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On the Bandwagon: The non punk records of SST Records.

When one thinks of SST records they think of classic punk like Black Flag, The Descendents, The Minutemen etc. SST is more known for hardcore punk than anything else and they put out some classic albums by some classic bands. SST was started by Greg Ginn, who founded Black Flag, in Black Flag’s later albums like “Slip It In”, Greg and the crew slipped in heavy chords and dissonant solos and they were accused of “selling out” and “going metal”. Greg got pissed at that and was one guy that didn’t want to stagnant as a writer or player, he said something along the lines of “It shouldn’t be too much as a band to practice your instruments once in awhile”. It would make sense that Greg would sign acts that went into different territory on to his label, this earned the derision of the punk hipsters in the scene. Fuck them, not many people know the non punk acts of SST so without further ado and not in any order here is most (not all) of the non punk acts of SST records.

1.Overkill L.A.

Sounding like fried, burned to death Motorhead, Overkill L.A. started as as a hardcore punk band, in fact, their first E.P. “Hotter Than Hell” was O.K. punk music, however, on their 1985 album “Triumph of the Will” they went for the throat mixing hardcore punk with speed metal, the result wasn’t thrash, it was pure Motorhead worship. I can’t recommend “Triumph of the Will” enough, its a killer album I’ve listened to on repeat. There was a lot of band changes, people getting pissed at each other for stupid comments, dumb drunken behavior and “Yoko” girlfriends. Overkill L.A. had one of their songs put on “Metal Massacre 2” that was a different version than appeared on their studio album and their first singer was more of high pitched hair metal singer who they ditched in favor of the crazy Merrill Ward. At first when Ward quit, Ginn wasn’t even gonna release the album, Felice Lococo talked Greg into it after getting Merrill on board again to do lyrics and vocals. Overkill LA had to change their name when the New Jersey thrash metal act, Overkill, copy righted their name.

2. DC3

Dez Cadena of Black Flag started the band in 1983 and their sound was a far away as possible from Black Flag. Psychedelic Stoner Hard Rock is more like it and its fucking beautiful, along with Dez was Kurt Markham on drums and Kira Roessler on bass until she left for Black Flag, her brother Paul stepped in and played bass and keyboards. This is one band I really dig on and was forerunner of the stoner/doom metal movement that would come in the 1990’s alternative rock explosion. “Your Only Blind As Your Mind Can Be” is a fucking killer album, mushrooms and pot smoke down the hatch!

3. Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus were out and out Sabbath worshipers their sound was dipped in sludgy muck of Osbourne/Iommi/Ward/Butler, started in 1979 they were in the second wave of doom metal along with Pentagram, Candlemass and Trouble, they weren’t into snorting coke off the spandex clad asses of groupies, they were more into drinking cheap beer, smoking good weed and banging hair pie, as a result they were hard to peg in the hair metal go go 1980’s. Greg Ginn was a huge fan and took them along on shows and tours with Black Flag, some punks hated their guts being dumb fucking elitist hipsters, but some warmed up to them, Chandler said “the heavy metal fans at the time hated us, and so did the punk rockers, but the punk rockers grew to appreciate us”. Saint Vitus would be among some of the best retro hard rock bands to come out in the 1980’s. At first the band consisted of Scott Reagers on vocals, Mark Adams on bass, Armando Acosta on drums, and Dave Chandler on guitar, that was on the first two albums self titled and “Hallow’s Victim”, after Reagers quit Scott “Wino” Weinrich from the doom band Obsessed joined in 1986 on the album “Born Too Late” my favorite of the band’s albums and the line up hasn’t changed since. Some people like Reager’s voice better than Weinrich, I like them both.

4. Wurm

Chuck Dukowski who went to play with Black Flag, started Wurm in 1973 and continued the band after Black Flag broke up. Wurm is considered the godfathers of Sludge Metal. Wurm recorded an album in 1977 but the tapes were destroyed after they stiffed the studio on payment. Wurm split apart because that is what good bands do and Chuck joined a band called Panic which had Greg Ginn in it and would change its name to Black Flag, during a Black Flag hiatus Chuck brought Wurm back and recorded a three song E.P. in 1982 “We’re Off/I’m Dead/Time Has Come Today (cover)” they then added Simon Smallwood from the band Dead Hippie as vocalist and recorded the fucking awesome “Feast” and released it in 1985 on SST records. “Feast” is a killer, its blistering, nasty, hard rock that smashes your face in. Greg Ginn and company had good musical tastes.

5. SWA

This is one band a lot of people like to shit on in the SST Records roster and I don’t see why, they are a hard band to pin down, are they punk? Are they hard rock? Are they pop rock? Jazz rock? Experimental? Listening to a SWA song is like saying “WTF?” Those are the bands I like. The name was picked by alphabets to numbers and rolling dice, SWA came up, again Chuck Dukowski came up with the concept of the band and when Wurm fell apart Chuck recruited a teenage drummer who hung out around SST records, Greg Cameron, Ted Falconi of the band Flipper joined on guitar, but that version of the band was short lived. The group was soon joined by Merrill Ward of the aforementioned band Overkill LA on vocals, Richard Ford of Frantic Technoids on guitar, and Greg Cameron’s friend Ray Cooper on guitar in 1985, the band recorded their first album “Your Future If You Have One” which was produced by Greg Ginn. The band continued to change line ups, this is a strange band no doubt, I’d recommend “Evolution” which collects all their recordings from 1985-1987. Check this band out.

6. Zoogz Rift

A one man killing machine and amateur professional wrestler, Zoogz Rift was one of a kind and the type of guy I like, he didn’t give two fucks about what people thought about him or his music. Whatever crazy idea he had he ran with it, this man was genre defying and didn’t like to be tied down. SST Records re released his older albums and newer material because nobody else would. Zoogz has said he took inspiration from many sources like Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Salvador Dali and Ayn Rand (!). Wow so you know what your headed for if you dip your ears in this audio acid, as for Zoogz fray into professional wrestling, Zoogz booked the Universal Wrestling Federation in 1993, he left in 1994 but returned in 1995 to become Vice President of the UWF along with  founder Herb Abrams after Abrams died in 1996. Zoogz did a online show commenting on professional wrestling called “Puke-A-Mania”, his wrestling career was ended when Lex Luger torture racked him and injured him. Zoogz passed away in 2011 from complications of diabetes. I recommend the awesome and weird “Ipecac”.

7. Tar Babies

Another SST Records fray into psychedelic rock, Tar Babies was a weird combo of jazz, psychedelic and avant garde craziness, Acid Punk if you will. The band formed in 1982, the original line up was Jeremy Davies on vocals, Bucky Pope on guitars, Dan Bitney on drums and Robin Davies on bass, the guys came from different bands with different sounds and they came together to create this audio mutant. Their first two albums “Face the Music” and “Respect Your Nightmares” were released on their own label Bone Air Music, but their next album “Fried Milk” was put out by SST Records. In my opinion, “Fried Milk” is their best album acid freaked, experimental rock to the hilt done right. Their later albums would have a more funk sound, I enjoy all of their albums. A band that decided to go out on the limb of Weird Tree as far as they could go.

8. Lawndale

Nothing beats a reverb soaked Surf instrumental after listening to bad acid trip, avant garde black or death metal, a cool blue tropical drink of a Surf instrumental gets rid of that weird after taste. Lawndale toasts that drink to those masters of yesteryear like Dick Dale and Link Wray. There is no dumb vocals that get in the way of the music, ride the wave, baby, ride the wave. When SST had retro acts like Saint Vitus, DC3, Tar Babies and Lawndale they did it right. A band from, where else, Lawndale, CA and oddly enough SST Records mailing address but not their physical address, the band was started in 1984 by Rick Waddell aka Rick Lawndale on guitar and Jack Skelley on bass, on second guitar was Steve Housden and on drums was Dave Childs naming themselves after the city they were from. Greg Ginn signed them and they released the fucking awesome “Beyond Barbecue” and the still awesome “Sasquatch Rock” as well as numerous compilations.  They split in 1987 but Rick revived the band in 1997 under the Rick Lawndale Band. Search these guys out and ride the wave! LA Weekly described them as “The Ventures meet Led Zeppelin in Don Knott’s living room”. Pretty apt description.

9. October Faction

While October Faction was a band rooted in punk, October Faction’s tree branched and strengthened in avant garde jazz and psychotic hard rock. The members were SST Records regulars Chuck Dukowski on bass, Greg Cameron on drums, Greg Ginn on guitar, Joe Baiza from the punk band Saccharine Trust on second guitar and Tom Troccoli from Troccoli’s Dog on vocals and they were mainly a instrumental jam band. Their first album is a live recording from 1985 that is self titled and this is my favorite of their two albums, this is where the experimentalism rears its ugly, mutated head. The back and forth jamming of the players in created something that partakes of jazz, punk and hard rock with equal fever. Their second album “Second Factionalization” is a studio recording, still good but not as insane or dangerous as their first live recording.

So there you have it! Unlike a lot of punk labels, SST Records wasn’t afraid to go into different musical territory, even if it meant dying of thirst and hunger. I am sure I am leaving off bands, SST Records had two different labels under its umbrella, Cruz Records and Issues Records which released a spoken word album by NBA Celtic legend Bill Walton with Ray Manzarek of the Doors doing background music. In the late 1980’s Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. soured on the financial practices of SST and went elsewhere. Sub Pop started to gain more prominence and became the underground label in the 1990’s. SST went into hibernation when noise/sound collage act Negativland sued SST after Negativland’s kerfuffle with U2 over sampling, SST agreed to hand over masters to Negativland in exchange for completing a planned live album along with keeping the original three albums for a short period. In the 1990’s Ginn only kept the catalog of the punk classics, some bands sued to get their rights back. In 2002 Ginn signed a deal with Koch records and digital music distributor, The Orchard, released a bunch of SST Record acts on I tunes and e music in 2006.

While SST Records is known for classic punk, people forget their rich back catalog of non punk acts, most of which was the womb of what would become the alternative rock/metal movement. The Stoner/Doom/Garage Rock/Metal scene owes a debt they can never repay to SST Records.

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White Noise Eardrum Buster: “Incredibly Strange Metal” that stopped living and became mixed up music.

I like any band or group that goes out of their way to find the upper limits of white noise and push music across boundary lines, people who break the “sound barrier” so to speak. Granted some of the results aren’t the greatest but I like people who take risks with little skill and in the process birth into existence something twisted, original and new. When it comes to metal I love the experimental end of the spectrum, the weirder and more twisted the better, bands like Mr. Bungle and John Zorn’s Naked City make my day, I approve of any band that tries something different in their genre. This comp documents that music. Granted some of this stuff isn’t “metal” but more “hard rock”, but these were bands who tried to sound a certain way but ended up putting their personal stamp on the sound. Foreign bands in particular, especially the ones behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, only heard Western music via pirate radio and renegade European and American military radio signals and then interpreted that sound their way behind closed doors for fear of being arrested by the secret police.

From what I have gathered from the now defunct “Obscuro” blog,  this was compiled by “The Corroseum” blog which is still around, a company in Europe, “Lust Fungus”, put this out in 2002 on CD R. The cover apes the book and CD covers of the “Incredibly Strange Music” series put out by the “RE/Search” crew. Boy did they unearth some white noise, weirdness track number one features the Russian band Oblachnyi Kraj with “Sazhaj Korneplody Uyrschlvag Luk!” A stomping, psychedelic metal number with ripping guitars and swirling keyboards and shouted lyrics, your off to a rip roarin’ start, like a batch of bad acid. The next two tracks are by the elusive Damien Storm,  “Frakenstein’s Castle of Sorcery” starts with what sounds like a Halloween sound effects record playing in back, out of tune guitars and Damien trying to hit Dio vocal highs but cracking, “Realms of Destiny” follows the same formula, I get the impression the guy plays all the instruments on his albums like the awesome Dwarr. Tracks Quadro and Cinco are done by a Nepali hard rock band called The Crisis based out of Katmandu, and boy do they wear their foreign influences on their sleeve, both tracks “Kolahal Ma” and “Maya Boki Aau” carry strange tunings and timings, very exotic sounding, wish I could find the full length album, it isn’t anywhere for sale, even on discogs.  The next two are done by Belgian hard rock band Kuster and boy oh boy, I was rolling on the ground laughing hard when these two tracks hit my ears, “All A Live” and “Love A Bit”, this is a band attempting to sound like 1980’s era Ozzy Osbourne, but they lack the skill and come out sounding like Black Flag era “Slip It In”, that is not a bad thing either, the singer is completely out of time and tone deaf, I love this fucking band, their full length is a god damn ripper, more hardcore punk with a metallic edge even though they call themselves “hard rock”. Next up is a one man band (HELL TO THE FUCKING YES!) Exmortes who attempts to sound evil and mysterious as the first wave of black and death metal bands of those days, again the guy doesn’t have the skill, all he seems to do is repeat lines of lyrics, he doesn’t even sing, and it sounds like he is reciting the lyrics through his pillow while the same see sawing riff plays in the back with a drum machine, it has to be heard to be believed, both songs “Forced to Be Silent” and “Creed of the Eternal” are mishap masterpieces, I searched out and found all of his output which really isn’t that much. Everybody hates Exmortes, I am not one of them. Next up on the list is Drakar with “Tunelem Zp├ítky” the cascading, snarling riff gets stuck in your head, the singer isn’t in tune with the riff and the vocals are manipulated, another good oddity out of the Czech Republic. Following that is Morsure, with the song “No Moral” that features shouted punk French vocals again out of sync with the rest of the music over thrash guitars, bass and a blast beat drum machine, the band’s full length “Acceleration Process” is pretty awesome, the same craziness with some songs having a Motorhead vibe to them. A comp of bizarre, left field metal wouldn’t be complete without the Italian doom band Black Hole and their song “Blind Men and Occult Forces” slow and plodding metal with a whining synth organ in back and vocals trying to hit highs but not succeeding, find their full length “Realms of Mystery” with crayon created cover, lovely weirdness all over. The Runaways, yes the same all girl proto glam punk band featuring Joan Jett and Lita Ford, try to do a metal song called “S-P-E-E-D M-E-T-A-L”, the song is anything but speed metal, its a hard rock number that isn’t fast and leans more towards the punk side of things, but since its The Runaways its a must listen. Who’s next? The Russian band Legion with the jaw dropping “Hold On” the song starts as a straight ahead death metal tune then descends in to female jazz singing, swinging jazz bass and guitar, the type of song you’d hear in a sleazy and smoky lounge in Las Vegas, I love this fucking tune, this is sure to piss off a lot of Death Metal purists, who cares, fuck em’. And then we charge straight ahead into Torn Flesh with their self titled track, a religious thrash band whose singer sounds like he is gurgling marbles and a “clean” singer shouting about Jesus dying on the cross, the guitars and drums are all over the place. A must listen, just like their follow up track “Gay Rights?!” Complete with lyrics like “Its Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, the same marble vocals and a annoying and snarling riff with shouted background vocals, then a barking dog getting hit with a shoe. Yep you heard that right, God damn or should I say “Gosh damn”. Next up to bat is the Czech lunatic Svaty Vincent with “Krucifix”.  Svaty is another unique individual that has his own vision of what music should be, in this case its experimental black metal, riffs, bass, guitar and synth going in all directions while he shouts in Czech like a demonic maniac, I have posted his hard to find live self titled debut album here http://www.noisepuncher.net/2020/12/13/all-hail-svaty-vincent-1990/

A kid’s metal band? Is that what you want? Hell yeah! Give me my “Transformers” sippy cup. This band is Secret Metal with “The Cop”, so apparently in the late 1980’s in Sweden a youth group decided to have their members record a comp album with New Wave, Punk and Metal tunes, that album is “Girls and Boys Helge 87” which I will get around to posting about one of these days, “The Cop” is a track off that album. Siren and shooting sound effects, out of tune guitars, drums that fall down stairs and kids singing about running from the police and getting shot, tracks like these make comp albums like these a must have. Want more on your plate? Then you got “Lester Maddox” with “Egypt (The Chains Are Off)” this song is a slow plodder with a exotic Egyptian riff that picks your brain and says “Remember Me” and you will, truly “Strange Metal” and genre fucking at its best. Want dessert? A burned, tough to eat dessert? Here come the South Americans Parabellum with “Madre Muerte” is black metal, out of tune brutality, primitive, mean, nasty, this last track is a mess… a beautiful mess, what a way to go out with a nuclear bomb. BOOOOOM!!! So what the fuck are you waiting for? Do you need anymore urging? Give this son of a bitch a listen, noise addicts, you’ll be glad you did. https://www.bitchute.com/video/QHR2lumPIvO5/

The people at the defunct “Obscuro” blog put out two more of their own “Incredibly Strange Metal” comps where the links are dead. I might do those also in the future.