Monday, December 01, 2014

Fastbacks Discography

Fastbacks Albums & EP's
TitleLabel & FormatYear
Fastbacks Play Five Of Their FavoritesNo Threes rec'ds 12"EP1982
Every Day Is SaturdayNo Threes rec'ds 12"EP1984
Fastbacks . . . and his OrchestraPopllama LP & CD, Subway LP (UK)1987, 1989
Very, Very Powerful MotorPopllama LP & CD, Blaster (U.K.) LP1990
Bike, Toy, Clock, Gift (same as In America)Popllama Cassette, Lucky Records CD Reissue1990, 1994
In America (live in Seattle 1988)Lost & Found (Germany) LP & CD1991
Never Fails, Never WorksBlaster (U.K.) LP1991
The Question Is NoSub Pop CD1992
ZückerSub Pop LP-CD-CS1993
Gone to the Moon (4 song EP)Sub Pop CD-5, 12"EP (Germany)1993
Answer the Phone, DummySub Pop LP-CD-CS1994
Waste of Time Promo CD5Sub Pop Promo CD1994
Alone In a Furniture WarehouseMunster CD & EP (Spain)1996
Here They Are . . . Live at the CrocodileLance Rock Records CD & EP (Canada)1996
New Mansions In SoundSub Pop LP-CD (US)6/18/96
Just Say CD5 - 1 trackSub Pop1996
Win Lose Or Both (EP)Popllama2/13/98
The Day That Didn't Exist
Truth, Corrosion, and Sour Bisquits (Rarities comp)
An Book Records

Fastbacks 7 Inch Singles
TitleLabel & FormatYear
It's Your Birthday/You Can't Be HappyNo Threes1981
In the Winter/It Came to Me In a DreamSubway (U.K.)1989
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong/In AmericaSubway (U.K.)1989
In the Summer/You Can't Be Happy/ Everything I Don't Need/Queen of Eyes (Soft Boys)No Threes/S.P.F.C.1990
Lose/King of Hubcaps (by Gas Huffer)S.P.F.C.reissue: Overground (U.K.)1992
The Answer Is You (2x7"): My Letters/Whatever Happened To?/Impatience/Above the SunriseSub Pop1991
Live In America - 9 tracks (2x7") Live in Seattle '88Smilin' Ear1991
Run No More/ReallyWho Cares1992
Now Is the Time/Sometimes/Was Late (rec. 1983-1985)Ded Beet1992
They Don't Care/Out of the ChartsPopllama1993
Gone to the Moon/Go All the WaySub Pop (Germany)1993
Wait It Out/The JesterMunster (Spain)1994
Answer the Phone Dummy/Allison (The Pixies)/All In OrderBirdtime Bird Co. (Tour Single)1994
Rat Race/I Live In a Car/Telephone Numbers (all by U.K. Subs)/(and one Sonics cover by the Meices)Free with Issue #3 of Gearhead1995
I Can’t Win/Girl’s Eyes (The Who)Free with LP of New Mansions In Sound1996
A-A-A/Marionette (Mott the Hoople)Tour Single for New Mansions In Sound1996
Maybe/On the Couch/Teenage FBI (Guided by Voices)/I'll Return

Come On, Come On (Cheap Trick)/I Can't Hide (Flamin' Groovies)
Munster Records

Superfan Records


Compilations & Tributes
TitleLabel & FormatYear
Seattle Syndrome - "Someone Else's Room"Engram LP1981
Monkey Business - "Time Passes"Green Monkey LP1986
12" Combo Deluxe - "It Came to Me In a Dream"Popllama LP1986
Sub Pop 200 - "Swallow My Pride" (by Green River)Sub Pop LP & CD1988
Estrus Half Rack - "Beaujolais' the Beat"Estrus 7"Box & CD1991
Estrus Gear Box - "Hot Rods to Heaven"Estrus 7"Box & CD1992
Int'l Pop Underground - "Impatience" (live)K LP & CD1992
Another Damned Seattle Compilation - "Hit or Miss" (The Damned)Dashboard Hulagirl LP & CD1992
20 More . . . Explosions - "Rocket Man" (Elton John)Pravda CD1992
Hodge Podge Barrage - "Trouble Sleeping"Estrus1992
Spin Promotional CD - "Impatience"Sub Pop/Spin1992
Sub Pop Comp. - "Go All the Way" (The Raspberries)Sub Pop Japan1993
The Bob - free flexi disk of "Believe Me Never" (live)Free with an issue of The Bob1993
And the Fun Just Never Stops - "You Can't Be Happy" & "Love You More" (1988)Lost and Found CD (Germany)1993
Melody Fair - "Turn of the Century" (The Bee Gees)eggbert CD1994
World of the Zombies - "Just Out of Reach", "Hung Up On a Dream" (The Zombies)Popllama CD1994
13 Soda Punx - "I'm Cold" (alt. version)Top Drawer CD1995
Oh Candaduh - "Won’t Have To Worry"Lance Rock Records1995
That Virtua Feeling - "I Know" (demo)Sub Pop & Sega1995
Charles Peterson’s Seattle Photo Book - "What’s It Like?"Charles Peterson1996
Bite Back - "Always Tomorrow (Live)"Popllama1996
Home Alive - "Time and Matter" (The U.K. Subs)Epic1996
Hype Soundtrack - "K Street (Live)", "Just Say" (LP version)Sub Pop1996
Hype! Box Set (45 rpm) - "K Street (Live)"Sub Pop1996
Paydirt Compilation - "I Can't Win", "No Information"Sub Pop1996
Sub Pop Spring Line-Up (promo only) - "Just Say"Sub Pop1997
La 2nd Internacional - "All In Order"Munster1997
An Evenings In Edenbrook Forest - "One More Hour" & "On the Couch"Book Records1997
Dictators Forever Forever Dictators - "Exposed"Roto Records (Spain)1997
Flaming Groovies Compilation - "I Can't Hide"2000
Give the People What We Want (Kinks Tribute) - "Waterloo Sunset"Burn Burn Burn / Sub Pop2001

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Fastbacks - Bio (Part 1)

THE FASTBACKS - Better Than Sthrempf Cocktail (1959-1981 pt. 1)

Much has been written about Seattle's Fastbacks throughout their almost 20 year history. Most articles tend to focus on recent events surrounding the band, while only briefly skimming the surface behind their origins and early history. It is a fascinating journalistic challenge to understand their personal dynamics, and how these interactions played a vital part in defining their storied career. This means going beyond describing Kurt Bloch's talent for playing guitar solos while jumping up and down, or how the slightly out of tune vocals of Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo are 'endearing' or 'charming' (or, god forbid, how they've averaged a different drummer every 1.5 years). My holistic conclusion is that these are 3 people who created and comprise an extremely dysfunctional family, but who refuse to give up or bow down to conventional musical trends. In the end, it's a story about 3 people who genuinely love rock music so much, that fame, fortune and musical proficiency have always taken a back seat to creating quality music.

[I would like to thank the Fastbacks for their cooperation in the research for this article. My information was culled from 6 separate interview sessions I did with Kurt, Kim, and Lulu on a one-on-one basis. If you are not familiar with the Fastbacks, this article may read a little like a history lesson or a story. I hope it can be entertaining, and maybe spark a new interest in this incredible band. For those of you familiar with the Fastbacks, I intend to place their body of work in a whole new context, maybe to achieve a better understanding of The Fastbacks as a family, not just as a band or recording. At very least, I hope this is information that is funny and enjoyable to all readers.]

KURT THOMAS BLOCH - Born in Seattle, 8/28/60
The son of a Boeing engineer, Kurt grew up the oldest son of 4 kids (1 older sister, 2 younger brothers). His mother, Lila, was a very social and amicable mom, akin to a big friendly German grandmother; super friendly, but also a bit off-kilter. Kurt's father, while not quite the antithesis of his mother, was a very private man. According to Lulu, Joseph Bloch was a genius and an inventor. Unfortunately, he also espoused intimidation through a lack of social grace.

Kurt Bloch has always been a fan of music. His first instrument was the violin, which he picked up in the fourth grade. Due to various factors that retarded his musical progress, he never got very good at the instrument. Around the same time he also took piano lessons, but his elementary school had neither band nor orchestra, so there was no incentive or excuse for him to practice or get good. At one point, he even tried his hand at saxophone, but was discouraged by a mean neighbor who worked the night shift. One afternoon when she was trying to get some sleep, she banged on Kurt's front door and told him that his sax playing sounded 'horrible'. Nonetheless, Kurt loved music so much that he continued to take piano lessons into junior high school. His junior high school piano instructor used to encourage students to bring in pieces of popular music to learn. Taking her up on this offer, Kurt brought in Deep Purple's Made In Japan, and proceeded to learn a piano version of Smoke on the Water.

As a freshman in high school, Kurt's first exposure to the guitar was in the form of a folk guitar class at Nathan Hale High School. He borrowed his sister's acoustic guitar and would bring it to school every day. At this point in his life, Kurt was listening to a lot of hard rock and art rock. Bands such as Deep Purple, Queen, King Crimson, AC/DC, UFO, Judas Priest, the Scorpions and Blue Oyster Cult were/became staples of his musical diet, and he would devour their records with reverence. Previous to the hard rock explosion of the early 70's, Kurt loved 60's pop music, and it was not uncommon for him to spend ALL of his lunch money and allowance on records (keep in mind that this was 1974, a few years before punk rock was even introduced). These myriad of influences, along with punk later on, forged the crux of his approach to music, and invariably shaped the huge sonic canvas he would create.

During Christmas of 1974, Kurt got his first electric guitar, a black "Pan" brand SG copy. His first amp was soon given to him by his father. It was an impressive looking transistor amp which Kurt promptly blew out the first time he fired it up. He recalls always having a passion for practicing and working on guitars. His second guitar was a Univox ES-335 copy. Kurt would eventually remove the pick-ups from this guitar and install them into his Pan SG with a hammer and chisel. But his first 'good' guitar purchase was a '67 Gibson SG Special in 1980, which he purchased for $265 with money he made from working at local Seattle record stores. According to Kurt, "well worth the money" (this guitar is pictured on the first Fastbacks single). Since then, he has amassed a huge collection of vintage guitars somewhere in the neighborhood or 30 or 40+. 

Kurt loved punk rock from the start. The first punk songs he ever heard were "Neat Neat Neat" by the Damned and "I Wanna Be Me" by the Sex Pistols (b-side of the Anarchy In the UK single). "Punk was all we could ask for in music: Loud. Fast. Just pounding idiotic music. Super kick-ass. Great. Cool." For the first few years that Kurt played electric guitar he was mostly discouraged by the sophistication of the guitar players he admired. Axe slingers like Robert Fripp, Brian May, and Ritchie Blackmore seemed so out of reach for him, both in terms of being able to play what they were playing, as well as being able to get the same kind of sound our of his guitar and amp.  Punk, however, was so simple that it
encouraged Kurt to become a better guitarist. Not only was it easier to figure out "Do the Robot" by the Saints than "Fracture" by King Crimson, but the power of the music really captivated him. Punk rock was the ultimate in music that was harder, faster, and louder than anything else.

According to Kurt, the Ramones were "unbelievable." Much of Kurt's proficiency with the guitar was learned through playing along with "It's Alive". For Kurt, this record and "In Color" by Cheap Trick were just great albums to play along with. Their common strength was that they had one great song after another (In Color was the best record for him to 'tune' his guitar to, since the opening track just starts with an A chord and nothing else). It was never a matter of being able to play rhythm or lead guitar, because for Kurt the two were inseparable. It was always just about playing guitar and having fun. Punk rock opened up the doors for him to become a better guitarist, and subsequently he was able to apply these learnings to understanding and deciphering the more 'sophisticated' music of his childhood. This amalgamation of guitar genres would ultimately define his lead and rhythm styles, as evidenced by such epics as "Better Than Before" and "Banner Year", as well as the straightforward punk bliss of "I'm Cold" and "Gone To the Moon".

KIMBERLY ANN WARNICK - Born in Seattle, 4/7/59
By all accounts, Kim was a spoiled only child for the first 12 years of her life. Her parents were classic examples of the post-war generation. They used to throw block martini parties at their house most nights of the week. Kim's father, John, was a banker. Her mother, Marge, was the classic TV homemaker in the mold of June Cleaver, except for the fact that she stocked the Warnick household with every imaginable form of junk food invented. Lulu remembers going over to their house during the summers to go swimming, and how Kim's mom would allow them to eat anything, anytime. Kim's brother, Kyle, was named after a boy that she had a crush on in the 5th grade (someone she would chase around the classroom in an attempt to remove his glasses).
Growing up, Kim was somewhat of a reckless attention seeker. Being an only child until her teens, she was used to getting her way and being the center of attention. She has some GREAT stories from her childhood. As far as her musical development is concerned, her first influences were artists who had TV shows, such as Bobby Sherman, the Monkeys and David Cassidy. Later on she became an avid fan of more kick-ass rock (Queen, AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult), along with other forms of pop and glam music (the Jackson 5, Roxy Music and David Bowie). The Runaways, however, were probably the one that band that she loved the most.

Kim got her first guitar and amp for her 18th birthday. In actuality, these were purchased as a 30-day rental, probably due to the fact that her parents knew that Kim's attention span for things was probably less than reliable during her adolescence. Soon after she received it, Kim's little Fender Champ amplifier was promptly blown out by Kurt and Al (Kurt's younger brother, and future frontman of My Favorite Martian). But Kim stuck with the guitar, mostly because of the Runaways, but also because of the Ramones (when all is said and done, the Ramones and Queen are the two bands that really made the Fastbacks possible). With the Ramones and the Runaways, Kim found bands that in her estimation were not very good at their instruments, but who were getting popular. She figured she could do it too. Her first impression of the Ramones debut LP, however, was less than earth shattering. She remembers hearing Rodney Bingenheimer describe the first Ramones LP as a 'speed trip on vinyl'. But when she put it on for the first time, she didn't hear any guitar solos. Back then, the rock music she loved always had guitar solos. She vividly remembers moving the needle from her record player and skipping from song to song, trying to find a guitar solo.  None would be found. Eventually, however, the record began to sink in, and she took a fondness to it's simplicity and irreverence. To this day Dee Dee Ramone remains her biggest influence as a bass player. Kim has never cared for playing complicated bass lines, and in Dee Dee Ramone she found the basics she loved about playing bass. She never has, and never will care about playing anything more, or anything less, than that which is simple and direct.

Once Kim started listening to punk, she would attend all the punk rock shows that came through town. According to Kurt, the litmus test for a Seattle punker was whether or not he/she attended the Ramones show at the Olympic Hotel (later to be the Four Seasons Hotel). Kim and Lulu were at this show, Kurt was not. Kim remembers also going to see bands from England such as Magazine and the Buzzcocks. The loudest show she ever saw was the Clash at the Paramount Theater during the Give 'Em Enough Rope tour. She remembers sneaking up the fire escape to get into the show (a common practice for admission to shows and movies for all three Fastbacks). She also remembers laughing at Mick Jones when he told her that the next Clash record would be a double album. To her, no punk band would ever make a double album. She thought he was joking! Little did she know that he was talking about what was to be London Calling.

The first band Kim ever played in was a new wave punk band called the Radios. This was her first exposure to playing bass (her first bass was a Gibson Ripper). The Radios are mostly notable due to her inclusion, as well as the fact that the drummer, Chris Utting (later Criss Crass), would go on to join L.A. pop punkers The Muffs.

MICHILU SUZETTE GARGIULO - Born in Seattle at N.W. Hospital, 10/12/60
Robert Gargiulo was a merchant marine stationed in Japan when he met his future wife Michiyo. They ended up moving to the Pacific Northwest and starting a family. Lulu is the youngest of 3 kids, with an older sister (Maria) and brother (Tony). Comprising of half Japanese and half Italian ancestry (with also a mixture of Swedish, French and Irish blood) the Gargiulo household was a modest blue collar family. Robert was a streamroller operator who paved asphalt, while Michiyo became a waitress after Lulu was born. Although her parents were very affectionate people, they also had their own dysfunctions which ultimately led to Lulu becoming an extremely independent person. This DIY ethic would prove itself both an asset and detriment in the years to come.

Although younger than Kurt and Kim, Lulu began her musical studies before either of them. She took classical guitar lessons at the age of 7 (which she refers to as lessons in 'Pauper' music) which mostly centered around scales and music theory. As we would discover later, her learning scales on the guitar would prove practically useless as it pertained to her role in the Fastbacks. Lulu also took night school group lessons in folk guitar with her cousin Shannon Wood (Lulu's best friend during childhood who only lived 12 blocks away, as did most of Lulu's relatives on her fathers side). After these lessons ended, Lulu didn't really practice or continue playing guitar with very much enthusiasm. In fact, once she joined the Fastbacks, playing the guitar was just like learning from scratch all over again. She remembered how to play open A, E, and D chords, but bar chords were unfamiliar to her. Lulu's first electric was purchased just prior to the formation of the Fastbacks. It was a crappy sounding Moserite copy which she played through a little Fender Champ.

In school, Lulu tended to get into trouble often for talking in class. She also had an advanced fashion sense, often incorporating suspenders and big hats into her daily outfits. She also had somewhat of a big afro. Her favorite class in high school was photography, a class she was able to take for 2 consecutive years. After her first semester of photography, Lulu stopped attending the lectures and would immediately head for the darkroom, much to the dismay of her teacher, Mr. Hoy. She also used to bring in a little portable tape player to class and listen to loud music while working in the darkroom. To say Lulu was a character would be an understatement. At the time she met Kurt, she wasn't really into hard rock, but liked music more along the lines of teeny bopper pop music. But the bands she had in common with Kurt were Queen and The Ramones, and she would often come to photography classto develop pictures she took at rock shows, which would inevitably lead her to meeting Kurt.  

After Lulu graduated from high school, she moved to Portland to work at a racetrack (Portland Meadows). Her job involved caring for and cleaning up after the horses. With aspirations to become a jockey, Lulu lived out of the stables and worked 7 days a week (starting at 5am). She did this for about 6 months and then moved back to Seattle. In Seattle, she worked at another racetrack (Longacres). After she finally quit a few months later, Lulu ended up renting a house with Kim and another friend Randy "you're so full of fire" Fehr.

Formed the summer of 1978, The Cheaters were Kurt's first real band. Previous to that point, he had tried unsuccessfully to put together a band that would actually do anything. The Cheaters consisted of Kurt on guitar, Al Bloch on bass, Scott Dittman on vocals, and Dave Shumate (pronounced Shoe-mate) on drums. Scott was someone who just wanted to be in a 'punk rock' band. He was a boy who loved to act New York tough; dressed in straight legged jeans, leather jacket and sunglasses, he tried to be as punk as possible. In contrast, Dave was just someone who wanted to be in a band. Not exactly a fan or follower of punk rock, Dave sacrificed his personal musical tastes just to be part of a band. Just a year apart, Kurt and Al both grew up loving rock music and learning instruments together. Collectively, the four of them created a band that was "1/3 Sex Pistols, 1/3 Blue Oyster Cult, and 1/3 terrible."

The Cheaters were a band that didn't really know what they were doing. The one thing they all had in common was a desire to be in a band. As a result, they learned how to be a band by hanging out and trying to play together. No one knew how to write songs, let alone proficiently play their instrument. In order to write songs, they would sit around in the basement of the Bloch house, play some chords and have Scott sing something over the progression. There was no defined vocal melody, there was no mapped out chorus or bridge, it was all impromptu since they weren't even aware of what these devices were to begin with. The first Cheaters original was a song entitled, "Johnny Get Your Gun". Eventually, after many practices and learning what worked and what didn't work, the Cheaters managed to put together a set of originals and covers that would comprise their set list. Some of the covers included Cars and Girls by the Dictators, and the Red and the Black by Blue Oyster Cult. The original songs would eventually be credited to the band on their first and only single, but they were usually individual compositions that had limited contributions from other members.

With the Cheaters, Kurt was able to learn what he could do, and what he couldn't do when it came to being in a band. In many ways, the Cheaters were a learning experience for all of its members. As the only band from Nathan Hale that actually got their shit together (somewhat), they got 'good' enough to play shows at the Bird (the first northwest punk rock club of the late 70's) and other local venues. Kurt remembers doing all sorts of stupid things in the Cheaters, such as gluing forks and knives to his guitar because he thought it would look funny. Little did he realize that when he would play, the guitar would cut up his arm. On another occasion, he thought it would be funny to play guitar with the back edge of a wood saw (ala Jimmy Page and the violin bow). At the show he just thought, "fuck it," and proceeded to cut off all his strings with the blade side of the saw. It was funny, but after he did it the show was over, he didn't have an extra set of strings or a back-up guitar. The best laid plans . . . The other members of the band didn't fare much better than Kurt. At one show, Scott threw hot dogs at the audience. Well, that was funny, but what was funnier was that the audience threw the hot dogs right back at the band. The stage got cluttered with hot dogs. It is rumored that this treachery led to at least one member slipping on these pork pythons.

The Cheaters stayed together for a little over a year. They broke up in the Fall of 1979 after a farewell Halloween show. In the words of Kurt, "the Cheaters were pretty ambitious for how terrible we were."

What started out as a bad joke turned into what became the No Threes record label. One day Kurt and some friends were altering a "NO LEFT TURN" street sign they had acquired. They painted out the left turn arrow and placed a big "3" in it's place. For some reason, they decided that it was so funny that it had to be the insignia they would use if they ever released a record. No significance should be placed on the number 3, it was a completely random choice.

Well, as word tends to travel fast, a band from Bellingham called The Accident caught wind of the No Threes concept. They asked Kurt if they could release a single on 'his label'. He tried to explain to them that it wasn't really a label to begin with, and that nothing had been released at that point. Regardless, the Accident were a bunch of go-getters, and so they funded a 7" for the No Threes label. The Accident's "Kill the Bee Gees" b/w "True Detective" (N3-001) was released in 1979. No Threes was officially born. 

Not shortly thereafter (October 1979), the Cheaters released the second No Threes 7", featuring three songs ("Man As Hunter" b/w "I Talk To You"/"(How Would You Like To Be The) Ice Man?"). All three songs were recorded at Triangle Studios in Seattle (located near the Fremont/Ballard area. It later turned into Reciprocal and then John and Stu's.). Kurt recalls finishing the sessions the same day that the Talking Heads played a show at the Egyptian Theater. He left the studio, snuck into the show and even taped it. One thousand copies of the Cheaters single were pressed, but only 600-700 would be available for purchase. 300-400 copies had to be sent back to the pressing plant due to poor labeling and manufacturing problems. A few weeks after they were sent back, the pressing plant went out of business. To add insult to injury, no refund was sent either.

No Threes would last until the early 90's, and the discography would end up looking something like this:

N3-001: The Accident - Kill the Bee Gees b/w True Detective
N3-002: The Cheaters - Man As Hunter b/w I Talk To You & (How Would You Like To Be The) Ice Man?
N3-004 (no 3): The Vains (featuring Duff McKagan and Criss Crass) - The Fake/The Loser/School Jerks (both sides were marked Side B)
N3-005: The Fastbacks - It's Your Birthday b/w You Can't Be Happy
N3-006: The Fastbacks - Play Five Of Their Favorites EP
N3-007: Silly Killers - Not That Time Again/Knife Manual/Social Bitch/Sissie Faggots
N3-008: The Fastbacks - Every Day Is Saturday EP
N3-009 (in cooperation with the Steve Priest Fan Club): The Fastbacks - In the Summer/You Can't Be Happy (89)/Queen of Eyes
N3-010: Pure Joy - Sore Throat Ded Goat EP
N3-011: The Fastbacks - Very, Very Powerful Motor LP (released on Popllama, but originally slated for this No Threes catalog number)
N3-012C: The Fastbacks - Bike, Toy, Clock, Gift (cassette)

Kim, Shannon and Kurt all graduated from high school in 1977. Lulu was a year behind. During the summer between her junior and senior year, Lulu began dating Scott Dittman. Kim had actually dated Scott when she was in the 9th grade. Kim met Lulu through their mutual friend Shannon Wood, and when Kim found out that Lulu was dating Scott, their acquaintance became more of a friendship. Kim would invite Lulu over to go swimming, and they would hang out at her house and go driving around in her mother's Grand Turino. Once the Cheaters got together, Kim and Lulu would go watch their rehearsals and then drive around with everyone afterwards. At that time, Kim was seeing Cheaters drum Dave Shumate (whom later would date Lulu). Eventually, even Al and Kim started seeing each other. (My Fastbacks conspiracy theory is that the reason they have been able to stay together as a band for so long is because Kurt was the only member of the Cheaters that Kim never dated.)

Anyway, everyone in their circle was very close. They would all spend the bulk of their time together. Eventually Dave quit the Cheaters (but he would come back at the end) and a drummer by the name of James Gascoigne took his place. Since the Cheaters would practice in the basement of the Bloch house, James would leave his drum kit there. Kurt had always thought it would be super fun to learn how to play drums, and since he had a drum kit in his own house, he started banging on Gascoigne's drums. In his own words, "who wouldn't want to play drums?" But according to Lulu, she was the actual instigator behind forming the Fastbacks.

Kim, Kurt, Lulu and Shannon would frequently go to a club in Edmonds called the King Theater. One night, Lulu remembers seeing a band there that was so bad, that she told Kim, Kurt and Shannon that they were starting a band. Lulu knew they could play way better the band she was hearing. Thus spawned the Fastbacks.

The Fastbacks original line-up:
Shannon Wood - Vocals
Kim Warnick - Bass
Lulu Gargiulo - Guitar
Kurt Bloch - Drums

At the time the Fastbacks formed (Fall of 1979), Kim was the most accomplished and proficient member on her instrument. Kurt had just started to play drums and Lulu was beginning the process of re-learning how to play guitar. Shannon's ability as a singer would never be witnessed beyond their rehearsal space, she was to leave the band prior to the first show. Evidently, Shannon had such a problem with stage fright, that it even pervaded their practices. She would either force everyone not to look at her while she sang, or she'd go out on the steps of the basement to sing. When it came time for a show, she bowed out because she was terrified at the thought of singing in front of people. Although Lulu did not know how to sing, she stepped up to the plate to replace Shannon. At the time, Kim was also scared at the notion of singing in front of people, but that would later change.

According to Kurt, the early Fastbacks were "way worse than the Cheaters." But while the tired old cliché of 'musical differences' inevitably led to the demise of the Cheaters, the Fastbacks were just having fun trying to learn and play their instruments. Kim, Kurt, and Lulu vividly remember this early incarnation of the Fastbacks as just being a sickening and terrible band, never in tune and barely listenable. Lulu thinks that some people may have liked them strictly because they were so bad. The Fastbacks played their first show (with Lulu on lead vocals and lead/rhythm guitar) on February 16, 1980 at the Laurelhurst Recreation Center (with the Vains and Psychopop (early PopDefect)). Their set list consisted of mostly cover songs, with maybe an original or two thrown into the mix. Some of the covers they learned included such punk numbers as "Stay Free" by the Clash and "I Don't Mind" by the Buzzcocks, as well as more candy pop songs like Tommy Roe's "Dizzy", and "Down At Lulu's" by the Ohio Express. Attendance was pretty good, with most of their friends coming, as well as the friends of the other bands. Kurt remembers trying really hard to rock, but at the same time just being absolutely horrible (tapes of their first show do exist.) The first Fastbacks original was a Kurt song entitled, "Real People," but it is unclear whether it was debuted at this first show. Kurt believes there is a demo of "Real People" somewhere, but that it is a "TERRIBLE" song.

Shortly around their first show, Kim decided that the Fastbacks should play the old Cheaters song, "Man As Hunter," and that she wanted to sing it. It would later turn out to be the first giant step in the gradual improvement of the band. Lulu's admits to not being able to sing well at all. With Kim at vocals, the Fastbacks began writing more new material and learning new covers. Their first demo session was conducted in the front room of Lulu and Kim's house on February 28, 1980. Their roommate, Randy Fehr, had a reel to reel recorder which they used to demo 3 songs.

Around the same time the Cheaters disbanded and the Fastbacks got together, Al Bloch started another band with Dave Shumate and Randy Fehr called Wenis. It is interesting to note that The Fastbacks would later record covers of two Wenis songs (The Right Thing and Wait It Out). Kurt was also getting a lot of crap about the Fastbacks from people he knew. They were just wondering why he was wasting his time with such a shitty band while other people were starting 'serious' bands. Ironic that the Fastbacks would prove to have more staying power and recognition than any of their early peers. Kurt attests this longevity due to the fact that everyone was having fun in the early Fastbacks. They all loved music, they all loved playing music, and none of them really cared what other people thought. In Lulu's head, she was more worried about trying to play the right chord than she was that people were laughing at her. 

The next Fastbacks demo recordings would take place in August of 1980. Kurt's childhood buddy, Len Skersies, had an 8-track recorder in his basement that he let them use for these sessions. In the liner notes to the Question is No, Kurt writes, "It was hot out. We had no idea what we were doing. It's probably good we didn't. Things were funnier back then." Out of this session came 8 songs: Don't Eat That It's Poison, Someone Else's Room, Was Late, Bus Stop, Cowboy Song, Another Thing Coming, I Don't Mind, and I Wanna Be With You. Of these demos, only Don't Eat That It's Poison would find itself 'released' (on a K Records compilation called "Let's Sea" and then later on The Question Is No). Someone Else's Room and Was Late would later be re-recorded and released in other forms. Bus Stop and Cowboy Song are both unreleased Kurt originals. Another Thing Coming was actually written by Kim and Lulu, because back then they used to contribute original compositions. And the last two songs were Buzzcocks and Raspberries covers.

Enter future Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan. Although younger than any of the Fastbacks (15 years old), he was already playing in tons of local bands. Duff attended an alternative high school, one that allowed him to pretty much define his own curriculum. Since Kim was 18, she could sign his class credit slips for his 'music' class. One day he was over at Kim and Lulu's and the Fastbacks were about to practice. He asked if he could sit in on drums. They all agreed since there was an extra guitar there that Kurt could play (one has to wonder what Duff thought of the band at the time, or if we was trying to tell them something since Kurt was obviously a fairly skilled guitarist at that point). The practice ended up being a lot of fun, and so they asked him to join the band. The Fastbacks were beginning to take shape.

Line-Up circa 1980:
Kim Warnick - Bass and Vocals
Lulu Gargiulo - Guitar and Vocals
Kurt Bloch - Guitar
Duff McKagan - Drums

The first show with Duff on drums occurred on December 5, 1980 at the Gorilla Room. It didn't take long for this incarnation of the band to enter the studio. On January 20, 1981 they entered Triangle studios for their first real recording session (engineers and producers were Jack Weaver, Homer Spencer, and Neil Hubbard). Four songs were recorded that day: Someone Else's Room, Was Late, It's Your Birthday, and You Can't Be Happy. Someone Else's Room would find itself on the Engram Records 'Seattle Syndrome' compilation LP in 1981. Was Late would not find the light of day until 10 years later when the Blaster label in the U.K. re-released the early Fastbacks recordings for the Never Fails, Never Works LP. It's Your Birthday and You Can't Be Happy would be the two songs selected to represent the Fastbacks on their debut single.

One thousand copies of It's Your Birthday b/w You Can't Be Happy were pressed and released on the No Threes label in May of 1981. Of those thousand, Kurt may still have a few copies lying around. Each single was numbered on the inside sleeve and the label of the single introduces what would become Kurt Bloch's modest publishing empire, Energy House Music. There was also a separate insert included with the single that included lyrics and credits, along with a few early photos. 

This first Fastbacks single would serve as a blue print for future Fastbacks songs. Each song has delicately constructed guitar passages, soaring harmonies, and jackhammer tempos. The Fastbacks would obviously get better at the performance and production side of things, but the songwriting in 1981 was already showing itself to be a unique mixture of pop, hard rock, and punk. It's interesting to listen to this single contrasted against some of their more recent work. While Kurt's style has definitely matured as both a songwriter and guitarist, and Kim's vocals have smoothed themselves out, the sound isn't very different at its core. Each song displays a maturity beyond it's own sophistication, at times complicated and epic, but also bouncy and catchy. 

Duff would end up playing 10 Fastbacks show in total, including an opening slot for Joan Jett in March of 1981. Little did anyone realize at the time that Duff would only be the 2nd in a long line of drummers to grace the Fastbacks line-up (or that he would end up playing bass on the butt rock classic "Sweet Child of Mine"). Kurt's internship as the drummer had lasted barely a year, Duff's was to last less, as he found himself over committed to too many bands. He quit in July 1981, but would return later as their roadie on the Fastbacks first road trip tour in 1984.

(c) 1999 by Scott Lee/Hitlist. All right on.

The Fastbacks - Bio (Part 2)

THE FASTBACKS - Have You Had Enough? (1981-1989 pt. 2)

The Richard Stuverud Years, Pt. 1
Duff's last show with the Fastbacks took place on July 24, 1981 at the Gorilla Room. Kurt and Co. wasted little time in finding a replacement for McKagan. Richard Stuverud would assume the drummer's chair a little more than a month later (his first show was August 26). The try-out's, however, were anything but quick and easy.

After placing an ad in the Rocket (a local Seattle music paper), the Fastbacks tried out what felt like a million different drummers. None of them seemed to pan out, either in playing style or musical philosophy. Kurt recalls one drummer wanting to play flute as part of his contribution to the band. After just talking to most drummers, Bloch would invariably tell them, "I don't think you are gonna like our band." Based on the way they set up their kit, Kurt could sense if he was going to like the way they played, even before a single beat was tendered. After getting totally sick of trying out drummers who didn't fit the bill, the Fastbacks got a call from Stuverud. Richard was a young and ambitious high school kid who had been trained and groomed on the skins. Regardless, Kurt almost didn't want to give him the time of day. Instead of setting up a rehearsal, he told Stuverud (over the phone) to go buy the first Fastbacks single and then to call him back if two conditions were met: 1) he liked it & 2) he could play the songs. Much to Bloch's surprise, Richard called him back a couple of days later, set up an audition, and proceeded to fill the coveted drummer vacancy of the Fastbacks. He ended up being a better drummer than any they had played with previously, but this should come as no surprise given that his predecessors (Kurt and Duff) were 'string' players first, and drummers second.

Line-Up circa August 1981:
Kim Warnick - Bass and Vocals
Lulu Gargiulo - Guitar and Vocals
Kurt Bloch - Guitar
Richard Stuverud - Drums

Little did Stuverud realize that he was joining a band that would persist all the way through the 80's, 90's, and beyond (and since they 'formed' in late '79, the Fastbacks should easily span at least 4 decades before all is said and done). Richard would ultimately write his ticket in the Fastbacks as the first of what I refer to as 'the Significant Four' drummers. Of the more than one dozen drummers who have played with the Fastbacks over the past 19+ years, only four really have distinguished themselves as to warrant extended discussion for their contributions (Nate Johnson, Rusty Willoughby, and current Fastback Mike Musburger are the other three).

Drummer...............................Studio Recordings.....................% of Songs
Mike Musburger........................      44         .....................  27.5%
Nate Johnson..........................      38         .....................  23.8%
Rusty Willoughby......................      27         .....................  16.9%
Richard Stuverud......................      25         .....................  15.6%
TOTALS................................     134         .....................  83.8%

Other 6 'studio' drummers.............      26         .....................  16.3%

The genesis of Richard Stuverud as the third Fastbacks drummer was merely a foreshadowing of how things would always seem to work for the band. While Kurt's first impression of Stuverud was met with an initial trepidation and skepticism, Richard would end up playing with the band for many years to come. Bloch's 'forefront pessimism' and low level of expectation would pervade the band throughout their existence, and ultimately may explain why the Fastbacks have been able to sustain for as long as they have. Throughout their history they have encountered endless set-backs and 'disappointments', but all the while I think they were grounded in the knowledge that these sorts of things would happen, and specifically that they would happen to them. The Fastbacks are a living example of the saying: expect the worst, hope for the best.

On September 26, 1981, the Fastbacks played an in-store appearance at a record store on Aurora called Everybody's Records (Tom Dyer, who would later start Green Monkey Records, was an employee there). Kurt remembers this show as being unique in the respect that the Fastbacks played many cover songs not traditionally part of their standard repertoire (he has no documented recordings of this show, so if anyone does, please e-mail me). Back in the early 80's, it was not uncommon for the Fastbacks to play such odd covers as the Young Rascals 'Good Lovin', Grand Funk's 'We're An American Band', or even the Beatles 'Eight Days a Week'. One has to wonder what songs were played at this in-store, and how they might later make sense in the grand scheme of Fastbacks lore.

After only 8 shows with Richard on the drums, the Fastbacks recorded the Five Favorites EP on December 6 (according to my calendar) - the liner notes for the And His Orchestra CD put the recording on December 9 - at Wave Studio in Vancouver, WA. Overdubs, additional mixing and production were completed in March of '82 at Thunder Oak and Crow Studios in Seattle. Peter
Barnes, who also happened to be the drummer of the Enemy, produced these sessions. Barnes would later hire the Fastbacks 16 years later to record music for a Spokane healthcare radio commercial! Fastbacks friend, Brian Fox, would get credit as 'Executive Producer' of Five Favorites for putting up financial support to pay for the recording [not exactly a Peter Grant]. This EP (released in July of '82 on No Threes) features 5 songs, most notably the opening track, In America. 'In America' shows Kurt's song writing in peak form. The song exudes a sarcastic attitude of accepting situations which could ideally be better, but which are good enough under the circumstances.  The epic instrumental bridge and final closing lines illustrate a song
representing a quasi-punk rock national anthem:

"Who says the government's on your side? Think for yourself - who cares what they decide?"

Everything about 'In America' is trademark Fastbacks, and it's a positively blissful 4 minute and 39 second journey for any astute listener.

The Fastbacks played their first show of 1982 on January 9th at a place called the Athens in Seattle's Belltown district. The Athens is mostly notable due to the fact that it would later turn into the Crocodile Café (started and owned by Stephanie Dorgan, who would later go on to marry REM's Peter Buck). The Fastbacks would play 6 more shows that year before Five Favorites would be released in July. Prior to the record release party on July 30, both Lulu and Richard quit the Fastbacks. Richard left to pursue more 'serious' musical challenges. Lulu's departure, however, was prompted by the constant bickering sessions between her and Kurt. Back in the Fastbacks early period, most shows and rehearsals were set-up by Lulu. What she lacked in contributing to the band as a songwriter, she made up for by 'managing' the band. Often this would result in her having arguments with Kurt on a variety of band related issues (Kim remained non-confrontational, only speaking her mind when she saw absolutely fit). Lulu's own self-determination and drive for the Fastbacks as a band was a stark contrast to Kurt's role as songwriter. While Bloch used the Fastbacks as an outlet for his songs, Lulu perceived it as a vehicle for her ambitions. What had started as just something fun to do had turned into a potential career for Lulu, not that it wasn't for Bloch, but Kurt was much more creatively focused than big picture driven. When Lulu saw that her expectations were not being met, she bolted. For the first time, the Fastbacks appeared like a band that had broken up.

Given the circumstances surrounding the bands tenuous position, the release party for the Fastbacks Play Five of Their Favorites EP didn't even include them on the bill. The Silly Killers and the Living were the only scheduled performers. But when the former were deemed 'inappropriate' by the venue, Lulu and Richard decided at the last minute that they would play the show. It would prove to be one of the last for the Fastbacks in '82 (they played one more show in October with this line-up, and then one show in Vancouver with Ian Tiles [the Pointed Sticks] on drums). When the year concluded, Lulu had rejoined the Fastbacks, but Richard did not.

Danny Zakos
1983 marked the entrance of the 4th Fastbacks drummer, Mr. Danny Zakos. By all accounts Zakos was an odd person, but also a great drummer who had a funny sense of humor and many unique theories about life. After answering an ad in the Rocket in late '82/early '83, Danny's first FBX indoctrination occurred on February 12th at the Showbox (the show is also notable for the fact that TSOL were part of the bill). In a weird small world footnote, Danny was friends and ex-roommates with the guitarist for The Bombardiers, a band that featured both Al Bloch and Richard Stuverud.

The Fastbacks were scheduled to play the Showbox with DOA on Feb 25, but the promoter canceled it at the last minute. As a gesture to make up for this cancelled show, the Fastbacks were given an opening slot for the Ramones. On May 5, 1983, the Fastbacks played Eagles auditorium with their idols and punk pioneers the Ramones. To this day, that show will go down as one of the landmark events in the Fastbacks career. Not because it was a particularly great performance, but more because it was a show with the fucking Ramones!

The only documented recordings of the Fastbacks with Danny Zakos on drums did not see the light of day until 1992 when the Ded Beat labeled released the Now Is the Time/Sometimes/Was Late 7". The first two songs were recorded on June 6th of '83 in the former Fastbacks rehearsal space in Seattle's Pioneer Square district. Both songs are straight ahead punk rockers, with 'Now Is the Time' blistering the turntable at the outset with a killer Bloch solo passage that explodes into a driving chorus that features Kim and Lulu singing in unison. Once again, the lyrics reflect a mindset of someone trying to make the most of a difficult situation, but at the same time unwilling to take responsibility for changing the way things are. Take a hint of optimism and shroud it with overt skepticism, what you come up with is unmistakable.

"Now things aren't so wonderful, things aren't so good, but not unsolvable, it's just that no one wants to say that they're responsible"

In September of '83, the Fastbacks had a scheduled gig at the Metropolis. Problems occurred when Kim came down with mono. Rather than canceling the show, this marked the one and only appearance of Al Bloch taking over the bass and vocal duties (splitting them with Lulu) for Kim. In essence, this leads me to the conclusion that Kurt Bloch is the only member of the Fastbacks who has ever played every single show.

The First Tour
The first Fastbacks tour took place in January of '84. Lulu made all the arrangements, from getting a van, to working out their itinerary. The tour consisted of four shows in California from Jan 19 to Jan 22 (Berkeley, LA, Sacramento, and Berkeley). They ended up playing with such punk luminaries as Toxic Reasons, D.I., and TSOL (note: the first show was supposed to be with Samhain, but they cancelled). Duff came along with the Fastbacks as their first 'roadie'.

By the end of this tour, the Fastbacks didn't play another show for about two months. During this time Zakos was getting more and more disillusioned with playing in the Fastbacks. His interest in the band was so waning, that they used Stuverud for the recording of the Everyday Is Saturday EP while Danny was still a member of the band (it didn't help that Zakos was also missing practices). Danny would play 7 more shows with the Fastbacks before quitting on May 5th of '84, a little over 16 months since his first show.

Everyday Is Saturday & the Return of the "Stuvagroove"
The 'Everyday Is Saturday' EP was recorded in two chunks, the first of which took place on March 21, 1984 at Crow Studio in Seattle. It was recorded on 16 tracks and later completed on May 30 at ESP studio in Bellevue. Steve Marcus graciously provided funding for this record. It was released in October on No Threes. The EP features 4 songs (3 originals, 1 cover) and also marks the debut of Kurt as a producer. The highlight of the EP is the closing track, "What Will They All Say?" It is a song that still manages to occasionally find itself in their live shows.

"I know that things will be different someday. I might live my life a completely different way. I also know that if I do I'll always remember the way it was and wish I could have stayed."

Richard's second official stint with the Fastbacks began at a show for Bumbershoot in late August of '84. But for a few more months he would continue to hem and haw about his role as their drummer.

Tad Hutchison
The rest of 1984 was fairly unremarkable for the Fastbacks. A few things of note occurred: a demo cover of 'Oh Come All Yee Faithful' was recorded on November 25th (never released, never substantiated), and Young Fresh Fellows drummer Tad Hutchison filled in for Richard for one show at the end of the year. It was a show in Vancouver at the New York Theater, and to date it is remembered by Kim as the 'fastest Fastbacks show' ever played. Richard came back 3 days later to restore order to the FBX court at a show that ironically featured none other than Tad Hutchison and the Young Fresh Fellows.

Tom Hendrikson begats Stuverud pt. 2
Given his obligations to the Bombardiers, Stuverud was still reluctant to play with the Fastbacks full time. The first half of '85 saw the Fastbacks only playing two shows through the end of March. They also tried out a drummer who didn't quite pan out. Tom Hendrikson played one show with them on April 6 with Seattle's legendary Fall-Outs. The next night Richard was back drumming for the Fastbacks at a show also featuring the Young Fresh Fellows and the Sharing Patrol (featuring Johnny Sangster, the brother of YFF bassist Jim). This show really marked the beginning of the second Stuvagroove era, as he retained the traps chair until the end of 1986.

Chronological Fastbacks Drummers 1979-1986
1 - Kurt Bloch
2 - Duff McKagan
3 - Richard Stuverud
4 - Ian Tiles (1 show)
5 - Danny Zakos
3b - Richard Stuverud
6 - Tad Hutchison (1 show)
3c - Richard Stuverud
7 - Tom Hendrikson (1 show)
3d - Richard Stuverud

The 2nd Fastbacks tour occurred between May 17 and May 22 of '85 and was a West Coast swing with DOA (they also played shows with the Dicks and the Circle Jerks). It is mostly notable for a show played in Reno, NV at the Skate Plus where they covered Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some". The first show after the tour took place on June 8 at the Gorilla Gardens. This is significant in that it was an opening slot for the soon to be famous Guns and Roses. It is all the more remarkable because it was the first ever 'out of town' show for G'N'R. To add insult to injury, the G'N'R van broke down only 100 miles out of Los Angeles (about 1100 miles from Seattle). Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Steven had to hitchhike the rest of the way!

1985 was not the most prolific year for Fastbacks recordings. On July 9 and 10 they recorded the 'If You Want to Slow Down, Step On the Gas' demo cassette. September 22 marked the recording of the song 'Time Passes', which was later to appear on the Green Monkey compilation LP, Monkey Business.

"Time goes by so fast, when you live each day, as if it were your last, as if it were your last. Our history is past, I wish I could re-live. Time has already past, time has already past!"

The first Fastbacks full length LP was recorded over three different periods. Originally conceived for a potential 45 rpm 7" release, the first recording took place at the old Egg Studio location (8 track) on January 22. This session resulted in 5 songs, including such Fastbacks classics as 'Wrong, Wrong, Wrong', and 'In the Winter' (both of which would appear as singles in the UK a few years later, but not in the States). Two more tracks ('Call It What You Want' and the Sweet cover 'Set Me Free') were recorded on July 9-10 at the Pioneer Square rehearsal space on Scott McCaughey's 4 track. The final 4 songs (along with a version of the Dictator's 'Exposed' [not released until 1998, and only in Spain]) were recorded on August 17 in Kurt's basement with the aid of Curt Anderson's 4 track reel-to-reel recorder. These sessions were never really intended to be the makings of an
'album'. It just so happened that by December of '86, the Fastbacks found themselves with enough new recordings to constitute a full record. 1986, however, was largely unmemorable, as they only played 17 shows in total, and only 2 shows outside of Seattle. The Fastbacks last show of 1986 also happened to be Richard's last real show. Little did anyone realize that this September 1 Bumbershoot show would also be the last Fastbacks live appearance for 9 months.

At this point in their 'career', the Fastbacks had been together for over 6 years. They finally had a full-length record to show for it, but they also were left without a drummer. Inter-band relationships were also getting increasingly strained. As Lulu started devoting less time to the band and more time to her burgeoning career as a filmmaker, her interest in the Fastbacks waned. Her constant bickering was also taking its toll on Kurt. To perfect the trifecta of unhappiness, Kim was also experiencing extreme personal problems in her life.

Back in 1982, Kurt had started working full time at the department store of Sand Point Naval Base. Five years later he found himself still working there, and only making $5 an hour. In 1987 he finally decided that he'd rather have no money than to continue working there. This period was the beginning of a very difficult period for the Fastbacks, and also marked a particular low point in Kurt and Kim's lives. Kurt sarcastically recalls that "all the most cheerful songs from Powerful Motor were written during that time."

In June of 1987, with the help of Conrad Uno, Popllama Records released the 11 track Fastbacks LP, 'And His Orchestra'. The record is jam packed with great songs from start to finish. There are many spectacular moments on this record, but in particular it marked the first appearance of what is considered by many fans as the best Fastbacks song, "K Street" (few realize that Kurt makes a 'mistake' during the guitar solo). The official release party was held on June 7, and it also featured a quick appearance by Richard, but the show was primarily acoustic. After almost 8 years of being a band, the Fastbacks released their first full length LP.

[Fastbacks "And His Orchestra" LP would later be released in the UK on the Blaster label in 1989. A few months prior to the LP release, Blaster would also released two singles (In the Winter and Wrong, Wrong, Wrong) under what Bloch calls "tumultuous conditions."]

Nate Johnson
Two more months would pass after the AHO release party before the first official appearance of Nathan 'Fisky Boy' Johnson. My words cannot adequately describe Nate, so I will include his own drunken description of himself:

"I was born in Montana two days before JFK was shot. My father is a Lutheran minister and my family background is Norwegian and I've always been pining for the fjords, even though I was never taught the language. I thrive in cold weather and find nothing depressing about being depressed.

I grew up with church music, Harry Belafonte, and the Kingston Trio. I played piano for eight years and was really good, but I didn't practice much. I don't remember exactly how I started playing drums, but I remember the records. Elton John's greatest hits and Neil Diamond's Hot August Night at the Greek Theatre. My best mate had this kit in the den of his house and we used to go and listen to this stuff. I tried to play it and was really jealous of my friend's older brother who could play the gob out of the song. I also think that Chicago VIII had something to do with things. It was a small town. Forgive me. [note from author: I actually love the first seven Chicago albums, especially II!] It's the one with the cardinal on the cover. Terry Kath was still alive. In fifth grade I moved to a town north of Seattle.

I hated it from the get-go. I convinced my dad to buy me a cheap kit. A Ludwig. Ancient hardware. I plied my trade listening to Earth, Wind & Fire and early Genesis records. Then some Rush. Progressive rock. I eschewed society, never did anything wrong and payed a lot of attention to baseball. Played drums when no one was around and became brilliant. Held a crush on the same girl for seven years and never talked to her. That's the true secret. I have only played drums to impress women. When I'm in love, I don't give a shit about anything else. When not...I try and find where I can buy some sticks."

[Johnson is currently in Budapest, playing drums for a band called Fabulon]. Nate was working at a record store in St. Paul, Minneapolis when he first heard about the Fastbacks through a friend who had sent him a tape of And His Orchestra. Sight unseen, and drummer unheard, he called up Kurt and set up in audition in Seattle. It worked out and Johnson ended up moving to Seattle to play in the Fastbacks.

"I came to join the Fastbacks because I once had a dream to be a pop-star. I wanted to be famous during my late teens and early twenties. I was working at a used-record store in Minneapolis when a friend of mine from my hometown called me up and said that I would have been perfect for a certain band. The next day I found their first EP in the F-file. I took it home and listened to it while trying very hard to write like and be Charles Bukowski. I ended up moving to Seattle and liked Lulu the first time I met her and played with them off and on for a few years. I think that I learned everything I have learned of importance of some way or another from Kurt. I miss him a lot. We don't keep contact. I'm the sort of person who has met so many people throughout my life and left to go somewhere else. The Fastbacks filled a long time in my life where I am concerned. It was a very valuable part. It was the perfect band for me for a time. And it will always be a perfect band for me at a certain time later. Fisky Boy? Kurt called me that. It's his invention I think it might have something to do with fish and Norwegian I pretend to be."

Nate's first show as Fastbacks drummer #8 took place on August 3, 1987. This was 11 months and 2 days after the last real Fastbacks live show. In another small world footnote, this show was at the Mural Amphitheater and featured support act, Pure Joy. Pure Joy featured the talents of Rusty Willoughby (guitars & vocals) and later Andy Davenhall (drums), both of whom would assume the drum duties in the Fastbacks years later (Andy quit the Fastbacks before he ever played a show). Moreover, little did anyone realize that Nate would later on quit the Fastbacks in order to devote more time to Flop, a post-Pure Joy band fronted by none other than Rusty Willoughby (In fact, Rusty had never met Nate prior to this show).

At this point, tension between Bloch and Gargiulo had reached critical mass. Whether it was Lulu's anger at not really being taken seriously, or her lack of focus regarding the band because of her ever increasingly busy film jobs, she was not a happy camper, and she took out her frustrations on the band. Her position in the Fastbacks finally redefined itself on the night of November 27, 1987 at the Central Tavern. This was only Nate's seventh show with the band, but it would prove to be Lulu's last for exactly two years and seven months to the day.

The story goes: after sound check, Kurt and Nate hung around the bar and had a few too many. When Lulu saw them right before show time she chastised them for being drunk. During the first few songs, Nate was so drunk that he couldn't keep a steady beat, and Lulu finally blew her top. In the middle of the show she screamed at Kurt and walked off stage, much to the bewilderment of the spectators and the chagrin of the other band members. Kurt, Kim, and Nate finished out the set (which ended in Kurt throwing his guitar against a wall and Nate throwing his drums off the stage). The next day Kurt suggested to Kim and Nate that they try a go at being a three piece. They all agreed to tell Lulu the 'bad' news as a group. Ultimately, however, the burden of truth fell on Bloch's shoulders, as he had to tell Lulu that she was no longer in the Fastbacks (Lulu remembers quitting the band, and no doubt she probably would have had not Kurt forced her hand).

Line-Up circa January 1988:
Kim Warnick - Bass and Vocals
Kurt Bloch - Guitar
Nate Johnson - Drums
The Fastbacks played their first show as a three piece on January 15, 1988 at the Central Tavern, the same place where they had played their 'last' show as a four piece. They would go on to play one more show as a three piece before entering
Egg Studio to record three piece 'demos' that would ultimately end up turning into tracks for 'Very, Very Powerful Motor'.

Only 15 Fastbacks shows would take place in 1988. The year culminated in a show with Mudhoney on September 23 at none other than the storied Central Tavern. Other shows of note that year were two shows that were captured and released as Bike, Toy, Clock, Gift. Initially a cassette only release on No Threes (and also the No Threes swan song), the performances were taken from a Mural Amphitheater show on August 15 (10 songs), and a show with Pure Joy at the Vogue on September 21 (5.05 songs). The strangest incestuous fact of these shows is the union of the Fastbacks and the Posies at the Mural show. Who would've thought that Mike Musburger of the Posies would some day end up the most prolific and long lasting of all Fastbacks drummers, let alone that Kim would ultimately end up marrying (and divorcing) Posies co-frontman, Ken Stringfellow within the span of the next decade.

Released in 1989, Bike, Toy, Clock, Gift features a little over 15 songs (the 16th song is an 8 second version of 'Trouble Sleeping'). Amongst the special treats are covers of the Ramones "Swallow My Pride" [the Fastbacks would later end up covering 'Swallow My Pride' by Green River, a totally different song in every respect (and a stroke of brilliance!)], the Buzzcocks' "Love You More," Mott the Hoople's "Roll Away the Stone" and Queen's "Brighton Rock". The Queen cover displays Kurt's lead guitar heroics as he mimics Brian May's epic Echoplex solo note for note, except sans the Echoplex. These covers truly reflect the varied influences of the Fastbacks sound. From the simplicity and irreverence of the Ramones and Buzzcocks, to the histrionics and drama of Queen and Mott the Hoople, the Fastbacks have always incorporated the styles they've appreciated the most. It's part of the brilliance which is the Fastbacks, and which allows them to get away with covering Van Halen's 'Atomic Punk', the MC5's 'Ramblin' Rose', and Elton John's 'Rocket Man'. How many bands can get away with that and still retain their sincerity? The highlight of BTCG, however, is a song entitled 'Yesterday the Sun Came Out at Midnight'. This song would never have a studio recording, but this mid tempo ballad goes down in my book as one of the most unique songs in Bloch's cannon.

"I can't blame you for thinking there must be some explanation, why I thought sunshine lit up the night. Come with me this time tomorrow. Sit with me under the stars. I'll wait forever to prove I was right"

By all accounts, 1989 was the toughest year for the Fastbacks. I have had a difficult time tracking their shows, if even there were any Fastbacks shows played that year. It was in 1989 that Kurt joined the Young Fresh Fellows as their lead guitar player. And it was probably the one year in the 80's which will go down as the low point for the band. Kurt's morale and faith in the Fastbacks had all but vanished. Kim was going through some of her toughest ordeals as a person, and Nate had disappeared to work on fishing boats in Alaska. In retrospect, the worst part of their quandary was the fact that over the course of '88 they had recorded and mostly completed what many Fastbacks fans consider their best album, Very, Very Powerful Motor. This record would not be released until 1990, when Popllama released it in the US and Blaster Records released it in the UK.

Very, Very Powerful Motor
Powerful Motor was started in January '88 as an exercise in recording demos as a three piece. From the start, it was never intended as a record. The tapes were later deemed good enough on their own to make up the next Fastbacks record. Most of the music for the record was recorded live, with minimal guitar overdubs (the notable exception being the opening track, "In the Summer"). A friend, Dale Weiss, was so impressed by what he heard that he gave Kurt some money to help finish mixing and recording the record. 1988 was also the same time that the Seattle scene exploded onto the national musical radar. With the emergence of Sub Pop as the independent label du jour, the Fastbacks were approached by Jonathan Poneman and asked to contribute a song for the Sub Pop 200 compilation. Armed with producer and skilled engineer Jack Endino, the Fastbacks recorded three songs with money funded by Sub Pop; the aforementioned Green River cover "Swallow My Pride" (which ended up on Sub Pop 200), and two other songs, "Says Who?" and "Everything I Don't Need". "Says Who?" would end up on Powerful Motor, while "Everything I Don't Need" would be released on a '45 and then re-issued on the Sub Pop oddities collection, The Question Is No [a different recording of "Everything I Don't Need" can be found on the CD version of Powerful Motor].

11 tracks strong (12 on the CD), Very, Very Powerful Motor is a monument of simplicity/complexity, power, and depth. Each song is special in its own right, with a near perfect sequence from start to finish. From the classical references in 'Better Than Before' to the soaring harmonies of 'Last Night I Had a Dream That I Could Fly', there are too many superlatives to describe this record. The best way to find out is to listen to the record, and not sit here wasting time reading about it. Released 10 years after their formation, Very, Very Powerful Motor is a phenomenal achievement, and to this day stands up as some of the finest Fastbacks recordings in existence. Their best moments as a band, however, were still on the horizon.

(c) 1999 by Scott Lee/Hitlist. All right on.

The Fastbacks - Bio (Part 3)

THE FASTBACKS - Fly to the Rainbow (1989-1993 pt. 3)

The Art of Falling Apart
June 27, 1990 marked the first Fastbacks show with Lulu in almost two and a half years. Many individual instances and experiences led up to this 'reunion' of sorts. While the Fastbacks were in somewhat of a shambles between 1989 and June of 1990, each member had their own business to attend to.

Nate had moved to Alaska to earn some money on fishing boats. According to Kurt, Nate had even left before the last 'scheduled' Fastbacks show of 1988. A week before the gig (probably October-ish), Bloch was putting up flyers when he ran into a friend of Nates. The friend asked, "Does Nate know about this show?" Kurt replied, "Yeah yeah, I left him a message the other day." Much to his surprise and dismay, the friend informed Kurt that Nate was already in Alaska. The show had to be cancelled.

1989 was also the year that Andy Davenhall practiced with the Fastbacks a few times. Not content with the bands politics during practices, Andy quit before he even played a show. The Fastbacks were again without a drummer.

Fastbacks line-up circa 1989:
Kurt - Guitar
Kim - Vocals

Kurt had seen his stint with the Young Fresh Fellows as an opportunity to keep playing music while the Fastbacks sat in the cellar to age. The first YFF LP with Kurt in the fold, This One's For the Ladies, is in my estimation their finest album. Amongst the 15 or so tracks, it features three Kurt originals: Still There's Hope, The Family Gun, and the stunning Lost Track of Time. Each Bloch original would've sounded great as Fastbacks songs, as they contain all of the trademark devices embedded in the Bloch writing style (the last verse of Lost Track of Time contains one of the finest guitar solos Kurt has ever committed to tape - Still There's Hope was also recorded by the Fastbacks earlier, but never released). While playing a CMJ showcase with the YFF in 1989, Kurt broke his arm in an unfortunate stage pile-up. This put an end to any thoughts of really doing much touring or playing with any band (although he continued to play with the Fellows).

Kim was encountering her own problems at the time. She had a rough go of things during the late 80's and was trying to get her shit together. The fact that the band was in disarray didn't really hold much significance compared to the other demons she was fighting.  Towards the end of the decade she finally started realizing what was important to her and began putting her life back together.

Lulu had seen her career as a director of photo- graphy start to blossom in the late 80's. As she earned more and more work in that field, her interest in playing music got less and less. But late in '89 she picked up the drums and started playing in a 'side' project with some friends. They called themselves Motorhoney.

Motorhoney consisted of Kurt on guitar, Maryellen Cooley on bass, Ayne St. Martin on vocals, and Lulu on drums (Kurt had actually played drums in another band with Maryellen called Wild Betty. Maryellen is also pictured on the 7" of "They Don't Care".). They played mostly cover songs (Rezillos, Girl School) with an occasional original thrown in here and there. Kurt only played 2 shows with Motorhoney, and in 1990 it was decided that Kim would take over on guitar; Motorhoney emerged with their all female line-up. They would end up releasing a single on the Lance Rock label, as well as a few miscellaneous tracks here and there that ended up on compilation records. The significance of Motorhoney is not so much what they recorded, but rather that it gave both Kim and Lulu an opportunity to rediscover music and realize that it was something they had fun doing. Sometime during the late 80's with the Fastbacks, both had become a tad bit disillusioned with music in general. Motorhoney was a revitalization of sorts, and ultimately it helped inspire the Fastbacks 'reunion' in June of 1990.

As Lulu remembers it, someone approached somebody with the idea to have the Fastbacks play a show. An agreement was made, a date was set, and since Nate was back in town, the band got back together. Lulu recalls the first practice as being almost as if the band had never stopped playing at all. The songs were still great songs, the energy was still high, and the chords were all falling into place. The Fastbacks had a new lease on life.

The show on the 27th was by no means the best show the Fastbacks ever played (and it wasn't the worst), but it was good enough to spark the interest of Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. Kim remembers that Jonathan approached the band after this show with an offer to record a double 7" for Sub Pop. He had always been a big fan of the Fastbacks, and Kurt even remembers playing him mixes of Powerful Motor during a car ride a few months earlier.

The Fastbacks went into the studio later in 1990 and recorded 6+ songs. Four of them would appear on Sub Pop (sp104) in 1991 (My Letters, Impatience, Above the Sunrise, and Whatever Happened To? [Buzzcocks cover]). Two other songs would eventually end up on the first Fastbacks Sub Pop CD, The Question Is No in 1992 (Run No More, Really) as well as on a 7" via the Who Cares? label.

The rest of 1990 was typical Fastbacks. I say that only because they didn't really accomplish much beyond playing a few shows and recording those six songs. For a band that had been together for over 10 years and entering their third decade, they sure didn't have much experience as a 'band'. They had released 2 albums that were never originally intended as albums, 2 EP's that were self-released, 1 live cassette, and had gone on a grand total of 2 West Coast tours. When 1990 was coming to a close, I don't think any of them anticipated the growth the band would encounter over the next 8 years and counting. The recording output alone is enviable by any musicians standards (6 full-length releases, 2 EP's, 1 more live album, and a ton of singles).

In January of 1991, Nate found himself playing in both the Fastbacks and Flop. Flop had gone into the studio to record a few songs, but then shortly thereafter, Nate's fishing muse whisked him off to Alaska again, this time leaving two bands drummerless.

The Fastbacks had no choice but to honor Rusty, the singer/guitarist of Flop, by recruiting him as their next drummer!

Fastbacks circa 1991:
Kurt - guitar
Lulu - guitar, vocals
Kim - Vocals, bass
Rusty Willoughby - Drums & busting shit up

Rusty was born June 30, 1966. He spent most of his childhood in Washington State, attending various schools in Spanaway, Belfair, and Sumner. His early memories of music are simple, poignant and hilarious:

"I used to listen to my brother listening to his records through the heating vents of our house. He was seven years older than myself and had all of the cool records. He would play air guitar in his room while he was stoned listening to Led Zeppelin or The Who and he wouldn't let me in the room. I never knew what band was what, so I'd go down the street and sing the songs I liked to my brother's friend Andy Clark, and Andy would tell me what band did what song. Elton John was the first artist who I became a bonafide fan of. I used to send him fan letters in which I drew pictures of him dressed like the pinball wizard.

Punk rock changed my world. I got into punk rock right at the time that my family fell apart so I had plenty of anger and hostility bottled up. Punk rock taught me to think for myself and gave me permission to bust up everything in sight. Two things I treasure 'til this day."

Rusty had played drums with Kurt before in a Cheap Trick cover band called Sick Man of Europe (with Jonathan Poneman on bass and Scott Sutherland (Model Rockets, Chemistry Set) on vocals). They would play the first album in it's entirety from start to finish (even 'Mandocello'). Prior to Sick Man, Kurt thought Rusty was joking when he said that he could play drums. His Bun E. Carlos imitation, however, was the impetus behind the Fastbacks asking Willoughby to join. As Rusty recalls:

"Nate, like always, was a restless soul in need of change and a few bucks and decided he had had enough of playing music. That left FBX and Flop with no drummer. There was actually a Flop show in that period where I sang and played drums (ala Phil Collins) and Kurt played my guitar parts. Anyway, since I had been playing with Kurt in Sick Man of Europe, it seemed natural to try and help out FBX and have a little fun to boot."

So in 1991 the Fastbacks forged ahead with Rusty Willoughby in the drummer chair. They would continue to play shows in local venues around Seattle, and eventually record what would later be released in 1993 as Zucker (these 2 sessions also spawned a few unreleased tracks; including a half finished version of Flop's 'Entropy', a cover of 'Ramblin Rose', and a stunning rendition of Tommy James' 'Ball of Fire'). July 31, 1991 marked the release of "And His Orchestra" on compact disc (the Fastbacks digital debut). This CD also included the first two EP's as well as full liner notes, a hilarious old picture, and complete lyrics.

At the end of '91, Nate had returned from Alaska and was ready to play drums again. His days in the Fastbacks, however, were numbered. Flop was beginning to generate a big buzz thanks in part to the fact that they were a great band. Oh yeah, and the Seattle scene was also booming with the emergence of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Flop were playing sold out shows and getting a lot of attention from the press. Their debut album, Flop and the Fall of the Mopsqueezer, was primarily recorded in January of 1992. This record is significant in Fastbacks lore because it is the first non-Fastbacks record that Kurt produced. Little did Bloch suspect that he would go on to produce over 30 more non-Fastbacks full length releases in the next 8 years.

The success of Flop, however, left both Rusty and Nate too busy to really devote time to the Fastbacks. Mike Musburger would step in on drums and play his first show as Fastbacks drummer in the summer of 1992 at Volunteer Park for the Popllama Picnic (a picture of this show can be seen on the back of the Gone to the Moon single). Mike's presence and foothold as the Fastbacks drummer, however, would not really cement itself until a few years down the road.

Sub Pop approached the Fastbacks with the idea to release a bunch of their odds and ends as a CD and cassette only release. With another new record in the can, Kurt wanted Zucker to be released first, but Sub Pop wanted to release the rarities collection first. The Question Is No was released in June of 1992 (just weeks after Popllama released Powerful Motor [5/26] on compact disc). This collection features 15 songs covering release dates from 1980 to 1992. It is an interesting snapshot of the bands history and also an illustration of how much the music had not changed over the 13 years it covered. From the peddled notes of the guitar intro of 'Impatience' ('91) to the bombast and loquaciousness of 'Someone Else's Room' ('81),
the differences were minor.  The singing got better, the recording quality got better, but the songs were always great. Kurt's liner notes in the CD are alone worth the price of admission. There is also a great writ by rock critic Greil Marcus. The packaging also featured pictures of the various Fastbacks 45's that were released throughout their history. Amongst these rare singles were a few well placed 'fakes' that still baffle geek fans to this day. One only need remember that in the end it's all about the gun-shaped knife.

Just six and a half months later, on January 26, 1993, Sub Pop released the first collection of 'new' originals from the Fastbacks. At 32 minutes and 49 seconds, these 14 songs are collectively known as Zucker ('sugar' in German). In terms of the sound of this record, it is unlike any other Fastbacks record. By no means is this record polished and glossy, but the sound is loud and crisp (think iceberg lettuce). It's an inferno of sound that never lets up from start to finish. Before the listener has a chance to take their first breath, the first 5 songs are over. The only reaction is to wonder what brick just hit you. The next two songs blanket the listener in a delicate fog that is thick and beautiful. The record rounds itself out with a barrage of obscure images (coffee in your alarm clock?) and funny song titles ("Kind of Game"), simply culminating in a depressing number entitled "That Was" ("That was really, really, just leave me alone"). Overall, Zucker is punkier than any other Fastbacks record, it reflects haunting overtones in both style and content while simultaneously maintaining a musical optimism. From the lavish harmonies of "All About Nothing", to the minor key drone of "Parts", Zucker is a remarkable accomplishment in spite of it's brevity, oddity and darkness. Critically, Zucker was hailed by more critics than any other Fastbacks release, with reviews appearing in national magazines like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly.

Mike was born and raised in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, WA. Born January 28, 1968, Mike attended Interlake High School and played in local bands and school ensembles. He attended high school with future Posies bandmate and roommate Rick Roberts (bass). After high school, Mike attended Washington State University for one year before deciding that he didn't want to spend the next 3 years of his life in school. While in Pullman, he played in a jazz band based out of Moscow, ID. It was not only an outlet for his drumming muse, but the legal drinking age in Moscow was 19. Musburger moved back to Seattle in the Fall of 1987 and moved into a house with Rick Roberts that was previously inhabited by members of the Chemistry Set and Pure Joy. In May of 1988, the Posies recruited Mike and Rick as their new rhythm section. Around the same time, Mike was working at a local record store called Peaches (former Peaches employees also include Mark Lanegan and Eddie Supersucker, just to name a few). He remembers seeing Kurt and Maryellen come into the store quite often. In 1989 the Posies were gaining enough momentum such that Mike was able to quit his day job and devote all of his time to being a musician. His tenure in the Posies would last until 1994, culminating in Mike quitting the band after getting into an argument with Kim's ex-husband (but husband at the time), Ken Posy (Stringfellow). He took some time off to travel and then promptly found himself playing with the Fastbacks. The next 5 years would establish Mike as the most prolific and long lasting of all drummers. The irony of his membership, however, is that it wouldn't be until 1999 that Musburger would play on every song on a Fastbacks studio record, and that record is still unreleased (well, it actually has one song with no drum track). Regardless, Mike will go down as THE Fastbacks drummer once all is settled. He has not only played on the most studio songs, but he has played more shows than any other Fastbacks drummer.

Mike's earliest memory of the Fastbacks was seeing them at the Mural Amphitheater when he was in the 8th grade. At the time he used to go to as many local shows as he could with his friend Matt. He recalls a few things, mainly that Lulu had big scary hair and that he loved the music. It was this love of the band that would persist for years to come, when it finally reached a point where they agreed to let him play in the band.

For someone who was use to touring with a major label budget, having a full crew and a nice bus to travel in, joining the Fastbacks must've been a culture shock to Mike. He wasn't accustomed to long trips in shitty vans and staying in Motel 6's and eating Taco Bell every night. But he was also not used to actually making some money while he was on tour. And with the Fastbacks he found the freedom to not only make money, but also he could concentrate on just playing music rather than dealing with the business side of being in a band. As Musburger so succinctly states, "there were no expectations other than to have fun, play music, and keep it simple."

Shows Circa 1993
January of '93 saw not only the release of Zucker, but the Fastbacks went on tour to California with Mike on drums. They would end up playing 47 shows that year, the most they'd ever played in a single year to that point. The tour schedule marked a series of firsts for the band. The first East Coast tour took place in April of that year as they spent 3 weeks on the road with the fabulous Meices. August of that year marked the first midwestern tour they would take, this time John Moen was filling the drum position (The Posies' Frosting on the Beater had just been released and Mike was on the road). The highlight of the year, however, was their trip to Japan for 3 dates in December. Never before had they seen the frenzy of Japanese punk rock fans, and it's something they still remember fondly to this day. John Moen was the lucky drummer.

(c) 1999 by Scott Lee/Hitlist. All right on.

The Fastbacks - Bio (Part 4)

THE FASTBACKS - Cop Motorcycle Meets Bill Crockett (1994-1999 pt. 4)

1994 - Beat Your Heart Out
How do you know if a drummer is at your front door? The knock speeds up.
What do you call a drummer whose girlfriend has left him? Homeless.

The recording sessions for Answer the Phone, Dummy began in June of 1994. This record features no less than 6 different drummers.

Rusty Willoughby - Waste of Time, On the Wall, Old Address of the Unknown, And You, I'm Cold (5)
Jason "Mr. 3 %" Finn - Went for a Swim, On Your Hands, T.H.I.N.K. (3)
Dan Peters - Back to Nowhere, Future Right (2)
Mike Musburger - I Found the Star, Trumpets Are Loud (2)
John Moen - brd "COATED", In the Observatory (2)
Nate Johnson - Meet the Author (1)

Amongst trying to coordinate a chaotic practice schedule was trying to figure out which drummers would play which songs. As illustrated from above, Rusty received the lion share of songs that would ultimately end up on the record. Each drummer got anywhere from 4-6 songs to learn. Kurt states, "People would sign up for their songs even though they didn't know how they went."  Two weeks of rehearsals were set-up (5 nights a week) and then a recording schedule was made. Practices sometimes consisted of early and late sessions, where one drummer would attend the early session and another would come for the late session, but it was always one drummer per session. Overall, there were approximately 27 songs divided up amongst the 6 players. When it came time to record the songs, often times it would only be Kurt and the drummer in the studio to lay down the basic tracks. Despite the somewhat haphazard way of learning and recording these songs, Answer the
Phone, Dummy's core strength lies in its consistency. Many of the songs are quite different in style and execution, but as a whole this record is a stunning achievement. There are many shining moments on this record, and to this day ATPD remains the favorite of many Fastbacks fans.

Lyrically, the record employs a rather sarcastic, contradictory and aloofly pessimistic point of view (themes not too unfamiliar to Bloch songs of past and future), almost to the point of not caring about not caring. The opening track introduces our newest cast of characters: "They said it was such a good time for everyone to not get along - And how was everyone so right if only everyone was wrong . . . And then it called for opinions and no-one cared to call - And so they all cried "apathy" and no-one cared at all." Bloch's apathy regarding apathy extended itself into a personal space in Back to Nowhere, "Back to nowhere I am going - Back to nowhere I'll be there - Nowhere is where you'll find me - Because I'm there all the time." The record is like a surreal day at the races. It's almost like a Blochian Alice In Wonderland. The listener is taken from swimming in a lake that has no water, to daydreaming about being at home listening to records. Next is a trip through an observatory that you've seen a million times before, to a book signing where you fall asleep and dream about a party that you can't leave, only to find that the party is going on inside your head. The final realization is that the ordinary is only uninspiring, and by this point it's quite an obvious epiphany.

Answer the Phone, Dummy also marked the first time the Fastbacks recorded over a set amount of consecutive days at a 'big' studio (Hanzek Audio) with the actual intention of creating a full-length release (all previous albums were started with much less than a final product in mind). It only took them 14+ years to finally get to this point in their career. The resulting sound of the record is crisp and full, while still maintaining all of the aspects that make the Fastbacks so distinct: powerful songs that are well crafted and vigorously performed. The whole album was recorded and mixed in about 12 days, from June 16 to June 28. After finishing the record, the Fastbacks took 4 months off. During that time Lulu married her longtime boyfriend, David Wild. It was also around this time that Mike quit the Posies. His permanent tenure in the Fastbacks was quickly approaching.

Outtakes from the ATPD sessions yielded 4 UK Subs covers, all of which would later get released (3 on the Gearhead split single with the Meices, and 1 on the Home Alive Compilation). They also recorded a stunning version of Tommy James "Ball of Fire". That track remains in the vaults, and we can only hope that it will someday see the light of day. Those lucky enough to order ATPD initially through Sub Pop were rewarded with a bound book that included hand written chord charts and lyrics to every song. Many of the other songs that didn't make it onto the ATPD final cut were later released on the Alone In a Furniture Warehouse EP (a few were dusted off and polished for New Mansions In Sound and various 45's).

To promote Answer the Phone, Dummy, Sub Pop also released a promo only CD5 for the song "Waste of Time". Lulu directed the video and it features cameos by many of the drummers, along with various friends and relatives of the band. The CD5 also features a blazing cover of the Pixies "Allison" (with Lulu on lead vocals) along with an 'unfinished' number called "For Tomorrow" (which ironically was the first song recorded during the ATPD sessions).

Answer the Phone, Dummy was released on October 25, 1994. It features a nifty 16-page full color booklet, complete with pictures and hand written lyrics. The first show after its release was at the Crocodile on October 28. This was followed by a short tour down the West Coast and through Texas (with Canadian popsters Zumpano). Critical reception to ATPD was good, with Spin magazine even writing, "Assimilating anything that strikes their fancy without need of irony, Fastbacks seem that much more generous, unpretentiously inclusive in another great Northwest tradition dating back to garage kinds such as the Sonics." The year concluded with a final show in Seattle at a club that used to be called Moe (now Aerospace).

1995 - "Goals are the enemy of creativity. A goal can only serve to fail."
For the most part, 1995 started off like any other year in the Fastbacks. A local show at Green River Community college was followed up by a quick jaunt to San Francisco for the annual Noise Pop
Festival (an event they play every year). By the end of '95, however, the Fastbacks would play 3 shows in front of more people than they ever had before (and I would venture to guess that more people saw them in these 3 shows than the combined audience of their previous 15 years).

The second Midwest/East Coast Fastbacks tour began in March of 1995. After a quick stop in Minneapolis, the Fastbacks stormed into Chicago. On March 2nd they played the famed Lounge Ax. This show is foot-notable for a few reasons: 1) It was the live debut of Ben Weasel's Riverdales, and 2) It was the first time I got to see the Fastbacks perform live (6 years after I first heard them). The rest of the tour took them through many of the major East Coast metropolitan cities and then back through the Midwest with a final show in Kansas City, MO on March 22.

June of '95 saw the Fastbacks going to Spain for three quick shows. If the pre-show events were any indication of how this trip would turn out, the Fastbacks were in for an interesting journey. In an e-mail from Kim, she writes "This Spain thing is out of control. I'm getting so sick of it, I can't tell you. The new disaster is that our travel agent, for some reason, fucked up. . .  So the new problem is that instead of leaving on the 14th, we now have ot leave on the 13th. Why is that bad? Well, Mike won't be getting back from his Love Battery video shoot till that day and he might not be able to rehearse that night. That leaves Sunday the 11th for our one practice because Kurt is in the studio with some band on the 12th. . . We'll even have to practice without Kurt, the night he works, and that sounds awful, always. This is the biggest hassle in the world . . . I know it will be worth it if and when we get there, but right now I'm running out of patience." (June 5, 1995). Well, after a little panic, the tour did happen, and here the recap Kim sent me on June 22 (the 3 shows were: 6/16 in Zaragosa, 6/17 in Vigo, and 6/18 in Madrid):

"So, I finally got out from under all the stuff on my desk, so now I'll try and tell you all about Spain. We got there on the morning of the 15th and were promptly whisked away by Rosana, the booking agent that brought us. We went from the airport to her office and hung out there for a while and then she took us to our hotel where we all took very long naps, 5 hours. Once awake and feeling almost human, we went out to dinner and then to this club called Templor Del Gato because this guy that we know, from there, works at the bar and they were having a birthday party for this girl in a band called the Pleasure Fuckers. This bar was great because they had a live DJ that played only the best punk music, and tons of FBX. "Rat Race" never sounded so good. Tres punk. I called it a night fairly early, but not Kurt. He stayed out till 7:00 am and was so hung over the next day I thought he would die. So the next afternoon we left for Zaragoza, a 3 hour drive, but we were really late getting going so we didn't get a soundcheck. And the place we were playing was a HUGE coliseum like place. Giant. Like Metallica would play there. It was a festival and because we were late we had to go on last. Last was 3:00 am and Lulu got so drunk she fell over onstage and finally had to leave and not finish. It was pretty awful and she was really embarrassed and was crying. Ick. But an okay show for us, anyway. That city is so beautiful. Before the show we all walked around and took in the sights. Then Saturday morning we get up to drive the long drive (12 hours) to Vigo, which is on the coast up north. Finally got there at 11:30 pm, checked into our hotel and went and ate. Got to the club and played at 1:30. . . Then Sunday we drove back to Madrid, which only took 8 hours. But we got to see the most beautiful countryside, castles and everything. We got to the club and found that the amp Kurt would be using wouldn't work. It worked but he hated it so they had to find something else and the PA was just a joke. But that show was wild. People went crazy for us and were even singing along! I've never signed more autographs in my life, well, maybe Japan. We had to finish by midnight and afterwards we went out for dinner and then to this bar where some friends of ours were spinning records. Kurt and Mike went back to the hotel and I went to another bar with these people. I got pretty drunk which leads me to the funny/scary part of this story. I took a cab back to hotel and went to bed. When all of a sudden, the next thing I know I wake up, standing in the hall in front of my hotel door, with nothing on except boxer shorts. Nothing. Nada. I look down and realize I'm pretty much naked and locked out and I start laughing. I sometimes sleepwalk when I'm drunk. So I, somehow, find a hotel phone and call the front desk and tell them I'm locked out and the guy says, "okay, come down and get a key." And I say to him, "um, I can't. I'm naked." So I wait for him to come up and let me in. Weird, huh? The next day we had a lot of interviews, the best one being National Radio in Spain. it was cool cause we had to have a translator. How rock n roll. Then the rest of the day Kurt and I just walked around and visited some folks and record shops. I finally went back to the hotel and waited for everyone to get home. About 11:00 that night we all decide to go out to dinner, but not before Mike tells Kurt and I that he lost our airplane tickets home. Great. So, we call up my travel agent and she faxes all the info to my hotel room. I had to get really early and take a cab to the airport and get our tickets re-issued and wait around until the rest of the gang showed up. Plus, it cost $60 US dollars to re-issue them. But the good news is that we made a lot of money. And I had a great time! They want to bring us back in October. Also, right down from our hotel a car bomb went off killing a policeman. Weird. But I loved it over there and I can't wait to go back. Now I'm just really tired and jet-lagged and want to go home and go back to bed."

The Fastbacks played their next show at the Crocodile 8 days removed from Spain on June 26. This show was recorded and would come out in early '96 on Lance Rock Records (The Fastbacks Live at the Crocodile Café). For those who've never seen the Fastbacks live, this recording is a good approximation of their live show. Formula One tempos, no gaps between songs, and an everything goes/nothing is sacred approach (14 songs in just over 30 minutes).

The final three shows of 1995 would take place on November 1, 2, and 4th. The Fastbacks wouldn't find out about these shows until mid October. Kim writes, "It looks like we're playing 3 dates with Pearl Jam, Nov. 1 and 2, in Salt Lake City, UT and then Nov. 4 in San Jose, CA! I can't believe it. The two shows in Salt Lake City are in a place that holds 12,000 and the CA show is outdoors and holds 35,000. That's 35,000 people! Sometimes we're the luckiest band in the world, I think." The Fastbacks had indeed come a long way from playing the Rascals "Good Lovin'" at Aurora Records some 10 years prior to their arena rock debut.

Of the shows, Kim writes: "This will be the most difficult e-mail ever. So much happened and we had so much fun it's really hard to write everything down, but for history's sake, I'll try. Let me just say that Eddie Vedder is an angel, there's no doubt in my mind. And all the people that work for Pearl Jam are equally nice, all the way down to the road crew. All nice and not bogus Spinal Tap. Just the fact that we got an hour soundcheck the first night in Salt Lake City was mind-blowing enough. They made it a little less scary for us. But the real amazing show was for sure in San Jose! 38,000 people watched us and liked us. Imagine this. Before we went on, I'm standing on the side of the stage and Eddie rides up on his little sting-ray bike to watch us. He asks me how I'm doing and I tell him I'm so afraid that people will start chanting, "Eddie, Eddie." So, he asks me what he could do to help me and then he decided to open the show, just him and an acoustic guitar singing some new song he'd just written and then he'd introduce us.  I couldn't believe it. And you better believe the crowd went insane when he stepped out there. I've never heard a sound like that in my life. And of course, because he gave us the big endorsement, the crowd was very nice to us. In fact, they liked us. Kurt Bloch was made for arena-rock shows. He had a 50 ft. chord and was all over the place. Plus, I've realized that a lot of FBX songs are actually designed for arenas. People love the quiet guitar parts, they cheer through them and then go crazy when the song comes back in. I had goosebumps most of the time. And after we had finished I had to walk back out onstage to get my bass and everyone started cheering so I put my arms in the air, very rock n roll-style. Also, right before P. Jam went on Eddie comes riding back into our tent and hands me some lyrics on a piece of paper and tells me he wants me to sing the first verse and chorus of their encore, which was "So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star." I almost fainted going out there, but I'm glad I did it. Not too many chances like that in life I don't think. After it was over Lulu was crying cause she was so sad and today is a little depressing because know it's just back to being a regular joe, or as Kurt and I were laughing about, a "working stiff." I know we should just be happy we got to do these shows but I never wanted it to end. Maybe we'll be asked back someday. . . . I can't really focus on too much today, but that's to be expected, after all, not too many people get to play in front of 38,000 people and then show up to their desk job the following day. We are the weirdest band in the world."

Ten months later the Fastbacks would find themselves as the support act for Pearl Jam on a 3-month North American and European tour.

1996 - Let the instruments tell YOU how they want to be played
The beginning of 1996 saw the Fastbacks release two EP's: Alone In a Furniture Warehouse (Munster - 8 songs) and the Live at the Crocodile CD-EP. On February 11 they started recording what would later be called New Mansions In Sound. A quick 5 show tour (including Rusty substituting for Lulu) with the Muffs occurred in March. April and May saw them putting the finishing touches on the New Mansions as it was released on June 18th.

New Mansions is a peculiar record. The 15 songs included feature some of Bloch's strongest to date, amongst them are "Fortune's Misery", "No Information", "Stay At Home", "Just Say", and "Banner Year". The production of the record took the next logical step for the Fastbacks. Each record got more polished as Kurt became more familiar and comfortable in the producers chair. He was already accustomed to producing a variety of records by many different bands (and basically made a living by doing so). New Mansions was the slickest Fastbacks record to date, but therein lies my biggest criticism. While still a very strong effort on behalf of the band, New Mansions suffers from a bit of over-production. It's almost as if they were consciously trying to be too meticulous in their execution of the songs. The result is a record that sounds a little bit 'canned'. Don't get me wrong, the record is still excellent (and worthy of a spot in any Fastbacks collection), but it did lack a certain something that was present on the previous efforts. There was one video released for the record. It was for the song "Just Say" and Lulu's husband directed it. Eddie Vedder makes a harmony vocal appearance on the Fastbacks cover of the Who's "Girl's Eyes" (written by Keith Moon).

The lyrical evolution of New Mansions is evident from the second song:

Used to be afraid of what I liked
Used to be afraid of what was right
Never thought I'd get too far in life
Never thought I'd last another night
And then morning came and with it a new light
I'm telling you it wasn't all that bright
But it helped me to perceive all that I might
Put off for so long that I lost sight
Of the reason why I started this to write
Why is it so hard sometimes
To keep feeling sorry for myself
And finish ruining my life

The apathy of songs past has been replaced with the realization that while things aren't necessarily perfect, they could be a lot worse. At the same time, fighting the urge to stay optimistic is a constantly uphill battle when the grand realization is that mediocrity is the plateau from which we measure success. It's not exactly Depak Chopra, but it's definitely a lot happier than "and so they all cried apathy and no one cared at all." Still, there is more than a tinge of self-doubt when thinking about what is being said, but placed in the context of what has been written before, it's downright feel-good. The ironic titled of this opus is "Which Has Not Been Written". This mixture of depressed optimism is also evident from "Banner Year". The song starts off, "Tell me what's been going on? It's been a good year this far along. And a banner year for things gone wrong." The ending, however, shows the light at the end of the tunnel, "And it looks like I might get my way." A song that is too overtly positive can often time come off as contrived. Kurt never seems to run into this problem.

June saw the Fastbacks going on tour as the support act for the Presidents of the United States of America. The tour brought them through the Midwest and East Coast in venues ranging from 300-1,000 seaters. They took July off before playing a handful of shows in California in late August. Pearl Jam was next.

The Pearl Jam tour started on September 16 in Seattle's own Key Arena. I vividly remember attending this show and being awestruck with seeing the Fastbacks on the big stage in front of thousands of their hometown residents. Kim had a special "space suit" designed for the tour and she christened it that night. Prancing onto the stage in this silver skintight jump suit, she looked primed and ready for an evening of rock. They played a nervous and energy filled 30 minute set, finishing off their Seattle arena debut with a blistering version of AC/DC's "Riff Raff".

With the next 3 months the Fastbacks played all sorts of places and venues. Places they never imagined they'd be able to play stared them right between the eyes. Cities like Budapest, Istanbul, Zurich, Warsaw, Barcelona. They even got to play Wembley Arena in London. The tour ended on November 25 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The last show the Fastbacks played in 1996 was at Moe in Seattle. It was on December 7 and it was clear for most audience members that the weeks on the road had helped to perfect the power of their live show. With opening bands Brody, Sourmash (now Once For Kicks), and the Meices providing an adequate introduction, the Fastbacks sizzled through an evening of punk rock nirvana.

1997 to present - I Want Rock N' Roll
The last three years have been very laid back for the Fastbacks. 1997 saw them play 11 shows, with only two of them outside of Seattle. 1998 had 17 shows and also saw the released of the "Win, Lose
Or Both" EP on February 13 of that year. This release marked their return to Popllama Records. Having been dissatisfied with the direction of Sub Pop through 1996 and 1997, the Fastbacks made the decision to leave the label. Popllama's Conrad Uno offered to release the EP and they gladly accepted. It's a 4 song EP with 9 bonus live tracks. The studio material includes a cover of the Mr. T Experience as well as 3 other songs pulled from the sessions from the last two full lengths. Amongst the live bonus material is a hair-raising 9 and half minute version of "Always Tomorrow". It features 3 guitar players (Kurt, Andrew McKeag and Rusty) and 2 drummers (Mike and Jason) all playing in cacaphony.

In December of 1998 the Fastbacks began working on their next record. Going back to a more 'live' approach in the studio (and perhaps a reaction to the somewhat tepid results of NMIS), the Fastbacks tracked 15 new songs live in the studio (at Stone Gossard's Studio Litho). I think there are a total of 3 guitar overdubs (and some keyboard) on the whole album. In total, the record required less than 2 weeks to record and mix. 14 of these songs will appear on their record that is tentatively scheduled for an October release on SpinArt Records. As of the writing of this article, the record is titled, "The Day That Didn't Exist". Despite having played drums for the Fastbacks for the better part of the last 5 years (and also playing on more songs than any of his predecessors), this is the first album to exclusively feature Mike Musburger on drums. It is also the first record since Zucker (recorded in '91 & '92) to only have one drummer. The results are astouding, and when the time comes to scrutinize TDTDE as part of the Fastbacks legacy, I firmly believe it will go down as one of their strongest recordings (I refrain from reviewing it until its release).

It has taken me four parts and over 6 months to write this 'article' for Hit List. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I'm sure there are many things I failed to mention in my critique, but something's are best left for the listeners/readers to discover themselves.

A band as eccentric and as wonderful as the Fastbacks can never be completely unmasked, my only hope is to understand them as much as I can within the confines of my own experience. Thank you for your time.

It's bird time!

(c) 1999 by Scott Lee/Hitlist. All right on.