Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another Piece of My Childhood Gone Forever

Taking the long way back to work just now, I've learned that Studio 16 Productions has been torn down. Not a trace of it remains, just a big empty hole where it used to sit. The building has been sitting vacant for years, but it's still depressing. Studio 16 Productions was the first real studio I recorded in and it's where I took bass lessons as a teenager. It's owner and proprietor, Chris Hunter, was an complete professional through and through. My friends and I recorded some of the goofiest, noisiest music he's ever heard, I'm sure, but he treated us with complete professionalism. Once, when we recorded the first C3L demo there, I caught him covering his face during a take so we wouldn't see him laughing at us. When the song was over, it was business as usual and nobody brought it up. It was as if it never happened. As a kid, I dreamed of writing and recording my own music, Studio 16 was the only place to do it around here. He had this great, giant mixing board and recorded on the same 2" tape probably since it was built in the 70s. The studio was everything I imagined it to be, both in its set-up (vocal booths, green room and a light-up "In Session" sign) and atmosphere. The place was totally legit. At some point in the late 90s he sold all of his gear off for a small hard drive based digital studio and moved into the basement of a building downtown. I went there once to transfer Sockeye's master tapes to DAT for the "Barf on a Globe" CD and it just wasn't the same. Chris said he preferred it this way and there was no looking back, but it saddened me then as it saddens me today to see the old location gone forever. I doubt I'll step foot in a "real" studio again, but there's a heavy feeling you get recording in a proper studio like that. It goes against everything D.I.Y. I believe in, but it's a cool experience most kids today will never experience. I prefer doing my own recordings, but I'm happy I had a chance to experience the other side of things when I did. I had three such experiences there and I'll cherish those memories forever.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back in Business!

The crackdown on killed every single link I had on this page. Without the links, this page was just a bunch of text that didn't make much sense. I wasn't planning on re-upping anything. I wasn't really sure anyone was even grabbing this stuff, but one of my readers proved me wrong. Not only did he grab everything I had posted, he went through the trouble of zipping and re-upping everything to mediafire for me. Big thanks to James at for doing so. It's great to have friends of Ottumwa outside of Ottumwa. Future readers all owe him some gratitude. Show it by clicking on his site and seeing what he has to offer.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MOONCALF - s/t (1994)

A one time collaboration between John Huston (Smirnoffs, Citrus Boy, Delirium, etc) and Jake Allee (Gristle, Threeskin, Mantapus, etc). I'm not sure how this came about, actually. As I've said earlier, I didn't really know John back in the 90s (I don't know him now, either) and Jake didn't talk about this. I remember asking Jake about it when I found out about it, but I'm sure I was confrontational and Jake didn't say much about it. I didn't actually hear this until just a few years ago and was surprised by how much I liked it.

This is anything-goes, unhinged guitar and drums rock-n-roll from the very early stages of these two below-underground music visionaries of southeastern Iowa. The found-sound snippets pasted in between the recordings is a bit distracting, but then again it does accentuate the excited, pioneering, anything-could-happen DIY spirit evoked by so-much pre-digital, pre-internet social media, home recording of the late 80's to early 90's. Kurt Cobain and flippers's influence on the young John Huston's guitar and vocals is prevalent, but that's not a bad thing. The leads are already intriguing. Jake's balls-to-the-wall drumming style is full of ideas and potential here. This was recorded during the peak Gristle era, and much of the drumming belies Jake's interest in George Hurley finesse (fIREHOSE, minutemen), and other distinctive drumming Jake was interested in at the time (Tar Babies, Stooges, Dinosaur Jr., Primus, Melvins, etc...). Check out the cover graphics, done in the classic, cheapo photocopied Pirate Alley style with the graph paper background, and mysterious driver's license photo. This is 4-track rock-n-roll fun for a one-time listen for most underground music fans, and repeated listens for me. Jake went on to become a masterful potter and teacher. John is an award-winning journalist and inspiring union dude, both still play music.


Friday, February 27, 2009

SPIEL BOX - "Rehearsal" 1992?

(this above image has nothing to do with the band)

I always consider myself lucky to have "learned" how to play bass the way I did. I use the word "learned" loosely, as what little formal training I had didn't stay with me. I bought my first bass guitar in either 1991 or 1992. I can't remember exactly which year now, but I think I was a sophmore in High School. Either way, it was a late start for learning an instrument. Certainly, if I wanted to be any good at playing an instrument I would need a lot of practice and/or determination. I had neither. I've never considered myself to be a musician, but more of a fan of music who wanted to be involved in music. Becoming a fluent player has never entered my mind, not once.

After buying my bass (a Fender Jazz model 4 string, black with white pick guard) I decided I should take lessons. I started taking lessons from Chris Hunter at Richardson's Music Center. Each session $15 for 30 minutes. Chris tried to teach me scales, arpeggios, common chord progressions, etc but I never practiced them after I left my lessons. I listened to 90% heavy metal, 10% punk rock, had zero interest in classic rock music and couldn't see how any of the shit Chris was teaching me would apply to the kind of music I wanted to play (I can see it now). Eventually Chris asked me why I was paying for lessons when I wasn't putting any effort into learning anything, so I just started bringing in tapes and asking him to teach me how to play songs I liked until I eventually gave up on taking lessons all together. So much for that idea...

I had known Mike Hoff since my freshman year, but it wasn't until Jake Allee moved here from Cedar Rapids that we started playing music together. Jake was a skinny, mouthy, punk kid who's "fuck what you think" attitude got him beat up more than a couple of times at school. This dude fucking LOVED Primus, like they were the only band he ever talked about, and that's all I can remember my first impression of him. Mike introduced me to Jake and we got along okay (I think?), and shortly after we decided to start playing together.

My real musical training began when I started playing with Mike and Jake. At that time, all three of us sucked about the same. None of us had any experience and together we learned to play as a group. There was no shame in not being able to play your instrument because none of us could, really. This enviroment was completely nuturing and we all made progress, some progressed faster than others. It didn't take Jake long to emerge as the best musician of the group, but he put in the hours of practice to do so. Me....? Not so much. I did okay, that's all I wanted.

I don't think SPIEL BOX ever wrote any songs. When we got together, one of us would start playing something and the others would join in and we'd jam on it for a few minutes before running out of steam and moving on to another jam. There wasn't a whole lot of fancy fingerwork done on my part, but it was here that I learned how to play along with a drummer, how to stay on time and how to anticipate chord changes. The recordings we did were done during these jam sessions and, for the most part, these songs were only played once. There were a couple of songs I had lyrics written for in advance because I had to record something for a science project at school (yup, songs about cytoplasm and paramecium... good shit!), but the music was all written on the day of recording. Before SPIEL BOX stopped playing and we went our seperate ways we had a full tape of stuff recorded, but copies were never made and it remains unreleased to this day.

The 4 songs on this recording were done right before we split up. Recorded on a hand held tape recorder in Mike's basement, they sound suprizingly good. There are two cover versions of URINAL's "Ack, Ack, Ack!" (one slow, one fast), an improvised jam with lyrics loosely based on "Ack, Ack, Ack!" and a jam that eventually evolved into a UNISEX song, "I Like Breakfast". I can't remember why we stopped playing with Jake, but soon after this Mike and I formed UNISEX with Brian and Spence.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

JEFF KOETTEL - "A Jeff Koettel Christmas (1994)

I can't think of a better Christmas gift than to share this forgotten classic with the world. Here to help you celebrate the birth of Christ is my brother Jeff's "A Jeff Koettel Christmas".

Continuing on with his retarded improvised casio-core, Jeff recorded this tape in 1994 to get into the Christmas spirit by singing this tape "with a really bad cold". You can hear his head clogged with mucus on these 9 tracks. Completely devoid of self-censorship and shame, it sounds as if Jeff is reading from a book as he sings these while giving the "demo" button on his Casio a workout. Everything done in one take, I'm sure. "Deck the Halls" is the stand-out track here - pure cheese!

Yep, this sucks, but so do most Christmas albums.

Hope everyone has a happy holiday. Please leave a comment after listening.


Friday, December 5, 2008

2 POUNDS OF HERRING FOR $1.25 - "The Andy Koettel Story" 1992

I've been putting off uploading this for a while now as I recorded this when I was really young and it's a bit embarrassing now. I'm uploading it now because I feel that people shouldn't release things to the public unless they are willing to accept the fact that it might come back to haunt them later in life. This is no exception, I am not exempt from this rule. At one point I was very proud of this tape and gave them to friends and classmates with enthusiasm. I can't let age stand in the way of things now.

I recorded this tape between BILL BASSETT BAND and UNISEX, in the winter of 1992 on my brother's karaoke machine at a time when music consumed my life and I was excited to be involved with it. I hadn't been playing bass for very long when I wrote and recorded this stuff and I'm positive the first time I played guitar was when I did this tape. This tape came about because of experimentation with overdubs and layering instruments. The karaoke machine was the first multitrack recording I had ever done, and these songs were tossed off quickly and without self-censorship. I wrote and recorded all of these songs in 2-3 days, bouncing tracks back and forth between the cassette decks. The last song, "Fuck the Poll Tax", is listed as a cover song, but it's really just the SORE THROAT song put at the end.

I sang a lot in high school and some people considered me to be pretty good at it. I was even "All-State" once and received medals and shit. I cringe when I hear my singing on this tape now. I'm not sure if it's the singing itself, or the stupid lyrics I put to the music (I fancied myself as a writer of poetry too then - a complete nerd). The music on this tape is divided between bad funk, punk rock and shitty metal - all recorded without any percussion. Recorded with a proper band, this tape wouldn't be so embarrassing now, but since I'm playing all of the instruments - I have to accept all of the blame for how awful it turned out, ha ha!

I dubbed maybe 30 copies of this tape, photocopying the covers at the recently opened Econo Foods (where South Hy-Vee is now). I sold some of them for $1.25, but a lot of them were just given away because nobody wanted to pay for it. The same guy from my high school that told me "There's a new band in town called Beef Stew..." saw the text on the front of my tape (stolen from Metal Mania magazine) and accused me of ripping off the spoken intro from the BEEF STEW tape. I hadn't even heard the BEEF STEW tape at that point, but it's strangely similar. I can't imagine too many copies of this exist now- maybe 2 or 3.

I started recording a second tape soon after, but gave up on it after UNISEX formed. One of the tracks from this aborted second tape, an early version of "The Gardener's Anthem", was released as a bonus track on the UNISEX reissue. Some of these songs would re-appear in bands I was later in;"Hot Chocolate" was recorded by UNISEX and THREESKIN, "At War With the Smiths" by THREESKIN, "Safe Sex" by CAPTAIN THREE LEG. You'll also notice an early pre-occupation with Bob Beisch, something later elaborated on with THREESKIN.

So there you have it. My face is red just talking about it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

DELERIUM - "Pirate Alley" 1994

While I don't consider this to be John's best work, it's an important stage in his evolution as an artist. Hopefully he's not too mad at me for posting this tape.

Well before CITRUS BOY, John was recording tapes and releasing them under the name JOHN HUSTON & HIS IMAGINARY BAND. To this day I've only heard his first tape, "Da GL Song", and I consider it to be pretty unlistenable. I'm sure John would agree. It was John's goal all along to form a grunge band, but that didn't come until 1994 when he formed DELERIUM.

I remember seeing DELERIUM stickers all over town on people's cars and wondering who the fuck they were. The band was so short lived that I didn't even hear about them until they had broken up. They were together for three live shows and this recording, that was it. With the help of left-handed drummer Paige Clause and "chord-progression-challenged" bassist Sam Long, DELERIUM recorded this lone demo tape in the spring of 1994.

While making the jump from boombox to 4 trax , the sound on this is pretty terrible, even for my tastes. I get the impression John was constantly writing and recording music and didn't spend too much time on something before moving on to the next. All of the songs on side one are originals, side two made up entirely of cover songs. The originals sound pretty good in comparison to the covers, but overall the whole tape is a fun mess.

Shortly after DELERIUM's break up, John and Sam formed The SMIRNOFFS with Matt Sims and Mark Langgin, a punk band who's botched recording session lead to the formation of CITRUS BOY.