Prick up your ears Ringo. I’d love to be in your loafers, pal – you’re one lucky duck. Right here, right now, you’ve got quite a collection in your paws.
For yours truly, a lonely, mean spirited adolescent in the middle of nowhere whose social ostracization led to seeking solace in way-out sounds, there is a moment branded indelibly in the creases of my brain. Preceded by enveloping vinyl hum, triggered by gently guiding the needle to the groove, the first couple of seconds of my first Cheater Slicks record were monumental, my overheated disturbed confused adolescent synapses were flushed pure and aligned with the heavens. I was granted the elusive gift of momentary clarity, cloaked in reverb and feedback.
Hearing the menacing, frightening, fearsome, and all-together glorious racket the three CHEATER SLICKS belched out made me convert to IN THE RED RECORDS, and I’ve been a regular customer and dyed in the wool fan ever since. I obsessively, methodically tracked down every release I could, knowing I could trust the label implicitly, and my trust has been rewarded many times over.
So, chances are you stodd in the store, curiosity stirring in your noodle. You get a sampler that shotguns across the whole spectrum, the very best that unsung musical obsessives the world over have to offer you. Dispatches from Osaka, Detroit, Portland, Manhattan, London, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, Toronto, Green Bay, Paris, Cedar Rapids, Columbus, and Seattle, every one different, every one great. It you get it all, in one place, at one time. Savor such moments. They don’t come along often.
I’m going to put a lid on my jive. Mister Larry hardy is the man responsible for shepherding the releases of the most unhomogenized of sounds to the public, and here he is. Absorb his words, and thank him for his judgement.
– Phil Honolulu, Letters Have No Arms
01. The Dirtbombs – I Can’t Stop Thinking About It
Writer: Mick Collins
“Without a doubt Mick Collins is the flagship artist of the In The Red Records roster. Some thirteen years ago I started the label because I was moved to put out a single by Collins’ first band, The Gories. Since then I’ve released records by most all the banks he’s fronted since the Gories demise. This song taken from the Dirtbombs debut album “Horndog Fest”, is, in my opinion, one of Mick’s finest compositions. Mick has stated on many occasions that if you can’t dance to it or fuck to it it’s not rock ‘n’ roll – I’m certain you can do both to this song.
02. The Hunches – Static Disaster
Writers: The Hunches
The first time I saw this young band from Portland, Oregon my jaw was on the floor. I’d met front man Hart Gledhill and guitarist Chris Gunn when they were both fifteen years old when their then band, The Conmen opened for the Cheater Slicks in Eugene. The Conmen were incredible so when, five years later, they approached me with a demo from their new band I agreed to do an album with them without having ever seen the band live. Upon completing the recording for their debut album, “Yes. No. Shut It” (a title taken from a phrase Gledhill said in his sleep), they played a show here in Los Angeles before heading home. This show blew me away in a way I didn’t think I could be after all these years of going to rock ‘n’ roll shows. They were fucking brilliant and a bit terrifying. To quote a friend of mine, “The Hunches aren’t a band – they’re a force of nature”.
03. Reigning Sound – Drowning
Writer: G. Cartwright
Since the early 90’s Memphis, Tennessee’s Greg Cartwright has been a key player in the modern garage/punk scene having fronted The Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers, drummed for Jeff Evans’ ’68 Comeback and contributed material to and produced the Detroit Cobras. Greg’s current band, Reigning Sound, is perhaps the most fully realized of all his projects to date blending elements of garage, punk, rockabilly, Mersey beat, southern soul and country all seamlessly. Greg’s knack for penning incredibly memorable tunes is only surpassed by beautifully soulful singing. This guy’s got the skills to pay the bills for sure. This track is an alternate version to the one found on their latest album “Too Much Guitar”. 04. The Deadly Snakes – I Can’t Sleep At Night
Writers: Carlson/Age of Danger
Toronto, Canada’s Deadly Snakes began when they were all approximately sixteen years of age with the intention of fusing hard edged rock ‘n’ roll music with southern American soul. This young six piece even boasts a horn section. Over the years the Deadly Snakes have developed at a rapid pace, incorporating elements of gospel, folk, Them-era Van Morrison and Band-era Dylan. The result is something akin to an updated version of the Rolling Stones’ yes, they’re that good. Organist and co-front man Max Age of Danger handles the vocal duties on this track Max can also be seen in the upcoming George Romero zombie epic “Land of the Dead” where he is ripped to pieces by Zombies.
05. Lost Sounds – Trails/Fears
Writers: Lost Sounds
Talk about being ahead of the curve, the Lost Sounds from Memphis were the only band on the block that were rocking analog synths and claiming to be “new wave” when they began nearly five years ago. Nowadays it’s downright trendy to be claiming you neo 80’s, post-punk, new wave roots. What the Lost Sounds have that none of these other posturing dweebs have is a knack for combining ridiculously hooking tunes with an equally ridiculous amount of all out aggression. The band is fronted by Alicja Trout and Jay Reatard (formerly of the punk band The Reatards) who both handle vocal, guitar and keyboard duties the tension between these two (formerly a couple – now just “friends”) can make any living thing within a hundred yard radius uncomfortable. The band’s music and live shows benefit from this, somehow.
06. Blacktop – I think It’s Gonna Rain
Writer: Mick Collins
Mick Collins’ first post-Gories group to record, Blacktop were sadly a very short lived venture. The band was the brainchild of Darin Lin Wood (then currently the front man for Crypt Record’s Fireworks) who was a big fan of Mick’s singing and really wanted to collaborate with him. Asked if I’d agree to bankroll the project, I jumped at the chance and had Mick on a plane to Texas to begin work on the new group. Recorded and mixed in one hectic marathon session, the resulting album was, I thought, a real triumph. Press was positive, record sales were good, tours were underway, there were managers and major labels expressing interest, world domination was imminent, or so I thought. It became very obvious by the end of the band’s first US tour that things were going badly and would only get worse. Substance abuse problems, personality conflicts and all around dysfunction so great I don’t have space to detail it here overwhelmed the project. The whole sordid is told in detail by Mick Collins and the band’s producer, David Katznelson, in the liner notes of the recently expanded edition of the band’s album for those interested in such dirt.
07. The Ponys – Chemical Imbalance
Writers: The Ponys
There are few bands around these days coming up with songs as infectiously catchy as Chicago’s Ponys. Inside of a month back in 2002 I had members of the Deadly Snakes, The Dirtbombs and The Piranhas all telling me, “you’ve gotta hear this band the Ponys – they’re incredible”. The fact that all of this praise was not only coming to me from the members of bands I work with, but from bands that musically were very dissimilar was not lost on me and I looked up the Ponys website where I was able to hear MP3’s of several of their songs. I was hooked immediately and shot them an email introducing myself and letting them know that I was interested in getting involved with them. It just so happened that Jered Gummere and Melissa Elias of the Ponys were coming to LA for vacation the following week so we arranged a meeting while they were here. After a very drunken evening of margaritas and karaoke at the Smog Cutter they agreed to let me put out their album. The rest is history. The Ponys “Laced With Romance” album is one of the crown jewels in the ITR cannon.
08. Country Teasers – Success
Writer: B. R. Wallers
A U.K. band that probably performs more often in the United States than they ever do in the United Kingdom, the Country Teasers are uncompromising, humorous, original, clever and absolutely genius. Teasers front man Ben Wallers (aka The Rebel) has been guiding this band and it’s revolving door line up for approximately ten years and is showing no signs of letting up or going soft (pun intended). He’s never written a bad song. One of the strangest things about the Country Teasers, to me, is the fact that they’ve mainly only had records out on labels best known for garage and roots music (i.e. Fat Possum, Crypt, ITR) yet they have absolutely no affinity to this type of music whatsoever. Funnelling the influences of The Fall, Pussy Galore, Joy Division, Butthole Surfers, and country/western music through a very non PC and misanthropic wit, the Country Teasers sound like no one else and are better than everyone else. So says me.
10. King Brothers – Lulu
Writers: King Brothers
To call Osaka, Japan’s King Brothers a wild live band would be a gross understatement of massive proportions. This band simply has to be seen to be believed. Diving head first off ten foot amp stacks, throwing guitars across the room, eating the contents of full ashtrays, rolling on the floor, screaming violently all while wearing suits and ties. These guys have blazed a fiery trail through the US on two occasions (in 1999 and 2000) and people that witnessed it are still talking about it. It’s hard to know what EMI in Japan were thinking when they signed this band of demonstrative nut jobs – I can only imagine that someone became unemployed over this piece of decision making.
11. Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue – I’m A Robot
Writer: D. Melchior
Dan Melchior hails from the north of London but he and his band, the Broke Revue, reside in New York City. Prior to making his flight to the US, Dan collaborated with Billy Childish and played lead guitar in Holly Golightly’s band as well as releasing solo recordings on the Damaged Goods label. Using the country blues influence that colored his early recordings as a springboard, the Broke Revue rapidly developed a unique sound that drew from a multitude of diverse influences. The results, particularly on the band’s second ITR album, “Bitterness, Spite, Rage & Scorn”, come off sounding like the very best in classic UK punk or post punk. This track is an outtake from that album was written well before anyone had heard of the band that goes by the same name.
12. The Bassholes – Microscope Feeling
Writer: D. Howland
When I started In The Red one of my favorite bands was the Gibson Brothers. The Gibson Brothers were fronted by Don Howland and Jeffrey Evans who both played guitar and took turns singing lead, the band also featured Jon Spencer in the last years of their existence. The Gibson Brothers disbanded after their first West Coast tour when I initially met them. Within a few short months this one great band fractured into several incredible bands – Jon’s Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Jeff’s ’68 Comeback and Don’t Bassholes. I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to release records by all of them. The first full length on the IN The Red label was The Bassholes “Blue Roots” album – a record that is a cornerstone in the whole fucked-up-blues-by-two-piece genre which became en vogue much later. This song is from their epic double LP “When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again”.
13.The Mystery Girls – Silver Turns To Gold
Writers: The Mystery Girls
If rock ‘n’ roll music is so dumb and easy to do then how come not everyone does it as well as the Mystery Girls? These kids (some not old enough to legally drink) from Green Bay, Wisconsin are like a perfect cross between Brian Jones era Stones and the MC5. I realize this is a bold and perhaps tire claim, but in this case it’s true. These guys play straight ahead bare bones rock ‘n’ roll which can be dead boring in the hands of a lesser band, but these guys are so fucking good at it that it’s simply tremendous. As Ben Blackwell of The Dirtbombs once said of Mystery girls singer Casey, “it’s really hard to pull off the whole front man ass-shaking, tambourine-shaking routine and not come off gay, but he does it so damn well”. I concur.
14. The Piranhas – Girls Like It Too
Writers: The Piranhas
Ah, the scourge of the Detroit scene. The pariahs of the Magic Stick cool crowd. One of the only bands from modern day Detroit Rock City that carried on in the tradition of The Stooges and one of the only said bands that actually matters. Like The Stooges, The Piranhas had a wild, bare-chested front man that was confrontational, dangerous, unpredictable, weird and scary. Like the Stooges, The Piranhas set out to make music that was very deliberately different from all else going on around them. The Piranhas will, I’m certain, hate seeing me compare them to the Stooges, but I think it’s a very valid comparison. But, whereas the Stooges started out as an experimental musical project that evolved into a rock band, the Piranhas began as a punk band that gradually morphed into a free form art rock unit. Whenever I read any rock press that compares a band to the Stooges I usually deduct that the band must be a by-the-numbers hard rock band. the Stooges were progressive thinking, boundary pushing and fiercely original, so are The Piranhas.
15. The Screws – I See You, Baby
Writers: Groove Armada
In 1997 the Los Angeles all-girl band the Red Aunts went to Detroit to record what would prove to be their final album. Being friends and fans of his music, they chose Mick Collins to produce them at Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders. Terri Wahl of the Red Aunts had written a song that required her and Mick to exchange verses – this became a blueprint for The Screws. Upon Mick’s next trip to LA he and Terri bounced song ideas off of one another at a rehearsal space in the Valley. Originally their rhythm section included Dan Brown (formerly of Royal Trux) but later included Jimmy Hole (of the Necessary Evils). The band managed to do two albums, a West coast tour and a tour of Japan before calling it a day. This song taken from their second album “Shake Your Monkey”, is a cover of a song by UK dance band Groove Armada.
16. The Hospitals – I’m A Bug
Over the past thirteen years ITR has released many records that are described as abrasive, intrusive, lo-fi, harsh, atonal, annoying, etc. Of all the bands I’ve done records with there’s no doubt that Portland’s The Hospitals’ album lives up to these adjectives in the biggest way. The Hospitals self-titled debut album is truly an ice pick in your ear drums. While their roots are basically inspired by crude and abstract rock, they also have a strong affinity for straight up noise. This song comes from the band’s first demo – it’s a cover of a song by late ’70s LA art-punk band the Urinals.
17. Clone Defects – Shapes of Venus
Writer: T. Vulgar
Along with he Piranhas, the Clone Defects were one of the other grossly over-looked bands from Detroit during the press hype regarding the Motor City. Fronted by Timmy Vulgar, the Clone Defects were wild and original. Inspired by late ’70s punk, mid ’70s glam and an obsession with all things sci-fi, the Clone Defects blazed a trail like no other band going. They were both ferocious and sincere. Tim’s vocals are like Stiv Bators, David Johansen and Iggy Pop all at the same time. I know this sounds like over the top cheerleading but it’s true, damn it. This song is the title track from their ITR album – an unusually poppy ditty for them. Tim says this song was his attempt to write a song along the lines of Sparks, the fact that he was flashing on the work of the brothers Mael while coming up with stuff like this only further cements my love for Timmy and his work. Tim currently fronts a new band called Human Eye – watch for their records to be released on In The Red soon.
18. The Horrors – Cold Blooded
Writers: The Horrors
Bands don’t come with any less pretension that Cedar Rapids, Iowa rock ‘n’ roll group The Horrors. After being bowled over by the single they sent me, I had The Horrors come out to the West Coast to record an album at Mike McHugh’s Distillery studio in Costa Mesa. When The Horrors arrived they showed up in a beat to shit red ’70s Crown Victoria that appeared to be painted with house pain – the car sported white billows of smoke spray painted down it’s sides (I thought it was a very crude flamejob, by they corrected me), a spare time mounted on the outside of the car and a very large collection of pornography and empty thunderbird bottles littering the back seat. I couldn’t decide which was more incredible – that this car actually made it all the way to California or that they were not pulled over even once by the police. Being very young and having never been anywhere near a recording studio make the track listing if their album a pretty interesting affair. The whole thing was cut in a day without a single overdub. We tried to get them to do an overdub, but when front man Paul Carey realized he would have to wear headphones and play along with the backing track he decided against it as he felt wearing the headphones was “gay”. the bands equipment was old and barely stayed in tune, which they didn’t seem to notice or care about. Guitarist Andy Caffrey’s amp was an old 60’s Silvertone that had belonged to his father who had used it in a surf band called The Embalmers back in the 60’s. For one song Andy’s guitar part consisted of him pounding the amp head with his fist over and over in time with the drumbeat. The band didn’t even want to stick around for mixing – they let Mike and myself mix it with their only instructions being “just make it real fucked up”. We tried out best. I’ve actually read where someone critized this band for being contrived and “deliberately crude and atonal to be arty”. This is the most hilarious and erroneously incorrect piece of rock criticism I’ve ever seen. The Horrors returned to the recording studio a couple of years later for their follow up and it was obvious that they had matured a great deal and were much more serious abut their craft (their mode of transportation, an old police car, was still rubbish, however). This track is taken from their first album, which is still a little piece of magic in my book.
19. Volt – I Don’t Feel So Good
The first French band to record for ITR! VOLT are fronted by Jack A and Lili Z – both formerly of the garage/punk band Splash Four who released records on the Estrus and Lookout labels, to name but two. the sound of VOLT is a pretty dramatic departure from their previous band, the drum set has been replaced by a drum machine and the sound of dirty, distorted guitars do battle with dirty, distorted analogue synthesisers. The band’s self-released debut 12″ is an absolute classic that had me falling all over myself to do records with them on my label. This track is from their upcoming ITR 12″ – an album will follow.
20. The Intelligence – Tropical Struggle
Writer: L. Finberg
The latest ITR signing, The Intelligence hail from Seattle, Washington and are the brainchild of Lars Finberg, Lars also plays drums for the incredible A-Frames. The Intelligence’s debut album, “Boredom and Terror” (released by the Narnack label), was recorded on eight track with Lars playing all the instruments – it’s a sonic, melodic, poppy, explosion that utilizes flamenco acoustic guitars, blown out keyboards and trashcan sounding drums to astounding affect. After one listen you can NOT get these songs out of your head. The Intelligence as a live act is another story altogether – the same songs are literally pummelled out via a two guitar, bass and drum line up. This track is taken from the band’s upcoming ITR debut, “Icky Baby”, which features seven songs performed with the full live band and seven that were recorded in the manner the first album was recorded.
21. Speedball Baby – Do Ya Wanna Scratch It?
Writers: J. Spencer/M. Verta-Ray/Markham/Ward
Speedball Baby started in 1992 in New York City you couldn’t mistake them for being anywhere else. You don’t even need to hear the band’s music to realize this – you can just look at them. These guys just exude lower East Side sleaze, the black greasy haird, the black clothes, a lot of black. Hell, guitarist/producer Matt Verta-Ray worked as a screen printer at Warhol’s factory and singer Ron Ward earned extra cash as Kramer’s double on the “Seinfeld” TV show!! How much more NYC can you be?? But it’s not only their appearance and odd jobs – their music is the sound of their city as well. An avant-garde mix of rockabilly, blues, crime jazz and punk roped with Ward’s unique brand of punk poetry, their music makes me wax romantic over the city I know from Abel Ferrara movies. To me personally, no band has personified the sound of New York better than Speedball Baby since Lou Reed or Suicide. But what do I know? I’m from Southern California.
22. The Fuse! – League of Women Voters
Writers: The Fuse!
Speaking of Southern California, The FUSE (always in capitals, always with an exclamation) are from Downey, California – a suburb just a few miles south of Los Angeles. The FUSE! Are made up of three youngsters that go by the names F1, F2 and F3. A more unlikely band would be hard to come by: They dress like mods (suit, pegged pants, pointy shoes), they claim to be a soul band yet they sound like an art-damaged punk band, their live performances are generally exercises in ultra-violence and destruction and, to top it all off, they’re all Mexican! I dare you to try and name me another band that matches that description. All I know is that these guys fill me with a sense of home town pride that I very scarcely ever feel.
23. Knoxville Girls – That’s Alright With Me
Writers: Knoxville Girls
The Knoxville Girls were a bit of a supergroup – at least by ITR’s criteria. They featured Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore), Jerry Teel (Honeymoon Killers, Boss Hog), Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, The Cramps, bad Seeds), Jack Martin (later to be a co-founder of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Barry London (Sub City). A self-described “no wave country group”, the Knoxville Girls recorded two studio albums and one live album for ITR in their sadly brief existence. I drove this band on their one and only West Coast tour simply for the privileged of seeing them as many times as I could. This band was amazing and I truly feel honored to have worked with them. Bob Bert is the Clem Burke of No Wave.
24. The Necessary Evils – Drag Pow Wow Drag
Writers: The Necessary Evils
From the ashes of two different Crypt Records bands, The Beguiled and Fireworks, sprang The Necessary Evils. This was one nasty beast of a band – they’re sound was dark harsh, fuzzed-out and sick with more than an occasional not towards sci-fi sound effects. Evils’ guitarist/vocalist Steve Pallow once told me that his ambition for the band’s music was to mutate psychedelic rock the same way The Cramps (both his and my favorite band) had done to rockabilly. If only more bands were on such a noble mission.
25. Andre Williams – I Wanna Be Your Favorite Pair of Pajamas
Writers: A. Williams/D. Kroha/M. Collins
Damn, the wild stories I could recount regarding my time dealing with Andre Williams could fill an entire CD booklet on their own. I dealt with him from early 1998 to 2001 – he recorded two albums for the label. I became familiar with Mr. Williams’ work by way of The Cramps who used to cover his song “bacon Fat”. I had tracked down many of his early recordings that he did for the Fortune label back in the 50’s and I became a devotee of his work. In 1996 Andre made a comeback album and started playing shows around the Chicago and New York area. The Demolition Doll Rods, a fantastic Detroit band who were on ITR at the time, travelled east for the opportunity to open for him at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. The Doll Rods and Andre took to one another like a house on fire and soon Andre was making a trek to Detroit to spend time with his new friends. The Doll Rods convinced Andre that he should do an album for my label and he agreed. The resulting album was “Silky” – still on of the albums that I’m proudest of in the label’s cannon.
26. The Lamps – Rototiller
Writers: The Lamps
Another recent acquisition to the label, The Lamps are a young band from Los Angeles who sound like a primitive cross between early Fall and the Oblivians and have an unusual preoccupation with primates. They are fronted by a walking book of knowledge by the name of Montgomery Buckles – possibly the coolest name in rock ‘n’ roll since Ariel Bender. “Rototiller” is the kick off track from The Lamps self-titled debut vinyl only LP.
27. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Shirt Jac/Train # 3
I can’t think of a better way to close this collections than with a selection by one of my all time favorite bands. The importance of the role Jon Spencer has played in ITR’s history can’t be overstated, as far as I’m concerned. Well before I ever met Jon I was a big fan of Pussy Galore and Boss Hog – I still can’t believe I was able to release albums by both of these bands. When I first met Jon he gave me a cassette of the first recordings by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – needless to say I was completely blown away. Jon later offered to have me release a series of jukebox style singles of exclusive tracks by the Blues Explosion (this series was based on a very similar series of jukebox singles released by Charlie Feathers in the ‘70’s). At this point no one had ever heard of my label and he could’ve gotten any number of higher profile labels to release these – I will always be indebted to Jon giving me this opportunity. Some of JSBX’s most smoking songs were released in the jukebox series Shirt Jac, Bent, Train #3, Son Of Sam, Get With It, etc., Fucking good shit. This track contained here is a medley of two of the songs released as ITR A sides – it was recorded for the band’s first ever John Peel session in 1993. They even give the label a shout out. It’s only fitting that the final track on this collection begins with “Thank you very much, Mr. John Peel”. It’s only fitting that the final track on this collection begins with an expression of gratitude to one of the greatest DJ’s of all time. John Peel was the only person to ever play anything on the In The Red label on Radio 1, that’s for certain. R.I.P.
Los Angeles, CA