Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wholes Demos

     Wholes were a unique band and that's putting it mildly.  They were off the charts in terms of weirdness.  In the early 90's the Wholes more or less filled the vacuum that was left when the majority of the Las Vegas underground bands imploded in the late 80's.  

      I was probably most acquainted with the singer Billy Thornton.  And I didn't even know him all that well.  He went to my high school briefly.  After that I'd chat with him at shows occasionally.  In truth our relationship mostly involved drug deals as I bought quite a few doses from him, as did everyone else in Las Vegas at that time.  A nice guy.  He was crazy in an understated way.  No matter what stories I'd hear about him when I'd encounter him in person he seemed in control.  He was always playful and never stressed out.  I heard that he was in a foster home when he was going to my school. (Eldorado HS)  I think he later transferred to Western or Bonanza because he was put in a different foster home but maybe I'm imagining this or it was a rumor.

    It was a huge scandal when he got busted with a bunch of doses and a pot plant in his house.  He was the main dealer and so people were freaking out worried for him and wondering where the drugs were gonna be.  I read an article about the bust in the newspaper and I was sure he was going to jail.  Luckily he didn't and I don't think he ever had any more trouble with the cops.  None that got headlines in a newspaper anyway.  
     I kinda  knew the other dudes in the band but it was mainly from seeing them around.  I didn't buy drugs from anyone else in the band so maybe that's why I was never too close with the other guys.  Although I do recall going to the "Rainbow Gathering" with Tom Stone and James Palmer.  But that's an LSD story not worth repeating.

     There was a show at the "Ranch" which was a strange West Side ranch house.  Not sure if the Wholes played at this particular show but I do remember doing Ecstacy for the first time there and Bob the guitarist from the Wholes smoked a joint with me in his car and introduced me to the band King Crimson which was a good environment that night.  I remember being bummed that we had to stop smoking the joint and go back to the show.  It wasn't just the drugs.  Something tells me the band sucked that night as well because that was usually the case.
                                As far as their music goes I'd have to admit at the time I couldn't figure out what they were trying to do.  Of course I was pretty closed minded back then.  I was always pulling for them and I wanted to like them because I knew em and quite frankly there were no other bands.  I could never fully get into them because I thought they were like a lesser Butthole Surfers who were fucking incredible at that point.  No one could live up to the awe of the Buttholes even though the Wholes sounded nothing like em.  Still it was the only thing I could compare them to in my narrow frame of reference.  To this day I have yet to hear a band who approached what they were trying to do although I will say that band Idiot Flesh comes to mind in terms of strange artifice.  
    Really that's probably the Whole point.  I see them now as an Art rock band.  The music seems like an inventive showcase on which to hang their art.  

     Live, they tended to be like a performance art piece.  Billy would often do the weirdest shit onstage which was often the focus of the show.  The best Wholes show I saw was the one where Billy wrapped himself head to toe in saran wrap.  He sang for a few songs until you could see he was about to pass out.  He then broke the saran so he could breathe and it was the craziest, funniest shit ever.  That's more balls than that GG Allin "I'm gonna kill myself on stage!" bullshit.  Billy really could have died.  I think that same show he had Jen O. Cide hit him with a whip while he sang a song.  Quality bizarro.        

     Sadly Billy died in the mid 90's.  He was a funny creative guy and he is sorely missed.  He wrote a number of zines as well as being involved in the Wholes.  I think he also made a few audio zine type cassettes.  
    After listening to this it brought to mind another piece of obscurity.  Prior to Wholes, Billy was in a band named Death Warmed Over.  Great name.  They had a demo tape as well.  My friend Jason Gombarcik had their demo tape and the interesting thing about his copy was that the music was only on one side and the other side had Billy repeating Death, Death, Death, Death, Death, Death, Death, etc. for the entire length of the 2nd side!  Awesome shit.  I heard he made like 10 limited copies where he recorded himself saying Death, Death,etc for each individual copy!  Somehow I ended up with a Death Warmed Over T-Shirt years after they broke up.  I think Ryland Luss gave it to me.  I'd heard the tape but don't remember much from it.  Death Warmed Over was a Death Rock/Goth type band.   

     I never got to hear any of these Wholes demos back in the day, maybe that's why I never really got on board with them because these recordings are spirited.  I'm still not a fan of the guitar sound, the occasional forays into blues territory leave me cold, and I always wanted Billy to get more into the effects pedal with his vocals.  Still hearing this music today gives me a new found respect for what they were on about.  
    People have described them as Psychedelic but I'm not sure if I'd put it in that category.  It's Art Rock for sure and there's no mistaking the fact that drugs played a role in their art.  It tends to be pretty uptempo but it's definitely not hardcore.  Scholars will be scratching their heads as to where these guys lie in the family tree of rock.  I'm stumped.  It's still not my cup of tea but I do remember a few of these songs from seeing them as many times as I did.  I'm glad I got to be a witness to their creativity.  I'm super thankful to Jeff Murphy for digitizing this and sending it to me. 
     I think these demos are a better representation of their sound than the 7" record they released on Bucky Records.  That 7" I might add was rejected for review in Maximum Rock and Roll.  They said it wasn't punk enough.  Yet another funny twist in punk rock history.  
     I think I'm more a fan of the "Keep You Along As Round As Possible" demo as opposed to the first demo.  The songs seem a little more alive and rockin.  Jeff also included the track from the "Free Aspirin and Tender Sympathy" compilation which was a locals only CD that came out in the early 90's.  Thanks to Michelle Fournier for these pictures of Billy.      

Download links for WHOLES DEMOs below (This does not include the 7" released on Bucky records in 94):

1.  That's Showbiz Folks...
2.  Who Was Actually
3.  Graverobbing In Texas
4.  Cucinare Il Bambino
5.  My Head Hurts

6.  Crackbaby Up All Night Shakin'

7.  Evil Dead
8.  Here We Come
9.  My Mind Mine
10.  Year After Year
11.  Next
12.  Burning Jesuside
13.  Carved In A Rock
14.  Bald Bullshit
15.  Pay To Pray
16.  Refuge of Arkon-Lo Dog God
17.  Evil Dead 
18.  Fuck A Blue Ford Pickup Truck

Tragic Mulato Flyer


  1. He's right, they came off old cassettes that I actually listened to quite frequently. Looking forward to hearing the remasters!

  2. Chad,
    You can repost the download for the demos. I don't have the $ to do the remixes. I intended to redo the whole(s) catalog but I can't seem to find the time or any cheap analog equipment for that matter.

    I do have to add as a side note that I was a little hurt that I was the only person not mentioned in your article about the band. **(withdrawing snide, snarky self-deprecating/looking for validation comment here)**

    D mc D

  3. I coulda swore I wrote in the names of all band members in this post. I've been pretty bad about that in most of these posts. Main reason being I don't know everyones name in some of these bands. It's good when people speak up to set the record straight. Thanks Dave.

    For the record Wholes was Billy Thornton on vocals, David McDonald on bass, Tom Stone on drums, and Bob (damn can't remember his last name!) on guitar. lease let me know if I misspelled any names. And what was Bob's last name again? It's all the acid man. I'm paying for it bigtime now. Look for download links here in the future.

  4. Thanks for setting that straight. I sometimes take things too personally, especially when it comes to stuff I was involved in. Bob's last name is Perez. Although we never used our real names, so I guess it's right that no one would remember them.

  5. for more about Billy, check this out:

  6. one of the best songs is missing...lolo. The songs from keep you around demo will always be hard to categorize...they used to scare me. My tape sounds like shit these days but it still gets played monthly and makes me feel better. especially year after year.

  7. tracks 7&8 link to lol

  8. Thanks Chad.
    Hey did you ever do any clay mation. You came into Desert Art Supply when I worked there. I showed you the sculpty.

  9. A quick comment about avoiding catagorization.
    I think that the scene "lvhc" (for lack of a better term) was such an expansive scene musically that it permitted Wholes and other bands to experiment with writting songs and provided a space to present any thing that you brought.
    Wholes pushed song structure boundrays. We took pleasure in it. DavID McDonald was largely responsible for the catalyst. The pop song structure was only used in a spoofing or mocking manner. Humor and sarcasm wieghed in. I loved playing with these guys. The musicianship was awesome. We all had our individual influences. Together as Wholes we were greater. We believed in what we were doing. It was honest to the core. I miss that energy. It was a to rarity that I was privileged to be a part of. Thank you to the folks who supplied feedback and force that helped us continue. Thank you to Wholes, Billy Paul Angel Thornton (rip). David McDonald. Robert Bob Perez . - Thomas Stone.