History Part 3
Big Neck History Part 3
As you know from parts 1 and 2, at this time I owned a couple bars and nightclubs in Buffalo, NY. The first of which was Asbury Alley where I was indoctrinated into the world of punk rock and garage rock. Now Asbury Alley is a whole other story unto itself. The unbelievable stuff that went down in that bar/restaurant/nightclub is still shocking to me to this very day. The way my business partner and I procured our liquor, the hours we kept for the bar, not to mention some that we basically ran the bar as a Speak Easy on the weekends with gambling in the basement, all these things were pretty questionable.
In fact, after three years of duplicitous business at Asbury Alley, my cousin who was in the police force in Buffalo came over and told me the cops had a direct order to shut the restaurant down. So, I sold my share to my partner and got out quickly. The police busted Asbury Alley several times over the next few months and didn't exactly shut it down, but made it impossible for my ex-partner to renew his liquor license.
At Asbury Alley each night had a theme or identity and for some reason we could not nail down a good Saturday night. That was until, Ray Pist and the Sick Sick Sicks stopped in one night and convinced me to give Punk Rock a chance. Now I have been a lover the punk since a teenager in the 80's listening to the Damned, Sex Pistols, Fugazi, and even lighter 80's punk rock, but I did not know if a pretty much non-existent scene in Buffalo, NY would create enough revenue. Nothing else was going on so we gave Ray Pist the go ahead. I remember walking into that first night and the band was setting up their equipment and trying to string hundreds of Christmas lights around the drums for their lighting. It ended up being a blaring wall of sound that left me shocked and a bit dismayed. I hadn't listened to a stitch of punk rock since the 80's and WOW. Ray Pist and The Sick Sick Sicks played an old Misfits type punk rock. AND they packed the place, a great crowd that drank a ton. Perfect for me and my bar.
This lead to us corralling Ray and all his friends, Suck, The Baseball Furies, The Backstabbers, Johnny Revolting, Girlpope, Jack Jimmy Hoodlums, Plan 9, Door #3, and The Blowtops to play any night we could grab them.
Till this time Buffalo's punk rock scene was nowhere, they had nowhere to play, and nowhere to go. Asbury Alley started to become the stomping ground for the vestiges of this scene. This is where we began it all.
This is the History of Big Neck Records. The positive take away from the Asbury Alley story was that Buffalo needed -- nay wanted -- a punk/garage/rock n roll scene. We'd had local punk bands playing there every Saturday night and packing the place. Those locals started to draw larger out of town bands, bands like Branch Manager, Small Axe, Yankee Wuss, the New Bomb Turks, Gaunt, and The Pist all played that small venue and stage. The scene needed to stay alive.
I wanted to keep the punk music scent alive and rolling and what slowly seeped into my mind was that not only did Buffalo not have a good punk rock bar but it did not have a good metal club either. So, I found a couple blocks from the booming nightclub scene of Chippewa St. a corner spot that the owner was anxious to rent. Now this place was not the best set up for a live music club, but with the cost of the rental being so low, I did not care. I also vowed to run the new establishment by the book, seeing what happened to Asbury I did not want a repeat of that. I decided to call the place Sanctuary, because it was a sanctuary from all the crappy nightclubs and bars in Buffalo at the time.
Since we were off the main strip we had to make our nightclub a destination, not just a bar that people would wander into. So, we had something going on every night. Monday nights we hired a few different dominatrixes to entertain the crowds. It was mainly volunteers who would get up to be whipped very lightly or have wax poured on them. Again, this was all volunteers (and totally legal). Tuesdays we had ladies' night, solely devised and run by our bar-tending crew who were in the scene for quite some years. Wednesdays we had an ever-changing lineup like contortionists, Jello wrestling matches, pet rat races, and anything that would come to mind. Thursdays were our punk rock nights helmed by Aaron Aducci from the Blowtops as a DJ and Timo Walukis from the 7-10 Splits, Monkey Wrench, and Vinny Barbarino Experience as the bartender. Plus on Thursdays we had live punk rock music for free. Fridays we spun heavy metal music (and I mean good hair metal). Saturdays we booked and had live bands on the second floor. Sundays we did all-ages hardcore music shows during the day.
The demise of Sanctuary is now of New York State lore and Buffalo myth. Needless to say, the City of Buffalo did not want an institution like Sanctuary bringing rock n roll and a different nightlife to Buffalo. So, they kept taking me to court until I finally gave up and closed the bar down. At this point I was done with Buffalo and the people who had been running the city I loved into the ground. I decided to see what else was out there in the world.
“Goodbye stink town” – Homer Simpson
Hello, Washington DC
I settled pretty quickly in the DC area getting a job within days of my arrival bar tending at a local sports bar called Champps (where I actually drummed up a great friendship to Big Neck’s newest partner, Cory). This was a new place and a new life for Big Neck Records. The money from bar tending was coming in, and the record releases were going out.
(You will notice the covers from the early Big Neck releases were all Black n White - another way to save some money for more rock n roll).
BN005 the Blacks
"Call The Shots"
First was the band The Blacks. Two brothers, Martin and Thomas, started Savage Records over in Sweden because they truly just love rock n roll. We'd sent them a few of Big Neck's first releases to check out and they absolutely went crazy for The Blowtops. They loved everything the Blowtops did, and even put out a single for them. (Actually the Blowtops were a very prolific band and still have a ton of singles floating around the world right now.) Great note here was that The Blacks helped book The Blowtops first European tour. It had a few good first shows, but then things started going downhill and shows were getting canceled on the Blacks and Blowtops. Needless to say the next European Tour The Blowtops joined up with The MooRat Fingers (a lot more on that later, especially a great story about the slap game and several Blowtops crying their way across Europe).
Well, Martin and Thomas had put out their own first single, but wanted to have a really good label put out their next offering. They sent us a tape of seven songs, all fantastic, but Jimmy Hollywood, Aaron, and I all agreed on four of the seven that would make The Blacks' first single with Big Neck Call the Shots. These boys knew rock n roll and to this day they are always busy with a new band and a new rock n roll sound (Guys, if you're listening, I still love Tokyo Knives). Anyway, Call Your Shots went over like gangbusters. Everyone loved it and this record shot out of Sweden like a bomb. They soon were being asked by every small label out there for a record.
BN006 the Halfways
"She's A Heart Attack"
We were pretty high on the success of The Blacks, but honestly nothing new was coming in that I liked. We had a few bands lined up for recording later in the year but nothing coming out anytime soon. Then I got this cassette in the mail, and splattered across it was written, "Do you like Rock n Roll?" So I slapped this tape in and honestly it was real good, it was some great garage rock n roll. Mark Death was the one who sent this over to me. He loved Big Neck and was at the time just in Richmond, VA. I called him a couple times and we spoke about rock n roll and I discovered much to my shock that Matt Odietus from The Candy Snatchers fame played guitar on this single and not only that but Steve Baise of Devil Dogs fame recorded and mastered the son of a bitch! How could I not want to put this out. Two punk rock idols that were loved by many.
So I called up Jimmy and Aaron and explained that we had our next single. Needless to say since they had not heard the songs they were a bit skeptical and rightly so.
This was a great single, the biggest issue was the band itself was not stable. Kept breaking up and moving around and to get together to write, record, or play shows was a huge obstacle. Thus, this single did not move well out of the gates. Mark finally moved to Portland and started a band called the Moneychangers. Matt Odietus, I just learned passed away a few years ago at the age of 40.
Owning a record label, it is vital to the label that the band stay together and tour a lot. Even if it's just a couple weeks every 3 or 4 months. That is the reason I loved the Blowtops so much, they stayed together for 10 years! That is huge. They may not have sold a ton of records with each release but as time went on their records did finally sell a lot.
BN007 the Mistreaters
This is where I think Big Neck started to really hit its stride. I was visiting in Buffalo with Aaron Adduci and the Blowtops pounding down some beers. Aaron was discussing the last tour they did and how the shows were pretty good, but most of the bands that help set them up were not that great. Except for one. He pulls out this cassette tape from his pocket and tosses it to me and says, “We played with these guys, the Mistreaters, in Milwaukee and they did not suck like I thought they would.” [Insert laugh track here because the Mistreaters are a powerhouse of a band.]
On the drive back to DC, I threw the tape in and damn if they didn’t rock. In fact, their first demo tape is still today one of my prized possessions. It was way too good. They had eight songs on that tape, one a great cover, but each song was plastered with rock n roll. From Kevin Mistreaters' guitar hooks to Chris Mistreaters' deep guttural blues voice howling through the speakers, to Hot Fudge’s bass, to Christian’s damn drums obliterating the background. It was amazing. From this we pulled Stranded, still one of their most famous songs, re-recorded for their second LP on Estrus Records. How Much For the Women, bringing to mind the Blues Brothers movie, Leg Show and Walk On. The last two songs really just showcase the hard hitting nature of the Mistreaters.
I cannot tell you how nice each of the Mistreaters are. They were passing through Baltimore on a tour and playing this really small punk club called Talking Head. This place was crazy, the bar was made out of plywood with a couple saw horses and you had to go up a flight of stairs then down a set up back stairs into a super tiny hallway to get to the bathroom. So, I went to the early show and the Mistreaters rocked out more than you would every believe, I sat there stunned.
But after the show, what to do with the Mistreaters? Well..... I decided that it would be funny to take them to Hooters (still have some photos of Kevin hula hooping) and to see how drunk I could get them at the worst strip clubs in Baltimore (the world actually, but they were in Baltimore). This is where I learned to read the fine print on the walls of strip clubs and never buy a stripper a drink.
So BN007 was out. Everyone went bananas for the record. We sold this thing like hotcakes, making up for the initial lack of sales with BN006. Knowing how good this single was and even before we released it, I sat down with the band and discussed a full length. Basically for Big Neck’s first full length, I wanted a previously unknown band that would just tear it up. They agreed and started to write rock like crazy. Side note to this: when I sat down with Aaron and Jimmy to discuss moving to full lengths, Jimmy actually wanted to keep the label a singles label. I did not though, thankfully, because we have some amazing full lengths out there.
BN008 the 7-10 Splits
"From The Tall Corn Country..."
So the Mistreaters were selling and our next single was with my buddy Timo Walukis and his new band the 7-10 Splits. Timo has a long history in the Buffalo music scene. He started a band in college called Monkey Wrench with my roommate. I, to this day absolutely love Monkey Wrench. They wrote some amazing pop punk rock songs. As you may know, Mark Arm from Mudhoney released a record from a band of the same name so Timo’s band went from Monkey Wrench to The Wrench. They put out a number of singles and tapes, and did one full length on New Red Archives (produced and recorded with Robby Takac of Goo Goo Dolls fame). Back then punk rock did not pay… Wait, what do I mean back then? Punk rock still does not pay! … anyway the Wrench did not make too much money from their live shows. So, to supplement their income the Wrench started a cover band called the Vinny Barbarino Experience, which covered 70s hits with a punk rock flair (faster and louder). To this day, Vinny Barbarino shows are the stuff of legends around Buffalo, NY.
So, basically Timo was always one of the best song writers I have ever known and when he came to me with the 7-10 Splits I agreed immediately. The 7-10 Splits were an amalgam of two bands in Buffalo: Timo from the Wrench, Tim Bryant from Scary Chicken, and Scary the drummer from Scary Chicken. They recorded a bunch of songs and I loved them all. They were tongue-in-cheek pop punk songs; something I always loved but we hadn’t put out on the label yet. I Love Your Mom was the best of the first lot and instantly became a college radio hit for the Splits. Yard Sale was just outright fun with a great hook and Jesus Got a Hammer was all about your "time to go". It's four songs of pop punk sweetness.
The Splits even had a great stage gimmick where they rolled up dressed like bowlers with bowling bags and pulled their picks and sticks out of them. Their rhetoric on stage was all about them living in Milwaukee, working in the alleys and drinking beer. Just too damn fun. Plus, they could play live shows tight, fast, loud as hell, and they had hooks to boot! They stunned the heck out of the Rust Belt Revolt II crowd. Haven't heard of the Rust Belt Revolt Shows?
Well, Jimmy Hollywood and Robert Tyrade from the Tyrades wanted to celebrate their birthdays (which were on the same day) the right way. So, they decided to throw a 2 day rock show with all the bands that they wish they could see live right in Buffalo, NY. They needed a little help and a sponsor so thankfully the first person Jimmy turned to was me and Big Neck Records. I whole heartedly agreed to help with the fest, still have the VHS tapes of the shows, they were awesome.
BN009 the Distractors
"Shake It Up!!"
So for the past few months before we put out the Mistreaters and the 7-10 Splits EPs, I was receiving these mystery cassette tapes from Texas. This guy and his band kept recording these one minute amazing punk rock songs with female/male vocals on a four track in his basement. Each cassette’s sound was not so good. But, they kept coming and coming till finally he mailed me a tape entitled “The Distractors” that blew me away. It had this one song called Rollerderby Queen that the female sang and had this awesome clapping (as all bands know I love songs with clapping). It also had a ton of good songs like Bury Her Tonight and Let You Go. So I finally got a hold of the guy and he was excited to do an EP. The songs were so short we wanted to do a six song EP but the last cassette that was recorded so well only had five songs, so we had to find one more. We dove into the bad tapes they sent and pulled out Bang Bang, which was recorded so in the red it keeps chopping out. When you listen to the EP you will definitely notice a difference. What is really punk rock from this EP is that they did not want to send me the original masters to get pressed so I had to pull the songs off the cassette tape to make the record. It's awesome. I still have this record on my 45 jukebox at home.
About five years after we put this out, I got a call from this girl Jennifer who is like, "I just heard The Distractors on a college station and I know that is me singing, I just don't know when I recorded the record or with who or what our band name was till now." She recorded the record with Trey Roblez who was in the band, Hard Feelings who put out records on Sympathy for the Record Industry and Dropkick Records. I mailed her a bunch of copies.
BN010 the Blacks
If you have not heard of Guitar Wolf you have been under a rug and in early 2000 Guitar Wolf was going on a huge European Tour and they asked the Blacks to open up for them. Thomas and Martin immediately reached out to me and asked if we would put out a tour 7". They sent over 5 songs and after careful consideration we took "Shattered", "Don't Be Cute" and my favorite, "The Boss With The Hot Sauce." The tour was a crazy success and The Blacks asked us to release the rest of their unused songs for a 10", we whole heartedly agreed. As we were waiting for artwork, The Blacks decided to call it quits. At the same time we were putting out our first full lengths, so money was short and a band that wasn't around to tour would not sell a record. Alas, we had to let the 10" go.
BN011 TrailerPark Tornados
"Heroes of the Hopeless"
At this time in Buffalo we had a nice core group of punk and garage rock bands playing around town and, because we started a great scene when I lived there, more and more bands were joining the ranks. In particular, there was this new band that everyone kept talking about in Buffalo. Jimmy Hollywood called me up at 4 am one night after seeing them live and told me we have to do a 7” for this band… best frigging thing he has ever heard. He put their spokesperson on the phone, Dave, and I told him to send over a demo to check out. About a week later in the mail I got this tape and I cannot tell you how shocked, blown away and just stunned at the rock n roll in this small package. Needless to say, this was the TrailerPark Tornados. Their demo was the best thing I have heard in years. Songs like Chinese White, Canoli Girl, and (She’s a) Martyr came out of the speakers like a freight train with hooks. I immediately called Dave Tornado back [you may now know him as "Dave Plates" or "Dave who owns Spiral Scratch Records in Buffalo"] and said we will do it!
As you probably know Chinese White has now been covered by several bands. The Baseball Furies who slowed it down and made it dirtier and another more recent band. That was BN011.
We will stop here for the moment and start the next chapter in our history with The Mistreaters full length, The Lost Sounds first record, Bantam Rooster coming to Big Neck, and The Tyrades debut!