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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'.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this made me relive what I thought was gone!! How cool to here about fried pickles again. I remember those young boys from Battle Creek because one of my girlfriends took one of those guys in. I believe it was called kidnapping (I think he was 15.) she was beautiful, Turkish. I was spending time in the House of Sorrow with Dick and Mike Love. Good times and chicken bones.