Monthly Archives: August 2014

Fred Mills: Colored Vinyl, Pizza Boxes, UFOs & The Flaming Lips

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Let’s revisit the late ‘80s Lips and take in sundry rarities, artifacts and swag, Wayne Coyne style.

BY FRED MILLS

By early 1987 I had become a massive Flaming Lips fan, having fallen under the spell of their skronkadelic ’86 LP Hear It Is (issued late summer the previous year on the Enigma/Pink Dust label—on white vinyl, no less) to such a degree that I wound up bidding in an auction out of Goldmine magazine—this was the pre-eBay era, of course—to score a green vinyl copy of their self-titled EP from ’84 for the princely sum (at the time) of $24. When news arrived that the Oklahoma trio’s American tour would route them through Charlotte, NC, on September 11, I arranged through their publicist to hook up with them the afternoon of the show and conduct an interview for rock ‘zine The Bob.

Interview, we did—whew. Talking for nearly three hours to Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins and then-drummer Richard English (along with Coyne’s brother Mark, who had originally been in the band but had decided to shift over to roadie duties) was a trip, to say the least, and we even found time to stand outside in the parking lot after dark scanning the skies for UFOs, an obsession of Coyne’s. Later, with their permission, a friend and I recorded the show on both video and audio tape, and the final encore of Led Zep’s “Thank You” segueing into Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” would eventually surface as a free flexidisc included with the Lips issue (#32) of The Bob as well as part of the band’s 1998 odds-n-sods compilation CD A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for Recording…By Amateurs.

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That night I also got my copy of HII signed by the band, which you can view at the top of this page. Meanwhile, upon learning that I had paid roughly triple market value for the Flaming Lips EP, Coyne told me he would send me another copy of it, this one pressed on red vinyl, and I dutifully supplied him with my address, thinking, “Yeah, sure…” Lo and behold, about a month later, what should turn up at my Charlotte PO address but a large pizza box doubling as a record mailer and containing the aforementioned platter. (It can be viewed below, along with both copies of the EP.) Coyne had even painstakingly hand decorated and addressed the box, which is the photo that appears at the top of this page. Over the years I’ve been offered considerable sums of money for the box from Lips superfans but rest assured, it ain’t going nowhere. To Wayne Coyne, who gifted me with what is apparently a one-of-a-kind Lips artifact and collectible, I submit my eternal thanks ‘cos I get a big silly smile on my face every time I look at it.

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Incidentally, I also store some of my other Lips collectibles in the pizza box, such as… (below) Some of the personal correspondence I had with Coyne in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, including the note that was included with the red wax record:

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The original, official Flaming Lips presskit/bio package, primarily consisting of photocopies of various reviews of the EP and the LP:

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Original clear vinyl copy of 1987’s Oh My Gawd… LP:

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Autographed, original copy of 1989’s Telepathic Surgery LP (note the “Fred Mills kills” sobriquet):

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Original pink/purple vinyl copy of 1990’s In A Priest Driven Ambulance LP:

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Original brown vinyl copy of 1990’s Unconsciously Screamin’ EP:

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Over the years there have been, obviously, scored more collectible Flaming Lips releases, ranging from shaped discs to colored wax to USBs housed in gummy skulls. The Lips, and Coyne specifically, know how to create, stoke and nurture a rabid fan base while simultaneously keep the eBay search engines humming. But I’d like to think that I managed to get in on the ground floor and was able to score most of the earliest artifacts, including at least one that you won’t see anywhere else… A big boy howdy and salute to the Flaming Lips from ye olde BLURT editor – long may you lip!

 

 

 

 

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Thunderegg

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Our resident punk expert John B. Moore gets the lowdown from Will Georgantas.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Since Thunderegg’s first release, Larry, going all the way back to 1994, nearly 20 musicians have taken their turn playing and singing alongside Will Georgantas. At times, the band was just Georgantas and a four-track inside his Brooklyn apartment; between ’94 and 2013, twenty albums appeared under the Thunderegg name, including eight that were initially cassette-only along with several outtakes collections and compilations

For C’mon Thunder, his latest, and a digital only release, he drafted former and current members of Sparklehorse and Ben Folds Five to pull together the 14 tracks that make up this record. The collection of songs covers universal feelings of loss and love, while managing to be both melancholy and optimistic at the same time.

Prepping for an end of summer tour alongside fellow San Francisco musician KC Turner, Georgantas was cool enough to indulge Blurt with a few questions (while somehow connecting the dots between Hall & Oates and Hawkwind).

 

BLURT: So Thunderegg – as a band – has always been kind of fluid. I think I have counted more than a dozen members that have played on your records. Who played with you on C’mon Thunder?

GEORGANTAS: It’s mainly me and Alan Weatherhead in Richmond, with Miguel Urbiztondo and Darren Jessee on drums. Al and Miguel used to be in Sparklehorse’s touring band, and Al and Darren also record and play as Hotel Lights. Darren’s also the drummer for the Ben Folds Five.

You’ve been particularly prolific over the past couple of years. What do you attribute that to? Great inspiration and focus or just making more time to write and record?

Since the beginning I’ve tried to put out an album a year – if you have a day job, you want a steady output or else you might panic and wonder if you’re a musician at all. My mom had been sick from 2007 to 2009, though, and during that time I wasn’t writing a lot of music. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I was focusing more on her and my dad. After she died I got back into it. I don’t know if it was inspiration and focus, or just a backlog. But it came from a good place. My mom dug Thunderegg, and it would’ve made her happy that I was still plugging away.

These songs were recorded in Virginia. Have you relocated there or are you still in San Francisco?

Richmond is great but I’ve never lived there—I was driving down from Brooklyn, where the songs were written. Then I moved to San Francisco while Al, who’s originally from Milwaukee, was mixing it. Then it got mastered in Boston. I’m not totally sure but I think the discs were manufactured in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The storm on the cover is in upstate New York.

Can you talk a little bit about this new record? Is there a theme that ties these songs together or am I looking too much into that?

Most of the songs I’ve written are about relationships, but this time maybe there’s more urgency, more of a sense that time is passing and that it’s getting more important to try to make things stick. I think I was watching things ending, people breaking up and even dying, and I wanted to take a stand for permanence. Even though in some ways I had never quite managed to experience it myself, I wished I could, and a lot of the time songs end up being about what you hope for.

Can you talk for a minute about how the song “Summer Kids” came about?

I’d been living in Brooklyn for fifteen years, but all around me I’d see these kids who’d just moved there, clearly didn’t know anything, and still seemed wiser than me. The summer kids are like this Greek chorus of hipsters. If you’re seeking validation from them, that’s when you’re old. If you don’t worry about it and do your own thing, maybe then there’s hope for you. Maybe you’re cool. Maybe you’ve transcended cool.

Were you listening to anything specific during the period you were writing this record that had any influence on it?

I was really into “Witchi-tai-to,” this amazing groove by Jim Pepper, a Creek/Kaw saxophone player. Its repetitiveness may have had an influence on “Summer Kids,” along with “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz. I was playing Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates a lot, too. Plus plenty of Hawkwind. Always plenty of Hawkwind. I remember Al listening to Mickey Newbury, Willie Wright, and sixties Al Stewart and eighties Phil Lynott solo records at the time. And of course Joel Plaskett. Then periodically we’d take a break and watch the video for “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n the Tears. [Bravo! A favorite around here—feel free to read our interview from a couple of years ago with band founder Paul Roberts, then check out the aforementioned video below. –Sniff ‘n Fan Ed.]

You’ve recorded and performed both alone and with a full band. Do you prefer having a complete band behind you or does it just depend on the songs you are writing at the time?

It depends. I’ll always like being the solitary four-tracker. There was a cool period back east when we had a six-piece with pedal steel and trumpet. When I moved to San Francisco I didn’t know anyone and played solo acoustic a lot, and now we have a good four-piece band there. The more flexible your lineup is, the more you can play.

Now that C’mon Thunder is done, what’s next for you?

I’ll be doing a cross-country acoustic tour with a fellow San Francisco singer-songwriter, KC Turner, in August. In September the band is recording a seven-inch at Tiny Telephone. It’ll be cool because it’ll be all analog. Other than that, I’ll be trying to come up with a new batch of songs. I don’t have anything for 2015 yet.

On the web: http://www.thunderegg.org/

 

Fred Mills: Dreams So Real – the Last Great Southern Pop Band?

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Quite possibly so… everybody has some favorite bands and enduring memories to go with ‘em—here’s one of mine, from the late ‘80s college rock era. Hey, just because grunge came along and wiped a lot of folks’ slates clean doesn’t mean I had to go along with it!

BY FRED MILLS

In the aftermath of my last move, I was faced with, literally, hundreds of U-Haul boxes of records, CDs and books, and once all the available shelf space was occupied I still had, ahem, more than a few unpacked boxes. Procrastination—or perhaps denial—being what it is, I chose to ignore those boxes, at least until the significant other started making discordant noises on the other side of the room. (Memo to spouses and partners everywhere: the person you are sharing living space with does not buy the argument, “But it’s my shit, honey…” so don’t even attempt it. Just clean up your mess.)

So among the better-late-than-never unpacking yield was my stash of Dreams So Real CDs and tapes. Damn, I’d wondered where all that was. For those of you who arrived late to the table, Dreams So Real was an Athens-based trio who emerged in the wake of the Athens scene success spearheaded by the likes of the B-52’s, Pylon, R.E.M. et al, releasing their first LP, the Pete Buck-produced Father’s House, on Hoboken’s Coyote label in 1986 and going on to snag a deal with Arista for 1988’s Rough Night In Jericho and 1990’s Gloryline. The ’88 album managed to hit #28 on the Billboard album charts and also landed DSR on MTV, but the followup was a commercial disappointment and after getting dropped by Arista the band soon split up. In ’92, DSR self-released an odds-and-sods posthumous collection, Nocturnal Omissions, and the lingering impression for fans was that here was a group that had huge potential—handsome guys, exuding confidence onstage, and most important, they had some frankly brilliant, hook-draped tunes—but was done in by the vicissitudes of the industry, which was at that point in time making an inexorable shift away from the poppier “college rock” of the time and towards the harder-edged sound that would come to define the Northwest scene and, ultimately, the alternative rock era.

Me, I dearly loved ‘em, every note they played, and whenever they came up from Georgia to Charlotte, NC, where I was living during the mid and late ‘80s, I would catch ‘em live. I’m proud to have called the three guys—guitarist/vocalist Barry Marler, bassist Trent Allen (also on quite prominent backing vocals; in addition to hooks, DSR had harmonies out the wazoo), drummer Drew Worsham—friends, too. I vividly recall one night in ’90 or ’91 when I found myself in Atlanta, near the tail end of a long road trip, and upon learning totally by chance that they were playing that evening, I shelved my weariness and headed out to the club. After buying my ticket and a drink, I wandered towards the rear of the venue, intending to go say hello, only to be blocked by your stereotypical meathead bouncer. He flatly refused to send a message back, but I was able to get word via a roadie or someone in the vicinity, and within seconds Barry had come out to grab me, giving me a bearhug and asking me what the hell was I doing in Atlanta? (Below: the band doing “Golden” in the film Athens GA Inside Out)

Over the years I moved around and, inevitably, lost touch. One day in 2003 I received the shocking news through a mutual friend that Drew had been in a tragic accident, surviving a gunshot wound from the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, who shot and killed both her and himself. It turns out that only Drew had remained regularly active in music, with Barry going into biochemistry and bioinformatic systems and Trent founding an acclaimed graphic design company. Meanwhile, I would return to my DSR albums from time to time—Jericho remains, in my opinion, as powerful and lasting a document of the Southern pop sound as R.E.M., dB’s and Let’s Active albums of the mid ‘80s, still holding up today without a hint of “eighties sound syndrome” (save a bit of reverb on the drums) to date it. Out of the blue one day a small package arrived in the mail: an old associate had transferred Father’s House to CDR for me, additionally shrinking/copying the artwork and, as a bonus, including a CDR of a gig I’d attended, Charlotte’s Milestone Club on Nov. 11, 1988. I well remember that show (still have a flyer from it, in fact), and at one point on the recording the band even gives me a shout-out from the stage. Quite a little thrill—a private thrill, but the kind of personal memento any music fan can appreciate.

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Revisiting Dreams So Real over the past couple of days has been a genuine treat… likewise, a private treat, but also the kind that any music fan can appreciate, I suspect. Inspired, I took to YouTube and found some great clips of the band at a 2012 reunion concert in Athens that I had been completely unaware of. They’d done a reunion once before, in 2009 for the annual Athfest, and this time around they did a pair of shows, one in their hometown and one in Atlanta. They’re all older of course—see the photo, above—but they don’t appear to have lost a lick to age. It’s pretty inspiring, actually. (The below clip of them at the show doing the title track to “Jericho” is especially riveting. It’s interesting to compare it to this clip from the early ’90s doing the same song.)

Guys, if you happen to read this, a big howdy and a salute from your old friend. A lot of great memories, and I still cherish the music. Methinks you’ve got many old friends out there as well, and that a lot of us would turn out for any more reunion shows you might be inclined to undertake, not just in Georgia but throughout the region. Keep us posted, will ya?

DSR at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DreamsSoReal