I remember when John Spencer Blues Explosion seemed to lead the way into something I didn’t know existed: the blown out, garage-soul, joke blues. Up until that point the blues was very serious, sad business from Robert Johnson and to combine it with wrestling ring ostentatiousness, distorted grooves and James Brown soul felt completely new. Hollywood, out of Baltimore, MD feel like an extension of that moment when you realize you don’t have to be in a band that’s trying so hard to be cool or serious or political…if you like to get drunk and listen to loud music while being a jackass, then you should do that. Just be your god damn self, that’s what’s going to work in the end. Hollywood are a bunch of jokers, blasting scuzzy distortion all over the stage and if you stop for half a second to listen to their lyrics then they’ll have you pissing your pants.
History Part 4
History Part 4
There was a big debate that went on between me, Jimmy Hollywood, and Aaron Aducci back around the turn of the century. I wanted to expand the label to start doing full lengths. It would be a costly venture because a full length tends to be 4-6x as much to press than a single. Jimmy just thought it would be cool to remain a singles label. Just keep pressing singles and selling cool bands. The issue with that is you don’t make any money off a single. Any time you press a single you hope to just get your money back. With that in mind I wanted to expand to full lengths because you made your money back quicker and the opportunity to make some money was much more enhanced. Now, a lot of people out there are probably saying, “damn Bart greedy much?” Far from the truth, the purpose of this label to me was always and still is to get as many new bands as possible some exposure and with more money Big Neck could press more rock n roll.
The issue still stands today as our new distributor was having a meeting with us on sales and they were complaining that we are always trying to ‘break bands’. Yes, because that is why I started a label.
So, the debate went on for a few months mostly late at night in bars and over the phone. I finally swung Jimmy around to my side and between him, myself and Aaron we set about figuring out who should be our first full length.
It didn’t take long, we wanted a band that personified the sound of the label, we wanted a band that was new to the scene, and we wanted a band that we loved. It was an easy decision. I put a call into Dusty from the Mistreaters and asked if they wanted to record Big Neck’s first full length. They immediately got back to us with a YES.
Initially it was kind of funny because both I and The Mistreaters were pretty new to the rock n roll world and we were just trying to figure this out as we went. One great conversation I had was with Aaron who just went out and played with the Mistreaters in Milwaukee. Apparently the band was very concerned that I would attempt to rip them off. Aaron and the rest of the Blowtops had a good laugh and then pointed out to Kevin Mistreater(aka Dusty) that I was brand new to this and what other label was knocking down their door.
I was still very new to the rock n roll world so really didn’t understand too much about studios and the different sounds that come out of them. At the time we just had MR. Skimask at Pumpkin Patch Studios recording all of our bands. I didn’t hit upon that the sound or the quality that producers like Jim Diamond were able to wring out of every band in their studio. You will notice that many of Big Neck’s releases are recorded, mixed and mastered at Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders. He is amazing and is able to get any band to play their best immediately. He has this ability to pull and embolden every band’s sound with that perfected wall of noise.
Needless to say we were using Ski Mask and do not get me wrong, Skimask is a great recorder, and he gets a very nice sleazy sound out of his studio. So, we had The Mistreaters tour to Buffalo to play a couple shows and record with Skimask. The recording went pretty well, in fact on the second day we still had enough tape for one last song, but the Mistreaters were all out. In came a surprise visit from Jimmy Hollywood who at the time was still in the Baseball Furies and the Blowtops but was entertaining ideas of being his own front man (Tyrades, White Savage, Football, and AV Murder). Jimmy stepped up to the plate and whipped out a few harsh riffs he was working on. Dusty, moved in, Christian started belting out the vocals, add drums and bass, and “Who Wants Knives” was born. When the Mistreaters released this song as a single years later they forgot to credit Jimmy with writing the song. Jimmy wasn’t mad, but it wouldn’t be until the Mistreaters double LP with all their singles that the mistake was rectified.
A couple weird things happened during this session.
First, at this time the Blowtops were finishing up their recordings for what would soon be, in my opinion, their best record ever, “Blood and Tar.” The Blowtops were definitely geniuses of the world of rock n roll, but they were always one of those volatile bands that had a lot of bickering or infighting. Much of it would be focused on one person for a period of time and then move on (we can talk about Andy and the Slap Game when they toured Europe later). The tension in the band was because they all had so much say in the songs they wrote, that each of them had a different opinion on how the songs should sound. Needless to say the Blowtops just recorded the songs for the 10” and a bunch of singles. Andy mixed the session and it came out unbelievably amazing. Best mix they have ever had. Issue was that everyone in the band wanted a hand at the mixing because they felt that they could do a better job. Jimmy and I were sitting outside the recording studio with Aaron and Andy from the Blowtops, while the Mistreaters were finishing a song. Creepy Dave rolled in and sat down beside me and slipped me a tape of the mixes that he did.
The problem was that Creepy Dave was none too subtle and Aaron saw the pass. I quickly flipped the tape to Jimmy to make it seem no big deal, but Aaron snagged it out of Jimmy’s pocket and a loud, long, and pretty mean argument broke out in the middle of the Mistreaters recording their LP.
Needless to say, Dave’s , mixes were nowhere near as good as Andy’s, but with all of the anger and rage that occurred, Andy got mad and went and erased the settings on his mix so we couldn’t redo them in the master. Thus, the whole record was remixed by Aaron and Andy; it was a great mix, but still short of the originals.
Second, the Mistreaters went home, listened to the roughs from the session and determined that they did not like the sound that came out of Skimask’s studio (again a sleazy grimy sound). They quickly went and rerecorded the whole record at their buddy’s house. It was great! They did an amazing job and it opened my eyes to the different sounds that studios get. So, yes, I have an alternate recording of this infamous record that makes it sound much sleazier and dirtier
A funny comment that Chris Mistreater made that weekend was that all of them had issues with the bathroom because of the water in Buffalo…I think it was because they were up till 5 am every night drinking Genny Cream Ale.
I shopped around a bit to find pressing plants that could do full lengths, I looked at United – they complicated things because we had to have someone else print the covers and then ship them to United, I looked at Rainbow Records, way too expensive, a few smaller pressing plants in Michigan and Florida, finally I ended up deciding on Erika Records to press our records, price wasn’t too high, they did it all for us in house and I would have one contact (later I would move away from Erika for several reasons). Needless to say the record came out great.
We released the Mistreaters record, “Grab Them Cakes” too much acclaim and praise. They started touring like mad, even went to Europe and destroyed it over there, and were asked to play a ton of big shows. Dave Crider from Estrus Records, great guy, always kept an eye on Big Neck and really liked a lot of the sound that we were coming out with. Dave got the Mistreaters to do their second LP on Estrus – it was really good too. Since then Kevin started his own label, Dusty Medical, and released a live Mistreaters record and their singles collection, both are amazing.
Next up on the chopping block was BN013, The Blowtops, “Blood and Tar”. Once we started doing long players, I was fascinated with the cool ways to put out rock n roll. I really wanted a 10” on Big Neck just because I thought the format was wild. So, the Blowtops had 9 songs left to record and instead of making it into a full length we decided to do the 10” idea. The Blowtops were all in, but Aaron demanded that the record be Big Neck’s 13th release, “save BN013 for us and only us!” To me it’s by far my favorite Blowtops release; I just loved Demon Rum, Black Juju, the creepy Police Station Number 13 and an amazing cover of Richard Hung Himself. Great frigging record.
This was there follow up to their full length off of Flying Bomb Records, “Deep Thrust” and I have to say that I think we blew their initial LP out of the water with this. At this time Big Neck was really hitting a great stride and we were getting some rave reviews release after release.
The Blowtops were the pioneering band on the label that went over to Europe first to tour. Initially on their first tour of Europe they set up different shows with friends and contacts over there. The first tour was a great learning experience, in fact Creepy Dave kept a tour diary that someday I am going to get a copy of and put up on the site for all to read. Some shows were great, some shows fell through, some shows were duds, but they loved every minute of it and came away with some amazing stories.
What was nice is they also broke even, they hired a driver over there, had their flights, food, and other expenses, but in the end they made enough money to pay for the trip in full. They had some pretty large crowds at shows. I think personally that Europe just has a much better music scene and they appreciate music much much more than we do in the U.S. So, in the end, bands are treated much better over there with places to stay and food complimentary at the venues.
With their tour over there, it got many of the Big Neck Bands to start heading overseas for a couple weeks every year. I definitely attribute them with these tours to getting Big Neck a HUGE following overseas. Even currently we sell more records to Europe than anywhere else!
Big Neck had a great name in the punk rock/garage rock. Bigger labels were looking at our bands and it was pretty exciting, but not as exciting as what happened next.
The Baseball Furies were touring a ton in preparation to record their next record with Jim Diamond, “Better than Ever.” One of the bands that they tended to play a lot with was The Reatards! For some reason they were both in Memphis but playing different shows at different bars. Jay ran over to see the Furies finish their set and then invited them over for an afterhour’s party at his house. Apparently, they got to talking a bit and Jay told Jimmy about his new band. Jay played the Lost Sounds demo for Jimmy right there and then. Jimmy was so excited that he called me up and made me listen to it over the phone at 3 am. Jay and him got to talking after I hung up and Jay was discussing how Solid Sex Love Doll records was releasing a single, in a very limited format, but they had enough recordings for a full length. Jimmy did not drop a beat and said, “We (Big Neck) will do the whole fucking thing right now.” Jay agreed and we had our next release, BN014 The Lost Sounds “Memphis is Dead.”
The story of the Lost Sounds “Memphis is Dead” is one full of rage, anger, apologies, and me learning oh so much on how to handle bands. As we all know the Lost Sounds consisted of Jay Reatard, Alicja Trout (River City Tanlines, Fitts, Contaminated Records Owner and Clears fame), Rich Crook (Lover!) and Steven. Alicja, I will always love to death, she is amazing as rock n roller, beautiful as well, but the best part is she is nice, reasonable, and most of the time very level headed. Jay was the hot headed front man of this band and I do mean hot headed. He was young and pretty much spoke his mind no matter what was going on without ever thinking anything through. Rich and Steven were amazingly cordial and nice too.
Alicja and Jay put together 13 songs that blew me away. Each and every song sounded like it was created and played by almost a different band. I remember listening to the record with Jimmy and just being bewildered at the intensity of the music and the different sounds that came out of each song. Jimmy was in love with it and Aaron just kept saying it was the best thing he has ever heard.
The artwork was sent over and everything was sent into Erika Records. One of the issues with Erika, is that you work at their pace, there is no set timelines, no rushing, you get the records when they are done. This record was backlogged a bit because at the time there were so few vinyl pressing plants in the U.S.
Jay was getting a little antsy and kept calling me constantly for updates. We finally received the test pressings and they were wrong, half the time the sound didn’t come out, the spacing between songs and the leads into the next songs were messed up. So, Jay and Alicja had to go back and remix everything and then I had to send it back into Erika for new plating and test pressings. This is quite a process as you can deduce and again took quite some time.
And again Jay was getting very antsy, to the point where he would call me and leave messages on my machine about what an asshole I was and how he was going to drive up there and kick my ass for the record taking so long. Shocking, but I assumed he left these when he was a bit drunk. I would call him back and Jay, as he was want to do, would immediately apologize and say that he is stressed about the record. I can still recall one conversation about how he thought the record was cursed. “Bart, in the Reatards, I always do 16 song records, this record has only 13 songs, Alicja and I think we cursed it.” The test finally came back and it sounded perfect.
I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to that record and to this day I will always love “Satan Bought Me”, “Soul for Sale”, “Don’t Bother Me”, and “Memphis 99.” The intensity of the feelings in those songs, the riffs, the anger, the plain just new sound at the time just blows me away.
Memphis is Dead was released and again amazing reviews, what really helped was that fact that both Jay and Alicja are the hardest working people in Rock n Roll Ever! I mean that. They were constantly touring and constantly writing and recording new songs all the while Alicja had her own label, other bands and Jay started his own label too. This hard work helped get them gain the notoriety they deserved as well as move records. Reviews came in by the fistful and they were all amazing.
Empty Records who Jay worked with on the Reatards grabbed up their next single and next 2 full lengths which are right now out of print. I recently spoke with Alicja about repressing them and she was very cool about it, but said I would have to get a hold of Jay’s people. I don’t know who Jay’s people are, but I will find out.
So, BN014 was done and killing it for us, what could be next? Well over the years of owning my bar I had quite a few bands come through and play. One band I fell in love with immediately was Bantam Rooster! Tom Potter was a guitar genius and Erik Cook was just plain amazing at getting the most out of his drum kit. Bantam Rooster played many times at the Sanctuary in Buffalo and Tom and I become quick friends. Currently they were putting out records on Crypt Records (Maybe my favorite label ever) and I hit Tom up for a single. He loved the idea and even decided to write two songs that were a bit off the beaten path for Big Neck. We just released the Blowtops and Lost Sounds so he wanted something a bit creepier.
Mexican Leather was born. If you have ever heard a Bantam Rooster record you know they are all crazed blues rock n roll songs, but with Mexican Leather B/W Summer in Hamtramck we got something a little bit out there. The blues was there, the rock n roll was definitely there, but now there was a sleaze and weird guitar riffs. It was great!
I loved the departure and out came the record. Again, great reviews.
Big Neck was really building a name out there with all the great reviews and all the new bands that we were getting press for. But nothing would compare to the amazing steep rise of our next release.
For the longest time Jimmy Hollywood wanted to start his own band. Jimmy was a great guitar player who could write some terrific punk rock blasters. He said to me on so many occasions that the only reason he ever joined the Baseball Furies was to be in the coolest band in Buffalo NY. Jimmy was the toughest bass player I have ever seen, who literally would bleed on stage every time the Baseball Furies played live. Now he was turning his talents to the lead guitar. He grabbed his best buddy in the world Robert, hunted down one of the best, but flakiest drummers in Buffalo, Dave, and then who to sing? It took a bit of convincing because from what I understand this young lady was a bit shy at first to sing, but Jimmy kept saying, she’s got the voice we want and she will sell this band. After a few different tries they finally convinced her to be the lead singer and that is when Jenna joined and the Tyrades were born.
Jimmy was busy as hell, working, Baseball Furies practice and tours, and now Tyrades practice. It was about 4 months later that he came to me and asked if Big Neck would put out the Tyrades first single. HELL YES! I know Jimmy and he does not do anything in the world of rock n roll wrong.
He gave me four songs that sincerely roared by in minutes. This was a blaster, punk rock to the core, wild abandoned guitars with catchy riffs, bass lines that sucked you in, a drummer that left his kit in tatters and the best for last, a female lead singer who knew how to sing punk rock! Jenna’s vocals and timing was spot on, she had this voice that would literally pound the song and the lyrics into you. It was about a year later that Robert told me the secret to her singing as fast as she did. When they would write songs, whether it be Robert or Jimmy, they would play the song and tell Jenna, “you have to sing this whole line before I hit this riff.” Genius. So many bands out there with female lead singers suck because the lead singer usually sings slowly over music that is blasting by. Hate it. Not Jenna though, she killed every song. And Jimmy was right, that girl fronting that band sold them huge.
There is a great mystery surrounding the Tyrades first single. The original cover was printed incorrectly with bars that were printed across Jenna’s face. We gave a few away right away, but Jimmy did not like the cover mistake and wanted it reprinted, “Jenna’s face will sell this record.” So we reprinted the cover. If by some piece of luck you have a copy of the record with the original cover, you own only one of twenty such copies.
To this day, I don’t think I ever saw a record sell out so quickly. Within one month all 1000 copies were gone. I turned to Jimmy and asked to repress the record. The band took a vote and they wanted the first record to be rare. Fine by me, let’s get the LP out!
In the ensuing year, Jimmy and the band worked their asses off. Writing songs, touring, and constantly playing all ages shows everywhere. The Tyrades were on a meteoric rise with some heavy hitters in the label world making offers. I have seen the Tyrades live so many times, I can’t count. Every time I saw them play, I was always amazed at how they put everything out there in the live show. Jimmy would be exhausted because he was playing with everything he had for every song. He would be tearing up the stage jumping, screaming, rocking, and then when the song was over you would see him kneel down and just start taking deep breathes to energize his system for the next song. It was astounding.
Alas, like all meteors the Tyrades burned very bright, and then died very quickly. I remember when the offers came in from In The Red and Vice who wanted the Tyrades. Jimmy and I were having some beers in Buffalo and he looked at me and said, “They want us to tour a ton in the next year”.
I said, “Suck it up and do it for a year, if you make it big, you can do whatever you want for the rest of your life.”
Jim’s just looked at me with tired eyes, “Bart, I am 30 years old and living out of a van, this has got to stop.” And it did. The Tyrades broke up and like most amazing bands, they did it very quietly.
Next installment will take us through The MooRat Fingers, $20 Whore and a bunch of full lengths!