The Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink reunion and the legacy of Bulb

    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.)

    sbulbnofriends3The 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)
    (long pause)
    “You’re stupid!”
    (long pause)
    “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.

    rollinsandskink2

    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.

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      51 Comments

      1. Posted August 1, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

        And it’s not just me that Rollins thinks is great. As I recall, all four of us provided vocals on that particular track.

      2. Posted August 1, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        And, I don’t know that I’ve got a lot of time for yet another project, but it would be cool to start up a website where people involved in the old Ann Arbor “scene” could post pictures, videos and stories. I know that somewhere around here, I have Hwaseem footage, as well as an appearance or two by Ski Troop Attack. And I’ve got some old show flyers that I could scan, including the one that almost got me beat up.

      3. F
        Posted August 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        It’s weird how scenes pop up. They’re like zits. The pressure builds until they bubble up to the surface. And they inevitably die off. But, before doing so, they make an impact, and influence the future in all kinds of ways. It’s cool to try to document this one before it gets lost to the ages.

      4. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

        What a great post. I forget that I even did any of that stuff. Actually, I have very little recollection of any of it any more. Maybe it’s Alzheimers or OCD or maybe PTSD, I don’t know which. It was good to talk about it for a while and be reminded that it existed and somebody liked it.

        It’s the Ultra Fuckers. They have videos on YouTube.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv3c3rHLqmg

      5. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 12:12 am | Permalink

        I didn’t create that Facebook thing. It got created automatically. It had 4 people who liked it, but now it’s dropped to only 2.

      6. Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        Cornelius Gomez used my 4-track to record while I was recording Wrench around that time. I think I still have a cassette somewhere of those sessions. Need to scan the archives.

      7. Knox
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink

        Bulb has to have more than two fans. The Quintron connection alone has to be good for at least three.

      8. JAV
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        I recall borrowing a copy of the prehensile monkeytailed skink vhs tape in 2002ish. Is there a copy of that around anywhere?

        Also, Pete/Bulb come up in at thetruthaboutandrewwk.blogspot.com:

        The first officially released “Andrew WK” songs were released by a record label called, Bulb Records, which was operated by a man named Peter Larson. What’s not often known is that James Krier provided the money needed to start the label and eventually release music by Andrew WK. When this fact came to light, the Bulb Records company mysteriously dissappeared and went “out of business”. It’s believed that the majority of the releases on the Bulb Records catalogue were actually nothing more than attempts to create the “appearance” of an actual record label with many artists and many releases. James E. Krier and Peter Larson would bang-out the recordings cheaply and quickly – any listen to a non-Andrew WK Bulb Records release proves this point.

      9. Posted August 2, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        I hope, when you were discussing that other Patti S., that you piped up and said, “Yes but here in Ann Arbor, we have our OWN Patti Smith and she is” and then prattled off a string of flattering adjectives that would have made me weep with joy :) :)

        Btw, Henry Rollins is my boyfriend.

      10. Andy C
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        All this stuff is on the BULB early years comp CD. I have a box of them in basement. I also still have an BULB art file of logos, record sleeves, posters etc. The posters were always great. Marlon, of Couch, made a poster once and gave it to Pete to copy. Pete and I ripped it up and reassembled it all wrong before making copies.

        I do remember playing the Heidelberg and PMTS setting up there equipment on stage while my band was still playing. 15 minutes into the PMTS set the sound guy was pulling his mics from the stage. The drum kit contained a folding chair. I’m not sure why he tried to mic that. Playing an actual bar was rare, we mostly played basements, like the Lab. Hell I still play more basements then clubs.

        I remember once seeing a Ski Troop Attack poster that listed midnight in Nickels Arcade for the time and place. Brilliant.

      11. Peter larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I would like EOS to provide a Fox News perspective on Bulb Records.

      12. Mr. X
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        There should be a museum. Maybe there’s space near the Stooge’s Wax Museum.

        One important thing that shouldn’t be forgotten here is that Andy worked at a local print shop and was known, on occasion, to extend discounts. A scene doesn’t really take that many people to get off the ground. All you need are some people with some fairly complimentary visions, access to resources, and willing venues. The Ann Arbor scene that culminated with the launch of Bulb was probably like hundreds of others over time. The only difference is that it was better.

        Speaking of flyer destruction, word is that Skink would change the flyers of bands that they didn’t like, so that people were sent to the wrong venues on the wrong nights. Kids today just don’t have that kind of balls.

      13. Edward
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Info on the Stooges wax museum house.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/immane/2819838437/

      14. Edward
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Facebook creates pages automatically?

      15. K2
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        Validation from Hank is huge. You need to add it to your resume.

      16. Anonymatt
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Was there ever a decision about which word was correct: Monkeytailed or Monkey-tailed? The Bulb covers use the hyphen, the Blackjack cover doesn’t.

        Ben Miller is proud of his Bulb production work:
        http://www.benmiller.info/bmi_soundtrack_services.html

      17. Anonymatt
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        I have a bunch of old flyers for Skink and Hwaseem, but I have no scanner. Also a couple for Yeti Load. Mark, I think you’ve said you and Linette met at a Skink show at Cross St. Station, but I’m wondering whether it was the show Yeti Load did with Cornelius Gomez and Hwaseem (I think Hwaseem’s farewell performance). I thought that was the one you bought the silver dress for, but I cannot say for sure. It was July 27, 1992. I don’t think Skink had a concert at Cross St., but did play at least once at open mic night.

      18. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Andy’s contribution was indispensable. None of any of the early Bulb records could have ever happened without him.

      19. Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        I’ve got copies somewhere around here of the posters for the show by the “Restroom Poets” that almost got me beaten up. We’d switched the date of their gig, and added the descriptive, “really boring college rock.” Maybe it was mean, but I thought that it was funny at the time. Someday I’ll tell you the whole story. Just remind me.

        And I love that story JAV. I think I’ll start telling people that Andrew W.K. wrote and recorded all of my music. Maybe that’s why so little documentation exists. Maybe Pete, Andrew and his dad just had me brainwashed to think that I was a member of Skink… This would make a great movie, like the Manchurian Candidate.

        What else?

      20. Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yeah, Ski Troop Attack played in the Arcade late one night. The show consisted of me, in a ski mask, banging at an acoustic guitar with a broken neck while Magas, curled up on the ground with a paper bag over his head, hyperventilated. A cop broke things up. It was my favorite band to play in because I didn’t have to remember how to play anything.

        The idea was that we were time travelers from the future, who had come back to warn people, using the only instruments left on earth, which were a horn and my broken guitar. We didn’t speak. We did, however, gargle water for one song.

        The band started, as I recall, as the Gingham Girls. It was me and Jim and a girl that I didn’t know to well. We played one show, at the house of a U-M Math professor. He was having a party in his back yard, and we provide music from up in a tree. Jim had arranged it. And I don’t think it was much appreciated. The girl dropped out, and Jim and I continued for about a half dozen shows. Somewhere, I believe, there is video evidence… Unless, of course, it never really happened… That damn Andrew W.K.

      21. Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        And, as we established this weekend, Matt, you have a much better memory for details than I do. I’ll take your word for it that it was Yeti Load, and not Skink, playing the night that I met Linette… And it’s cool that I now, thanks to you, know the actual date that we first met: July 27, 1992. I’ll have to add it to the calendar.

      22. Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        I also remember that Hwaseem would always put the Lesbian symbol on their flyers, in hopes that lesbians would come out, only to be really disappointed. I don’t believe it ever worked.

        And my favorite show from that period was one I saw in a basement by Moe Faki. (Sorry if I spelled that incorrectly.) It was brilliant. I’d love if video existed.

      23. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        It did work. There was one show where lesbians did, in fact, attend because they thought we were a lesbian band. I never really understood why we did that. It was a Rikki idea.

        Actually, I never really understood that band at all. It was fun to play the drums, but the band itself pretty much sucked, like nearly all the bands I’ve ever been in. Perhaps I suck. Skink was good but Ski Troop Attack was far superior even though I never saw them.

        We used to do these shows at the Performance Network that were really good. One time, someone interviewed me during that period for the Observer. I was a total ass.

        The best show was the one at Espresso Royale on Main with the Monarchs. No one was there. Or maybe the show at the Lab where I was in all of the bands on the bill, including Unga Bunga. We had a song about Dentures, that’s all I remember.

        Mostly, I just want to play metal.

      24. Anonymatt
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        Ask Linette whether the night you met was the night the other band was breaking cinder blocks (Cornelius Gomez). If not it might have been a Skink open mic night.

      25. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        Hwaseem broke the cinder blocks. We were told that we’d never play in Ypsi again. We never did.

        It’s too bad that having a label is nearly meaningless now. With digital downloads, the whole venture is truly too accessible. It was better when labels had some air of mystery about them.

      26. Leon
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        I don’t remember Yeti Load ever playing at Cross St. Station but maybe Tubbs was still on drums at that point…or Pete after I left–but I thought you became Skink soon after I was forced to quit the band to join civilized society.
        I do remember Paul (from the Old Town) coming over to your guys’ house to take pictures of a Yeti Load practice. I think he’s still around Ann Arbor…don’t know if he’d have the pictures.

      27. Peter Larson
        Posted August 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        It was with me on drums after your forced departure.

      28. Leon
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        There was the one Yeti Load show, I think it was at the Lab, and it seemed that the crowd was really into us when, suddenly, the room was completely empty. It turned out that a stink bomb or something had gone off and we didn’t know because the stage was in a little nook in the corner of the basement. It went from a really good show to playing for an empty room in a manner of moments. Though I suppose that was par for the course.

      29. Anonymatt
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        I don’t remember Leon missing a Yeti Load show until the one we had in Grand Rapids with Sandy Duncan’s Eye. The last YL show with Leon was at Heidelberg with Couch and Skink in Nov 1992.

        I remember Ricky breaking the cinder blocks, but apparently got the group wrong.

      30. Stella M
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        Mark you have already told the Restroom Poets story here, so, really, no need to do so again!
        Paul Engstrom Photography has a facebook page.

      31. Andy C
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        The stink bomb show was also the show where Matt had a fork attached to hid forehead. It was a basement show but I don’t remember it being the Lab.

        In Ski Troop Attack, Mark played an the acoustic with a ladies vibrator while Magas rolled on the floor hyper ventilating with a bag on his head.

        “You’re messing with my lively hood man!” -Restroom Poets

        Other projects…
        Zhivago Death – )Peter, Greg, & I. I really liked this band. One guy came up to us after a show at the Blind Pig and said we just changed his life.
        Secret Quantum – no real songs, just rituals.

      32. Mr. X
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        I think stink bomb is putting it mildly. It was Mace. The band was Maced.

      33. Anonymatt
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        It was a spritz of mace, I believe. The party was at the residence of Mark’s then girlfriend.
        Matt never wore a fork on his head. that would be weird and silly. It was a spoon.

      34. Leon
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I never knew it was mace.
        If Matt was wearing the spoon on his forehead, with what was Mark playing the bass?
        I missed a lot from behind the drums…

      35. Anonymatt
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        We had access to plenty of spoons back then. Why, we even used some to eat with.

      36. Andy C
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        A spoon is safer on the forehead. Mark played his bass with a fork, a very difficult feat.

      37. Posted August 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

        Bulb now has 40 Facebook fans.

        I think I only played my bass with a spoon. I still love that sound. I’d never heard anything like it before.

        It wasn’t a stink bomb. I’d been tear gassed on a previous occasion, and it was something close to that. I was working at the Back Room, making pizzas, when U-M won some kind of big game. There was a riot, and the cops come out to crack some heads. They launched a few tear gas canisters, and the frat boys scattered, leaving me there, at work, to choke, cry and clean up their mess.

        And it wasn’t at my girlfriend’s house. She was there, taping for a while, but it wasn’t her place. (She took off after we had some sort of fight.) I think it was in Tubbs’ basement, or something – the place he moved after The Lab, maybe. If I’m not mistaken, it was near Halloween, and I think that Mike Bell, our professional baseball player friend, was in town, visiting us.

        And sorry to have irritated you with my Restroom Poets story, Stella. I’m sure they were nice guys.

      38. Mr.SwettyBallz
        Posted August 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

        - “One guy came up to us after a show at the Blind Pig and said we just changed his life.”

        What if that guy committed suicide later that night?

        -”It had some of the same assholishness associated with punk, but it lacked the anger, and, if you can believe it, the musicianship”

        I really doubted this until I listened to the clip. Kind of more like propaganda than music, but yeah. Not really punk, just self important. There is a difference, you know.
        Well, maybe not.

      39. Anonymatt
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink

        Mark, I agree, I think it was Tubbs’ house, but it was earlier in 1992. Tubbs did later have a Halloween party in the same house, but this wasn’t it, notwithstanding the guy who came in chain mail. Mike Bell was in town for the Halloween party.

      40. Stella M
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        Oh your RP story was entertaining the 1st time, jus’ saying a link-back will suffice…

      41. Andy C
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Mr.SwettyBallz,
        “What if that guy committed suicide later that night?”
        Hopefully he did! One less human. If I could only play songs that would make people commit suicide. That would be a dream come true.

        Self important? Hell yeah. We’re talking about Ann Arbor in the age of grunge. Everyone thought they were important.

      42. Peter Larson
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        I know that I was important.

      43. Peter Larson
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        as opposed to impotent.

      44. Mr. X
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Miles needs to chime in with his memories of the era, speaking of you not being impotent.

      45. Mr. X
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Here’s Magas with his new band:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFE7YM1ytlA

      46. Mr.SwettyBallz
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Awesome.
        I have this lady friend, actually she lives in my head. Well, she is really more like a Hobbit. So I call her Dildo Gaggins.
        She’s like an older sister to me, but a real tough love kind of gal. Like a cross between Joe Don Baker and Ice Cube and Morgan Fairchild. So yeah, a real sweet, beautiful guy, but a motherfucker, too. She says things to me like “Drink your piss ant little five dollar latte and have your last cigarette and get up and go to work, you pansy ass, buttcrack.”
        I wish you guys could play your music for her so she would kill herself and leave me alone.
        So maybe a Prehensile reunion sometime around the new year inside my head so this bitch will lay off me?
        In fact, she is my grandma, but WTF.

      47. Peter Larson
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Miles would remember very little, I think, although it would be quite interesting.

      48. Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        Maybe someday, when I get old and retire, I’ll make a documentary about the scene that birthed the Bulb. And maybe I’ll hypnotize Miles in one of the segments. Maybe I’ll have us all hypnotized and regressed back to that time. I think it would be fascinating to interview a circa 1992 Charlie.

      49. Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        And I’m confident, for what it’s worth, that more people, after seeing our shows, went home and killed their children than themselves.

      50. Peter Larson
        Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        As Andy said, Zhivago Death was a great band. I really liked playing in Greg’s basement.

        “Dentures”

      51. Anonymatt
        Posted August 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        Every now and then, over the years, I’ve tried to find evidence of Pete’s assertion that George Peppard had a colostomy after swallowing a toothpick, but have had no luck.

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