Well, well, well. It is time once again for the Holy GMR Streamin’ Album of the Month. The month = MAY. The Star =Pip McCaslin! The Album = BLUE SNAKE SHOES!
Now there are about one-halfa-million musicians in Seattle who know Pip because he made CDs for them at Realtime or going back in the wayback machine – CASSETTES! I am guessing however there is a bunch of the guys and gals who have never actually heard the Pip-Man in action. Hell, I haven’t even heard this in over 20 years, so here we go!
Here’s my version of the Pip story.
Pip grows up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, home of America’s original progressive college Antioch, started by Horace Mann. Pip, like most good Yellow Springs kids, gets out of town. He takes the Horace Greeley “Go West, young man” approach and ends up in Olympia to go to progressive hippy college Evergreen. Supposedly he has been tricked into coming out by George Romansic (who is not from Yellow Springs, he’s from Jersey I think) to start a band. He gets to Olympia and George, who later drums for the Beakers, 3 Swimmers and Danger Bunny, doesn’t even own a set of drums (Pip sez – nor does he actually know how to play drums at this point). Pip does the “Greener” thing with George, Bruce Pavitt, Chris Pugh, Steve Fisk, John Foster and probably Calvin. Along the way Pip has a band Millions of Bugs (coulda been Millions of Bass’s), and Koo Stark (with Scott Vanderpool of Chemistry Set, KISW and Green Pajama fame) named after a soft porn actress who scandalously dated some British price or some such. He graduates and moves to Seattle. Later on he starts a band called Go Fish and plays in The Hanks (The Haps). Gets hitched up with a nice Yella’ Springs gal.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. In 1984, he is ready to record his masterpiece Blue Snake Shoes, which I am listening to this very minute. I didn’t hear it in 1984. Not ‘til ’85. I had started my little label and after duping hundreds of tapes myself, using three cassette decks, I’d had enough of that. When I put out the Bombardiers – Fight Back, I looked in The Rocket (defunct Seattle rock rag) and saw an ad for Realtime Duplication, home of many fine Nakamichi cassette decks. I dialed up and was Pip’s first customer. Along the way I figured out Pip made a pile of his own enjoyable racket. As a result, I not only included Pip on the 1986 Monkey Business compilation, but if you look on the inner sleeve of the of that album, in the “other fine products available from GMR” section – BLUE SNAKE SHOES!
Scott & Pip (right) with Nakamichis
It was the beginning of a beautiful if casual friendship. Around ’88 or so me and Pip had the White Mule Family, with Karl from the PJs on drums, under the nome de plumes, Doober, Goober and I forget the third. Basically Pip knew one hundred Johnny Cash songs and I was willing to mangle the bass on ‘em all. Pip recently unearthed a live cassette of WMF I have not yet had the time or courage to listen to, but I will soon.
More importantly, Pip found the “Definitive Dub Master” for Blue Snake Shoes which I have digitized for your historical and musical listening pleasure. Somebody might say that Pip sounds like Buddy Holly singing for XTC with the “crazy bass” turned up loud. They would be wrong. He is more off kilter than that.
Blue Snake Shoes was released as a cassette only project with Pip doing everything on his little 4-track except some vocals on Without Food, which were done by Truax. Ask Pip about that.
I heard this for the first time in over 20 years last week. I liked it just as much as I did then. If you haven’t heard it for 20 years either, you are gonna have fun. If you haven’t ever heard it, just be ready to jump in and dig the semi-tidy sounds of Pip-Rock!
td April 2010
PS Howie adds, “American’s Like That?”
and now … PIP WEIGHS IN!
Before “Pip does the Greener thing” you should mention that George and I were ultimately successful with forming that band: Planet Zero (George Drums, Me Bass, Mark Smith guitar and Steve Layton aka Monster X on keyboards). We played a truly mindbending show in “the Pit” at A Dorm with Steve Fisk, during which the ends of my fingers split open and bled all over my instrument. I recall it was during a 40-minute-long Velvet Underground cover song).
I dropped-out, moved up to Seattle in ’79 and started The Shivers with Dana Woodaman and Keith Meicho. Returned to Oly in ’80. Recorded “Kitty’s In The Dryer” (soon to be re-released) with Drew Cannulette in the school 8-track studio.
While you’re name-droppin’ Greeners you could throw in Matt Groening (editor of the Cooper Point Journal at the time) and Linda Barry, cartoonist. I know they’re not music peeps, but the effect of their inclusion might be interesting. You could mention the fact that you yourself are a Native Son of Olytown somewhere, too (Tom sez- heck yeah I am – graduated from Oly High School!).
Millions of Bugs’ big claim-to-Rock fame was 1. Winning the Thurston County Battle of the Bands and 2. Opening up for Romeo Void (“I might like you better if we slept together”) with the Cowboys at the Eagles Auditorium in Lacey, WA, ’81.
George also played with Joanie in the amazing Little Bears From Bangkok.
Regarding the recording of Blue Snake Shoes:
All recorded on a Fostex 4-track cassette multitrack. In ’84.
God Given Right, Start Again & Water Street engineered by Drew Cannulette at Dogfish Sound in Tigard, Oregon.
All others engineered by Pip in Seattle.
Pip played a homemade drumset with chopsticks on all the Seattle sessions (cardboard box kickdrum, pots & pans).
Guitar was a genuine Stella.
Uh, I think that’s it.