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August 2019: Chemistry Set – The Incomplete Fabulous Stinking Chemistry Set


It is August. Soon it is time to buy pencils and return to the third grade. Or was it the second? At any rate we are here again with yet another excellent 2019 release – The Incomplete Fabulous Stinking Chemistry Set. We have been threatening to release this for at least 3-4 years. Now the threat is action! Twenty-one slices of janglish history from the bygone grunge era! For Monkey-liers in the know, you will recognize Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Vanderpool as members of topflight GMR acts including King County QueensTom Dyer’s New Pagan GodsThe Green Pajamas and whatnot. This is their roots, when they were mere lads in kippers, shiny with hope and expectation, frolicking locks and petulant attitude. Some press from back when:

Chemistry Set sittingVeronika Kalmar (Backlash): “The complexity of their work enables them to break out of the local dirge and psychedelic stereotypes and achieve a distinct sound belonging to them alone.”

Backlash first annual poll – 1988: Best band #4 – Chemistry Set

Keld Bangsberg (KCMU): “Combine a dash of Young Fresh Fellows fun, a pinch of Rain Parade psychedelia and a squeeze of REM pop, put it on puree and you get a concoction known as Chemistry Set.”

Mr. Sutherland will give us the historical details below, but be assured that I and Reissue Supervisor Howie consider this a proud moment.

In other news, next month, fresh off their triumphant tour of Finland and Deutschland (Germany) we will release the 12” Toiling Midgets album Sea of Tranquility. While I am not certain of dates, I think I can safely say it is their first newly recorded material in one fucking long time. It is quite nice in a distorted guitar nice way.

Jeff Kelly Lisbon Vampire singleThe always prolific Mr. Kelly has a lovely new digital single from his Beneath The Stars, Above the River album “The Lisbon Vampire (Single Version)” b/w “Moon Over Grenada (Acoustic Version)”. It is available on bandcamp  download and streaming services right now.

Richard Peterson Orchestra SevenI have hinted at a famous trumpet-ier release for the last couple months. I can tell you it is a done deal. Hands have been shaken. GMR will release Seven by The Richard Peterson Orchestra, possibly before the end of the year, we shall see. As you may have guessed from the title, this is Richard’s seventh album and we are most pleased to be part of the grand panorama that is the Richard Peterson Experience.

We are also going to be helping our good friends Zelda Starfire and Christine Bowen with a Planned Parenthood benefit show in October and some sore of live album from it though the details are a trifle murky at this time.

As previously stated, there are other items floating about. Dante and Eros Faulk’s second album is likely pushed to next year. Maggie Teachout remains incommunicado and her new work remains secret.

In news I consider quite exciting, The True Olympians will begin recording of the Olympia album this Sunday. The first eight titles being recorded: “Little Hollywood,” “It’s The Capitol,” “Bucketful of Weird,” “Love Rock Revolution,” “Mossy Bottom,” “It’s Mud,” “Olympia My Home” and “Grandma Caught The Shark.” If all goes per plan. Olympia will be a two disc, 30-35 song concept album with extravagant packaging.

Further, I have received word just yesterday that Mr. Al Bloch is recording a 3 song pop masterpiece with his daughter Olivia, which may appear on GMR if it is not snapped up by the majors. “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers, “Ring Ring” by ABBA, and “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Dionne Warwick. I love 3 song pop masterpieces and I know you do too. We are so fortunate the apple does not fall far from the tree.

In the continuing world of videos, Mr. Jeff Kelly has release five videos from his excellent Beneath The Stars, Above The River album. You should watch them all at Green Monkey Records videos! I recently released my third video, ”Barbra,”  for 1+1 + ?, directed by the fabulous Mark Brunke of the Sally Barry group. I am currently working on a video for “Song of Frogs” and “A Girl Named Rainbow” and possible “Death At Mounts Road”. Whew.

That concludes your August GMR news. Now let’s see what Mr. Scott Sutherland has to say about your Chemistry Set.

td Aug 2019


Chemistry Set cigScott: The story of Chemistry Set began with a trip by two Seattle musicians Scott Sutherland and Tom Ewers to Tucson in the mid- 1980s, where they wrote the first joint pieces with local band The Sidewinders (later to become the Sand Rubies), leaning strongly in the direction of REM, Translator, Syd Barrett, and The Softboys . Before heading to Tucson, Sutherland and Ewers played with Rusty Willoughby (Pure JoyFlopLlama) as Second Story, which over the summer of 1984 morphed into the Dwindles with Lisa King and Jim Hunnicutt. The Dwindles gigged regularly with bands like the Walkabouts, Room Nine, and Girl Trouble throughout the SeaTac area. The road-trip to AZ provided the opportunity for Ewers and Sutherland to scheme and dream up something full of guitar jangle, feedback, and melody.

Chemistry Set Purple EPTom Ewers then recruited his old college roommate Scott Vanderpool (formerly of Room Nine) on drums and bassist Bryan Learned to join and Chemistry Set was born. The band began gigging steadily, writing originals and recording whenever and wherever possible. One of their initial recordings, Good Christian, made it on the KCMU tape compilation ” Bands That Will Make Money”.  Too flowery for local labels like Sub Pop and too chaotic for the esteemed Popllama label, the group forged ahead, recording and self-releasing the Chemistry Set-EP in 1987.  The release showed the group cutting their teeth on a diet of American 80’s bands like the Rain Parade, Three O’Clock and the Windbreakers.

Sub Pop 200The band continued gigging all over the Pacific Northwest, opening for acts like Game Theory, Camper Van Beethoven, and Portland’s Miracle Workers, who – along with an increasing obsession with The Damned, Thin White Rope, and Redd Kross – led the Chemistry Set in a less jangly direction. Shortly after the band recorded Underground for the “Sub Pop 200” compilation, Tom Ewers left to pursue a degree in Architecture. He was replaced by Bill Campbell who was among the first few fans to attend regular Fabulous Stinking Chemistry Set singleshows in the early days of the group. Before Tom left for college however, the expanded group cut tracks for a single (“Fabulous Stinking Chemistry Set”) at Velvetone Studios in Ellensburg WA with Steve Fisk, whom the band admired for his work in Pell Mell and production talent behind the Screaming Trees’ SST releases.  In 1989 after the release of the single and a threadbare tour of the western US, Chem Set recorded one last single at Reciprocal Recording enlisting Jack Endino and Steve Fisk as co-producers.  That project was aborted as Chemistry Set closed up shop when Bill Campbell moved on to play guitar in Flop.

In the wake of Chemistry Set, Sutherland went on to play guitar and sing in the power pop group Model Rockets. Later, he eventually teamed up with childhood friends Rusty Willoughby and Jim Hunnicutt in Llama. Scott Vanderpool reunited with Room Nine alumni in Down With People and went even further back to the past when pre-Chemistry Set era group Young Pioneers got reactivated. Bryan Learned also joined in on bass until his duties as a commercial airline pilot took him elsewhere.  In 2012 Sutherland and Vanderpool collaborated as King County Queens, releasing an album’s worth of guitar-driven psych rock before dissolving a few years later.

# # #

Howie: The Incomplete Fabulous Stinking Chemistry Set includes all of the legendary “Purple EP,” the Sub Pop 200 effort “Underground,” a lone single “Look Over Your Shoulder c/w Failure,” unreleased single sessions recorded as they were falling apart and 9 other slabs of previously unreleased fabulous stinking Chemistry Set. All digital for the first time.

Remastered from the original Chemistry Set tapes by Green Monkey Records guru Tom Dyer.

You know you’ve been waiting for this.


Chemistry Set at RenFair
Photo by Tracy Rudzitis

Bry Learned: bass Tracks 1-6, 13-19
Scott Sutherland: guitar & vocals
Scott Vanderpool: drums & vocals
Tom Ewers: guitar 1-7, 10, 13-19, bass 17-18
Bill Campbell: bass 7, guitar 8-12

Hand tinted Alester by Randy Willoughby
Reissue Supervision by Howie Wahlen
Remaster by Tom Dyer

liner notes:
so, the place is seattle, – 1985-1989. some band associations include young pioneers, dwindles, opal, playing shows with friends pure joy, & room nine, named by room nine’s light guy, influenced by beer, big star, beatles, damned, byrds, soft boys, the church, buzzcocks, pink floyd, among others…did not fit neatly into the emerging scene, perhaps due to a strong fondness for jangly guitars although distortion & feedback were equally admired. an ultimately brief existence that fills a gap in any attempt to understand the music of seattle in the second half of the 80s blah blah blah

or just a not famous band from seattle in the late 80s

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