Slamdek Merry Christmas Is For Rockers

December 12, 1992

Slamdek Merry Christmas Is For Rockers
various artists cassette
[SDK-29] color copied covers, books-on-tape long box with inserted 6-page booklet, laser printed labels

The 1992 Christmas tape documented several notable beginnings, but was ultimately more a product of habit than inspiration. Following the previous year’s super-creative Christmas effort was a tall order. And 1991 also had the advantage of a consistent sound by having its nine songs uniformly recorded in the same studio. But with or without comparison to the Louisville covers on 1991’s Merry Christmas cassette, 1992’s Slamdek Merry Christmas is for Rockers fell short of the mark.

It had all the typically big Slamdek names, Endpoint, Crain, Sunspring; it introduced several new bands, Rodan, The Pale Blue Star, and LG&E; and continued the work of others, Hopscotch Army, Ennui, Concrete, Lather, and Telephone Man. Its books-on-tape box packaging and full color cover were handsome, but costly, and it included a candy cane. Tim Furnish, who was DTP manager at Bardstown Road Kinko’s at Stevens Avenue, did the color scanning. And Carrie Osborne, Kim Sampson, and Mike Jarboe, who were also employed there, cut me a deal on the color copies for the covers. The color images were designed blindly on the black and white Macintosh Classic at my parents’ house, and printed on the 300 dpi color Tektronix printer at Kinko’s. There was now a 300 dpi black and white printer at the house, which was used for the black and white insert.

While the packaging was fairly elaborate, my apparent lack of enthusiasm for the release was demonstrated in the liner notes. “Traditionally, this pack of liner notes is filled with long-winded, overly informative ramblings that amount to a 95-paragraph pep talk essay on how great Louisville is and how cool our bands are. Since we’re all pretty much aware by now that Louisville’s shitty bands are much better than many other cities’ good bands, we’ll skip the speech this year. One major point that should be made, though, is that there are so many different kinds of bands doing so many different types of things here that narrowing it down to eleven songs is hardly fair. A lot of bands who wanted to be on the Christmas tape this year couldn’t because of scheduling problems and space limitations. To them we apologize. You can guarantee that next year’s will be much better scheduled and will be ALL Christmas songs!” [The following year’s Christmas tape was cancelled due to a lack of response from the bands. Pulse was the only one who actually completed a Christmas song for the tape, “Good King Wencheslas.” Endpoint was going to do “Silent Night,” Sunspring “Let It Snow,” etc.]

Slamdek Merry Christmas Is For Rockers insert, unfolded to 6 1/4 by 10 1/2 inches, copied on blue-gray speckled, recycled paper. Center photo above is from Christmas 1981, as Mark, Scott, and Greta Ritcher open their new Atari 2600 Video Computer System. Left photo below, from winter 1975, is Mark and Scott on a sled.

The back cover of Slamdek Merry Christmas is for Rockers also had a brief, and slightly more enthusiastic and comprehensive introduction, “For five of the past six years, Louisville bands have come together on the annual Slamdek Christmas tape. 1992 is no different. It’s a tape of songs which are compiled just to be heard. Each song is very different from the others around it. They’re all written by different people and recorded in different places, but they all came from the hearts and minds of the angst-ridden, wound-up kids of Louisville, Kentucky. And while they’re not traditional Christmas Carols, they are Christmas songs because they’re the gifts of reassurance we give to each other every year.”
It should be noted that the title, Slamdek Merry Christmas is for Rockers, is not a reference to the Slamdek Rockers field hockey team. That formed in late 1993, nearly a year later. If anything, perhaps the name of the cassette inspired the name of the team, but neither is directly responsible for the other. And, unusual for Slamdek releases, the tape also carries a dedication, “Dedicated to the four of us who left this year for the next life. You’re never forgotten.” The four, who were not named, were Karla Millan, Ramona Lutz, Shanda Sharer, and Tim Wunderlin.

The liner notes are straight to the point, and presented in a uniform order with band members [drummer, then guitarist, then singer, then bassist], products available [“available stuff” with postpaid prices and addresses], and each group’s plans [beginning with the word “And”]:

Sunspring “Roadburn”

Produced by Howie Gano at Sound On Sound on 16 tracks. Drums by Forrest Kuhn, guitar/vocals by K. Scott Ritcher, bass guitar by Jason Thompson, and guest sample by Layla Smith. Available stuff: Slinky 7″ or Endpoint/Sunspring split 7″ $3.50 each ppd, Sun cassette $6 ppd. [Slamdek’s address]. And they are working on an 11-song LP to be released on Break Even Point Records from Italy in Spring 1993.

[The LP referred to was Poppy, which became 12 songs and was recorded in January and February 1993. It came out as a Slamdek CD in June 1993, a Slamdek cassette the following month, and the European LP pressing on Break Even Point sailed in September. The guest sample is Layla saying, “I was walking down the street when I looked over at a brick wall that said Layla is fat and I laughed. Then I went home and I cried.”]

Crain “Coalmine #666”

Recorded on 4 track at the Rocket House by Jon Cook. Drums by John Causey, guitar/vocals by Jon Cook, guitar by Tim Furnish, and bass guitar by Jason Hayden. Available stuff: Speed LP $7.50 ppd. Monster 7″ $3 ppd. [Automatic Wreckords’ address]. And a CD of Speed plus lots of extra songs will also be out soon.

[The CD version of Speed never came out on Automatic. John Causey left the group
which soon signed with Restless Records. On Restless, they recorded and released a second album, Heater, named after a project band Causey, Cook, and Hayden had been in when Hayden joined Crain. The album Heater has Jon Cook playing drums, guitar, and singing, with Tim also playing guitar and singing, and Jason on bass and singing. The band Heater did two songs called “Crackhouse” and “Sleepwalker” on the 3 Little Girls cassette compilation Aftereffects of Insomnia. This same recording of “Coalmine #666” later appeared on Simple Machines Records’ Working Holiday 7″, October, with the Grifters on the other side.]

Telephone Man “Condensed”

Recorded on 8 track [cassette] by Tim Houchin at his house. Drum machine/bass by Tim Houchin, guitar/vocals by Matt Ronay. Available stuff: Telephone Man cassette $4.50 ppd [Cluewrench Tape Co. c/o Slamdek] see address under Sunspring. And they are planning a second tape for release in spring ’93.

[The second tape was never completed. Tim Houchin left to form Zugzwang with Ben Brantley. Zugzwang’s approach to recording was the same and they released a seven inch which became the only record on their own label, Sweetheart Records. Matt Ronay turned Telephone Man into a full band by changing the name to The Telephone Man, and adding Ashli State of Snakeater on bass, and Nick Hennies on drums. They recorded a self titled cassette for Slamdek in September 1993.]

Books-on-tape long box packaging. Special gift candy canes included inside Slamdek Merry Christmas Is For Rockers cassettes were purchased in bulk at Bigg’s Hypermarket in Middletown.

Lather “Sorry”

Recorded live at Tewligans. Drums by Brian Toth, guitar/vocals by Jeremy Podgursky, guitar by Sean Wolfson, and bass guitar/vocals by Brian Kaelin. Available stuff: Lather 7″ $3.50 ppd. Automatic Wreckords see address under Crain. And there is also an $8 ppd LP of Jeremy Podgursky and Brian Kaelin’s former band Dybbuk out from Self Destruct Records [address].

[Lather’s 7″ release was postponed and eventually came out on Self Destruct instead of Automatic. Between April and June of 1993, they recorded six more songs at Sound On Sound. Those tracks were compiled with their four 7″ songs as a CD on Self Destruct, A Modest Proposal, released in fall 1993. Lather broke up during the summer of 1994, having thanked Glenn Danzig on every release.]

Endpoint “Thought You Were” (alternate vocal take)

Recorded on digital 2 track by K. Scott Ritcher at Juniper Hill, an outtake from If The Spirits Are Willing, 1989, produced by Todd Smith. Drums by Rusty Sohm, guitar by Duncan Barlow, vocals by Rob Pennington, and bass guitar by Jason Graff. Available stuff:
If The Spirits Are Willing cassette $7 ppd and Endpoint/Sunspring split 7″ $3.50 ppd from Slamdek. Also: Catharsis LP $8 ppd, CD $10 ppd [Doghouse Records address]. And they have a 7″ picture disk of 4 cover songs coming out from Doghouse in 1993.

[This track was recorded on DAT while Rob was recording his vocals. It’s preceded and followed by short segments of dialog between Rob and Rusty who are talking with engineer Tom Mabe, who is in the control room. Endpoint was on tour in Europe when Slamdek Merry Christmas is for Rockers was released, and were surprised to see this song on it when they returned in January. The 7″ picture disk ended up being a standard 7″ called Idiots. Issued in a limited edition by Doghouse in 1993, it contains covers of “Building” by Embrace, “Attitude” by the Misfits, “Circus Of Pain” by Louisville’s Malignant Growth, and “Persistent Vision” by Rites of Spring. Doghouse reissued it on CD in late 1995… also to the band’s surprise.]

Concrete “Meaningless”

Recorded on 8 track [cassette] by Scott Walker in his basement. Drums by Scott Walker, guitar/vocals by John Causey, and bass guitar by Ramon [Scott] Bryant. Available stuff: Concrete/Sancred split 7″ $5 ppd John Causey Records [address]. And chances are you’ll be hearing more of their new sound during the new year.

[Concrete was a group John Causey formed after leaving Undermine. Both bands initially had a similar sound even though he played drums in Undermine and in Concrete he sang and played guitar. With “Meaningless” they introduced a revamped, less direct approach. It didn’t last long, as they were only together about a year, and this was near the end of their days.]

Hopscotch Army “If I Had That”

Produced by Dave Stewart at DSL on 16 tracks. Drums by Dave Hoback, guitar/vocals by Mark Ritcher, guitar by Jeff Goebel, and bass guitar by Scott Darrow. Available stuff: Belief or Blurry cassettes $6 each ppd, These Shallow Hours CD $9 ppd from Slamdek. And they have a new drummer, Kevin Coultas, who used to rock with Crawdad and Sister Shannon.

[Even though These Shallow Hours was completed and listed here as being available, it was never released. Kevin stayed with the group for about six months before leaving to play with Crain. Hopscotch Army played their last show May 8, 1993 at Butchertown Pub.]

LG&E “First”

Produced by LG&E at Slamdek [the Schuster Building apartment I shared with Chad] on 8 tracks [cassette]. Instruments and vocals by Duncan Barlow and Scott Ritcher. Available stuff: t-shirt $10 ppd from Slamdek. The Slamdek Singles EP compilation cassette box set, available in February ’93, will include two more LG&E songs.

[Duncan and I finally teamed up musically after knowing each other for five years, and I got the opportunity to use the name LG&E which I had been saving for a while. The duo featured dance-able drum machine rhythms overlaid with smoothly distorted guitars and whispered, reverb-soaked vocals. Slamdek Singles was released in March 1993 and included all three of our cleverly titled songs, “First,” “Second,” and “Third.” December 1993 we released a cassette on Slamdek.]

Ennui “Gun?”

Produced by Geoff Turner and K. Scott Ritcher at WGNS on 16 tracks. Drums by Forrest Kuhn, guitar by Lane Sparber, vocals by Matt Ronay, and bass guitar by Tim Houchin. Available stuff: Olive 7″ $3.50 ppd from Slamdek. Ennui is no longer together, but two more songs from this session will also be available in the Slamdek Singles set.

[This is one of seven songs recorded at WGNS in May 1992. Four others were on the Olive 7″, and all seven were on Slamdek Singles. “Gun?” was one of Ennui’s most
recent songs when it was recorded.]

Rodan “Toothfairy Retribution Manifesto”

Produced by Tony French and Rodan at the Hat Factory on 8 tracks. Drums by Jon Cook, guitar by Jeff Mueller, guitar by Jason Noble, and bass guitar/vocals by Tara O’Neil. Available stuff: Rodan 7″ $3.50 ppd, Jason and Jeff are also King G & J Krew members whose CD is $10 ppd. Automatic Wreckords see address under Crain. And they are also going to be on a 7″ compilation out from Simple Machines Records in January with Tsunami, Superchunk, and Unrest.

[This track appeared as their debut since changing their name to Rodan from King Kid International in early December. In fact, I had to reprint the master sheet for the tape cover to change it to their new name. The Simple Machines 7″, Inclined Plane, followed it, as did a self-released cassette, Aviary. John Weiss joined on drums after returning from American University for the Christmas holidays. Their 7″ on Automatic was cancelled and ended up as How The Winter Was Passed on 3 Little Girls Recordings. John Weiss plays on one side, and Jon Cook on the other. King G and the J Krew’s CD also moved off Automatic, and came to Slamdek in May ’93. Rodan went on to record an album for Chicago’s Quarterstick Records. Rusty garnered an unusual wealth of critical acclaim for the band, who toured the United States and Europe extensively in support of it. In the wake of Rodan’s success, King G and the J Krew fizzled out of existence. Rodan played their last show at the Lounge Axe in Chicago on September 25, 1994.]

The Pale Blue Star “I Fell”

Recorded on 4 track. Guitar/vocals by Joe Mudd. The band also now includes Bill Heideman on drums and Josh Peterson on bass guitar, though they are not on this song. As he’s an ex-member of Crain, you can hear Joe on the Speed LP. Expect shows and more recordings in 1993, and for more information write to Ford Records [address].

[The Pale Blue Star made their performance debut at Slamdek’s Louisville Summer Weekend at the Machine, July 1993. At that point, the band included Breck Pipes on guitar, Kevin Coultas on drums, and Jason Noble on bass. That line up didn’t last. Another arrangement, a year later, had Joe flanked by drummer Mark Ernst, and bassist Cassie Marrett. The band played a handful of stunning shows and evolved through some more members. Ford Records was a label Joe formed in 1991 which never released anything. The Pale Blue Star were scheduled to record a Slamdek 7″, SDK-40, but that was lost when the label folded in early 1995. See page 158.]


Side one:
Sunspring Roadburn
Crain Coalmine #666
Telephone Man Condensed
Lather Sorry (live)
Endpoint Thought You Were (alt. vocal)
Concrete Meaningless

Side two:
Hopscotch Army If I Had That
LG&E First
Ennui Gun?
Rodan Toothfairy Retribution Manifesto
The Pale Blue Star I Fell

Digital master and sequence editing by Howie Gano at Sound On Sound, December 1992. Color photograph scans by Timothy R. Furnish. Assembly by Carrie Osborne, Chad Castetter, and Layla Smith. Package by K. Scott Ritcher. • Special thanks to: Tim Furnish, John Timmons and everyone at ear X-tacy, Guiliano Calza at Break Even Point Records, Sancred, Dirk from Doghouse Records, Ford Records, Automatic Wreckords, Mike B. and Self Destruct Records, Better Days, Mary and Allan Ritcher, J.F. Kampschaefer, Dave Gabe, Billy and Tewligans, Three Little Girls, Tucker Yingling, Sean Fawbush and Quest, Edward Lutz, Kim Coletta and DeSoto, and John Weiss.