I just made my last trip to the airport. All the guys from the Monkey Power Trio are now gone, and, as is always the case, the anxiety – which I feel during each session – is giving way to depression. It’s great to see everyone, and to spend a day making music, but I invariably get sad in the wake of it. I’ve always been an overly sentimental person, so that’s definitely a big part of it – the sadness over the fact that I likely won’t see them again for at least another year – but I think it also has to do with fact that, when we’re together, we drink a lot of beer, eat tons of shit and don’t sleep very much. Anyway, when they leave, I kind of collapse into a blubbery, sobbing ball, thinking a lot about mortality and how sad it is that, as we grow up, we tend to drift further apart from one another. But, at least we have this one weekend a year. And, like I said, this year was a blast. (Among other things, we hit Kneecap Deep at the Savoy, and danced our middle-aged asses off on stage.)
The highlight for me was last night, when the band and I met up with our old friends Pete Larson and Andy Claydon at the Tap Room. Pete, Matt, Dan and I, back in the early 90’s, had been in a band together called Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink. Andy had been in another band, called the Monarchs, that we played with quite a bit around town. The “scene” back then, if you could call it that, was extremely small and incestuous.
There were certainly great bands around at the time, like the Laughing Hyenas, but they were doing something completely different. We, for the most part, were making what I’d call noisy in-jokes, without a care in the world as to how well it might be received. At least that’s what we did in Skink. I don’t know if there’s a word for it, but it wasn’t quite punk. It had some of the same assholishness associated with punk, but it lacked the anger, and, if you can believe it, the musicianship. (I still can’t play a single instrument.) I don’t know that we were aware of them at the time, but there was a band in California called the Zip Code Rapists that was doing somewhat similar work at the time. And, I suppose, there were some similarities with Ween, although they were significantly more polished and ambitious than we were, which is odd given the fact that they were huffing spray paint and industrial-strength floor cleaner most of the time. Anyway, at some point we decided that it wasn’t enough to just goad audiences here in Ann Arbor, and we started putting out records under the Bulb Records banner, with Pete being the President. (The first three bands on Bulb were Skink, Couch, which Pete was also in, and the Monarchs.)
So, we sat around last night, drinking beer, reminiscing about old times, and talking about music. And, at some point, the conversation turned to Television, the Ramones, Patti Smith, and the stuff happening in the mid 70’s in New York City, and how much it all meant to us. I think Andy, who had just seen Ivan Kral’s documentary Blank Generation the night before, brought up the fact that, comparatively speaking, so little documentary evidence of our scene exists.
Our scene, as it would turn out, never made too much of a blip on the popular culture radar, but there were some close calls. Our Bulb label-mate, Andrew W.K., who was just a kid in Ann Arbor when we first started putting out records, got as far as MTV and Saturday Night Live, but the rest of us never got to that level… And I’m certainly not suggesting that what we were were doing in Ann Arbor in the early 1990’s was in any way as significant as what happened over 15 years before, in and around CBGBs. I just wanted to bring it up so that it’s preserved somewhere. As no one is likely to make a movie about the scene in Ann Arbor at the time, I thought that maybe a thread here was called for, just in case the people involved had anything to say.
One of these days, speaking of preserving the legacy of early Bulb, I’d like to digitize some of the Skink stuff and get it online. In particular, there’s a song called “Anarchy is Stupid” that I think deserves to be heard by the post-internet world. Maybe one of these days I’ll get motivated. Speaking of Anarchy is Stupid, Pete mentioned last night that once, in the mid-90’s, when he was in Osaka, he happened to attend a show by the Japanese noise band the Ultra Fuckers, and they were covering, of all things, that song. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing it, it begins as follows:
“How many of you out there think the system sucks?”
(people yell back in agreement)
“How many of you think anarchy is better?”
(people yell back in agreement)
“Yeah, you’re stupid!”
(music and screaming begins)
It doesn’t really sound great when it’s written out like that, but believe me when I tell you that it’s brilliant.
And, for what it’s worth, apparently Henry Rollins thinks I’m an OK vocalist, even if you don’t.
My friend Pete just sent me that Rollins link. Apparently, since our talk last night, Pete’s been poking around the internet. He also started a Bulb Records page on Facebook, which you can become a fan of. And, I don’t know if he’s responsible for it, but I also see that there’s now a a blank Wikipedia page for Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink. Hopefully, there’s someone out there with the time and interest to get it started, even if it’s just lies and nonsense.
And, I don’t think I say it enough, but one of the best things about moving back to Michigan ten years ago was reconnecting with Pete and Andy. They’re both great, brilliant guys who, in their youth, did a shit load of work to promote, encourage and otherwise help artists who were doing stuff that they appreciated, even if no one else did – Pete through Bulb, and Andy through his label, Flying Bomb. The world is a much better place as a result of their tireless efforts, and I’m fortunate to count them among my friends.
update: That was quick. No sooner had this gone up than I received a digital version of Anarchy is Stupid from my friend Leon in Seattle. Leon was in the band that was Skink’s predecessor. It was called Yeti Load, and our biggest gig was in the EMU food court. If footage of that show exists, I would be both amazed and terrified… Here’s Anarchy is Stupid.