A very incomplete account of some projects I’ve been involved with. I’ve also booked some shows. I stay doing music to keep the demons quiet.
Sump Pump Records
In 2013 Dan Hutchison got the idea to relaunch his indie label Sump Pump Records, which previously released only the first Why Make Clocks 7” and a CD by Chad O’Neil. Part of the impetus for this was his idea to produce and release a compilation LP of bands from Iowa recording on 4-track in his house. He desired assistance with various aspects of the label and enlisted former members of Why Make Clocks: myself, Will Tarbox, Brian “Pappy” Wiksell, and Tom Reelitz. Funds saved up from recent Why Make Clocks gigs provided the seed money to get rolling.
Over the next few years we were proud to release some amazing records, and do a bit of distro for artists we know. As of right now, the latest Sump Pump release, The Land Of Blood And Sunshine’s “House Of Bellow” is a year and a half old. I don’t really know if we’re still considered active at this point, but we still have plenty of copies of some great stuff. Check us out at sumppumprecords.com.
Centipede Farm (label)
I started putting the name “Centipede Farm” as a label name on homemade self-releases of my own various home recordings some time in 2007. In those days it was just sort of a pretend vanity label derived from a nickname I had for the basement of the house I lived in at the time. Later, I bought the domain name and started up a music blog, covering various indie and underground stuff, especially anything involving my musician friends or going on in Iowa. Obviously, that site is still going in some form, because you are looking at it.
In 2012 an acquaintance decided to sell his cassette duplicator and I saw my chance to get back into the tape-label game at a time when the cassette format was beginning an underground resurgence. I never really gave up on tapes after having been involved in a couple home-taper enterprises in the 1990s, but back then I would have killed for a real duplicator, not to mention all the digital technology we have now that helps me make better-sounding tapes than I could have back then. So this is how the Centipede Farm cassette label was born and what the name Centipede Farm soon came to be known for, along with a few digital-only and CD-R releases mixed in on Bandcamp. As of 2017, the Centipede Farm is mostly just this web site. The label is only active insofar as I still have inventory to sell, and there’s some pretty good stuff there so check out the bandcamp site.
I’ve been in a variety of “bands” in the sense of me playing music with other people. One of the strangest was Cancer Lake, a duo of myself on bass guitar, noise, and vocals, and drummer/percussionist Matt Crowe. Mostly we performed a sort of improvisational avant-garde jazz/doom/black metal but in its latter days we tried to take more of a noisecore turn. It was a lot of fun. Matt has had a lot of other projects worth checking out, most recently/notably Sarin, Heaven Drugs, and Sex Funeral. Cancer Lake’s recordings can be found on bandcamp.
Why Make Clocks
When I moved to Des Moines at the tail end of 2008 I wanted to get involved in the local music scene as much and as quickly as possible so I took the first Des Moines band that popped into my head, looked them up on MySpace, and sent them a message. That band was Why Make Clocks; I’d heard of them through the formerly Cedar Falls band A Is Jump who had played a few Des Moines gigs with them. In this way I came into contact with Dan Hutchison and soon after wound up being Why Make Clocks’ bassist for quite a while. You won’t find me playing on any of WMC’s albums: I did record with them some but those recordings were never finished or released. There is a pretty sweet compilation track I’m on though. I had fun and learned a lot, and this relationship led to my involvement with Fetal Pig and Sump Pump Records.
In 2011 Dan Hutchison asked his wife Kim what she wanted for her birthday and her response was to see Fetal Pig play again. Fetal Pig was originally started in 1991 by Dan and his brother Jeff and played a unique brand of complex prog-influenced post-punk. Having played with me in Why Make Clocks, Dan thought I was up to the task, so Fetal Pig was abruptly reformed with me on bass. Holding down a spot formerly occupied by, and playing bass parts written by, Mike Glenn of Burmese, was a hell of a trip but we rocked so hard that we decided to keep the revamped Fetal Pig going and ended up working up some new material and making an LP, Autopia. Sadly, it’s been a couple years now since we’ve so much as practiced, so I don’t know what this band’s status is, but my work in it is among my proudest musical accomplishments. Find Fetal Pig’s shit on bandcamp.
The Cactus Rats
The Cactus Rats was started by myself as guitar-slinging frontman, and ex-journalist and Wal-Mart Cashier Tyler Vincent on drums. We got the bright idea to resurrect the approach of 1960s garage bands and learn a lot of classic alt-rock cover songs in addition to our originals, figuring this would help us get gigs at house parties and bars that most indie/punk acts doing only originals couldn’t hack, because we could do songs people would actually recognize, even in our bastardized versions. The strategy actually worked out pretty well. As we honed our act we met former Mediocre Superheroes saxophonist Jason Lippard and I reconnected with Blake Badker, now better known worldwide as Main Street Blake, and we added both of them to the lineup. Later we brought on Jay Johnson, Blake’s previous bandmate in both The Green Party Jedis and The Police Cops, to play bass, though honestly we didn’t really need a bassist. Anyway we had a number of pretty cool gigs but there were also a lot of struggles and eventually the band split up like bands do. Tyler went on to become an American History professor; Jason later made a little more of a musical name for himself with a really interesting band called Unwavery; Jay became an actual small-town police officer, nicely ironic for a guy who played in a satirical band about police; and Blake travels the country busking and making videos and telling people he’s the second coming of both Jesus and the Buddha Gautama, which he sincerely believes he is, and who knows, maybe he’s right.
Rising from the ashes of something called My Mentor Al, and originally naming itself E.D.I.T.H. (for the fire safety mnenmonic/slogan Exit Drills In The Home), Exit Drills came about during the tail-end of the Ragman Records era, and eventually became a vehicle for my own indie-rock songwriting and frontman aspirations. Of its notable alumni: guitarist Matt McGuire now plays synthesizers with a long beard and a lab coat on; drummer Josh Schneiderman is a Digital Marketing Strategist who will probably end up Mayor of Waverly, Iowa someday; original bassist Stacy Peck went on to play drums in Pony Time and generally be awesome in Seattle; second bassist Aaron McNally probably teaches poetry or something; third bassist Peter Vanderwall is a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department who’s worked in the Ukraine and Juarez, Mexico, and I still have his Danelectro bass when Dan Hutchison isn’t borrowing it.
Ragman Records Archive
In the latter 1990s, I fell in with a scene of young people in Cedar Falls, Iowa who were beginning to get into making music. It was a great opportunity to collaborate with musicians relatively free of preconceived ideas about the right way to do it. I ended up involved in a number of local bands and home-recording projects with them, including such bands as No Consensus and Page 5 Girl. A uniting banner around much of these projects was our label (in a loose sense of the term), Ragman Records.
As the scene wound down with the participants moving on to college and careers in other places, my archivist instinct kicked in and I endeavored to preseve as much of its unique output as I could. The Ragman Records Archive has taken a few different online forms over the years; it’s current home is the bandcamp page at ragmanrecords.bandcamp.com. Not everything there is necessarily from the core 1995-2001 period; I have added material from more recent projects by people who were there because I like promoting the work of these talented folks.
Technically this project is still in ongoing maintenance, as there are a few items I mean to add that aren’t quite ready yet.