Saturday, April 7, 2018

Subterranean Singles: Third Part Of Three

Will Shatter
(photo by Bruce Conner)
Imagine if Dangerhouse, Slash, and LAFMS had all been one label.  Throw in Happy Squid and Independent Project.  That is essentially what Subterranean Records was for San Francisco in the 1980's and early 90's. 

The definitive history of the SF scene in the 80's is yet to be written. Gimme Something Better is an excellent book, but it's both too much and not enough. By covering two decades, it moves quickly "from the Fab Mab to Gilman Street" and I'd love to read more about the former and less about the latter. If someone like Joe Carducci, Jon Savage or V.Vale would excavate Steve Tupper's Subterranean warehouse and catalog its contents -- that's a book I'd pay good money to read.
Monte Cazazza

In 1982, Subterranean went big with the album Generic Flipper. Flipper was a band that both made money and cost money for the label. Read this MRR interview for details. Another big release from '82 was the Chrome Box.  The duo of Damon Edge and Helios Creed added the rhythm section of John and Hilary Stench (aka John and Hilary Hanes), who were former members of SF's Pearl Harbor And The Explosions.  After Damon split for Europe, Helios released two solo albums on Subterranean. Damon Edge died in 1995. Helios Creed is touring in 2018 with a new lineup of Chrome.

Mike Fox
(photo by Jeanne Hansen)
Subterranean co-founder Mike Fox formed Code Of Honor with members of Sick Pleasure and Society Dog. Code Of Honor made a split LP with Sick Pleasure, and an LP of its own, Beware The Savage Jaw. The nihilistic Sick Pleasure was the flip side of Code Of Honor's worldview, but shared the same rhythm section and guitarist (Fox). Code Of Honor singer Johnithin Christ died in 2009. Sick Pleasure frontman Nicki Sicki is still singing for Texas hardcore band Verbal Abuse.

Tana Emmolo-Smith
(photo by Jim Jocoy)
Monte Cazazza and members of Factrix participated on Tana Emmolo-Smith's "Prescient Dreams" (which features excerpts from the diaries of Exene's late sister Mirielle Cervenka). Joseph T. Jacobs of Factrix performed the b-side, "Zanoni".  (Jacobs also played in Bay Of Pigs. Cazazza cowrote the b-side of The Leather Nun's "Prime Mover" single.) 

Monte Cazazza has recently performed as part of a theremin duo with Mary St. Meri (singer of The Housecoat Project, and mother of two with Bruce Lose of Flipper.) The 1978 debut EP by Negative Trend (with Will Shatter and Steve DePace of Flipper) was reissued in 1983 on Subterranean.

Patrick Miller aka Minimal Man
Minimal Man (aka Patrick Miller) was an early Deaf Club performer, and collaborated with members of Tuxedomoon and Factrix. Subterranean put out the debut Minimal Man album and a single before Miller followed the members of Tuxedomoon by relocating from San Francisco to Belgium. Patrick Miller died in 2003. 

Stephen of Arkansaw Man
(photo by Jeanne Hansen)
Arkansaw Man was a trio that released one single on Subterranean and an EP on Modern Masters, a label run by Richard Kelly. Kelly (who studied with John Cage) co-founded the Club Foot in San Francisco, and produced several early Subterranean releases. Richard Kelly died in 1983, but his brainchild lives on in the music of The Club Foot Orchestra.

Richard Kelly
Club Foot co-founder

After 1983, Subterranean's catalog was all albums (with the exception of two oddities from 1985 and 1987 and a 1990 Flipper single.) Subterranean released LP's by Frightwig, Pop-O-Pies, Longshoremen, Polkacide, Any Three Initials, Controlled Bleeding, Psyclones, Caroliner, and The Housecoat Project. The label got into folk music with The Muskrats, The Terminators of Endearment, Penelope Houston, and Kathleen Yearwood. They reissued records from Japan (Angel'in Heavy Syrup) Switzerland (The Monsters), and England (Low Flying Aircraft) as well as the Dry Lungs series of noise compilationsThe label has essentially been dormant since the late 1990's. 

Z'ev in performance

I can't forget to mention Stefan Weisser (aka Z'ev and Uns).  His discography on Subterranean includes an EP (SUB 14), an LP (SUB 30), a cassette box set (SUB 29) and an appearance on the Live At Target compilation. He was also part of the 1980's SF group Rhythm & Noise with Naut Humon and Diamanda Galas. Weisser performed with Glenn Branca, Keiji Haino, KK Null, Stephen O'Malley, Psychic TV, Lydia Lunch, Boyd Rice, Faust, Chris Watson (Cabaret Voltaire) and many others. Stefan Weisser died in December 2017. 



    01 Anorexic Sacrifice - Chrome
    02 Beacons To The Eye - Chrome
    03 What Are We Gonna Do? - Code Of Honor
    04 What Price Would You Pay? - Code Of Honor
    05 Speed Rules - Sick Pleasure
    06 I Wanna Burn My Parents - Sick Pleasure
    07 Love Song - Sick Pleasure
    08 BNS - Sick Pleasure
    09 Disintegration - Sick Pleasure
    10 Try To Break Me - Sick Pleasure
    11 Time To Change - Sick Pleasure
    12 Mercenaries - Negative Trend
    13 Meat House - Negative Trend
    14 Black And Red - Negative Trend
    15 How Ya Feeling? - Negative Trend
    16 Prime Mover - The Leather Nun
    17 F.F.A. - The Leather Nun
    18 What's Your Name? - Bruce Lose
    19 Waking To Sleep - Bruce Lose
    20 Every Job - Arkansaw Man
    21 Mark Twain - Arkansaw Man
    22 Tired Death - Minimal Man
    23 Two Little Skeletons - Minimal Man
    24 Prescient Dreams - Tana Emmolo-Smith
    25 Zanoni - Joseph T. Jacobs

  2. That sums up everything that Subterranean released on 7" from 1979 through 1983, with the exception of Contexts/Poextensions by Stefan Weisser. (I own a copy, but it doesn't really fit with the rest of the music on these comps.) Negative Trend's "We Don't Play We Riot" (SUB 32) was a 12" reissue of a 7" EP. A mere technicality, or a monumental error in judgment that invalidates the premise of this entire project?

  3. Thanks for continuing / completing this little project. The role of distros like Subterranean, Toxic Shock, Midnight etc. in the early & mid -80's can't be underestimated...Some real classics on this 3rd volume. Always thought Arkansas Man was going on to big(ger) things. Guess not...

    1. I appreciate your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed this series. You are exactly right, Subterranean and other distributors were very important to getting these artists heard, and getting their records into stores.

      I like Arkansaw Man a lot too. If you google Stephen Bartholomew Clarke, you will find a few more Arkansaw Man songs on his youtube channel. I will post their 12" EP here soon. It was reissued ten years ago by Radium (a sub-label of Table Of The Elements) with liner notes that called it a precursor to groups like Tortoise (pre-post-rock?) Arkansaw Man had one other song on a comp called "SF Sound Of Music" but only seven songs were released during their lifetime.

  4. Hi, Jonder. I want to thank you for this series. I was tentatively in the S.F. scene from the start, although (at first) from the suburban perspective of Walnut Creek. We used to make pilgrimages to Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley to buy import CDs and copies of the NME. In '77, I moved to Berkeley just as punk became a "thing" and went to a lot of East Bay shows...and rode the "F" line bus to San Francisco to see shows at the Mabuhay Gardens (we had to RUN through the streets of S.F. to the Transbay Terminal to make the bus ride home after the club closed at 2:00 AM; if we missed it, the next bus left at some ungodly hour like 4:00 AM....). Later I moved to S.F. and ended up renting rehearsal space from Flipper's manager down in an industrial building in Dogpatch at 22nd and Illinois; we got three hours and were sandwiched between Silvertone (Chris Isaak) and Flipper. So we ran into the both bands coming and going...I remember the guys from Flipper were really great guys. Anyway...this brings that era back to me, so thank you. There were a lot of records I missed but would hear on KUSF, and now I have them, thanks to you!

    1. Thanks for the great comments! What band were you in? I knew that James Wilsey (the Avengers' bassist) ended up playing lead guitar for Chris Isaak. I used to mail order stuff from Rather Ripped Records but have never visited the Bay Area. I'm glad to share the music with you, and thank you for sharing your memories here.

  5. At the time in the rehearsal room, the band didn't have a name. It was a guitar, bass, and drum machine. The guitarist had been in Central File (a mod revival band). A year later, I joined a class at Blue Bear School of Music. The class learns a set of songs and plays a public recital. We did so well (we learned six songs) that we formed a real band. Learned a few more songs and we had enough to be an opening act at the Mabuhay. That band was the Corvairs. There wa an earlier Bay Area punk band with that name; we were not aware of them and would have picked another name if we had known. Our style was rockabilly. We did a lot of covers but started writing our own material...did an 8 track demo, and then broke up!