Custody Battle

10” 2010
I think of Custody Battle as the refined version of Anomic Suicide. It contains Travis and Pickle from said band and adds Zombie Religion singer, Loren, on bass. The sound is similar to Anomic Suicide’s in that it sounds like all the good players from the early SST bands formed a band that somehow didn’t suck. The playing is tighter and the songwriting has gotten slimmer and more minimalist and more focused. This is also the best recording of any of Travis’ many bands that I’ve heard. Because I know these guys it’s hard to separate how mean this sounds from what nice mellow guys they are. The music makes them sound deranged and heat fried. Ain’t one trace of that hippie love folk shit that is popular in all the bars up in Flagstaff. This is the type of music you can only see in basements and house shows where underage kids are getting loaded and making out and rocking out. Easily one of the best bands in Az. right now.

Anomic Suicide

The First Four Years CD 2003-2007
I think Anomic Suicide played as “The Skags” when they first started, but I only saw a couple of their last shows when they were firmly established as Anomic Suicide. They had a good four year run, which in Flagstaff band years is more like twenty years. One of the main songwriters was Travis Coutts who came on my radar when the Cuntifiers played with his old band, the incredible KGB, in Flag once. Travis and the rest of these guys have been a major influence on the Flag scene through their many bands (Emo Wars, Custody Battle, Lipniki Kids, Wedding Band, Landlord, KGB etc.) and by throwing a ton of local parties/shows for many great touring bands. Anomic Suicides’ sound sometimes comes off like raw early 80s hardcore punk, as the Black Flag style art work and title suggests. Other times it feels like they were listening to a lot of Jawbreaker or Replacements, but most of the time it feels like they were eating a lot of acid and listening to Flipper and Sonic Youth or early Amphetamine Reptile bands. Some songs are thirty seconds long and some songs are nine minutes long. Drummer, Pickle, has a sledgehammer style of playing that works with all their styles. Whole thing is rough from conception, to playing, to recording and probably could have been trimmed to a best of rather than complete discography, but there is a rough beauty that comes through in enough of these songs to make it worth checking out.



Fighting the Lost War of the Anonymous demo cass. 2010
Here’s a current band out of Tempe whose demo I picked up a Toxic Ranch last week. Bill told me it was some pretty good noise out of Phoenix. I said “noise like Amphetamine Reptile stuff?” and he said “no like Throbbing Gristle.” Naturally I was intrigued and if Bill says its worth checking out it usually is. But I think we both missed the mark on what kind of noise this is. It reminds me of the early 90s riot grrl stuff, but only aesthetically, because it seems like its three young girls who have no idea of how they're "supposed" to play their instruments yet are still able to create great interesting music. This is way more creative than most of the stuff like this that was done in the 90s. I would fit this somewhere between contemporaries like Trash Kit and Finally Punk while giving a nod to Crass and Huggy Bear. It’s very menacing, a little creepy and so good that HOA (along with Gay Kiss and Sorrower and a few other newer bands) gives me hope for Phoenix.

Gary Bear

Gary Bear as Kelvin 296 & the Beat Hip demo cass. 1997
The first time I remember seeing Gary Bear was at the DPC when it had just opened (’90 or ’91?) and a great band from England, Thatcher On Acid, played. They were like a better, poppy version of the earlier English anarco-punk bands (Crass, Conflict et al.) and I listen to their records regularly to this day. In the middle of one of their songs they did this break down thing where the music got quiet and they invited anybody from the audience to come up and take the mic for a while. The stage was on the east side of the venue and for a short time had steps directly in front of it so there was easy access. The crowd was thin, but five or six people got up there and did their thing. Some sang along (with real passion, and the band reacted accordingly) others just said stupid shit. Then Gary Bear gets up and recites a poem that I don’t remember verbatim, but the basic idea behind it was that if you drink and you become an asshole when you drink, then you have no right to use alcohol in public. That simple wisdom, put so elegantly in poem form, with the great Thatcher On Acid backing him up, stuck with me over the years and occasionally pops into my head when I see drunk assholes in public. This made his face stick with me and I would recognize him performing as a solo act from then until now. Every time I’ve seen him perform live I’ve found it very annoying. It seemed like he got lost on the way to the Renaissance fair and somehow landed a spot in between two good bands I really wanted to see. This three song demo reflects that kind of freak-folk-pop stuff he does live, but here it’s not annoying. The songs are actually good. They’re still weird as fuck and very Renaissance-y as if he was scoring a very weird Willy Wonka directed by Jodorowosky set in Italy in 1525, but with love song lyrics. Listening to this makes me think about Gary Bear as that type of artist that works best in the recorded medium.


Lenguas Largas

Live on 602 Radio 2009
Here’s a live radio set by an early incarnation of the live version of Lenguas Largas. They play songs that have all ended up on their records, but here they’re slow as hell and super dreamy and hazy. The drugged out desert rock tag always gets stuck on these guys, but none of them really even do drugs. Here you wouldn’t know it because it feels like their high as hell, like they each took a hand full of Quaaludes and tried to walk through knee-deep mud, only with noisy psych punk music. Add some booze, Mark Beef and Ricky Shimo and you got a pretty winning formula. Drummer on this recording, Chris Kohler (Sexy) was replaced by Levi Reyes (Swing Ding Amigos) who was recently replaced by Brian Bollt (Sabertooth Snatch, Line of Fire). Brian’s drum style is more crystal meth than Quaaludes so the latest incarnation should be interesting. Another great live set from 602 Radio in Phoenix.

the Fells

Fun Date 7” circa 1994
This is my favorite Fells 7”. The A side is exactly what you’d expect from the Fells—a noisy amped up garage punk party stomp with some weird Melt Banana-esque noise being made by the guitars and too-cool-to-be-bothered-to-actually-sing monotone vocals. However the B side, “Easy Rider”, is like no other Fells song I ever remember hearing. It’s still pretty raw, but there is a kind of psychedelic melodic feel that never entered their mostly 50s influenced sound. They’re actually playing chords rather than just pounding power-chords. Vocals are still monotone, but somehow smoother. The whole song feels smooth and that’s a term I wouldn’t normally associate with this band. This had to be one of Heath’s songs because I don’t think Jeff had enough soul to write a song this good.


John Polle

4 songs solo live at the Red Room 2011
The work of Idaho to Tucson transplant John Polle, reminds me of his fellow Idahoan, Doug Martsch. He’s the guy that actually replaced Martsch when he left the Treepeople before their last and worst, but not as bad as some people make it out to be album, Actual Reenactment. Since then, like Martsch with Built to Spill and Halo Benders, Polle has been refining his own unique brand of American indie-pop/rock with his bands the Solace Bros., Lenguas Largas and Discos. I think he might have played in the post-Treepeople band Stuntman too. Also like Martsch he does the occasional acoustic solo set. His guitar picking skills are really evident here and the songwriting is great. On these songs he sounds less like Martsch and more like The Tallest Man On Earth playing stoned. These four songs are taken from the “Live at the Red Room” CD series vol.2 (available at the bar). I think he has a two song 7” of him playing solo like this too. New records by Lenguas Largas and Discos have also just come out. John’s a busy man. Sorry no song titles, but the first song is a version of Discos’ “Up in the Air.”

the Resonars

Lunar Kit LP 2002
On Matt Rendon’s releases as The Resonars he goes to the trouble to present the Resonars as a band with four real members who share the instrumentation and four part vocal harmonies, but everything is performed by Matt. It wasn’t always that way. They functioned as a real band that played live shows in the early years, but Matt, like all great musicians, probably came to the conclusion that he could get more done quicker by doing it himself. Plus it’s probably impossible to find good players that have as deep an understanding and love of 60s psych rock and pop music as he does. Sure you can find guys that wanna cover Hendrix and the Beatles at any shitty bar in any town, but Matt’s dipping into a much deeper well of 60s rock for inspiration. He can reproduce it so original and authentic sounding that when Dirty Steve, who also has a great knowledge of 60s music, first heard this album he thought it was some obscure gem from the 60s that flew under his radar. He has recorded a lot of my bands and the man can work studio magic with 60s technology. Title track refers to Keith Moon’s drum kit, the same model and set up that was used to record this record. He’s recorded at least two other full lengths since this record, all worth hunting down.

Mike Pearson

untitled solo work, circa mid 2000s
For a long time I only thought of Mike Pearson as a blues/punk player because I had only seen him play with the Blacks and Ultra Maroon, but sometime in the early/mid-2000s he moved to France with his French wife, Cecil, and he started sending me CDs. They were mysterious and cryptic regarding their content. There was no letter that said something like “here is some music I recorded.” Listening to it I could immediately recognize a number of songs as his, but then there were some songs that had completely different sounds and came from such a different place that I thought they had to be performed by some local French musicians that he met. Turns out it was all Mike and his musical knowledge and talents stretch far beyond raw American blues punk (which he does best) and into French Cabaret sounds, Tom Waits style swank and film music. Jazz references (and sounds) show up with song titles like “Better Git Hit In Yer Hed” and an almost unrecognizable cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” I doubt more than a dozen people have heard his solo stuff, but this stuff is so good that if the right Hollywood douche bag heard this stuff he could get every wanna-be Quentin Tarantino director lined up to suck Mike’s dick to score his next film.

Marty Dog Kubiak

acoustic demo cass. 1997
Ugstad played drums in Hobart, but the real creative force behind that project was Marty Dog. He would be an immense creative force on me during those eight years and by proxy everybody I’ve played with since. After Hobart had been together for a while Marty started to play some solo acoustic shows, usually with DJ Buttafly, opening for Waffle Butt at the Airport Lounge. Those shows were always great, but listening to this in retrospect Marty Dog’s mellow, somber songs seem like a strange contrast to Waffle Butt’s ass shaking party funk. Nevertheless these songs are great. Marty used two boom boxes that had recording capabilities to make a two track recording. The latencies and the way the melodies are layered give it a haunted feeling. These songs are very heartfelt and really sad in the most genuine way, because they were recorded during really tough times for Marty Dog. Two of these were Hobart songs, two were originals and one was an Evergreen cover. I think this release was limited to about fifteen copies.

Mr. Chatterbox

The next grip of posts will be solo recordings by Tucson musicians whose bands I’ve already written about here, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to play with.

filmworks circa early 2000s
Mr. Chatterbox is the solo work of Brandon Ugstad. He was commissioned to do this music by San Francisco filmmaker Edward Rosenblum for some of his short films. Like all good film music it is sometimes quite, moody and sparse. Other times it’s loud and heavy (in a Spill Blanket way). Other times it’s neither of those. A huge array of instruments and electronics were used. I know he loves David Lynch and John Zorn and those influences show up sometimes. I’ve been seeing his bands since the late 80s, so to me it sounds like he took all the best elements and experience of those bands and projected them in a calculated manner to make great film soundscapes. He really shines without somebody like me fucking up his riffs. We’ve been in a bunch of bands together and he’s been in a bunch more w/o me (Rhythm Squids, Spill Blanket, Absinthe, Hobart, Birds Ate My Face, Chick Cashman and the Countrypolitans, Jane Doe and the Decomposers, Staircase Wit, Found Dead On The Phone, the F.A.N.S.S, Mascaron, Kamikaze Autopilot plus me and him just started a new project with Pathos/El Creepy/Mascaron drummer, Andy Bell and I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting* or don’t know about). He has been one of my favorite persons to play music with for the last 15 yrs. because his skill and taste are impeccable and he has the patience of a saint. Somehow he squeezes all this musical output between a wife, two kids and a more than full time job. Sorry no song titles and I had to dump the last song, a beautiful piano and cello piece, because of skips.

*he even did some studio bass work on a Machine of Loving Grace album!


Run-On Sunshine

Memory Game cass. 2011
If you’ve been to a show in downtown Tucson in the last 10 years and there wasn’t a short skinny guy with a funny hair cut named Mullarkey dancing right in front of the band it’s because there was a better show going on that night and Mullarkey was at that show. For many years at shows he was mostly a spectator, but he has recently had an explosion of creativity that first manifested in his karaoke displays, then the band Monster Pussy, then Run-On Sunshine and now every time I run into him he tells me about some new really unconventional project he has in the works. Run-On Sunshine is extremely unconventional consisting mostly of Mullarkey singing. There is sparse instrumentation consisting solely of acoustic children’s instruments provided by Autumn Bree (Kamikaze Autopilot), a fine singer in her own right, who actually has a much larger range than Mullarkey’s mostly monotone approach, but she doesn’t sing here. This is pretty strange music that is not for the causal listener, but there are some catchy melodies and Mullarkey’s love of Calvin Johnson is evident. The lyrics are as intimate as the delivery and are mostly autobiographical and very heart-on-sleeve, with moments of brilliant insight, like when he is reminiscing about his recollection of the old days and thinks “…these memories could be altered to fool myself” which is a thought that has entered my head many times since I started this blog. 

Young Hunter

two song demo cass. 2011
Here is a newer Tucson band I recently saw that is made up of members of other Tucson bands that I haven’t heard and only scarcely heard of. Some of their sound is heavy and really full (two drummers!) and other times it’s real quiet and sparse, but it flows smoothly between the contrasting sounds. It’s a fairly dark take on indie rock and sounds like a bunch of Brooklyn or Portland hipsters were pumped on the Canadian indie bands (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes etc.) and tried to interrupt the sound in the desert setting with a desert vibe, like they smoke a lot of shitty pot and don’t leave home when the sun is out. Lo fi approach works pretty well for demo cass., but I hope they can keep it together long enough for a proper studio release which would allow the many layers to shine through.

Doo Rag

Hussy Bowler 7” 1993
Working in a blues bar has renewed my hatred for the blues*. Really, how many people playing the blues do it in an exciting original manner? That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is somewhere around four or five and at the top of that list would be Bob Log III. The legendary Doo Rag finds him between Mondo Guano and his solo mayhem and is some of his most fun music. The first time I remember seeing them play was unannounced in the bathroom at the DPC. When they blew up and were reaching bigger audiences I couldn’t help but wonder how they could have a large appeal, but now I can’t help but wonder why they weren’t bigger. A drunken rant by Lou Barlow at a recent Sebedoh show at Club Congress may explain why. He said they toured with Doo Rag back in the 90’s and after a few shows in Doo Rag just started wandering off, blowing off shows and ditching Sebedoh because, according to Barlow, they were “too cool” to tour with Sebedoh. It’s true, Doo Rag were too cool.  

*have you ever seen middle aged white people dance to the blues!?!? Holy shit it’s the funniest thing I’ve witnessed in a working situation. I’ve had to train myself not to look directly at them because I burst out in loud laughter sometimes.


Swing Ding Amigos

First demo circa 1999
The Swing Ding Amigos were originally from Nogales, but spent most of their existence in Tucson after brothers, Isaac and Levi Reyes, along with El Jimmy moved up here. This early recording finds them still a little wet behind the ears and still really pumped on Scared of Chaka, their most obvious influence at this point. They would eventually evolve a sound of their own that was faster and tighter than Scared of Chaka and just as catchy. I think the most interesting song here is the last one “About Today” which was a hidden track and doesn’t sound like any of the other songs on here. Some people might know this as the Ramen demo, because other versions have a Top Ramen cover, but I think I got one from a batch of one-of-a kind hand made CD-Rs probably thrown together for some out of town shows. Or I could be wrong and that might be a whole different demo. I got to spend a lot of time on the road with these guys when they would travel with the Blacks. They are extremely fun guys to hang out with. Currently Isaac is kicking ass with Lenguas Largas who Levi was also playing with until about a month ago when he moved to Phoenix. Brandon Ugstad and I are supposed to make a record with El Jimmy, doing a bunch of songs he wrote, and we were hoping to do that this summer, but we’ve been so busy with other projects we haven’t had a chance to even meet up yet. This is the first of many great recordings by this band that I will eventually post.

La Merma

Ciudad Fronteriza cass. 1997
At this point (15-16 years) La Merma has got to be S. Arizona’s longest continuous running punk band. Maybe even the longest continuous running punk band in the whole state (or would that be Blackfire or some PHX band I don't know about?) . The funny thing about that is that they’re not completely from Arizona or the U.S. They have the rare distinction of existing between the third world poverty of Nogales, Mexico and the scary militarized zone Nogales, Az. has become. Their sound reflects a similar dualism combining American Southern California melodic punk, like early Bad Religion with a heavy Spanish punk influence, especially from Eskorbuto, who they sound a lot alike and they praise here in their song “Eskorbuto.” The riff in La Merma’s “Mi Ciudad” is a pretty blatant rip off of Eskorbuto’s “Cuidado!” but they add their own twist to the song so it comes off as less a rip off and more of a folk-tradition tribute to one of their beloved influences. "A Bailar" is my favorite song here and worthy of many a mix-tape. This is their first release and despite many line up changes over the years they are more active than ever recently touring on the East Coast and in Europe and are currently recording their newest record in Tucson.


My Gun Named Trina

Class Clown Reformed 7" circa 1997
This is the other band I know of from Tombstone, “the town to tough to die,” where I saw a seven year old kid smoking cigarettes last time I was there. MGNT came along after the first wave of Cochise County bands. I’m sure all these guys grew up seeing those early bands, but they are removed from that scene by time and sonic differences. They drew more from post-Operation Ivy 90s ska-punk bands, but like Hell Day there is a naïve originality that adds some charm to it. It’s an early recording from Scott Becerra’s 4 AM studio in Sierra Vista and you can tell that the band and Scott were still getting their shit together, but the rough recording adds to the charm. The guitar sounds like a banjo and the saxophone sounds like a clarinet. If this was recorded in a proper studio it would be over polished and way less fun sounding. The songs are pretty catchy and that holds the whole thing together. Guitar player Ray Walker would move to Flagstaff and be integral to the Robothouse scene there in the early-mid 2000s, putting on shows and playing in bands like JETOMI and, more recently, joining and quitting Feel Free. Drummer Chris Ziegler would move to S. California to work as a writer and occasionally play music. I used to randomly run into him at shows or parties when my bands were playing out there regularly.


Hell Day

Raw Flesh Mind cass. circa '94/'95, Ugly Like My Butt cass. 1993
Here’s one by request, but coincidentally was on my short short list of posts. Hell Day was from Tombstone and is the third in the holy trinity of Cochise County Hardcore.There were many other bands, but there was a sonic kinship between Malignus Youth, Head Space and Hell Day. Hell Day would put their own spin on the sound. The vocals are the focal point and where the MY/HS influence is most evident, but they opt out of blast beat speed and drawn out jams for more of a straight punk sound. The vocals and melodic guitar and bass work make it sound like more than just simple punk though. Slight pop and jazz influences show up too. There seems to be a naïve originality to it, like being isolated in Tombstone limited their exposure to music so they took every type of music they heard and mixed it into a pot and came up with something unique. This is only one of two punk bands I ever heard of coming out of Tombstone. You would think that a town that celebrates violence, death and murder would be a punk mecca, but then again less than 2,000 people live there so Hell Day and My Gun Named Trina are actually real rarities. I think Hell Day relocated to Tucson eventually and were actually practicing in the room next to us on Pennington St. They were around a long time but only played sporadically and I never met them. Apparently a third demo exists. If anybody has it I want a copy.  

Raw Flesh Mind download here
Ugly Like My Butt download here



demo 1993
I was looking at the list of bands that Ryan Butler has been recording at his Arcane Digital studio and a lot of them are from Yuma. Besides the Wongs the only other Yuma band I know of was the Primates. The first time I ever played music in front of people (with a band called Block) was in Yuma at a show in an Elks Lodge. Almost 20 years and hundreds of shows followed but that show was by far the wildest I’ve ever played. One kid broke his arm in the pit, went to the hospital, had it set, and came back to the show! If my memory serves me right those Yuma shows were set up by a guy named John McCloud who played in this band, Primates. It’s too bad this band existed in Yuma in ’93 and not Tucson in ’99 because they would have been kin to the Blacks and the Spites with their love of the rawer early grunge sounds of Mudhoney and American garage punk. Last time I remember talking to McCloud he was going to try out for a Scottish-punk band, the Real Mackenzie’s, in Canada. (insert Rolling Stones/Scottish/Bestiality joke here).

the Wongs

Reanimate My Baby Lp 1999
Here is an earlier Rousseau project.  This will be the first of a few posts that gets away from Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff and into the smaller, weirder towns in Arizona. The Wongs were originally from the god-forsaken town of Yuma but relocated to Phoenix. They might have been in Phoenix by the time they recorded this, but I like to think of them as a Yuma band. They actually sound like they should have been from Tucson in the mid-90s with their super catchy garage punk stomp. It’s as good as, if not better than many of the Tucson garage bands from the 90s. Released on Rip Off Records, but I bet they didn’t have to beg Greg Lowery to put it out like the Spites did for their 7” on Rip Off.