Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Slackers

The Slackers:
Where Were You in '92? (Fay-Get Records, 1994)
Circle A Your Day - (Nation of Kids, 1995)
Split with Fun Girls from Mt. Pilot (House O'Pain, 1996)
+ 1 Bonus track

I don't have the greatest explanation as to why, but it seems no band truly epitomizes Huntsville's concept of punk rock like The Slackers. Maybe it's because most of their members were crucial components of so many other important bands, or that their style and attitude mapped out the template we'd see in most other bands after them for several years to come.

Either way, at the time, you could not have convinced me there were any cooler four guys on Earth aside from these chaps. On the front lines you had the prematurely balding, righteously outspoken, homemade tattoo gallery and bassist/singer Joey Tampon (15E, Shitboy from Outerspace) whose comically nasal outbursts were glued together with the barnacle encrusted, gravel filled, razor blade gargling vocal chords of Heiko Schrepel whose snarling growl was tailor made for this band. On guitar, you had a very young Robert Daniel (The Peeps) who occasionally chimed in on vocals, and like Schrepel and Tampon, seems to have shared a good bit of writing duties. Of course, holding it all down on drums was Matt Seward, brother to Andrew Seward of Against Me!.

Lyrically, The Slackers covered all the hot button issues of the day. Every tune was an unrelenting attack on figures of authority, the pompous bourgeoisie, conformity, society on the whole (but most especially in the South), poseur punks, and of course, those fucking audacious, fancy pants, limousine-riding, money making rockstars (which is semi-ironic considering Heiko went on grace the Vans WARP Tour and Hot Topic stores across the country as the bassist for One Man Army). Semi-irony aside, these dudes sing it with a burning, urgent conviction and enough "fuck you!'s" to make for a pretty entertaining drinking game.

As it usually works in punk rock, the game is all about instant gratification - or at least "ASAP" gratification. You start a band because you want to play shows and put out records. So as soon as you know 4 or 5 songs, it's time to get on stage and into the studio - which explains why so many of the first E.P.'s by these bands are really sloppy. That's probably the case with "Where We You in '92?" which I would guess was definitely not recorded to a click track. But with "Circle A Your Day", they're starting to get the hang of it, and by the time their last recordings came out, they were a pretty tight band - not to mention economical. The Slackers wasted not an inch of vinyl, cramming never less than 4 songs on a side. For the most part, this is their whole discography aside from a few other compilation tracks and 9 or so unreleased songs that NOK! was later selling as part of a box set. All together, they equal up to about half an hour of music.

The bonus track here is (again) from Recess Records' "Play at Your Own Risk, Vol. 2". Rumors around this time were that The Slackers were in talks with San Francisco punk staple Lookout! Records about putting out a record, but the band's demise came when they ventured out to San Fran - a one show tour - to play that coveted mecca of all things punk in the 90's - Gilman Street. Legend has it that they were kicked out and banned as a result of Robert repeating an offensive lesbian joke throughout their set. I'm not entirely clear on the details or exact cause of this next incident, but according to a story Joey told me while we were on tour together as The 3D's, there was an altercation and they ended up leaving a scared and teary-eyed Heiko behind in Oakland, California, and traveled all the way back to Alabama without him. The band played their last show at The Tip Top Cafe shortly after, having members of the audience come on stage and sing in place of Schrepel (I used to have this on video tape but loaned it to Joey and never got it back).

Matt Seward moved away to go to school at Montevallo. Robert Daniel was playing with in the Peeps at the same time as The Slackers and continued doing so afterward. He started a short-lived rock n roll band called The Deadlines, replaced me as the guitarist of The 3D's, and now plays with The Counter Clockwise. Joey "Tampon" Tacon started many more bands, including The 3D's, The Radioactives, and Joey Tampon and the Toxic Shocks before finding Jesus and becoming a Baptist minister. Heiko came back to Huntsville briefly to get some clothes, sell off the remainder of his possessions, and moved back to California for good. As mentioned before, several years later he was on the WARP Tour as the bassist for One Man Army. According to his Wikipedia page, he's now playing with U.S. Bombs.


James Joyce said...

Thanks so much for posting these recordings and doing this blog! I was in a band called The Midget Farmers from Atlanta that played in Huntsville when we were in high school back in 1992 with The Slackers at their house. They were older than us and totally cool and terrifying. I also had no idea that Joey in the band later was Joey Tampon, etc. He was the coolest guy.

With regards to Atlanta bands playing in Huntsville, it was always so difficult to get to your town from Atlanta, and we just got lazy. I played there several times with the Midget Farmers, and the Go-Steadys, and once with the Hal al Shedad at a skate shop, but not much else. We used to play with the Liberty Caps a lot - can you post some of their stuff?

I never got any of these recordings, so you really do not know how nice it is to get these again. This is what blogs are for. I always had a special love for Huntsville, it was such an insular kind of scene, but it was always nice, and kind of a crazy place to play. Definitely my favorite place to play in Alabama.

I do a similar blog on Atlanta bands called , although it is really just ramping up at the moment. Seriously - keep this blog going and really cover as much ground as possible in your area. It is probably the only way people are going to know about and hear these bands in the future.

Ian EBH said...

I'm from Birmingham and I'm trying to catalog as much about the old hardcore scene in Alabama as I can. A few years ago I tried putting together a comp. that collected songs from Alabama bands from the early 80s up through today, but hit a wall early on and never got much done on it. Any help you could offer would be AWESOME. I'll keep checking back on the blog for updates, but if there's anything you think should be put on a comp. like that (and names of people I'd have to get permission from), I'd owe you forever.


A.K. said...

I was at the Tip Top show where audience members came up and sang in Heiko's place. I remember Joey rambling something about leaving him in California. If memory serves me right, The Quadrajets (an Estrus selection that spawned Lee County Killers) played that same night. I videotaped it from the bleachers but Lord knows what happened to that tape.

Seth Graves said...

i actually used to have a copy of that video tape. it had a bunch of Man or Astroman? performances and the Slackers part at the end. I lent it to Joey and never got it back.

Falcon Helmini said...

Not sure if you ever got anywhere with this, but you wanna check out Greg Harvester's blog Remote has more Alabama punk rock than you can shake a stick at