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Thursday, February 25, 2010

SIMPLY BARRY -- PART ONE OF MANY MORE... Necros in SoCal circa '83 -- Photo by Joseph Henderson

When I was interviewing Ron Sakowski (Bass player for Gerbils, Affiliated, Necros, Laughing Hyenas and the revamped Negative Approach) for the book, he declared 'Barry Henssler invented Hardcore and that's that!' Although he was just having a little fun with that statement, Ron had a similar story to many people interviewed of being turned onto the sounds eminating from LA, DC and beyond by Barry and his legendary record collection. It boils down to this, Barry and the boys were beyond being the catalyst for Midwest hardcore. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have your precious Negative Approach...not even your beloved Suburban Anger! Gadzooks! In this initial installment, Barry goes over the origins of the band, first gigs and all that jazz...

'Hangin' out on a Friday night...' Barry Henssler, Todd Swalla and Andy Wendler

Andy (Wendler; Necros guitarist) and I were real into collecting records pretty much right off the bat. When the punk ’77 thing happened, there were a bunch of record stores around us run by these well meaning hippy types who were real into Dave Edmunds and shit like that. They ordered these punk records and they would just sit there, so we ended up getting a lot of great shit for real cheap. I remember buying the first Suicide record on Red Star for two bucks. Anyway, we discovered the Drome record store in Cleveland when I was waiting on line at a Tubes concert at the Toledo Sports Arena and this guy was talking to me about records and he was like, "I got this crazy single called ‘(I’m The) Hillside Strangler’ from this band called The Child Molesters" and I was like, "Oh really? Where’d you get that?" and he said he got it at a store called The Drome. Cleveland is like 100 miles from Maumee, so we didn’t get out there that much except for that time there was a Patti Smith in-store with The Pagans playing next door. I remember flipping out over how tiny Patti Smith was. In pictures she looks like she has this real presence, but she’s really tiny. She had this scarf wrapped up like a burka and I remember my first reaction being "Aw man, she looks like a monkey!" Next door, the Pagans were bringing in their own gear and we went over there. I can’t express how much that gig meant to me. That show was really pivotal in a way. The Pagans made us realize it could be done, and plus they were so fucking great. Tommy Metoff, who played guitar for the Pagans, had this real authoritative sound. It was inspirational. It was our next phase as people; clearly we needed to start a band.

Todd’s (Swalla; Necros drummer) family was very musical. His mom played piano, and he had a bass and would jam it really loud and he also had a drum kit. We had stopped hanging out with Andy for a little bit because I was going to a different school and Andy started hanging out with this other cat from his neighborhood and they got way into collecting beer cans. When Andy’s parents would go away, he’d ask them to bring back specific beers. He built these special shelves in his basement and he was a contributor to some beer can collector anthology. So I have to say we saved Andy Wendler from intense nerdiness by making him join the Necros.

After our first bass player Dave Cooke went to college we had (Brian) Hyland play bass, but Hyland’s whole thing was to dance around like Paul Simonon. He was such a bad bass player that we didn’t even turn his amp on the first time we played out. When he got a girlfriend and started getting steady pussy, he flaked on the band.

The first time we played live was at the Brass Bell, which was a University of Toledo bar. There was this band called The Best who would play Elvis Costello covers and the lead singer and the bass player were brothers who worked at this record store called Boogie Records. They were cool and we’d hang around there and one day we asked if our band could play with them on Halloween of ‘79. The crowd dug it because it was Halloween and they were just having fun. We went over really well and were really surprised. Maybe a month later we played again there and we weren’t nearly as well received, and to top it off, it was really humiliating because my aunt was there! I was 16 and told her, ‘Hey! Don’t tell my step mom about this!’

We started so much at ground zero that we sounded more like the Shaggs, it was that primitive. And this wasn’t for a couple months, it was for awhile we’d actually try to play out sounding like that! In January of ’80, we played in Windsor, Ontario and we were so shitty. This friend of ours whose nickname was Zonk came up to us after the set and was like, "God, you guys are fuckin’ terrible!" He was aghast of how shitty we were. We covered ‘1977’ by The Clash and it was so bad.

'81 line-up of the Necros (minus Andy) graces the cover of Touch & Go #14

Around this time is when I saw an issue of Touch & Go at Schoolkids (record store in Ann Arbor). I sent them a copy of Smegma Journal (fanzine edited by Barry) They didn’t believe we were the age that we were until we met. We started meeting up on Saturdays to go record shopping in Ann Arbor and hang out. Tesco and Dave were the best/worst influences you can think of. They were probably the first older people who weren’t dismissive of us. Ann Arbor had all these hippie commune places and we got a show at one of them in the summer of ‘80. It was us and some really fucking shitty band with Lori who worked at Schoolkids records. I think we had gotten on our feet a bit because Jeff Lake was playing bass at the time and he took to the bass quickly. He moved to L.A. a few months later and joined that band Symbol Six who came out on Posh Boy. He changed his name to Donnie Brooks. He was a decent bass player and we probably sounded pretty good at the time. Tesco and Dave showed up at the show and they were hilarious, they always had beer. Tesco used to always smoke these weird, pink colored playboy guy cigarettes. They really stood out from these Ann Arbor granola hippy type people that I remember being there that night. They were real encouraging of everything we did and they’d also buy us beer which was a plus in our book. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think the Midwest hardcore scene would have existed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Hey y'all...sorry for the brief abscense. To make up for that, we got a trip down memory lane with none other than Richard Bowser, guitarist for those Kalamazoo hardcore pioneers, Violent Apathy.

I caught up with Richard around this time last year when I went on a week long sweep of Michigan interviewing anyone and everyone I could who was involved in the early 80's hardcore scene out there. After a night of drinking with Bill Danforth, a rocky interview with The State and a four (or so) hour drive from Ann Arbor to K-Zoo, I'm sure I looked pretty haggared when I stepped onto Dick's porch in the late afternoon. I remember Richard taking one look at me and saying something like 'Good God man, you need a beer!' Since he had never met me before in his life, I thought it to be pretty astute of him to really zero in on my wants and needs.

Soon enough, Bowser and I were speeding along the backroads of Western Michigan until we got to Old Hat, a brew pub owned by Tommy Fuller, second guitarist for VA. From there on in we settled in with a gargantuan sized folder of flyers and fanzines Richard brought along and just rapped about that voodoo that VA did so well. One of the more pleasant memories of last year was sitting in Old Hat with Tommy and Richard drinking fine ass ales, smokin' cigars and lettin' them spool out the stories I'd wanted to hear for quite some time. Here's what the tape took down of what Mr. Bowser had to say...

When I was in high school in the seventies, I was into Prog Rock like ELP, King Crimson, Camel and stuff like that. One night, a friend of mine came over with this tape and said ‘This is the Ramones, they’re all brothers and they’re going to change music!’ After that, I pretty much started going out and buying a lot of punk and new wave records.

When I was in my first year of college at Western State, I heard the Cramps coming out of somebody’s dorm room on my floor. I knocked on the door and it was Eliot Rachman (first and future drummer for Violent Apathy) He was like ‘Come on in man! Have a bong hit and listen to the Cramps!’ After awhile he was like ‘You gotta hear my friends’ band, The Fix’. About a month later we saw them at the Whistle Stop in Kalamazoo. Seeing them kind of opened up another door of music I wasn’t aware of. Craig (Calvert, guitarist for The Fix) would wear a lot of scarves and Steve (Miller, vocalist for The Fix) would do a scarf and make-up thing. Mike Achtenberg (bass player for The Fix) is one of the weirdest dudes I ever met. He got a job in the cafeteria of MSU when he was seventeen and as far as I know, still works that job. He lives a very hermitish lifestyle. Jeff (Wellman, the drummer of The Fix) was just a frat boy dude.

Violent Apathy started out as a band called Gratient with me on guitar, Eliot on drums and Kenny Knott singing. We played at Club Doo Bee one night and Dave Stimson (co-editor of Touch & Go magazine) came up to us afterwards and said ‘You guys sound like this band from California called The Urinals’. I was like ‘Who the hell is that? Should I check them out?’ Dave Stimson was a big influence on me and welcomed me into it all in a real cool way. I remember the first time I hung out with him, he was playing this mix tape and every song that came on, I would ask ‘Jesus! What the fuck was that?’ and he’d say ‘Oh that? That’s The Middle Class’ The next song would come on and I’d be like ‘Wow! Who’s that?’ and he’d say ‘That’s The Controllers’. He’d act like everyone knew what this stuff was. How he became so hip in the middle of Lansing is still a mystery to me.

There was a show in Flint with The Fix and Necros in November of 1980. I remember being so psyched to see the Necros. There was this tape that Eliot had that I always thought was the best sounding shit the Necros ever did. It was this 5 song tape that had ‘I Hate My School’ and ‘Police Brutality’ on it. I remember ‘Public High School’ started off the tape. So we ended getting there late and missing the Necros.

The first time I actually got to see the Necros was when they opened for Black Flag at Club Doo Bee. I spoke to a guy a few years ago who was in this band in the eighties from Chicago called Strike Under and he was at that show, Every few years, I always run into someone who was at that show. It seems everyone who was at that show went on to form a band later or who was in a band already at the time was at that show.

Sometime after the Minor Threat and S.O.A singles came out, that’s when we started getting into that hardcore vibe and changed the name to Violent Apathy. My friend of mine Jim from high school was the one who got the named Violent Apathy from a study he read about prisoners on death row. One of the first shows we ever played under the name Violent Apathy was in Battle Creek with the Necros. The opening band, Eddie and the Wolfgang, did a Necros cover. That was weird. There was always a weird rivalry between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek that almost got physical. Kalamazoo was always perceived to be rich college kids and Battle Creek kids thought of themselves as working class punkers. Battle Creek had the Latin Dogs, who did a great seven inch back then and were super political. They were friends with D.O.A right from the beginning. Battle Creek also had The Lipps Are Back and Eddie and the Wolfgang. How the fuck did these guys in the middle of nowhere start such an advanced hardcore scene in the beginning of the eighties?

PS -- If you're ever in the Lawton, Michigan area, do yourself a huge favor and stop into Tommy's Old Hat Brewery and Grill. Get an order of fried pickles, an order of the Cordon Blue Balls and a Billy Bock and you'll be in heaven fo' sho'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The music scene in Michigan at the time was, as always, torrid. But punk rock was a fledgling notion, and we had one venue to hit. Bookies, a small club with a black-and-white checked floor, had a tattered but screaming PA and a long, well-stocked bar. It was the premier punk rock joint in the Motor City, socked away on West McNichols next to a gay bar and across from a Church's Fried Chicken. Punks were periodically robbed at gunpoint around there, and the small parking lot was rimmed with barbed wire and a rent-a-cop on the premises spent most of his time smoking joints in his car. Bookies pulled in the best acts with alarming regularity. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers played an achingly terrific set there on a steamy, stormy night in July, 1979. I saw Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Iggy Pop, and Magazine there. Local bands who made their mark at Bookies included Coldcock, which featured a local hairdresser named Andy Peabody as its singer. He was a glammy Bators rip and he did it well. They ran over some great covers, including "YMCA" and "I Can't Help Myself," done with two guitars and a fat rhythm section.

Destroy All Monsters played around Michigan all the time, a deadly boring act led by former Stooge Ron Asheton. DAM was Asheton wanking with no restraint while a singer who called herself Niagra sipped from a can of Tab and pompously waltzed around looking disaffected. That band's ostentatious presence was countered by the monstrous post-MC5 damage of Sonic's Rendevous Band, who were good every time out.

Mike and I were spectators at these shows, secretly going home and bashing away on the guitar, taking turns showing each other some ham-handed lick.

So when we stuck an ad up in March 1980 in some MSU-area laundries, we wondered what our hard work might get us. Neither of us could play a thing, really. We had listed as musical interests such acts as the Dead Boys, the Ramones, Thunders, Buzzcocks, some more obscure stuff like Live at the Roxy, Lurkers, Depressions.

"Well, I'm calling about your ad," Craig Calvert said to me when he responded. "I like a lot of that stuff," he continued. "And if it helps, I'm black."

Craig came over with his white Strat and some good joints in a nice case. Mike and I looked at him, he looked at us, and it was good. We liked him and he seemed to like us. We smoked, talked about what we wanted to do - "play fast music and piss people off" - and set out some possible covers. He said he had a drummer he had jammed with, some MSU kid who "is pretty goofy, but he's actually really good." We agreed to allow him to bring this kid named Jeff Wellman over.

Then Craig took his guitar out and played a little bit. Oh shit. He was really good. I mean, good as in, fuck, we couldn't hold a candle. I played guitar, but I sucked. Mike played bass and he was better.

"Why the hell would he want to play with us?" Mike asked me after Craig left. "I mean, he can actually play."

"I dunno," I said. "Maybe he actually feels the same way we do about music. Not everyone wants to make a million hits. Some people feel alienated by that idea."

Friday, February 12, 2010

...Dig on this excerpt from the book about that magical jaunt the Touch & Go crew took to the east coast in the summer of 1982 known as 'The Process of Elimination' tour...

Marc Berie (Necros roadie, Host of 'Why Be Something That You're Not' television show) -- One road trip I'll never forget is being a roadie on the Process of Elimination tour. We had this little freaking RV camper and I had so much fun on that trip. Brian Hyland had this big old painting of Pac Man, and roped it to the back of the RV and that was pretty much the theme of the trip. Everybody basically played video games and had a two liter thing of Coke at the ready because nobody drank.

Barry Henssler (Necros vocalist) -- The most important thing about Corey being in the band to me was we could borrow that motor home whenever we wanted.

Chris 'O.P' Moore (Negative Approach drummer)-- New York seemed the most mystical. We were a little nervous when we played there. Rob was tuning his guitar forever, he was so nervous. Glenn Danzig was in the front row. The Beastie Boys were there. Going to D.C. was fantastic. Meeting all the Minor Threat people was nice. We stayed with Jerry and Doyle from the Misfits in New Jersey. The Boston people seemed harder to connect to personally.

Tesco Vee (Meatmen vocalist) -- We stayed with Jerry and Doyle from the Misfits and their mom made us homemade egg sandwiches and lobster while we swam in their pool.

Tim King (Negative Approach roadie, Heresy vocalist) -- When we
stayed at Jerry and Doyle's house, I dove into their fucking swimming pool and broke my nose at the bottom of the pool. We played Boston the next day and those guys were fucking nuts, dude. Guys were diving off the stage with casts on their arms and they were out for blood. Everyone of those motherfuckers was gunning for me because I had a broken nose and two black eyes and they were trying to bust me in my nose!

Brian Hyland (McDonalds vocalist)- I had been listening to the Misfits 'Beware' for a year straight and here's Glenn Danzig saying 'Yeah, stay at my house, we'll watch shitty horror movies and silkscreen shirts'. I was like 'This is fucking awesome, man!'. It was like meeting Aerosmith to me. Steven Tyler rarely invites you over to eat his Mom's meatloaf. Jerry and Doyle would dye their hair black and flick it up and the dye would splatter on the ceiling of their basement. I remember their mom screaming in this thick New Jersey accent, 'Ya got the god damned dye on the ceiling again!'

Rob McCullough (Negative Approach guitarist) - Everybody traveled in the motor home, except Tesco who drove his little red Toyota. We whipped a lot of crap onto his car from the motor home. The toilet was stopped up on the motor home so everyone would pee out the window and try to hit Tesco's car.

John Brannon (Negative Approach vocalist) - O.P (Chris Moore) was only fifteen at the time, so he would tell his mom, 'Hey, can I spend the weekend at Graham's house?' and off we'd go taking him past state lines. I remember within the first five minutes of being in New York seeing Johnny Thunders walk down the street and fall down a flight of basement steps. I was telling all the guys in my band 'That's the dude from the New York Dolls!' but they didn't care at all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Were you born and raised in the Midwest? I know I read somewhere that you moved to Lansing as a teenager because your dad got a job as superintendent of a high school or something…

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, original home of Gibson Guitars, and Checker Marathons and not much else..then moved to King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania when I was 14, then back to Lansing area when I was a senior in High School. People leave Michigan, but like a moth to the flame always return...

What was some of the first music that grabbed hold of your (uh...) mind? Did music immediately lead you down a path ofcollecting records and digging for obscure bands, etc.? Were you aware of the MC5 or Stooges when you were younger and living in Michigan?

When I was four, I can remember Chubby Checker's 'The Twist' was the 1st Rock &Roll record I had heard and I can still recall the feeling. Then it was The Beatles I suppose and then Cream and all the acid tripping stuff. I made my mom take me to the Miracle Mart when I was twelve and buy me the 'Disraeli Gears' album with that hot pink psychedelic freak out cover..if she only knew..I became aware of the MC5 in ‘67 as well when 'Kick Out The Jams' became a regional hit..I can remember thinking it was the coolest thing I'd ever raw and primal..weird that a live cut became their big hit..I wasn't old enough to go to any shows but I heard stories of them playing The Dells along Lake Lansing, an old dance hall as did The Stooges but that was early like around 1970-72 and I was still out east then… Collecting records was a natural obsession that followed the hero worship…I've always been a fan of hype..back pre-internet when info, ideas, and musical movements were allowed to percolate and concepts were allowed to evolve like Glam, Prog Rock, Punk...I followed it, collected it, still dig it!

Where you attending arena rock gigs while in high school? What were some that stick out in your head?

My first show was Brownsville Station/Cactus/Amboy Dukes at some Movie Theater in Battle Creek Michigan in 1972 when I was that I think back what a great bill to kick it off!...2 out of 3 bands were from Michigan and Cactus is still one of my faves with Jim McCarty (Detroit boy) ranking in my top 5 axe men of all time...I remember Nugent doing the cheesy thing where they brought a glass orb out and sat it on the amp and then he wails on some ear piercing note that supposedly breaks the orb, but actually some schlub is offstage with a pellet gun..we were young, stoned, and believed the 'Nuge' made it happen..I saw Blue Oyster Cult in '72 at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo on the 'Tyranny and Mutation' tour..they were in their prime...leather smoke, flames and weird evil lyrics...fuckin’ amazing show...

When you entered college, what kind of stuff were you listening to?

That was the early 70's so hard rock like Thin Lizzy, Foghat, Montrose, I discovered The Move and became a lifelong fan of Roy Wood, I used to hit the Imports hard at Record land in the Mall where a cat named Ian Burgess worked and was ordering the records..he went on to be an engineer of note in Chicago, and I was buying all this Progressive rock he would order like Guru Guru, P.F.M., Amon Duul 2, but the greatest Prog ever is the King Crimson 'Lizard' album!!! ...I smoked my first doobie to that record and to me it will always be the penultimate art rock album ever created, I also was way into Van Der Graaf Generator,as well as poppy stuff like T.Rex..bands back then put an album out every 6 could set your watch to it..I can remember thinking to myself..’I betcha theres a new Lizzy album out this week..’ I drive down to the Disc Shop in East lansing and there sits 'Jaibreak'!

When did you first venture out to the live music scene of Michigan (ie -- clubs not arenas) ? What kind of bands were playing at the time? Was anything remotely 'Punk' going on at the time? Was there even an inkling of the MC5/Stooges vibe still there?

Believe it or not, the national and international bands that came thru Lansing in the 70's were amazing..most played a place called The Brewery that changed names and just this week got torn down cuz the owner got into tax trouble, went out in the woods and blew his brains out.... I saw Kiss there. They played 2 nites in '74 when 'Hotter Than Hell' had just come out I went on nite one and was 10 feet from the stage, so close you could feel the heat of the flames and the girls were grabbing Gene's 'blood' and smearing it on their faces..I remember being really stoned and it kind of freaked me out, but in a good way…My wife Gerta went on nite 2 and didnt like it and left..that's OK she's still the coolest chick on the planet..married to me for 25 years you kiddin? The Tubes, Rory Gallagher, Status Quo, Robin Trower all played there..Iggy played there but not sure why but I missed it...MY BIGGEST REGRET was the f'n NY Dolls played at the Lansing Drive In in 1973 and I was at a party in a neighborhood behind the theater and I DIDN'T GO..Holy crap what a boob! I was with some lame chick that didn't wanna go..I had the chance to see the frickin Dolls in a 1 horse town like Lansing and I blew it! Then when punk exploded Club Doo Bee happened...a few little ol bands played there like...D.O.A. Black Flag, The Fast, Lydia Lunch...of course The Fix and The Necros were regular nite Andy Wendler did a leap in the air and crashed right thru the stage...the place was a shithole but what a glorious shithole it was! We used to drive to Detroit to see all the UK stuff in the late 70's like 999, Revillos, Gang Of Four, and I got to see Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers twice in their prime...just the best!

Was the UK Punk thing the 1st thing that turnedyour head around as far as finding out about more bands/records etc.?

Ya, the UK thing pre-dated all of that..I happened into a newstand and saw the Melody maker cover of the Bromley Contingent with Sioux, Idol, Rotten et al in their famous scrum wrestling pile shot..not sure if that was late '76 or '77 but that day changed everything..then shortly thereafter a little box showed up at a local record shop of import punk 45's...I flipped out and bought like half the box, Sex Pistols, Cortinas, Lurkers, Generation X, Chelsea, Johnny Moped , Metal Urbain they were all $3 a shot I dropped my load in more ways than one! I started taking huge stacks of Prog Rock and sold it at Flat Black and Circular and started goin’ whole hog on buying every punk record I could find..Of course now I wish I had all that Prog back!

Monday, February 8, 2010


For those expecting a large tax return this year due to write-offs of illegitimate children in Walla Walla and other such false bizz, I present you with an auction for the holy grail of Midwest Punk wax collecting, the Necros first single 'Sex Drive'. Pressed in the ludicrous amount of just one hundred copies, this thing is tougher to find than a non-sticky Agnetha photo over at the Vee compound. If you gotta have it, follow the link below. Here's a few sneak peak/choice quotes on the 'Sex Drive' single from the book...

Barry Henssler – On the last song on the single, “Caste System,” there’s this guitar breakdown that comes out of nowhere in the middle of the song. It turns out there was this other track of Andy just screwing around on guitar that was left on there. When we heard it, we just left it on there because it sounded so fucked up. It was just one of those happy accidents.

Dave Stimson – If the whole thing sounded like that break in “Caste System,” they would have had a record!

Barry Henssler – The funny thing about it is Tim Story went on to become an artist on Windham Hill. He was nominated for a grammy for some project he did with Glenn Close. I just think of this guy doing some sort of Klaus Schulze soundscape and then being like “Oh, and here’s my other latest recording project” and it’s fucking “Sex Drive.”

Tesco Vee – Every week I’d go to Flat, Black and Circular and I’d count the copies they had of The Fix and Necros singles and think “Yeah...still five of each.” These records that are now worth thousands of dollars sat there for weeks...months.

Barry Henssler – I’ve got a buddy of mine who runs a label in Seattle and he’s always asking me these questions about the “Sex Drive” single. “Are the plates around?” “Were there any test pressings?” and I’m like “Man, Todd took the tape down to that studio and a month later UPS delivered a box of records to my house. There were no test pressings, no acetates, nothing.” We were pretty naive. We just saw that ad that said “Make a Record!” and we were like, “O.K!”

Friday, February 5, 2010


Hey there and welcome to the blogspot for 'Why Be Something That You're Not', an oral history of the Detroit Hardcore Punk scene in the early 80's being published by Revelation Records in the summer of 2010. For those who are not familiar with what we're talking about, we have listed some links on the righthand side of the blog to get you up to speed. For those of you who know why you're here, prepare for some serious nerding out on here in the next few months leading up to the books' release. Be on the lookout for interview outtakes, book excerpts, flyers, photos, videos, collectors showing off their early 80's Detroit Punk booty, etc. It's gonna be a blast I tells ya!!!

For our first post, we are putting up the first part of a 16,000 word history of those Lansing, Michigan Hardcore pioneers, The Fix written by none other than the groups' vocalist, Steve Miller. Steve has been cool enough to let us use this and we're chuffed to bits to present it to you. Let's stop wasting time and dig in...

Without a tinge of self-consciousness, four Midwestern guys - in the factory town of Lansing, Michigan, no less - picked up and delivered the punk rock goods in 1980-81. I have no way of knowing why this serendipitous magic went down, but I have a guess: We didn't know any better.

The boys in the band were all plagued by idyllic childhoods and healthy appetites for booze. We had no choice but to fuck things up.

Craig, guitar, was pure aggro, fed by the politics that he was being exposed to as he attended Michigan State University. He was moody and amped up, betraying a creative nature that made him sometimes sullen. We both had strong personalities and battled often as people. But we meshed well when it came to music. We bonded over disdain for almost everything.

To look at drummer Jeff was to see a college guy on the move. He took engineering classes at MSU, drank beer on the weekends with his buddies and watched football. He was even tempered, stocky like a linebacker and grew up in Northern Michigan, where punk rock meant the Cars. He was also a beast on the drums, the one guy among us who seemed to get better every day. He didn’t listen to music; he absorbed it and spit it out. Jeff could also be a bit of a space case, but we always gave him the respect he earned.

Mike played bass, and he was my pal since high school. I would watch him change over the 22 months of the Fix from a kindly guy into a hard-drinking, often foul-humored behemoth. He stood 6-foot-4 and was an ex-jock with little drive for much of anything but playing music. He was a steady workhorse in that arena.

I had wanted to play guitar but when it was decided Craig was the axe man, I took one for the team and became singer. I was scrawny, mouthy and angry. It worked.

Ladies and gentlemen, for better or worse, the band.

We started out, like other bands of that era and those immediately proceeding, with one leg in the dress-up stage of musical caterwaul that the New York Dolls and the Stooges purveyed, and an arm in a simpler fashion realm that allowed nothing to speak but the music. The latter won out for no tangible reason. I suppose hitting the thrift store on Michigan Avenue got to be an annoying habit rather than a pleasure, especially as we became attached to rehearsing every day.

The cast was set quickly, especially when you consider that the end product was decidedly both flamboyant and progressive. And to think it was all started at a local prep bar in East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. When you have the 1979 Big Ten champion basketball team and an academic program that is reputed to be among the tops in the nation, complemented by a pulsing auto manufacturing scene, there is little room for iconoclasm. But that was the word when Mike and I stepped into the basement of a little nightclub called Dooley's. It was a benign college joint in the main puke-on-your-shoes section of town, which was the only area to see any kind of music in Lansing.

Dooley's hosted the Stranglers on April 5, 1978. The British louts would eventually end up scattered due to drug habits, but at the time they were a vibrant and thudding representation of the British scene. Both of their LPs were in rapid play at the apartment Mike and I shared. While this show was held in a bar that held around 400, we were accustomed to seeing bands in venues like Cobo Hall - where we all saw Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep - or even Masonic Auditorium - where we caught Lou Reed and Patti Smith. It was out of context to see a headline band on a stage that was 5 feet tall.

We walked up to Dooley's that night in a slight rain and were greeted by some protesting lesbians who felt that singing about peaches on the beaches and the merits of pubescent girls was indecent and sexist. Hairy-faced bitches paraded the sidewalk, signs in hand. We dug the anti vibe the Stranglers evoked. Clad in jeans and t-shirts with Pony hi tops, we paid our $5, wandered in and snagged beers.

The Stranglers ambled onto the stage, fired up "(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)," and the Fix was born. The Stranglers lacked both pretense and perfection; it was cacophonous and bitter. The guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, wasn't playing anything complicated, certainly nothing that we couldn't figure out.

We went to Kmart the next day and bought a guitar. We spent the next two years learning to make a racket with it.