by Chris Newman
When I used to work part time at the sign shop, I would take an hour lunch at my buds house, Greg Slyter. Slyter was a real character. He reminded me of Dennis Hopper or Ed Norton the goofy neighbor on the Honeymooners. Slyter was a jazz nut, and a Hendrix buff. He played guitar and he always had the best pot in town. He wasn’t a dealer, but he would help out close friends. We got to be close. He didn’t hang with the chicks, ever. He camped, jet skied, and did moto cross racing, until he busted his jaw.
We had the Jam for Lunch Bunch, and others would join us too. We even became room mates for a while, but Kim couldn’t be trusted. The first week she was fucking my drummer Tim Pederson.
One Christmas vacation, I believe it was 1985, I decided to record a tape to amuse Slyter when he returned from his ski trip. I had a record called Drum Drops, it had studio recorded drum parts with fills running the average length of a typical song. They had Hard Rock, British Rock, Blues, Punk Rock. It had a lot of beats with fills and endings.
What I did was write down some silly song titles.
MARY JANE BROWN
SEEDS FOR THOUGHT
I then played bass along with the desired drum drop beat, and hit the record button. What ever came out was the basic track for the song. Then I had three more tracks open for guitars and vocals.
When I finished that night, after about six or seven hours straight, I listened. I got scared. What I heard happened so effortlessly and naturally, I felt like it was guided by the hand of the Devil himself. Of course i was stoned out of my gourd, and exhausted from working straight through the night without a break. Nothing fries the brain like recording, overdubbing, and mixing.
This of course was me still dealing with the remains of my religeous upbringing, which someone like me can take a lifetime to re-adjust to a normal mode of thinking. Even now at almost 60, I sometimes feel traces of guilt over my silly outdated childhood beliefs.
Needless to say, my tribute to Marijuana, and the music I grew up smoking it to, turned out to be a big hit with a lot of local kids.
Matt Loomis nabbed a cassette of the original recording. I called it SNOW BUD AND THE FLOWER PEOPLE, referencing a note I had left on Slyters door a few weeks before this recording. I had been wanting to obtain one quarter ounce of the new frosty white pot he had acquired called Snow Bud. My note was cryptic, so as to throw off any law enforcement officer happening to stroll by and read the note’s contents.
I need the new quarter inch tape of Snow Bud and the Flower People
That was where I came up with the goofy name. Matt told me all his friends and their friends want a cassette of Snow Bud and the Flower People. It was music styled from the mid 60’s early psychedelia we both grew up on. A naive time. The world belonged to the youth, and we were going to change some things. Slyter and Roth joined me in Gregs living room. We set up the oversized blue vista lite Ludwig drums, on loan from Tim, my sisters husband. Me and my Teac A-2340 4 Track and Roth’s keyboard, Twin Reverb amp, Fender Stratocaster, and my 1980 Gibson custom white Flying V. The Mig Muff Fuzztone, and Cry Baby Wah-wah pedal, and a MXR stereo Flanger, Boss echo pedal. That’s all I needed.
Jeff Roth was originally the drummer, and he could play the best fake jazz ever. He can play some cool Latin type beats too. I would play the caveman pounding drum parts,like on Bonghit and Killer Bud. I called myself TUMBA on drums. I was also FUZZ ROCKMAN on guitar and SNOW BUD on vocals and Ukelele.
When Roth heard the bizzare noisy sped up vocals and backwards masking on BAD TRIP he really freaked out. He was scared, and said “This is wrong, we can’t do this!” It was worse than my initial reaction.
That first cassette became an underground regional hit.
My friend Hippy Brad bought over one hundred cassettes from me and distributed them and sold some to kids on Haight Street in San Fransisco. He travelled there a lot. He owned the Pied Cow, a cool coffee shop on Belmont Avenue in Portland. He said kids were wearing jackets with Snow Bud and the Flower People on their backs. It was so great. I had complete control of this product. I would put together cassettes outside of 2nd Ave. records, and sell the owner twenty cassettes at $60.00, and they would double their money and sell for $6.00.
We hit Seattles Vogue nightclub. Mark Arm of Green River was there. He was digging the wah-wah and Big Muff fuzz pedals. He seemed to like the goofy retro buttons I had made and the beaded peace sign. Arm talked about Green River splitting up. He claimed some of the guys wanted to go the MTV route and the big bucks.
Pearl Jam became that band.
I told Mark Arm I admired him for sticking with his initial desire to play music he loved first and secondly for the fans, and hopefully some money.
The first couple of Mudhoney records were exciting and edgey. They were channeling Iggy Pop from the Rolling Stones inluenced RAW POWER stage in the Ig’s carrer.
When Napalm Beach was touring Europe it was the same club circuit that Mudhoney, Tad, Hole and Nirvana worked. I saw some cute graffiti left behind on the dressing room in a Hamburg venue. Courtney Love had left a message for Jerry A of Poison Idea, reminiscing about their practice space parties with 40 ouncers of Old English 800. I was a little hurt she never mentioned me on the walls. I did see the message from Mudhoney on the dressing room table in Stuttgart I believe. It said “HELLO NAPALM BEACH – Greetings from MUDHONEY!” with a drawing of a dripping syringe carved below.
Sub Pop was a new label. They started out as a fanzine and developed while Bruce Pavitt, Mark Arm, and Poneman worked at Muzac. Some other future label mates worked their too. That night at the Vogue in the Spring of 1986, Pavitt approached me in the backstage area. He was excited about the show and the cassette. He expressed interest in Snow Bud. I loved the Snow Bud music, but dreaded the thought of forever playing the cartoonish character the rest of my days. The music was inspired by the Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, the Stooges, Velvet Undergriund, and Gun Club. This was the music I was engrossed in and studying at that time.
As usual, I didn’t follow through. I wasn’t paying attention. I heard promising talk all the time. I didn’t realize these Seattle dudes were actually onto something. I could have grown with the SUB POP label, or possibly been buried by the label. They went on to become huge in the music industry, changing the whole playing field, and some of the the rules.
Music is competetive. They have the sleazy underhanded stuff going on. People ripping off ideas, and squelching and dousing the flame of their rivals.
Mother Love Bone was the first spin off of Green River. Andrew Wood was a little gypsy Steven Tyler type rock star in the making. I met him at the Satyricon the one night they headlined. He was friendly and respectful to me. He made me feel important, and that always endears a person to another. I was waiting outside the stall in the Satyricon Men’s room. Wood was on the single toilet, obscured by a crude curtain since the door had long been broken off. I was waiting to fix myself. I realized as I saw him stick the needle in his arm through the shabby curtain’s gaps.
Andrew Wood went on stage before a packed house and you could see him pointing to the bleachers at the top back row of the Kingdome in his mind. He was going to be the old school rockstar reborn.
It was sad when he overdosed a few months later, right on the verge of stardom. Eddie Vedder took his place as the Pearl Jam frontman. He is the “Every Man” frontman ala Bono.
I felt that these Seattle bands were getting every kind of break a band could wish for as far as exposure and good press. The trouble was 90% of it was mediocre bullshit.
There are potential Kurt Cobains and Elliot Smiths out there even now, but they will go unnoticed with the distractions and slight of hand drawing any attention away from the true and the beautiful. The bottom line is party bands and hate fuckers get on your nerves after a few listens, but a well crafted beautifully delivered song will tame the savage beast and make the little girls cry everytime.
Snow Bud did eventually get a Sub Pop release with the Single of the Month club series.
It was Killer Bud, (4 track version) and side two was “Third Shelf” from Green Thing, 24 track and Drew Canulette produced. It included a twelve panel cartoon, “Snow Bud in Hell” 1,000 in print. It was an honor and a delight to be on the label at the time. I recieved a few copies, and got paid a few hundred dollars, which I generously split with Jan Celt.