Endless Boogie interview with Paul Major
Hi Paul, how are you? I’m really glad we can finally talk about Endless Boogie and about your amazing music knowledge. Where did you grow up and what were some of the first influences?
I’m doing good & I’m also glad to talk to you about records & Boogie action. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and first became aware of rock music at the very end of 1966 when I was a 12 years old. Top 40 pop radio was filled with fuzz guitars and go-go organ with songs like Talk Talk, Psychotic Reaction, We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet, 96 Tears… as soon as I got my first dose of fuzz psych guitar I was a goner some months later all the money I made mowing lawns was spent on records. Early influences were those garage punk psych 45s and soon after LPs in a similar bag but I broadened out quickly, buying used LPs in head shops on Bardstown Road and cut-outs at K-Mart on Taylorsville Road and a store downtown named Tiff’s mainly… also King’s Records. I used to examine each LP closely before deciding, looking for long tracks with names that made me think ‘this is the music that tripping is supposed to be like’. I read Hit Parader magazine as they had reviews of underground LPs in the back, and before long got subscriptions to Rolling Stone & Creem… got totally obsessed with psychedelic rock. My favorites early on included Ultimate Spinach, Velvet Underground, MC5, Fifty Foot Hose, Silver Apples, St. John Green… lots of obscure ones along with the usual Jimi Hendrix Experience, Kinks, Stones, Canned Heat, Beatles, Doors, Yardbirds, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape etc. All those late ’60s LPs are my primary influences. Especially fuzz guitars… I had a plastic toy guitar when I was 12 that I covered with psychedelic crayon art & I put a pencil at the bridge so the strings would buzz in an approximation of distortion. I learned lots of basic riffs on it, Cream, Jimi, until I got my first real guitar a couple years later.
Were you in any bands as a teenager?
No bands as a teen, just some jams in basements, I was pretty isolated until I was 16 when I found my first circle of friends who were into getting stoned and playing music, having mischievous adventures, we jammed both electric and acoustic, in particular a guy named Robert Davis who I used to play versions of Donovan songs with… not until I was in college in St. Louis in 1972 did I meet up with someone to start a band with, Wolf Roxon. We had a band thru the mid ’70s named the Moldy Dogs. Stooges, Kinks, Velvets covers mixed with originals from acid folk to punk psych. The story on that band is coming out in Ugly Things written by Jack Partain in the near future.
How did you guys came together?
Endless Boogie started out in the late ’90s as Tuesday night jams when Johan Kugelberg & Jesper Eklow had the idea to have a band named after the John Lee Hooker album. No intentions beyond getting together and raising a racket for a few hours. Mark Ohe played bass also and that was it for several years until we got talked into opening for the NYC debut Jicks show in 2001. After that we started playing when somebody asked us, and eventually it got to be a fairly regular thing.
You released your first album in 2005, in fact two albums called just Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Well, we got on the bill at the Slint ATP Festival in the UK and decided everybody would have stuff for sale and it would be lame if we didn’t have something, so we made the 500 press ‘black’ album. In fact it came back just in time, but without covers, so the 50 copies we took to the ATP had white covers with black rubber stampings, the reverse of the other 450. The 2nd LP that people call the ‘white’ album was pressed in 300 copies with two cover variations numbered 150, half were given out as party favors at Johan’s 40th birthday party, and the rest sold or given away by the band. The tracks on them came from our endless pile of rehearsal space live tapes. Wish I’d have kept a few, as they pull $$ now, I actually found a copy of the 2nd LP on the street from a books/records dealer in my neighborhood and sold it last year for over $200 on auction… somebody had ditched their party favor! We might do a double LP reissue of the two at some point.
In 2008 you released Focus Level, which is such a blast! Endless Boogie fans often say that we have to see you on stage.
We did Focus Level mostly as jams, recorded about 4-5 hours of music in the studio live, some were riffs we had down and others spontaneous on the spot. Then we went thru it all and picked ones to tart up a bit, or turn into a song, add a vocal here, a guitar there, but keep the original live feel. Some are the straight up jam, no additions, some got played around with a little. Live shows have always been the same with us, we just get up and go on a few ‘songs’, see where they take us, different every time. The change in the live shows was only that we played songs off the album more as jumping off points for the jams. We don’t plan a set or think about stage moves… we just get up & rock in the moment.
Full House Head followed. This year you also released another album called The Skinless Ogress Revolution, Which Feeds On Human Sacrifice.
Full House Head was recorded similar to the previous album, a few hours live in the studio, choosing some jams out of that and then tarting it up a bit with minimal overdubs. The title came from ‘Empty Eye’ where I popped about a dozen verses out of my head and picked the best ones. ‘Mighty Fine Pie’ came out of jams but was actually arranged a bit, one of the few things we do with actual chord changes. Usually Jesper comes up with the core riff or feel, and we jam on it and grab on to a couple things that happen, then call it a song. ‘Skinless Ogress Revolution’ was a 100 copy edition CD Jesper hand made to sell at gigs for a west coast tour, taken from the huge pile of tapes we’ve made at rehearsals over the years.
Any future plans?
We’re about to record the next album, have no idea what is going to happen until we do it, but we have a batch of newer riffs to jam on and see what they turn into. The words will mostly come by free associating in my head while the jams occur. One thing we don’t have is any idea what the album will sound like until we make it, except that it will sound somewhat like the others.
Any plans to visit Europe?
We’ve been to Europe a few times, usually based on a festival gig like ATP or Primavera, Jesper pulls together some more shows to do while we’re over there and it turns into a tour. We did a short one a few weeks ago, had a blast meeting people, eating killer food. The crowds were psyched so we got psyched and the shows were all smokers.
When did you begin collecting records and at what point have you become interested in more rare releases?
My record obsession started in late 1966 when I was 12 years old. I was somewhat aware of the Beatles, Stones, etc. but didn’t really tune in until I first heard garage psychedelic fuzz guitars and started reading about the San Francisco scene, which instantly changed my life. I dove right in, spending every penny on records, at first mostly 45s, then a few LPs, then a lot of both. The songs that ‘launched’ me were “Pushing To Hard”, “Talk Talk”, “Psychotic Reaction”… all those great hit singles. It was a good time for buying records, as many of the major label LPs (especially the obscure ones) would pop up in the cut out bins at K-Mart near my house for prices under a dollar. Between that and going to the head shops and used record stores I got amazing things early on. Velvet Underground, Silver Apples, Morgen, Ultimate Spinach… anything that looked like it might sound like tripping, I grabbed, carefully reading the liner notes, looking for long tracks with freaky titles… and of course the cover designs in those days sucked me in. By the late ’60s record hunting was a bonanza that went on for years. One Louisville head shop/record store used to price all the used LPs funny amounts like 57 cents, $1.22, $2.07… and that’s where I got my first copy of Easter Everywhere for 29 cents. I made no distinction between major label and private pressings, just tried anything cheap that looked weird. I got interested in rare LPs in the mid ’70s in St. Louis as I became more aware of import LPs, that bands I liked a US release by had other LPs that didn’t come out here… and I saw some LPs pulling more $$$ than others. It wasn’t until I hit NYC in 1978 and saw collector shops that I realized a lot of the stuff I had was worth considerable money… Moving Sidewalks, Chocolate Watchband, Elevators, and so on. I ran into Jack Streitman at a record fair and he showed me a long want list of mysterious private pressings, that was when I realized these other LPs I had like Kristyl or Kenneth Higney were of interest to someone besides myself. I was in a band at the time, did a day ‘job’ that was more hanging out and partying to loud music than work at Village Oldies, and soon I realized I could hit the thrift shops, used record stores, flea markets a few times a month and find plenty of vinyl to pay my bills… so I quit the job and started dealing records then. There was little knowledge of private pressings, only a few things like the C.A. Quintet, Rising Storm, Plastic Cloud were expensive, most shops put all the privates in the cheapest section, so it was a classic kid in a candy store vibe. I started putting ads in Goldmine and connected with other people around the world, had them send me boxes of obscure stuff from their area for trade credit. Then I started my catalogs and the big search for unknown monsters.
What are some of the early examples of records, that you found, while browsing through stacks and stacks of records? I know one of your favourite is Kenneth Higney’s album called Attic Demonstration. I was lucky enough to interview Kenneth.
Kenneth Higney’s LP was a watershed moment for me… before that I was more focussed on hard rock bands, psychedelic music, garage punk and the likes, whether major label or private press. The force of honest expression mixed with the sound of that LP blew my mind as well as made me keenly aware of the concept of someone putting their own record out. I felt like I was inside the artist’s head when I played it. Ken had sent three copies in late 1977 to a house I was living at with other musicians in New Jersey and soon after I moved into NYC and started looking for more homemade records. I got offered substantial $$$ for my Higney and that motivated me to track down the other copies a few years later. That led me to Fraction as a side benefit, since one of those three copies of Attic Demonstration was kept by a friend who had managed a later country rock band that a Fraction member played in. It was the only other private pressing he had, needless to say it blew my mind and I tracked four sealed copies of Fraction down later from a band member. That was the start of my tracking artists down, soon I had found Gandalf The Grey, Higney, Peter Grudzien, Bobb Trimble, New Dawn, etc. Private pressings that I had early include Kristyl, Oxfords, Wizard, Gandalf The Grey, Marcus, Trimble when they were only a few years old. One of my big early trades in the early ’80s was my spare Circuit Rider for a gatefold Damon. I had copies of LPs the Detroit dudes turned up as well, Mystic Siva, Boa… back then I even took trade copies sealed of Siva, Boa, Marcus etc. to the UK for trade bait but nobody would bite even though I was only asking $200 in trade credit for ’em. The UK private pressings were mostly undiscovered then so it didn’t matter, I bought everything cool looking that was cheap. The top score of course was Dark for 10 pounds, in a collector shop with rare LPs on the walls it was the usual for back then… all the best stuff was in the cheapo bins.
What were some of your favourite places to search for LP’s? Rich Haupt once told, that he found many new stuff while traveling and searching for undiscovered gems…
My favorite places to search were college town used record stores, flea markets, thrift shops… any place there were lots of used records or cut-outs. So few people were looking for what I was that I’d discover some new mindblower almost weekly. I never took lots of road trips like some of my friends, I tended to swap boxes of private pressings with others in different cities and tell them to send me anything remotely interesting and when something is special, I’ll pay well, the ones that suck I’ll send back or throw away. There was a great sense of adventure back in the early days late ’70s through the ’80s… I became quite addicted to the thrill of thumbing through a shop full of old LPs and getting a rush when something mysterious and unknown appears. The internet changed it all, of course, now when I look in used shops I figure anything really good they came across never made it into the bins. The upside is that all this music is instantly available and so many younger kids I meet have heard it, I never imagined a day when ‘Mind Flowers’ would have a million listens on a system called youtube. Back in the ’80s it could take years to get ahold of something you really wanted to hear. If I had more time I’d hunt the internet for great things that slip between the cracks. I did recently manage to get back one of my favorite unknown LPs (I had sold the only other known copy to pay a couple months rent) for $25 on eBay.
You once told me, that you interviewed some artists.
I haven’t really done many interviews with the makers of these great records, back when I was tracking people down it was more a personal thing to know more about them and to get ahold of copies. Steve Morgen is an exception, Mike Ascherman, Al Rohde and I did an extensive interview with him in the ’90s that sits on a cassette in Sweden, part transcribed. We were hoping to reissue the LP on our label Parallel World, but MCA wanted too much $$$ to make it possible. Some artists I never even talked to, like the case of the New Dawn where I only ever spoke with a girlfriend of the producer, a year of prodding to finally score a box of copies. Others like Peter Grudzien and Bobb Trimble I was in contact with over many years. Marcus I met with once, spending an evening at the House of Trax. Gandalf the Grey I met with at his mother’s house to get a box and see some LP acetates of earlier material he had given her (they had cool homemade covers as well). Raven ‘Back To Ohio Blues’ led to no LPs but the phone call was insane. It’s hard to recall how many I tracked now, but more than once the person was convinced I was a friend playing a practical joke on them, since I was the first person who ever actually wanted to buy copies of their LP. Someday I’m going to write a thing on those experiences and also the early days of collecting/dealing these type records… the strange characters, anecdotes, etc. One thing I remember fondly is how whenever somebody re-used a record mailer to send me records they always tore off the address of the guy they got it from so I wouldn’t elbow in on their source. I did it, too, of course. You would get a lot of tapes where the sender wouldn’t tell you the name of the LP, too, and for good measure they’d scramble the track sequence and leave off a couple songs.
How about these days; are you still searching for records?
I do think most actual existing great monster LPs have been found, although the unreleased tapes out there must be endless, as I even have crazy ones of my own. Back in the ’80s/’90s it seemed like a big discovery was made almost every day by somebody. Now it’s a few a year. The time frame moves on, there are certainly many gems buried in the avalanche of private pressings that came after the punk explosion of the late ’70s, things the right ears have not encountered yet that recognize something unique and special. I doubt many more will be emerging from the ’60s to mid ’70s, but the years after that will continue to ripen, things will keep appearing. I don’t even want to think about what treasure is hidden in the millions of obscure CD titles out there in cheapo bins. Now that the world is all plugged in thru the internet it is harder for some newly issued item to get lost and buried allowing for future discovery. I am still searching and find a winner every so often. I doubt I will repeat the thrill level of that first spin of unknown LPs like ‘The Unicorn’, Moonblood’, ‘Harvest Of Dreams’, ‘Round The Edges’ etc…. those moments when my already high hopeful expectations are ludicrously exceeded to the point where I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming them up.
Would you like to send a message to our readers?
The wider you cast the net, the more monsters you will catch. In the end it is moot whether they are rare or not, what matters is if you like them. There is more great life changing music out there than time to hear it. Don’t dip the needle in too quickly, some music takes awhile to reveal itself. If you play a record all the way through twenty seven times when you are in twenty seven different moods and still can’t decide if it’s a keeper… it isn’t! Beware those LPs you think you should like but keep leaving you underwhelmed! Also there is a book coming out next August compiling reviews and descriptions from my ’80s and ’90s catalogs.
– Klemen Breznikar