|CRAWLSPACE began in 1985 |
when Eddie Flowers (that's me) and Bill McCarter, who had been not doing much in their quest to become a "band," hooked up with Keith Telligman and Allen Clark of the Lazy Cowgirls.
I met Bill McCarter in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1977. I was visiting Bloomington from my home in Jackson, Alabama, recording material that would become the second and third Gizmos EPs. By coincidence, Bill and I both moved to L.A. in August 1979. I was surprised when Richard Meltzer told me that a "friend of the Gizmos" had contacted him and given him a demo tape. It turned out to be Bill McCarter. Along with Rich Coffee (another ex-Gizmo and future member of the Unclaimed, thee Fourgiven, etc), Bill and I decided to form a band called Idle Hands. It was way too idle, and nothing came of the project. A couple years later, Bill's friends, a band from Vincennes, Indiana called Gloria, moved to L.A. Gloria turned out to be an early version of the Lazy Cowgirls. I became drinking buddies with their bass player Keith Telligman, and in 1985, the two of us decided to bring in Bill on guitar and Lazy Cowgirls drummer Allen Clark on bass to form a band--with Keith on guitar, and me on vocals. The name we decided on was Big Dad & 10 Lbs. of Swingin' Meat. It was Allen's suggestion to Pat Todd for the name of the Lazy Cowgirls. Pat said no; I said yes. But a couple months later, I changed my mind. I decided the band should be called Crawlspace.
The name came from a 1971 made-for-TV movie about a long-haired social outcast who takes up residence in an elderly couple's crawlspace. But the reason I chose the name goes a bit deeper. There was the letter above in Creem magazine, also from '71 or '72. I saw the TV movie as a rerun after I read the letter. And saw Don't Knock the Twist on TV around the same time. It was all like some psych-o-delic/mystical trash-culture/R&R epiphany: the movies, the letter, the connections in my head: Creem = Lester Bangs = jazz; or Mark Farner = MC5 = jazz; or Gene Chandler = Lee Dorsey = Funkadelic; or Night of the Living Dead = Vietnam = revolution; or let's get drunk and watch the tube! It was still swirling in my head all those years later, and seemed like the perfect name for a band. And I still felt like the young guy in that TV movie, looking for a space to fit, even if it was in somebody's crawlspace--or let's say, um, disappeared beneath the surface of society, into a sort of cultural crawlspace. By the time we were getting a record out, though, there was this really horrible Klaus Kinksi movie called Crawlspace, one of the true stinkers of the 80s. But I figured everybody would forget that. They eventually did--and started thinking about John Wayne Gacey, the "legendary" killer who buried his victims in the, um, crawlspace of his house. Thanks to the influences of the Kinski movie and the PR-minded Gacey, a lot of idiots over the years have also decided to use the name. Be careful what you buy--there's at least three bands who have released stuff using the Crawlspace name (all years after us): a pop band from Australia, a metal band from Belgium, and a Christian (!) rock band from the U.S.
Keith, Allen, Bill, and I jammed for a couple of years, with a few attempts at playing with drummers. Then, in 1987, Keith talked Allen into switching from bass in Crawlspace to drums, the instrument he had been playing with the Cowgirls all along. Equally important was the addition of lead guitarist Mark McCormick, another Hoosier from Vincennes (he had played in a teenage band with Allen called the Broken Toys). Next came bass player Lenny Keringer, who went on to the Creamers and eventually replaced Keith in the Lazy Cowgirls.
This was the first version of Crawlspace that played gigs, and the one that did the first records: Eddie Flowers (voice), Keith Telligman (rhythm guitar), Bill McCarter (fuzz guitar), Allen Clark (drums), Mark McCormick (lead guitar), and Lenny Keringer (bass). This line-up recorded In the Gospel Zone (except for Can's "Little Star of Bethlehem") in '87.
Crawlspace sweatin' out beer and blotter at the Anti-Club in Hollywood (left to right): Billy Ray McCarter, Lenny Keringer, Crawlin' Ed Flowers, Alien Rock (Allen Clark), Ven. Bede (Mark McCormick), Doctor Butcher MD (Keith Telligman).
(PHOTO BY DERICH WITTLIFF)
That line-up lasted until the end of 1987, when Lenny quit, and Sarge Adam (of Fearless Leader) came in on bass. This period, 1987-1989, was the busiest in terms of gigs. But Allen started losing interest as we became more and more improv-oriented, and he finally split. We used a drummer named Chris Phillips for our recording of "Little Star of Bethlehem" in '88. He left town right after the recording, and hasn't been seen since. Then came a period of sporadic live shows with an unfortunate choice for drummer who called himself Rock Bottom.
When drummer Bob Lee joined in late '88, the music took a definite step up, as it had when Mark joined us on guitar. With Bob on drums, we released two singles on Sympathy for the Record Industry: "August" and "Ocean = You." As I pushed things towards a more improv-based sound, not everybody was happy. The first to go was Sarge, who had been doing Fearless Leader with Allen all along. The last period with Sarge, when we began to really discard set song structures, was documented on two cassettes, Cave Paintings One and Cave Paintings Two.
Although I cussed him at the time for leaving before we got back into the studio, the departure of Sarge turned into good fortune, because the next important step happened when he was replaced by Joe Dean at the beginning of 1990. For the first time, there was a musician in Crawlspace whose background wasn't primarily based in the punk-garage-rock world. But Joe was into jazz and Krautrock, which nicely dovetailed with our fascination with the music of Can and our growing interest in free jazz. He brought in lots of ideas, and also had a fondness for funk and hiphop, which I appreciated. After recording Sphereality for Sympathy, Bob left in 1991 to play with Claw Hammer and a list of other bands too numerous to mention; he too had grown tired of the non-structured direction we were taking. By the time the Sphereality CD was out, Bob was gone, and the band was in a nice sort of limbo. I started working on material with Joe Dean on 4-track reel, and then 16-track; plus doing stuff on my own with a 4-track cassette deck donated to Crawlspace by George Popel when he moved back to Prague. Most of these collaborations were kinda lost, as the band format still took up my, um, promotional energies, but the highlights did make it onto a cassette called Fields Rattle.
When Crawlspace finally reconstituted as a band in 1993, it looked like this: Eddie Flowers (voice), Joe Dean (bass), Mark McCormick (guitar), Allen Clark (trumpet, sax, casio, percussion), Dave Fontana (guitar), and Greg Hajic (drums). Allen was back, but serving an auxiliary role, and Keith was gone. Greg and Dave were friends of Joe's from bands in the 70s and 80s, in Santa Barbara. They brought an even stronger influence of Krautrock and prog to the band. It was a nice balance: the three Californians contrasted against Midwesterners Mark and Allen, and me from the South, still pulling it back towards blues, the garage, and more noisy sounds. This line-up was never documented properly at the time, but evidence of what this six-piece band did during '93 and '94 did appear on 'Shroom-Tit Arithmetic. and some other cassette releases. With Bob Lee sitting in while Greg was on vacation in Europe, this line-up recorded The Exquisite Fucking Beauty of Crawlspace, released by Majora Records.
'SHROOM-TIT ARITHMETIC 1994
Crawlspace spreadin' love (for a moment anyway) at Eagle's Coffee Pub in North Hollywood (left to right): Dave Fontana, Joe Dean, Eddie Flowers, Greg Hajic, Allen Clark, Mark McCormick.
(PHOTO BY HANNI HAJIC)
Then everything changed. After many years of occasionally strumming or hitting something, but not for public ears, I got an itch to PLAY. Keith Telligman had come back on the scene, recording with us in '94. He also sold me a cheap guitar and amp. It started something else. From the beginning of 1995 on, Joe and I continued recording, trying out diffferent approaches, at first with him on synthesizer and me doing guitar sounds. And I began recording guitar stuff on my own straight to cassette. The 16-track recordings from this period make up most of The Dark Folds of Infinity LP (Majora Records) and żEt II Bluto? CD (The Lotus Sound), both of which feature different combinations of the band including Eddie Flowers, Joe Dean, Greg Hajic, Dave Fontana, Keith Telligman, Mark McCormick, and Allen Clark. Also contributing were friends and occasional collaborators Todd Homer and Larry Robinson of the Mooseheart Faith Stellar Groove Band, 'Space associate Les Greenfield, and Dave's brother Paul Fontana.
In 1997, the 16-track came into my hands, and except for a couple early sessions with Mark McCormick and Allen Clark, Crawlspace 1997-2007 was Greg Hajic, Joe Dean, and Eddie Flowers playing a variety of instruments. We released a shitload of very limited cassettes in 1999, experimenting with new approaches and documenting old recordings. As well as the trio, Greg and I also did a number of recordings as a duo, including CDR releases for Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers and American Tapes.
In 2000, we released 12 CDRs (new and archival), including Dogs Begin to Crawl, Snakes Begin to Howl, the long-awaited songs'n'sounds follow-up to żEt II Bluto? Then we began looking at other ways of making sounds: shiny electronic toys with tiny guitar samples, backed by plastic drums and eekin' tiny keyboards; non-instruments assembled from tool shed, kitchen, bathroom, etc.; loops made from records, VHS videos, and CDs; blank tape hiss manipulated via EQ; etc. We also kept working with guitars, drums, etc. This material came out as various CDRs, culminating with a "trilogy" of sound-based CDR releases in the summer and autumn of 2001: Crawlspace Slept Here; The Roaring Winds of Louie Louie (released by Carbon Records); and Static from the Slowdown. This was followed by a couple kinda fill-in releases, while we started work on our next CD (not CDR).
THE SLIPPY TOWN LIFESTYLE STUDIO 2001
Crawlspace lets the room play the band. Set up the mics, turn on the tape deck, pass the bong.
(PHOTO BY GREG HAJIC)
As we worked on the next "studio" CD, we kept jamming and recording, mostly going back to guitars and drums. Some of this ended up on the CD, but most of it came out as a series of give-away CDRs in 2003: the Rock Generation series, available only to customers, traders, and friends in editions of 20. In September of '03, the CD was released by Gulcher Records: Law Where Prohibited By Void combined the sound-based noise and loops of the more recent Crawlspace with a distinct nod in the direction of "primitive" blues, rock, and even old-school hiphop--but souped up with production that gets pretty elaborate by Crawlspace standards--boogie guitars, turntable, John Lee Hooker, minimal music, toys rockin', and even a semi-acoustic cover of Black Sabbath's "Into the Void."
But now the loops and non-instruments are gone. In 2004, we decided we were ready to rock again! For the first time since 1989, before Greg and Joe even showed up in Slippy Town, Crawlspace is concentrating on song forms and remembered grooves before we add the noise and improv. There's way too much half-assed know-nothing rock music now being spewed out by youngsters who listened to oldsters who should've known better. Yeah well, we DO know better! Let us again steep ourselves in the nectar of the real shit that did NOT come from college radio, neatly trimmed suburbs, or trust-fund punks. We're old, old motherfuckers, with no delusions but plenty of illusions. And now it's once again time to ROCK!
And the first proof of our dedication to this inner urge to ROCK: The Spirit of '76 CD, released in October 2006. Here's the basic manifesto:
Take me back. Yeah, take me back. Take me back to where I once beee-longed. (Elvis version of the Fab 4.) Git back juju. Man, I always hated "retro"--although I always loved "roots." What's the diff? Who knows, and who cares! After 15 years or so in the outer regions, the Crawlspace mamaship has touched down on solid rock again. Start wigglin' yer toes in mud and rollin' rugs off the floor. What am I saying here, brothers and sisters? I'm saying . . . LET'S ROCK!
Out in Slippy Town, Republic of California, they got rock and revolution on their minds. R&R circa 1950-1976 (but time is an illusion). Revolution coz yeah, war still sux and racism still sux. But this is revolution thru tokin' and dancin'--not the kinda bad-vibe methods that W.'s cabal is using to fug up the whole party. What follows is the Crawlspace 13-point program, collectively known as The Spirit of '76.
With crazed cover versions of songs by the Cunts, the Raiders, Patrick Sky ("Fight for Liberation"), the Stones, Patti Smith/Love ("Hey Joe"), the Saints, O. Rex, Allan Sherman--and some original stuff in there too. And the disc comes with a cover painting by Gizmos founder Krazee Ken Highland done for a high-school art class circa 1973--MC5 wild in the streets cities on flame with RnR revolution NOW! (etc.) Greg's old pal Robin Lehman, who plays classical piano exclusively, adds synthesizer (which he had never played) to Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'."
(PAINTING BY KRAZEE KEN HIGHLAND)
In 2008, Bob Lee returned to play drums with us after 15+ years. We started recording a new album, and in September 2009, we returned to playing live for the first time since 1994. This was a show at the American Legion in Highland Park with Saccharine Trust! We released Ignorance Is Bliss on CD through Gulcher in the summer of 2010. In some ways, the most straight-ahead Crawlspace thing EVER, it's comprised of 13 short blasts of mostly composed original songs like "(Here Come) Them Sexy Sixties," "Women in Cemeteries," "Sara Jane!" (inspired by one of the chicks who tried to shoot Gerald Ford when he was president), "(I Am) The Watcher," and "Not a Heartache." There's also a couple of covers and a couple of looser jam-type things (but short).
RETURN TO LIVE ACTION 2009
Greg Hajic, Eddie Flowers, Bob Lee, and Joe Dean at American Legion Post 206 in Highland Park, California.
(PHOTO BY JASON SIMPSON)
The shows have continued--sporadically. In the summer of 2010, Grady Runyan (from Monoshock and Liquorball) joined as second guitarist. Shortly afterwards, Greg Hajic had to drop out due to work crap--and is greatly missed. I'm sure he will return eventually! In late 2010, Grady also had some other things to do, and for a very brief period, Fearless Leader maniac Sarge Adam returned to Crawlspace! He had played bass with us in the late 80s, but this time was on guitar. We did a couple of shows. It just didn't work out.
Joe Dean, Grady Runyan, Eddie Flowers, Bob Lee, and Greg Hajic at The Crest in Torrance, California.
(PHOTO BY DANNY DORMAN)
In April 2011, we were about to do a show at the Redwood in downtown L.A., and thought Sarge was gonna make the show for his first two-guitar show (with Grady back). But he couldn't make it, so we summoned our pal Alex Gray to come jam with us. Knowing his electronic space-float stuff from his Deep Magic project, we expected him to show up and make background noise. Instead, he had learned all the songs on guitar and played like he had been in the band along! He has been since then. Alex also plays with Sun Araw.
Bob Lee, Joe Dean, Eddie Flowers, and Alex Gray at Hollow Wood World in Hollywood.
(PHOTO BY NATALIE VAN LEX)
We're currently working on a new album. Very slowly. And doing shows when they come along. The 2012 line-up: Eddie Flowers, Joe Dean, Bob Lee, Grady Runyan, and Alex Gray.
And it continues--