You no longer have to take the word of the textbooks, this is what Prehensile Monkey-tailed Skink was actually like

fearsofpracticestill

Remember how, several months ago, I told you that a 25 year old video of my Ann Arbor noise band, Prehensile Monkey-tailed Skink, had surfaced in Oregon, and how music journalist Dustin Krcatovich had made it his mission in life to track it down? Well, he was apparently successful. After teasing me with a few still shots, and a provocative clip of me licking the sweat from a fellow bandmate’s brow, Mr. Krcatovich finally come though with the entire video. This evening, upon arriving home from my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party in Kentucky, I found what could well be the only known copy of “Fears of Practice” waiting for me on my doorstep, along with the following story, which was signed “Dustin Krcatovich.” Before we get to his letter, though, here’s how the long lost video, which had been distributed on VHS through Blackjack Records back in the early ’90s, begins. The little boy at the beginning of the video, by the way, is Miles Larson, the now grown man who recently made headlines for interrupting Governor Rick Snyder’s dinner at Old Town by walking out and loudly saying, “You fucked up”.

A few months ago, a curiosities collector living in nearby Clackamas, whom I will refer to henceforth as “The Collector” in order to protect the innocent and to avoid coming up in Google searches, posted a photo of his bedroom on Craigslist. He wasn’t trying to sell anything in said room. Instead, he was looking for someone to do landscaping for his yard; the poorly-lit webcam photo was designed to illustrate the degree to which he was incapable of the job. You see, an unspecified illness had left him mostly bedridden, so he would only get up once every three days or so to check the mail and… well, you can imagine.

The room wasn’t a pleasant sight. Before I did the internet equivalent of running away screaming, though, I noticed something in the background, blurry but nonetheless unmistakable: the scrawled, black and white cover art of Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink’s sole video document, Fears of Practice. I’d only ever seen one copy before, at Peter Larson’s house in Adrian, Michigan in 2003; he’d quickly slid it under a chair when he thought I wasn’t looking, for fear that I’d pilfer it (damn it, Larson, I have scruples).

How could this be? Accounts vary on how many copies of Fears of Practice actually exist: former Blackjack Records CEO and Skink patron Scott Derr insists that he sold (well, carried) copies of the VHS tape through his mailorder distro in the ’90s, and thus that there must have been at least 25 made. Larson estimates less than 10. When evidence of the copy in question first came to light, this blog’s titular character speculated that it was the only copy in existence (he was wrong, of course). Regardless, it was definitely produced in miniscule numbers, so how the hell did The Collector come across it?

Finding the answer to this question was important to me, even enough to do physical labor, so I responded to the ad. I got the job mostly because I didn’t gag when I walked into his bedroom, and because I have a (landlord’s) lawnmower. How did I haul that mower in a Ford Focus, you ask? That, my friends, is another story…

Anyway, as insinuated, I did find myself in The Collector’s room, with the tape in arm’s reach. The guy had a lot of weird stuff. No other obscuro ’90s underground rock paraphernalia, though — not even the Big Chief and Some Velvet Sidewalk 7″s that people used to have sent to them with their voter registration cards — just bottlecaps for regional sodas, Christianity-themed pogs, commemorative plates of Jimmy Carter and Idi Amin, used Beatle wigs, etc. The mystery, then, was no closer to being solved. The Collector was none too keen on answering questions about his collection, and when I leaned in for a closer look, he slapped my forehead and told me that nobody touches his “precious goods” but him.

So it was that I mowed The Collector’s lawn every week for a month and a half, all the while trying to get closer to that Skink tape. Every time I got within two feet of it, I would see him eye his gun (a nonfunctional replica of a Revolution-era musket, but it was still intimidating). I know I’ve been making it sound like he had a right to be suspicious and all, like I was planning on gripping the thing from day one, but I swear it’s not true! I’m terrified of stealing. I once cried my eyes out after accidentally stealing one piece of Bazooka bubble gum. I just wanted to look at the thing, to hold it in my hands for a moment.

I’m pretty sure The Collector knew what was on my mind, a suspicion compounded when I came into his room one day and found him projecting the video onto a crusty bedsheet nailed to the ceiling. He let me stand and watch two separate five-minute intervals without demanding I get back to work, almost as if he was either taunting or testing or pitying me (I’m not sure which). I feigned disinterest, pretending to dick around on my phone so that I could snap a few clandestine pictures.

Two weeks later, I had my chance to really get up close and personal with the tape. As I mowed past his bedroom window, I noticed that The Collector was out of the bed and into the bathroom! Time and stealth were of the essence, so I left the mower running to mask my footsteps and bolted inside. The Collector did not take short bathroom breaks — his diet was mostly pizza rolls and Vicodin — so I knew I had a few minutes, though his suspicion would likely come quicker than his bowel relief.

Finally, the tape was in my hands. I held this glorious relic of ’90s junk rock sloppiness close and carefully like a newborn. I whispered, like an incantation: “Ann Arbor isn’t weird/your town is really weird”. Just then, I heard a grunt and the creaking of old knees.

Then, I heard an explosion.

It turns out lawnmowers don’t like being run in one spot unattended. Who knew? I bolted for the front door, tape still in hand. Massive, gas-fueled flames were rising in the front yard, and I didn’t know where to find a hose (I never said I was a competent landscaper) or fire extinguisher. Panicking, I ran to my car and sped off with the tape still in hand. The landlord’s lawnmower would have to come out of my security deposit.

Lest you think I’m a total scumbag, please know that I drove by The Collector’s house a couple weeks later to make sure that he was still alive and his house hadn’t burnt down. From what I could tell from the street, he was fine, or at least as fine as I’d left him. I thought about returning the tape, as I’d only kept it in the confusion of the moment. Y’know what, though? It deserves better than to sit idly a few feet from The Collector’s bedpan. So, after toying with holding it over Mark Maynard’s head for blackmail purposes, I decided that it was most important that it be shared with the world. It was too good to hide. I’m not proud of what I’ve done, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

As for how “Fears of Practice” came to be made in the first place, here’s a little something that I wrote a few months ago, when I first got news that a copy had been located… “Well, as I suspected, it looks as though my memory of events was a bit off. According to Linette, who was there at the time, and shot much of the footage that wound up being used in ‘Fears of Practice,’ Pete and I did not, in fact, make the video with the intention of adding it to the Bulb catalog. No, apparently Pete advertised the video in the Bulb catalog prior to its existence, and we only made it once someone actually did the unthinkable and ordered a copy. As for how many copies were made, I’m still not sure. Linette seems to think we only made the one, just to fill the order. I can’t imagine that we would have been that stupid, but I suppose, given other business decisions Pete and I have made over the past 25 years, it’s possible. [‘We’ll just get together and make another one if there’s another order,’ one of us probably said.] If I had to bet, I’d say that Linette is probably right, and it’s very possible that this copy which recently surfaced in Oregon is the only copy ever made. As for who ordered it, Linette seems to think that it was purchased by a young man who would then go on to form the band Wolf Eyes. As for how it made its way to Oregon, I have no idea. I’d like to think that he was murdered for it, but I suspect it’s more likely that it was taken from a garbage can in front of his house.” As for the quality of the songs, I’d like to say that what you see above doesn’t adequately reflect our work. The truth is, though, it’s probably pretty representative. In retrospect, we probably should have taken the time to have written better songs, and practiced, but neither of those things were really a priority for us at the time. We just wanted to get on stage and piss people off… Oh, and, yes, I did drop my bass during every song.

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22 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Now that we’re in the internet age are there online tutorials showing bass players how not to drop their instruments, or is this something that people still struggle with?

  2. Kat
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Before you can play it, you have to know how to hold onto it.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    So you invented “dropping the bass”?

  4. Edward King
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    So the textbooks lied when they talked of the opera houses filled to capacity, crowds of women offering their daughters in marriage, and “life changing” primal beats?

  5. Kestral
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    What are you abusing that poor bass guitar with?

  6. site admin
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    The first video of the band was shot at Schwaben Hall.

    http://aaobserver.aadl.org/aaobserver/15573

  7. site admin
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Interesting side note: A quick search of “Schwaben Hall” shows that Iggy Pop and the Prime Movers played there as well.

    http://michaelerlewine.com/viewtopic.php?f=235&t=1488

  8. Steven Holt
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Watching Peter Larson behind a drum kit is like watching someone be electrocuted.

  9. Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    …those
    were
    the
    DAYS!!!

  10. XXX
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Can you make a gif like this?

    http://i.imgur.com/yaiHX.gif

  11. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why it is that I couldn’t figure out how to hold on to the bass. I’m sure there would have been an easy fix, had I looked for one. But I guess that shows how little I cared. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was just a little jerk who enjoyed fucking around on stage and seeing how fast we could clear a room. On the plus side, I think we may have inspired some people to do things that might otherwise not have, by setting the bar so incredibly low. On the negative side, I do kind of wish that we had tried a bit harder. I’m not kidding when I say that we played on stages, in front of people, more times than we ever practiced. We even wrote songs on stage, as I recall. With that said, though, I’m still happy that we were out there, putting forward our brand of in-joke heavy, condescension rock. There were a lot of really self-important musician types in Ann Arbor at the time who needed to be reminded just how ridiculous it all was.

  12. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    As for my bass abuse, I just cutlery for the most part. In the song you see here, I think I was playing the bass with a spoon.

  13. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    And the Schwaben Hall thing was during a multi-band festival kind of thing called Rites of Spring. I believe I see Andrew Claydon and Greg Hughes (from the Monarchs) and Jim Magas (from Couch) in the audience.

  14. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I should also add that the video of Miles at the front of the tape, if I remember correctly, was shot on the day that I graduated from the University of Michigan. My parents came to town and I think we all went to lunch somewhere. Shortly after that, Dan moved to New York and I moved to Atlanta. Matt and Pete, however, stayed around a little longer. Eventually, Matt would also go to New York, and Pete would go to Providence, among other places.

  15. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I should also add that our “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” song, inspired by an incident involving Dan Rather in 1986, was performed a few years before REM would steal the idea and take it to the top of the charts.

  16. J.T. Garfield
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh, shit. Your band was awesome.

  17. Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Yes…Mark played bass with “cutlery” for the most part. I remember one thing and I’m surprised it was an eating utensil. The things you learn.

  18. Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I think Anonymatt, when he says “for the most part,”may be referring to the fact that I used to also play that bass with a giant metal vibrator.

  19. Posted June 1, 2016 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Whatever, download my records of songs for Mark Maynard’s Saturday Six Pack. They are free now unless you want to pay.

    https://petelarson.bandcamp.com/

  20. Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Yes, that’s what I meant. Was it cutlery?

    To be fair, you may have only done that with Yeti Load. Or not, let’s see if it comes up if more footage is posted.

  21. Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ewfK5dPzjI

    Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink, “I’m A Spy”.

  22. Steve Swan
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Since I was 18, I’ve not made love to a fellow human being without a Skink record playing in the background. Last night, all of my Skink records were stolen. I will never make love again.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] after they’d moved up to Michigan to form the band with me that would eventually evolve into Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink. It’s just weird how connected we all are in this life, and how much our actions impact one […]

  2. […] old friend and former bandmate, Pete Larson, moved to Kenya a few years back to oversee a number of public […]

  3. By The passing of my Mimi Dorothy on May 18, 2018 at 5:57 am

    […] in the living room of the house my friends and I rented at 502 Catherine Street in Ann Arbor. Looking back at the video, it was a fair question. It stood out at the time though, as I don’t think she’d ever […]

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