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Sunday Old School: Tad Doyle

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Tad - such a little name for such a large and imposing guy. But Tad always kept it short, even in his song and album titles. Back in the early eighties, the former 300 lb. butcher/lumberjack was a big fish in the small town of Nampa, Idaho. Even Boise was overwhelmed by him, so he took his love of underground music even further westward and settled in Seattle. By 1987, Thomas 'Tad' Doyle helped pioneer the pacific northwest grunge genre. Creating his eponymous band Tad, Doyle's interpretation of grunge had more in common with the metal side of things like the Melvins, whereas his cohorts in the scene like Cat Butt or Mudhoney took the more garage/punk approach.

Tad Doyle had assembled his veritable grunge band from guys he knew in the scene. His band H-Hour had played with bassist Kurt Danielson's group Bundle Of Hiss, and he knew drummer Steve Weid from Skinyard and guitarist Gary Thorstensen from Treeclimbers. The 1987 debut Sub Pop single "Daisy/Ritual Device" by Tad was one of the earliest singles on that label. Produced by Jack Endino, it helped usher in an era of those classic singles on that label. Back in the day, it was an event to see which single Sub Pop would release every month. That release was followed by Tad's debut album (eventually called "God's Balls") in 1989, also produced by Endino. The great cover shot of the band shows Tad sporting a wristwatch, and if you look closely at that Texas Instruments styled timepiece you can distinctly see that it says "Tad."

"God's Balls" started the tradition of simple, ugly and stark titles like "Cyanide Bath," "Helot" and "Pork Chop." The guitar was a mere ukulele in Tad's gargantuan grasp, and he was totally believable dishing out the loud and nasty riffs with his behemoth presence. The few extra songs Tad had went onto 1990's "Salt Lick" EP, which got released as a combo with the album later on. Steve Albini produced this one, which spawned the "Wood Goblins" single which notoriously got banned on MTV. The real story of this release was the catchy "High on the Hog" track that Kurt Cobain decided to sing onstage with Tad on their concert tour together. Somehow Kurt changed the lyrics on it to "Al-Co-Hol" and people who discovered Nirvana way down the road thought it was their track.

Tad had gone on that co-headlining tour with that brand new Sub Pop act Nirvana, who had just sold a few hundred copies of "Bleach." The two groups shared the stage, and Tad Doyle warmed to Kurt. He remembered a green Kurt as sweet, fun loving and not at all depressed. Of course, this was the beginning before all the fame had brought out so many contradictions in what Kurt didn't want his music to become.

After this tour, Tad and the band made their way back to Seattle to record the band's defining album "8-Way Santa," named after blotter acid. It was produced by Garbage drummer Butch Vig, the man behind "Nevermind" and "Siamese Dream," and produced a number of memorable tunes - "Wired God," about a truck driver on meth, the "Stumblin' Man" video about skid row alchoholics and the "Jack Pepsi" single about crashing his truck through the ice in Nampa while two sheets to the wind. The Tad logo inside the Pepsi logo spawned a lawsuit, as well as the cover photo of a man feeling up a woman. (The pair had since become born again Christians and objected to it). The cover was then changed to a band shot. "8-Way Santa" was simple, catchy metallic grunge, although it did have its alternative rock moments to it like the song "Witch Hunt."

Doyle took up acting briefly in "Singles" and then finally signed to the major label subsidiary Giant records in a time when grunge was becoming huge. Josh Snider of the Accused came in on drums, and the "Salem/Leper" single featured his brother with the mumps on the cover taking a mud bath. The subsequent album "Inhaler" had some of the most twisted Tad material ever, from "Throat Locust" to "Luminol." The album featured a curious picture of two dogs eyeing up a remote control toy race car. Even though they toured on the Soundgarden "Superunknown" tour, the record failed to break the band. That, and the promo "Inhaler" poster featuring Bill Clinton smoking a joint to the caption 'it's heavy shit,' caused Giant/Warner Bros. to drop the band.

After the 1994 "Live Alien Broadcasts" on Futurist records, Tad put out "Infrared Riding Hood" on Elektra. Unfortunately, the A&R rep who had signed the band was fired, leaving the members of Tad and other acts completely disenfranchised and without representation. Snider left to form the Hot Rod Lunatics and was replaced by Mike Mongrain of Foil. 1998 would mark Tad's final single, "Oppenheimer's Pretty Nightmare/Just Bought the Farm," on Up Records. By the next year, Tad had dissolved the band.

During this time, Tad was weathering the storm of being dropped by so many major record labels. His drinking and drug use escalated to more and more, until Doyle decided he didn't want to die. Tad and Kurt Danielson used to compare the pages of substances that they did. In those days, the major labels made you take a physical and drug test for the insurance policies. If you OD'd, they could collect and recoup their investment. After a short time in San Diego after the dissolution of the band, Tad Doyle moved back to Seattle and formed the group Hog Molly with Willard bassist Ty Garcia and 50 Paces guitarist Martin Chandler, releasing "Kung Fu Cocktail Grip." Later, Tad did time in the band Hoof.

Kurt Danielson was active in several bands, especially with the Quaranteens, before moving to France. Now he is back in the Seattle area commiserating with a couple of other groups, mainly Valis with members of Mudhoney and the Screaming Trees. He is also writing a novel. Josh Snider is busy with The Insurgence and Hellbound For Glory. They have all moved on and stress that there will never be a Tad reunion. That fact is driven home by the 2008 documentary "Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears," which chronicles the grunge movement. The film is a biographical take on the scene in those days, in which journalist/author Charles Cross poses the statement - 'the story of what could have been, opposed to what actually was.' Scene veterans such as Mark Arm, Kim Thayil and Krist Novoselic recount the incredible times with Tad Doyle throughout the highs and the lows, giving that time period some closure. Do check it out at this location if you haven't already.

Tad has appeared on more singles, labels, compilations and movie soundtracks (Hype, Brainscan) than any average musician could aspire to. Look through any vintage college radio station's archives and you'll see Tad on Amphetamine Reptile (Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets) or the John Peel Sub Pop Sessions. He may not want to reform his namesake band, but he always gets that itch to perform. Chris Cornell's ex-wife Susan Silver, who managed Soundgarden, called him up in 2009 to ask if he would sing with the band. His reply was "are you freakin' kidding? Of course." He saw it as a chance to hang out with his old friends, and thus Tadgarden was born - at least for three songs that night. He had fun performing "Spoonman," "Hunted Down" and "Nothing to Say," even if he got some flak on YouTube.

A year before this, Tad had started taking accounting classes and got himself a home in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle. He then started Witch Ape Studios and has been a producer to so many Seattle underground acts. Witch Ape just finished the Don Peyote album and will release a split from ThacO. On the studio page he has announced that Balsa finished tracking and that they've recorded the new ones for Heiress and Blood Of Kings, along with Wounded Giant's (formerly Dirtworshippers) latest one "Kiss the Tarantula."

But you know that Tad has to have his own creative vehicle as well. In 2009, Doyle started his latest project, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, with Aaron Edge, Chris LaPointe and his partner Karen Tully-Doyle. BOTSC is a doom/sludge monster - what one would expect from such a scene giant. Later that year, the Bremerton label Violent Hippie records released a split 10" with BOTSC and another good doom band, Mico De Noche. That track was mastered over at Port Orchard's Temple Sound studio. Following that came an appearance on the compilation "78 LTD," where Tad gave his unique take on the Elvis Costello tune "Pump it Up," while performing with a veritable who's-who of the alternative scene. Another track, "Fires Burn Dim in the Shadows of the Mountain," came out in 2010. Tad is still Tad, although now he has that revered look with a grey beard and all. Don't look for Doyle to ever tour with BOTSC unless his band gets label support. Tad says he won't sleep on floors or suffer for art anymore. He may just leave his flannel in Seattle.


Tad - "Damaged I" - Sub Pop split 7" with Pussy Galore

Tad - "Satan's Chainsaw" - God's Balls

Tad - "High on the Hog" - Salt Lick EP


Tad - "Stumblin' Man" - 8-Way Santa



Tad - "Grease Box" - Inhaler


Tad - "Emotional Cockroach" - Infrared Riding Hood


sonictherapy's avatar

Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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5 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Tad"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Never smoked so much ... writes:

as I did with Tad in Columbus, Ohio. I got to hang with the guys back stage after a show in early 90's. A really good group of people - funny as hell. I can attest to their excessive life style, but it was the music that drew me to this band. Great stuff!

# Oct 14, 2012 @ 4:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
2. taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad writes:

awesome band! funny thing is i only discovered them after the grunge trend was over...

# Oct 14, 2012 @ 6:32 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

Member

3. silvermountains writes:

AWESOME article. LOVE Tad.

# Oct 14, 2012 @ 6:56 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
sonictherapy's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

4. sonictherapy writes:

That documentary is entertaining as hell. It is something to see Tad sitting on a chair on top of a car going the speed limit on the Alaska Way Viaduct. Takes a special kind of crazy. I regret never getting to see him stagedive.

# Oct 15, 2012 @ 4:46 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

5. Diamond Oz writes:

I started watching the documentary you linked, and that bit with the car was awesome, but then I noticed there was a Wesley Willis documentary in related videos so I watched that instead because I love that man. Will probs give the Tad documentary another go later though, thanks for the link!

# Oct 15, 2012 @ 4:59 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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