Larry Hardy Top Five
We had this on the site a couple of years ago. Thought I’d bring it back as Larry has impeccable taste.
Top 5 favorite records
1. The Cramps - Psychedelic Jungle
2. The Stooges - Funhouse
3. The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette
4. The Ramones - Leave Home
5. Velvet Underground - White Light / White Heat
Top 5 favorite labels, past or present
3. Island (mid 70’s) - Sparks, Roxy Music, Eno, White Noise, Ultravox (w/ John Foxx when they were good), ect
Top 5 labels that influenced In The Red
4. Amphetamine Reptile
5. Sub Pop
Top 5 underrated records
1. Sparks - Lil’ Beethoven
2. Scientists - You Get What You Deserve
3. The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette (better than anything the Clash could’ve ever thought of!)
4. The Monkees - their first five albums are all excellent. Better than the Beatles’ first five albums.
5. Every album by the Cheater Slicks. One of the best bands in North America for the last 20 years and most people are too stupid to get it.
Top 5 Sparks records
1. Kimono My House
4. Lil’ Beethoven
5. Hello Young Lovers
Top 5 LA-punk shows you attended in the late ’70s as an impressionable teenager:
1. The Cramps (opening for The Runaways) @ Whiskey 1978
2. The Germs, Middle Class, Black Flag, Redd Cross @ Hong Kong Cafe 1979
3. The Screamers @ Whiskey 1978
4. The Weirdos, The Dickies @ Golden Bear 1978
5. Iggy Pop @ Santa Monica Civic 1977 (first show I ever went to)….though he was better in ‘79 @ the Stardust Ballroom w/ Brian James (Damned) on guitar and Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) on bass.
Top 5 music scenes, past or present (i.e. Montreal in the 2000s, etc.)
1. NY / CBGBs late 70’s (Ramones, Suicide, Dead Boys, ect)
2. UK punk explosion late 70’s (Sex Pistols, Damned, Slits, X Ray Spex, Buzzcocks, ect)
3. LA punk explosion late 70’s (Germs, Weirdos, X, Screamers, ect)
4. British Invasion early-mid 60’s (Rolling Stones, Who, Kinks, Yardbirds, Pretty Things, ect)
5. US garage scene mid 60’s (Seeds, Electric Prunes, Sonics, ect)
Andrew Tolley Interview, Part Two
Ryan: Jumping back to your own bands: You released the Hasselhoff Experiment’s records through Kato, but signed to Flying Nun in 1998 for CD distribution. Can you talk a little about the cultural impact of Flying Nun and the state of the label when you joined up?
Andrew: I have to give credit to our manager, Angela Means. Her boyfriend was Brendan Moran—the drummer of Hasselhoff Experiment. Angela was a very good networker. She ended up working for Flying Nun. So it’s not all that surprising that we signed to the label. Nevertheless, if I try to look at it objectively, it’s not as if we were a million miles away from the label’s aesthetic. We were certainly different; maybe a little more rock. I don’t think we sat that comfortably amongst the old guard: the Clean, the Bats, the Chills, the Verlaines…
Ryan: You shared a similar ethos.
Andrew: Yes. But I remember we played a support slot for the Clean at the Kings Arms in Auckland. The venue was packed. However, the audience was there for the Clean. They didn’t run away when we played, but they left a huge semicircle in front of the stage.
The closest Flying Nun band we had a connection with was Solid Gold Hell. Matthew Heine, the guitarist of the group, engineered half of our second album, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1999). He understood where we were coming from. I saw the Hasselhoff Experiment as sort of operating in a vacuum.
Ryan: Your influences were pretty esoteric, too. You were really into Bantam Rooster.
Andrew: That was attributable to listening to the Norton and Crypt records I was importing. Hearing the Bassholes for the first time left an impression on me.
The Hasselhoff Experiment evolved out of a band called Sourpuss. We got our name from an Axel Grinders song. We did a bunch of covers; we were slimy and grungy. As the band was getting off of the ground, I was going through a rough patch. I was worn out and didn’t want to play in Sourpuss any longer. The other guys in the band were pissed off. They couldn’t understand why I was throwing away all the work we had invested. I left the group for six months. I then talked with Brendan again, who had drummed for Sourpuss. I asked him if he wanted to do a two-piece band. That was the Bantam Rooster influence coming through in Hasselhoff Experiment.
I couldn’t play guitar like Tom Potter. I wasn’t that good. But Brendan was a great drummer. He wasn’t just keeping the beat; he was putting on a lot of accents; he was the counter riff to my main riff. We built up a strong chemistry. There weren’t very many two-piece bands before us in New Zealand. There are some now. Prior to the Hasselhoff Experiment, the only two piece around was the Tall Dwarfs. And we didn’t have much in common with them. They were two guitarists and maybe a drum machine. The Chris Knox aesthetic might have influenced our band, though. We kept it simple and believed that we could do it. Like the Tall Dwarfs, we could pack all of our gear into a hatchback and play wherever we wanted to.
I don’t know whether we introduced a new lo-fi, trash aesthetic to general New Zealand. But we certainly presented something slightly different to the New Zealand landscape. I highly doubt we could’ve brought anything new to America. Brendan and Angela wanted to go to America, but there were plenty of bands doing similar things there. We couldn’t have done anything better than what the Hospitals, the Coachwhips, the Flat Duo Jets or the Bassholes were doing. We probably would’ve been perceived as a poor version of these groups. Maybe we could’ve presented something New Zealand-inspired, coming through our filters; I’ve never seen any of those bands play live, so I can’t really say.
Roger Shepherd had left Flying Nun when we joined the label in 1998. There were all kinds of stories I heard regarding the state of the label at the time. That Shepherd had had some success bringing Flying Nun to Europe. The second-generation Flying Nun bands were pretty successful, groups like the Straightjacket Fits…
Ryan: The Chills had taken over for the Clean in regards to being the label’s big act.
Andrew: The Chills were very successful. It seemed like the beast grew larger than the management over at Flying Nun.
Ryan: I read that Roger Shepherd kind of found himself lost at sea when he moved to England to handle Flying Nun business there.
Andrew: Yeah. That original way of running Flying Nun had faded. The label used to record bands on a 4-track, then get the recordings pressed the next month. They’d take the finished albums and sell them to stores on Queen Street in Auckland and the main streets in Christchurch and Wellington. Flying Nun was a cottage industry in the early days. It was really charming. The Clean’s Boodle, Boodle, Boodle was recorded and distributed in that fashion and ended up breaking the New Zealand Top 20 chart. It was part of a brave new frontier. Later on, things started becoming a bit slicker. Bands were recording in relatively flashy Auckland studios. The whole template had changed for Flying Nun by the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Flying Nun was being distributed by a major label (Festival) when we joined up. There were all these hookups and politics of where you stood in terms of getting your record pressed. Flying Nun’s albums might not get pressed up for weeks because Kylie Minogue needed her then-recent album repressed. That might’ve taken precedence over a King Loser album. It was a weird time. Flying Nun was no longer an independent operation. There were a number of people running the ship. The two people closest to the original Flying Nun aesthetic at the label in the ’90s were Lesley Paris and Paul McKessar.
Around the time they left, Flying Nun got absorbed by (Australian major label) Festival. Not taking anything away from those involved, but the new people at the label were further removed from the source and inspiration of the early days. Bands like Garageland, PanAm and D4—they definitely had a lot of crossover potential and were signed. The Hasselhoff Experiment sort of fell between the cracks. We weren’t connected with the first or second-wave Flying Nun acts. Even the bands we had something in common with, like King Loser and Solid Gold Hell, had those connections. Chris Heazlewood had played in Olla with Lesley Paris; Gary Sullivan from Solid Gold Hell had played in the Jean Paul Sartre Experience. They had a pedigree of sorts. We were from Wellington as well, and Wellington wasn’t really a Flying Nun town. People from Wellington love Flying Nun. However, not many bands from the town got signed by the label. In fact, it was only when we moved up north to Auckland that we got signed to Flying Nun, again largely through Angela’s connections.
Ryan: You jokingly refer to your time on Flying Nun (1998 to 2002) as your brief brush with success. You were also winning bNet awards. What did you walk away with from that experience?
Andrew: First,Brendan and I had to decide whether or not we should even try to play the game. We were on a major label and not doing things independently anymore. We thought we were too abrasive for radio, but then we got played on Radio Hauraki and promptly blew their speakers out; and walked out of the station with our tails between our legs. We played on TV. That actually helped us heaps. The shows we played on were actually reasonably receptive to what we were doing, and it did get our music out to a lot of people. We played on Mikey Havoc’s MTV show. That was awesome.
The second and third Hasselhoff Experiments records were recorded when we were signed to Flying Nun. They gave us money to record. So we decided to play the game. We went into Auckland studios and paid for engineers. But then it was like, “Realistically, how many records do you expect us to sell?” We knew we weren’t going to make the money back that they gave us. We’re still effectively paying back Flying Nun back ten years later. I get a statement every six months. It reads, “You have made three dollars. Your three dollars went to your $10,000 bill that went into recording your third album. You now owe us $9,370.” (laughs)
We didn’t really think it all the way through. We thought we’d take it where we could and maybe get some publishing deals worked out. That’s the way you make money now. Not through live shows or record sales, but through soundtracks and commercials. One of our songs got used in a commercial by a New Zealand clothing store. It was just a guitar riff from a song called “Shooting the Shit” off of our first album. It had a catchy, boogie riff. But we recorded that record live, and I kind of fucked it up. So here they are, using a riff that I fucked up on. And it’s on New Zealand national television. The caddy for Tiger Woods is a New Zealand guy. He was in the commercial, so it was kind of a higher profile commercial. I’d cringe when I’d see it; the guitar was so out of tune!
You do lose a bit of control when you sign to a major; we actually owe that money to Festival Records, not Flying Nun. You have to play the game and do interviews with people who might not get what you’re doing. Get your records reviewed by people who don’t really get what your point is. It felt like it clearly wasn’t the right landscape to be in. I really find the political side of the music industry distasteful. It might mean some opportunity for me, but I’m not interested anymore. My bullshit detector became a lot stronger through my experiences in the Hasselhoff Experiment. Even the artist grants you can get out here I’m suspicious of. I sleep better at night doing things independently. Even doing things for TV commercials, it’s kind of cool but it still doesn’t feel right.
Ryan: The Hasselhoff Experiment wound down in 2002.
Andrew: There was more to it than the bad experiences with Flying Nun and Festival. I started getting frustrated with playing the sort of white-boy rock we banged out. I really love that type of music; it had more to do with the audiences that became attracted to it. The Hasselhoff Experiment was loud. We played at fast tempos. We had a predominately male audience. In some of the smaller towns, shows would get rough. We played a show in Hamilton. We were on a detachable stage that had been pushed together. The stage had actually been pushed back about two feet by the end of the night, just off of the energy of the crowd. People just pogoing off of each other. The mixture was a mass of jocks and skinheads.
Ryan: Hamilton can get rough.
Andrew: It can. I could watch fights breaking out. In one regard, it’s hilarious. However, it’s also kind of scary. One guy had a singlet on and he pulled the classic Hulk Hogan move—just ripped it right off. I remember thinking, “What the fuck?” It was kind of depressing. We just became the soundtrack to violence. I love playing that kind of music, but once you take it to a certain level, things start getting weird. The audience is removed from you to an extent. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Ryan: You don’t have the direct means of communication you formerly had.
Andrew: Yeah. You could have a real bad gig; only five people show up. But those five people are there to watch you play. They stay for the whole things and they get it. That’s the point. I guess I prefer quality to punters to a quantity of punters. I’m sort of fearful of getting back to that critical mass situation again. Maybe I’ve just gotten older. I sort of sing more and scream less these days.
Ryan: With the Bloody Souls, your main project after the Hasselhoff Experiment, you took control of the means of production again, recording albums yourself at rehearsal spaces. It seemed like a reaction to the experiences you faced in Hasselhoff.
Andrew: Yeah. Things had gotten weird at the end of the Hasselhoff Experiment. I had broken up with my girlfriend of two years when I moved up to Auckland. I had to find a new place to live. I wasn’t happy with the third album (2002’s Out of the Sandpit and Onto the Drive). I had written only half of the songs for it; the other half I wrote in the studio. I pulled songs from old bands. It was a piecemeal effort. While I think some of those songs are quite good, at the time I didn’t like the whole process—especially the record label stuff going on. I also wasn’t a good version of myself, so I didn’t put my best foot forward. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my own band. Angela and Brendan had a clearer version of what they wanted to do with the band. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I was part of the conversation. Things got bad. There was bitterness on both sides. Angela and Brendan had gone off to the States. They wanted me to go along. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t see the point. My confidence was really down with the last record. So I left the band.
I still wanted to play music. So I kept on doing stuff. Playing music keeps me ticking, sane and confident. That’s why I started the Bloody Souls. Right away, we did a Datsuns tour. I don’t know if I was ready for it. I don’t know if we had gelled yet as a band. But it’s my baby. I’ve had four drummers and seven or eight bassists. With each lineup the chemistry changes. You adapt to it. That’s good. Sometimes it’s noisier, tighter or looser.
Ryan: It’s pretty amazing that you’ve kept such a high level of enthusiasm and commitment going for so long. You’ve got Perpetrator going, as well as four bands.
Andrew: If I wasn’t doing these things, I’d be lost. Before I got into music, I wasn’t really a confident person at all. I’m actually a more confident version of myself on stage. I really found myself through music. I also like finding out about new bands. I get a little annoyed when a band gets lip-serviced by everyone in town. I mean, there’s probably a band in Albuquerque, New Mexico who eats them up for breakfast; it’s just no one knows about them because they’re from Albuquerque. Same thing applies to New Zealand music. A lot of the best music doesn’t come from Auckland or Wellington. Quite often it comes from such “great” cultural centers as Timaru, Invercargill, Whanganui, Eketahuna, Masterton and Palmerston North. It comes from these small towns. A lot of people who come from the main cities, they get involved in the political context. They see how they can become a star. They can get delusional. But the small town provides people a vacuum to work in. They can develop their own sound. But New Zealand is a weird nation. There’s a shit load of good stuff that doesn’t get coverage. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’re a small country. There are only 4 million people here. There’s only so much you can sustain.
Top Ten Favorite Skateboarders, Six Through Ten
6. Mike Daher
Mike Daher’s time in the spotlight wasn’t long. Although he never completely fell of the radar—you’d get the occasional video montage clip (usually of a wall ride) and he did appear in a 2008 Rasa Libre video—Daher’s “moment” was his ahead-of-his-time part in Stereo’s A Visual Sound (1994). Daher had pop and style; he could ollie over seemingly anything and was at the forefront of ledge and manual skating. Take a second to contextualize the aforementioned descriptions of Daher’s skating—pop and style in the early ’90s. Daher certainly wasn’t primed for a spot on New Deal. As skating was getting out of the Damon Byrd doldrums of the early ’90s, Daher was one of the guys pointing the way out.
On a personal aside: a friend I started skating with in 1995 got me into Mike Daher. We’d watch A Visual Sound at his house regularly. A month into watching the video it got to the point where we’d just watch Daher’s part over and over again (although Greg Hunt was another favorite).
My friend told me Daher could kickflip over a picnic table on flat. I really had a hard time wrapping my head around that—I get it with a bump but on flat? After watching an early 411 from ‘93, I found out that Daher really could kickflip over a picnic table on flat.
7. Stuart Faught
I’ve got to give it up to Stuart Faught. Stuart had style, pop and a huge bag of tricks. Stuart was one of the first guys in town (Newbury Park, California) to get sponsored—first by Liquor, followed by Society (Ryan Kenreich, James Craig, Robbie McKinley, etc.) and then ATM. Stuart had a part in an ATM video (Fast Youth) and some photos in Big Brother. The photo coverage and material he released never seemed to do his skating justice. He was hugely influential to the guys skating Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Agoura, California in the late ’90s.
8. Ronnie Bertino
For a brief period in the mid ’90s, Ronnie Bertino was a top-tier pro. Although he made a name for himself with Blind in the early ’90s, it was Bertino’s part in Plan B’s Second Hand Smoke (1994) that really established how formidable Ronnie was at street skating. Switch front blunts in lines and switch back lipslides on handrails simply weren’t done in the mid ’90s—until Bertino broke them out. Ronnie skated fast and had style. After leaving Plan B, Ronnie rode for 23 Skateboards and then ATM. Unfortunately he never reached the heights of his Second Hand Smoke part again. Nevertheless he got there once. Better than the rest of us.
9. Sean Mullendore
Sean Mullendore was an East Coast ripper. He didn’t get a ton of coverage but when it came to pop, Mullendore was second to none. Throw in a nice switch 360 kickflip and you’ve got one hell of a street skater. I was always on the lookout for footage of this dude.
10. Donny Barley
Back in 1995 and 1996 I lived part time in West Los Angeles. One of the first demos I attended was at Hot Rod Skate Shop which had just opened up. Rumor had it some amateur from Toy Machine named Donny Barley was going to be there (this was pre-Internet, kids). The demo had a totally shitty setup—a quarter pipe and box in a dead-end parking lot—but Donny killed it. He turned out to have a great run in skateboarding. Even had a trick named after him. Not bad.
Top 10 Favorite Skateboarders, One Through Five
Top 10 Favorite Skateboarders
Although this Tumblr is largely reserved for music, if you know me at all you’ll know that skateboarding played a major part in my life. With that in mind I decided to list my top ten favorite skateboarders of all time. Here are the top five with the rest to follow soon.
1. Matt Reason
The second skate video I bought was 411 Best of Volume 2. It came out the year I started skating (1995) and Matt Reason’s part really stuck out. I had seen some of the New Deal videos earlier that year and although I had just started skateboarding, I knew that “Da Deal” truly was dead. Matt’s part was raw, black-and-white footage with no music. Matt skated clean, fast and switch. He truly was the antithesis to Damon Byrd tech. I purchased every Matt Reason board I could; I recall picking up a number of 8.5” wide Illuminati boards. Matt’s career fizzled out by the late ’90s, but his skating left an indelible mark on me. (I’ve always ridden wider boards with bigger wheels—and that’s solely attributable to Matt Reason. No small feat as I grew up in Southern California, the home of tech skating.) Much respect.
2. Lennie Kirk
Best of 411 Volume 2 also had a Lennie Kirk Profile. While most pros were skating Pier 7, Lennie was hitting Hubba Hideout with switch backside 5-0s. It was totally mind blowing for late 1995. At the time I thought Lennie would be huge. And he was—for a while. In 1997 Kirk had a well-deserved ender part to Time Code. After that—nothing, only rumors. It turns out the rumors were correct: a long stint in prison following a holdup and a religious conversion actually did happen. But prior to the ubiquity of the internet, Lennie’s disappearance was all hearsay. Rumors, silence and a few amazing video parts were all I had to go on for years. Irrespective of what happened to Lennie, he’s another guy that had a huge impact on my skating and was clearly light years ahead of everyone else.
3. Justin Case
Justin Case is a good friend of mine and I was lucky enough to see his skating develop firsthand. He was so unbelievably talented. Being really young and competitive, I didn’t appreciate his talent at the time which is something I deeply regret. Personal setbacks curtailed his career, but I’m convinced Justin Case was one of the greatest street skaters of his generation. He’s also a great person to boot. Much respect.
4. Van Wastell
Van Wastell is a Newbury Park legend. Then again, the Wastell surname was synonymous with great skating before Van influenced everyone in Ventura County: Kurt Wastell was a bona fide legend and rumor had it Van’s oldest brother Jeff Wastell was equally talented (that rumor also turned out to be true). I think of Van often; I really miss him.
5. Mark Gonzales
It’s the Gonz. Enough said. Just watch Video Days!
Jeremy Scott of Reigning Sound and Toy Trucks Interview
Jeremy Scott, former bassist extraordinaire for the Reigning Sound, talks about his early days in New Jersey and laying down the low end for the original incarnation of the Reigning Sound. Jeremy still lives in Memphis and currently plays in Toy Trucks.
Interview by Ryan Leach
Ryan: You’re from New Jersey, correct?
Jeremy: Yes. My parents were born in Philadelphia. South Jersey is where most of my family is from; a number of them still live there. I moved around a lot when I was young. I even spent a couple of years in Memphis when I was two or three—sometime around ‘73-74. My folks and I moved to New Jersey in 1975 where I grew up. I lived there until I moved to Memphis in the summer of ‘99.
Ryan: Were you playing music in New Jersey?
Jeremy: I was in several bands (in New Jersey). I had started taking guitar lessons (after clarinet and sax) when I was thirteen. I was a late bloomer in that I didn’t play in a band until I was in college. I was in a three-piece band called Sponge; this was before the alt-rock band of the same name hit it big. We were punk, sort of pop-punk. This was in 1991 before pop-punk became synonymous with Blink 182 and other crimes against nature. My band mates were into Gorilla Biscuits, Descendents, Shudder To Think, things like that.
Ryan: None of the New Jersey bands you were in formally released a record?
Jeremy: No. It was like a curse. We’d record, self-release a cassette or a disc and then someone in the band would move away or there’d be a falling out.
Ryan: What brought you to Memphis?
Jeremy: I met someone at SXSW in ‘98. We were part of the same internet chat group, oddly. This was back in the early days of the internet and before SXSW blew up to its current state. She lived in Memphis. The relationship ended up imploding, but I had a job lined up in Memphis so I went anyway. I wanted out of the Northeast. I was sort of lost for a second in Memphis, with the relationship over and the job I lined up being pretty bad.
This is quaint: since the internet was still relatively new, I actually put an advert in the local weekly, The Memphis Flyer, trying to find people to play with. I got a bunch of bad calls. Only two ended up being somewhat interesting. One of them was from Greg Roberson. He wanted to write songs with someone. He didn’t tell me at the time that he was writing songs with (Greg) Cartwright. Three weeks later, he told me that he was working with Greg and asked me if I wanted to play bass with them. I hadn’t played bass in forever and I didn’t even own one at the time. We got together one night and it was fun. It sort of went from there.
Ryan: Were you familiar with Greg Cartwright’s previous bands? Were you into Crypt Records?
Jeremy: I did know The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers by that point. I wasn’t so familiar with the Crypt stable. I listened to a lot of older (Nuggets era) garage rock when I was young though so I was able to grasp that stuff.
Ryan: Although your first year in Memphis (1999) was inauspicious, it was a great time for underground music in Memphis.
Jeremy: Well, it was an interesting time, kind of transitional—both for local music and for Greg (Cartwright). As far as Greg was concerned, The Oblivians were over. He’d returned to doing the Compulsive Gamblers. I think the Gamblers, Mach II, was a crucial development for Greg. Side two of Bluff City (1999) was kind of a blueprint for The Reigning Sound. There are the ballads on one side, the rockers on the other. Shades of what we’d do later on the vinyl version of Time Bomb High School.
Ryan: What were the early days of The Reigning Sound like?
Jeremy: We probably weren’t very good at first. It took several months to really get it together. Roberson hadn’t played drums in a while and Cartwright had new songs he was working on, kind of outside the mold of what he had been doing. Alex (Greene) wasn’t with us from the beginning, so we played several gigs without him. We practiced a lot in Melissa Dunn’s basement—Melissa being Duck Dunn’s niece. It was kind of intimidating as a bassist in a way. I would say we practiced a lot more at the beginning than a lot of local bands did—remember, we’re talking Memphis here, where on-stage rehearsal had been elevated to an art form. Early on I remember practicing two or three times a week, two or more hours a shot. We were working intensively. Apparently there was time for everybody to do this; speaking for myself, I was single then. (Sorry, Pam.)
Ryan: Gene Clark was a big influence on the early Reigning Sound. There’s the Clark cover on the debut single (“Here Without You”). You mentioned Roadmaster being a staple in the van while on tour.
Jeremy: Oh, yeah. Roadmaster was always in the van with us. Sir Doug also. I kind of wish we had chosen another Gene song. It’s not that there’s necessarily an obvious Gene Clark song—most people don’t know who he is—but that song was already covered on Mavericks, the Holsapple and Stamey (ex-Db’s) record. But that’s the one Greg wanted to do. That track came out of the same recording session for Break Up, Break Down.
Ryan: You recorded Break Up, Break Down (2001) at Easley McCain, correct?
Jeremy: Yeah. The whole thing seemed to happen quickly once we got rolling. The first weekend in August 2000, we played our first show with Alex (Greene). Within the next week we’re in the studio. Alex hadn’t spent a lot of time with those songs when we went in. That might have been part of Greg’s design—not getting too familiar with the material. For instance, there were always one or two songs on every record we cut that we learned in the studio. I’m fairly certain we learned “You Don’t Hear The Music” in the studio. It was a great experience, cutting Break Up, Break Down. We were working with Stuart Sikes who would eventually work on White Blood Cells a few months later. It was wild—how that record blew up. Anyway, Stuart and Alex were crucial to the sound of Break Up, Break Down.
Ryan: Sympathy wasn’t known for tour support. What were you doing to promote Break Up, Break Down?
Jeremy: Oh, no—money wasn’t coming from Long Gone John. We recorded Break Up, Break Down in August of 2000, but it didn’t come out until May of 2001. In the meantime we’d gotten a lot tighter, playing locally on a regular basis. We did do a two-week tour right after the record came out; we played about twelve shows. We did have this guy who booked the tour, Scott Winland. He put a rider out to all the clubs. It was nothing out of the ordinary: hook them up with beer and food or give them a buyout. One of the shows—I believe it was the fourth show of the tour—was in Columbus, Ohio. We had played the previous night in Detroit. It was the White Blood Cells CD release party. The White Stripes had shows booked on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night of that week in Detroit, in three different venues and with different opening acts each night. We opened one of those shows in Detroit—it was a great night, I met both Jim Shaw and Mick Collins also—and then we drove to Columbus to play a place called Bernie’s Distillery. It was a pretty rancid place. They did have a kitchen but it had just closed, but we didn’t know this on arrival. When we asked what they had to eat, the guy there told us to hold on; he’d check the fridge. He came back and said, “Okay, there’s a thing of ham in the fridge. The top is green, but I can shave off some of the bottom for you.” We told him, “No, we’ll get some pizza!” One night you’re playing with the White Stripes, the next you’re contending with rancid ham. And then there was the bathroom, which was horrific. Put it this way—you’ve heard about the infamous bathroom at CBGBs? I’d found myself in the CBGBs bathroom a few times and it was never like the one at Bernie’s. Maybe in the ’70s it was but it’s hard to imagine. Scarring.
Ryan: You signed to In The Red for Time Bomb High School (2002).
Jeremy: Time Bomb High School was mostly recorded over two different sessions, so it took somewhat longer than Break Up, Break Down, which was recorded over one four day period. We recorded some tracks for Time Bomb High School and then resumed recording for the album a few months later. We had sent the record to Larry (Hardy) and he wanted a couple of extra tracks; it was a short record so we wound up adding on another four songs. I remember Greg showing us “Straight Shooter” and “She’s Bored With You” in the studio. Recording that record felt more like what we were doing live, and obviously Alex was more integrated in the band by then. Lori—better known as Lorette Velvette—Alex’s wife was pregnant at the time and due very soon, so Alex was there for the sessions intermittently. Alex was there for most of the basic tracking, but there were a few songs where we did the basic tracks as a trio and Alex overdubbed his part later. As a performance, I’m pretty proud of “Brown Paper Sack” which was a first take with no overdubs, everybody present. It’s not one of Greg’s songs—The Gentrys did the original—but that track is a good example of what we were about at the time.
Ryan: Was Time Bomb High School recorded on analog tape?
Jeremy: Yeah, Doug didn’t use Pro Tools for a while. A few years later, I did a record with Harlan T. Bobo. This was after Easley McCain got hit by the fire, so we were in another studio. Doug was learning Pro Tools at that point, I believe (2005 or 2006).
Ryan: Time Bomb High Schoolwas the record that really got me interested in The Reigning Sound. I was twenty when it came out and it had enough rockers on there for me. That’s what I wanted at the time.
Jeremy: Seemingly we had this rule: if we weren’t pissing someone off with each successive record, we were doing something wrong. With Break Up, Break Down I think there were a lot of people who were thrown off due to the laid-back nature of the record, but some did wind up coming around. During that first Reigning Sound tour for Break Up we played Richmond, Virginia. There were a bunch of people there to see Greg. They knew about The Oblivians but not so much about the new band. Understandably, they wanted Oblivians-type stuff. They were feeding us shots and beer in anticipation of the high-octane rock show they thought was in store. I was getting drunk and I remember thinking, “I’m not sure how this show is going to go.” The band that opened the show was good, but it was sort of a hardcore thing; their average song went at a faster speed than our fastest. We went on and about four songs in we played “Since When.” This dude, in the center of the crowd, stood straight up, fist pumped and yelled, “Holy shit!” No irony employed whatsoever. The show wound up being one of the best—a two-and-a-half hour war of attrition and as we got drunker, the more revved up we got.
I get a lot of feedback from musicians about Break Up being their favorite. With Time Bomb, some people missed the sound of the first record, as we went in more of an up tempo direction. With Too Much Guitar—good lord. That was the “ugly rock” record.
Ryan: You guys were getting some real press around the time of Time Bomb High School. You mention in another interview that Steven Van Zandt was playing your records on his show. There was the tour with The Hives and I think Cartwright might have made Rolling Stone or Spin. I recall a picture of him with Howlin’ Pelle in a mainstream publication. Pretty mind blowing.
Jeremy: That was helpful to a point because at some level people have to be told what to like, even intelligent people who think they are making their own decisions. Maybe “guided” is a better word. This is where publications like Rolling Stone come in and now in the days of online media, sites like Pitchfork. As far as the Rolling Stone bit, The Strokes were a “thing” and The Hives were becoming “a thing.” We were sort of affiliated with The Hives in a way but coming from a somewhat different place musically. And we were older than them. That’s a reason why we never bullshitted ourselves into thinking The Reigning Sound was going to be a big thing. It’s harder to sell older guys who aren’t exactly male model material. But it was pretty amazing, being around The Hives in 2002. That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being around The Beatles, circa A Hard Day’s Night. It sounds dramatic but the atmosphere around the Hives was insane at that point.
Ryan: They reached casual music fans with decent music. That’s saying something in this day in age of no free format or regional radio stations.
Jeremy: Oh, yeah, those days are over. (Free format and regional radio, not decent music!) I’ll say this: The Hives put on a great live show. I guess I saw it thirty times. They were pros and delivered every night. You can say what you want about them but the Hives were a great rock ‘n’ roll band. As people, they were pretty egoless and just nice.
Ryan: Did The Reigning Sound first go to Europe after Time Bomb High School?
Jeremy: Yeah, after some more touring domestically. We did part of the big Hives tour in 2002. They were big Oblivians/Cartwright fans and wanted us to join them for their entire tour but we all had jobs which precluded this. We only did the West Coast shows, maybe six or seven gigs. We hit the Rust Belt frequently: Cleveland, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit. We did another longer tour toward the end of 2002. Half of those shows were with Dead Moon. Christ, what a band. That was educational. We did wind up going to Sweden and Norway in spring ‘03. That was a great trip.
Ryan: My favorite Reigning Sound record is Too Much Guitar.
Jeremy: Mine too.
Ryan: Alicja and Jay recorded you guys with a digital 24-track. I think she got that from Larry (Hardy) so that the Lost Sounds could record Future Touch on it.
Jeremy: That sounds right.
Ryan: She told me that Too Much Guitar has such a hot mix because she and Jay didn’t know how to use the digital 24-track properly at that point.
Jeremy: Yeah! (laughs) I don’t doubt that’s a significant factor. I think they got it the week before we started recording. We had done a whole record before that; I remember hearing it mixed and sequenced. Some of those tracks were released on the Home for Orphans record. Alex (Greene) told us he was leaving the band just after we finished listening to the “original” third album. Consequently, Greg was thinking for a minute about dissolving the band. Then again, Greg said he was thinking about breaking up the band about four times when I was in it, but this was probably the closest it came to actually happening. We had been trying to decide whether to pursue Reigning Sound full time or not. Alex had one baby at home and another on the way, so I could understand his hesitation. Anyway, we did a few shows as a trio, rearranged many of the tunes we had been doing, and decided it was still viable. That’s when Greg reached out to Jay and Alicja.
Ryan: Did you guys record Too Much Guitar completely at Legba? Or was part of it done at Easley McCain as well?
Jeremy: It was done almost evenly between the two places. Alex is on half the record, the earlier material done at Easley. I think the album properly credit Alex. “We Repel” was recorded at Legba. The version of “I’ll Cry” on Too Much Guitar was recorded at Legba. “Drowning” was done at Easley. It was a little less revved up than the Legba version. “Medication” was an outtake from the Time Bomb High School sessions at Easley. The Easley tracks were remixed in such a way as to sound similar to the Legba stuff.
Ryan: Your bass playing really stands out on Too Much Guitar. Once your ears adjust to just how loud the record is—and filters through the guitars and cymbals—your bass playing really holds that album together.
Jeremy: It’s nice of you to say that. I think there was more room for me now that the band was a trio. Too Much Guitar was about attacking the listener. The guitars are brittle. Roberson was doing his stomp thing. I mean that in the best possible way. Roberson’s a totally solid drummer and his playing allowed me to move around a bit.
Ryan: Did Jay and Alicja record half the record and then later on master all of the tracks?
Jeremy: They did all of the stuff at Legba. Alicja was there a lot more than Jay. Jay had some place to be. I believe he had a sound gig. Alicja and Jay set everything up together, fought a little bit, and then Jay split. Alicja supervised all of the overdubs. Those two are responsible for the sound on that record. I dig what they did with it.
Ryan: You mentioned confounding people earlier. Too Much Guitar is not for the faint of heart. But if you have the good sense to listen to it—I think the record’s already a classic.
Jeremy: It’s hard for me to judge that kind of stuff!It does grab you and that’s what a rock record should do. Although Cartwright, Roberson and I were together as a three-piece for less than a year, there was a different vibe to that band. It was more aggressive. We did a tour right after finishing the record. I mean from the first show it was completely fucking on. It was a great trip despite the three of us getting sick at one point or another during the course of the tour. In fact, I would like to formally apologize to the fine city of Buffalo, eleven years after the fact, for the show we gave you that night. I think all of us were pretty under the weather at that point.
Ryan: It wasn’t too long afterwards that Roberson left and you got Lance Wille in.
Jeremy: Lance joined in the spring of 2004. Going back a few months, Cartwright mentioned to me and Greg that he wanted to fold the band in December ’03. I was upset in that I thought Too Much Guitar, which was still a few months away from coming out, was the best thing we’d done and now it looked like it was all going to be over. Greg (Cartwright) was also planning to move to Asheville, North Carolina, which I don’t believe Roberson or I knew when Greg sat down with us. Anyway, Cartwright moved around the end of 2003—could have been early 2004—and things were quiet for a while. Then around April ‘04, I get a call from Cartwright. He told me, “You know, we have an opportunity to play some shows in support of the album.” We talked about a possible European tour, booked by this woman named Ankie who worked at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. Greg was like, “Ankie is arranging for us to play a bunch of shows in Holland and Belgium. It won’t be a long tour—maybe a week and a half.” Also, the Hives wanted us to tour the US with them and the Sahara Hotnights, a three-week tour which would start maybe a week after we would get back from Holland. There was going to be some money for us as well. Cartwright asked if I was in and I said yeah; I figured I could somehow get the time I needed off from work. Then Greg said, “Well, Roberson isn’t going to be with us,” which was a surprise. Greg told me of three potential drummers, but from the way he was describing Lance, I could tell that he was the one Cartwright really wanted. Looking back on it, on one level he needed me to say “yes” before he brought the drumming situation up. I’ve thought about that from time to time. I don’t mean to overstate things, but it was a crucial moment because Reigning Sound was able to continue.
Ryan: It was a transitional period for him. I see your point.
Jeremy: I went to Asheville and practiced with Lance. We did a show there and then got on the plane to Amsterdam. Lance was a little nervous. Going from Greg Roberson to Lance was a big shift. Greg has a limited amount of colors in his drumming palette but what he does, he does very, very well. He plays with a certain amount of “authority.” Lance could do things Greg couldn’t do, but he didn’t have the authority of Roberson. Kind of a trade-off in a way, but I think you need a certain amount of authority on drums, especially in a three-piece rock band. That said, please don’t get me wrong—Lance is a great guy and I dug playing with him too.
Ryan: I’ve always felt the Too Much Guitar lineup was the definitive Reigning Sound lineup.
Jeremy: Well, again, Alex was on fifty-percent of that album. But I get what you’re saying—the sound of that record is definitely more aggressive. Truthfully, some of that might have been fueled by animosity by that point. We didn’t always see eye to eye at that point, which is not unusual after a while. How long are bands supposed to be together anyway? Looking back, I would chalk some of it up to the forceful personalities involved. In other words, it wasn’t any one thing that created the tension.
Ryan: I know some stuff came out after the tour—including the Live at Maxwell’s record with Lance. But with Cartwright in Asheville, that was pretty much it for you in the Reigning Sound, huh?
Jeremy: That show was recorded the night before the Hives tour. It was a one-off headlining gig, then the bus showed up the next morning to take us to the first Hives show in D.C. That Maxwell’s show felt good at the time and the audience was fantastic, but Greg had broken about three strings toward the end of the set and the guitar is out of tune on the recording. There was a backup guitar about three feet behind Cartwright that he apparently couldn’t be bothered with. I haven’t listened to that recording in a long time, so I don’t know if this bit made it onto the album, but someone was actually gesturing toward Greg to use the backup, and Greg leaned into the mic and said, “I enjoy a challenge.” (Laughs.) We did a few other shows after the second Hives tour, including a wedding at CBGB’s, interestingly enough. The last show I played with The Reigning Sound was on New Year’s Eve 2004, at the Hi-Tone. Insane show. A great night and in retrospect a great way to go out, even if nobody realized that was going to be the case at the time.
This happened ten years ago, so maybe the statute of limitations has run out. We hadn’t gotten together in early 2005. Cartwright gave me a call after some time had passed: “I think it’s about time to kick it in the head. We’ve had a good run. We do have an opportunity to do a few more shows though.” By this point I was back at my job full time, so I told Greg, “That’s cool, just let me know the dates.” It was getting harder anyway, with Greg in Asheville and me in Memphis. Then maybe a week later someone on the Goner Board asked, “Hey, what’s up with The Reigning Sound? It’s been a long time since you’ve gone on tour.” Greg wrote back, “Hey, man, we’re playing these shows with Jeremy. They’ll be his last shows with the band, then we’re going to do these other shows with Dave Gay, our new bass player.” That’s how I found out. I called Cartwright. “I read something funny on the Goner Board.” He said “I can explain!” Greg said he was thinking about going out under his own name. He talked with club promoters and they told him they’d be happy to book him, but by that point The Reigning Sound was more of a recognizable name. Also, he talked with some friends about whether he should continue using the name; they said yes. I mean, he was the front guy and songwriter. I might have done the same thing if I were in his place. I just wish he would have told me first. It’s 2014 and it’s all water under the bridge now. We’re friends to this day, but at the time, it did bother me. I can’t lie. It did make sense for Greg to go with Dave—he and Lance had played together in the Unholy Trio. In fact, when I first got together with Greg and Lance, Dave was living upstairs from where we were practicing. Greg needed someone local. I get it. But it was bizarre for a minute. In the meantime, I had already started playing with Harlan T. Bobo, which I wound up doing for awhile. Harlan became somewhat of a Memphis sensation, but that’s a story for another day…