By Andy Martin
Well, truth be told it was just a little over eleven months that I was the bass player for the Bulemics. I would join the band about six months after the Reclusives had broken-up, and had made a few attempts with Tim Storm (Reclusives, Gargoyles) to start a different band. Tim, at this point, had begun to “settle down” and ease into civilian life (eg: not singing for bands). Not that I didn’t try to keep him out of retirement. Every guitar player I would suggest, he would rip apart over preposterous shit like facial hair– that is, if he couldn’t challenge his playing. Anything he could think of to politely say “no” to climbing back on stage. Finally, I got the hint. I started talking to Gable Barber of the Bulemics (then lead guitarist) about playing bass after they’d dropped their original bassist, Daniel Claypool. Gerry was in a “work release” program after racking up two DWI’s in the span of two months (on one he almost hit a cop car at a stop sign leaving a titty bar). Gerry would go to work, but had to be back in “lock-up” by sun down. That meant no rehearsals or shows. With the down time, they were in search of a new bassist. The reasoning behind letting Daniel go was this: he had a habit of getting real fucked up. Instead of playing, he would just start giving people the finger in the middle of a song. Which looks real cool, but sounds like real shit. I mean, hey, I had a habit of getting real fucked up when I played, but I could maintain rhythm most of the time.
I first met the future Bulemics when some of them were in a band called Trailer Park 4. Trailer Park 4 had an early Black Flag vibe to them. Gable Barber was the guitar player, Daniel Claypool was on bass, and the drummer was a guy named Keith. Gerry at the time was playing guitar in some straight edge band, but I forget the name. Trailer Park 4 broke up at some time and Gerry left all that “straight edge” crap behind. The Bulemics first started playing the Blue Flamingo, opening up for the Chumps, the Reclusives, and the Motards… and they sucked. The drummer, Keith, was not that great and Daniel would be so fucked out of his head that he would just stop playing in the middle of a song and regress into snarling at people. And again, this looks real cool for a front jackass, but not for a guy towing the rhythm section.
It wasn’t so much the music that brought the Bulemics notoriety at first, rather Gerry’s stage antics were what got people talking. Gerry most of the time would be a bloody mess at the end of a Bulemics set. For anyone that never witnessed it, he would gash his head open with a beer bottle and the blood would just pour from his head. After their set, he would wind up looking like a wrestler just finishing some insane “cage match.” Interspersed with the blood, Gerry had a knack for being a complete smart-ass and making people laugh or get pissed, depending on your sense of humor. The other focal point of the Bulemics was Gable on guitar. The guy is probably about 5’3″ with the build of a fucking bulldog, and could run the smack on people just as well as Gerry. When the Bulemics played, his guitar was what you heard the most. The first time I saw Gable play he was still in Trailer Park 4, and the first time the Reclusives played a party it was with them. Gable showed up wearing this “stars and bars” bandana and insulting the “hippies” out on the porch smoking their weed. The best way to describe Gable would be “the Eric Cartman of punk with a Texas accent” (sans the anti-semitism and Mel Gibson fetish). Shit-talking, cocky, abrasive, boisterous, and surprisingly intelligent, with a strong knowledge in the realm of blues and old country music, Gable had the riffs and stage presence to back it up. Gerry would do this imitation of Gable and say, “I’m Gable Barber, and you suck!” And that was Gable’s permeating attitude– as far as I am concerned, he was usually right. After the Reclusives broke up, Sweet Ray Valentine joined the band, replacing Susanne McEndree (Slum City) on rhythm guitar. Due to Keith’s ineptitude on the drums he was given the boot and Jay Gordon aka Bonem, Hell Sancho, took over. I guess he was in the band for almost a year before I joined. I talked to Gable one night about playing bass and after some lobbying on my part they had me join.
We all began rehearsing together without Gerry. We had the practice space in the Acme Building that looked onto San Jacinto and Seventh Street in downtown Austin. I don’t recall things being abrasive during that time; I was basically learning the songs that they had been playing all along. There was no room for “artistic” debate back then. Gerry was back within a month and we began practicing as a full band. The first show I played with them was at the Blue Flamingo, but the name had changed to Blue Flame at this point. It went through one more name, Purgatory, before going the way of the health care reform. After that club’s demise, The Bates Motel became home to the “underground” scene. Randall Stockton, now owner of Austin’s Beerland, TX was the manager of the Bates. The owner was a guy that had some shitty blues cover band joint, Joe’s Generic Bar. The way I understand it is that Randall convinced the guy to let him book “punk/alternative” acts into the club, and it would eventually become the Bulemics’ second home. Space and pay-wise it was a step up from the Blue Flamingo, and the bathrooms were a definite improvement. The guy’s room had old Penthouse and Playboy wallpapered up above the stalls and covering the walls. This made for creative shithouse scrawls, retarded-ass drunken observations, and sexually frustrated holes punched right through those lovely ladies. This always pissed me off. I liked the boobs while I was draining the vein. The club’s walls were covered with large mirrors that gave the place an extra sleazy feel. (The Bates was formerly a strip club on 6th, which explained not only the mirrors on the walls, but also the cave-like lighting, which were a big part of the Bates’ tawdry charm – M.D.) The main bartender was a guy named Joel. He had a stern warning for people who wanted to fuck up the bar in the form of a cattle prod hanging on the wall behind him (this IS Texas). He told us he had to use it once, I think. As for myself, I got “VIP” treatment from Randall and Donya. When the club was very busy he would let me go to the beer cooler and grab what I wanted. I would throw some money in the tip jar and be on my merry way.
The Bulemics gained momentum after the Motards’ break up, and took immediate advantage of the “let’s get bombed and fuck shit up” crowd. We were poised to don that “crown.” Most of the Bates’ roster consisted of the displaced Blue Flamingo alumni. Los Tigres Guapos, the Secret Lovers and, at times, the Chumps are the ones I recall the most. The Trash Brats from Detroit and the Candy Snatchers also came through town with some regularity, and it seemed we always shared the bill with them when they did.
No honeymoon lasts forever, and such was the case of the Bulemics. One tension catalyst was Jay, our drummer, taking up the seat behind the basshead for the River City Rapists. I guess this happened when Gerry was in the “day release” program. The River City Rapists consisted of John Motard, Rex Everything (the Dwarves and now Queens of the Stone Age) on bass, Doug (the Didgits) on lead guitar, and another guy, Derek, on rhythm guitar. This was a true super group and I can’t blame Jay for taking the gig. The Bulemics had this plan of releasing two 7″s on Junk Records and then releasing a full length. The Rapists went straight for the full-length album on Junk. At some point the Bulemics brokered a deal with Frank Kozik’s label, Man’s Ruin. Oddly enough, the Rapists got the same deal on Man’s Ruin. This agitated the shit out of Gerry and myself at the time. The first 7″ released on Junk was “If I Only Had a Heart.” Daniel was on that recording, but they put my face and name on the back (Vic Vile), leaving an asterisk to imply that Daniel played on that one. The second 7″ was “(Your Man’s Gonna) Die Tonite,” backed by a cover of Antiseen’s “Let the Bastard Fry,” which would later wind up on an Antiseen tribute album. I don’t think anyone ever saw that piece of shit. And I was grateful because the Bulemics were sandwiched between two bands that did Antiseen’s overtly racist numbers. This was released after I left the band.
By the time I had joined, they were on their second rhythm guitarist, second drummer, and myself the second bassist. Gerry and Gable were the only original members of the band. The chemistry was never like anything I have experienced. Jay and I started to butt heads immediately over my style of playing bass, and he seemed to revel in trying to dictate my direction of playing. He preferred the Dee-Dee Ramone School of playing bass, whereas I liked to throw in fills and runs where I could. One night he told me something to the effect of, “this ain’t the fuckin’ Reclusives!” and I retorted, “I ain’t fuckin’ Daniel…” This would lead to many “sit downs” about whatever tedious fucking thing we could bitch at each other about. Somehow, we’d always come to some bullshit resolution, but in the long run the damage was done and would only continue to build. In retrospect, I’m surprised we never beat the hell out of each other, because I’m sure the thought had crossed both our minds.
There was also this tension between Gerry and Jay over the whole Rapists thing. The River City Rapists would fall to the wayside eventually, but Gerry had this way of getting me riled about that, or whatever the argument was that week, and I found myself manipulated into the position of his boxing nun, throwing all the punches while he pulled the strings. Whether it was intentional or not, Gerry was very good at pushing buttons. He was indigenous to the boiling pot, and he knew how to antagonize the shit out of Jay. I found this out on a trip with the band to Beaumont and New Orleans. I was riding in Ray’s car with Gerry, getting drunk along the way. Ray stopped at some place that had a Subway, and Jay went in and got a sandwich. Gerry inquired as to what kind of sandwich it was, to which Jay snapped back with, “What the fuck you think I got?” I sat there wondering what the hell Jay’s nearly explosive reaction was about. He then tells Gerry, “It’s turkey…what the fuck do you think it is?!” And Gerry just started laughing his ass off. Apparently, it was a fact like any other apparently that Jay happened to like turkey. It was his favorite. However, true to his nature, this was a harmless detail that Gerry focused on, and would often taunt Jay over. If you look on the back of the “Old Enough To Know Better…” LP, Gerry has a piece of turkey skin on his face. He did this just to taunt Jay at the photo shoot. The trip to Beaumont would be pivotal in more ways than I imagined at the time.
We played a few out of town shows. Somehow Gable hooked us up with Electric Frankenstein and they came to Texas to play Austin, Dallas, and Houston in the spring of ’98. We sent Ray to pick them up from the airport and the singer, the big dude, is begging Ray to take him to White Castle. Ray lets him know we don’t have these things in Texas. That weekend began fine. All three shows were supposed to be the Chumps, the Bulemics and Electric Frankenstein. We played Friday night at Emo’s in Austin and so far so good. We arrived at the club in Dallas on Saturday night and the fuckin’ a-hole booker had the Reds, the Riverboat Gamblers and the Boozers opening the show, making it a six band bill. None of us knew about it, but fuck it, we played anyways. During the set I chucked a beer bottle up over my head and almost hit my little brother, who was there that night. Gerry stripped down to his tighty-whities and fell in between the stage speakers and side of the stage. The pinnacle of the set was Gable pushing Gerry over when we finished. But things were beginning to get real weird with Sean McGowan of the Chumps. Earlier that night he got mad at me because I looked at him wrong or something. Tammy (my wife) calmed him down later, but he was just real agitated about something. That night, he dedicated “Fuck You, I’m Rich” to my father, who was a bread delivery man. My father later commented, “That was interesting.”
There was a bit of confusion about how I was getting to Houston the next night. I arrived home and Gable left me a message about meeting me at Mary Jane’s in Houston. That was not the arrangement as I’d understood it, but we were fucked up the night before, so who knows? I was supposed to get a ride from those guys in the van. Tammy couldn’t make a Sunday night road trip. I started to panic and tried calling the club in Houston and got nothing but the answering machine. I called up Liz Buhay and asked her if she wanted to go to Houston, because of the miscommunication. She picked me up and we got to Mary Jane’s and just like in Dallas, the person who booked the show threw all these bands on the bill, including the Quadrajets. Now even in optimum circumstances I have never played to a decent crowd in Houston, but here it was on a Sunday fucking night and this cunt of a local scenester books this eight band “punk” fest. And the moment I got there Gable was like, “Where the fuck have you been?” I let him know that I was supposed to be riding with them. And the people running the club were being complete cocksuckers about anything and everything. I asked where our beer was. Gerry informed me it is all gone and no tickets. There was this little “green room,” with picked over chips and salsa sitting out. Gerry informed me those were exclusively for Electric Frankenstein and the Quadrajets– the coked out local scenester cunt informed him of such.
I started talking to Gable and he told me that Sean of the Chumps had done a five-hour disappearing act. Sean had gone to see a friend over in the West Hiemer area of Houston, which was a long walk from the club. He came back wearing some little kid’s sailor shirt and he had a “flier” done up with markers in great detail that said “The Chumps Stop Rock-n-Roll… Tonite, Orbit Room.” Gable said Sean was not real happy when he found out that the Orbit Room gig was last night and that we were in Houston tonight at Mary Jane’s. The Chumps’ set kicked off out of tune, and Sean’s voice was gone from lack of sleep and I don’t know what else from two nights prior. But Sean, always the showman, had these notebook-sized pieces of paper that spelled out “The Chumps.” During the set he kept trying to spell it out and tape them on the wall behind the band.
“T H E C H M P U S”…
“T H C H P U S”… no dice.
He even made a DIY cardboard stencil to spray paint shirts with. In the middle of the set, he made shirts for anyone who would walk up to the stage. The Chumps did love the kids. That was one of the worst sets I saw the Chumps play and it was the first time Sean really scared the shit out of me. We would out-do them later in Beaumont. The club (as punishment for my tardiness) had us play dead last that night. Furthermore, there were more people there from Austin than people from Houston. But before we played, the scary talent of Cash Money entertained us.
This band was some kind of dog turd on wheels. They had this fat bald dude with grey hair playing this shitty ass Alternative Nation crap. And they played and played and played… and played. Gerry grew impatient and hurled a whole cup of water on the guitar player/singer, promptly followed by a “fuck you.” After these fucking a-holes finished jerking off, the Bulemics set up. We kick off the second song and as I turn around to adjust my bass amp, Jay comes flying out from behind the drums, knocking them over. I turned around and Gable is choking the fat fuck from Cash Money. I believe Cody Boone (Mood Killers, Dirty Sweets bassist) was kicking the shit out of this guy, too. When I saw the drums crashing I thought Gerry was doing the ol’ Dwarves fuck you one-two, goodnight. That was fine by me. I wanted to leave the minute I got there. The old dude from Cash Money got “offended” because Gerry threw a cup of water at him during their set. In retaliation, the jackass poured an entire beer on Gerry. He did not get the result he was seeking. Gerry just gave him this shit eating grin and the bird and began taunting this idiot. The guy lunged at Gerry and that was that. I looked over at Ray and asked, “What the fuck just happened?” And Ray gave me this shrug because he missed it too. The only way I remember or can recount this was because I think Richard Lynn (Super Secret Records) taped that show. That was it for the night. Show over.
Paul Johnson of the Motards had moved to Beaumont and started the Put-Downs, and had set up one show at some art co-op there and another the following night in New Orleans with the Bulemics playing with the Chumps and Paul’s band. And it was a very fucking weird vibe from the get-go. Paul had bought a keg, and had some people over, though there were mostly college kids from the university there. For those who’ve never had the “pleasure” of visiting Beaumont, it’s a little city in East Texas, and the place gives me the creeps. There’s a bizarre hot tension in the air conducting the frustration from intense boredom, which seizes its occupants. It’s more like the Deep South than Texas (and yeah motherfuckers, there is a difference). Beaumont’s claim to fame is that this is the area where the Daniel Byrd truck dragging/ lynching took place. These Beaumont kids were just standing there gawking at us, without a word. Just these strange stares. By now, it was afternoon; I had been drinking all day and hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. The Put Downs’ drummer, Tom, was driving me around and I asked him if he knew where I could get some speed or coke… anything to bring me back up. He tells me no, but that he has some acid at his place. I let him know that would be just fine. Most of the acid I had done before just had a “speedy” effect on me anyway, never any hallucinations or the sense that my reality was so far removed that I just couldn’t function. Back at his place, Tom hands me this sugar cube. I placed it on my tongue and let the sweet psychedelic substance dissolve. He went to his room or something, he wasn’t gone that long, and comes back and asks, “You didn’t just take that whole thing right? That was two hits!” I looked at him and told him no big fucking deal. It was only about five in the afternoon, and I’d probably be fine later that night.
Now let’s skip forward to nine in the evening. The Chumps played before us that night and I was beginning to “peak” during their set. The ground began to “breathe” and shift around a little. I joined Sean McGowan of the Chumps to sing “Self Destruct” and I think that was a harbinger of things to come. My grandfather passed away a month before and I was given his old pocket-knife. I was trying to open up my forehead with it but just wound up punching tiny holes in my head, no slices. The Chumps finished their set. We were all fucked and drunk by the time we were supposed to play. I noticed some things about this stage at the co-op that were not right: it was missing stage monitors and it was outside. This stage was probably the biggest one I had ever been on. With that scenario there was no way to hear the other instruments, but I just set my shit up to play. Before we launched into the set I was stricken by the sense that something was missing. I go to Gable with grave concern and ask him, “Gable, have you seen my bass?” He looked at me, making sure he heard me right, because Jay was beating on the drums and Ray was playing some riffs.
Gable asks, “What?”
And I ask him again, “Have you seen my bass?”
“It’s in your hands!”
“It’s in your GOD DAMNED hands!!!”
He pulled the bass up so I could see it. I looked down and there it was, magically appearing out of the ether and into my arms. I looked at Gable with a sincere look of pleasant relief. “Thanks man…” We kicked off the set and it was just fucked. The stage did not have monitors but it had stage lights bigger than a full moon, which found me just staring into the huge red orb, far removed from this planet. I “thought” I was playing the songs but in reality I was just plunking on one string. Jay had his drums set up on a riser and he was playing faster than usual, or my brain said as much, and the Bulemics songs were fast anyways. We made a few attempts to play two or three songs, but it just wasn’t gonna happen that night. All the while, those kids just made with the vacant stare while they watched this total nightmare unfold. Gerry just finally gave up and left them with this, “Maybe we sucked tonight, but you motherfuckers suck every night!” Gerry spiked the stage with the microphone and left them with some feed back. We all were kind of laughing about it except Ray. I told him, “Fuck it… it’s just Beaumont.” He told me, “I play every show like it’s my last…”
The next night, I rebounded in New Orleans as far as the show went. We arrived with no problems, and met up with a friend of Aaron’s (Chumps/ East Side Suicides drummer) at Molly’s on Decatur. Both bands hung out at this guy’s house and ate beans and rice. Later on that night we played at the Dixie Tavern, and not only was the turnout good, but the Bulemics played without a thing going wrong. The only mildly fucked up thing about the show was Gerry disappearing down the street for a few hours. He’d gone to some all-black bar for a few beers and funny looks. We all left from there and went back to Molly’s to get some cheaper drinks, and some of the guys went and checked out Bourbon on a Saturday night.
The night before, in my LSD-induced stupor, I told Tammy that I wanted to separate or divorce. I forgot about the whole thing, but she hadn’t. She waited until after the show to remind me, though, and to also let me know just how hurt she was. It was right outside Molly’s that I saw that look of hurt on her face, the depths of which I had never seen before. I freaked out and started walking toward the Mississippi river, which was only two blocks away. Tim Storm was there in New Orleans and gave chase in an effort to calm me down. I’ve had moments of clarity in my lifetime, where a big revelation takes a swing and drills some sense into your skull with a blow that rings for years. That was probably one of the worst I ever took, and I sustained a minor nervous break down, which was only a precursor to the one that would hit me a few years later. I went home to Tammy and informed her that it was over… or so I thought.
This marked a subsequent period of my life where things were fucked up and out of my hands. Tammy and I “separated” and I moved in with Gerry. He had a roommate, but she was tired of his antics. Gerry and I had a good time for the most part. The only time things weren’t cool was when he would come home smashed and either tear the kitchen up making his “vegetarian chili” or want to fight. We would play shows and sit up drinking until dawn on the weekends. I turned Gerry on to the Stones during that period. We would later record “Heart of Stone” for the Man’s Ruin EP. And he turned me on to Il Duce “Sings the Karaoke Hits.” Tammy and I “reconciled” the marriage after a couple of months, and she moved in with me and Gerry during the summer of 1998. During this time we were gearing up to record the full-length for Junk Records, but at some point we lost our practice space downtown. One of the reasons was that Gable threw a huge fucking party in the space when the Revelators (featuring John Schooley of the Hard Feelings) came to Austin. The space was right around the corner from the Bates Motel. Gable at the time was trying to get an “in” with Crypt Records. The Revelators had come to town to record their follow-up LP on Crypt and play a show at the Bates Motel. Gable, always the opportunist, had an “after party” for them. If Gable would have known about Crypt Records’ money problems, I doubt he would have been as hospitable. But he fucked up and left John Motard, Jay and me with the beer. Gable bought three or four cases and together John, Jay and I drank almost half the shit before anyone arrived. The place got wrecked but Gable cleaned it up. The guy who had the space was named Phillip, or “Pip,” and was the bassist for the Sons of Hercules at the time. He caught wind of the party and didn’t like it too much. The space was strategically located downtown, and occasionally Jay and Gerry would take girlies up there. Gerry left a fucking used condom on the floor one night and “Pip” found it. That was it. He kicked us out. Cody (Dirty Sweets) was living in this house up in North Austin and he and his wife offered us a place to practice. It was very nice of them and what possessed them to do it is beyond me. Cody would bring us sandwiches from his work and Cassie would cook for us sometimes. But it was more work getting equipment moved because the space was up a spiral staircase. It was while we were getting the full length together that I met Mike Mariconda for the first time. He would be the producer on that album and every subsequent album/demo I would play on post-Bulemics. The album was recorded in August of ’98. This would be the first album I was involved with that had an actual budget and producer. I think about five cases of beer were consumed in the weekend we recorded it. In the Reclusives, it was get the fucking thing done and be done, now. Here, we had time to add an organ, chicks moaning, dubs, THC Satanic laden phone threats, extra percussion, and we were able to fuck with the mixes.
There are some funny things about that album. For one, my favorite thing on it is nothing that we wrote or played. There is a “hidden track” at the end of it called “I’m Getting Even” for which Daniel wrote the music. But what comes before it is a series of drunken/stoned phone calls he left on Gerry’s answering machine. Transcribed for your reading pleasure:
Answering machine: Sunday, 8:20 PM
Daniel: You there? You’re a fucking dumb ass… I (incoherent) Christi (Gerry’s roommate) but she’s not as stupid… as you make her out be. I’m at Jay’s house… that’s right… hear this? (This was the weekend we were touring with Electric Frankenstien.) I’m here at your house… Lord knows what I could do here… but I don’t wanna do it… ’cause I’m not stupid like you motherfuckers… bye.
Daniel: It’s Daniel it’s 1:45… yeah you know where to reach me at… I know where the fuck you are… you goddamned whore (he was looking for his girlfriend)… you know where to reach me… I know where the fuck you are… and Gerry if you pick up this phone I goddamned hope you do… if not? Have fun where you’re going because I long to hurt you too…
Daniel: (Belch)… Depending on who I am… that still bothers me you pussy motherfucker… what the fuck is that shit supposed to mean? It’s fuckin’ Daniel, you know where I’m at, you know where to reach me, you just choose not to contact this number… cause you’re a pussy, you’re afraid, you’re fake, just like your friends, that’s right you all hear me… goddamn cocksucking motherfuckers… all ya’ll suck my cock… my All Mighty Cock… whether Tavia (his girlfriend) and Christi agree with me or not… ya’ll suck my dick… and if not? I will force it upon on you… you know why? It’s all love and mighty… I’m high as a mutha’ fucka’… and you guys will suck it, worship it, feel it, and love it… ’cause you guys are cock sucking faggots… Hasta la vista homos…
Yep, the guy broke into Jay’s house, which was out in the sticks on the southeast side of Austin. At some point he sent his ten bucks to Anton Lavey and the Church of Satan, and was going around telling people such. He was now a convert to ol’ Beezlebub, a card-carrying member at that, and his subsequent threats got back to us. It was real creepy for a while. He was real pissed about being kicked out of the band. Gerry kept the tape of those calls and told him it was going on the album. Better there than to the Austin Police Department. We had Jeanine (Tosca, Hamicks, Ugly Beats) play a “Here Comes the Clowns” theme over his calls. After it hangs up the song kicks in.
The track before that, “She Gets Around,” was a little ode to this young lady that three out of the five members in the band had slept with. I at one point (while separated) found myself with her heading to Mexico at three in the morning. I got there and I wasn’t that drunk anymore. We rented a room for an hour and then came back. The only evidence of being there is that I picked up a fifth of Jose Cuervo. Gerry wanted to know where I had been? I told him I went with (name withheld) to Mexico and he did not believe me. I showed him the “duty tax” on the bottle and we commenced doing tequila shots. And that title is true or was true. Last I heard she’s up in Minnesota, married.
“House on Haunted Hill” was Gerry being freaked out about sleeping at this house that was next to a graveyard. He woke up the next day and these chicks that lived there informed him that today is “panties only” day and I think they were expecting him to get into the spirit of it. He got nervous when he saw the whips on the wall.
The photo on the album is of a girl named Alison. Gerry and I went all over Austin to find a fucking “unicorn” sucker. Jay was rather proud of himself that he “photoshopped” the nipples to make them even more erect. Gerry and I wanted to work a syringe into the photo background, somehow, but neither one of us were needle users. Alison asked, “Ya’ll have a rig? I’ll use it with water…” We both told her that it was okay without it.
Musically, I contributed little while I was in the Bulemics. My style and influences were pretty different from those of Gable and Gerry. The only thing I wrote musically that made it out of the practice space was “Harlot From Beyond,” the opening track on the album. The creative process was left to Gable and Gerry for the most part. And this ridiculous way that Jay would “write” a song. Jay could not play any other instrument other than the drums. What he would do was hum some shit to Gable and then expect Gable to figure out what Jay wanted Gable to do. It was the most retarded-ass thing I ever watched and it would make everyone except Jay and Gable nuts. The typical repoire would be Jay, “Gable try this… duh-ta-da… then ta-da duh…” Gable would play a riff or two. “Naw!!! Like this– duh-ta-da, ta-da duh…” or some sort of gibberish and it would go on like this for a fucking hour. It was like watching some kind of SNL skit. In spite of all this crap, we got things done. The only thing that kept me in the band was a belief that this would all pay off in the end (money), and that is the worst motivation.
During this time we met the “major label” paradox and Maximum Rock-n-Roll’s interview policy. Tim Storm did an interview with the Bulemics. We transcribed the whole fucking thing and sent it to MRR. We received a “We-don’t-publish-interviews-with-bands-on-major-labels” letter. Huh? Problem was: Junk was distributed through Nitro Records, who in return was distributed through Sony at some point in the food chain of the “music industry.” Major label? Everyone in the band was living paycheck to paycheck and eating fucking ramen noodles and beans. But hey, we were rock stars on a major label– my ass.
In November of ’98 we began talking about doing a West Coast tour in January of ’99. We only had two releases out to date, the singles on Junk and a compilation on a label out of Detroit. We had the pending full-length (Junk) in the process of being manufactured, but it still was not released. Toward the end of the year, we recorded the EP for Kozik’s label, Man’s Ruin. This one never got released. After I left the band it would be re-recorded with Wes (rhythm guitar) and Craig (bass) and a new producer. But the money from Man’s Ruin was used to subsidize the tour.
As the tour approached, I asked Gable three simple fucking questions:
“Isn’t it going to be cold?”
“Naw… goddamn, it’s California.”
“Shouldn’t we wait until the full-length comes out?”
“It will be ready by the time we leave.”
“Shouldn’t we rent a van?” Jay had a 1979 van that was the pre-cursor to the mini-van and had already taken the River City Rapists across the country once, along with previously being owned by an Austin band, which toured.
“Naw, that van is fine.” Later on, these questions would be ringing in my head.
I would go over to Gable’s and he would be on the phone talking to Katon DePena, who was running Junk Records. On paper everything looked fine. We had itineraries, contact names, club’s numbers, addresses, information about “drinks,” and how we would be paid. Gable had a map with thumb pins in the respective cities.
I found myself being Gerry’s apologist for whatever stunt he pulled or to whomever he pissed off. None of the guys went out much except for Ray and myself. It seemed like when I went out someone would come up to me and say, “Gerry…the other night…” and then go on about him shooting his mouth off or whatever. I was beginning to have fallouts with friends over crap I had pulled throughout the last year being in the band and personal “beefs” with people. We no longer played with the Chumps. Frankie (Chumps, East Side Suicides) told his girlfriend, who hated me, about some shit that happened when I visited NYC, and this came out during the separation with the wife. We pissed those guys off prior to me being a victim of “pillow talk.” People started to say we didn’t support the “scene.” Gerry and myself would find ourselves with this “fuck ‘em” mentality, completely drunk and paranoid. Gable began playing in Honky with Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers. The practices became more and more grueling. They wanted to experiment with using a different producer for the Man’s Ruin EP; I thought that was a bad idea. It seemed like the more the band progressed, the more bullshit it wrought. And the bottom line was there were more sheriffs than horses. Anything I would write music-wise got shot down with “this doesn’t fit” and the newer songs getting cranked out had even more of a metal influence. I had never been a big fan of that genre. Then there was talk of doing a Motley Crue tribute compilation– “Fuck this, I am out of here.” I told them I would leave the band after the tour scheduled for January. The Bulemics were planning on a bigger tour after the one in January, for the summer. That tour was to last a month.
The Bates Motel would be the kick-off night of the tour, and coincidentally this was the weekend it would be open. The owner of the space was shutting it down as a live music club and was turning it into a “pub.” I think it’s called “Blind Pig Fucking Its Mother Pub” or something like that today. It would be the last time I played with the Bulemics in Austin. And we left the place with a bang, all in shambles. Gerry, along with the audience, tore down the stage lighting, and then I commenced to break the bulbs as they dangled from the track with the headstock of my bass. After we finished the set there was nothing left of the lights. The Dead End Cruisers played after us that night and I think they had to rig up a couple of light bulbs to see. When it was time to get paid, Randall was not real happy about what had happened. Gerry at some point had thrown a beer bottle into the Bates’ neon sign, breaking it. Gerry was denying it and I was pleading Gerry’s case about the whole thing. Jay walked up and pulled Gerry and myself away before we dug ourselves a deeper hole and told Randall he could fix it. Problem avoided, and we got the gas money that would take us to California.
Gerry and I sat up drinking all night and into the next morning. Gerry had been dating this girl who went and picked a bunch of mushrooms and did so much she freaked out and gave the rest to Gerry. He showed them to me, then reluctantly split them with me, and we ate them in the parking lot of a music store before we left. We packed our shit into the van. We also had a “roadie.” His name was Javier. He was a friend of the band. He would take the role of “drinking buddy” more than being a roadie/ “merch” guy. The van could barely fit four grown men but we packed six idiots into this thing. Everyone kind of marked his territory in the beginning. I found my spot in the back where there was a bench put in. We had been on the road for a couple of hours and the mushrooms still had not kicked in. Gerry already drank a bottle of MD 20/20 and I was sipping on a forty. And we both just kept looking at each other with this “what the fuck?” look. I never smoked much weed at that time, but I had one joint tucked away in my cigarette pack. I wanted to get rid of it while we were still near Austin. Gerry and I smoked it and that was the missing catalyst. Shit got real funny, and real soon. Gable was in the passenger seat up front playing fucking air guitar because there was no radio and simultaneously driving Jay nuts. For whatever reason Gable became the focal point of our amusement. Jay at one point told Gable “Look at the pretty birds…”
Gable responded with “Sure would like to shoot them…”
This made Gerry and I double over with laughter and tears. Gable would turn around and ask, “What the fuck is so damn funny?” That would make us laugh harder. After a few hours the fun wore off and the monotony of driving through West Texas crept in. I now know where Ernest Tubb got the inspiration to sing “Miles and Miles of Texas.”
We spent the night in the van at a truck stop just past the Texas/New Mexico border. I always had trouble sleeping; tonight was no exception, and it was cold. I spent the entire night and into the morning watching TV inside the truck stop. I sat there with Ray chain smoking and observing these truckers go about their business and the unattractive female store clerk flirting with them.
We made another stop somewhere in Arizona at a truck stop that had intriguing billboards on the highway: “COME SEE… THE THING.” Jay insisted on stopping to find out what the “THING” was. We paid our $1 admission to find out and were led around the back. There was a trailer park and this sidewalk around the park that lead to these exhibits encased in glass. One looked like a fake mummy with child taken allegedly from an “Ancient Indian Burial Ground,” but the real “THING” was an old Mercedes convertible they had. Inside the car, there was a wax Adolph Hitler in Nazi regalia sitting in the backseat. There was a description about the model of the car and how it was supposedly part of Hitler’s personal fleet of Mercedes. But the “THING” is, it couldn’t be proven. A dollar taken and none the wiser we headed west. Jay bought a bumper sticker announcing that we had witnessed the “THING” and put it on the van. Later, someone stole the bumper sticker when we were in Long Beach.
We made it to San Diego the night before we played; an ex-girlfriend of mine put us up at her place. We had an afternoon to kill the next day. Jay wanted to go ride go-carts, but we opted for the cheaper beach of San Diego. We checked out the sands and made our way to the “Gas Lamp District,” the tourist spot. It was mid-afternoon and Javier and I started to look for a bar, eventually finding one that had dollar drafts. Javier and I walked into this place and something struck me as odd. There were a few middle-aged men sitting at tables, alone and looking a little shady. My first thought was, “Well, it must be some kind of gay bar,” but there were these Asian women running the place. Javier and I bellied up to the bar and ordered some drafts. The place was decked out in Asian motif and the bar seemed like it had been there for a few decades. The rest of the guys came back to the bar after a while and ordered some beers as well. The women kept talking to each other in some language I had never heard. We all got up and left and then Ray started cracking up when we were outside. Ray is Filipino/American and he understood most of what they were saying. He then informed us we were at a brothel. The women were asking each other what they thought Javier and I were doing there.
“They so young…” one would say.
“Yeah but they are so big…” the other one replied. Well, we were from Texas after all. Gable chimed in that he heard one of the ladies telling a guy to go wait for his turn while Gable was taking a piss. The rooms were apparently hidden back through the bathrooms.
The Dead End Cruisers were on tour as well. We got to the bar and were waiting for the Cruisers to show when Dave Thomas (bassist) came sauntering in, alone, and informed us that their van had broken down. This was on a Monday night, and there may have been two people there that we didn’t know. My ex-girlfriend, Anna, brought one of her friends along. I had a friend who moved out there, and he showed up as well. We began playing to this very, very thin crowd– a blow to our collective ego. We finished and began to unplug our guitars and these two guys sitting in the corner shout out, “Play ‘If I Only Had A Heart.’” It took Gerry by surprise and we looked at them with amazement that they knew the fucking song. “Play it, play…Only Had A Heart.” We obliged, and I guess our efforts were not in complete vain for the two guys sitting in the corner.
We arrived at Long Beach and went to Katon’s. He did his usual busting of our balls, but fed us some McDonalds. It was $1 Big Mac Tuesday. We got fucked up at his place and a few of the guys passed out on the floor. A chick that was at Katon’s wrote in Sharpie on Gable’s arms, “Owen LOVES HIS MOMMY” and I think Gerry was a victim of her graffiti as well. Katon arranged for us to stay with a friend of his and she had enough room for six guys, along with her two kids. We hit the bars with Katon’s buddy that night and did the ol’ drunken’ Texan bit by being as loud and as fucked up as we could possibly be.
We played the next night in Hollywood somewhere to nobody, and watched some jackass band from Orange County play. A girl that Ray knew from Austin, Shannon, showed up to see us play. Some Arab cats ran the place and when we went to get paid they informed us that the “booker” had the money. She left at some point, taking the whole twenty dollars the door took in.
The next night was in Anaheim at the Doll House. We got booked with an “alternative” band. Javier started to bitch about helping us unload equipment and proceeded to get very drunk. When this alt band played, Javier began heckling them, “YOU SUCK!! YOU FUCKIN’ SUCK!!” and other such niceties. It was a Wednesday night and the crowd was a little better. Gerry made a plea to the audience to buy our shit: “…we’re eating Army Rations.” We now had the full-length album and some shirts to sell. Ray’s pops gave him some Army Ration Instant Meal packs. Ray was broke and already eating them, and so was Gable. He started to eat the “snacks” out of the packs. The reason Gable was broke by now was because we agreed to eat at a sit down place for breakfast to get one decent meal a day. Gable would order up the most expensive thing on the menu, steak and eggs, or he would have the pork chops. The rest of us would opt for whatever was under five or six bucks. We finished up the set that night and packed our equipment up. Javier was still rather irate at the “alternative” band. The singer went up to Javier and apologized for whatever reason; I guess for their collective lack of balls. Javier looked at the guy and poured an entire beer onto the guys white loafers and mumbled some drunken incoherent threat. With that we returned to Long Beach and headed to San Francisco the next morning.
We made the long drive to San Francisco. The entire time we were on the road, Jay kept talking about the Lucky Lady on Broadway in SF. For the uninitiated, it’s a peep show that actually has beautiful women dancing, who do unsavory deeds behind glass partitions in jerkoff nooks. We made our way there and all of us went and grabbed separate booths. I left my booth after five bucks of cheap fun and we all regrouped outside. You could tell who’d left a little something there by the look on his face. The Lucky Lady would later inspire the Hard Feelings’ song, “She Tells Me.” We played the Covered Wagon that night, which kicked off a stint of good gigs for the band. It was a Thursday night and they had “Stinky’s Peep Show” going on, with these real big go-go dancers. The “no smoking inside at all” law was in effect out there but some bars subtly ignored it. Gable was smoking when a Hell’s Angel asked him to put it out or walk somewhere else. Gable asked, “You’re a Hell’s Angel and you’re bothered by smoke?” The Hell’s Angel told him yes, and Gabel walked to another part of the room. We played to a decent size crowd, along with the legendary Swingin’ Neckbreakers. I played like shit, but you could hardly ever hear my bass over Gable’s and Ray’s Marshall stacks. We watched a skinhead get his ass beat by the Hell’s Angels at the end of the night. The skinhead accused one of the Angel’s of being a “faggot” and grabbing his ass. They took the guy outside, beat the living shit out of him, and then hopped on their bikes and left. The scene was almost surreal. The promoter came out and paid us. She handed us twenty bucks and told us that it would have been a hundred, but Gerry broke the top of the microphone off. She was charging us for it. We all told Gerry before we left on the tour if “you break it you are buying it.” He had a habit of destroying microphones. He started claiming that he didn’t break the damn thing but we all knew he did. We needed that money to get to Portland, Oregon. We were collectively pissed at Gerry. At some point he passed out. While he was passed out the promoter came out and had a cup of water. I let her into the van and she tossed it on Gerry in drunken nocturnal bliss. He woke up and she proclaimed, “You’re all wet!!!” And Gerry let her know that he me may be wet and cold tonight but that she would be “fat and ugly forever…”
I called Tammy that night and said “just get my ass home.” I had enough of being on “tour.” Gerry kept bitching about the microphone and the promoter and I lost my cool and elbowed him in the forehead to shut him up, knocking his head into the back of the plywood in the van. He responded by kicking me and telling me he was happy I was leaving the band. We did not spend the night and we drove on to Portland. I screamed at Jay and Gable to turn the fucking van around and go back to Austin. I had enough of this bullshit. They blithely ignored me and I passed out. I smoothed things over with Gerry the next morning. Gerry reluctantly paid the money owed and we made our way to the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.
We were to play Friday night in Portland, but we never made it there nor any of the shows in the Northwest. The van started to have problems when we hit the mountain range, and there was a blizzard that hit the Oregon/California border. We stopped at some gas station in the mountains where Javier heard the clerk on the phone. He overheard her saying the border at Oregon and California was shut down and that only cars with snow-chains were being let through. Being from Texas, we had no fucking snow-chains. This was the only time I rode in the front of the van. I spent my time in the back chain-smoking, sipping Jim Beam, listening to David Bowie over headphones and thumbing through some Hustlers that Gable brought along. But while riding “shotgun” I had time to contemplate existence and the afterlife, which I doubted at the time. The van was a high profile job. It had this sleeper add-on to it, and the winds were just whipping and rocking the van. The roads wound their way up the mountains and if you fucked up there was a rail that might keep you from going over the cliff, but past that was a tumble down… way down. Anxieties of dying in those mountains plagued me, and I think I may have temporarily found God. That experience inspired my tattoo I would get later on in the week: “GET MY ASS BACK… TEXAS!!!” That’s all I could think about. Javier was driving and the higher we climbed, the worse the conditions became. There was fog, high winds and rain mixed with sleet, so we came back down. The van at this point was having real problems so we stopped at a gas station to regroup and look at the van. A gentleman came up to us and offered to sell us his snow-chains for twenty bucks, claiming “I don’t need these things and I will never travel that mountain (Mt Shasta) again.” The people that were coming into the gas station looked like they had seen a ghost after traveling the terrain. Gable, in his infinite wisdom, told him that we didn’t need those snow-chains. We made another attempt at going up the range and were stopped by the van, which was beginning to protest with unhealthy noise. We called down to Long Beach and told Katon and Nancy at Junk that we were not going to make the Portland show due to the fucked up weather. Their reply was that the weather was fine where they were.
We spent the night in Reading, California at some motel. By now Gable was eating the Army Rations that Ray had brought along. I remember Gable touting the nutritional and culinary value of Uncle Sam’s cooking. “This ham steak is fucking good… no fat and all protein… this has all the shit you need for one day, it’s got cheese and crackers, and the crackers are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and Tabasco sauce, candy… damn this shit ain’t bad.” The only thing missing in them for Gable was the old Lucky Strike. He was taking the “meals” without asking Ray and now Ray was pissed at Gable for eating the fucking things.
Ray asked, with slight annoyance, “You’re gonna pay me for that, right?”
“Goddammit Ray of course I am…”
I liked the cheese and crackers that were in them, and though the shit was filling I opted for cheap hamburgers instead of the Army Rations.
The next day, Gable and Jay began to fix the van. Or more like Jay fixed the van and Gable “supervised.” I looked at Javier and we both agreed it was time for a beer. And like a siren upon the water seducing a sailor we saw the “cocktails” sign over the bowling alley just down the street. We walked in and it was maybe just past noon. The bartender informed us that she was “hung-over past the nines.” We didn’t know what that meant, only that she looked like that was pretty normal for her. They had an old jukebox that still had 45s in it for a dime a play. Some of them were old honky-tonk songs, which we played, being homesick. We bought a pitcher or two and the manager came over and started talking to us. She knew that we were “not from around here…”
But she took a sympathetic attitude toward us. We told her about being on “tour,” away from Texas, van broke down, stuck in BFE California, and after that she gave us every subsequent pitcher on the house. Never thought I would find “Southern” hospitality in the foothills of California. After three or four hours of getting sauced, listening to warped 45′s on the jukebox and talking to the lady, Gable came and got us, and we were going to meet Jay’s girlfriend’s father who lived near by. We left and I walked to a grocery store to buy a calling card so I could call Tammy and let her know I was “fine.” But then I discovered the liquor aisle and walked out with a fifth of Southern Comfort instead. The Baptists had not gotten to the grocery stores in California. Jay took us to meet his future father-in-law and Gerry and I wound up wrestling in the guy’s living room. Jay wasn’t too happy with our bad behavior. We made our way back to Southern California, giving up on conquest of the Great Northwest. I awoke at some point and found out we were an hour and half north of L.A. Somebody told me that the truck stop we were at must be some kind of “gay pick-up joint.” Some truckers invited Gerry and Ray “upstairs” to watch some “movies,” and said that they could “smoke” up there. I don’t think the trucker told them just what they could “smoke.” Ray and Gerry, a little weary of this hospitality, left, and went to the Denny’s across the street.
We got back to Long Beach early that morning. We explained to Katon and Nancy just what the hell we endured up in them “thar’ hills.” Katon had this friend who took us out the first night we were in town. From what I surmised he was kind of like Katon’s bodyguard. Katon had a knack of talking mad shit to people, and this guy was a big dude that deterred any notions of violence against Katon. The guy was about 6’5″ and maybe 250 to 270 pounds. He informed me at the bar we went to, “You guys from Texas drink like pussies!” That was all it took. We went back to the place where we were staying and I challenged him to Jim Beam shots. Ray had bought this liter of Jim Beam at some point and decided he didn’t want it quite as much of it as he thought he did, so it came into my possession. We did shot for shot until I left him passed out and crossed eyed, with myself towering and swaggering over him in triumph, knowing that the honor of Texas had been rightly defended over a liter of Jim Beam now almost gone. I went to use the bathroom and could not find the lights and wound up pissing all over this lady’s floor. She was nice about it the next day. I heard her asking, “Did someone pee on the floor last night…?” I informed her I was the culprit and braced for a tongue-lashing. She smiled and told me, “I just wanted to know why the floor mats were wet.”
I played my last show with the Bulemics at a bowling alley in Long Beach. During that set we were threatened with being cut off, because Jay kept lighting a cigarette. After he lit it for the second time, the security guards told us “one more time and you guys are done…” Tammy had flown out to California to stay with friends that we knew from Dallas. I did not ride back to Austin in the van, but stayed out there for a few days and flew back. I was relieved that the “tour” was over. I think the two best things were the first day and the last night.
When I returned I tried to back out of my leaving the band. I realized that tour was the one we would more than likely “take in the proverbial ass” and something about being out there made me think success was a possibility, in spite of the horrible experience and tension in the band. Surprisingly, I got along with Gable and Jay better than Ray and Gerry. Going on the road staying drunk versus fixing a marriage and personal damage… staying drunk and on the road sounded like a better alternative. Gerry told me that Craig had already been told he was getting the gig. He was supposed to have been the one playing bass after they kicked Daniel out. But things changed when I came into the picture the year before. When they found out I was leaving they decided to let Ray go as well. Only problem was they never told him. It was two weeks after we had been home and they started to rehearse with Wes. Everybody knew it except Ray. Gerry did not want to talk to Ray about it so I did it for them. I wasn’t even in the fucking band, but I did the “dirty” work. Their reasons were legitimate enough, but the way it was handled was poor. I would get the same type of phone call a few years later. Ray would form the Ritchie Whites later on.
I saw the Bulemics play once after I left the band when the Hard Feelings opened a show with them. Jay had a child with his long time girlfriend Darcy and he no longer plays in the Bulemics. Last I heard, Gable was living in San Marcos with his wife and children. Gerry told me he ran into Gable who reportedly told him, “Gerry…you got to see my cubicle…”
I can’t believe it. The wife and kids, yes. The hard-on over a cube, no, but stranger things have happened. Gerry is still fronting the Bulemics with a different drummer and lead guitarist. Wes and Craig are still in the band.
For me, that year I crossed the line from being a “party guy” to a full blown drunk with a burgeoning drug addiction. If you were bored enough to read the Reclusives article then you read about the “calm before the storm.” By now darker clouds began looming and a metaphysical apocalypse was being born. Those personal demons that once whispered began getting louder. And I guess, like a victim of bulimia, I too had a bad taste in my mouth after my stint was done in the Bulemics. On to hard feelings.