Skullman Records

Boo Frog, Snow Bud and the Flower People, Divining Rods, Napalm Beach

Wives and Honey Traps

Chris and I had a lot of parallels in our lives, one being that, before we had met each other, unbeknownst to us, all our our respective former partners – boyfriends, girlfriends, and in his case, two ex-wives – had been honey traps, apparently, all ultimately linked to CIA/FBI. There appear to be a lot of people world wide who would love to minimize the significance of such a thing, but from my perspective, it is a terrible thing that should never be minimized. Keep in mind that we were artists and civilians, not spies – so the idea that we’d be snared by such an endeavor never even crossed our minds. There’s a lot more to say about this as well.

On August 23, 1991 Chris married Valarie Rea Cauldwell. Valarie seems to have been a honeytrap in the making for Chris since she was a young child, and I suspect that Chris’ family members fully knew this, though Chris never did. In January 2005 Chris and Valarie divorced and on February 14, 2007, Chris married Denise Hackett Smith. Chris and Denises’ relationship was long distance, they never shared a household (though Chris believed that one day they would), and they didn’t get along for more than a few days at a time. Denise was, from my perspective, deliberately emotionally abusive to Chris. After 15 months, Denise filed for divorce.

Chris, until the day he died, believed that Denise practiced “radical honesty” – but that was never true, and if Chris had truly thought about it, he too would have realized it wasn’t true, being as long after their divorce, Denise had a habit of contacting (and/or responding inappropriately to) Chris behind my back. I am not saying this as a specific criticism to Denise – but the truth is, that the kind of deception that has surrounded both Chris and me is so thick, pervasive, systematic and damaging – I think at the very least I should be free to air it out a little bit.

Chris and I met in 2007, and became a couple in March 2009, about three months after his divorce from Denise was final. Our intentions to marry officially were deliberately thwarted in different ways by a number of different people.

The truth is, considering the big picture, Chris and I should have met much earlier than we did. I am not necessarily defending the structure into which we were placed, but if you are going to have a system in which two people are destined from birth to be together, it is unkind to keep them separated and set up with honeytraps year after year after year.

 

Chris’ biography, memoirs

Some people have taken an interest in the fact that Chris began writing his memoirs. This is something he started probably in 2010 after Eric Danielson published a short biography of Chris (dated Feb 28, 2010). Chris worked on his own memoir project off and on until the bizarre kidnapping incident happened to me in January 2014, at which point, I think that everything became so disrupted and confusing that he stopped.

Chris always gave me the impression of refusing to have his understanding of his past, his community, his place in the world shaken by the crazy things that were increasingly happening to and around us, but I suspect that deep down he knew something was off. In any case, our world was quite suddenly very profoundly disrupted, and he seemed to leave off the project at that time and never pick it up again. I know that he didn’t consider it a finished work, and that he wouldn’t have wanted it to have been distributed in its current form.

That said, it contains some useful biographical information as well as memories of experiences that were important to Chris. There is not as much about music in it as one might expect, even though Chris embodied rock n’ roll and loved reading biographies of other musicians. I think in part it’s because of where he was at the time, reassessing or remembering his life in terms of family and other relationships.

Chris was someone I became increasingly interested in between the years of 2006 and 2009 when we began work together musically. I was interested in him first as a musician. I had a lot of questions about him, as I could tell that he was extremely talented and accomplished, yet somehow at the same time, it was very difficult to find any of his albums, or even information about him online. After we’d begun to work together on music, I wrote a poem about him, which I published on MySpace, which was one of those poems I typed on the computer rather than writing down, and because of that, as far as I know, has unfortunately been lost to time. I do remember that I started out describing him as “Black cat, working life number 8” – and envisioned myself as something like an acolyte, following behind him, trying to gather together his recordings – his works. I remember that I had a line about the “moth holes in his blazer” which he thought was funny, because his clothing was not moth-eaten but damaged by cigarette burns.

The work that Eric Danielson did in 2009 and 2010, though flawed, was important because he was filling in blank spaces. The research Danielson did on Chris’ discography was particularly important. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Danielson has been working as a disinterested or supportive party, and that has resulted in increasing problems in what he’s been publishing. Danielson is hardly alone in this regard. There appears to be a system at work which has been sabotaging Chris work and life going back to his childhood, while also consistently and relentlessly wiping away evidence of Chris’ entire existence.

I am determined not to let the wiping machine win.

There is really a lot to be explained or discussed about how Chris approached his music and his legacy. Chris cared about his legacy. And if I had any doubts about that, looking back today at message Chris sent to Mark Lanegan in February 2021, it’s clear that Chris cared – in that moment, it felt to him like one of the most important things he’d done was record with Mark – an album that, like most of Chris’ records – no record label would touch, which Chris finally had to self-release on Bandcamp.

There’s a lot to be said about these things.

 

Untimely Deaths

Below is embedded a long thread I started in July 2020, trying to call attention to what I consider to be an unreasonably large number of untimely deaths of musicians in the Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco music scenes (of the 1980s, 1990s, mostly). I was trying to pound the alarm, basically, and put a stop to what I knew were not random events.

Little did I know that less than a year later, Chris would be gone, and less than two years later, Sam Henry would also be gone. These deaths, even though they are from cancers, heart attacks, car crashes – are murders.

Since Chris died, I see that misinformation has come out about, not just his death, but about his life. Reviewing his Wikipedia page the other day, I felt that I shouldn’t just let what I knew to be either false information, or gaping holes in the true information (he died of cancer, but it was still murder) – stand completely unchallenged.

In June 2021 I spent about two days straight attempting to report Chris’ death to Portland Police as a murder, and they spent two days avoiding and/or discounting me, refusing to even take a report, much less open an investigation. In fact, I have a lot of information supporting the fact that Chris was murdered, and that many people were involved.

Nonetheless, as time goes by, and people continue to die from these same kinds of financed, slander-instigated, wireless attacks, I think it is actually important that the true story is supported and brought forward until it at the very least becomes part of the narrative.

 

Napalm Beach at Mayor’s Ball Too 1988, 1989

Napalm Beach played Mayor’s Ball Too 1988 and 1989. I remember someone mentioning that Chris dedicated his Snow Bud song “Killer Bud” to Mayor John Elwood “Bud” Clark (1931-2022). Clark apparently owned the bar where Chris’ bandmate Doug Naish (ex-Crackerbash little brother of former Wipers drummer Brad Naish) works. I met Clark once visiting at Naish’s home when Naish was drumming with Boo Frog.

Related documents (The Oregonian articles) PDFs

 

Untouchables at Long Goodbye – May 18, 1980

I have now found a part of Chris’ draft memoir that claims that The Untouchables did play on the night of the Mt St Helens eruption, at the Long Goodbye. It was possibly their first show in Portland, but it’s hard to tell as Chris was writing stream of consciousness and he would veer off on tangents. So it is possible that May 18, 1980 was the date of The Goners/Untouchables first show with Longview band, ALOST. However, Chris was pretty clear that the show where he met Greg Sage was the following June with Fred and Toody’s The Rats and Tom Roberts’ Imperialist Pigs. (Chris would never call Roberts by the “Pigg” nickname which he found insulting.)

 

Untouchables first show at Long Goodbye – 1980

With regards to the Danielson biography, I’ve realized that what started out as a seemingly minor detail and/or – depending on what you’re willing to see – a red flag – in Chris’ story – deserves a bit more attention. (There are actually a number of these “minor detail red flags” but anyway – this is one.)

This is the issue of the Mt St Helens explosion on May 18, 1980, which, according to Eric Danielson, was the same date that Chris’ band The Untouchables played their first show in Portland (Rocky Road To Recovery, p 13). Unlike the date of Snow Bud’s first performance in 1986 coinciding with the Challenger disaster, I personally don’t recall Chris mentioning this date link (1/27/22 note – see here for update). Eric does not provide the source for this claim, and I can’t find any corroborating data online. This seems to be new information, as it does not appear in Danielson’s 2010 essay.

The more I dig into this assertion, the more threads of all different types seem to begin to untangle, some of these being significant to Chris’ life, others being significant to gaining insight on a number of other issues from the history of northwest music.

So let’s start with the assertion itself – something that, unless there is some other indisputable primary source that Danielson had access too – should ideally have been confirmed with Chris while he was alive. Was the Untouchable’s first gig in Portland on May 18, 1980? And did they play with The Rats at the Long Goodbye, with Greg Sage in the audience?

Based on Chris’ writings, the venue is correct – their first show was at the Long Goodbye – but I can’t confirm the date and the reported line up doesn’t match. Chris wrote in a draft memoir that The Untouchables first show was at the Long Goodbye, and that they opened for a Longview band called ALOST. Further examination, however, shows that in fact, Chris’ band was at that time, indeed called The Goners. However, according to what ALOST reported to Chris, the band was listed on the poster advertising the show as The Untouchables. In other words – for some reason – the club itself changed the band name on the poster, and Chris and the boys just rolled with it. They became The Untouchables.

Could this shine light on the March 31, 1989 poster for Pine Street Theatre swapping the band name Alcoholics Unanimous with Mudhoney? It remains a mystery.

In any case, this incident shows, from my perspective, how suggestible Chris could be, and how casually he could accept some things, like the changing of his band name, that others (such as myself) might take much more seriously.

Other than Chris’ narrative, I am unable to find any additional information on the band that was called ALOST – including when they played at Long Goodbye. If nothing else you can say that ALOST band lived up to their name.

According to Chris’ draft memoir, the show that Danielson is referring to – where The Untouchables played at the Long Goodbye with the Rats, and Greg Sage in the audience, was in June 1980. In his writings, Chris says on that night there were “Four awesome bands” and notes that The Rats were headlining – but he goes on to list only three bands in total. The line up he lists was The Imperialist Pigs – a proto-Poison Idea band fronted by Tom Roberts (who died in 2006, age 47); The Untouchables (specifically, Chris Newman, Mark Nelson, Dave Koenig, Chon Carter); and The Rats – Fred Cole, Toody Cole, and Sam Henry. Sam had recently left the Wipers. This was the show with Greg Sage in the audience.

If I had to guess – I’d suspect that Chris writing “four awesome bands” was an error – that he had the image of Greg Sage in his head which glitched his memory – but the Wipers didn’t actually play that night.

Did Chris know for a fact that this was June 1980 and not May 18? I don’t know, but the sense I get is that not only was this not the first show that he played at the Long Goodbye – that The Untouchables had already played a few shows, mostly at the Long Goodbye, and Chris seems to have felt that Sage may have been there specifically to see The Untouchables perform.

It seems that this given date of May 18, 1980 being a “first” for The Untouchables is not correct, and without any corroborating evidence it’s hard to know if The Untouchables even played on this date. If they did – where’s the source?

Why do I call this detail a “red flag”? For a couple of reasons. First, in terms of the history of the band – if Danielson cannot provide a source or any corroborating evidence for this claim – it means that it’s just something he heard or even something he made up. This, along with a refusal to acknowledge or correct false information when presented with conflicting evidence from primary sources – makes him a profoundly unreliable historian. And this is a bit remarkable, considering that, according to his Amazon author’s bio, he has a journalism degree (B.A. Western Washington University, Bellingham) and two history degrees (B.A. University of Washington, Seattle; M.A. George Washington University, Washington D.C.).

Mind you – this is just one of Danielson’s many problematic or demonstrably false claims. And with so many problems in this document, it’s hard to wonder if there’s a reason why this came after Chris’ death. It’s particularly important because when not much work has been published about an artist, every work that is published has greater weight, and false or misleading information can be carried from one document to the next. And if you don’t cite your sources, it can be near impossible to trace down where anything came from.

This, by the way, has been an ongoing issue between me and other historians of northwest music. Some are more problematic than others, but all seem to be actively hiding or altering certain bits of information.

The other reason I called this detail about the Mt St Helens eruption a “red flag” is that there does in fact seem to be some strange connections to Mt St Helens in terms of dates, names, locations, etc. Whether that’s something I want to get into – or at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid – whether it was a trap Danielson laid for me – I haven’t decided.

painting of post-eruption Mt St Helens from Kurt Cobain's collection
Cross, Charles – Cobain Unseen (2008) – p 98-99
image from Kurt Cobain’s collection described as “landscape painting” is clearly post-eruption Mt St Helens with writing across the top, reading “Frances Farmer will come back as fire to burn all the liars and leave a blanket of ash on the ground”