Friday, August 14, 2009

Phantom 309 - A Sinister Alphabet and Split LP

Here is the download: Phantom 309

1-4: from the Split LP with The Sun Also Rises
5-13: from the “A Sinister Alphabet” LP

I have been looking for some Phantom 309 records ever since I started doing this blog, as writing about these bands every week really makes you get into the history and interconnectedness of a scene that existed when you were listening to Def Jam records and skating at the local Futurestore. So naturally I got all geeked up when this full length LP and split LP appeared at Full Moon Records the other day, and I snatched them up before the clerk could get them for himself. Record store employees get everything good that comes through there anyhow, sometimes I wonder if I should get a part time job at one of these places just so I could put myself in a better pecking order when people come in to sell their collections.

Phantom 309 consists of a pre-Dirt, pre-Mount Shasta John Forbes playing guitar and singing, and a post-86, pre-Jesus Lizard Mac McNeilly playing bass, which is interesting because Mac was the drummer for those other bands. The drummer was Gary Held, whose history is not known to me at the moment, but maybe some of our wiser readers can help me out. Phantom 309 puts forth noise rock of the Dirt variety, but a bit more bluesy and maybe not as demented/damaged as the later stuff, but still excellent. I believe these are their only releases, although I saw there was a release called “Duh” around 1992, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever find that one. Maybe Scott Wishart can help me get it, although I’ll probably have to drive to Charlotte to pick it up. I am not sure of the band’s complete history, but after this band was finished, John started Dirt, probably one of the five best bands to ever come from this town, and Mac McNeilly moved to Chicago and joined The Jesus Lizard, probably one of the best five bands of its kind ever.

So Trouser Press indicated in a review of the Sinister Alphabet album that Mac McNeilly was the nephew of Edward Gorey, and this is presumably how they were able to use his artwork for the album cover. Gary Held commented recently that this was not true, and that they paid Gorey $400 to use the artwork, which was sent in its original form to them in the mail, to be returned when they were finished. Still a great story, but why did Trouser Press start the rumour?

Here is the back cover of "A Sinister Alphabet" as well as the Split LP cover.


  1. The monthly checks I get from Revolver are signed by Gary Held. He owns/ran (?) Tupelo Recordings too.

  2. Been curious about this band for a while. Zonked to hear about the familial connections. Thanks!

  3. I think the record you are thinking about is Blowhard by Duh, 1991 Boner/Tupelo. You can get it online or I can lend you mine.
    Andy Meek

  4. Edward Gorey isn't/wasn't Mac's uncle. That's a funny error by Trouser Press though. Edward Gorey's lawyer charged us $400 for the rights, and actually sent us the original artwork, as long as I promised to mail it back when we were finished. It's nice to know that all these years later, there is someone who was actually excited to see these two records in the used bin. I'm sure I have a handful of each of these records somewhere.....
    Gary H.

  5. Hi Gary - Thanks for letting me know. It was strange that I never saw anything else about that connection between Mac and Edward Gorey, even with all the recent Mac McNeilly press. It's also amazing that you were able to use the artwork, and they even sent you the original drawing for his most famous work. If you have any other Phantom 309 recordings, I would love to get a copy.

    1. Gary, wondering if you are the same Gary I went to school with in early 1980's called Paidiea. I was the kid, Rob Fenter, who trekked from Macon, Ga every week. Good memories of you--hope all is well. Best, Rob F

  6. Didn't Dean Clyne help with the cover art ... at least for the Split LP? He played bass in Dirt with John Forbes later and I think a was good friend of Gary H. I think Gary and Dean worked as or for an independent label in ATL and it was somehow related to Flying Nun or they helped to distribute Flying Nun. Was the label called Communion? I remember not really knowing Gary but Dean spoke very highly of him.

  7. p.s. Phantom 309 was really awesome. I have all of their recordings.

  8. I have that album wish I had all of their records.
    One of the great pre grunge bands.
    Check out FUDGE TUNNEL and their album
    HATE SONGS IN E MINOR another great album
    from another great band of that era.