Monday, October 29, 2007

A spooooooky post for Halloween: Mr. Epp and the Calculations

Although they had a minor underground hit with their “Mohawk Man” single (reaching #1 on Rodney Bingenheimer’s show on KROQ, Rodney on the Rocks), perhaps the most (in-)famous contribution to music from this era made by Mr. Epp and the Calculations derived from a letter Mark McLaughlin (that is, Mark Arm) wrote in 1981 to the zine Desperate Times. He described Mr. Epp as “Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit!” And not long after that, Kurt Cobain died.

I’ll only give a brief history of Mr. Epp and the Calculations, as that ground is well covered elsewhere (here and here). They named themselves after their math teacher at Bellevue Christian High School. While membership changed frequently during their brief existence (1981 to 1984), Mark Arm, Darren Morey, and Jo Smitty formed the core of the band, and Steve Turner played with them toward the end. Any attempt to run through the line-ups of various recordings would be redundant, as that information covered well in the links above.

In the days since they disbanded, most people who have discovered them have done so out of interest in the members’ subsequent projects. The most famous, of course, were Green River and Mudhoney, but Darren Morey later joined Steel Pole Bath Tub, who maintain a considerable cult following to this day. Smitty kept Mr. Epp’s flame alive in the 1990s, issuing the band’s records through his label Box Dog and in conjunction with Turner’s Super-Electro Records.

Some of the bits I’ve read about Mr. Epp refer to them as a hardcore band, which they’re most assuredly not. A friend of mine, who passed on these digital files, told me that he hears Flipper and the Minutemen. While I don’t believe that Mr. Epp sought to imitate either one of these bands (especially since few musicians have the chops necessary to ape the Minutemen), there’s a strange amount of truth in his description. In a way, they defy categorization. It’s easy to forget that so many punk bands from that era also defied easy categorization; the hidebound punks from the early 80s who adhered to specific ethos and appearances, in fact, serve as targets for Mark Arm in the aforementioned “Mohawk Man.”

I may be making this sound more interesting than it is. We’ll be charitable and state that these fellas went on to make better, more interesting, more exciting music later. “Spooky,” which does for goths what “Mohawk Man” did for Exploited-loving, snaggle-toothed rockers, is probably their best song. The rest? I’d download the whole thing only if you’re a completist.

The first five tracks come from Mr. Epp’s first EP Of Course I’m Happy, Why? (Pravda; 1982); “Spooky” comes from the compilation tape The Public Doesn’t Exist (Dog Tapes; 1982). Box Dog and Super Electro released Ridiculing the Apocalypse, which collects everything, in 1996. As far as I know, it’s out of print; it someone knows otherwise, kindly let me know. Their complete discography is well covered here.

The entire cd is on the .zip file here.

Mohawk Man
No Rights
Wild Youth on Money
Red Brigade




Yannick said...

The rose is also nice, mudhoney covered it too on sub pop 200

pure noise

Lee G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian j. said...

I did have the Super Electro release on cdr, really funny shit. But man, thank you so much for that Mr Epp link to their discography, I even find out that Attack Fanzine!!

Anonymous said...

*I found out of that Attack Fanzine!

Susan M said...

I don't think I knew that they ever released anything. Thanks a ton!

El said...

Thanks for posting Mohawk Man.

I remember smoking pot and skateboarding with Mark Arm in a park near Bellevue Square.

Your blog kicks ass.

El said...

I love this blog so much I had to give a shout-out:

Brent said...

Picked this up and neglected to leave a thank-you.

So thanks.

I grew up in Rochester, NY, & so most of this stuff is only legend to me. I made my college email address years before I had heard any of their actual "songs." (In fact until this download I had only heard Mudhoney's version of "Baby, Help Me Forget" -- which is somehow missing here?) So this was a great find for me, if a bit disappointing that we can't hear more Mark. Still, his guitar playing is excellent (actually much more interesting than the most recent Mudhoney album).

Thanks again and keep up this great archival work!

Onion Terror said...

This is the first time I've heard Mr. Epp, despite knowing of them since about 1990. It's pretty good stuff, cheers.

love & rockets said...

man oh man... mr epp!

i wanted to listen to their ep many times ago, basically for the "mohawk man" song. so thanks a lot for this brilliant post and amazing blog!

all the best from s-pain,

ps: could you post the "mohawk man" lyrics, if it doesn't represent lots of work? it would be nice, because i can't understand it 100%.

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Mike said...

I recently found their "Ridiculing The Apocolypse" CD not too long ago. I liked a few songs...But when I heard Wild Thing I had to stop the song. Nothing personal, I just really don't like that song.

Mohawk Man for obvious reasons is one of my favorites, Spooky is up there too...So many great songs an I can't remember their names. I belive Smitty was going to releases every Mr. Epp record on CD version and put it out on his label...I have yet to see it, or belive it'll happen.

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