Notes from LIQUID GENERATION
The genesis of Liquid Generation can be traced back to my last year of high school. Along with high school friend Cliff Harjo (bass) we jammed informally in my parents’ house. Cliff had never played a musical instrument in his life but was as attracted to ‘60s garage music as I was. I recruited a record store mate, Dirk Kahler, to play guitar. After a number of rehearsals in my parents’ house, the trio, now named Liquid Generation, had a small but powerful set list. The set list comprised of mainly covers such as The Moving Sidewalks‘ “99th Floor,” The Music Explosion’s “A Little Bit Of Soul” and a couple of early Stones songs that have escaped me. In addition to these garage covers, we as a group wrote at least two original compositions, “Shine” and “The Cruel War Rages On.” After performing our one and only show on a boat in early 1982, we took our half-hour set and recorded the highlights of the set at Rubato’s Studios in July 1982. Shortly after these recordings were made, I realized the potential of forming a ‘60s garage band with seasoned musicians. I politely divorced myself from Dirk and Cliff after meeting John “Sky” Branin at Rubato Records, where I worked. I am unclear as to how Jeremy got in the mix but it must have been right around this time that we (Jeremy, Sky and myself) went into Rubato’s Studios and laid down what I consider to be the first real LG song, a cover of Syndicate of Sound’s “Little Girl.” This recording was made in one or two takes with the help of Helena Rogers on bass.
I played in a real garage band back in 1966 in Portland, Oregon, with my buddy Paul Kaza. We were called The Hardtimes, and I played a mean Farfisa organ. We covered The Byrds, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and others of that era. Flash forward to the early 1980s, living in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, I joined a band called The Adults, soon to be re-named The Colorplates, playing what I called 3rd bass. One of the members of that band worked at Rubato Records, the only record store that mattered on the Eastside. One of the other folks who worked there was Randy who played me the tape of “Little Girl” in late 1983. By this point the Colorplates had broken up (see the
Green Monkey website for some of our music), and I had released a solo 45, “Bombsights Over America” b/w “Black Leather.” Randy asked if I’d be interested in playing with him in LG. I said “sure.” We jammed a few times, and I brought in my landlord John Conrard on bass to round out the lineup. I played rhythm guitar, and somewhere I bought a Vox organ that we used for a few songs, like “House of the Rising Sun.” The band rehearsed in basements (including the church where I was a janitor), under a hot tub (where “1/4 To Zen” was written), and a real rehearsal studio or two. We specialized in Nuggets-style songs of the 60’s, as well as songs from Pacific Northwest bands, like The Wailers, etc. plus a few originals. The first songs were by me, then John Branin brought in a couple and Jeremy started writing really killer songs towards the end of the band’s tenure. Since he was 17 and a high school senior, I guess our time as a band was doomed from the start. We were together for more or less one year, 1984. We recorded a few songs with John Rogers (who ran Rubato Records with the aforementioned Helena Rogers) and Tom Dyer, who’d been in The Colorplates and owned TDS Studios (where I recorded my 45) and Green Monkey Records. LG recorded two songs, which would become GM 009, “I Love You” b/w “1/4 To Zen,” released in 1985. We recorded together on occasion or with various members of the band after the break up on different projects, some of which are contained here. We had hoped to bring a little of the “neo-psyche-punk” sound to Seattle. Though we never really had that much of a chance to see how far we could really take it, I think we’re all proud of the time and music we spent & created together.
The bellowing, frightening, guttural, bone-jarring scream was the reason I got into Liquid Generation. The scream is a rock-and-roll-tradition, probably originally from the world of the blues. The scream that introduces a guitar solo has been a mainstay from Little Richard, Gene Vincent to Roger Daltry. It is as rock and roll as the electric guitar. A scream is a yell for the freedom of rock, a purge from the angst of parental control, a cathartic release, a primal statement of youth, a shout against conformity and the mundane – an announcement, a declaration, a call to arms.
It is also something I could do well. I had a good scream.
At the time, I was a high schooler who hung out at Rubato Records in the suburbs of Seattle. The used record store was a hip oasis in a land of suburban dreariness. The second-floor shop on a strip mall was run by edgy musicians – John and Helena Rogers. One of their employees was Randy Nash, also known as Randy Rubato, who was the anti-rock’-n’-roller. Nash could name even the most obscure musical track, from reggae to jazz. But he didn’t look the part of a music nerd. Randy was into baseball … frankly as anti-rock of a sport as there is.
He was knowledgeable about almost every genre – rock, blues, country, jazz, reggae, new wave and garage psyche from the 1960s. I wanted to learn everything from Randy. The guy was basically the pre-Google of rock music. And he had one of the coolest jobs on the planet, selling records and tapes, talking people into good music, building culture in a town that was virtually void of any. And he was in a band. I not only wanted to work at Rubato’s, I wanted to sing in his
band. First, I had to prove I could belt with the best of the rock’n’-rollers. You see, Randy and the rest of the crew looked upon the rock scream the same way many of my high school music nerd friends appreciated the guitar talents of Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhodes and Yngwie Malmsteen.
My chance occurred when Randy and others were recording a version of “Little Girl” by Syndicate of Sound – a song from 1966 from a one-hit wonder band. Syndicate of Sound’s version is jangly and folksy, a bouncy riff that sounded like The Byrds. Our version took that folksy rendition and ran it through the 20 years of music that came after its release, throwing it into the blender with punk, hard rock and blustery singing. If there is any precursor to the grunge sound that would appear five years later and catapult the Northwest music scene into the world’s attention, this is it.
For me, the recording session was my opportunity to let it out and secure a position in the band that I believed would get huge. In that session, I approached the song as if it was my one and only chance at what I thought could be my destiny. I would scream my way into the band. On that recording is John “Sky” Branin on guitar, Helena Rogers on bass and Randy Nash on drums and tambourine. Later, the band would get bigger and better. Bob Blackburn became the group’s rhythm guitarist and was the son of one of my heroes – the radio play-by-play announcer for The Seattle SuperSonics. (As a boy, I would often tape record myself trying to sound like Blackburn). John Conrard also joined on bass.
Blackburn brought a bag of tricks and experience as a rock musician. He had done it professionally, had the equipment and the skills on guitar and keyboards. Conrard also had access to a massive PA system and could thump out a bass line that drove the music.
We were around slightly over a year in the mid-1980s, rehearsing in a studio where bar bands practiced songs from “Flashdance” while we were trying to master songs by the Troggs. We played about a dozen shows throughout the Seattle area. We were scouring obscure 1960s garage punk albums for tough songs, all with that ever-present scream. We recorded several cover songs and wrote a few of our own.
On one recording, a fuzz-toned version of “Hang Up” by The Wailers, a 1960s band from the Northwest, I wanted that intense screaming sound from start to finish. Throughout the recording, I held a can opener, pressing my thumb into the blade to force that sound of pain. The story sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but you cannot deny the result on the recording. We would try to perform that song on stage, saving it until the end because it would shred my voice. Seldom did the stage version match the recording though.
I was the youngest member of the band, often having to get clearance to perform at bars because I was underage. We were an odd assortment, a guy in a Cincinnati Reds cap on drums, a lineup of musicians in their 20s and 30s and me in my teens, screaming bloody murder into the microphone.
The band’s end came after we performed a show at Western Washington University in Bellingham, opening for The Fastbacks. I noticed the campus and the excitement and decided I wanted to enroll. The band was in a weird spot at the time. We practiced nonstop and were about as honed as a quintet as could be. At the time, the Seattle music scene was struggling with few places for bands to perform. So we took a break, recording a few songs here and there over the next few months. My favorite always has been a cover of “Going Out of My Mind,” a song by The Easybeats. We broadcast it on an interview show on the radio station KCMU hosted by Jonathan Poneman, who would go on to found the seminal grunge Seattle record label Sub Pop. I still carry around a recording of that broadcast. At one point while I was in college, a roommate who was a male stripper would play that song for his routine and said it always
drove the ladies crazy. And I don’t even scream on that song.