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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Winger

Kip Winger could have been a member of Kiss. I am basing this notion on body hair alone. As the number of eighties bands grew, Winger was one of the bands that started the “too much” movement eventually breaking in the early nineties. This was foreshadowed by the Beavis & Butthead character Stewart wearing a Winger shirt as a sign of being weak and available for jokey punch lines. More...

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Sunday Old School: Krokus

When most people think of metal music from Switzerland, they almost immediately think of Celtic Frost or Coroner . But the home of tax dodgers’ bank accounts also hosts of the best balls out, hard rock bands to ever emerge from Europe in the form of Krokus. Krokus were formed in the Swiss city of Solothurn in 1975, initially as a progressive rock outfit and released their self-titled debut album in 1976, which was limited to only 560 copies and was never re-released. After witnessing an AC/DC concert, the band decided to abandon their prog style and opted for a more hard rock approach, leading bass player Chris von Rohr to take over the position of lead singer. This new, harder incarnation of the group proved to be a success in Switzerland, though their subsequent albums, "To You All" and "Painkiller" (released in some countries as, "Pay It In Metal") were critically panned by some reviewers. The band soon realised that von Rohr would have to step down from the mic as he was unable to reach the vocal standards they had hoped. He returned to his former position as bass player while Malta native, Marc Storace, formerly of TEA and Eazy Money entered the fray as their new singer.

Storace’s recording debut came in the form of the 1980 album, "Metal Rendez-vous," which was met with a mixed reaction critically, but found favour amongst many rock fans over the world, particularly in the United Kingdom where the song, "Heatstrokes" topped the heavy metal charts. This was also the first time the band received much attention from the United States and the success of the album resulted in it being certified triple platinum in their home country. They followed, "Metal Renez-vous" the next year with, "Hardware" which received negative reviews and was unable to achieve the commercial success of it’s predecessor, reaching only Gold status in Switzerland. However, it did see the band enter the charts in the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and Austria, where it peaked at number sixteen. The record also featured some songs which would go on to become fan favourites such as, "Easy Rocker" and "Rock City." More...

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Sunday Old School: Anal Cunt

If Seth Putnam had lived, he'd no doubt be celebrating 25 years with Anal Cunt this year. He was taken from us at the age of 43 a year and a half ago, young - but not unexpectedly. He lived his life hard and fast and on his own terms, surviving to an age none thought he would. He didn't battle his inner demons, but rather got on the same side as they were. We lost that 'voice' that would come into our stereos and give us a dose of that sick humor that would parody anything into the realm of stupidity. Before forming Anal Cunt as a joke, Seth was a big fan of metal, alternative rock and hardcore - being a fixture in several Boston bands. It was this old school street cred that made the fans understand the joke that AxCx perpetrated. The year was 1988, a good one for the scene and one in which everyone was looking for something a bit different. And different was what they got. Seth Putnam was a twenty year old living in his mother's house in Newton, Massachusetts. He had been in and out of several area bands and was briefly in Shit Scum with Fred Ordonez. They guested on a radio show and jammed at Fred's rented warehouse. More...

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Sunday Old School: Acid Reign

British thrash metal rarely ever gets much of a mention whenever the genre is discussed. But a little bit of research (or if you don’t like reading, a new documentary film,) will show that there were plenty of quality thrash bands from the British thrash scene, and among the finest were Acid Reign. Acid Reign were formed in 1985 in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate by vocalist Howard "H" Smith, guitarist Gary "Gaz" Jennings, bass player Ian Gangwer and drummer Mark Ramsey Wharton. After slogging it out in small venues for two years, the group were able to record a demo entitled, "Moshkinstein" in 1987, which attracted the attention of Under One Flag Records (a subsidiary of Music For Nations which specialised in thrash metal and home of one of Britain’s most popular thrash bands, Onslaught.) They re-released the "Moshkinstein" demo through the label as an EP, which helped the group to secure support slots for other cult thrash metal stars such as Death Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam and Nuclear Assault, as well as Bay Area kings Exodus, striking up a friendship with the latter two.

Following the tour with Nuclear Assault, the band were finally able to release their debut full length album, "The Fear" in 1989. The album was something of an underground success, peaking at number ten on the UK Indie Charts and another tour with Nuclear Assault soon followed, taking the band across Europe, before they embarked on a tour with Dark Angel and Swedish doom metal act Candlemass. More...

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Sunday Old School: FireHouse

FireHouse was the REO Speedwagon of glam rock. They looked and were categorized as hard rock and heavy metal, but deep down they just wanted to play and sing ballads across the world. Two VERY interesting facts: First, FireHouse won the 1992 American Music Award for favorite new Heavy Metal/Hard Rock artist. They were chosen over Nirvana and Alice and Chains. Secondly, did you know they have sold over seven million albums? Now every band wishes they were the REO Speedwagon of glam rock. More...

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Sunday Old School: Helloween

Power metal is a genre that has been somewhat neglected by the Sunday Old School column. It’s still very much alive however (go to a metal festival in Europe if you don’t believe me) and this week we’ll be making up for our past snub by taking a look at one of the most revered bands in the field, Helloween. Helloween were formed in 1984 in the German city of Hamburg by singing guitarist, Kai Hansen, along with drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, bassist Markus Grosskopf and second guitarist Michael Weikath. They soon signed to Noise Records and appeared on a compilation album named, "Death Metal," which was notable for its inclusion of other bands such as Hellhammer and Running Wild. Only a year after forming, they released a self-titled EP and their first full length album, "Walls of Jericho." The record received mixed reviews but is a popular one amongst fans and is notable for a number of reasons, including being the namesake of wrestler Chris Jericho and his signature move, and perhaps most importantly for being the only full length Helloween record where Hansen handled the vocal duties, after deciding to concentrate on his guitar work following the release of another EP entitled, "Judas."

Their search for a new lead singer led to the recruitment of eighteen year old vocalist, Michael Kiske and the band wanted to celebrate the new addition by releasing a double album, but this idea was thwarted by the record company. As a compromise, they released one album, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1" in 1987, and a companion record, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2" in 1988. Both albums received near universal praise and sold well, with the second part being particularly successful, partly thanks to the single, "I Want Out," which was aired heavily on the MTV show, "Headbanger’s Ball," and took part in the first Headbanger’s Ball Tour, along with Californian thrash masters Exodus and headliners, Anthrax. As the band’s star continued to rise, they were dealt a massive blow when Hansen announced that he would be leaving the group as a result of poor health, amongst a number of other reasons including tensions with bandmates and the record company. His last recorded appearance with the band came in the form of a live album named, "Live in the U.K." (known in the United States as "I Want Out Live.") before being replaced by Roland Grapow, formerly of the band, Rampage and going on to form the band, Gamma Ray. More...

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Sunday Old School: Fight

It’s a new year, and for some people, it means a new beginning. A new beginning was exactly what Rob Halford was aiming for in 1992 after leaving Judas Priest, one of the biggest and most influential bands in the history of heavy metal music, and formed a new band named, Fight. The name encapsulated the attitude of the band, which aimed to bridge the brand of heavy metal popularised by Priest and their contemporaries such as Iron Maiden and Saxon, with the fresher, more "street" sound of young, exciting bands of the time such as Pantera and Sepultura. Halford recruited Racer X drummer Scott Travis into his new group, after getting to know him from his time in Judas Priest, along with bass player "Jay Jay" Freeman and guitarists Brian Tilse and Russ Parrish, the latter of which would go on to form Steel Panther.

After spending a year perfecting their sound, the quintet finally released their debut album, "War of Words" through Epic Records in September 1993, which received a very positive response from metal fans and peaked at number 83 on the Billboard album charts. The album contained a number of instantly recognisable tracks, from the pounding title track to the machine gun speed opener, "Into the Pit" to the catchy finale, "Reality – A New Beginning." More...

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Sunday Old School: Rigor Mortis

Many times a band becomes well known and its musicians end up starting new musical collaborations that live off of the name of that pioneering act. The reverse was true of Texas quartet Rigor Mortis. Although fairly influential and cult in the thrash metal underground, its members went on to bigger success in other, more well-known metal acts. In the beginning, though, it was just the four of them - or better stated, three.

Rigor Mortis was the brain child of New York guitarist Mike Scaccia, drummer Harden Harrison and bassist Casey Orr. Basing themselves out of Dallas in 1983, the band had no official singer and usually had Casey on the mic. Years later, that was why Rigor Mortis normally had several instrumental tracks and started off its debut album with "Welcome to Your Funeral." Vocalist Bruce Corbitt didn't come into the picture until late 1987. He'd only been in a Black Sabbath covers band and wasn't sure of himself on the helm, but determined to prove himself. He said he wanted it badly, wanted to be a really bad mofo. Thus began the official line-up of Rigor Mortis. More...

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Sunday Old School: Lillian Axe

More groovy (SEE: melodic) versus glam (SEE: dramatic), Lillian Axe managed to recruit a loyal following without an abundance of commercial success. Often regarded as an underrated and unknown gem, the group continues to perform and record in obscurity. Their look (big hair and tight leather) grouped this band in with the glam bands of the eighties (and early nineties); however, the music of Lillian Axe still holds up, a major difference between Lillian Axe and other bands during this time. They are sort of the “indie” Edward Norton of metal that is if Edward Norton’s career had never blown up (at least for a few years), and if Norton was from The Big Easy. More...

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Sunday Old School: Deicide

With Christmas two days away, it’s more than likely that by now, we’ve all seen the "Keep Christ in Christmas" stickers/posters/statuses on Facebook, but most non-believers are well aware of Christmas being a Christian festival and don’t want to remove Jesus from this time of the year. However, if there’s one band that seems intent on removing Jesus from everything, it’s one of Florida’s many legendary death metal bands, Deicide. Deicide were formed in the city of Tampa in July 1987, initially under the name Amon, by vocalist/bassist, Glen Benton and guitarist Brian Hoffman, who soon recruited his brother, Eric to be the band’s second guitarist. With the lineup rounded out by drummer Steve Asheim, the group recorded an eight track demo entitled, "Feasting the Beast." After gigging sporadically around their home city, the band recorded a second demo, "Sacrificial" at Morrisound Studios with producer, Scott Burns, a place and man who would go on to be instrumental in the development of death metal.

Following the recording, Amon changed their name to Carnage and began performing live more regularly. Very soon, Carnage, or rather, Benton, gained notice from Roadrunner Records, when he reportedly barged into the office of an A&R man and aggressively demanded that they sign his group. The next day, Carnage were offered contracts by the label, but were urged to make a name change, leading them to settle on their current moniker, Deicide. They teamed up with Scott Burns again to record their self-titled, debut album, which was released in 1990. The album went on to become one of the best selling death metal albums of all time, being listed by Soundscan as the second highest shifting unit of the genre, behind the third Morbid Angel album, "Covenant." They followed this effort two years later with, "Legion," a much more ambitious album, which focused more the technical area of death metal. It was well received by fans, but was met with a mixed reception from critics, and only the song, "Dead but Dreaming" would go on to feature prominently in future live sets. More...

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Sunday Old School: Helmet

Say what you like about the era of Generation X, there was some fantastic music around. We’ve already looked at a few of the bands popular at the time such as Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Living Colour, and this week we’ll be examining one of the most innovative bands of the era, Helmet. Helmet was formed in early 1989 by guitarist Page Hamilton, shortly after his departure from the New York based noise rock band, Band of Susans. Before long, they attracted the attention of US Marine, Tom Hazelmyer, who was also the founder of Amphetamine Reptile Records, who had previously put out records from the likes of Killdozer and soon signed Helmet to the label. Their first release for Amphetamine Reptile was the seven inch single, "Born Annoying," which was followed the next year by their full length debut, "Strap It On." The album was very well received by listeners and is now regarded as a classic by fans of post-hardcore music, as well as becoming a small influence in metal, as evidenced when Deftones covered the song, "Sinatra" years later. Critics were also very welcoming of the debut, praising its atmospheric approach and distinctive riffs.

A year after the release of, "Strap It On," Helmet signed a new deal with major label, Interscope, who reportedly paid the group one million dollars for their next album. They began recording the album, which was to be entitled, "Meantime" in late 1991 and eventually released it the next summer. The time and (alleged) budget proved to be well worth the effort, as "Meantime" broke the band into the mainstream, peaking at number 68 on the Billboard Charts and becoming their first (and only) Gold Record in the United States, thanks largely to the success of the title track and the song, "Unsung." Once again, they had also put out a record which was adored by many critics, several of which gave the album perfect scores. The success of "Meantime" meant a much bigger increase in tour dates and soon the band found themselves performing in Europe, Asia and South America, as well as their native, United States. The heavy touring schedule, coupled with the new found spotlight brought problems to the band and strengthened internal tensions, eventually leading guitarist Peter Mengede to quit the group, with Rest In Pieces guitarist, Rob Echeverria taking his place. More...

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Sunday Old School: Yngwie Malmsteen

PhotobucketBack in 1982, a young musician from Sweden arrived in California with, as he recollects, 'a toothbrush and a guitar.' Mike Varney, who owned the guitar-hero independent label Shrapnel, had heard a demo of his and wanted to foster his talent. Believing Yngwie Malmsteeen to be the next big thing, Mike wasn't far off in his assertion. Of the multiple guitar prodigies he would have on his label, from David Chastain to Tony MacAlpine, Yngwie was the one who would become the larger-than-life superstar. But, the seeds of Yngwie's talent were sown years earlier, in a place far away.

Yngwie's mother Rigmor gave him a guitar on his fifth birthday. His family was the musical sort and his sister Ann Louise played the flute. Malmsteen's true calling came a couple of years later in 1970 when he was watching a TV special on the death of Jimi Hendrix. That guitar legend's playing connected with Yngwie in such a way that he knew that wielding an axe would become his life's destiny. From that day on, Yngwie Malmsteen the guitar shredder was born. More...

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Sunday Old School: Anathema

Over the past few months, Sunday Old School has examined British outfit, My Dying Bride and Swedish metal favourites, Katatonia, who, along with Paradise Lost, are known as three of the four bands who helped to pioneer the death/doom genre. This week, we’ll be completing the set by taking a look at Anathema, another band instrumental in launching the sub-genre, but who soon found themselves on an entirely different musical path. Anathema were formed in the English city of Liverpool in 1990, initially under the name of Pagan Angel. They recorded their first demo, "An Iliad of Woes," in November of that year which soon spread around the English music scene and caught the interest of several labels, with the band eventually settling on Peaceville Records following the release of their second demo, "All Faith is Lost." Their first release through Peaceville was an EP named, "The Crestfallen," which earned them enough credibility that they were able to tour with American death metal favourites, Cannibal Corpse. They followed, "The Crestfallen" with their first full length album, "Serenades," which also earned the band significant exposure and featured a music video for the song, "Sweet Tears," which soon gained airplay on MTV. As well as television exposure, the band were soon able to tour throughout Europe and were even scheduled to perform at a festival in Brazil.

Despite the rapidly growing fan base and success, vocalist Darren White decided to leave the band in 1995. Rather than searching for a new singer, guitarist Vincent Cavanagh took over the spot behind the microphone, and later that year, Anathema released their second studio album, "The Silent Enigma," which marked Cavanagh’s debut recording with the band, after he had made his live debut as the group’s frontman when they had toured with countrymen, Cathedral. They followed, "The Silent Enigma" a year later with their third full length, "Eternity," which received near universal acclaim. The album was notable for moving away from the doom metal sound and more towards alternative rock, with some psychedelic and gothic influences also present. More...

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Sunday Old School: Kix

Kix were popular in the glam scene, yet under the radar band that had minor success in the eighties. In fact, they were around before the second round of glam acts (SEE: Poison, Warrant, etc…) and many feel had their stage show stolen by these bands. Regardless, their sleazy style of music (which was never really glam) and their great live shows this was always a “band’s band” and didn’t reach the commercial success of others (SEE: Poison, Warrant, etc…). More...

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Sunday Old School: Benediction

We’ve seen before how Britain played a major part in the development of grindcore by producing such bands as Extreme Noise Terror and Bolt Thrower amongst others, but what about death metal? While the United States arguably produced the most well known death metal bands, the U.K. had some high quality contributions of their own. Everyone knows Scouse noise merchants, Carcass of course, but there’s another band that certainly deserves a mention when talking about the best in British extreme metal, namely, Benediction. Benediction was formed in the city of Birmingham, arguably the birthplace of heavy metal music, in 1989 by bassist, Paul Adams, along with vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway and guitarists Darren Brookes and Peter Rew. They recorded their first demo, "The Dreams You Dread" the same year and quickly garnered interest from German label, Nuclear Blast Records, signing a deal with them soon after. Only a year after they formed, Benediction released their debut full length album, "Subconscious Terror" in 1990, which gained favourable reviews in the metal media and impressed many of their contemporaries, so much so that Napalm Death invited Greenway to join them as their new vocalist, replacing the recently departed, Lee Dorrian, who had left to form the doom metal band, Cathedral.

Now in need of a new frontman, the group turned to fellow Brummie, Dave Ingram to take over behind the microphone. Following live shows with Bolt Thrower and Nocturnus (an American death metal band notable for fusing keyboards with their death metal sound,) the band recorded and released their sophomore album, "The Grand Leveller," in 1991. The record received an even better reception than their debut and helped spread their name in the international death metal scene. Despite the acclaim, Adams decided to leave the band after a tour with Dismember, leaving Brookes to perform bass duties as well as guitars on their next record, an EP entitled, "Dark is the Season." Eventually, they were able to find a new bass player in Cerebral Fix member, Frank Healy, who joined just in time to perform with their band during their first visit to Israel, before making his Benediction recording debut on the group’s third album, "Transcend the Rubicon." More...

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Sunday Old School: King's X

Kings-XMost bands come together with the idea of making music, but a select few combine in such a way that they make magic. That is the case with America's ultimate power trio defined King's X, although at the time these three musicians were not aware of the impact that their collaboration would have on the metal and rock community.

The time was 1979 and the place was Evangel College in Missouri. Jerry Gaskill, enrolled in the institute for a degree in Biblical studies, met Doug (dUg) Pinnick there. Jerry was from New Jersey and Doug came down from Chicago to work with a project that Greg Volz from Petra had assembled. DUg was from a religious, Baptist background himself and had been involved in several bands in Illinois along with promoting the Christian music scene in Florida. (It was during this time in Florida that one of dUg's friends got into a car wreck, collected a settlement and bought dUg his first 'official' bass guitar). When the Petra project folded, band member Phil Keaggy invited the both of them to join his new band. More...

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Sunday Old School: Soundgarden

Since Sunday Old School almost always finishes it's month of sundays with a column about a group from the glam metal scene, it always seems so natural to kick the next month off with one of the so-called "grunge" acts, given it was the next stage in popular rock music. And who better to start November off than Soundgarden, whose reunion has been of the most anticipated in recent times? Soundgarden was formed from the ashes of a band named The Shemps, which featured singing drummer, Chris Cornell and bass player Hiro Yamamoto. The two kept in contact after The Shemps’ demise and were soon joined by guitarist Kim Thayil, who moved to Washington with Yamamoto and future Sub Pop founder, Bruce Pavitt, from Park Forest, Illinois. The trio adopted the name, Soundgarden from a sculpture next to Magnuson Park, Seattle and soon became a four piece, when they hired drummer Scott Sundquist in order for Cornell to focus on his vocals. This lineup would continue for around a year and make the first Soundgarden recordings, which surfaced on a compilation album named, "Deep Six," before Sundquist left to be replaced by Skin Yard drummer, Matt Cameron. The band’s live performances made them one of the stand out groups in an area which had many quality bands, and it was thanks to their blistering presence that KCMU DJ Jonathan Poneman offered to contribute twenty thousand dollars to Sub Pop Records, in order to fund a Soundgarden release, which came in 1987 in the form of the single, "Hunted Down," which also featured a highly regarded b-side in, "Nothing To Say."

The band released two further EPs, "Screaming Life" and "Fopp" through Sub Pop before deciding to sign with SST Records for their first full length effort, snubbing the interest of major labels in the process. They then released their first LP, "Ultramega OK" on Halloween, 1988, and soon found themselves regularly on MTV, thanks to the music video for "Flower," as well as eventually being nominated for a Grammy award for Best Metal Performance 1990, in addition to touring overseas for the first time. Following the "Ultramega OK" tours, the band got to work on their second album, during which they claim ideas weren’t flowing freely from all members, leaving Cornell to write the bulk of it. The second album surfaced in September 1989 as, "Louder Than Love" and would prove to be their last record with Yamamoto, who left to go back to college after he felt he was unable to contribute to the band anymore. He was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist, Jason Everman, and the band hit the road again, this time in support of Canadian progressive metal act, Voivod, with Faith No More opening the shows. There was initially some problems with the distribution for "Louder Than Love," with some retailers taking umbrage with the lyrics to the songs, "Big Dumb Sex" and "Hands All Over," but nonetheless, it became the band’s first record to hit the Billboard 200, peaking at number 108. More...

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Sunday Old School: Warrant

Few bands will ever sniff the success Warrant had in 1989-1990: two multi-platinum albums, a Rolling Stone chart number one single, and a headlining tour. The band created a song named “Cherry Pie” and sold millions of more records because of it! (True story.) Then they were off the radio, then conflict, and then finally abuse and the death of their lead songwriter. The band continues to carry on, but it will never be the same as the summer of ‘89. More...

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Sunday Old School: Vision Of Disorder

There’s probably no hardcore scene more famous than the one in New York. It’s produced legendary bands that have been going steadily for decades, such as Sick Of It All, as well as bands which have gone away, only to come back stronger than ever such as Agnostic Front. Another band that fits in the latter category is Long Island suburbanites, Vision Of Disorder. Vision Of Disorder was formed in 1992 by guitarist Mike Kennedy and Matt Baumbach, along with vocalist Tim Williams, drummer Brendon Cohen and bassist Mike Fleischmann, who left the band shortly after they formed, only to return a short time later. Following the release of numerous demos, the band got to work on an EP entitled, "Still," that proved to be something of a breakthrough release for the band, garnering a strong underground fan base. It was also while recording, "Still" that they partook in the documentary, "N.Y.H.C." alongside such bands as Madball, Crown Of Thornz and No Redeeming Social Value. The buzz around the group and their, "Still" record led them to sign a deal with Supersoul Records, a subsidiary of Roadrunner Records and they released their self-titled debut album in October 1996. The album was an underground hit, with many fans still considering it to be their best work to date and praising it for the innovative approach to traditional hardcore music.

The band then moved to Roadrunner Records itself, through which they released their sophomore effort, "Imprint" in July 1998. The album marked an important moment in the history of the group, receiving favourable reviews and becoming their best selling album to date, but alienated many of their old fans who were less than impressed with their new sound. Vision of Disorder were forced to record the album in only two weeks by Roadrunner, a move which did not sit well with the band and led to them leaving the company. Instead of working on new material, the quintet decided to re-record nine songs for their next CD, "For the Bleeders," which was released in 1999 through Go Kart Records. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tad

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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." More...

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