Merry Christmas

December 19, 1991

Merry Christmas
various artists cassette & compact disc
[SDK-25] black & white press printed J-cards with photocopied liner notes, on-shell cassette labeling

Merry Christmas, the 1990 SLAMDEK/Scramdown Christmas tape, is a gem of Louisville’s musical uniqueness, diversity, and cooperative abilities. The nine-band, nine-song cassette was not only unique from other Slamdek Christmas tapes, but was also a unique effort by nature of who was involved and the purpose its songs served. It was a compilation of Louisville bands paying tribute to other Louisville bands.

The cassette had a unified sound and timeliness as all of its songs were recorded especially for this release, and seven of the nine at the same studio with the same engineer. And it had a unifying effect on the scene itself by inviting bands from all “sides” to participate. Bands usually thought of as “Self Destruct bands” appeared on a release with bands usually thought of as “Slamdek bands,” alongside new bands; and all of them covering mostly unpredictable songs.

However rewarding it eventually became, creating the cassette was a fiasco. Any project that involves getting about fifty people together to learn and record new songs, then scheduling all of them at convenient times in the same studio, has all the complex logistics you might imagine it would. Because of scheduling, several bands that wanted to participate could not. Shut Out planned to be on it but couldn’t get it together in time, and Sean Garrison was going to do a solo acoustic song, but ran out of time. Having those two artists on the cassette would have expanded the level of total scene cooperation in even greater degrees in both directions.

Nine bands did pull it together during November and early December, and their master DAT’s were compiled into sequence in my bedroom at the Slamdek House on Bonnycastle. Because of the tight time constraints with Christmas approaching, the cassettes were manufactured in Philadelphia at Discmakers. Discmakers offered a five-day turnaround on small orders. This worked out beautifully, and the cassette was released almost a week before Christmas. One day while Undermine was practicing with their new drummer Will Chatham at the Slamdek House, Carrie Osborne and Breck Pipes helped me fold liner note sheets and assemble the cassettes.
The liner notes were, again, especially lengthy. They listed band members and information about the performers and the groups whose songs were being covered. The monologue began with a synopsis of the three previous Christmas cassettes, which is not reprinted here. But here’s a play by play of most of the liner notes, with commentary [in brackets]:

“This year, Louisville has turned in on itself. For the first time, everything that appears on this cassette was recorded especially for the purpose of being here. Furthermore, the 1991 Christmas cassette is all Louisville bands playing covers of their favorite other Louisville bands’ songs. The reason there is so much great music in Louisville is because there are so many great people making music here. Anyone who is the least bit interested in creating can’t help but to be constantly inspired by the people of Louisville and the energy that music has here. This meager cassette stands as each band’s tribute to the Louisville musicians that have made a difference for them. Virtually forgotten bands like Anti-Youth can now shine again, while die-hard rockers like David LaDuke finally get the respect they deserve. Overlooked Louisville musicians like Patty Smith and Mildred J. Hill, whose song is as far-reaching as the sun, find a new interpretation in the hands of the kids who grew up singing it. Mid-’80’s punk classics by Maurice and Solution Unknown also serve to bring our generations together. Inevitably, the Slamdek bands feed off themselves as Cerebellum, Crawdad, and Endpoint are all saluted in three very different ways. Finally, this is probably the only city in the world that could crank out both Slint and some members of Midnight Star, and then put them all together in a medley.

“Without further description, let’s let the music of our hometown speak for itself. Forget all about everywhere we’ve been told new music is at its best. Everyday we’ll discover a little bit more why we don’t have to go anywhere else to get what we need. This is the ongoing sound of Louisville- crank it up and Merry Christmas!”

Dybbuk “Dare To Feel”
Eric Schmidt vocals, Jeremy Podgursky guitar, Tim Wunderlin guitar, Brian Kaelin bass, Alex Charland drums.

Originally performed by Maurice, 1986

Dybbuk, 1991: Jeremy Podgursky, Tim Wunderlin, Brian Kaelin, Eric Schmidt, and Alex Charland.

“Dybbuk (pronounced DIB-ick) has a self-titled 7″ out on Self Destruct Records. They’ve been together since April 1990 and their record came out in 1991. Eric replaced previous their vocalist Branden Faulls in June 1991. They plan to record in early 1992 for another release.

“Maurice was together from 1983 to 1987 and never released any records. Britt Walford and David Pajo continued to play together in Slint with whom they released Tweez on Jennifer Hartman Records in 1989, and Spiderland on Touch and Go Records in 1991. Brian McMahan played in Slint and Maurice for a while. Maurice was also home for Sean Garrison and Mike Bucayu. They later formed Kinghorse whose 1989 Self Destruct/Steel Heart 7″ is now out of print. Kinghorse has an LP out on Caroline Records and another one scheduled for next year sometime.”

[Dybbuk recorded a full length album, Breakfast T., which was released posthumously as a Self Destruct 12″ and cassette in 1992. The band broke up earlier that year, shortly before guitarist Tim Wunderlin tragically died in an accidental asphyxiation. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in the Highlands.

[After Dybbuk’s disbandment, Alex Charland joined Slo-Pok, and Eric Schmidt dropped out of the music scene for a while. Brian Kaelin and Jeremy Podgursky formed a new band, Lather, with drummer Brian Toth and guitarist Sean Wolfson. Lather recorded a Self Destruct 7″ in October 1992, and six more songs between April and June 1993. Those ten tracks were compiled on a Self Destruct CD, A Modest Proposal. Lather broke up in the summer of 1994.

[Slint’s Tweez was reissued on Touch and Go in 1993, and the band allegedly tried to get back together around that same time, to no avail.

[Kinghorse broke up in the fall of 1992. Their second album on Caroline never materialized. Mike Bucayu opened his Blue Moon record store in the Holiday Manor Walk shopping center in the fall of 1994. Around Christmas 1994, a Slamdek CD of nineteen unreleased Kinghorse tracks renewed interest in the group, and they reformed with Jerry Cunningham of Raze on bass. Mike was either not interested in the band, or more interested in his store.]

Step Down “Elders”
Duncan Barlow vocals, Lee Fetzer guitar, Kyle Noltemeyer guitar, Christian McCoy bass, Jon Smith drums.

Originally performed by Anti-Youth, 1986

Step Down, 1991: Lee Fetzer, Kyle Noltemeyer, and Duncan Barlow.

“Step Down formed in the summer of 1991. They recorded eight songs in November
and have put it out as a self-released cassette. Three members of Endpoint play in Step Down but play different instruments. Jon is also in Shut Out who were planning on joining this Christmas Fiesta but couldn’t because of scheduling problems.

“Anti-Youth was together in 1986. They never recorded, but ‘Can’t You See’ by Big Deal on the Louisville Sluggers compilation 7″ was originally one of their songs. Anti-Youth was Greg Smith, Todd Brashear, Gordon Gildersleeve, and Bryan Jackson.”

[Step Down changed their name to Guilt at the beginning of 1993. Shortly after the name change, Lee Fetzer left the group to join Enkindel, and Duncan Barlow began playing guitar while singing to replace him. Christian McCoy left Guilt in April 1993 and was replaced by Ashli State. Ashli played in both Guilt and the Telephone Man for a few months before leaving the latter. Guilt released a 7″, Empty?, and a 10″, Synesthesia, both on Initial Records which were later compiled on the Synesthesia CD, and an LP/CD/cassette, Bardstown Ugly Box, on Victory Records.]

Rawhide “Happy Birthday”
Breck Pipes guitar & bass, Greta Ritcher guitar, J.T. Zinn sit-in drummer.

Written by Patty Smith and Mildred J. Hill, 1893

Rawhide, 1991: Greta Ritcher and Breck Pipes.

“Rawhide, although you can see they don’t have a full line up yet, has been playing together since March 1991. They’re looking for a drummer and bass player, so write to them c/o Slamdek if you’re interested. Breck has played in Spot, Cerebellum, and Crawdad. Greta has played in Your Face and Sister Shannon. All of these bands have released records on Slamdek, but unfortunately the Cerebellum cassette is the only one that remains available today. Spot’s Proud cassette is scheduled to be reissued in January 1992. Things are looking up, so hopefully we’ll see them all again soon along with a new one from Rawhide.

“‘Happy Birthday’ was written by two Louisville ladies, Patty Smith and Mildred J. Hill, and is possibly the most widely recognized modern song in the world. The original lyrics were ‘Good Morning To You’ and the tune only caught on accidentally after they had been changed.”

[Their sit-in drummer J.T. Zinn, actually Kevin Coultas using his grandfather’s name as a pseudonym, was replaced by John Causey in early 1992. This happened after John left Undermine. David Ernst joined on bass, and Rodney Bell on vocals. Rawhide played a handful of shows but didn’t last until the end of 1992. David Ernst joined Big Wheel, John Causey joined Crain, Greta began playing drums and played them in Drinking Woman, and Breck moved to Lexington. The song “Happy Birthday” celebrated its 100th birthday in 1993.]

Sunspring “House”
John Weiss drums, Scott Ritcher guitar & vocals, Herr Hayden bass.

Originally performed by Cerebellum, 1989

“Sunspring formed in the summer of 1990 and has had two Slamdek releases in 1991. The Endpoint/Sunspring split 7″, and The Sun Cassette both are still available. Their second 7″, Slinky, was recorded in November and will be out in January. Media kills minds, Sunspring kills media.

“Cerebellum was a band from June 1988 through May 1989. Their self-titled cassette is still available from Slamdek. Cerebellum was Will Chatham, Tim Furnish, Joey Mudd, Jon Cook, Breck Pipes, and Drew Daniel. The first four of them went on to form Crain who have a 7″ out called The Rocket EP on Automatic Wreckords. Their 10-song LP will be released in early 1992.”

[Herr Hayden and The Herr were nicknames that John and I annoyed Jason Hayden with for several years. Sunspring had a run-in with the media in January 1992, when a young teenage girl, Shanda Sharer, was killed by two “friends” after a Sunspring show (see page 72). Slinky was released in February 1992. Crain’s first full length effort, Speed, was released by Automatic on LP and cassette in March 1992.]

Push Back “Wool”
Mark Brickey vocals, Billy Halter guitar, Andy Tinsley guitar, Corey Roederer bass, Leevanhook Seconds drums.

Originally performed by Endpoint, 1989

“Push Back has been together since the summer of 1991. This song is their first entry into the world of recorded sound.

“Endpoint has two albums, If The Spirits Are Willing (1989) on Slamdek, and In A Time Of Hate (1991) on Conversion Records. They have also appeared on numerous compilations and have a split 7″ out with Sunspring. ‘Wool’ was cut from their first album at the last minute because the lyrics are not to be taken seriously. They feared that people who weren’t in on the joke might not get it, and then doubt the sincerity of their other songs.”

[Leevanhook Seconds was actually Lee Fetzer. He was a part of the group again when they later changed their name to Enkindel. Andy appeared with them only for this recording.]

Hopscotch Army “Right From Wrong”
Jeff Goebel guitar, Scott Darrow bass, Mark Ritcher vocals, David Hoback drums.

Originally performed by David LaDuke, 1989

“Hopscotch Army has been together since early 1988. They have two albums, Blurry from 1989, and their new one Belief which was released in September. Both on Slamdek. Their third album is already being mixed and will possibly be available as early as February 1992 (but probably not).

“David LaDuke has been playing roots/metal/rock n’roll in Louisville since 1973. He and his group Sinbad have released several records, Sinbad, Have Rock Will Travel, and his current release, Ball Bustin Guitar Rock. His unique blend of ’70’s guitar rock with an Elvis Presley-style groove has gained him a reputation in magazines and on radio stations around the world.”

[The upcoming album mentioned by Hopscotch Army was never released.]

Undermine “Friends?”
Sean McLoughlin vocals, Takayuki Tsuji guitar, Chris Layton guitar, Scott Bryant bass, John Causey drums.

Originally performed by Solution Unknown, 1987

Undermine, 1991: Sean McLoughlin, Chris Layton, John Causey, Scott Bryant, and Takayuki Tsuji.

“Undermine formed in early 1989 and has released two seven inches on Self Destruct Records. The first one was self-titled (1990) and is out of print, the second is My Wire (1991) and is still available. In January they will be recording an album with their new drummer Will Chatham as a split release for Self Destruct and ear X-tacy Records.

“Solution Unknown was David Pajo, Kent Chappelle, Todd Brashear, Mike Bucayu, and Eric Schmidt (who does intro and outro vocals on the Undermine version). They were together from March 1986 through September 1987. Their first record was a Self Destruct 7″ in 1986, Taken For Granted. The Solution Unknown album was recorded at Inner Ear in Washington DC in 1987. The 7″ is no longer in print, but the LP is.”

[Undermine broke up before recording their first full-length work. Their 7″ and the Solution Unknown LP both went out of print. Sean McLoughlin joined Evergreen. Scott Bryant and John Causey formed Concrete who was together while John also played with Rawhide, then Crain. Takayuki Tsuji moved back to Japan and worked as an interpreter for touring English-speaking bands. Chris Layton was involved in several projects, such as The Auditory Clang and Zig Zag Way, and moved to Florida for a while. In fall 1995, Mike Bucayu and Eric Schmidt took all the Solution Unknown master reels to Sound On Sound and remixed them for a 38-song discography CD on Self Destruct.]

Shovel “Worship”
Dave Cook vocals, Chad Castetter guitar, Andy Tinsley bass, Duncan Barlow drums.

Originally performed by Crawdad, 1989

“Shovel formed very very recently and this piece of work is their first recorded stab at the world. Duncan and Chad are in Endpoint and Andy is Endpoint’s manager. Dave was in Scrub Monkey in 1990 who recorded an album entitled Shit in the back of a moving car, but it was never released.
“Crawdad was originally together from June 1989 to December 1989. Dave Ernst, Breck Pipes, Kevin Coultas, and Joey Mudd recorded a live EP, Loaded, which was released in May 1990 on Slamdek as a limited edition. In December 1990 they did a reunion show, and they are planning to do another this Christmas. Dave Ernst and Kevin were also in Sister Shannon.”

[Shovel played a few shows and self-released a cassette in early 1993. They were another spawn of long winter nights. Another Endpoint offshoot joke band, they were born at Endpoint practices at Kyle Noltemeyer’s parents’ house off Alta Vista. One of their shows was for the 1991 St. Francis Battle of the Bands. They performed a solid half hour song, during which the vibrations were so dense several audience members became sick and had to be escorted out of the building. At another show, in 1993 at the Machine, Josh Sachs was tied to a huge cross crucifixion-style. While on the cross he defecated and performed other visuals with his body to accompany the music. Shovel never played again after that.]

King G and the J Krew “Freakazoid/No Parking On The Dance Floor/Kent”
M.C. Crawdad vocals, P. Control vocals, A. Frisbee violin & guitar, Will “Cheeto” Chatham drums, M.C. Diogenes guitar & vocals, Amy Torstrick guest violin.

Originally performed by Midnight Star, 1983, and Slint, 1989

“King G and the J Krew have been together since 1989. Their first release was the 95-minute Snug Double Album EP (1990) on Hell N’Ready Records, which is not for sale anymore. Their second album will be Indestructible Songs of the Humpback Whale and will also be on Hell N’Ready sometime around February 1992.

“There seems to have been some dispute as to whether or not all the members of
Midnight Star were from Louisville. But this tune is so kickin’, that technicality has been ignored. The Slint segment qualifies it nonetheless. The fat catalog of Midnight Star stuff can be found on SOLAR Records. You know about Slint.”

[One of King G and the J Krew’s most recognizable assets was their propensity to take the joke-turned-obsession to inconceivable levels. M.C. Crawdad was Jason Mueller, P. Control was Heather Cantrell, A. Frisbee was Aaron Frisbee, M.C. Diogenes was Jason Noble. This six minute epic, while seemingly ridiculous in concept, totally defines the word brilliant and exceeds the boundaries of the Louisville-on-Louisville genre this release created. This song was recorded while the band was in the process of creating their masterful Indestructible Songs of the Humpback Whale CD; a process that took about two years to complete. And that’s virtually every single day for two years. After the release of the CD, they began playing shows as a rock band under the name King Kid International. That incarnation had Jon Cook on drums, Tara O’Neil on bass, and Jeff Mueller and Jason Noble singing and playing guitar. King Kid Int’l became Rodan in December 1992.]

April 24, 1992, Robyn Craxton’s Big Surprise: Sunspring and Ennui played a surprise birthday party for Robyn Craxton at her parents’ house off Herr Lane. Pictured left to right: Duncan Barlow, Natalie Sud, Amy Craft, Mindy Shapero, Dave Cook, Robyn Craxton, Matt Ronay, Katie McGee, Julie Brown, Scott Ritcher, and Lamecron “Pee Wee” Lockhearst. The two bands made up a song and played it together as Robyn came down the stairs.

Merry Christmas included a lengthy list of addresses and mail order prices for all records of all the bands who were covered and those who performed on this cassette. It was the first release tagged with the line, “A Product of Louisville, Kentucky,” and it was dedicated to the 83-year-old woman who was the senile landlady of the Slamdek House. She wrote us 3 to 4 page letters several times a week. At the top of each page she scrawled a creepy line drawing of a crucifix, along with the inverted date (such as 29th September 1991). She demanded that she would have no sinners living in her house. Among other things she was not legally able to request of her tenants, we were not fornicate in the building, consume certain beverages, open the blinds, nor were we to send our rent payments in colored envelopes. She did not have a telephone and her letters arrived virtually every other day. During the ten months in which 1919 Bonnycastle was the Slamdek House, she successively fired two real estate agents and an attorney, who had been hired to collect rent and make service calls for the property. Even when the agents were in charge of the property, she continued to write several times a week. The letters reiterated the moral limits by which residents of the house were expected to comply. The hassle of dealing with agents, attorneys, and constant mental harassment, eventually convinced Greta, Will, Breck, and I that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. In March 1992 we moved out, after which the house remained vacant for over three years. She reportedly died in 1993.

The bands on Merry Christmas paid for their own studio time. Howie Gano at Sound On Sound made a group rate deal with us so all bands involved could record for $20 an hour, a $15 discount. The SLAMDEK/Scramdown Merry Christmas cassette sold 252 units. 48 or so more were given to band members, and area stores and publications as promotional copies. Like many Slamdek releases, it did not turn a profit.


Side one:
Dybbuk Dare To Feel
Step Down Elders
Rawhide Happy Birthday
Sunspring House
Push Back Wool

Side two:
Hopscotch Army Right From Wrong
Undermine Friends?
Shovel Worship
King G & the J Krew Freakazoid/No Parking On the Dance Floor/Kent

Special thanks to: John Timmons and everybody at ear X-tacy, Ken at Ken’s Records, Ben at Better Days, Kim at Kinko’s, Lynn at Op Brightside, and absolutely everyone in the entire world who has cut, folded, stuffed, bought, or sold Slamdek music this year. Even a little bit of thanks to those who have taped it off their friends. Merry Christmas!

Album engineered by Howie Gano at Sound On Sound. Project coordinated by Scott Ritcher and Howie Gano.