It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

It's Psychedelic Baby is an independent music magazine. We are covering alternative, underground, non-commercial and non-mainstream artists in variety of shapes and genres. Exclusive interviews, reviews and articles. A place where musicians can express themselves. We serve an international readership.

Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful (2012) review

For my way of thinking, there are only three records that are about cities, the life in those cities, the culture, the times, the excesses, the joy, the sorrow, and the dark mysterious edges ... the first being the early work by The Velvet Underground, the second was L.A. Woman, by The Doors, and the third is this brilliant outing regarding the city of San Francisco, and hometown of Chuck Prophet.

Temple Beautiful opens with, or rather busts on the scene with “Play That Song Again,” an AM Radio killer hit, if there still was such a thing, delivering a perfect mixture of hooks and attitude, sending Chuck’s telecaster front and center, where he takes it all to the wall in a no nonsense bare knuckles style that’ll have your hand reaching out to turn up the volume before you’re even aware of it.  Prophet’s lyrics dance between Kerouac’s “On The Road,” and a flashy Dylanesque banter, filled with free association, bigger than life epic characters, lofty aspirations, discovery, and enough homages to spin your head around.  But he doesn’t stop there, he graciously channels Ray Davies al-la Muswell Hillbillies, and Jonathan Richmond, effortlessly stripping it all down without sounding frozen or clichéd ... and I haven’t even gotten to the John Lennon “How Do You Sleep” chord changes on “Emperor Norton.”

Just wrap your ears around “Who Shot John,” an unexpected updated remake of “Hey Joe,” a song that's filled with sundown shadows, drifting lyrics, haunting melodies, and drenched with shimmering guitars.  Others have waved off Temple Beautiful, claiming that it runs out of gas at the end, but they don’t get it, Chuck’s not running out of gas, he’s winding down, stepping back even further into his rich musical history, serving up “Little Girl, Little Boy” with 1950’s flavors, and featuring his wife Stephanie Finch on backing vocals, delivering codeine cough syrup laced harmonies that are full, rich, and subtle all at the same time ... like dollar bills caught on a breeze, blowing down the street, completely unexpected, beautiful, and highly prized.

And that that pretty much sums up this album ... it’s highly prized.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2013
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Secret Saucer - Four On The Floor (2011) review

The band Secret Saucer was formed in 2001, during a weekend jam session in the studio in Ohio. The subject of the jam was pretty simple: play space rock. And they did it! During that jam session, musicians recorded a couple of songs that have been released on EP, and later included in their debut album “Element 115” released by Dead Earnest record label in 2005.
Their second album entitled “Second Sighting” was released in 2007, with the same line-up.
Band consists of musicians who were (or are) involved in touring and playing with Hawkwind`s founder Nik Turner, Australian poet and psychedelic rock musician Daevid Allen, Quarkspace, Architectural Metaphor, Church Of Hed, Sun Machine, National Steam, and more.
Musical experience and creative feeling for space atmosphere, got the band to their fourth album – “Four on the floor”, released in 2011.
With some lineup changes for this album, band consisting of - Steve Hayes (synthesizers), Dave Hess (synthesizers, glissando guitar), Billy Spear (bass), Dan Schnell (guitar, synthesizers), Ted Boburka (drums, synthesizers) and Greg Kozlowski (guitar, synthesizers), managed to record their most advanced and progressive album so far.
It opens with a short introduction and entering-into-space “Time spent out of mind”, with some parts of it reminding of the video games from the 80s. Actually it is a great psychedelic instrumental. Progressive “Lunar Pull” represents the core of space rock tunes, taking the listener deep into space. Great track! Instrumental “Daedal” really stands for its name. It is ingenious and complex tune that sounds more like a part of late night jam session, than like a previously rehearsed song, that gives a dose of immediacy to the album. However, it is really huge and shows the musical width of the band.
Song “Awaken” has only one problem – it wasn`t released back in 70s or 80s, the eras when progressive rock was on the top, because it would definitely stand shoulder to shoulder with anthems like “Hey You”, “In the Court of the Crimson King” or any Genesis tune.
Keyboard based “The dark rift” sounds like a two-minute introduction into “Celestial Spigot” - a six minute progressive, fusion and psychedelic jam in great space environment, framed into the great sound production.
Nine minutes and a half of “Four on the Floor” is a long journey, taking the listener deep into the wide open space. “Aegean Bridge” is a mid-temp instrumental, painted with great keyboard parts.
Melancholic “Notch” is practically the ending intro for “A Saucerful of Secrets”, nice cover of Pink Floyd`s tune from the album of the same name, released back in 1968.

Comparing to their second album “Second Sight”, or even to the first one “Element 115”, it is obvious that production and spread creativity are first to notice. It is useless making any parallels between this band and Hawkwind, Pink Floyd or Quarkspace, because Secret Saucer is the gang playing advanced space rock of 21st century, using their methods and creating their sound. If you are a fan of instrumental music, supported with great space rock atmosphere and progressive, psychedelic tunes, you will definitely find this album as the one you would enjoy listening to.

Review made by Andrija Babovic/2013
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“Nothing is slowing us down anytime soon.” Interview with Buffalo Killer`s Andy Gabbard

Photo©Erin Volk

Ohio-based trio “Buffalo Killers” – guitarist and vocalist Andrew Gabbard, bassist and vocalist Zachary Gabbard and drummer Joseph Sebaali, are maybe not the band from MTV or some mainstream music magazine, but they definitely are proving that despite hard times for good music, with bands like them – rock n roll is here to stay!
When they released their first self-titled album in 2006, previously sending it to the record label “Alive Naturalsound” on the burnt CD with just their telephone number and name on it, Buffalo Killers probably never dreamed of how things will start to develop for them. Their second album “Let it ride” was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and gained huge success in USA. Three years after it, they recorded a new one, simply called “3” and proved that they are rising band with huge talent and ability to become one of the best rock `n roll bands today. After huge success with third album, and hits like “Huma bird”, “Circle Day” and “Mountain Sally”, they never thought about taking a rest. Last year, with their new album “Dig. Sow. Love. Grow.” they just confirmed their creativity and justified the trust of constantly growing fan base, hungry for good old rock `n roll music.

Some magazines compared their music with Blue Cheer, Mountain and Rolling Stones, but they definitely proved with their last album, that they sound just like they need to – like Buffalo Killers, band of passion, true love for music and great energy. They toured with Black Crowes, collaborated with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, smoked a joint with Blue Cheer, and rocked many states and cities in US.

Guitarist and singer Andy Gabbard found a time to answer a couple of Andrija Babovic`s questions for “It`s Psychedelic Baby”, about their music, rock n roll scene today, Neil Young, plans for 2013, drugs and other stuff never or rarely spoken before.

First of all thank you for your time. To start, tell me your opinion regarding rock n roll today?  What modern rock n roll scene represents these days, and where do you see your band on it?

Rock and roll is here to stay. Though, it has changed. Nowadays I feel like rock is measured more on how you are dressed, ya know? All these popular groups look good, but sound like garbage. Certain magazines will tell you someone's album sounds like Pet Sounds, you'll look at their photo, they look like The Beatles, then when you go and listen they sound like a shitty U2 reincarnation. There are very few true rock groups out there today and we hope to be one of them.

Tell me something about the time you spent creating your last album "Dig. Sow. Love. Grow." which was released in August 2012? Tell me a little about inspiration, and how long have you been writing it?

My brother Zach and I write songs like madmen. So once we had a good handful together we just went into the studio and knocked them out. We tried not to over-think things on this record and we are very happy with the results. Nice rockin' LP.

You are probably a lot more experienced as artists and musicians now, as this is your 4th album. Do you think that you have raised the creativity bar?
At this point, we are just getting this thing licked. We are like a well-oiled machine in the studio anymore. We support the song. No predetermined directions for anything. We like to keep it simple and let the song bring the magic.

Do you think that your music now became more psychedelic and progressive comparing to your first three albums?

Not necessarily. More than anything, I feel as though we are becoming more and more ourselves. Which is hard being such super fans of music.

It is not a secret, that most of the rock `n roll was created and inspired by using drugs. Back in the sixties and seventies, rock musicians spoke openly about drug using in their interviews. Why do you think that in modern age it is not so? Have music magazines become more conservative, or musicians became afraid of the reactions of society?

I have no idea. I got high just to do this interview. Believe it or not, a lot of people are snobs about that kind of stuff. I mean, just bring up Grateful Dead to a random person and see their reaction. Some people won't even listen to the dead because of their impression of the dead's fan base. It's sad. Nobody wants to get passed on just because they like to smoke grass or something. And some people don't want their grandma to know that they get high. I personally don't give a shit. I'm real. Buffalo Killers are real.

Jack Daniel`s or Maker`s Mark?

Jack. My brother would probably say Maker's. I hate Maker's.

It has been seven years since your first album; you toured a lot and met many of rock stars. Have you met some of your childhood idols?

Yes! The craziest being Blue Cheer. Never thought I'd ever be in a room with Dickie Peterson, smoking a joint, listening to him tell stories about playing with Jimi Hendrix. Still can't believe that happened.

I won`t ask you about your favorite Buffalo Killers album so far, but I cannot pass without asking about your favorite song? There must be at least one, written from the deepest bottom of your soul that is special for you? Do you often play it live?

Mountain Sally is one my favorite songs I've ever written. Very proud of that song. We play it all the time. Favorite songs change all the time for me. Depends on how often we play it I guess.

Neil Young`s “Homegrown” became standard in your setlist. What does that song represent to you? Why of all Neil Young`s songs you chose this one to play on practically every show?

We bust out Neil songs at rehearsal all the time. We are huge fans of his. That song just fits into our set well. We didn't intend on playing it so much. But after our first shows, people started requesting it. We won't play it usually unless someone asks.

Photo©Chad Bowers

Two albums in two years, should the fans expect something new in 2013?

More albums. We are trying to pump them out faster and on schedule. Nothing is slowing us down anytime soon.

Are you aware of your popularity in Europe? Do you plan any European shows in 2013?

Working on getting over there and rocking out as soon as possible.

If you can say something, that everybody in the world can hear at the same time, what would that message be?

Turn off your TV. Do not follow. Do not fear. Be real. Go buy records!

Do you think that there is more space for rock to improve and to roll in the future?

Absolutely. As long as people keep teaching their children to play guitar. As long as shitty bands are on the TV, the rock group down the street will strive to bring better music to the people. There is A LOT of room for improvement! And I have faith!

To conclude, tell me which new album you have been listening lately?

Nothing new as of late. Pulled out all of my Beach Boys records the other day.

Photo©John Curley

Interview made by Andrija Babovic/2013
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Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible (1994) review

Rock & Roll has been riddled with odd, peculiar, and disturbing stories in its 60 year lifespan. I can think of a few that deserve mentioning, especially the story of Iron Butterfly’s bassist, Philip Taylor Kramer, whom after departing the band had obtained a degree in aerospace engineering, and was working under the United States department of defense as well as computer engineering until he disappeared under very mysterious and suspicious circumstances. However, that shall be saved for another article. One of my favorite stories of the past 20 years is the creation of the album The Holy Bible.
Initially a quartet, Richey Edwards was the face of The Manic Street Preachers, and their Clash-esque brand of Punk. After two albums, the onslaught of attention went to Richey's head and drove him over a cliff; spiraling downward into a pit of self-destruction, despair, and nihilistic delusion. It was in his very unstable state of mind that he commenced upon his dark magnum opus in the form of diary entries made song. Richey held nothing back in his lyrics—this was his confessional to the world. He had lost all hope and so therefore, he had nothing to fear, and could not be bothered to exude anything but his pent-up angst and forlorn fury. The album was completed and released to critical acclaim, but their performance on Top of the Pops—Richey in particular, clad in a 'terrorist-style' balaclava—garnered the show their most complaints ever. Manic Street Preachers disappeared from the charts very quickly.
Two months after the release of the album, Richey simply vanished. Oddball sightings were noted but nobody could say where in the world he had gone to. Furthermore, for a solid two weeks the exact amount of $200 dollars was withdrawn from his bank account every single day. It eerily correlated with the lyrics of his song "Yes" regarding prostitution; "for $200 anyone can conceive a God on video." Finally his car was found abandoned without any clues. The band had set aside a percentage of royalties since his disappearance, but it wasn't until 2008 that his family had him declared dead. Richey was eccentric and mentally frayed enough that a disappearance would not entirely discount a miraculously unexplained reappearance, but sadly, suicide is the most likely explanation considering his mental state. Anonymous tips regarding his whereabouts still roll in to this day.

All in all, The Holy Bible is a masterwork of bleakness and a destitute look at the state of our society. It serves as a lesson to those who step into the darker realm of humanity; one must possess a wholesome spirit to avoid the path toward corruption when investigating these borders. It is, regardless, a very fine work in raw Punk musicianship, even with its morbidly frank, hopeless and stoic nature.

Review made by Hunter Gatherer/2013
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Hell Preachers Inc. - Supreme Psychedelic Underground (1969) & Ugly Custard -Psicosis (1971) review

Hell Preachers Inc. "Supreme Psychedelic Underground"/Ugly Custard "Psicosis" (Gear Fab Records 2013)

Long ago and far away, in a world that existed before digital domination, fly by night imprints tapped producers and studio musicians to spit out albums mirroring the popular sounds of the day. The sole goal was, to of course make money, not an artistic statement. But a fair number of these exploitation efforts were astonishingly good, particularly those born during the psychedelic era. The crafty faces behind such ventures naturally remained nameless, as no credits ever appeared on the record sleeves. But the so-called bands were christened, sporting handles that were downright silly or strange. The Colorado based Gear Fab label has been doing a fantastic job resurrecting these “cashing in on the hippest fad” albums, and its latest treasure couples two extremely rare relics onto one disc.

Originally released in 1968, “Supreme Psychedelic Underground” by Hell Preachers Inc. is so freaky and off the wall that it leads the listener to wonder what dimension these performers were operating in. Slathered in a spellbinding sauce of swirling keyboards, snake-charming Middle Eastern motifs and gothic vocals, “Shalom” kicks in as a platinum-plated raga rock piece, the pummeling bite of “Curante” is tempered by a giddy bubblegum chorus of la la la la la la,  and “We Like The White Man,” with its hypnotic tribal drumming and repetitious chant of “We Like The White Man” could easily pass as an early rap song. Dancing organ passages, accompanied by blasts of monster guitar dynamics wire “Time Race” and “Turn Turn” thumps and pumps to an acid-damaged Bo Diddley beat. Rumor has it that Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice of Deep Purple donated their talents to “Supreme Psychedelic Underground,” which is not surprising, considering the influence of the hotshot British band looms large. Traces of Iron Butterfly, Pink Floyd and Steppenwolf can also be detected, but employed in a far weirder and wackier context if you can imagine that.

From 1971, there’s Ugly Custard’s “Pscosis,” which includes only instrumentals.  Spurred by soft acoustic strumming, a cover of “Scarboro Fair” suddenly shifts focus and morphs into a loud and heavy hunk of crazed jamming, while renditions of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Hung Upside Down” further pronounce the band’s penchant for excessive improvising. Big and bold jazz rhythms flood the swinging “Custard’s Last Stand,” “Feel This” romps and rolls to a funky groove, and “Cry From The Heart” pings and tings to an enterprising exhibition of coiling melodies and lightly battered wah wah doodlings. Lifting a cue from the daring dabblings of Yes and Deep Purple, but presented in a rather kitschy fashion, the Ugly Custard clearly aped the flashy progressive rock of the times.  Complex structures, matched by flamboyant six-string work and soulful keyboard exercises indeed furnish the band’s material with a spacey bent.

Flush with fascinating ideas, both “Supreme Psychedelic Underground” and “Pscosis” stamp a premium on exaggerated impressions and expressions. Some of the stuff is absolutely nightmarish and cheesy, not to mention self-indulgent and bombastic, but admittedly fun and highly inventive as well. Crank the volume to maximum effects and dig it!

Review made by Beverly Paterson / 2013
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Morning Dew story by Mal Robinson

Morning Dew came from Topeka, Kansas. They released one album on Roulette Records. Their album is one of the best in US psych genre. Here is the interview/story made by Mal Robinson, their guitarist.

Roots/music influence

Don Sligar (drummer) and I (Mal Robinson -lead singer/guitar) met and got acquainted at Holiday Junior High School in Topeka, Kansas during the period of 1961-1963. In the summer of 1963, we formed our first band “The Impax”. This was primarily an instrumental group, playing Ventures  and surf songs of various groups like the Chantays, Surfari’s, etc. Vocals were limited but did perform a few vocal songs.  We did a mean version of “Rocky Road” by Gene Vincent.

In early 1964, we changed the name for brief time to “The Runaways” doing similar material but more vocals. At this time we had added Don Shuford on bass guitar and back-up vocals.  Then, in the summer of 1964, we became “The Durations” upon the addition and influence of Steve Dahl (trumpet and vocals) and Ray Lisher (saxophone) doing mostly R&B tunes…. Kingsmen , James Brown, among others. It was a period when Don and I were listening and trying various music styles. We became dissatisfied with the musical direction of the Durations so we broke away from the band  later that year. Steve Dahl later joined “The Red Dogs”, a local R&B band out of Lawrence, Kansas (which was about 20 miles away).

The Durations were an R&B/Soul Band from Topeka, Kansas.  Robinson, Sligar and Shufford were members of this band. The Durations @ Topeka Drive-In -

In 1965, we decided to rebuild the band with Don Sligar on drums, Don Shuford on bass, and myself on lead guitar and lead vocals. By this time, we were listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, the Byrds…folk and folk rock. We stayed three piece for a while: drums, bass, and guitar (I bought my first 12 string electric guitar!) and we named ourselves “The Toads” (similar to names like The Byrds, The Turtles, The Critters, The Beatles,etc.). We performed a lot of Dylan,also The Byrds, some of the folksy Beatles stuff like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”.  We fell in love with the music of the Lovin’Spoonful and started performing their material, but realized our instrumentation was limited and decided to add another member. By this time, Don Sligar was attending the local college….Washburn University and I was a senior in high school (winter of 1965-66). Don Sligar had a fraternity brother at Washburn who happen to play guitar. His name was Don Anderson so we added “Andy” (his nickname) to the band. We now had three guys in the band named “Don” so we used nicknames…Don Anderson was “Andy”; Don Shuford was “Shuf”; and Don Sligar was “Tommy”(there is a story behind that nickname I won’t go into here). Any way,the folk and folk-rock sounds were not getting us many gigs………the kids couldn’t dance to it and not much of it was Top 40 radio material. So, we decided to play more variety of material and with it came the change in name to “The Morning Dew” in June 1966. Because we were one M (Mal) and three Don’s(D) we wanted to find a band name that had the initials M and D. We came up with  The Morning Dew as a possibility and we had heard the song by the same name written by Tim Rose and recorded by The Grateful Dead so we went with it. We actually played the song for awhile at our gigs but eventually dropped the song from our playlist. We were not influenced by either of these artists musically, but simply liked the Morning Dew as a band name. At this same time, I was starting to write original material for the band.  We did not record or release any material in the early bands until we became The Morning Dew.  

The Toads

 The Topeka music scene and other local bands

The music scene in Topeka (a town of about 100,000 people) during the period of 1963-1966 was busting out. Many bands were being formed by teenage kids, not only inspired by the Beatles and the British Invasion but also The Beach Boys and many other U.S. groups. You could classify the bands in two categories: R&B (with horns) and the guitar bands playing British sounds and garage rock. Some of the R&B groups from Topeka that were popular at the time were The Argons and The Rising Suns. The popular British/Garage Rock groups were The Jerms, The Burlington Express, The Thingies, and The Morning Dew. The Jerms were strictly a cover band that did British bands, mostly Beatles. They even talked with a British accent on stage.  Back then,  I think all the local bands tended to influence each other because we were all competing for same jobs in town. There was a kid about two years younger than us who was in a band called “The Gimlets” that was starting to make a name for himself and that was Kerry Livgren who later in 1970-71 became one of the founding members of the band “Kansas”.

Morning Dew first recording

In the summer of 1966, after I had written a few original songs, we decided to go to a recording studio in Lawrence, Kansas called Audio House to record some music. We got booked on a TV show in St. Joseph, Missouri called Let’s Dance and we needed a recording to lip sync to.  We also thought we could use a demo tape to get bookings and perhaps get a record deal. We selected two originals: “Touch of Magic” and “Winter Dreams” . We also added a traditional blues song “Sportin Life” recorded on the first album of the Lovin Spoonful and a rock song “I’m not Your Steppin’ Stone recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Our main idea was to show off some original tunes and show some versatility. None of these songs were released commercially.  In 1966, our musical influences included The Lovin Spoonful, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Outsiders, The McCoys, Spencer Davis Group, Young Rascals just to name a few. Don Sligar and I bought dozens of albums together, listening to a lot of different styles.  We were especially fond of the groups who had a “stage act”…dancing with their guitars, standing on their amps, engaging the crowd. The main influence of this recording experience was the fact we liked the sound of the original songs and was inspired to create more of that.

Fairyland Records experience

Our local booking agent in Topeka was a fellow named Larry Knouft who eventually became affiliated with a booking agency in Columbia, Missouri called “Fairyland Productions”. One of their primary artists and founding member of the agency was Lou Rennau of Goldilocks and the Three Bears…..a Missouri R&B band that was very popular in the Midwest USA. In 1967, they built a small recording studio in Columbia, Missouri (about 180 miles from Topeka, Ks.) called Fairyland Recording Studio which had an affiliated publishing and record company….Fairyland Publishing and Fairyland Records.  We took our recording interests to their studio as it was ran by someone “ in the band business” and we thought they would add more value to what we were trying to do. By this time, I had written several more songs.  

Early band that did Fairyland Recordings

In 1967, we completed two recording sessions at their studio. The first session was “No More” and the B side: “Look At Me Now” both written by me. We originally pressed 1,000 copies on Fairyland Records and distributed it ourselves in local record stores. It sold out fast, so we printed another 1,000 copies and it sold out over time. “No More” reached the top ten on local radio stations and spent about 12 weeks in the top 40 survey.  We went back to Fairyland for the second session and recorded two more original songs- “Be A Friend” and the other side“Go Away”.  There was much debate as to which side to release as our second single and we ended up going with “Be A Friend” so we could show our versatility (versus “Go Away” which was more similar to “No More” in style). We printed 1,000 copies and it didn’t quite sell out so it was not nearly as successful. On hindsight, releasing “Go Away” may have been a safer and better choice.  

The two single releases did boost our popularity in the Midwest Region during the 1967-1968 period. Our bookings increased and we were represented by three booking agencies in the area. We played in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and some in Oklahoma and Arkansas. We also were picked up as the opening act by several more well known bands who came to perform in the area including The Drifters, The Turtles, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and Strawberry Alarm Clock.  We also did a concert  with another  local band  that opened  for us called “Saratoga”. This group later became the band “Kansas”. In the summer of 1967 and the summer of 1968 we played month long gigs (five nights a week)  at Ron’s Townhouse at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. This was where the band really honed their skills and really developed a tight sound.

Mal in action

Fairyland Sessions in Summer of 1968

We had pretty much did all we could do with the two singles we released with Fairyland (No More and Be A Friend) and had not contracted with any national record labels. We felt we needed to record more songs and create a larger portfolio of songs to take to get a contract with a major label.

So we returned to Fairyland Studios and recorded several of my original songs over that summer. The songs were: Lady Soul, Then Came the Light, Rainbow Woman, Sycamore Dreamer, Something You Say, Cherry Street, Our Last Song, and Money Honey Blues, plus we did a song that was written by a local writer in Columbia named Phil Jackson called “Sing Out”. We also recorded “Sportin Life” during this session. Our music influences moved closer to the Yardbirds, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, and Hendrix, to name a few…a “harder” sound.  

Mal on lead guitar/vocal; Don Sligar on Drums, Don Anderson- rhythm guitar; and in the background Don Shuford on bass.

We soon took an acetate of these songs to New York to meet with several record labels to see if we could get signed. Meetings took place with ABC/Dunhill, Laurie Records, Bell Records, and others. We had an appointment with Roulette but they didn’t show up. There was no interest, as the labels didn’t feel there were any songs that could be released as singles. None of these recordings were released on Fairyland Records as we wanted to go with a national label. We thought about producing our own album from these recordings but we couldn’t afford it.  Later, a local producer/agent from the Columbia, Missouri  named Pete Shanaberg  (who was affiliated with Fairyland) took the acetate to New York and met with several record companies (one of which was Roulette Records) and he successfully got us a verbal commitment from Roulette Records in January, 1969.

Influence to Psychedelic Music/Drugs

In 1967, I started college at Washburn University in Topeka, Ks. So, by the 67-68 timeframe all of the band members were attending Washburn. Pot smoking was fairly common with the students at that time, so many were doing it socially at parties, etc.  We did pot and a little hashish too but nothing more ….never dropped acid. But, the drug experience definitely influenced our perspectives and attitudes. At the same time, the music trends with predominantly guitar rock bands were moving to the sounds of the “advanced” Beatles, Yardbirds, Cream, Hendrix, Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly,Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, etc.  So, more than anything The Morning Dew , was influenced by the broader changes taking place in music.   Topeka, Kansas in the Midwest USA was not really a leader in any change, but more a follower of what was happening on the east and west coast of the US.  Myself  and the band though fell in love with the “fuzz tone” as you can tell on several of our recordings.  My first fuzz was the Gibson Maestro which I used on “No More”. By the summer of 1968, and those sessions with Fairyland Recording Studio, I used the Mosrite fuzz…as it had a fuller/smoother sound. I continued to use it until the band broke up in May, 1971.

Story behind Roulette Album 

As mentioned earlier, a producer/agent by the name of Pete Shanaberg (located in Columbia, Missouri and affiliated with Fairyland) got us a recording contract with Roulette Records. He also represented some Columbia, Missouri based acts:  Morganmasondowns (folk); Don Cooper (folk): and, Trish Vandervere (an actress).   In January of 1969, we received a “verbal” agreement to sign. Before proceeding with a final contract signing, representatives from Roulette wanted us to record a couple more songs and hear us play live (as it had been several months since the Fairyland recordings and we had a new bass player-Blair Honeyman who had replaced Don Shuford  as Don was drafted into the Army.)  So, in the Spring of 1969, we went back to Fairyland Recording Studios and recorded another original “Young Man” and a cover version of “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. Then in June of 1969, Fred Munao of Roulette Records came to Topeka to hear us play live at a local Club called “The Touch of Gold”. It was at that audition, we officially signed our recording contract with Roulette calling for the release of two albums over the next two years.  Looking back,we became pioneers of the Topeka music scene as we were the first rock n roll band in the city to get a national recording contract.

In August, 1969 we loaded up our Chevy van and drove to New York to record the album. We recorded at Bob Gallo Studios on 42nd street, about two doors down the street from Broadway and Times Square. The whole album was recorded in 32 hours over a three day period with very little retakes. After the sessions, they later dubbed over the harmonica part on Country Boy Blue and the strings on Something You Say.  I was later told they wanted to release one or both of those songs as a single. Ironically, they seemed to like our softer sounds more than the harder sounds, as they really never had any hard rock/psychedelic artists under contract. So, on hindsight, I’m not sure we were a good match for that label.

As for equipment, I used a Vox Royal Guardsman amp, Gibson ES335 and Mosrite fuzz tone. I used a Fender acoustic guitar for the softer sounds. We used a Vox organ on Gypsy. The bass player used Fender gear. Our rhythm guitarist used a Guild electric guitar with Vox amp. Our drummer liked Ludwig Drums.

Band in Central Park during Roulette Recording

My strongest memories of the Roulette experience:

It was a whirlwind experience, a 30 hour drive to New York and a one week long stay at the Hotel Albert in Greenwich Village (Led Zepplin were staying there at the same time).  Three days at the recording studio mixed in with a photo shoot in Central Park.  I spent my 21st birthday in NYC. We met with Morris Levy, President of Roulette to “beg” for a cash advance so the band would have some spending money while in the city. He bitched and moaned, but ended up cutting us a check for $1,000. The only money we ever saw from Roulette. Oh, I recall he also gave us a Kustom  bass amp that he later repossessed and had someone come to Topeka to get it (now, that sent us a message).
The album was not released until 1970. We later found out that Roulette was mired in legal troubles at the time, owing back taxes, falsifying financial records, etc.…..Levy was accused of tax evasion and was reputed to be linked to the mob. He later went to prison and died there in the 1980’s. The second album never came about. I received a brief three sentence paragraph letter from them in 1974 saying they had cancelled our contract. To this day, I never received an official accounting for the album. I was told there were 10,000 copies printed but most of them were “destroyed in a warehouse fire”. I have no idea how many were distributed on a retail basis. (You should read the book by Tommy James-“Me, the Mob, and My Music” to get some further insight to the dealings of Roulette Records).     
You asked about the album cover: it was taken from a collection of photos done by a professional photographer who happened to live downstairs from the apartment in NYC Pete Shanaberg was staying at the time. When we met with Morris Levy that day, he boasted it was the most money that they had ever spent on an album cover…..I just wish they would have invested in a little more in studio time for us. This same photograph later showed up in the 60’s movie “Joe”.

Potential second album with Roulette

Our contract called for a second album with Roulette. In late 1970, at the request of Fred Munao of Roulette, we went into the studio to record some more original material for Fred to listen to. This time we decided  to go to Audio House Recording in Lawrence, Ks. (as it was closer and cheaper). We basically set up and played live on a four track recorder then mixed it down and overdubbed my vocals. 

By this time we had a couple more changes to the band. Don Anderson had left the group and was replaced by Ferdy Baumgart who played Hammond Organ and some Lead Guitar. We also added Dave Howell who played guitar and piano. This was a true experimental time for our band. Our sound became much more progressive and complex, influenced a lot by Ferdy’s  skill as an arranger. I would take the basic song to practice and Ferdy as well as Don Sligar and the other guys would put in certain intros, endings, breaks, and fills to round out the song. At this session (which was done in four hours one afternoon) we recorded originals: Satin’s Got A Hold On Thee, Someday, My Kind of Music, Flying Above Myself, Lion/Away from It All,  and 1849. The quality of the recording is not that great, the songs are raw and somewhat unfinished,  as we basically considered this a practice tape to send off to Roulette and to use for our own sound development.  None of these recordings were released commercially at the time. Roulette pretty much stonewalled us regarding a second album release. Their feedback was generally positive but they wouldn’t definitely commit or schedule a second New York recording session for us. It was very frustrating. Of course, we later learned that Roulette was totally distracted with their legal issues. The recording was picked up by Cicadelic/Collectables in the 1990’s and released on CD as “The Second Album”.

Comments on particular songs

First Album(Roulette):

A1-Crusader’s Smile: It is simply about traveling in a band, playing guitar to entertain others, often getting requests to bring out the acoustic at the band parties. I met my “wife to be” at about this time, but “she didn’t know that my mind could float away, cause I play my guitar to make people happy”. And we’re still married after 42 years.  I feel the highlight of this song is Don’s percussion work…it really turns an ordinary song into something you want to listen to over and over. He worked  his ass off on this song when we played it live….he was inspirational.

A2-Upon Leaving: We wanted another slow song for the Roulette album so I penned this. Another travel song….about a guy leaving his lover and not knowing if he’ll make it back or see her again. It is a common feeling/fear we all have every time we separate from someone we love for any period of time.

A3-Young Man: There is a Bo Diddley inspiration in there somewhere. Again,  great percussion by Don. He is actually playing the drums with a pair of maracas. (Not sure that had been done before). We were a high energy band when we played live and I think this song fits that high energy category.   It’s simply about how fearless and sometimes stupid we are when we’re young. And I wrote this when I was 20 yrs. old. And now, you look back, and it’s so true but we’d all do it again if we had the chance. I guess I had some foresight on this one.

A4-Then Came the Light:I actually liked the Fairyland version ( with my Vox wah -wah pedal) better than the Roulette version. For some reason, we nixed the wah-wah when we got to New York. It’s about a guy who thinks he can see the future(at age 20) but when he gets to the “future”(at age 40) he doesn’t know it. Make sense? OK, so this was a little drug induced.  Oh, you know I went out on 42nd street in NYC to sing with the traffic in the background at the end of the song(“I saw the light, I saw the light”). A microphone from the Control Room in the studio was dropped out the window down to the street and I sang into it. 

A5-Cherry Street: When we recorded at Fairyland, we were there for several days and stayed at a guys house on Cherry Street and there seemed to be a lot of frustrated people living on that street. That is basically the theme. Frustrated people looking for something better. I must admit, there is definite Cream influence on this one (I’d like to hear Jack Bruce sing it with Eric Clapton taking the lead parts). Roulette didn’t like the toilet flush at the end ( on the Fairyland version) so we didn’t do it in New York. The Mosrite fuzz has one of its better  tones here….I liked the fuzz guitar trying to mimic my singing “fire, fire, everything’s on fire” in the last phrases of the song.

B1-Gypsy: I was always fascinated by gypsies….the way they lived, moved around. The intro to this song was actually inspired by the movie “Exodus”. It is probably a poor resemblance of the theme song to that movie, but any way that is what inspired some of the vocal and back up guitar licks to the vocal in the intro. Given, the theme of the song (Gypsies)….I felt it had to move fast once the intro was over.  

B2-Something You Say: I was in one of my mushy, Bee Gee moods on this one, but inspired by the love of my life of course! My daughter wanted this song played at her wedding 40 years later so that really made it all worthwhile.  I think the band liked this song because it showed some versatility.  I like the song very much, I just wish someone else would have recorded and sang it. My vocal falls short on this one, I think. There is someone out there that could really do this song justice…maybe a Van Morrison type.

B3-Country Boy Blue: This is the band’s theme song for traveling all across the great state of Kansas ,playing our music, and having some fun at the same time. We had to give it a country sound. Many of my friends today, like this one the best …they’ve outgrown the psych stuff

B4-Save Me: I had the lyrics written and few chords but wasn’t sure how I wanted to put the song together. At the time, Don Sligar was living with Kerry Livgren at a house here in Topeka. I went over there one night and played what I had to Kerry and he finished it for me in about thirty seconds. The song was written for a “bigger orchestral sound” but we settled for the four of us instead.   Of course, about a year later Kerry Livgren was taking his band  “ Kansas” to record after they signed with Don Kirshner and the rest is history as they say.

B5-The Epic: The Mann/Death is A Dream: These are two songs with separate but related themes that we decided to put together on the Roulette album. The Mann (with two “n’s”) is simply about a guy who has everything, but kills himself at the end of the song (the gunshot and slowing of the record speed to a stop). Death is A Dream is just about what it is about….death. What we prefer to not talk about, so my thought here is what if death is like just being asleep and then you awake just like always. OK, another drug influenced song. I think after I thought of this lyric and wrote it down….I went to get the Cheetos! The little flamingo guitar rif at the start was done on the Fender acoustic.  A little leftover I wanted to put in Gypsy but couldn’t fit it in there.

Second Album material:  

This represents a big change in our sound as we feature Ferdy Baumgart  playing the Hammond. I’m now using a Gibson Les Paul with my Mosrite fuzz occasionally, but not as much.  We had also added Dave Howell on keyboards and guitar. Eventually, Bill Stahlin from St.Joe, Missouri  replaced Blair Honeyman on bass….Bill was a friend of Steve Walsh, lead singer for “Kansas”. We were in a more experimental phase of our music.)

1-Someday: An ecology message. Ferdy was a “power” player on the Hammond. And , it shows on several of these tunes. I do like the Les Paul fuzz lead at the end of the song.

2-Flying Above Myself: I think this is my favorite song of the session. Great, high energy Hammond lead in the middle of the song with some great percussion back up by Don. It sounds like something Santana might do with his keyboard player…..of course there is no guitar lead in this song. Now the lyrics in this song are totally about being stoned….pure and simple. However, we never performed under the influence. We could derive inspiration from being under the influence, but we always put the songs out sober.

3-My Kind of Music: This is a break from the Hammond sound in the other songs. Ferdy plays guitar lead on a Gibson ES335. Country music has always been very popular in Kansas and this is a song written about those fans or audiences.

4-Lion/Away From It All: This was to be our second “Epic” for the second album, again putting two songs together. “Lion” is the representation of the cruel world out there and “Away From It All” is about getting with the love of your life, forgetting your troubles, and getting away from all your troubles. The music centers around  Ferdy’s Hammond and my guitar parts playing off one another.

5-1849: Again, nice break from the “front and center” Hammond sound. Dave Howell is on Hammond with Ferdy on one lead guitar and me on the other. We saw a documentary about the California gold rush in the late 1840’s and that inspired the song.

6-Satin’s Gotta Hold On Thee: I like the body of the song and the lyric, but it just doesn’t seem to reach its potential as a song. I think we may have taken off in too many different directions on this one. It is interesting though. It is about people in general not being satisfied, being hypocritical, and pretty much losing their way. Maybe this is why the music drifts in different directions.

7-Money Honey Blues: This was actually recorded in our Fairyland Sessions as a filler song. We pretty much wrote and arranged it in the studio….it is the early Dew sound. Lou Rennau plays the piano on this.  It so happened that Cicadelic/Collectables put this on the Second Album release as a filler to the other ones.

8-Then Came the Light: This is the version done at Fairyland Recording Studio. Later, re-recorded on the Roulette album in New York.

9-Something you Say: Again, this is the Fairyland Recording Studio version. Later, re-recorded on the Roulette album in New York.

10-Our Last Song: Again, this was done at Fairyland Recording Studio only.  
Some of the Fairyland recordings were put on the “Second ‘Album” by Cicadelic/Collectables as filler to the songs we recorded at Audio House for Roulette to consider for a second album on their label.

Concepts Behind the Albums

There really were no concepts to the albums per se. The Roulette album was titled “At Last” because it took them so long to release it. There were no singles released from the album ( we would have voted for Crusader’s Smile if one had been done). Most of our radio play came on FM Rock Radio stations at the time, which were just really starting to take off.  The so called second album really never came about but probably the underlying theme of the songs is how difficult it can be to live on this earth at times  and how man has tended to “screw it up”.

Inspirations other than music:

I had a poetry professor in college that inspired me to write. I always liked the large production movies like Exodus.  No particular other books or movies come to mind.  All the guys in the band grew up in a lower- middle class neighborhood and I think music inspired us to try to improve our life situations to some extent.

The band’s break up

In the Spring of 1971 it became difficult to hold the band together. It was obvious the second album was not going to happen, hell they didn’t even adequately promote the first album. A national tour never materialized and we were back playing the Midwest USA circuit….playing a lot of colleges and psych theme clubs. We had pretty much priced ourselves out of the regional market and couldn’t make enough money to keep it going. We just got discouraged. We all had college degrees by this time and several of us were married and it just felt like we needed to move on to the “real world”.  Our last gig was in May, 1971 in Garden City, Kansas.

Last band that did Audio House in 1970

What are we doing now?    

Mal Robinson: I went to work at an insurance company in Topeka and retired after 35 years of service. I continue to live in Topeka,Ks. but travel a lot with my wife. I have two daughters in S.California. I did not play professionally again until 1993. I joined a classic rock n roll cover band called “The Bop Daddies” and we’re still playing today, performing music from 1955-1975 era. We play clubs and private parties.

Don Sligar (drummer): Don moved with his wife to the Northwest, living in Northern California, Eastern Washington and settling in Portland, Oregon. Taught school for a while, but then became an Education Specialist  for the State of Oregon. He played in the early 70’s in a band called “Cimmaron” but after that never really played professionally again. Don and his wife are now retired in Florida. His big love now is Zydeco music and has learned to play the Dobro and jams with some of the ol’ farts down there.

Don Anderson (rhythm guitar):  Married and went to work for the State of Kansas as an accountant and is retired living in Topeka, Ks. For several years he has played the upright bass in a popular local bluegrass band called “Past Tense”. They have recorded a couple of CDs.

Don Shuford (bass/vocals):  Got married and went to work for an energy company and is now retired after working there for over 30 years. He never played professionally again.

Blair Honeyman (bass/vocals) : Married with family and is getting close to retirement but has worked many years for a paint company on the retail side of the business. Blair never played professionally again. Back in the day, Blair was the bass player for the Burlington Express before he joined the Dew.

Ferdy Baumgart (organ/guitar): Ferdy moved away for awhile and played in several regional rock bands but eventually moved back to Topeka were he settled with his wife. Ferdy  joined my cover band “The Bop Daddies” in the mid 90’s and unfortunately passed away in 2006. He was still performing with me at that time.

Dave Howell (keyboards/guitar):  Dave is married and lives in Virginia and is now retired after a successful career in Human Resource management with the Federal government. Dave never played professionally again.

Bill Stahlin  (bass player in last version of the band): Bill lives in Portland, Oregon. Most of his career has been spent as a Quality Tester of bass guitars and amps for Fender Music Co.

Final Comments

It is surreal to me that after so many years, music collectors from all over the world continue to  express interest in the music and maturation of the Morning Dew from 1966-1971. The whole “Dew” experience culminated in March, 2010 when we were inducted to the Kansas Music Hall of Fame and I was able to reassemble Don Sligar, Don Anderson, Dave Howell, and Blair Honeyman and perform  No More, Money Honey Blues, Sportin’ Life, Country Boy Blue, Young Man, and Crusader’s Smile at the induction ceremonies to a crowd of about 700 at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Ks. (40 years since we had last played together).  You know, 40 years between gigs is a long time! 

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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CAN - The Lost Tapes (2012) review

CAN - The Lost Tapes (Spoon Records, 2012)

CAN has given us a very rare sort of treat that, as the years stack on, is less and less likely to crop up in the world of music. Their innovative minds elevate this to a cause for celebration, for CAN changed a great deal in the landscape of music in the seventies. They created entire genres of music with single tracks—all of which, were almost entirely composed on impulse and edited down to their signatured complexity and chaotic perfection.
The Lost Tapes are boiled down to thirty tracks spread across three discs, and they showcase every aspect and stage in the evolution of our beloved CAN. From the very first track, "Millionenspiel," and its slow onset of layered sound that erupts into an unconventionally engrossing groove complimented by flute, it is immediately apparent that these aren't just garbled, bootleg quality tracks that sat in a damp basement collecting mold for four decades. We are talking prime studio quality material. This is history. Or rather, a history lesson in the evolution of Rock & Roll.
All of their most prominent influences come through, each track standing completely on its own as an example of their heritage. The "Evening All Day" examplifies their fondness for von Beil-esque compositions as far back as 1969, while "True Story" gives the impression that the boys had paid a visit to New York, and sat in on some beat poetry sessions—the electronic drone gives a sense of horror to the whole scenery. The scatter-brained, off the hinges "Deadly Doris" can only suggest that The Beatles' White Album was a fleeting precursor, "Sexy Sadie" being repeated along with the schizophrenic, mantra-like "Deadly, deadly, deadly, deadly, deadly Doris."
Their powers of brilliant impulse shred sixteen minutes into the hypnotic and multi-faceted "Graublau"; when it's through, time is empty and you'll have lost all concept of it. Strange and beautiful tracks like "Dead Pigeon Suite" will give you a feel for their embrace of music from around the world; ethnically diverse instrumentation and sensual, exotic rhythm, but hardly without a ninety-degree shift in tone to keep you on your toes as a responsible listener. As the collection progresses, those familiar with CAN's music will immediately recognize fragments of CAN staples in what were otherwise discarded tracks, offering insight into their creative process. The live tracks included are by no means filler. They showcase classic CAN tracks, given the expansive, time and space defying treatment that vinyl simply couldn't allow them.

The thrill of listening to these lost tapes is, and I cannot stress this enough, the knowledge that you are listening to a group of musicians that are in the budding of their professional career, and every track is an innovation unto itself. It is history. No band dared tread where CAN boisterously frollicked. They were the Nikola Teslas of experimental music; brilliant pioneers, but in the grand scheme they have been criminally outshined by their students.

Review made by Hunter Gatherer/2013
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Ugly Things' Mike Stax: writer, editor, publisher, musician, songwriter, label owner - interview

Mike Stax, one of the most versatile members of the professional music industry recently allowed “It’s Psychedelic Baby” a look into his world. Renowned for his work as a writer, publisher, label owner and musician, Stax recently shared his story with Psychedelic Baby’s Kevin Rathert.

Mike, you were born in the UK in 1962. Where was your birthplace and was music a big part of life in the Stax household?

I was born in Watford, but grew up in Cheshire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire. It wasn’t a particularly musical household, but the radio was usually playing and my Dad had a record collection, mostly jazz. More importantly he had a reel-to-reel tape of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Help albums, and I listened to those repeatedly as a kid, usually on headphones.

Growing up, what kind of music and which artists in particular were you attracted to?

After those Beatles albums, the next thing that really grabbed my attention was David Bowie. Watching Top of the Pops was a weekly ritual, and, like thousands of other English kids, seeing Bowie performing “Starman” on that show was an absolute revelation, as was “The Jean Genie.” I was an instant fan. My first album was Aladdin Sane, which I got for Christmas in 1973. From then on I was on a constant quest for rock & roll. After Bowie, my next obsession became the Rolling Stones – specifically the Brian Jones era band. Brian Jones seemed like the ultimate rebellious doomed pop star and I read everything I could about him. At the age of 14 I even travelled to Cheltenham to visit his grave.

Who was the first artist or group that you wrote about and what publication was it published in?

I put together my first fanzine when I was 15. It was all about the Rolling Stones. I printed three copies and gave the other two to my friends.

It is well known that you were a huge fan of the American blues band The Crawdaddys. How were you first exposed to their work?

I used to listen to John Peel’s radio show every night on a transistor radio hidden under my pillow. One night in 1979 he played “Oh Baby Doll” by the Crawdaddys. I was already a huge fan of ‘60s UK R&B bands like the Yardbirds, Animals, Pretty Things and the Downliners Sect, so I was astonished when Peel explained that this was a new record by a band from California. They had the British ’64 R&B sound down cold. I tracked down the LP at a record shop in Soho, and a few months later bought an EP and a 45, which were even better. At that point I wrote a fan letter to the band c/o Bomp Records. Greg Shaw forwarded my letter to the band’s leader, Ron Silva, and a few weeks later I received a letter from him asking if I’d be interested in moving to San Diego and becoming their new bass player. I’d just left school and was unsure of my next move in life. I saved up some money for a plane ticket working at a vacuum cleaner factory, and within a few months was on a plane to the United States with my bass guitar in my hand and about 200 dollars in my pocket.

Crawdaddys 1982 lineup

What was the first bass that you owned?  What did you play in the Crawdaddys and what do you play today?

My first one was a cheap Fender Precision knockoff.  I soon upgraded to a Gibson EB2.  That’s the bass I brought to the States when I joined the Crawdaddys.  But in San Diego I found a Harmony and loved the sound of that one.  I bought it in 1982 for $75.  That has been the main bass I use ever since, though I also have a Burns Baby Bison.

I have read that you relocated to San Diego, California to become a member of The Crawdaddys. When did you come to the United States? What was your role in the band and who were the other members?

I moved to the States in November of 1980, the day before Reagan was elected. At that point the Crawdaddys consisted of Ron Silva on lead vocals and drums, Keith Fisher on keyboards, Steve Horn on sax and myself on bass. Soon afterwards we added Joe Piper on guitar. The lineup was constantly changing throughout 1981-82.

Your relationship with The Crawdaddys seems to have been full of ups and downs. Would you describe for our readers your tenure with the band? How much recording did you do with the band? What caused your exit?

The Crawdaddys was a learning experience for me. Ron and Keith are exceptional musicians and I’d only been playing bass for a few months when I joined so there was a sharp learning curve for me. Over time I turned into a half-decent bass player, but my limitations were a cause of some friction, especially with Keith, who also had a completely different vision for the band than I did. He wanted to turn the Crawdaddys into a more sophisticated soul R&B band, whereas I favored the raw ‘60s punk R&B sound of bands like the Pretty Things and the Downliners Sect. After six or seven months it all came to a head and they kicked me out of the group.

You returned to the UK briefly, but within months you were back to California to stay. How was it returning to England and why were you there such a short time?

I returned to the UK in the summer of ’81, but within days – maybe hours – of arriving I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. I wanted badly to return to the States and more importantly return to playing with the Crawdaddys. There had been a lot of teenage politics in my ousting, and now the alliances had reconfigured and they wanted me back. I scraped together some money and was soon back over there. That began a productive era for the Crawdaddys with a stable lineup comprised of Ron Silva on lead vocals, Peter Miesner on guitar, Keith Fisher on keyboards, Gordon Moss on drums and myself on bass. We recorded quite a lot of demos during 1982-83 and some of these were eventually released on the Here ‘Tis LP.

1983 seems to have been a watershed year for you. Tell us if you will how Ugly Things magazine came about? What was the inspiration for the magazine? How did you arrive at the title? How many writers contributed to the first edition?

Ugly Things came about because I felt the need to turn more people on to the music I was passionate about: ‘60s garage, beat, R&B and psychedelia. New music at the time was dreadful, synthetic rubbish, much of it shaped by the MTV mentality. There was a lot of pretty-boy new romantic pop, a lot of excruciating hair metal bands – all of it seemed phony and superficial to me. I saw ‘60s era bands like the Seeds, the Pretty Things and Q65 as the antidote. They were raw, crude, ugly and, above all, REAL. The name “Ugly Things” just seemed to sum it all up for me. Obviously it was a nod to the Pretty Things, but it was also inspired by the Australian ‘60s punk compilation of the same name, which included the amazing song “Ugly Thing” by the Creatures. There were only three or four writers at the time: me, and a couple of friends, most of whom would be a part of my next band, the Tell-Tale Hearts, which we formed soon afterwards.

What was the focus of Edition #1? In those pre-internet days how were you able to locate the musicians and other members of the music industry who you wrote about? How did the Ugly Things staff of 1983 compare with the present day staff?

Issue #1 had an interview with Steve Garris, a local eccentric who hung around the scene, plus short articles on Q65 and the Byrds. It wasn’t until Issue #2 that I was able to interview any original ‘60s musicians. That issue included a lengthy interview I did with Sean Bonniwell of the Music Machine. Fortunately he turned out to be a very thoughtful and articulate interview subject. It was his first interview since the ‘60s and the first time ever he’d really talked about his songs in any depth. Issue #2 also included an interview with members of the Leaves by Ray Brandes.

Locating musicians to interview was much more difficult in those pre-Internet years. For example, I remember going down to the public library and pawing through the Mississippi phone directory to find a phone number for Sid Herring of the Gants. I was successful in that instance, but I often had to make a lot of awkward cold calls when trying to track down band members. These days it seems you can find practically anyone with a few clicks on the computer.

As for “staff,” there really wasn’t any. It was just me and my mates. And 30 years later, it kind of still is – I just have more of them now.

How many copies of the first edition of “Ugly Things” were printed? How did your raise the money to have Ugly Things published and distributed? How did you promote the publication?

I printed 200 copies of the first issue at first, and later had to do another 200 when that one sold out. I funded it with small loan from the parents of my friend Carl Rusk, supplemented by a couple of local advertisers. Promotion consisted of taking it round the record shops in San Diego and LA and selling a few at gigs. But I also mailed copies to some other fanzine publishers such as Ron Rimsite (99th Floor) and Greg Prevost (Outasite) and that led to some cross-pollination with the East Coast garage scene.

Subsequent issues thereby ended up for sale at New York City stores like Venus Records and Midnight. It kind of snowballed from there. At one point I had a classified ad in Goldmine, but they misspelled it as “UGLY THINS”!

The same year you became a member of The Tell-Tale Hearts. How did the band come about and who were your band mates? You were the bassist in the band, right? Did you write any of the band’s material?

I formed the Tell-Tale Hearts in 1983 with Ray Brandes (lead vocals), Bill Calhoun (organ, harmonica), Eric Bacher (guitar) and David Klowden (drums). I played bass. I’d already played in a few ad hoc bands with Ray and Bill while I was still in the Crawdaddys, and we were close friends. I was frustrated by the direction the Crawdaddys had been taking and at how little original material they’d been playing. It was time to start something new. Ray, Bill, Eric and myself all contributed original material to the new group.

The Tell-Tale Hearts, 1984

The band was signed by Greg Shaw’s Bomp/Voxx label. What was the relationship between the band and Greg? Tell us, if you would, what was your personal relationship with Greg like?

Live, 1985

I already knew Greg pretty well, of course, because of the Crawdaddys. He recognized right away that I was a FAN, a rock & roll obsessive like him. I was always bugging him for information about different bands, records and so on, and he was only too happy to share his knowledge with me, along with countless cassette tapes of his extensive record collection. I think Greg was as frustrated as I was that the Crawdaddys had failed to come up with another record, so when I told him I had formed a new group he was immediately very supportive. He gave us a slot on the second volume of the Battle of the Garages series and soon afterwards offered us a deal to record a full album. Everything happened really quickly.

Park, 1987

The band cut an LP “The Tell-Tale Hearts” in 1984 and an EP “The Now Sound of The Tell-Tale Hearts” in 1985. Could you tell us a bit about the recording sessions for these releases? How were sales?

The first album was recorded in about two days at Silvery Moon studios in LA. Greg Shaw had booked blocks of time there and a lot of the bands on Voxx recorded their debut albums there at around the time. The Gravedigger V were there the week before us, I think, and the Miracle Workers came in the week afterwards. Anyway, it was the first time in a ‘real’ studio for most of the Tell- Tale Hearts so we didn’t have a big say in the way it was recorded and ultimately were dissatisfied with the result. It sounded too tame and clean for our tastes.

For our next record we went to Mark Neill who had a studio in Dulzura on the rural outskirts of San Diego County. He used all vintage gear, a three-track recorder, tube mixing board, top-of-the-line ‘50s and ‘60s microphones, etc, plus he was a ‘real’ producer with a great ear. It made all the difference in the world. I’m still proud of The ‘Now’ Sound record.

Sales? I think each of them sold a couple of thousand copies, maybe less.

The Tell-Tale Hearts disbanded in 1987. Why did the band break up? Were you a member of any band between 1987 and 1999 when The Loons released “Love’s Dead Leaves?”

Mike Stax 1988 practice

Eric Bacher left in ’86 and we lost the original raw chemistry we’d once had. Peter Miesner from the Crawdaddys stepped in, and did an excellent job, but we kind of lost direction. The band split into factions and then into pieces. After that Bill and I regrouped with Eric to form the Barons. We started recording an EP but broke up before we could complete it. Next Bill and I reclaimed the Tell-Tale Hearts name with Jon McKinney on guitar, Ron Swart on organ and Paul Carsola on drums. We released a couple of good singles, including a cover of the Pretty Things’ “Circus Mind” but in retrospect I feel using the Tell-Tale Hearts name was a mistake because it was a totally different band.

When that band split in 1989, Ron Swart and I teamed up with three members of the Trebels to form the Hoods: Jay Wiseman (vocals, harp), Xavier Anaya (guitar), Ron Swart (organ), John Chilson (drums) and myself on bass. We were together for four or five years and recorded an album (“Gangsters & Morticians” 1991), some singles and a 12-inch EP (“Four Songs To Kill”, 1992). It was a fun time. Jay and I formed a pretty solid songwriting team and I became more proficient at putting songs together and singing harmonies. Eventually though I got the itch to take next step and become a lead singer and front man, so in 1996 I formed the Loons, once again with Eric Bacher on guitar, John Chilson (from the Hoods) on drums and Andy Rasmussen on bass, who was replaced by Gary Strickland just prior to us recording the “Love’s Dead Leaves” album in 1998.

The Hoods

By the time The Loons first album was released on Get Hip Records in 1999 “Ugly Things” magazine had been around for twelve years. Could you describe for our readers the evolution of the publication to that point?

The first 11 issues were very primitive in the classic fanzine style. Printed or sometimes just photocopied on 8 ½” x 11” sheets and stapled down the side. It was all typed out on an old typewriter, then shrunk down on a Xerox machine and pasted into columns. All the photos had to be shot as halftones using a huge camera. Paying to have that done was one of my biggest expenses at the time, but it was money well spent, because even though the fanzine was very basic in its layout, the photos always reproduced well, and that became more and more important as we started using more rare or previously unpublished photos.

The Loons

With Issue #12 Ugly Things entered the computer age. I started using a desktop publishing program to layout the text, but I still shot halftones and pasted them in by hand until Issue 23 or 24, because I found the quality was better that way. Anyway, Issues 12 through 15 were printed on 11” x 17” paper, then folded and saddle-stitched. The glossy covers began with #13. Starting with #16 I switched to the perfect bound format as the mag started to expand its page count. By Issue #20 we were printing 200 page issues. Circulation expanded with every issue. Issue #1 had an initial print-run of 200 copies.   By Issue #16 we were printing 5,000.

The Loons debut album “Love’s Dead Leaves” consisted of only original material composed by guitarist Eric Bacher and yourself, in contrast to your previous bands who recorded many cover versions. Why the change? How did you and Bacher become a writing team and what was the writing process like?

The Hoods records had been 95% original songs, and with the Loons that became 100%. We’ve always played some cover songs in our live set, but on record I wanted to do something that was entirely our own. Collaborating with Eric came naturally. He’s a very creative person and would present me with lots of very inventive riffs and chord progressions. I would edit and shape his ideas, adding vocal melodies and writing lyrics, and then we’d then work on the final arrangement together with the rest of the band. On some occasions I would come up with a riff or chord sequence myself, and then Eric would embellish that, and we’d proceed from there. “Insecurity Smasher” and “Never Enough” were examples of that.

2002 brought the introduction of Ugly Things Records and its first release, “The Lost Acetates 1965-1966” by The Misunderstood, who had released three classic singles in the 60s and a compilation “Before The Dream Faded” in 1997. Where and when were these acetates discovered and how were they chosen to be the first release on Ugly Things Records?

I was working on a huge, serialized story on the Misunderstood at the time. In the course of interviewing the band members, it was discovered that the drummer, Rick Moe, had a pile of acetates in his attic. They were never really “lost,” but everyone else had forgotten their existence. As soon as I heard them, I knew I wanted to release them myself through the magazine. That’s how UT Records began.

2004 brought the release of The Loons second album, “Paraphernalia.” What were the sessions for “Paraphernalia” like? How well did the album sell and did it get much radio airplay? Were there any singles that accompanied the album?

The sessions for Paraphernalia were fairly haphazard. We began recording the album with Jon Reis of Rocket from the Crypt producing at his studio, but things weren’t gelling with the band so we abandoned it and changed our lineup. After a few months rehearsing with a new drummer, Iain Sclater, we started all over again at Earthling Studio. Things moved along fairly quickly after that. We’d been sitting on some of the songs for several years and they felt a little stale, to be honest. But we wrote a few new ones during the sessions, and those turned out the best. For example, “Another Life” was written just a couple of days before it was recorded, and the final arrangement happened right on the spot. We had no idea it would be an 11-minute track – everything was cooking so we just let the tape roll until the end of the reel.

How many releases does the Ugly Things Records catalog contain at this point? How do you decide which albums earn the Ugly Things logo? What is the typical process and how long does it take to complete a project for UTR, from conception to release?

We’ve released eight full-length albums (three on vinyl and all of them on CD) and four vinyl singles. The process for each release is different—some take months to plan and release, others happen much more quickly. I don’t have a regular schedule of releases, they just happen when the opportunity comes along, invariably as a by-product of a story I’m researching for the mag.

I love the entire Ugly Things Records catalog, but are any of the releases especially near and dear to your heart and if so, why?

The Pretty Things/Philippe Debarge album. Releasing a lost album from the Pretty Things’ psychedelic era was a huge achievement for Ugly Things and something I’m very proud of.

You have a store on the Ugly Things website.  When did you open the store and how do you determine the inventory you carry?

You can check out the inventory hereI try to carry titles that aren't otherwise widely available (especially in the States) and that are in the same niche we cover in the magazine. Vinyl does best for us, so that's the main focus, but we also carry CDs, books, and of course all the Ugly Things releases and back issues.

The online store began about three years ago. Prior to that I sold a few things through the regular UT website and in the pages of the mag itself. I decided to expand that into a webstore, which was a good move for me. The webstore helps keep me solvent between the publication of new issues.

You coauthored a book “Like Misunderstood” with Rick Brown of The Misunderstood. This is called a biographical novel. What exactly is the book about and why did you and Brown coauthor it?

Rick and I worked for several years on a movie screenplay about the Misunderstood and Rick’s subsequent adventures as a fugitive in India. Rick came up with the idea of turning the screenplay into an autobiographical novel as another means of presenting the story.

In 2010 The Loons released their third album “Red Dissolving Rays Of Light.” Once again, all the songs are originals and the only personnel change was the drummer. What affect has this stability had on the band? How were sales of the album and were any singles released in conjunction with it?

Shortly after we completed Paraphernalia, Iain Sclater left the band, and we brought in Mike Kamoo on drums. Mike runs Earthling Studio and had produced Paraphernalia so he was already a good friend and very familiar with our work. His addition changed the entire dynamic of the band and I think raised us to a new level. As we now practice at Earthling, we’re able to work on new song ideas all the time, and if something feels right Mike will throw up a few mics and we’ll record it. Red Dissolving Rays of Light came together that way over the course of several years. I believe it’s our strongest set of songs by far, and Mike also did a tremendous job on the production.

As for sales, I believe it’s sold a thousand copies or so. We continue to languish in obscurity, as we always have, and there’s no shame in that.

“Red Dissolving Rays Of Light” was released on Bomp! Records, the late Greg Shaw’s label now run by his widow Suzy. Why was the album released on Bomp!? Was the label resurrected especially for this release?

Releasing the album on Bomp was Suzy’s idea. The label has continued to exist as an outlet for reissues, but the Loons album was the first new release on Bomp in about 20 years. Bomp has played a big part in my life over the years – starting with Greg forwarding my letter to the Crawdaddys in 1980 – so it felt like coming home in a way. Suzy and Patrick are great people, and they have treated us right.

The last two albums have featured your wife Anja on bass. What is it like to play gigs and record with your wife as part of The Loons?

Anja has been a Loon for about 14 years now and she’s absolutely integral to what we do (as are all the band members). She brings a lot of energy and ideas to the table. Being able to make music together is a really special part of our lives.

Mike one thing we haven’t discussed are all the albums you have written liner notes for and/or compiled. How many would you estimate you have been involved with over the years? Do you remember the first you ever wrote and/or compiled?

I haven’t kept count, but I’m sure I must have written liner notes for over a hundred releases by now. I believe the first set of liner notes I wrote was for Terry Gibson’s “Downliner” album in 1986. Terry was of course the original lead guitarist for one of my favourite bands, the Downliners Sect.

Following that line of thought could you name a few which you consider the most important that you have been involved with? Which of these projects were the most enjoyable to be involved with?

The two Nuggets box sets were obviously important as they helped bring a lot of this music to new ears. I really enjoyed writing the liner notes for Norton’s vinyl reissues of the first two Pretty Things albums (and a third album of the non-LP singles), and also some of the titles I’ve worked on for Pseudonym in the Netherlands. The Group 1850 story, for example, is one of the wildest and most fascinating I’ve worked on. Writing about the Outsiders and Q65 never gets old either – such great bands.

You have been involved in several reissues on the Dutch Pseudonym label, such as the new 2 CD edition of the classic album “Crystallization” by Cosmic Dealer.  How did you become involved with Pseudonym?

I became involved with Pseudonym a few years ago. I was knocked out by the quality of their releases  - the music, the mastering, the packaging -- but I felt they were missing  one important thing: liner notes. So I offered to start doing that for them. I currently write the notes for about two-thirds of their releases. It's been a great experience so far, interviewing all these different Dutch musicians and producers. I usually have two or three different Pseudonym projects on the go at any given time these days.  I only write notes for music I'm enthusiastic about.

2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of Ugly Things Magazine. Congratulations on the accomplishment. To what do you credit the longevity of Ugly Things?

Probably a greatly protracted, undiagnosed case of obsessive compulsive behavior. It all comes down to the fact that I love what I’m doing in. I’m excited to wake up every morning and go to work, because I’m working on the magazine.

Thirty years on, how does circulation of Ugly Things magazine in 2013 compare to 1983? How many writers contribute to the publication? How large is the staff at Ugly Things magazine?

The circulation has grown from a few hundred to over 5,000. As I mentioned earlier, there really are no “staff” in the strict sense of the word. The magazine is put together by a small circle of friends and fellow writers around the world who share my passion for this music and the need to share that passion with other fans. David Biasotti edits the music reviews, Andrew Corbin edits the book review section, Bill Wasserzieher handles the DVD reviews, and Jeremy Cargill helps out on a lot of other fronts, including the proofing and sub-editing of the stories. I handle everything else, including all the administration work, ad sales, shipping, marketing, and so on. It’s a full-time job that keeps me busy 40-50 hours a week at least.

Looking back on the thirty year history of Ugly Things magazine there must be some pieces that you consider the most important and some that you are especially proud of. Would you share a few with our readers?

One of the pieces I’m most proud of is the Misunderstood story, which was serialized over four issues starting with UT#20. I can’t begin to guess how many hours I spent researching that story, interviewing all the band members, and anyone I could find who was even remotely connected with the band. The Misunderstood seemed to consume all my waking moments for several years. But it didn’t feel like work. It was a life experience: I learned so much from it on so many different levels, not just about the band and their music, but about the entire era and how it shaped different individuals in very different, often extraordinary ways. I also formed friendships with some of them that I know will last for the rest of my life. Working together with Rick Brown on our movie screenplay and having Glenn Campbell play on two songs on our last album, and then later performing live with us, were just a few of the unforgettable side effects of doing that story.

There are several other stories over the years that have affected me in similar ways. Not least of those, of course, has been my ongoing relationship with the Pretty Things. I started out as just another naïve fan fawning over them, and now I’m part of their extended family. In 2013, the year I celebrate Ugly Things’ 30th anniversary, the Pretty Things celebrate their own 50th anniversary as a band. There’s a special kind of symmetry or synchronicity in that, I think.

As for your thirty years as a musician, what are your most memorable moments? What do you consider your best compositions? What recording sessions are the most memorable? Would you share a couple “on the road” stories of touring over the years.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. So many memorable moments. Singing “Rosalyn” together with Phil May onstage with the Pretty Things a few years ago was certainly one of them. Also the show we played with Glenn Campbell guesting was unforgettable. When he played his solo during “I Can Take You to the Sun” I felt I was levitating several feet off the floor of the stage. I can’t begin to describe how amazing that felt.

Perhaps the most memorable recording sessions were those for the first Loons album with Ebbot Lundberg as our producer. He really brought out the best in us and our material, and turned it into something special.

I’ll leave it up to the listener to decide what our best compositions are. For me it’s always the next song we’re working on.

Loons, Paris 2005

What does the year 2013 hold in store for Mike Stax? A new album by The Loons? Are there any special recordings slated for release by Ugly Things Records? I know this question isn’t fair, but I have to ask it anyway: Are there plans for any special topics set to be published in Ugly Things magazine in the future that you can share with us? Just had to ask. LOL

Well, 2013 is a landmark year for me because it’s the 30th anniversary of Ugly Things magazine. We have a big three-day celebration in the works for Memorial Day Weekend at the Casbah here in San Diego. There’ll be some great bands playing (including, hopefully, a couple of big names near and dear to the world of Ugly Things – these yet to be confirmed at the time of writing), and we’re also having film screenings, book signings and other fun stuff. Mark your calendars and watch the Ugly Things website and Facebook page for updates.

Hopefully the Loons will finish another album this year. We have six or seven songs already recorded and several more in the works. I’m very excited with the results so far. We’re pushing and pulling in a number of new directions, challenging ourselves to top anything we’ve done before.

The next Ugly Things is due in the spring, and it’ll include my feature on Craig Smith (a.k.a. Maitreya Kali) of the Penny Arkade, a story I’ve been working on for over ten years, and one of the strangest to ever appear in our pages. The issue will also include stories on the Moving Sidewalks, the Nazz, Sands (“Listen to the Sky”), the Focal Point, and Ann Arbor, Michigan’s legendary ‘60s era teen club the Fifth Dimension. Should be a good one.

Mike, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to give our readers a glimpse inside the evolution of Ugly Things, the magazine and the record label and Mike Stax, the musician and journalist. May 2013 be a special year for you and yours and continued success in all your endeavors.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell me story to your readers.

Interview made by Kevin Rathert / 2013
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