Note Tavern and was the place of mass rowdiness one evening in the 1970s, according to a fellow at the barbecue who played in a blues-rock band that night.

While his band belted out its tunes, a melee erupted at the pool tables in the back room and soon the brawling throng rumbled into the band room. With punches flying and blood spilling, the band continued to play for a bit while face-to-face with the skirmish. After the band stopped, many cops were soon rushing through the doors, prying combatants off each other and hauling them away.

As I snapped photos of the place today, a police car raced by with siren screaming and I shook my head, thinking about that wild night at the G-Note. Turning to my right, I noticed that the Washington Karate Association's building is nearby. I chuckled.

Our barbecue friend noted that in recent years, the building housed AA and al-Anon meetings -- now that's interesting, since some of the barflies at the G-Note may have returned to their former haunt for other reasons.

The building, which used to sport red checkers instead of today's gaudy green, was also an all-ages dance club about a decade ago.

Back in the '70s, bands like boogie-meisters Canned Heat, Backburner, Moving Parts and The New Vitations (see fliers below) graced the stage of the G-Note. According to one Facebook post on BB King's page, he nixed the stage and strolled out the front door with his 200-foot cord, jamming in the street and in front of businesses at a gig in the late 1970s. Fabulous!

... And, according to the University of Washington University Libraries website, the 1st Annual Hooker's Ball was held at the G-Note on July 13, 1977.

Here's what the site states:

"Margo St. James (Margaret Jean St. James) was born in Bellingham, Washington, September 12, 1937. A self-described prostitute and sex-positive feminist, founded the organization COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), which advocates decriminalization of prostitution. The Hooker's Ball, an annual event served to fund COYOTE over the years. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, she testified before state and international governments on trafficking and violence against women, and the social effects of prohibiting adult consensual behavior. While attending the 1974 UNESCO Conference in Paris, Margo and other activists met with Simone de Beauvior, who later convinced them to form the International Committee for Prostitutes Rights (ICPR)."

Additional reference:

Black Breath ready to rage with new LP 'Slaves Beyond Death' on Southern Lord Recordings

Black Breath's Elijah Nelson. (Cat Rose photo)

So, who's up for another blistering, eye-gouging round of tuneage from Black Breath?

Fists and Pabst tall-boys raised in unison, right?

Well, come Sept. 25, the Seattle ragers' third LP, "Slaves Beyond Death," will attack the masses of metalists via the band's usual partner in crime Southern Lord Recordings, according to an Earsplit PR release. Converge's Kurt Ballou again twiddled the knobs at GodCity Studio in Salem, Mass., during the winter of 2014. Italian artist Paolo Girardi painted the cover with his mighty brush.

Here's the track listing:

 1. Pleasure, Pain, Disease
 2. Slaves Beyond Death
 3. Reaping Flesh
 4. Seed Of Cain
 5. Arc Of Violence
 6. A Place Of Insane Cruelty
 7. Burning Hate
 8. Chains Of The Afterlife

The band will no doubt rip through some of those numbers on Aug. 15 at The 666th Annual Linda's Fest, 707 E. Pine St., Seattle. The free gig begins at 5 p.m. and will also feature Christian Mistress, Helm's Alee, Kinski and VHS.

Prior to the new album's release, Black Breath will destroy West Coast venues alongside Goatsnake, Battalion of Saints and Obliterations.

Gig dates:

 9/16/2015 Mystery Box – Los Angeles, CA
 9/17/2015 Alexs’ Bar – Long Beach, CA
 9/19/2015 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
 9/20/2015 Club Red – Mesa, AZ
 9/22/2015 Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA
 9/23/2015 Boardwalk – Sacramento, CA
 9/24/2015 Catalyst Atrium – Santa Cruz, CA
 9/26/2015 Highline – Seattle, WA **BLACK BREATH record release show
 9/27/2015 Hawthorne Theater – Portland, OR

Black Breath, "Slaves Beyond Death," LP cover. (Paolo Girardi)