Kinghorse – Too Far Gone

December 21 , 1994

Kinghorse
Too Far Gone: Unreleased Recordings 1988-1992 compact disc
[SDK-39] black and white press printed covers

Th When Too Far Gone was released, Louisville’s legendary iron ship hybrid of punk and metal, Kinghorse, had been broken up for over three years. Since their breakup, they had been revered and essentially worshipped as an unmatched, historical pinnacle of Louisville’s punk movement. Any attempt to explain the fervor by which the band’s followers venerated the group will fail completely.

During their four years together, Kinghorse had seamlessly dominated the local scene; attracting the largest crowds, earning the fattest guarantees, and setting the standards for the scale and level of resourcefulness by which all local bands would operate. And by breaking up in the fall of 1992, at the height of their popularity, they added the mystique of infallibility to their arsenal.

Kinghorse was possibly part of a scene of their own, and locally, they seemed to do everything right. Right for themselves, at least. All four members brought scene seniority to the band from the very start, as former members of other legendary Louisville bands, Maurice, Malignant Growth, Solution Unknown, and Fading Out. Plus, with Mike Bucayu in the bass guitar position, they had the local big guns of Self Destruct Records on their side. The group boasted the always controversial Sean “Rat” Garrison singing, the no nonsense Mark Abromavage on guitar, and the unreal Kevin Brownstein on drums.

In a December 1990 Courier-Journal review, Paul Curry wrote, “The world of Kinghorse is a dark, frightening place where understanding and compassion seem to be absent, where the individual has been oppressed beyond recognition and forgotten. Until now. Kinghorse represents the rebirth of the individual and the raging struggle necessary to maintain and nourish the soul; they are the musical embodiment of the holy war between illness and health.”

However menacing the powers of Kinghorse became, they definitely grew to know their limits. Their music seemed to lose a tremendous amount of its energy when it became a recording, and the phenomenon of their intense popularity never seemed to translate (in any significant numbers) to non-Louisvillian audiences. Both of these downfalls of their otherwise rock solid assault manifested themselves with the release of the first two Kinghorse records.

Their first seven inch was “Brother Doubt”/“Freeze” in 1989 on Self Destruct. Recorded at Sound On Sound by Howie Gano, September 3, 1988, the record was a wildfire when it arrived at ear X-tacy. The 500 copies were history in a couple months. The record was unique for several reasons, the first of which was that both songs were on Side One, and the flip side was an etching of the lyrics. The other interesting thing about it was that the subpar recording and even-worse mastering caused the sound quality on Kinghorse’s debut to portray their music in a much lower calibre than the razor sharp group could have performed it. Regardless of the lo-fi audio, the band was quickly shuffled off to do an album for Caroline Records in New York. Both the label and the band had no idea what they were getting into.


Kevin Brownstein pictured on the Too Far Gone CD tray card, with what was to become the trademark Slamdek CD spine design on either side.

The album was recorded in the Big Apple at Chung King House Of Metal. The back cover of it describes better than anything what everyone’s first impression of it was. Huge yellow letters, larger than the band members names, proclaim, “Produced by Glenn Danzig.” Glenn was an old friend of Kinghorse singer Sean Garrison, and Caroline apparently seized the opportunity to capitalize on Danzig’s current celebrity status. One listen to the album would discourage any producer from putting their name on it, much less in letters so large. You can almost hear the bass. The process of accurately transferring the band’s music from a performance into a recording had once again failed. Nonetheless, the record, encased in a piece of unfinished-looking “artwork” by Pushead, and accompanied by Caroline’s marketing strategy, hit stores in November 1990. They went on a full U.S. tour in support of the record the following year.
The hell they raised at Caroline is probably best captured by Woody MacDermott. He worked for Caroline in their promotions department, and wrote the following eulogy in 1994 for Slamdek’s Too Far Gone CD…

“When Kinghorse finally called it quits in the fall of 1992, I felt like I had just been paroled. For the prior two years, they consumed most of my time and all of my sanity. Dealing with them was a fucking nightmare. They were completely unprepared for the ‘professional’ music business and unwilling to even try to be. We became fast friends.

“Around the same time that Kinghorse recorded their only album for Caroline Records, I was promoted from working in the warehouse to the label’s promotions department. I had no clue what I was supposed to do. They proved to be my most valuable lesson. Almost immediately I connected with the four yahoos from Kentucky. The relationship began cordially over the phone with Mike and quickly degenerated into daily prank phone calls and insult matches. Kevin and Rat were brought in as backup, while Mark seemed pleased the others had a new distraction.

“A month before the album’s release, Halloween 1990, the label decided to showcase the band at the annual Foundations Forum heavy metal convention. Right away I knew this was a big mistake. About 30 people saw them play, but everyone was glad to see them go home when it was all over. For three days they went completely berserk from sensory overload. It was my first time meeting them and I was expecting the worst. Within hours Mike and Kevin felt comfortable enough with me to tackle me and tape my legs together. When I split Mike’s eyelid open and bit Kevin on the back, I knew I passed initiation.

“The two times Kinghorse played New York City, I was dumb enough to let them stay with me. The things that were done in my bathroom remain unspeakable. My phone bill doubled from all the prank calls made to escort services. We even forced poor Mark to play the Vanilla Ice board game.

“Their summer ’91 tour was an even bigger mess. They drove each other nuts to keep themselves amused. Mark’s powder blue fishing cap never left his head the entire trip.

Rat did not medicate himself regularly and behaved unpredictably. Mike would get so loaded that he would do things like put a pork rind in his ass and then eat it. Kevin delighted in singing along with his Gameboy in various character voices.

“I made the trip down to Louisville in July ’92, mainly to eat King’s Fried Chicken, but also to witness what turned out to be the final Kinghorse show. I met all the local legends (Sweet Harry, Gurt Bucket, Pop Tart, the Sleepwalker, etc.) and was greatly impressed with the local scene they inspired and were inspired by. Things seemed set for a second album, but it all fell apart pretty fast. Since the separation, it’s been easier to deal with them as individuals, but much less fun. You should be glad they’re not around anymore to be your friend.”

In the summer of 1994, Matt Loeser and I had what we thought was an impossible idea. In the two years since the band had broken up, bootleg cassettes had been circulating of Kinghorse’s last two demos. The first of these was a six-song Sound On Sound session from October 3, 1991. The band’s third and final record was pulled from this session. It was another seven inch on Self Destruct, “Going Home”/“Lose It.” These six songs were a demo for their second album on Caroline. The other unreleased demo was a four-song cassette eight-track recording made at their practice space by Scott Walker in June 1992, just before they threw in the towel.
Our idea was to approach the former members of the band about having those tapes released in an official form on Slamdek. “Yeah right,” we thought. Kinghorse was still much bigger than we, and at that, deceased and untouchable. Sean Garrison and Mark Abromavage had all but dropped out of the realm of circulation, Mike Bucayu had opened Blue Moon Records in Holiday Manor, and Kevin Brownstein was living in Dallas and engineering at a million dollar studio.

Our best bet was Mike since he most likely had the master tapes. But even if he agreed to it and gave us the tapes, we still had three other members to locate and get permission from. That was the real problem.

After a week or so of joking about the preposterous prospect of having a Kinghorse record on Slamdek, I finally just said “enough” and stopped by Mike’s apartment on Cherokee Road. It was a cool, rainy Friday night and I went by to drop off a check for Self Destruct merchandise I had sold through Slamdek mail orders. We talked about this and that and I got up the nerve to ask him about the unreleased tracks. To my surprise, he didn’t seem to care one way or another. He almost seemed pleased to give me the 10/3/91 DAT. I was sure as hell pleased to have it in my pocket and I just about wet my britches as soon as I walked out the door with it. I think I even did one of those “touchdown!” dances once I got outside. I could not believe it. I figured that Mike and Sean would be the biggest obstacles to overcome, and one was taken care of. I went back and met Matt and we both were ecstatic.

A few nights later I was lucky enough to hear that the always elusive Rat was at Blockbuster Video on Bardstown Road. I got in my car and zipped the five blocks there as fast as I could. I caught him and quickly ran the idea by him as he was pacing up and down the aisles spying videos. The frantic, short-haired version of the Rat we once knew agreed that it was some of the band’s best stuff. And he told me he thought it would be good if people could hear it. It was good to see him again, much less to see him getting excited about his former band. I left that evil video store with an unbelievable feeling. Two down, two to go.

Mike and Sean were the two members of the band I knew best, and I figured if they wanted it to happen then Kevin and Mark would probably be behind it, too. Sean got excited about it and went ahead and called both of them. They were interested. It was unreal. I knew that a Kinghorse CD of unreleased material on Slamdek was going to be huge, it was going to be unprecedented, and it was going to solidify the label’s role as “Louisville’s Record Company” once and for all. Kinghorse, especially for Slamdek, was the great beyond, the unthinkable, the icing on the cake we call Louisville. Everything was set.

I began talking to Kevin in Dallas on the telephone. The plan evolved quickly from a six-song CD of the October ’91 recording into a disc that compiled all of Kinghorse’s unavailable material. This included work from three different recordings: the six-song Sound On Sound demo (10/91), the four-song Scott Walker cassette recording (6/92), and to my immense delight, six of the eight songs from the band’s first recording (9/88) [the two missing tracks comprised their first 7″]. Since Kevin was working in a mega-studio at the time, he was interested in getting a hold of the original reels and completely remixing as many of the tracks as possible. I thought that was fine, but I didn’t have any money to offer him for the studio time. He had recently laid a kitchen floor in his boss’ house who owed him a favor for doing so. Kevin concentrated on getting the tracks remixed, Sean worked on getting all the lyrics together, and I started working on the layout.

Kevin’s task in this process was undoubtedly the most tedious, time consuming, and difficult. He spent several days working on the material, some of which was in pretty bad shape. Scott Walker’s cassette eight-track recording was transferred to a digital multitrack tape to make it easier to work with. Kevin’s friend Tim Kimsey, who worked on the second Pantera album, assisted him with the grueling task. But the multitrack master for the first Sound On Sound session was not saved, so those six songs were simply transferred from the 1/4″ mixdown reel. Kevin also took care of clearing the new release through Caroline, with whom the defunct Kinghorse was still technically contracted.

Kevin and I talked several times a week, both cramming to get the project done quickly for a Christmas season release, yet double-checking every last detail with every member of the band. It also had to be shipped off before I left for a five-week Metroschifter tour in early November. We located some really nice pictures which had been shot in 1992 for a story in Louisville Music News. A professional photographer took them, however, and charged us about a million dollars to use them. My intense excitement about the CD was the only thing that got my part done on time. Those guys drove me fucking crazy when we were putting the artwork together. Every little last small little thing itsy bitsy microscopic thing had to be an issue. The last few days of the project, I slept maybe two or three hours a night. There just wasn’t enough time. By the time it was all finished, I felt so compelled that I asked the band if I could include a few words about the CD itself in the liner notes. They agreed…

“During the process of creating this compilation, it has become painfully apparent that the differences that exist between Kinghorse members have not been resolved. I have also learned that none of them were ever willing to take a back seat to any of the other members in making decisions. Now, over two years after the break up of the band, all the former members of Kinghorse still seem completely nit-picky about every last detail of the way their music is presented. This could easily explain how they remained so true to form through four years together. It could also explain their untimely demise as a group. They have apparently never encountered the word compromise. They don’t compromise with outsiders, and they don’t compromise with each other. However long ago these songs were recorded, everyone involved still feels very strongly for them. Every single one of the many factors that had to come into play -to make a release like this possible- are nothing short of miracles. Everything from getting the master tapes together to getting everyone to agree on a layout; from remixing ten of the songs to borrowing enough money to pay for all of it; none of this could have been accomplished without everyone’s cooperation.

“Much of the work done on Slamdek over the years, and by countless other Louisville labels and musicians, has been directly inspired by Kinghorse. Their ideas of hard work, dedication to purpose, and die-hard resourcefulness had an effect on virtually every Louisville band. Having the Slamdek logo on a Kinghorse release seems not only a miracle, but also an impossible dream come true. Every headache and sleepless night it took to complete this monumental task were undoubtedly worth it.”

Everything was finally in order and delivered to Midwest Records in Dallas, who made the CD’s. John Timmons from ear X-tacy helped yet another Slamdek release materialize by pre-ordering several hundred discs. I left on the five-week U.S. tour with the Metroschifter, periodically keeping in contact by telephone with Kevin, John, and Clay Thompson at Midwest. Since I was out of town, when the discs arrived in mid-December, the entire order was delivered to ear X-tacy in Tyler Park Plaza. At 2,000 units, this was the largest initial order of any Slamdek release. In exchange for the pre-order, ear X-tacy had a four-week exclusive on the CD and they moved about 300 of them by Christmas. Pretty much everyone I knew got one for Christmas as well. It was cool.

The credits page of the inside booklet included the Self Destruct and Slamdek logos side by side, and the note, “This compilation was made possible through the gracious cooperation of Caroline Records and Self Destruct Records.”

Just before Too Far Gone hit the shelves, I talked with Kevin in Dallas from a pay phone on tour in Minneapolis. He told me that he and Sean had been talking about putting the band back together. “Oh my God,” was all I could say. Kevin was going to come to Louisville for a few weeks surrounding Christmas, during which they’d all get together. If things clicked like they used to and it seemed to be the thing to do, Kevin would move back and the ’horse would ride again.

By the time Kevin arrived in Louisville, it was clear that bassist Mike Bucayu wanted nothing to do with a reformed Kinghorse. He had left his six-year post behind the counter at ear X-tacy to become the owner and full-time keeper of Blue Moon Records in Holiday Manor shopping center. Mike said he would do some reunion shows in support of the CD, but he had no interest in reforming the group on a permanent basis. The other three members made a crucial decision to put Kinghorse on stage for the first time with a different lineup. The teenaged Jerry Cunningham of Raze was selected to fill Mike’s shoes.

Between Christmas and the reformed Kinghorse’s first show, Slamdek closed down. Nonetheless, April 22, 1995 at the Grand Theatre in New Albany, the Hate Machine was reborn. Before hundreds of teenaged lemmings, many of whom were familiar with Kinghorse only through the band’s tall legend, poorly produced album, and new CD on Slamdek, the reformed group took the stage. The sound check we witnessed that day was unreal. Not only was it Kinghorse in 1995 doing a sound check, but they sounded great, like they never stopped to take three years off. A blast from the past.

When show time rolled around, Mark arrived intoxicated and in no condition to perform the set. The show went on anyway. And, in so many words, for the first time ever, they sucked. Here’s the play-by-play as reported in Hard Times by the Godfather, Darrell Ray Elmore…

Mark’s drunk. Near as I can tell, he’s been drunk a good long while; he and the rest of his cronies down at the Love Cafe, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Grand Theatre in New Albany. I had left the Grand just as Enkindel were starting their set… mainly because it was an all ages show, and there was no liquid refreshment being served stronger than a Mr. Pibb.



Also, I had the feeling that there would be some boys from the band hanging at this small, seedy hole-in-the-wall bar… call it a journalistic instinct. Sure enough, at the back of the shotgun-house-turned-tavern is Kinghorse guitarist Mark Abromavage, holding court with Big Irv, Bill Murphy, and some guy they keep calling “Burnt Cheese,” or some such shit.

I barely clear the entrance of the Love Cafe before Mark bursts into a hail of catcalls and “Hey Motherfucker!”s. The boys are swilling a vile cinnamon liquor with the dubious name of “After Shock,” and have already established a ritual method of drinking the foul potion.
“Drink it!” shouts Mark in my ear, “Then SMELL it!” I know better than to disappoint these boys, and hurriedly drain a small shot glass in order to quickly become a member of the club.

I’ve known Mark for a good long time. I’ve hung out with him, learned a few guitar licks from him, drank with him, but never have I seen him under the bright-white influence of rock & roll stardom. It is one of the things that makes this whole scene interesting… to me, Mark is just this guy that lives up the street, eats mostly vegetarian food, tells the funniest stories I’ve ever heard (the man possesses a fantastic wit and natural story-telling talent combined with a gift for impromptu sound effects), and usually wears one of those little toboggans that were so popular among the hardcore set a few years back. But to thousands of rock and rollers, he is a myth, a legend in his own time, a guitar God who rides on the wings of bad-ass, downright mean, balls-out, in-your-face, tough guy talent.

And with good reason. Kinghorse, the band, is perhaps the biggest local act to come down the pike since Squirrel Bait or Slint. The ’Horse has its own following, and the respect of just about every skate-punk death-rocker in the world. Glenn Danzig produced their album, which as is the custom, was released just prior to the band’s breakup four years ago. Or has it been three? Anyway, now they’re back.

If Mark Abromavage is the balls of Kinghorse, then Sean Garrison is the brains. Sean, commonly known as Rat amongst regular scenesters, has consciously fostered the image of a crazy-man. While riding around downtown in preparation for the photo that graces this issue’s cover, Sean regaled my photographer, Tom Willis, and I with imitations of Ethel Merman singing select songs from the Willy Wonka soundtrack… It is a careful, from-the-ground-up approach to modern rock and roll marketing, and Sean will be the first to admit it. That in itself is one of the major dualities of this band. They are punk for punk’s sake, even if the music that rolls offstage when the ’Horse is on its feet and galloping owes more of a debt to Black Sabbath than anything the Ramones or the Sex Pistols ever recorded.

Which is perfect for the redneck take that many of the all-agers have brought up with them from the Ohio mud that surround this town and its scene. Not quite Texas-like in its devotion to the three B’s of sentimentality: Beer, Broads, and Brawls, the local scene still has more than its share of young brimming-with-energy, white males that desperately need to “go off” every once in a while. And Kinghorse provides more than enough opportunity for the kind of high-energy slam-dancing and moshing that is necessary to satiate the appetites of those afflicted with piss & vinegar disease.

THE SHOW

…There is a feeling of off-balanced teetering coming from Kinghorse’s return to the stage… as if they are struggling to find a groove that has long laid fallow in the dusty closet of Sean and Mark’s lives. Abromavage seems to be taking longer adjusting the modified tunings that he so dearly loves to play “just to fuck with people.” And it seems to be wearing thin on Sean’s nerves.
Which is understandable. While Mark is tuning, at least he has something to do… whereas Sean is forced to stare out at the audience with something like charisma that he is obviously not feeling.

The day after the show, I received a phone call from Mark. He told me that he had noticed my notebook, and figured I was “working” the night before. “If you could,” he asked, “just put in there how sorry I am, ’cuz I was drunk, and I wasn’t really performing as well as I should have. Last thing I remember is one minute, I’m downing After Shocks with you and Irv and Bill, and the next minute, I’m on stage botchin’ “Razor.” It sucks ’cuz I wasn’t even on something cool, like heroin, or speed. I was just a drunk, and that’s not cool at all.”

Clever insight, from a man who “screwed the pooch” just twelve hours previous.

…Down on the floor, Sean was ripping the crowd into a frenzy, screaming, sharing the mic with the boys against the stage, dropping the mic mid-rant so that only those within a few feet could hear his unamplified “message.”

“It was like a mass indictment on everyone who came to the show,” said one introspective, sweaty punk, “it was like he looked right into the most private thoughts of my life and spit them back at me like I was the worthless trash that I am.”

Mark held it together despite his “condition”: the band’s trademark guitar sound was all over the room. Pictures of the show reveal that Mark was a bit uncomfortable, maybe even worried.

Sean, when he wasn’t spewing “poetry” or bitching about Mark’s time-consuming “special” tunings, seemed ready to act up. His patented Manson stare was not in blatant evidence; his presence was confident, but his energy seemed divided. Turns out, he was mad at Mark. Said Garrison, “At the point where the mic stand went down, it was either the mic stand or Mark.” He’s referring to the 40-gauge super-indestructible mic stand that he bought early on in Kinghorse’s infancy. Seems the guys were paying for too many wimpy, busted mic stands after their shows, so Sean bought one that wouldn’t break. It was a legendary element of the band’s practical attitude toward playing out when the guys were a mainstay in the scene all those years ago. After the show at the Grand, however, it looked like a pretzel.

After the show at the Grand, the band was very anxious to get the word out that that was obviously not the Kinghorse that had become so legendary. The quickest way to do that was to play again and prove the opposite. Later that summer, looking back on the experience of the band getting screwed by Caroline, breaking up, and then flopping at their comeback show, Sean told Highlands Lowlife fanzine, “We even have to totally establish our local supremacy again. There are a lot of people who were at that Grand show who will never come to another gig. Maybe they will in six months. I hate to say it, but it almost seemed that it was the will of something that was way bigger than us. Like a pre-disastered start to which nothing else can pale. Now I feel as if this band is almost pre-disastered. Everything bad that could have conceivably happened to this band has already happened. I can’t conceivably imagine anything else happening, unless one of us commits suicide, or is hit by a car. I can’t think of anything else that hasn’t gone wrong already!”

The band lost everything, but somehow didn’t lose its desire. They fought back quickly with shows at the Cherokee (former Tewligans building) and the Butchertown Pub, regular (or irregular) appearances on the Sell Out Louisville Style radio program, their own forms of printed propaganda, and loads of out-of-town show dates.

As I’m sitting here writing this book, it is still amazing to me that Kinghorse is a band. They have persevered and anything that has been thrown their way has not seemed to damage them in any way. Everything we always respected about them years ago, that caused us all to mimic their methods, still hold true about them today. I can’t think of any other Louisville band that has ever been truer-to-form than Kinghorse or more revered as a truly Louisvillian phenomenon. I also can’t name any band on Slamdek whose addition to the label surprised me more, or made me feel more like the label’s relevance to the city’s musical history was important.

To everyone’s delight, Too Far Gone was met with a wave of excellent local reviews and took its rightful place as the most anticipated release Louisville had been waiting for… and didn’t even know it.

LINER NOTES:

Mark Abromavage, guitar
Kevin Brownstein, drums
Mike Bucayu, bass
Sean Garrison, vocals

Track listing:
01 Never
02 Fear Him
03 Going Home
04 Lose It
05 Crimson Hands
06 Turn And Fire
07 Skipper Incident*
08 Awaken
09 Fourth Step
10 Lay Down And Die
11 What Am I Supposed To Do?
12 Bastards Like Me
13 Too Far Gone
14 Ode To Gurt Bucket*
15 That
16 Charge!
17 Versus
18 Let It Come Down
19 Pesterus Markus*

*=prank call tracks

Kinghorse
1029 Bardstown Road #2
Louisville, Ky 40204
(include a SASE)

Produced by Kevin Brownstein, CD Prep by Frank Salizar, Designed by Scott Ritcher, Background graphics by Mooch, Cover Photos by Nick Bonura.

Thanks to: John Timmons and ear X-tacy, Scott Ritcher, Tim Kimsey, Clint Strickland, Chris MacDermott, Blue Moon Records, Brian Murphy, Gertrude Bucket, Scott Walker, Stefanie Donnelly, our friends, families, and fans.

Tracks 1-6:
Recorded 10/8/91 at Mom’s, engineered by Howie Gano. Remixed 10/94 at Dallas Sound Lab by Tim Kimsey and Kevin Brownstein.

Tracks 8-13:
Recorded 9/3/88 at Mom’s, engineered and mixed by Howie Gano.

Tracks 15-18:
Recorded 6/92 at Mark’s apartment on a Fostex cassette eight-track, engineered by Scott Walker. Remixed 10/94 at Concept Logic by Tim Kimsey and Kevin Brownstein, assisted by Clint Strickland.

All songs by Kinghorse, lyrics by Sean Garrison except “Lay Down And Die” lyrics by Brett Ralph, music by Mark Abromavage; and “What Am I Supposed to Do?” lyrics and music by Mark Abromavage.

Tracks 7 and 19 field recordings and arrangement by Kevin Brownstein. Track 14 performed by Hank Sharmann and the TP Rollers. [aka Kevin]