Pearl Jam and the Secret History of Seattle
by Jo-Ann Greene
With the release of their debut album, Ten, Pearl Jam became a major musical force. They've headlined tours across two continents, and they stole the show at last year's Lollapalooza. A new album is imminent, and expectations are high. But then, they would be; Ten actually outsold Nirvana's Nevermind, the other major debut from a Seattle rock band, and reviews were terrific. Or at least, some of them were. Others weren't so kind.
"Annoying," wrote Robert Hilburn in the L.A. Times. "Offensive," added Bob Keyes of the Argus-Leader.
"(They) flail about in search of a groove and a song," concluded David Browne in Entertainment Weekly.
Even more damning was Nirvana's Kurt Cobain: "There are a lot of really mainstream bands, who sound just like Poison or resemble Poison very much, and they're being promoted as alternative bands. I find that really offensive. I think one of the biggest examples of that would be Pearl Jam."
And from the offended to the disgusted: "Pearl Jam a hopeless Seattle Sub Pop wannabe band. Ick," courtesy of Steve Bojanowski, a Triangle staff writer.
The band had barely arrived, and the backlash was in full swing. But Pearl Jam Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder and original drummer Dave Krusen just laughed and added a quip of their own: "Pearl Jam Press love 'em," then put them all on an official promotional black and white T-shirt.
But who are these Seattle upstarts? They've been accused of having no history, of paying no dues. They've even been called "manufactured." But few bands come out of nothing, and while one of the few pieces of information they have volunteered (that Mike McCready and drummer Dave Abbruzzese were once members of Seattle's Cheap Ones) is erroneous, to say the least, Pearl Jam formed from the rich stew that was Seattle's pre-Grunge scene, following a tangled skein of incestuous paths that would include members of virtually every major Seattle band of the '80s. The final result would be some of today's best known names: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and a slew of lesser-knowns ready to step up to the big leagues.
The story of Pearl Jam, then, is the story of a particular segment of the Seattle scene, tracing the individual band members through a maze of relationships which, no matter how far from the point they may seem to stray, inevitably reconnect at some point. For the fan, simply contemplating this maze is an introduction to some great music. For the committed collector, who has already traced Pearl Jam back to the band's most famous antecedents (Green River and Mother Love Bone) hey, you're not even halfway through yet!
Deranged Diction Enter Jeff Ament
Strangely, the Pearl Jam story begins not in Seattle, but in Missoula, Montana, where Jeff Ament, a native of Big Sandy, was now living. His band, Deranged Diction, was formed in 1982, by a group of skateboarding, basketball-playing, University of Montana friends. At one point, the group had the distinction of being the only non-Top 40 band in the area.
Tom Kipp first saw them at their third or fourth gig, and Diction was in serious trouble. Being a hardcore band, they had run through their entire set at an embarrassing pace, a miserly 20 minutes.
A quick thinker, Kipp (previously vocalist with another Missoula band, the Renobs) made his way to the stage, and offered to sing "Johnny B. Goode" and "No Fun" with the band, two songs they all knew. "And in the aftermath of that very brief performance," Kipp recollects, "they decided to immediately throw out the singer they had, although they didn't get around to telling him for a month or two."
Aside from Ament and Kipp, Deranged Diction also featured drummer Sergio Avenia and guitarist Bruce Fairweather, himself a newcomer to Missoula. From a military family, Bruce had been living in Hawaii, then in California, before finally making his way to the University of Montana.
With a repertoire whose influences included California hardcore, Ament's personal love of Boston hardcore and Kipp's predilection for Flipper, Diction amassed a considerable local following. Early covers included the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia," Circle Jerks' "Back Against The Wall" and "Jealous Again" (Fairweather's favorite song at the time) and Black Flag's "No Values." After Kipp introduced the band to Flipper, their "Sex Bomb," too, was added to their set, and eventually became a Missoula classic.
In spring 1983, Diction headlined Missoula's Third Annual New Wave Festival-of-sorts, then prepared to enter the studio to record one side of the No Art, No Cowboys, No Rules cassette. (The other side was live, recorded at a show in Missoula over Memorial Day weekend, 1983.)
Kipp's most enduring memory of the cassette remains its appalling sound quality The studio side suffered from "a completely trebly mix"; the live side was absolutely hopeless. "It's about a tenth as good as the Heartbreakers' live album," he said.
This now hopelessly obscure cassette Jeff Ament's recorded debut was a limited edition of less than 100 copies featured 11 studio tracks: "Pruning," "So Bad," "I'm An American," "Have A Nice Day," "Aspirin," "Periscope," "Kill Or Be Killed," "Only," "Letters" (the alphabet song performed hardcore style), "What You See On TV" and "Not Fair" (with lyrics by Fairweather). The live side was comprised of "Cowboys," "Listen," "My School" (with lyrics by Ament), "Unknown," "Video Wars," a KGB cover "Dying (In The U.S.A.)," "Kokaine," "Kill (Or Be Killed)" and three songs retitled from the studio side, "Telescope" ("Periscope"), "Pruned Again" ("Pruning") and "Tylenol" ("Aspirin").
Ament also designed the cassette cover, setting the stage for a virtual second career: throughout his musical life, Ament has received credit for virtually all the artwork, posters and T-shirts for every band he's passed through, including the jacket of Pearl Jam's Ten.
Diction was also included on a compilation released jointly by Mystic Records and the We've Got Power fanzine (Mystic MLP 33125) in 1983. The premise of the album was for each song to be a minute or less in length. Diction contributed "Pruning," incorrectly labeled as "Crooning" on the record; also featured on the record were Seven Seconds, Nip Drivers, White Flag and Red Cross.
With Diction already planning a move to Seattle to pursue fame and fortune, Kipp bowed out of the band. A replacement singer, Tim Healy, was brought in for their final Missoula gigs; he also recorded over some of Kipp's vocals on the Cowboys cassette. By June, Diction was on their way west.
Once in Seattle, the band went through an amazing transformation. In the early days after their arrival, Ament occasionally appeared on stage in a kilt. As time went on, he would grow his hair, although the eyeliner he first sported in Montana remained. ("In Missoula we wouldn't have survived the night with any more make-up," Kipp states.)
And then there was the music. Gradually, Diction shifted from hardcore into something else entirely. Daniel House, now head of the Seattle C/Z label, refers to them as "a pretty cool punk band," but not all of Seattle was so keen. Dale Crover, drummer for Aberdeen, Washington thoroughbreds the Melvins, recalls, "Jeff Ament was a Venom fan; we used to make fun of him."
Mark Arm (now of Mudhoney) adds, "Diction one of the fastest bands around, then they became the slowest band on earth ... and the weirdest."
"They sounded like Paranoid-era Black Sabbath," concludes Tom Kipp.
Deranged Diction folded in June 1984; Seattle had not brought fame or fortune ... yet.
Early Days in Seattle: Limp Richerds, Mr. Epp, Spluii Numa
When Ament moved to Seattle, it was still just a dot on the northwest corner of the map, and most everybody who considered themselves hip was into the Stooges, local legends the Sonics and hardcore. Or so Ben Sheppard (now bassist with Soundgarden) remembers: "Seattle was a guitar town. Kids would rather buy guitar strings or books than clothes."
Dale Crover agrees. "We were into obscure bands like the Stooges and Queensryche (which Jeff Ament really liked). Mark (Arm) was also into Ted Nugent."
This clash of musical cultures didn't stop the local kids from forming their own bands, even if variations on the hardcore theme was the order of the day. And so it would begin, with a handful of young bands, all of whom would eventually intertwine.
For Mark McCullough (now Arm), it began by, "hopping around with a broomstick to Beatles' songs, when I was six." Pushing the fast forward button, we arrive at his first band, Mr. Epp and the Calculations.
Named after a math teacher ("It was just a stupid name," Arm admits), Mr. Epp began as "a theoretical band," dreamed up by pupils at Bellevue Christian High School. According to legend, Mr. Epp landed their first record deal when the owners of the newly-founded Pravda label came across Arm and fellow band member Joe Smitty, posting details of a "forthcoming" (but nonexistent) show by the still imaginary group. Impressed by the pair's irreverence, Pravda offered them a deal on the spot. Arm responded, "Gee, I guess we'd better get some instruments!"
Mr. Epp underwent several line-up changes; according to vocalist/guitarist Smitty, however, the "definitive" Mr. Epp comprised himself, Arm (guitar and a couple of lead vocals), bassist Todd Why and drummer Darren Mor/x (now a member of Steel Pole Bathtub). The band's greatest influences, says Arm, were Flipper and Minor Threat.
Arm joined a second band shortly after Epp "formed." The Limp Richerds were based in the suburban town of Federal Way, and boasted, as Arm delicately puts it, "the spazziest, freaked out singer you could imagine, Dave Middleton." The Richerds' band logo, appropriately, took the medical symbol for mate, custom drawn to include a decidedly droopy arrow.
Beginning in 1982, both Mr. Epp and the Limp Richerds would record. Mr. Epp was by far the most active of the two; aside from a handful of compilations, the only significant Richerds release was a cassette which paired with another local band, A Rancid Vat.
Mr. Epp, on the other hand, has made a number of vinyl and tape appearances, the most important being the five track 7-inch EP Of Course Im Happy, Why? In 1982 (Pravda PRO 711). Released in a hand-drawn picture sleeve, this was also the first release on Pravda, and Smitty remembers there being talk of the EP being released in Europe, as a 12-inch, by Statik. That release fell through, but several of the tracks were possibly included on Statik (or related) compilations of the period.
The EP was followed by a compilation cassette titled Pravda Volume One. Epp contributed two tracks, "Mohawk Man" (from the Happy EP) and "Mr. Epp Talks To Youngsters." A live "Mohawk Man" is one of two Epp tracks to be found on the Bad Compilation Tapes sampler.
The Public Doesn't Exist, another cassette compilation released on Smitty's own Dog Tapes label (008), featured another two Mr. Epp tracks, "Spooky" and "Genocide," plus several Epp spin-offs: Mice Magnetic, which did not feature Arm, and Speed 20, which did. Arm, incidentally, sings and plays synthesizer on this track. The cassette also features an Arm-less Limp Richerds.
The following year, Mr. Epp's "Out Of Control" featured on the Seattle Syndrome Volume Two compilation (Engram 012); Epp also joined the Limp Richerds (again without Arm) on the What Syndrome cassette compilation (Deux Machina CSD 4), a response of sorts to the better known Seattle Syndrome series. The Epp tracks were "Strong Arms Of The Law" and "Keep On Smiling Til The End."
A who's-who of current Seattle talent, "at Syndrome also features Silly Killers, 10 Minute Warning and Hobo Skank, all of which feature future Guns N' Roses guitarist Duff McKagan on drums; Big Machine, the Rejectors, Firing Squad, the Accused, Solger and the Drills.
Another fascinating selection of early Seattle bands can be found on Basic Sampler (Basic Tapes CSV 10). Mr. Epp contributed "What's Right" to an album which, aside from such northwestern acts as Maggot Brains, Solger, the Accused and the Fartz, also featured Meat Puppets, D.O.A. and Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers.
Another Epp appearance was on Local Product, the debut release for the Green Monkey label (GM001). This cassette-only compilation featured Epp's "Falling" (Seattle heroes the Fastbacks are also present), and is remarkable for its pioneering use of a bar code as the sleeve design. Passed over a scanner, the code rang up "Beer Beer"!
Mighty Feeble (New Alliance NAR 013), says Smitty, was "a compilation of weird bands with names like Severed Head In A Bag." Again there was just one Epp track, "Jaded."
1983 also brought Epp's one and only album, the 27-track Mr. Epp Live As All Get Out, released jointly by the Dog Tapes and Deux Machina labels (Dog Tapes 13/Deux Machina CSV 7). Side one was recorded at Seattle's Metropolis on August 12, 1983; side two was drawn from a variety of shows, including several recorded previous to Arm's arrival. On this release, amusingly, Arm is credited as Mark Mahavishnu McLaughlin.
Since the band's demise, Smitty has released several further Epp recordings, including the 15-song compilation Irish Potato Famine: Prerequisite To Enlightenment (Introductory Course One) (Dog Tapes DS 14), in 1985. Arm appears on around half the album, which comprises studio demos, amongst them the immortally titled "Mack Truck from Mars," "The Common Cold" and "The Ballad Of John (Hinkley) and Jodie" (Foster).
Two years later, Smitty released Mr. Epp Tapes From The Dead, a collection drawn from live shows and band practice sessions (side one) and further studio recordings (side two). Included among its 24 tracks are two versions of the Beach Boys'/Regents' "Barbara Ann," two more of "Louie, Louie," "Mohawk Man," "Wild Youth On Money," "Moral Majority" and, finally, "Stairway To Heaven" not, Smitty assures us, the Led Zeppelin classic, but a collection of what he calls "bad rock cliches."
Perhaps the ultimate release, however, was 1990's Hoop Skirt/Loop Yarn (Boxed Dog DV-1), a video compilation directed by Joe Blow and featuring both Mr. Epp ("What's Right" and "Keep On Slamming To The End") and Limp Richerds, with Mark Arm. Also featured were the Melvins, plus a number of short films by local directors.
In the pipeline, meanwhile, is a possible CD compilation, a joint release between Boxed Dog Tapes (as Smitty's label is now known) and Supra-Electra.
Bob Wittaker (who graduated from working at Sub Pop to managing Mudhoney, and has a further convoluted connection his mom once dated Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard's dad!) remembers the Limp Richerds as a weird band, playing "spasmodic music." Soundgarden's Ben Sheppard recalls that they were "a little more structured than Mr. Epp, and a little more jokey, whereas Mr. Epp were way wigged-out Pere Ubu, loud, cleverly stupid, really weird." It remains Mark Arm's proud boast that "Mr. Epp were the worst band in Seattle."
"Not true," retorts Daniel House. "The worst band in Seattle was my band, Death of Marat, who had the distinction of being the suckiest band ever in Seattle. We were art fags, we couldn't play, we blew! Other bands have claimed the title, but we blew harder than they did whoever they were."
He admits, however, that Mr. Epp was "definitely the most infamous band around. I loved them on record, hated them live. They were truly the full embodiment of snide rock." If Death of Marat had any rival whatsoever, House would go for Limp Richerds."
Arm says, "We kind of enjoyed the fact that people thought we were the worst band in the city," but House counters, "they probably think they were the worst band in town but they were wrong. There are awful bands and there are great awful bands. Limp Richerds and Mr. Epp were truly great awful bands. The Richerds played one show with Death of Marat what a bill!"
Matt Cameron (of Soundgarden) insists, "Limp Richerds were pretty bad, but they were trying to be bad. The worst bands were those new wave bands that were around at the time, those really Weird new wave bands that I really liked to laugh at.
"I always thought that Mr. Epp sounded pretty tight and techno. I thought they were the Seattle version of Kraftwerk!" There again, Cameron never saw the band live.
Another future Mudhoney member, Steve Turner, considered the Limp Richerds and Mr. Epp his favorite bands, even if the Richerds did "look like suburban nerds, and the punks would yell 'art fags' at Mr. Epp."
In 1982, while Turner was still a junior in high school, a school friend, Alex Shumway, introduced him to the older Arm at a TSOL gig. Turner himself would join both Mr. Epp and the Richerds in 1983; prior to that, he formed his own band, the Ducky Boys, with another friend, Stone Gossard. (Stone is his real name, incidentally; his sisters are Shell and Star.)
It was to be a short-lived project, lasting around six months; when it was over, Shumway offered Turner a spot in his band, Spluii Numa. "But then Mark asked me to join Epp, and they sounded a lot better." One assumes he means as a proposition, not musically.
Turner also joined the Limp Richerds just in time to catch the band's death throes. Three months later it was history; Turner never even performed live with them.
As for Mr. Epp. Their sound was changing."They played really fast, and they didn't know how to play," remembers Turner. "But when I joined, Mark was learning, and it began to sound more like rock 'n' roll."
Arm is more dismissive. "When Steve came in, he was just another guitarist that couldn't be heard over the bass, either."
By 1984, Mr. Epp, too, had bitten the dust, to the relief of eardrums throughout Seattle.
Spluii Numa, too, were no more. "They were fun," laments Turner. "They were kind of modeling themselves after southern California hardcore bands, like Social Distortion and Bad Religion." But, "they weren't anything great."
As always, Arm prefers a more direct approach. "They were a cheap attempt to reach the kids by playing songs that sounded like Social Distortion or GBH. They had two kinds of songs: their GBH songs and their Social Distortion songs. The whole point was to make kids like them, which was not the point of Mr. Epp or Limp Richerds."
Bob Whittaker has happier memories. "Spluii Numa were an awesome punk band, although they also dressed up as preppies. (Spluii's bassist, Keith Strobel, incidentally, is now Mudhoney's accountant!)
Ben Sheppard has fond memories of the band as well. "They were melodic punk rock. And Alex Shumway wore a kilt" which was Daniel House's immediate recollection as well, along with Shumway's mohawk. "They were a riot, really fun, irreverent. They had an awesome 'fuck you' attitude. They played with the kind of energy that only young men with an inordinate amount of testosterone raging through their bodies can muster."
With the collapse of their bands, it was inevitable that Arm, Turner and Shumway, now operating under the name Alex Vincent, would start thinking about putting together another group to terrorize the neighbors. But there was one thing that both Arm and Turner demanded: a bass player with a distortion box, "like the one we had in Mr. Epp, but preferably one that could actually play."
There was only one guy in Seattle that fit that bill, and according to Arm, "he jumped real high." He was former Deranged Diction bassist Jeff Ament.
There was only one problem, as Turner explains. "I got a job where Jeff worked, and I talked to him about the band. But he didn't like Mr. Epp. He thought we were horrible! He didn't want to be in a band with us!" So they just kept hounding him and finally, their persistence paid off. The seminal Green River named for a notorious local serial killer was born during the summer of 1984.
Green River, comprising Ament, Arm, Turner and Vincent, debuted at a party on Seattle's 12th Ave., a slot Ament arranged through the headlining PMA's guitarist, who worked alongside Turner and himself. The band played several more gigs as a four-piece over the next six months, but with Arm having given up playing guitar to concentrate on his vocals, the band's sound needed filling out. Finally, Green River recruited a second guitarist, Stone Gossard.
Since the demise of the Ducky Boys, Gossard had moved briefly into March of Crimes, formed by a group of Bainbridge Island musicians (Gossard himself was from Seattle's Capitol Hill). Crimes' bassist Ben Sheppard labels the band as "speed core"; the omnipresent Daniel House adds "metal-influenced hardcore punk" to the mix.
Matt Cameron, now playing alongside Sheppard in Soundgarden, adds, "They were fucking awesome! They sounded extremely raw, inspired punk-rock. It was high school kid punk-rock that's onto something. They were very abrasive sounding."
But Gossard's involvement was to be short-lived. Sheppard recalls, "I brought him in because he was a great guitarist, but he just didn't get on with the others." Soon after Gossard's arrival, the rest of the band fired him. At loose ends, he was ripe to fall into Green River.
It's interesting to note that Gossard was heavily influenced by Kiss. Some time before he joined Green River, Bob Whittaker recalls Gossard taking a pair of Capezzios and by nailing 2 x 4s to them, creating his own platform shoes. "I don't know if he ever wore them outside the house though!"
He was in good company. According to Tom Kipp, "Jeff had really huge, billowing hair, and with the scarves and his facial structure he really did look like Jon Bon Jovi." Photos of Green River also bring the New York Dolls and Hanoi Rocks to mind, admittedly with a much lighter touch in make-up.
Gossard made his Green River debut at the Gray Door in Seattle. Chris Friel (then a member of Shadow, alongside future Pearl Jammer Mike McCready) remembers, "I was pretty blown away. I was the only Green River fan in Shadow. I told the rest about the gig, and they all started laughing."
In October 1984, Green River opened for the Dead Kennedys at Seattle's Moore Theatre. Their reception was mixed: half the crowd seemed to enjoy it, the rest pelted the band with popcorn, ice and shoes.
Two months later, in December 1984, Green River entered Crow Studios with producer Chris Hanzsek, to record their debut album, the six-track Come On Down, for the independent Homestead label (Green River was actually discovered by the label's A&R man, Gerard Cosloy).
Come On Down was to remain in the can for a year, finally appearing in late 1985. In the meantime, in January 1985, the band took another shot at a large audience, when it opened for Sonic Youth and local heroes the U-Men, at Gorilla Gardens (an old Chinese theater in Seattle's International District). It then continued working the northwest in readiness for its first U.S. tour, scheduled for early fall. It was on the eve of this outing, in August, 1985 that Steve Turner announced he was leaving the band.
Unlike Ament and Vincent, Turner had never been into hardcore or metal; his tastes ran towards the Pebbles compilations of raw '60s garage band music. And while it was one thing to have friends with diverse musical tastes, it was quite another to be in a band with them. As far as Turner was concerned, Green River was becoming far too metallic for his liking.
"Stoney and Jeff," Turner relates, "were like heavy metal kids. They were into Motorhead, and Stoney was really into Kiss. I was into the California hardcore, but I also liked the Clash, Devo and 999."
Turner returned to school for two years, attending Western Washington University and working part-time "at such high-powered jobs as parking cars." Former Diction member Bruce "Bootsy" Fairweather was quickly drafted in to replace him, and in October 1985, Green River embarked on a disastrous tour.
Mark Arm provides the details, "While Steve was safely in school we were stuck in the midwest. We had seven shows altogether; it was kind of like a vacation; we all worked and saved up money for the tour.
"The problem was, no one knew anything about us." Scheduling problems had pushed Come On Down back a little, "so we didn't have any records out. We did two shows opening for Big Black: they had records, but there was still only 30 or 40 people there. We headlined CBGB, playing to six people: four Japanese tourists and two people that worked there. I guess they liked us; all six stayed for the entire show. Maxwell's, in Hoboken, New Jersey, was pretty good as well.
"But Detroit was the worst. We opened for Sam Haig (now of Danzig) on Halloween, and everyone had this bad-ass attitude. Were thinking its going to be great 'Yeah, the Stooges, MC5.' But these people just wanted everything fast. Jeff was wearing a pink tank-top with 'San Francisco' in purple letters, and with his hair (big and flowing), well you can imagine.
"This one girl kept spitting at me, and Jeff put his foot out to block the spit. But this guy thought he was kicking her in the face. He was huge, and pulled Jeff right into the crowd. In the past, Ive been pulled into the crowd, and Jeff rescued me, so now was my chance to help him out. But Jeff is a big guy, and Im not. Still, I jumped in. The guy was a seven-foot-tall brick of a man; the only thing that saved our asses was an armed policeman."
So, the tour wasn't a great success. But its very occurrence was, for Green River was one of the few Seattle bands to actually make it out of the area.
"Back then," reminisces Daniel House, "even going to Portland was a big deal. The first two bands to go on tour were the U-Men and Green River, and they got full stories in The Rocket (Seattle's premier music paper). They had big going away shows!"
Come On Down finally made it into the stores just in time for Christmas 1985; The Rocket described it as "a mixture of Metallica and Lynyrd Skynyrd with Henry Rollins as lead singer." Early pressings of the album appeared on a now very collectible green vinyl (black vinyl pressings remain common); more recently, Come On Down has been made available on CD.
Green River celebrated by organizing their second U.S. tour. Once again they played CBGB, and this time there was more than a handful of people present, including Aerosmith's Joe Perry. Immediately, rumors flooded the Seattle scene that he would produce their next record. But the Dry As A Bone EP, recorded in June 1986 (but, characteristically, not released for another 13 months) found Jack Endino, not Perry, behind the control board.
There were two new Green River releases during 1986. First, the C/Z label included "10,000 Things" on Deep Six, a limited (2,000)-edition vinyl compilation album which also featured Soundgarden, the Melvins, Skin Yard, the U-Men and Malfunkshun.
This was followed, in November, by a single coupling, Green River's own "Together We'll Never" with the Dead Boys' classic "Ain't Nothin' To Do," released on the band's own ICP label. (According to Dale Crover, Arm also wanted Green River to adopt another seminal punk classic, the Stooges' "Dirt." The session ended with Jeff Ament refusing to play the bass line; "he thought it was too easy." The same band's "Search And Destroy" was, however, a regular in Green River's set.)
Recorded eight months earlier, in March 1985, "Together We'll Never" appeared in a limited edition of 800 green vinyl copies, which were given away at the record's release party at the Vogue. This is the scarcest Green River release, although black vinyl passings of the same single come a close second.
Green River continued to play locally, including a show with Agent Orange on August 8th, then embarked on their third and final tour. But it was their Seattle shows that ensured the band's legacy would live on.
During one memorable gig at the Central, for instance, the audience threw Spam and bread at the band. Lunch may have been served, but the gunk also got stuck in the monitors, and not only was Green River fined, they were banned from the club. In retaliation, the band started throwing things at the audience: cooking oil was Nils Bernstein's (publicity director at Sub Pop Records) favorite projectile.
July 1987 brought the release of Dry As A Bone, the five-track EP recorded with Jack Endino a year previous. This record is of particular interest, both to Green River fans and students of the Seattle scene in general, as it marked the first individual band release on the now legendary Sub Pop label. (Earlier issues, dating back to label founder Bruce Pavitt's days as a fanzine editor, were nationwide compilations.)
Bone originally appeared as a 12-inch single, and has gone through several different pressings over the years, the most collectible being the first, characterized by a yellow printed insert. When this edition of 2,000 was exhausted, a pink insert was produced for subsequent releases.
Well-received locally, Dry As A Bone made little impression elsewhere. But that did not stop Sub Pop from wanting more, and in August 1987 Green River set to work on what would become the Rehab Doll EP. Before this could be released, however, Sub Pop had to reconstitute itself: between them, Dry As A Bone and the debut release by Soundgarden (the Screaming Life EP) had all but bankrupted the label. It was to be another year before Sub Pop was ready to start releasing records again, by which time Green River was no more.
The band's run of bad on-the-road luck showed no sign of abating, coming to a head at a gig in L.A. In an interview with Rocket editor Grant Alden, Arm explained, "We went down to L.A., and had a guest list of 10 people, all of whom were from major labels. Only two of them came. Meanwhile, I wanted to get my friends in and they [the band] said 'No, it's really important that we get these industry people in.' But these people didn't give a shit about us; I'd rather have had my friends come in for free."
Musical clashes, too, haunted Green River. "They were trying to play Guns N' Roses and the brand new Aerosmith," Arm shudders. "None of them had any interest in the tape I wanted to play, rockabilly and Thee Milkshakes."'
The crunch came on Halloween [19871, when Arm went down to practice. He already knew that the rest of the band had been working casually with Malfunkshun's vocalist, Andy Wood; tonight, it transpired that the relationship was casual no more. "They said, 'This is the end.' I said, 'Okay, cool.' I could see it coming for a long time."
Rehab Doll was released in June 1988 close to nine months after Green River disintegrated. The first thousand copies were pressed on green vinyl, while cassette versions of the EP featured a bonus track, a cover of David Bowie's "Queen Bitch." (Rehab's title track, incidentally, was cowritten with 10 Minute Warning's Paul Solger; another album track, "Swallow My Pride," dated from Steve Tumer's time with the band.
Since that time, Sub Pop has done a remarkable job of repackaging Green River's legacy. In July 1988 Dry As A Bone and Rehab Doll were combined for a 16-track CD (and cassette) release, augmented with "Queen Bitch," an alternate mix of "Ain't Nothing To Do" and the Dry As A Bone outtake "Searchin'."
Another outtake, "Hangin' Tree," was included on the Sub Pop 200 triple 12-inch compilation, released in December (and subsequently repackaged on CD). This remarkable glimpse into the past also includes the Fastbacks' cover of "Swallow My Price;" plus two contributions from Mark Arm and Steve Turner, in the guises of the Thrown-Ups and, of more lasting renown, Mudhoney.
1989 saw two hitherto unreleased Green River tracks, "Bazaar" and "Away In A Manger," included on a second C/Z compilation, the wryly titled Another Pyrrhic Victory The Only Compilation Of Dead Seattle God Bands. This release, incidentally, is a collection in its own right; according to label supremo Daniel House, a limited edition of 2,000 CDs was accompanied by 3,000 vinyl pressings, of which 300 were pressed in orange vinyl and 300 in yellow. The record itself had a large hole in the middle, requiring a 45 rpm adaptor, even though the disc itself spun at 33.
Finally, 1992 saw the Dry As A Bone cut "Baby Takes" included on the Sub Pop love songs sampler, Aftemoon Delight (SP 153).
For a band with so little recorded history behind it, it would seem that Green River was just another local band that never made it to the Big Time. However, although they may have had little influence nationally, they would have a profound impact on the Seattle scene.
Sub Pop's Nils Bernstein summed it up this way: "Green River was one of the first bands to merge metal and glam into punkrock. Jeff and Bruce dressed like joke glam, while Mark wore ripped spandex; it was all very tongue-in-cheek. And it all metamorphosed into what is now called grunge. They were the New York Dolls go hardcore."
Another observer, Greg Gilmore, was similarly horrified by their clothes. "Jeff wore satin material, shiny shirts and vertically striped pants." They had the big stadium rock influence ("UFO!" chortles Gilmore), as exemplified by Jeff s dress, but the others had the punk-rock look, black jeans and T-shirts. "So, a slightly slowed down Pearl Jam. They had the flair, not the hair."
At the time in Seattle, only Soundgarden could rival Green River's fame. The Rocket called them "a throbbing sonic unit. Their hardcore/metal/greasy rock fusion is a double-barreled attack of audio destruction, and their onstage ferocity is legendary."
Dale Crover was less impressed. "The first time I saw Green River, Jeff had 'Venom' taped to his guitar. Their first demo tape was the best; they went downhill from there." Nevertheless, the Melvins still play Green River's "Leech" live, and included it on their Gluey Porch Treatment album (Alchemy CZM 103) in 1987. Green River's own version, incidentally, exists only in demo form.
Jonathan Poneman, now joint head (with Bruce Pavitt) of Sub Pop, was equally unimpressed. Throughout 1987, he was the booking agent at the local Scoundrel's Lair club, where Green River staged the Dry As A Bone record release party. He was also investing in the Sub Pop label, but when Pavitt approached him for money to record another Green River album (the eventual Rehab Doll), Poneman was horrified.
"I thought they sucked! In fact the first show I saw them do, where I didn't think they sucked, was the record release party. While I could appreciate their sensibilities and their sense of humor, live, they always came to a point which I associated with Jock Rock.
"Originally they were a post-hardcore rock band, but as they developed, they became something which was more immediately derivative of the '70s. I just didn't get it. But the party was one of those events when it was total anarchy and total control at the same time. You had a feeling that if Mark said, 'Destroy the room,' people would have. There was a real rapport between band and audience.
"The great thing that started to happen ' which Green River came to represent, was a sense of humor and panache. They used to practice and practice and practice; and it didn't help. That's what made them great! Basically, they were the band that dared to suck."
Mudhoney and more... Arm and Turner Revisited
With the break-up of Green River, the members would finally split down musical lines. Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather would continue playing together in a new project, Mark Arm would rejoin Steve Turner, and Alex Vincent would leave music behind altogether, eventually moving to Japan.
Like his Green River bandmates, Arm had also been involved in sundry extra-curricular activities, including the Thrown-Ups, an ad hoc project which kept him in contact with Steve Turner.
Even during the early days of Green River, Turner had been involved in the Thrown-ups. Arm joined him there about six months later, the only two constants in a band which otherwise underwent numerous personnel changes before arriving at the "classic" lineup of Turner, Arm, singer Ed Fotheringham and drummer Scott Schickler. (Schickler played both drums and guitar in Limp Richerds, while Fotheringham is an accomplished artist whose work graces the last two Mudhoney album covers.)
The Richerds and Mr. Epp may have been awful, but at least they rehearsed. The Thrown-ups did not, they just gigged and recorded, and perhaps the strangest thing of all was, people let them do it. By late 1988, the Thrown-Ups had three 7-inch EPs released by Amphetamine Reptile: Felch, Smiling Panties and Eat My Dump. They also contributed one track to Sub Pop 200, "You Lost It," which is remarkable in that Arm plays drums.
It may sound like a strange concept for a band, but it gets weirder. "The only thought that went into the band was what sort of stupid-ass gimmick we were going to use," Arm confirms.
In the December 1986 issue of The Rocket, the band explained that their music in keeping with their name "sounds like vomit looks.
Fotheringham continued, "We call it Barf Music," while Leighton, bassist at the time, described a typical Thrown-Ups rehearsals: "It will consist of us sitting around and making up song titles. And, oh yeah, we like to talk about the concept of the band, not really practice or anything, but talk."
Most of the concepts came from the creative genius behind the group, Ed Fotheringham, who had emigrated to Seattle from Australia. There was the Zip Bag show, where the Thrown-ups dressed in garbage bags, cut to look like leather trousers. Fotheringham made up packets, filled them with whipped cream, and they were inserted in the band's pants. The highlight of the show came when the group shot the whipping cream out of their pants, 20 to 30 feet into the audience.
Then there was the time they decided to be the dirtiest band in town, and after spraying themselves with shaken-up Pepsi, covered themselves in dirt. Or the show they dressed up as flowerheads, utilizing daisies cut out of cardboard.
But perhaps the best was a Christmas show. The Thrown-ups were supposed to be the three wise men and baby Jesus, with Fotheringham playing the infant Lord. Unfortunately, he was unable to actually construct a manger, but the props that were being used as sheep looked pretty good. So, Fotheringham covered himself with spray glue and cotton balls ... three wise men and a sheep!
Still, all good things must come to an end, and around 1990, Turner and Arm were fired from the group. Given two days notice of an upcoming show, and with no time to hatch a suitable gimmick, they declined to play. They were sacked there and then.
Although the Thrown Ups were fun, Arm and Turner had more than enough on their plate to keep them fully occupied. No sooner had Green River run dry than Arm and Turner were piecing together Mudhoney, with ex-Melvins bassist Matt Lukin and Bundle of Hiss drummer Danny Peters.
Signing, perhaps inevitably, to Sub Pop, Mudhoney made their vinyl debut in August 1988, with the "Touch Me I'm Sick" single (SP 18). Further 45s, the Superfuzz Bigrnuff EP (SP 21), and two albums, Mudhoney (SP 44) and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (SP 105), released over the next four years, conspired to establish Mudhoney as perhaps the Seattle band-most-likely-to, a prospect which was in no way diminished when the band signed to Reprise last year. Their major label debut, Piece Of Cake, has already spawned one alternative radio evergreen, "Suck You Dry."
Also consuming Tumer's time were the Fall Outs, a band described by Sub Pop's Jonathan Poneman as "fun, a Mod-Jammish thing." The Fall Outs so impressed Turner that he played bass on their first album, then released it on his own Supra-Electra label. (A second Fall Outs album has just been released on Estrus Records ESCD 128.)
Turner has also worked with Love and Respect, and the Sad and Lonelies, the latter reuniting him with Ed Fotheringham (the first record to come out on the SupraElectra label), while Bush Pig added Arm to the brew for a four-song single recorded in Australia on the advice of two of the members of King Snake.
Arm has also been busy. In 1990 he released a solo single, The Free Wheelin' Mark Arm (SP 87), its cover a tribute to the Dylan album of the similar name (the A-side is a version of "Masters Of War"). Most recently, Arm can be heard playing guitar on the new album by Adelaide outfit Blood Loss, and with Turner, as one half of the Monkeywrench rhythm section (Arm plays drum, Turner bass). Formed when Mudhoney passed through Austin, Texas on tour, and featuring songwriter Tim Kerr (ex Poison 13), Gashuffer's Tom Price (ex-U-Men) and Martin Bland (of Lubricated Goat), Monkeywrench has released one album, Clean As A Broke-Dick Dog (SP 129).
Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Bootsy Fairweather, meanwhile, were about to embark upon a remarkable career of their own, one which would see them hook up with two of the most important names on the Seattle scene: drummer Greg Gilmore and Malfunkshun's bassist/vocalist extraordinaire Andrew Wood.
"The first time I saw Malfunkshun," says Dale Crover, "there was this girl in a furry coat. She was walking up to the front of the stage, and people were trying to pick her up; I was looking at her, and she was pretty huge. Then she got on stage and started playing bass."
"She" was Andrew Wood.
Malfunkshun's story begins on Easter Sunday, 1980, when Andrew and his oldest brother Kevin bowed out of a family dinner, at their Bainbridge Island home, and joined drummer David Hunt for their first practice/ recording session.
Andrew had long been writing and recording songs on his own; in fact, Kevin can't remember a time when he hadn't. "He wrote a song at age three that got recorded! My father was in Vietnam, and we used to make conversation tapes to send over, and Andy sang a song on it. He was always performing and singing."
Dave Reese soon joined on bass, but Malfunkshun played only one show as a four-piece, at a party. By summer, 1980, Reese and Hunt had quit (they went on to join Skindiver); Andrew took over bass duties (he was also the singer); Kevin remained on guitar, and Andrew's school friend, Regan Hagar, joined as drummer.
Hagar was already playing with a band, the Maggot Brains, alongside future Accused/Gruntruck bassist Alex Sibbald; the group which gave him "the impetus to actually join a band" was 10 Minute Warning. (Interestingly, Hagar did the cover for the Warning's earlier incarnation, the Fartz' album, World Full Of Hate; band member Steve Hoffman shares credit.)
The Maggots "were not a very musical band, we just played anything we wanted." At one show, for example, Hagar handled lead vocals, "and I don't sing at all." Nevertheless, they created enough of a stir to get covered by the New York Rocker, even if the piece did say the band didn't have a clue. (They didn't really have songs either, although they did have some covers, including the ubiquitous "Louie, Louie.") It's not surprising then, that Hagar opted to go full-time with Malfunkshun.
The new-look Malfunkshun's first show was Bainbridge Island's Blackberry Jam festival in August 1980. At the time, remembers Kevin Wood, the group was still learning how to play, and their sound was "pure punk rock with lots of screaming and loud chords, total hardcore."
Soon Malfunkshun started playing around the "local Seattle dives," as Kevin puts it, although, at the time, options were severely limited, particularly for bands like Malfunkshun, with under-age members. There was only a handful of clubs operating on the circuit; parties and high school dances aside, the only other alternatives were renting out halls (a favorite among the hardcore set), and bars, which limited audiences even further.
By 1983-84, Malfunkshun's sound had begun to change. Andrew was being heavily influenced by Marc Bolan, says Kevin, "and we started to become more melodic, although we were still a very heavy band."
During Malfunkshun's early days, Andrew created an on-stage persona, "Landrew the Love Child." Clad in white face makeup and a flowing cape, Landrew was the antithesis of the multitude of metal bands that bedecked their songs and album jackets with satanic references. "We were an anti-666 band," explained Landrew in The Rocket in 1986, "because that's when the Satan thing was becoming really big. So we were a 333 band and did anti-devil songs.
"But it's called 'love rock' because we love to play it. I thought of what to call it day at work we're a Deranged Gypsy Hard Rock band."
With all this activity, things seemed to be looking up for Malfunkshun. But a problem loomed: Andrew himself. Extremely, shy, he created a persona which he seemingly never, removed. But beneath this perpetual onstage personality, something dark haunted him, a darkness that eventually saw him turn to drugs.
In 1985, Andrew entered a rehab program. The band was put on temporary hold until his return, then swung back into action when it made its recorded debut.
Although Malfunkshun was constantly making tapes of their music, it was Daniel House who would first record them for posterity, on C/Z's Deep Six compilation (alongside Green River, et. al). It was an album which left Kevin, at least, dissatisfied., "We just had a few hours in the studio (a restriction that applied to all the bands included), but we pulled it off."
The band's two contributions to the set were "Stars 'n' You" and "With Yo' Heart (Not Yo' Hands)," the latter a song now more familiar from the Melvins' cover version, released on a 1990 single (Sympathy For The Record Industry SFTRI 81).
House describes the making of Deep Six as "one big blind date. There was a rule that only one member of the band could be in the studio with the producer." Time, and therefore money, was kept to a minimum, but, Kevin Wood continues, "It would have been better if we'd had our hands on the controls. The record just wasn't upfront enough."
With the release of Deep Six, Malfunkshun began landing more prestigious shows. They opened for the Wild Dogs, Soundgarden, Skin Yard and 10 Minute Warning (the latter at the Gray Door), but, Hagar and Kevin Wood agree, their biggest and best show was an earlier outing, opening for Discharge and the Fartz at the Showbox, in 1982. Numbers-wise, however, Kevin describes it as "a bit of a I fizzle." Held up at the Canadian border, Discharge was forced to delay the show until the following night. Virtually nobody showed'.
Malfunkshun also performed on a now near-legendary billing, alongside the U-Men, Soundgarden and Skin Yard. Perhaps the greatest line-up ever, though, was a, Tacoma gig, around 1986-87, that also featured Red Cross, Green River and Soundgarden.
Part of the reason for the band's live popularity was Andrew's dynamic stage presence. "We'd be on stage," Kevin explains, "and everybody would be looking at Andy, paying attention to every little thing he'd do, even Regan and I."
"We were the big flamboyant concert in a small club setting," Hagar relates. "We were really tongue-in-cheek; people found us amusing. I think people came to see Andy as much as to hear the music."
Even so, the band would only headline a grand total of four or five times, all at local Seattle clubs like the Vogue and Gorilla Gardens. Their audiences never got above a couple of hundred people, depending upon the opening act, but the group was gaining a small but loyal following. Still, there were other problems. The band never owned a p.a., and was reduced to borrowing Green River's (they also shared Green River's practice space on and off for many years; the Fastbacks, too, sublet their space to Malfunkshun at times.)
The Deep Six material aside, Malfunkshun's, recording ambitions remained largely confined to four-track demos until as late as 1987, when the band began thinking more seriously about such things.
According to Kevin, "We have maybe 10 songs in high quality demo form which Regan and I are currently considering [record company] offers for." These include "Miss Liberty," "Winter Bide," "I Wanna Be
Your Daddy" ("I can never understand Andy's lyrics!" admits Kevin), "Make Sweet Love," "Bangladesh Jam," "Rocketship Chair" and Ted Nugent's "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang."
Another two tracks, "My Only Fan" and "Shotgun Wedding," were recorded, in 1987 and 1988 respectively, with producer Jack Endino, and released on another C/Z cornpitation, Another Pyrrhic Victory (again alongside Green River).
However, a number of Andrew's compositions, from this period exist as solo recordings. Beginning around 1984, and lasting throughout the remainder of the band's career, he would occasionally perform solo, accompanied by backing tapes. Hagar recalls one particularly memorable show at the Ditto, which started off normally enough with Andrew singing and playing on his electric piano. Then, he took a break, produced a bowl of milk and a box of Cocoa Puffs (Andy was a big cereal fan), and began holding forth on its virtues, before throwing the bowl, and its contents, over the audience.
"Andy threw stuff for years," Hagar chuckles, "but people never retaliated! He had this thing about throwing fluids on the audience. It happened at every show. It used to amaze me. I'd talk to him, and say, 'People are going to get mad,' but he'd just answer, 'No, they won't,' and he was right, the audience loved it. Everyone knew he was so good-natured that he didn't mean it in a bad way."
As Andrew's fame spread, he added another aspect to his career: emcee. Over time, he would host many local shows and benefits. But still he found time to write and record songs on his home four-track, using an emulator, a drum computer, an acoustic guitar and his ghetto blaster for overdubbing.
Some of these songs then made it onto a cassette titled Melodies And Dreams; according to Kevin, what was particularly interesting about this "release" was that every tape featured different songs, and a different hand-made cover. Hagar estimates 33 copies were sold through local record stores; another dozen were given away to friends, and an indeterminate number sold via mail order.
"He didn't actually pursue selling them," Kevin says, "but if someone sent him money, he'd tailor-make a cassette for them." A write-up on Malfunkshun in The Rocket in December 1986 included Andrew's post office box number; $3.33 (remember his turnaround on 666?) would get you a cassette. Andrew also requested gifts; apparently, the band "like red herrings."
Neither Kevin nor Hagar could put a number on the amount of tapes that Andy had sold this way. Kevin ventured a dozen, but it was probably higher. As each tape was individually made, and Andy was constantly writing new songs, there's no way to determine which tracks are on them.
By now, Andrew was living in Seattle and hanging out with Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard. It wasn't long before the three were jamming together and writing songs, and as time went by, their friendship deepened, leading to the eventual dissolution of both Green River and Malfunkshun.
In late 1987/early 1988, under the name Lords of the Wasteland, Ament, Gossard, Wood and Hagar started playing occasional shows in between their regular band commitments. The first two or three gigs took place in the basement of Luna, a Seattle shoe store.
The Lords' entire repertoire comprised covers; Hagar remembers performing the Stones' "Stray Cat, Blues," Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks," and the James Gang's "Funk 49." The early gigs, he says, "Were just a novelty, these people from different bands playing in a shoe store." Eventually, however, it would become something else entirely. By the time of their final show, both Green River and Malfunkshun had folded, and Bruce Fairweather had joined the Lords.
(Coincidentally or otherwise one week after the Lords' final gig Mark Arm and friends played a show under the name of the Wasted Landlords. "I think the concept was the key," Bob Wittaker delicately suggest.)
Kevin Wood relates the last days of Malfunkshun, "Andrew got kind of anxious for success, and Green River was breaking up. They already had labels interested in them, and a successful underground career. I always felt Green River was a good band, but their singer (Arm) didn't quite fit the mold of what they were trying to do. I thought they needed more of a rocking singer, and as it happened they got one."
Andrew Wood originally intended working with both bands, but it was not to be. The Lords were taking up too much of his time. Malfunkshun struggled on for another show or two, before playing their final gig supporting Skin Yard at Tacoma's Community World Theatre in 1988.
Toying with the notion of keeping Malfunkshun together, Kevin and Hagar auditioned bass players, but without success. As Kevin says, "Andy had taken over so much of the writing, including all of the lyrics and a lot of the music, not only was it depressing to try do it without him, it just didn't work."
Instead, Kevin and the third Wood brother, Brian, joined forces with a friend, drummer Joe Abrams. They never gigged, or even found a name, and when the project fizzled out, Kevin joined Two Bit Gypsy, a band whose claim to fame came when Jack Endino cut a four-song demo with them. The titles say it all: "I Want Your Love," "Teaser," "Lick Your Lips" and "Spinning Wheel."
"It was total cliche rock", Kevin says.
Kevin Wood would continue mixing and matching with a succession of musicians, including Abrams, Steve Nelson (of the Accused), and ex-Feast vocalist Tom Mick, before finally piecing together the Fire Ants in March 1991.
Together with brother Brian, ex-Native Messiah bassist Dan McDonald and former Nirvana drummer Chad Charming (who met the rest of that band at the final Malfunkshun gig-small world!), the Fire Ants released two records, a single, Ant Acid (Dekema 200101), and the Stripped EP (200102), before Brian Wood left earlier this year. (The current Fire Ants vocalist is Lee Compton. The Woods brothers have continued working together on a separate project, while Brian alone appears on Matt Cameron and Ben Sheppard's forthcoming Soundgarden spin-off project, Hater, contributing vocals to one track.)
Like Green River, the numbers belie the splash that Malfunkshun had created in the Seattle area. Kevin recalls a small group of loyal fans, but in reality, the group seemed to be a "band's band."
Ben Sheppard says, "Most musicians in Seattle were Malfunkshun fans. Sometimes they were great, sometimes they weren't. They were cavemen on acid. Kevin used to solo the whole time, and Andy used to do his hair out, add glitter, and don a trench coat." Matt Cameron echoes the sentiment. "Malfunkshun frightened me; they were so good, so heavy and trippy, they had the whole fucking insane element going. They were one of my favorite bands."
Chris Friel, whose own band, Shadow, was playing Seattle around the same time as Malfunkshun, adds, "Malfunkshun was awesome. If you play them alongside Green River, you definitely see who has the upper hand!"
Journalist Richard White, now head of the Washington Music Industry Coalition, continues: "Malfunkshun was like nothing you've ever seen before, a cross between Kiss, T. Rex and Cheap Trick. Those were Andy's influences, and he wore them on his sleeve."
But Dale Crover sums them up best. "They were the godfathers of grunge!"
10 Minute Warning, Feedback, Skin Yard and more
Drummer Greg Gilmore, from nearby Gig Harbor, had a lengthy career behind him when Gossard, Ament and Wood offered him a place in their band. Indeed, many locals insist his band, 10 Minute Waming, was the influence behind Green River, a claim Steve Turner admits wasn't far from the truth. "Warning were really a great band. They were totally slippery psychedelic."
Mark Arm was equally impressed. "They were great, they were one of my favorite bands at the time." He neglects to mention his predilection for wearing paisley shirts to 10 Minute Warning shows, something Daniel House, at least, has yet to forget. (They were House's favorite band too; he saw them every chance he got, which certainly made life easier when he joined the band!)
Gilmore joined Warning, just after their name change (previously they were the Fartz) in late 1983, making waves when they opened for the Dead Kennedys (Mr. Epp opened the show).
Gilmore joined his first band, Eternity, around 1980-81, linking with future Patti Labelle sideman Kenny Cummings (now with Seattle Flu), Japanese exchange student Kenichi Ogiwara, Bobby Beaulieu (now with the Beatniks) and Paul Jackson, both of whom went on to the Boibs and Agent Boy, alongside Dave Krusen.
Then came speed-poppers the Living, which included friend Duff McKagan (of Guns N' Roses fame). When McKagan quit, to become 10 Minute Warning's new drummer, Gilmore soon followed, at which point
McKagan switched to guitar. (McKagan also drummed for another local band, the Fastbacks.) Other members of the band included guitarist (and erstwhile Green River songsmith) Paul Solger, bassist David Garrigues and vocalist Blaine Fart (previously, all the band members were surnamed Fart!).
At this point, 10 Minute Warning was "still pretty punky," according to House, but following the departure of Fart (to the Accused) and his replacement by ex-Swad Steve Varewolf, "The sound began to change to a more sinister and dark psychedelic thing." McKagan and Garrigues quit in late 1983, and through his acquaintance with Steve Varewolf, House was recruited on bass. His dream had come true: he was now an official Warning.
Gilmore recollects, "Daniel was solid, and inadvertently he became incidental to how the band worked. At that point it became more of a jazz-punk-rock thing. We had a lot of sections that were pretty free form.
In early 1984, the band went into Star Track studios to record its first album, an outing paid for by its "sugar daddy, Swan," as House describes the band's mentor. Eleven tracks were taped, including a version of Pink Floyd's "The Nile Song," plus the band compositions "Last Dream," "Again," "Life," "Stooge," "Necropolitan Affair," "Echoes," "Disraeli," "Heaven," "Woke Up Dreaming" and "Memories Gather Dust."
"It was meant to be a record," says Gilmore, "but it turned out to be an abortion." Strangely enough, House's precise words too.
Last year, Jack Endino made an attempt to salvage those old tapes, remixing and remastering them, with Steve Varewolf recutting some of the vocals. House is now threatening to release the album on his own C/Z label, an action that would please a lot of people no end.
During his time in 10 Minute Warning, House was also involved in another band, Feedback, a three-piece that included bassist Tom Nerm and future Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. Feedback was an instrumental band, "Red-era King Crimson type of thing," is how House describes it.
Cameron adds, "We played some parties, we learned some King Crimson covers, and we just played kind of dorky weird prog-rock for keggers. We were a learning band. Then Jack Endino (a friend of Nerm's) came over and played with us."
Feedback recorded an album's worth of material, the 11 tracks constituting their entire repertoire: "The Blush," "The Haha," "Whats'r name," "Tomorrow Is Sunday," "Alpha 50," "On Hold," "My Time," "Soul Doubt," "Squirm," "Transition" and "Vertigo," but beyond a cut on a C/Z compilation, Feedback remain unheard.
Both 10 Minute Warning and Feedback fizzled out in December 1984. For Feedback, the problem was their inability to get shows no one wanted to book an instrumental band. Warning collapsed when Gilmore and Solger quit; for Gilmore, the band simply wasn't going anywhere.
Solger left for New York (he is now a member of Meddaphysical); Gilmore reunited with McKagan and headed for L.A., where they started answering ads and attending auditions together. It was through one ad, in the Recycler, that McKagan met Slash and Steve Adler of the nascent Guns N' Roses. But while Gilmore attended a few of their practices, "not being a drinker or partyer, I felt like a fish out of water." He moved back to Seattle; McKagan moved into the spotlight.
Meanwhile, House and Endino's relationship continued. House was in the process of forming a new band; in February 1985, Skin Yard emerged with a line-up that included House (bass), Endino (guitar), Jason Finn (drums) and vocalist Ben McMillar (now in Gruntruck). Finn quit soon after later reappeared in Love Battery) and was replaced by Matt Cameron.
Skin Yard debuted on June 7, 1985, opening at the U-Men's Leave Home show (they were about to embark on their first tour). In the six years of Skin Yard's existence, until their demise in 1991, the band would go through several musical changes, as well as see a steady progression of new faces.
"Skin Yard," says House, "went through a whole lot of transitions; from art grunge-heads, art fags to very competent art grunge-heads. People used to accuse us of being progressive, which meant we knew bar chords. We were the King Crimson of the grunge scene. We did a Crimson cover, 'One More Red Nightmare,' and 'Tales Of Brave Ulysses' (by Cream), which we dropped because people liked it too much."
"Skin Yard was a foundation band," adds Cameron. "They were always there. It was basically guitar-riff rock, that was really hard to sing over. Our singer didn't have very much luck with these incredibly weird songs we'd come up with. They're really dissonant, angular kind of dorky prog-rock.
"Before Ben [McMillan] came on board, we were just an instrumental thing in Jack's basement. He recorded us a lot; he was learning how to do his engineering while we were doing instrumentals."
Cameron left Skin Yard in 1986, and went onto a series of other projects; "I always had two to four things going at once; by that time, I'd just about had enough. I said to myself, 'Fuck. I just don't want to do anything.' Then I saw Soundgarden, and I decided, I have to be in this band."
When Cameron heard drummer Scott Sundquist had quit, he immediately called Soundgarden. "They'd heard me with Skin Yard, and they were into it." The rest is history.
In one of those weird coincidences, Soundgarden's vocalist, Chris Cornell actually contacted Gilmore as a possible replacement for Sundquist. Gilmore, however, was in the process of moving, and couldn't make Soundgarden's rehearsal; Cameron could.
Instead, Gilmore replaced Cameron in Skin Yard, but stayed for just two gigs, and while Skin Yard was to record on numerous occasions, he did not take part in this either. "My feeling was 'Why?'"
Gilmore did, however, continue working with Jack Endino throughout 1985-86, contributing to two Endino solo albums: Angle Of Attack (Bobok 4) and Jack Endino's Earthworm (Cruise 021). His next move would be out of the U.S. entirely. For five months, he traveled throughout the Far East, visiting Bali, Indonesia, Nepal, India and Hong Kong. He arrived home on December 22, 1987, with a dollar in his pocket, and took a walk up Seattle's Broadway that would change his life.