Friday, February 26, 2010

The hal al Shedad - Textures of Tomorrow

Here is the download: The hal al Shedad - Textures of Tomorrow

So we have confirmation from Benjamin Lukens that he can play the "We're glad Gavin didn't die benefit" at the Drunken Unicorn on March 27. The full lineup will be Rizzudo (thanks brothers Durant!), Some Soviet Station (thanks Jesse, Lee, gang), and The hal al Shedad, playing songs written 15 years ago. It was uncertain if this show would occur, as Benjamin and his family were suddenly moved by the company he works for to Austin, and he wasn't sure if he could take the time to get back to Atlanta for the show. Thankfully he can, but practice is going to be a challenge. Expect the set to be heavy on the early singles and not so much later material, as these songs were very difficult and we don't have the time to work them out.

This was our second album, which was titled after a line I heard in an old Twilight Zone episode, something about reconciling the realities of today with the textures of tomorrow. At the time, we were very determined to make new music that was a break from what was going on around us, but at the same time listening to a lot of Bowie records and some Black Sabbath, so we just wanted to make a grand statement, something epic. It also helped that we wrote most of the album in the Brannon Square movie theater where I worked after closing time, usually between midnight and 5AM when the cleaning crew would come in. The acoustics in that theater was amazing, and we would make these long, dramatic songs with huge dynamic changes just because they sounded so great. We would also play with the lights off, using only the projected movie on the screen with the sound turned off as our background light. I specifically remember writing songs to the first Scream movie as well as Twister, just to give you an idea of the time period when this was happening.

We decided to record the album with David Barbe, who we worked with previously on the "Running and Falling" and Simba European Tour singles. We liked his working style and got along really well with him in the studio. Now he had a new studio called Chase Park Transduction in Athens, and we were excited about recording our new album with a pro engineer at a top of the line studio. Not to say recording the first album in Alap Momin's garage was bad, but it was inspiring to be making a completely new album in such a top notch environment. I believe we were only the second band to record at Chase Park, the first being Jucifer, who I believe just finished recording the "Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip" album there, and right after us was the great Harvey Milk, who recorded "The Pleaser" at that time. I remember the guys from Harvey Milk coming in while we were recording with copies of the new "Courtesy" album, and talking to David Barbe about how they were about to make the best rock n' roll album of all time the following week, and they pretty much did just that.

Anyhow, we recorded the album over a week in June 1997, with a few additional days for vocals and final mixing. We used some Bowie recording tricks, like placing multiple vocal mics at different distances from Benjamin while he was recording vocals with gates on the mics so when he was singing very softly, the vocals would be very close, and when he was screaming it would open up to the echo of the entire room. Clever. Some synths were used in the end of Sailor Song and Somnopolis, and some different guitars and amps were used in various places, but otherwise it was a pretty simple recording. I originally sang the song Machine Gun with different lyrics, but it clashed so much with the rest of the album, we had Benjamin just write and sing a completely different version. One other piece of trivia about the song Machine Gun - we played it live only once, and that was in Manchester, UK when Ben's bass amp died and we played it as guitar and drum duo only with Ben on lead vocals.

The album was our baby, and something we put a great deal of time and effort to create, and the public's response was underwhelmed to say the least. Many fans of the singles and the first album hated it, as it was too slow and quiet for their tastes. I also remember other bands being pretty bummed as well on our sound, Harriet the Spy once described our set as "floating on a raft in the middle of a lake, with no sight of land in any direction" or something to that affect. We thought it was funny, and they also had gossiped about Benjamin being on his cell phone and combing his hair a lot at our shows, so when we played their house in Kent, Ohio, we made sure Benjamin combed his hair as much as possible in between songs and he also took a cell phone call from Bill Kuehn (Rainer Maria) during the set. They were nice guys, though, and we had some fun over the whole thing.

I think Karl from the blog Tinafts summarized the album best:

The Hal al-Shedad's second album, Textures of Tomorrow, was released jointly by Buddy System and Troubleman Unlimited Records in 1998. I am reasonably certain that my opinion of it was shared by everyone else who cared: It sucked. In comparison to the debut self-titled LP and scattering of 7" releases the band put out, the songs were weak and the production wasn't all that great, either.

Much like the Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight, this is an album that, every once in a while, the sheer quality of the band's other releases makes you pull it out and put it on just to see if somehow it magically stopped sucking. Unlike the last Cardigans album (and I imagine time will tell on that one; I imagine it will tell the Cardigans to stop hanging out with Sparklehorse; I also imagine it will tell me that using two extremely similar corruptions of this common phrase in two adjacent posts is a bad idea) however, Textures of Tomorrow has.

In seven years, it seems that this second hal al-Shedad album has aged better than the first; it is probable that its not sounding dated is a function of my not having played the fuck out of it since it came out like the other one, so it has not been as irrevocably associated with a time period, despite the h.S's sound having been essentially one of the main victims of stylistic rip-off of that period. At this point I will refrain from mentioning the suspicious Georgia accent to be found all over a certain Madison band's albums (no offense intended, by the way).

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Textures is necessarily better than the first album; but at this distance in time from their release it's easier to see the quality of the material on the second LP. Despite the name of the album and what I seem to have been suggesting, Textures of Tomorrow isn't the product of a band ahead of its time; it definitely remains firmly within the vein of melodic post-hardcore the group are remembered for working. The gestures toward Black Sabbath were prefigured on the Running And Falling EP, and the occasional distortion-free numbers are fully in line with the era.

Textures of Tomorrow is currently my favorite album of 2005, just ahead of Seam's The Pace Is Glacial, another great album this year that had the misfortune to be released in 1998. And what makes Textures of Tomorrow so great? The hallmarks of any decent hal al-Shedad release: Guitars that jangle for a bit before modulating into a weird drone; whispers that tremble for a bit (way up in the mix) before modulating into an angry yowl; protomathematic basslines; lyrics about fucken boats.

In history, there have been very few bands able to write about seafaring in any capacity without sucking royally. No song illustrates my point better than Christopher Cross's 1980 shitbomb, "Sailing". Essentially only three recording artists have been able to avoid the sailing-song jinx: Sleater-Kinney, Gordon Lightfoot, and Iron Maiden. The hal al-Shedad demonstrate their superiority in this field with the sheer volume of nautically-themed work which they have released: Their first album sports not only "The Art of Map Making, Pt. 1", but "Pt. 2" besides, and Textures of Tomorrow continues the trend with "Sailor's Song". Probably the only other band with such a high ratio of songs-about-unpowered-watercraft-to-albums is the early Beach Boys, and even you Pet Sounds/Smile/Brian-Wilson-Is-God geeks can agree, that stuff sucks.

So yeah, Benjamin had a thing on this album for nautical themes, much as he did in the early days about angels, but I think it was effective for the music being played. We never officially toured under this album, only long weekends and hell rides up to Phildelphia, Detroit, Austin, etc. and head right back to Atlanta. Around this time, Benjamin was deeply involved in the reopening of MJQ in its "new" location, Ed was starting his career as a recording engineer, and I was just trying to graduate college. We eventually wrote an entirely new set of music, which you can find here, and unofficially disbanded in 1999. So that is about everything I can remember concerning the second album, I want to thank Mike Simonetti from Troubleman as well as Mark and Matt Owens from Buddy System for putting this record out, and of course Phil Dwyer for doing the design. Hope to see everyone on the 27th.

Here is the lyric sheet and artwork from the album (click to enlarge):

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Inkwell Discography

Marty Rioux - New Bedford, MA - March 22, 1996

Here is the download: Inkwell Discography

Track Listing:
1-3: from the "By Design" 7"
4-5: from the split 7" with The hal al Shedad
6-7: from the "Shine So Bright" 7"
8: from the Placebo compilation 7"
9-10: previously unreleased

Actually, this is not a complete discography, as the original demo is not included, however I will respect the wishes of the band and not drag any more skeletons out of closets than is absolutely necessary. I really want to thank Joe Myers (Inkwell, Re/Model, Black Venus) for making me a CD of these songs included here - they come from the original cassettes and are as clean as you can get without having an official discography released. The only songs that do not come from this format are the the "Shine So Bright" single songs, which sounded a little strange on Joe's CD, so I transferred those directly from the vinyl.

By the way - there is a lot of Inkwell footage on YouTube - check it out.

Phil Dwyer - Driverdome - April 27, 1996

I just have to say for the record that Inkwell was one incredibly intense band. If the mood was right, and they were into it, their shows could be truly transcendent. Easily one of the best shows you have ever seen. But I also want to emphasize how funny and nice guys they were, and what a good time you could have with them on the road or at a show. Despite what you may think from listening to the music and watching the videos, their shows were actually a lot of fun. Some of my greatest memories of those years were at Inkwell shows.

In fact, when you look at their history, the golden period of their existence was only one year - Spring 1995 to Spring 1996, a perfect amount of time for a band such as this. They came in, blew everyone away, and then were gone before any of the charm wore off or got stale. We were truly fortunate to have them in our town.

Here is a history of the band, written by Nordic Joe himself:
We started out as an idea between Joe and Phil one night in early 1994 while at work. Phil found a drummer named Josh and Joe asked Marty if he wanted to play bass. With a little bit of reluctance, Inkwell was formed. Our initial practices in Josh's bedroom were awkward at best, but songs were beginning to seep out. Then a month or two later we played our first show with Jara and Atlanta's own Quadiliacha. It was described by Mike D (now known as Mike Phyte) as "piss poor." We improved with every show and every practice as we started to take it more seriously. We recorded a demo at Sleepless Nights studios with Issa (who is now in Good Clean Fun - Haha). Then around the end of the year we went on a small "tour" of the east coast. We played a show set up by Scott Beiben that was in a small two car garage in the middle of nowhere. We played that show to mostly the other bands, with mostly our friends being the other attendees. Gavin was there with his pink haired crust friend. Though the show was a bust, that night the Moss Icon - Lyburnum LP was finally released. Something positive came out of it, as we all bought copies and Gavin got some for his distro. Later that night we found out that we could have played a show in Philly at Sean McCabe's house with a much bigger audience. Oh well. We ended our mini-tour with a show in Virginia Beach with Channel and a few other bands. We didn't think the crowd would like us because it was a bit of a chugga chugga town, but it turned out that it was the best response we had ever gotten. That was a nice way to end it. Then we came back to Atlanta to play a Car vs. Driver album release show. Then Josh moved to California the next day. For a few months Inkwell was stagnant without a drummer. Our friend, Theo, who was playing in a band called Scout at the time, had a friend from Arkansas who had recently moved to town. We weren't really sure what to think of Mark, as he could recite Coolio lyrics on demand and had a little bit of the gangster style to him. But once we played with him we knew it would work out. Mark was a great drummer. After just a couple months we were back in step. Our sound was faster and a lot less sloppy with the inclusion of Mark. We started playing shows again. It also happened that Mark worked as a sound engineer at Purple Dragon studios where he did things like assist on TLC and Outkast songs. So we recorded there and released our first 7". Phil did the the master design work, and also seemed to find the most expensive materials to release it with. With Gavin trading 7" worldwide, we started getting letters from all over the world and were gaining quite a following. We also helped to start a thriving hardcore scene in Atlanta that didn't exist before. We went on to have a split 7" with the Hal al Shedad released. Then our second 7", "Shine So Bright", got released. We did a little mini tour again, this time a few more shows and this time there were a lot more people at the shows. Then we came back home. We played one last show at the Driver Dome with all of the bands on the Placebo comp 7" that had just come out. It was the largest attendence in the history of the Driver Dome (Steve Wishart's basement), and it was on a hot Georgia night, so it felt like an oven. But we played all of our songs except one and then it was over. Like the flyer said, "the end of an era."

Marcus Lowe - Godless Red House - May 21, 1995

This is the artwork for the "By Design" 7". Unbelievable packaging for the time - full booklet, pictures, essays, design. It was more than just another single by a local band.

This is the artwork from the split 7" with The hal al Shedad, including the repress with that great photo of the band. In fact, I like the repress artwork better than the original.

This is the artwork for the "Shine So Bright" single, with and without the transparency so you can read the insert, and the $1.50 alternate artwork version. Clever packaging guys.

This is the Inkwell page from the Concurrent "Placebo" compilation (a Scott MC joint):

Here is a list of all Inkwell shows played, and here are some flyers:

June 30 @ Andy Stivers' house w/ Jara (Ca.) and Quadiliacha (ATL)
July 12 @ The Somber Reptile w/ Spirit Assembly (Pa.) and Car vs. Driver
August 5 @ the MikeD house w/ Bleed (Pa.?)
September ? @ Ladson Homemakers Club (Ladson, S.C.) (Benefit for a women's shelter) w/ Iodine (aka LineXDrive) (Winston-Salem, N.C.), Lifeline (Columbia, S.C.), Fragment(Columbia, S.C.), Stretch Armstrong and others
October 16 @ the MikeD house w/ Scout (ATL) (Walleye cancelled)
October 22 @ The Somber Reptile w/ The Smoking Popes, Scout and others
October 23 @ Theo's house w/ Silence Equals... (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Thumbnail(Knoxville, Tn.), Scout
November 5 @ Ladson Homemakers Club (Benefit for CISPES) w/ In/Humanity, Stretch Armstrong and others
December 2 @ the Driver Dome w/ Car vs. Driver and Scout (Assfactor 4 cancelled)
November 12 @ the Driver Dome w/ Deus X (N.C.) and Deterrent (N.C.)
December 9 @ the MikeD house w/ Daysleeper
December 27 @ some one car garage (middle of nowhere, N.J.) w/ Plunger, Iodine (LineXDrive), Lifeline
December 28 @ V.A. Hall (D.C.) (Beehive Collective) w/ Frail (Philly), Spirit Assembly, True High Fidelity, Anasarca
December 29 @ King's Head Pub (Va. Beach, Va.) w/ Introspect (Pa.), Channel (Va.) and others
December 30 @ The Somber Reptile (Car vs. Driver - Deja Grateful LP release show) w/ Car vs. Driver, Scout, Lowboy (ATL) Goodbye, Josh.

March 31 @ The Somber Reptile (Scout/Freemasonry split 12" release) w/ Scout and Freemasonry
April, ? @ some club in Pensacola, Fl. w/ The hal al Shedad
April 17 @ The Driver Dome w/ Bloodlet and The hal al Shedad (Thenceforward cancelled)
?,? @ Ladson Homemakers Club (benefit?) w/ Prevail, Premonition, The hal al Shedad, and others
May 12 @ some house in Auburn, Al. w/ The hal al Shedad
May 13 @ Village Apartments Clubhouse (Athens, Ga.) (Food Not Bombs benefit) w/ Year Zero and The hal al Shedad
May 21 @ The Godless Red House (formerly the Mike D house) w/ Prevail and Outbreak
May 24 @ Senseless Beauty Cafe (Columbia, S.C.) w/ Converge, Channel, Assfactor 4, and Fragment
June 2 @ The Driver Dome w/ Gus, Selfish, Gheish, Regicide, and Thenceforward
June 17 @ The Sea Galley Lounge (Charleston, S.C.) (benefit for My Sister's House battered women's shelter) w/ Chokehold and ? (most of the bands we knew cancelled)
June 21 @ Under the Couch w/ Chokehold, Boy Sets Fire, and Act of Faith
July 6 @ The Driver Dome w/ Daredevil and Benchmark
July 15 @ The Somber Reptile (ATL Fest) w/ Assuck, Hot Water Music, Channel, Introspect, Bleed, Assfactor 4, Gheish, Quadiliacha, etc.
July 21 @ The Somber Reptile (Car vs. Driver's last show) w/ Car vs. Driver and Braid
August 19 @ The Driver Dome (Rock Against Rape benefit?) w/ The hal al Shedad, Wheeljack, Pagan Holiday, Blondie, etc.
August 20 @ Colton's Garage? (Pensacola, Fl.) w/ Blank? and ?
August 23 @ the Shaft record store (Gainesville, Fl.) w/ The Cleavers and Vanbuilderass
August 25 @ The Wreck Room (Act of Faith CD release) w/ Act of Faith and Crisis Under Control
November 18 @ The Driver Dome (Empty the Shelters benefit) w/ Hal al Shedad, Scout (1st last show), Act of Faith, and Broken
December ? @ The Driver Dome (Farm Animal Reform benefit) w/ Falling Down and Thenceforward
December 29 @ The Wreck Room w/ Avail and Squatweiler (Crown.Hate.Ruin cancelled)
December 31 @ The I Defy w/ In/Humanity, Autumn, Broken, End of the Century Party, Palatka, etc.

February 2 @ BLT's w/ Chokehold, Thenceforward, and Scout (7" release last last show)
March 14 @ some place on State Street (Little Rock, Ak.) w/ Class of 84, Shakeray Turbine, Red 40
*March 16 @ somewhere in Virginia Beach (the only show we ever cancelled) w/ Hose.Got.Cable and Channel? (they actually played, we couldn't make it)
March 17 @ The Happy Hardcore House (Washington, D.C.) w/ Marble, Astoria, and Mid Carson July
March 20 @ the 314 house (Philly) w/ Ink and Dagger, I Hate You, and Tricycle
March 22 @ some community center (Buffalo, N.Y.) w/ Chokehold, Abnegation, Hourglass, and Chalkline
March 25 @ the YWCA (New Bedford, Ma.) (New Bedford Fest) w/ Chokehold (last show), Damnation A.D., Autumn, Stillsuit, Lifetime, Promise Ring, Texas is the Reason, Switched On, Reversal of Man, Dahlia Seed, Cable, etc.
April 27 @ The Driver Dome (Last Show) (Placebo comp 7" release) w/ Order of Importance and Reversal of Man (Prevail cancelled)

Thanks Inkwell.
BLT's - February 2, 1996

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Inkwell Flyers and Memorabilia

The last of Joe Myers' scrapbooks (see previous posts here and here) contains various flyers and memorabilia from the seminal Atlanta band Inkwell, which he played guitar in along with Marty Rioux (Re/Model, Black Venus) on bass, Phil Dwyer on vocals, Marcus Lowe (Seventy Spacebird, Good Friday Experiment) on drums (March 31, 1995 to April 27, 1996), and Josh Allen on drums (June 30, 1994 to December 30, 1994). I am also working on a post of their discography, which should be coming in the next few days. Above is a patch from Joe's collection of the Inkwell "hand-tree" design.

Here is the lyric sheet from the early show period - I really miss these. It was kind of a nice thing to collect from the bands, something unique from the specific show you attended.

Here is the same lyric sheet under an earlier band name incarnation Crestfallen. Some Inkwell trivia for you.

This is the complete log of shows played by Inkwell - click on the images to enlarge. I first saw them on July 12, 1994 when Car vs. Driver played with them and Spirit Assembly at the Somber Reptile, but it wasn't until I saw them play with Thumbnail and Scout at Theo Witsell's house on October 23, 1994 that they really clicked for me.

June 30, 1994: Inkwell plays with Jara and Quadiliacha at Andy Stivers' house. Their first show, I remember Jara was a bit of a letdown to those in attendance.

October 23, 1994: Inkwell with Silence Equals, Thumbnail and Scout at Theo Witsell's house in Home Park. Theo's house was diagonal to the Godless Red House, if I remember correctly. I don't remember any other shows happening at this house. I also remember that this was around the first day we moved into the Driverdome, as I had just finished unpacking and Steve Wishart and I took a field trip to this show.

November 5, 1994: Inkwell with In/Humanity, Stretch Armstrong, Unscarred, Gullah and Voice in Charleston, SC

November 12, 1994: Inkwell with Deterrent and Deus Ex at the Driverdome. This was the second show ever at the Driverdome (first was Car vs. Driver with Weston). Both Deterrent and Deus Ex had drum machines, and they were bad.

December 28, 1994: Inkwell with Spirit Assembly, Frail, True High Fidelity and Anasarca at the Beehive Collective in Washington DC. Awesome lineup. I remember Phil came back from that tour with his voice completely destroyed, and it seemed like he never really sang the same again, but maybe that's just my imagination.

March 31, 1995: Inkwell with Scout, Freemasonry and Levelhead at the Somber Reptile for the Scout/Freemasonry split LP release show. Marcus' first show with Inkwell, turning them into the powerhouse you know and love.

April 17, 1995: Inkwell with Bloodlet and The hal al Shedad at the Driverdome. Thenceforward cancelled, and I believe this was my first Atlanta show with hal. If you didn't know already, the Inkwell guys were huge Natalie Portman fans.

May 13, 1995: Inkwell with Year Zero and The hal al Shedad at the Village Apartment complex clubhouse in Athens. This show was put on by Gray Kiser (Line Drive, Regicide, Hands of an Angry God, Sonn Av Krusher), and I remember it being very sparsely attended.

May 21, 1995: Inkwell with Prevail, Outbreak and Refuse to Go at the Godless Red house in Home Park.

This is one of the funniest reviews I have ever seen - FUCK THIS RECORD TO HELL!

May 24, 1995: Inkwell with Converge, Channel, Assfactor 4 and Fragment at Senseless Beauty Cafe in Columbia. That was a great place to see/play a show back then. I miss that Columbia Assfactor 4, In/Humanity scene quite a bit.

June 17, 1995: Inkwell with Chokehold, Ashes, Despair, Contagen, Endeavor, Eleventh Hour, Stretch Armstrong, Outcome, Blindside, Prevail, Falling Down, Soulstice and Voice in Charleston, SC. Show starts at 2PM - can you even imagine being at one of these today?

June 21, 1995: Inkwell with Chokehold, Act of Faith, Regicide and Boy Sets Fire at Under the Couch. This was an early incarnation of Regicide, perhaps with Mathis Hunter on vocals? Great show, I remember the Boy Sets Fire guys coming back to the Driverdome and making us all dinner, great guests.

July 6, 1995: Inkwell with Daredevil and Benchmark at the Driverdome. Benchmark was from Ft. Smith, Arkansas and were great. Daredevil had the two brothers from Indian Summer along with the guitarist from Ordination of Aaron, and they were not great. Nothing against those guys, just not so hot based on previous efforts.

July 14, 1995: Day One of the WillJawkBilly fest at the Somber Reptile, with Hickey, One Nature, Line Drive, Copout and Grade.

July 25, 1995: Inkwell with Los Crudos, Quadiliacha, Bare Hope Essentials and Palatka at Under the Couch. Just another Summer 1995 show in Atlanta.

August 23, 1995: Inkwell with The Cleavers and Vanbuiderass at Shaft Records in Gainesville, Florida. That was a good record store, I remember it well.

December 29, 1995: Inkwell with Avail and Hose Got Cable at the Wreck Room. Another great show, this must have been one of the last Wreck Room shows for this type of music.

December 31, 1995: Inkwell with Anderson, Autumn, Broken, End of the Century Party, In/Humanity, Palatka, Prema and Regicide at the I-Defy house. This was a great show that I missed - hal was playing in Ft. Smith Arkansas with the Benchmark guys, where else would you want to be on NYE? This show was also the unveiling of the prime Regicide lineup, pictured here.

February 24, 1996: I believe Inkwell played this show with Damad, Grinch, Spliff and Regicide at the I-Defy house.

February 28, 1996: I also believe Inkwell played this show with Chokehold, Scout and Thenceforward at BLT's.

March 24, 1996: Inkwell with Damnation, Dahlia Seed, Stillsuit, Walleye, 454 Big Block, Cable, Cast Iron Hike, New Day Rising, Roswell and Madison at the New Bedford, MA YWCA. One of Inkwell's last shows.

Here are the patches from Joe's collection. I had the baby fabric one on my jacket, which was just awesome. You can't beat the 90's homemade fabric patches.

Lastly, here is the artwork from the original Inkwell demo, before Marcus took over drum duties. I remember the guys being a little disappointed with it, but I would like to include it in the discography post. Hey, I posted 6 hours of unlistenable Midget Farmers demos on this site - there's no need to feel embarrased about something recorded 15 years ago!