Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vexed: Not Your Typical Seattle Funk-Punk Band!

I’ll be honest with you, sonny: if there is one thing that makes me want to run to the hills, it’s funk-rock. Sure, I can bust a move to some of the early funk-punk bands, like Liquid Liquid, Medium Medium, and ESG, but after hearing way too many Red Hot Chili Pepper imitators and long-hair guitarist dudes who have learned the 7#9 chord (aka the Hendrix chord) and suddenly think they are Eddie Hazel, I generally find it best to avoid the genre.

With that in mind, this week’s spotlight artist is Vexed, who were described as having a “relentless funk/rock/death/groove sound” on the 1988 C/Z compilation record Secretions (CZ006). Honestly, if I wasn’t already familiar with the band, chances are I wouldn’t bother to check them out based on that description, and that would be a shame. While the band did incorporate funky bass lines, and while their guitarist played more than barre chords, I’d say that they had more in common with bands like Victims Family and Nomeansno than Psychefunkapus or Infectious Grooves. There was nothing jokey or “jock friendly” about their music; they were politically oriented and owed more to bands like Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys, and Killing Joke than your typical frat party funk rock band.

Also, unlike your typical funk party band, Vexed were made up of punk rock veterans. Bassist Alfred Butlers played in Death of Marat (with Skin Yard’s Daniel House), and singer/guitarist Milton Garrison played in In Vitro Pope, the Altered (with future Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto), and the Drills (which featured punk rock poet Patrick McCabe). As far as I can tell, though, none of the bands besides the Drills ever released anything.

Vexed formed around 1984 and made their debut on the 1985 compilation tape Pyrrhic Victory, along with Soundgarden, Skin Yard, and 10 Minute Warning. After that, the band appeared on the promo-only 1986 cassette Bands That Will Make Money, which was put together by former KCMU DJ Faith Henschel and featured Soundgarden, Green River, H-Hour (w/ Tad on drums), Skin Yard, Pure Joy, Fred (w/ Amy Denio), and Portland’s Napalm Beach. Their vinyl debut was on the 1987 Ironwood Records compilation LP Lowlife, where they contributed the song “Sixes and Seven.” That label was based in the Ironwood recording studios, which, I believe, is now Avast.

Next, they contributed the song “I Forget” to the 1988 Secretions compilation LP (CZ006). This LP was masterminded by Vertigo Bus’ Patty Herlevi and also featured songs by various Amy Denio projects, Crypt Kicker 5 (featuring Jack Endino on drums), Weather Theatre, Pure Joy, Coffin Break, Skin Yard, Capping Day, H-Hour, and a few others. Secretions came out around the same time as Sub Pop 200 but is more musically diverse and less “scene defining.”

Vexed’s first noncompilation record was the 1988 Maybe 7” EP, with the songs “Ad Nauseum” b/w “Xians” and “Resistivity of a Highly Viscous Fluid” (CZ008); those songs were also added to the CD version of their first record, The Good Fight (CZ021). The Jack Endino-produced record features a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks and is further proof that there was more to the local scene than just grunge.

Continuing with their compilation-appearing blitz, the band contributed the song “GWYM” to the Teriyaki Asthma Volume 4 7”(CZ0023), which also has Alternative Tentacle recording artists, Alice Donut, Icky Joey (Love Battery and Thrown Ups members), and God’s Acre. For fellow record nerds, please note that Milton’s other band, Yeast, also appeared on the first Teriyaki Asthma EP, along with the record debut of Nirvana, former Chrome member Helios Creed, and Coffin Break. The first five volumes were also compiled on CD in 1991; you can buy it here.

With that, the band broke up, only to reform a few years later with new drummer Buzz Crocker who was on loan from fellow C/Z recording artist, Alcohol Funnycar. This version of the band contributed to the 1994 Three on the Tree 7” EP (CZ075) alongside Chicago’s Wreck (featuring Die Kreuzen bassist Keith Brammer) and Seattle’s Engine Kid (featuring a post-False Liberty and Brotherhood and pre-Sunn 0))) and Southern Record co-honcho Greg Anderson). The 1994 Cathexis LP (CZ072) was the band’s swan song, and the members moved the lonely town of Splitzville.

Jack Endino sums up Vexed and their place in Seattle music best on this fantastic band interview:

"Vexed played some of the best shows I ever saw from a Seattle band, but the grunge crowd kept their distance. Their loss," he said. "Remember, history is written by the victors, so Seattle music history is now 100 percent grunge-centric. The 'other' bands we're speaking of here didn't 'do' much to leave a mark. No national tours, no big record deals."

"Afterwards, the grunge thing, though not yet called that by name until '89 or so, sort of separated itself out," he added. "There were the 'hip' Sub Pop bands and then there was everyone else, which was still a lot of great bands. Eventually, the 'everyone else' became sort of an anti-scene, a self-conscious 'Oh well, guess we're not a grunge band, but who cares' thing. But you had bands as diverse as the Young Fresh Fellows, Coffin Break, Gas Huffer, The Gits, heck, a million other great bands who existed. But for a few years, 'everyone else' was overshadowed by the Sub Pop hype juggernaut, to the extent that Sub Pop and 'grunge' simply became synonymous with 'Seattle' to most people who didn't live here. This actually got pretty annoying to the rather large 'everyone else' crowd, as you can imagine... So there you have the situation with Vexed: two albums, no national touring, no hype. Could apply to any of a zillion bands."



And the songs are also on this .zip file.

-- MC Tom

21 comments:

Susan M said...

Never even heard of these guys! Unless I've just forgotten. I'll have to see if my husband remembers them.

It is a shame the non-Sub Pop bands got ignored.

Yannick said...

Hi, is that the poster art chantry destroys in the movie hype? before he said things like jesse bernstein is dead and room nine is now love battery,...

nice work

Lamestain HQ said...

Yannick,

i should have noted that i nicked the flyer from gigposters and according to Art, he chopped up a xerox copy of it in Hype.

http://www.gigposters.com/comments/14841_Soundgarden.html

and does anybody know anything about the Seattle band, Ash?

Lamestain HQ said...

Also, we added two more tracks and a .zip file with all of the songs.

Chris A. said...

Great blog, Lamestain!

That flyer that you show at the bottom for "Air Aid" was an incredible week in 1986 at the Rainbow Tavern. This was a fundraiser for college radio station, KCMU. I believe Jonathan Poneman booked the bands (he was a KCMU DJ at the time).

Later in 1992, someone played video footage of these shows on Seattle public access cable tv. Bands shown included: U-Men, Feast, Soundgarden, Young Fresh Fellows, Pure Joy, Bundle of Hiss, Green River, and others.

I remember watching this rare footage with my mouth agape and scrambling around my apartment for a blank VHS tape, but to no avail...

Does anybody out there know about this footage? I've been searching for 15 fricking years?

Yer pal,
Chris Auger

P.S. Vexed ruled!

howardx said...

i too would love to see that footage

AtothemfT said...

I actually wrote the bio/one sheet that was sent out with promo copies of Cathexis when C/Z released that. I think D. House paid me nominal fee. Maybe gave me some schwag or something. Great album, though. I always liked Vexed, but never saw them live.

incessantmace said...

hey lamestain,

i'm totally freaked that finally somebody seems to know anything about that "bands who will make money" tape. i've searched the web for ages and couldn't even find a complete list of the bands involved, let alone the songs on it. could you tell me more about that? (by the way, i'm incessantmace from the grungefm forum, i think you posted some of your stuff there as well once.)

Milton said...

Cool blog Tom!

I played guitar in Vexed. We played several times with Ash. They played noise rock. The closest comparison I can make is the band Chrome.

Thanks for the promo AtothemfT!

Thanks chris a.

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