Monday, June 18, 2012

Hairball/Forehead demo

            On a lark I "internet searched" the Forehead/Hairball demo a while back and lo and behold I found it out there in the ethoshere.  Makes me wonder how many demos from my past are out there and how many more cool bands I’ve forgotten about.   When I think back I sometimes get confused about what was a dream and what was reality.  Sure wish I’d kept a diary of some sort so I could remember all the bands and people who kicked me in the ass back then.  Hearing old demos like this one bring back proof of the ones I know really existed.  This demo was a split cassette release featuring the bands Hairball and Forehead respectively if not respectfully.        

            I remember liking this demo a bunch when I first heard it.  I’ve been curious how I’d feel about it in the here and now.  I only saw Hairball and Forehead play together once and that was out in the desert at the Lossee Road spot.  I never seen em again although I recall seeing flyers for numerous shows by both bands.  Feels like I remember more shows that I missed than the ones I attended.  I’m not as cool as I make myself out to be. 

            Somehow I got no drug story to tell about that show.  I’m sure all this bullshit I’ve written makes me out to have been a drug addled teenager but the truth is I didn’t have enough money to be on drugs all the time.  At this particular show I remember barely being able to catch a buzz from the 12 pack of Meisterbrau I had to share with Gonzo and Angelique who gave me a ride.
            Drugs or no drugs it was a great show as were most of those experiences.  I made out with a girl in the ditch on the side of the Tubes at that show.  Maybe that’s why it was so memorable?  Or maybe that was at a different show?  I don’t know maybe I was on drugs?

            In any event it was good to finally go to a show without there being a huge fight or a random fascist skinhead attack.  I was in the 10th grade so it was prior to the skinhead onslaught that turned that scene in on itself just a few months later.  It’s hard to put into words how sadistic and dangerous it was to love hardcore punk back then.  It sorta makes me want to beat up punks of today so they can taste the anxiety instead of living the mediocrity of their mundane store bought angst but it's probably just my duty as an old man to speak down to the youngins when the reality is they might have more answers than I’ve been able to provide.  We can hope but I’m not gonna hold my breath.
            My buddy Gonzo hadn’t turned nazi yet at that point.  Having friends go from far left commies into far right Nazis overnight happened more often than you’d think back then.  Just another reason to question the legitimacy of any and all groups, cliques, tribes, nations or scenes.   Anyway I lost touch with that guy and hadn’t spoken with him in years.  My last interaction with him involved watching him do a bunch of meth and drink 40 ozers for a few days in a row.  I coulda swore he was dead or in jail and the next thing I knew we hooked up via the internet.  Turns out he’s a prominent member of the African American community now.  Which is pretty fucking rad.  I’m not joking.

            And so the demo:  Good tunes.  Kinda standard hardcore is what I thought I’d be hearing after hyping it up in my mind all these years but these songs remind me of how good we had it back then.  I keep commenting on how the hardcore bands from Vegas had originality and real musicianship but I think it’s hard to deny.  Maybe we didn’t have as much of the dogmatic hardcore sound that other scenes from that time produced.  Bigger metropolitan areas put all the emphasis on making it louder and  faster and not much else in between got explored.  Plus we were out in the middle of nowhere making it up as we went along which meant we were bound to come up with something unique to our surroundings. 
            I remember thinking how unchallenging and somewhat conformist so much of that east coast hardcore seemed in the late 80’s.  Yeah it could be brutal and the Metal sound seeped in a lot sooner than it did on the West coast but so many bands were just cookie cutter.  Don’t think for a minute I’m downplaying the significance of some of the stellar high profile bands like Bad Brains, and yeah Discord records had it’s day but even that first Husker Du record should have rocked more than it did.  Plus the sheer amount of bands in the more populous East coast and Midwest dictated that most of them had to suck.  C'mon, does anyone remember Crumbsuckers?  That shit was awful.  Even back then I remember thinking it was all tough guy bullshit that sounded the same and didn't have anything illuminating to say.  Small wonder that fascism would later become the fashion of the underground as 80's hardcore folded in on itself.  Not like anything has changed as indeed it's only gotten worse above ground.  More normalized.  More accepted as truth.   
            I recall sitting on the couch with my folks watching Youth of Today on the Phil Donahue show thinking it seemed kinda tame and somewhat lamebrain when it should have been more triumphant and more intelligent.  They were representing me right?  Maybe it would have been better if Ray of Today had smoked some PCP before coming on the show?  Disgusting to think that the skinhead brawl on Geraldo’s TV show may always be the above ground representation from that time period for "my" generation.  At least Geraldo got a broke nose which is cool by me.     
            Once again I’m talking out of my ass just to hear myself bitch.  Maybe I'm just dreaming all this shit up?  Anyway I think those scenes from the East tend to get more focus largely because they were the only ones pressing records at the time.  It wasn’t until way late in Hardcore’s “growth” that the west coast came into it’s own with records coming out to document regional scenes outside the loop who didn’t have a voice.  Prior to that it was all demos which were impossible to circulate or even survive to be understood in the grand scheme of pseudo revisionist history of which I’m haphazardly playing a small part.  Maybe demos were mandatory because the bands only had enough money to spend on drugs as well? 
            It’s hard to speculate because I had such a limited worldview of what was going on where at the time.  It’s easy to act like I know shit and really I've always thought I was an authority on the subject but the truth is as I’ve turned my attention back to those times I realize I only had so much insight and it was usually from what was right in front of my face.  As mentioned I’ve probably forgotten more than I’ve remembered.  We only celebrate what we know right?  I'm glad I know this demo again.  

            It's a good one and while the boombox production value is typical shit for the time it’s also part of the appeal as I keep repeating.  Maybe if there was more money invested in the recording these bands would’ve sounded more like Gorilla Biscuits or some such crap? 

            The night of that show I was blown away by Forehead.  Their guitar player was skillful and rippin.  Hairball was cool too.  The singer had liberty spikes which was punk as fuck.  Listening to the demo today makes me dig Hairball a little more for the weird turns they take and the fucked up reverbish distortion pedal on the guitar.  Forehead is equally all over the map mixing pop here and there with y'know urgency and shit.  They're even vaguely post-punk which is fuckin rad.  Both bands are oddball late 80's hardcore.  I don't know if I like it as much as I did in 88-89 but it's good to hear it again.  There’s now a freeway onramp going over the Lossee Road ditch and I think suburbs now go past that ditch for another few miles.
            Much thanks to Scott Fisher for sharing this with me.  He played bass in Hairball,  Kevin Sanford was on vocals, Wiggzell (?) on guitar, and Tom Stone played drums.  I only know of Chris Steiner as the vocalist of Forehead.  The tape cover says Aaron "Dudeman" played bass and Steve "Huss" played drums.    My knowledge ends there.  Although Scott was kind enough to mention how Hairball went out with a bang for their last show as the odd band out at the Boulder City dry lake beds playing with Blue Ruin and Jimi Jackpot and the Hotslots.  Funny stuff. 
                  I'd hate to be the one to pick out the hit singles here as all the songs got charm.  They feel like a comfy, smelly, old blanket.  It makes me wonder if there can be a precedent with this demo as among the first, and last, of the vaguely psychedelic hardcore.  Mostly I'm thinking this because I'm sure all these guys were on LSD regularly during those years.  Substance D might fall in that category too as well as the final album by Cryptic Slaughter.  I can hear the brain cells burning in the night.  

                Even if you weren't at any of their shows there's a good chance you'll get some kicks listening in.  I really dig Turn To Dust by Forehead and Floundering In Fire is a sure winner from Hairball.  Both bands are a tad on the sloppy side at points which is a good thing in my book.  Brings back that frantic feeling that was paranoia and freedom mixed together in the desert air.  Again I'm not talking about the drugs.  

 Download Hairball side below:

Download Forehead side below:



  1. Nice post. We had no idea how good we had it with the desert gigs. DIY at its best.

    Interesting turn of events for your buddy, Gonzo. I missed most of the nazi-drama, as I left in the summer of '89. Our buddy Fred hung out with us quite a bit that summer and he was an ex-nazi, as a suspect most of them eventually figure out that being a bigot is really lame.

    Keep writing. You are good at it. Glad I could provide a few illustrations for ya.
    - Scott, aka "Fish"

    PS We got Kevin's hair to stand up via a mix of gelatin knox and Aqua Net. And hours with a hair dryer. ;-)

  2. I f'n dig the NO Jocks post in the corner of that last flyer.

  3. This site is great! - I.O.H. was so badass - I to have dosed in the Shmeg room a time or two - Lethal Injection!!!