Endpoint – If the Spirits Are Willing

June 20, 1989
If the Spirits Are Willing cassette
[HAHX-1797] color copied inserts, on-shell cassette labeling

Perhaps the one release that more people know Slamdek for than any other, is Endpoint’s ambitious 1989 debut If The Spirits Are Willing. Seventeen songs recorded and mixed in three days, and then played and replayed thousands of times to become what is sometimes regarded as their best recording. The four piece, fledgling Endpoint that walked into Juniper Hill in early March of 1989, amazed at how nice it looked, was light years away from the Endpoint that played its final show December 30, 1994, for over 2,000 people. In fact, after recording these songs, the band would only perform twice for the remainder of the year and remained virtually nonexistent in support of the release. For whatever reason, in the fall of ’89, Duncan Barlow, Jason Graff, Rob Pennington, and Rusty Sohm decided to give it one more “Go!” and took to the stage at Tewligans. Something clicked at that show with Kinghorse, and gave Endpoint enough spark to fuel the fire another four years.

What cannot escape this story is a seeming unspoken rivalry among friends that had
developed between Spot and Deathwatch. This unusual rivalry continued as the two bands evolved into Cerebellum and Endpoint. Both Cerebellum and Endpoint recorded for Slamdek releases during the same weeks in March 1989. And played a steamy, legendary show together at Karen Sheets’ parents’ Douglass Boulevard house following these sessions. The race was on to see whose cassette would come out first, whose would have the nicer packaging, and better still, whose would sell the most copies. While Slamdek had been gaining a reputation for handsome, color packaging, and good sounding cassettes, Endpoint drummer Rusty Sohm demanded that it wasn’t good enough. Slamdek inserts were still color copies and were not on the heavier glossy stock that major label cassettes were packaged with. Slamdek cassettes had printed paper labels, rather than titles printed on the cassette shell itself. The members of Endpoint also seemed overly preoccupied with how much money they would be receiving from the sale of the tape and how many copies they would get free. Several disputes of this nature took place between band members, but more frequently and especially between Rusty and myself. One of these conversations entailed the fact that they wanted color packaging, but had selected a black and white photo for the cover. Another involved removing the song “Wool,” located in the middle of side one, at the last minute. This would be a hassle because digital production masters cannot be spliced. To edit it, you’d have to make a copy of it leaving out the portions you want to omit; or you could record over portions of the original. The first of these procedures is costly, provided you do not own two DAT recorders. The other is very time consuming, nerve racking, and dangerous, as a slight error could ruin your master tape.

March 1989 afternoon at Juniper Hill: Todd Smith and Tom Mabe (background) listen to Endpoint tracks recorded the previous night.

When the cassette was eventually released three months later (and two months before Cerebellum’s) it came packaged as a compromise. The insert was indeed a color copy, yet when unfolded, contained two pieces and folded out eleven times including the lyrics to fifteen songs and a collage of photos of the band members going off. The cassettes were white shelled and had the Endpoint logo, titles, and all that, printed directly on the cassette in black. Additionally, Endpoint received the equivalent of $1.97 (either in cash or in the form of merchandise) from the sale of every cassette sold until Slamdek went out of business in 1995.

QCA in Cincinnati had done a rather shoddy printing job on these, and an even poorer job recording the music onto them. To fix the sound problem, the cassettes were rerecorded in pairs SSDigital-style. This was also a monumental undertaking as If The Spirits Are Willing is about 55 minutes in length, and there were 200 tapes in the initial order (about 90 hours of machine time).
As for “Wool,” Duncan and Rusty performed another song (of the exact same length) in Rusty’s bedroom and called it “Wool” which Scott recorded direct to DAT. Scott took the new song and recorded it to the master in the same location, erasing the other. This tricky maneuver, described earlier, actually worked. The inside of the cassette insert was emblazoned with several paragraphs entitled, “Wool Notes,” an explanation of some of the disputes and irregularities of the release. While trying to shed some light on the little bits of friction between Endpoint and Slamdek, its tongue-in-cheek wording read as follows…

“Wool Notes.
The sixth song on side one is called ‘Wool’ and sounds remarkably different than the rest of the album for a number of reasons. The main one is that the other 16 songs were recorded at Juniper Hill Creative Audio, while ‘Wool’ was recorded in Rusty’s bedroom
(Rusty on bass, Duncan on guitar, listen for the aquarium). There were 17 songs from Juniper Hill and one of them was called ‘Wool,’ but at the last minute the band had the song pulled for artistic reasons (they hated it). So it was replaced with this little ditty which for all practical purposes is now called ‘Wool.’ Not because it sounds like it should be, but because it’s much more enjoyable than a two minute hole in the middle of side one.

“Also, while we’re covering artistic disputes, it’s probably fair to mention that the band would have preferred a 2 panel cardboard insert with edited lyrics and smaller pictures rather than this extended paper one with all the words except ‘Axis Crew.’ But
that was more of a label decision, and for all you fans of cardboard inserts, don’t hold it against the band and please accept our sincere apologies on behalf of the entire SLAMDEK/Scramdown family. If you don’t have a fast forward button, we also apologize for the six minute gap that ends the first side.

“Finally, if you’d like more information about Endpoint, their T-shirts, their upcoming projects, their show dates, their neighbors, or the helpful people that work for their label and love them more than all the other bands, please write to Endpoint, Box 43551, Louisville, Ky 40243. Include a self addressed stamped envelope and somebody relatively important will quickly answer your quest for whatever it is you need to know. Thanks.”

March 12, 1988, Endpoint backing vocals at Juniper Hill: Rusty Sohm, Russ Honican, Rob Pennington, Jason Graff, Duncan Barlow.

If The Spirits Are Willing unleashes the speed and fury of Endpoint’s early hardcore/punk rock/heavy metal blend. Later bands like Falling Forward and Enkindel would owe it all to Endpoint before defining their own sounds. It became ridiculous to imply that a certain group of Louisville bands were of a certain genre. They simply sounded like Endpoint and there was no getting around it.

“Mirrored Image” is the second track and, in a unique move for a hardcore band, the vocalist sits out until about halfway through the tune as the music paints the melodic picture. By the time Rob joins in to sing, it has transformed into a completely different song. Endpoint did this several times on this cassette. That is, composed lengthy songs of epic proportions that could have easily been split into several songs. “Rungless Ladder” is a classic example. Rusty penned both the music and lyrics of “Way Back,” which Endpoint kept in their repertoire for years after his departure from the group. And to clear up any rumors, “Wopner,” is indeed named after Judge Wapner from television’s The People’s Court. And obviously, is spelled incorrectly.

The beginning of “Shattered Justice” a chug-chug build up that eventually bursts into the song. All the while Rob is growling, “Shattered… shattered justice,” which through the emotion comes off sounding as if he’s saying, “Shattunda.” Shattunda became an inside joke with the band for years. On the 1994 compact disc issue of If The Spirits Are Willing, the word shattunda is printed on the disc label with no explanation. Now you know why.
Joey (who was now essentially succeeding Jeff Hinton as a main Slamdek idea man) and I had several conversations at the Bardstown Road parking lot about Endpoint’s apparent lack of gratitude. As a result, If The Spirits Are Willing was almost ditched altogether no less than five times. Just as Endpoint as a band inexplicably stuck it out a little longer, so did I, and the results were eventually for the best. By 1990 they had already used their Slamdek cassettes as a stepping stone to an LP for California’s Conversion Records. As Conversion’s lack of efficiency and interest in the band’s ideas became more evident, Endpoint’s overall attitude toward Slamdek seemed to shift gears and alleviated a lot of the uneasy, unspoken friction between both. While I was never on bad terms with Endpoint, there was a considerable amount of misunderstanding and undiscussed ideas that fueled uncomfortable situations throughout the duration of our working relationship. Apart from all of it, Duncan and I went on to become good friends, share an apartment, and even play together as the 1992-93 duo Layered Guitars and Electronics (LG&E).

Within a year of its release, If The Spirits Are Willing replaced Spot’s Proud as the cornerstone of Slamdek mail orders and eventually sold more than any other Slamdek hardcore cassette. Like so many Slamdek cassette releases though, it went in and out of print constantly. Sometimes being unavailable for six or seven months at a time, it would return with completely new packaging. If The Spirits Are Willing on cassette was never carried by any national distributors like the Spot tape was. As a result, it was essentially available only in Louisville stores, by mail order, at Endpoint shows, or in out-of-town stores that bought direct from Slamdek. Its definitive and most common version is its 1994 reissue on compact disc. However, before 1994, it went through many configurations as cassette versions.


Duncan Barlow, guitars
Jason Graff, bass
Rob Pennington, vocals
Rusty Sohm, drums

Produced by Cubby Cleaver and Endpoint. Recorded at Juniper Hill in Louisville. Digitally mixed and mastered. Engineered by Todd Smith. Digital mixdown direction by K Scott Ritcher. In studio assistance: Pizza Tom Mabe.

Side one:
Thought You Were
Mirrored Image
Ignorance Downfall
Label Me
Final Stand
Way Back
Axis Crew

Side two:
Stick Around
Shattered Justice
Rungless Ladder
Religion Crisis

Thanks to:
Andy and Alf (god of bums), Scott, Cubby, Tom man, Josh, Russ da rodie, Pat Alguire, Lee F., John T., Jon C., Shawn F., Kipp and Greg of Deathwatch, Tina and her parents, Mike Jarboe, Whitney, Joey, Breck, Tim, Kent Jackson, Drew R., Drew D., Dave Phillips, Stronghold, Cerebellum, Kinghorse, Necropsy, Bush League; Thanks to the Louisville crew for your endless support; Special thanks to our parents and George Frazier for financial support. Later.