Happy 2016 Music Consumer Action Team!
We leave 2015 in the rear view mirror and prepare for the bold new world of 2016. Probably the biggest change here at GMR headquarters is we will be moving down the road a bit in March to Olympia. I will be preparing a new recording space and all that stuff, so hopefully we won’t get too messed up on our scheduled releases in the next few months. This year we are preparing to release The Navins, which we almost did a years or so ago, Liquid Generation, whose single we put out a million years ago, the Green Pajamas and King County Queens are making new album noises. I am planning to get 1-2 new Tom Dyer albums of some sort out this year and most excitingly, we are preparing to reissue our most obscure release ever: Joe Leonard’s Rock Opera Breath! And that’s just the stuff we know about right now. We have some other interesting possibilities that we shall just have to see how they pan out. As with each year some of that will happen and some things we haven’t even thought about will happen. How glorious!
Which brings us to the Cheaters. As you may have noticed, they made my Top 10 albums of 2015. If not, behold.
Tom Dyer’s Top 10 of 2015 – The Final Tally!
1. The Sonics – This Is The Sonics
2. Industrial Revelation – Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri
3. K. Leimer – the grey catalog
4. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
5. Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities
6. Trees and Timber – Hello, My Name is Love
7. Sam Phillips – The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll
8. D’Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah
9. Minus 5 – Dungeon Golds
10. The Cheaters – see you next year fuckbrains
11. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
12. Future Fridays – From Fun-zo to Done-zo
What, you ask? Here’s the scoop.
In 1980, The Cheaters put out a deadly 7” single. Bought it. Have it. Thirty-five years later they have put out an album. Su-weet Jesus.
The Cheaters were the band of the Nathan Hale high school bothers Bloch – Kurt and Al. In their pictures they look like they were having fun. On their record they SOUND like they are have fun. Kurt went on to The Fastbacks and Young Fresh Fellows and is a regular bon vivant about Seattle town (he is rumored to be the mad genius behind Full Toilet as well). Al played in Concrete Blonde and Wool and now lives in Virginia or Maryland or somewhere. This is all done before they knew better and just wanted rock like all good kids do. Proof? They vigorously cover Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and The Black” in 1978 when everybody else was full on into the world of punk rock. Sweet, sweet Jesus.
This year Kurt decided to pull the Cheaters finest works together and release them on a 12” slab of pretty blue translucent vinyl. Plus you get a download with an extra 9 songs. If you like to rock with abandon and give not two hoots about pretty – I advise you to get on this. Kurt only made 250 – when they are gone, they are gone, gone, gone.
Shows: The Navins at the Rebar January 13th 7:00, the debut of Swedish Finnish (Rod Fuzz, Tina (Ms. Rod Fuzz), Andy Fuzz) at Darrell's Sat Jan 16, The OF at Markos in Roslyn Sat Jan 23,The Fuzz at Darrell’s Jan 30. Rock on brothers and sisters!
That should hold you for the moment.
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2. Safety Tips For You
3. Blow It Up
4. The Red And The Black
5. No Reaction
6. I Want To Be Electric
7. Johnny Get Your Gun
8. (How Would You Like To Be The) Iceman
9. Welcome To The Force
10. Willard Stevens
11. Man As Hunter 2
12. Outta My Way 2
-NON-LP Bonus Tracks-
13. Man As Hunter (45)
14. I Talk To You (45)
15. (How Would You Like To Be The) Iceman (45)
16. Blow The Loser Horn
17. Evil Woman
18. I Stole
19. Iceman (June 1978)
20. Iceman intros
Tracks 1-10 Recorded in 1978 by Randall Fehr and company, except 11 & 12 recorded by Hugh Jones in 1979. All recordings previously unreleased. Ltd. edition of 200. Includes 4 page picture book and full album download with nine bonus tracks.
Album number on the disc = N3-014 Album number on the cover = N3-O15
Buy album through discogs.com
Scott Dittman – Vocals
Kurt Bloch - Electric Guitar
Al Bloch - Bass Guitar
Dave Shumate - Drums
James Gascoigne (Drums -tracks: 11 & 12)
Randall Fehr Organ on Moog 3, 6, 9
TD: How did The Cheaters get started?
KURT: We were all neighbors, so it was the logical thing to do - I reckon punk made it all possible
AL: We really started the band before we knew how to play. We knew we wanted to have a band but we didn't know how. Kurt and I played a little, and Scott Dittman was our buddy, and was a really funny guy so of course he needed to be the singer. We started out all playing through one amp: guitar, bass, and vocals, in our basement. It sounded pretty crappy . . . or was it brilliant?
TD: Did you take the band seriously at the time?
KURT: For certain! Remember, we were 17-18 at the time, with all the trappings of being 17-18 at the time… Anger, frustration, arguing, all of that stuff was full-throttle!
AL: Very seriously. We were all trying to get better at what we did, learning how to play better and write better songs. Seeing bands at the time like The Enemy, Telepaths, Blackouts, etc . . . really was inspiring.
TD: Did the kids at your high school like The Cheaters?
KURT I don't think Nathan Hale was aware of The Cheaters, other than our friends - I don't think we were on the collective radar of the school
AL: Like Kurt said, they weren't even aware of us. They would think we were a joke anyway. It was 1978 and we weren't playing the crap that was on FM radio. We had our small group of friends, and that was about it.
TD: Where did you play?
KURT: Mainly at The Bird, in its various incarnations… a show in Olympia, I remember, and maybe Portland? Our final show was at UCT Hall on lower Queen Anne
(TD: The Bird was the first Seattle punk club – it lasted a couple months.)
TD: Were the album tracks recorded before your single?
KURT: Most definitely!
AL: I think the single was the last thing we recorded.
TD: What were the Randall Fehr and Hugh Jones recording sessions like?
KURT: Randy Fehr had a Tandberg reel-to-reel, just a 2-track machine, we recorded onto that, but the recordings are really 1-track, as the mixer (Sunn(((O))) if I remember) was only mono, so that's what we had! Hugh Jones actually had a Teac 4-track, so that was quite a lively upgrade!
AL: I don't know any of that information, but I remembered it was a lot of fun . . . and really exciting hearing the songs played back. We were playing our own songs, and we sounded better than I thought we would. It made me want to get better on the bass guitar.
TD: What was it like making your single at Triangle?
AL: It was not as fun to make as the other recordings, but it turned out nice.
KURT: Hard to remember… I DO remember The Talking Heads playing at the Egyptian (that's the one on Pike near Broadway?) that night, we had a cassette recorder with us to play the Man As Hunter sound effects on, so we brought it to the Talking Heads show and recorded it. I also remember wishing i had a Marshall amp, for some reason I didn't bring the killer-sounding Fender Tremolux that I used on the basement recordings, opting for a different amp with no distortion whatsoever. Triangle had a solid-state Peavey amp with distortion and tremolo, used that on an overdub (what luxury!) on I Talk To You. Of course we wondered why the recording didn't sound like The Dictators and Blue Oyster Cult and The Saints and all the bands we liked!
TD: How many Cheaters singles did you make - did you sell them all?
KURT: It was to have been 1,000 copies, but a large portion of them had ripped-up labels - really bad looking. I sent them back and demanded they repress them. Pressing plant (Tembo) immediately went out of business, those were gone for good. The covers got really messed-up too, I don't know how many of those came out okay… we didn't know how to cut the paper properly, the printer did his best, under duress. I might have a few sleeveless copies somewhere still…
TD: Was it tricky starting your own record label in 1979?
KURT: Definitely forging full-on into unknown territory. Homer Spence was a great help, he had sort of orchestrated the release of The Telepaths 7", so he knew how to go about all that. MASTERED AT CAPITOL. He was in with the Triangle Studio guys as well, Jack Weaver.
TD:Did you guys fight like the brothers in the Kinks?
KURT: Me and Al didn't fight that much, if I remember correctly. We'd disagree on things a lot, but not too much fighting. Singer Scott, different story. But it was really hard to figure out what you were supposed to be like back then, are you TOTAL PUNK; well we liked lots of kinds of music, but what could we do with our limited vocabulary… Too Much Confusion.
AL: Kurt and I never fought much in the band. He taught me how to play guitar, so I had a certain respect for him. When we were younger though, he did hit me in the head with a 2x4 - but it wasn't much of a fight. He won that one.
TD: Why did the band break up?
KURT: Couldn't get along! Singer Scott Dittman was absolutely the funniest person I've ever met, as well as a total asshole, and impossible to be in a band with. Most of the time, I/we could laugh about things, but ultimately not! Scott and Al had a knock-down fist fight during a show, that signaled the end of that.
AL: Scott and I got into a fight on stage at the UCT Hall on Halloween 1979, and that was that. That's why I was dressed like a nurse . . . because it was Halloween. Scott Dittman was wearing some kind of dress also that night. I'm sure two young men in dresses punching it out looked pretty awesome. I wish there were photos of that! I formed WENIS after that with Dave Shumate. I played with Scott again in the Deans in 1981. Scott was a true original, and a hugely funny guy and I miss him very much.
TD: Some questions about the album: What’s the deal with The Iceman?
KB: He was from a reprint of a turn of the century Sears catalogue. "How Would You Like To Be The Iceman?" I can't remember what the toy was, that it advertised.
AL: I never knew that.
TD: Why is Al dressed up like nurse?
AL: Because I looked hot dressed like a nurse!
TD: Did the saw damage the guitar?
KURT: Indeed! Sawed that thing up pretty fierce! Tough on the strings, as well.
TD: Did you spend more time getting your pictures taken or playing music?
AL: We did take a lot of pictures, but we thought that was part of being in a band. We did practice often though.
KURT: Lulu and I were both in photography class in high school, out buddy Rob Brown was totally into it too. It just made sense to take lots of pix, we WERE a serious rock band, after all!
TD: How much money would Paul Allen have to put up to get The Cheaters to play a reunion show without the late Mr. Dittman?
KURT: Have to check with the others, but for me it's nothing to do with $, if we could find the right person to sing the songs, I could be coerced!
AL: I would do it for nothing if Paul Allen would sing for us.
TD: In closing: What was the best thing you did?
AL: The best thing we did was take the time to make these early recordings. We were lucky to have friends like Randall and Hugh. It must have taken a lot of patience. We weren't very good when we started, but having the luxury to record and hear how we really sounded helped us improve. Plus, it's great almost 40 years later to look back and see what we were doing. I hear these songs now, and I feel like that screwed up 17 year old all over again.
KURT: Best show I think we did was prob. IOGT Hall, Dec. '78. I'd heard there was a tape of that, but I've still never heard it. Along with some of those basement recordings, I'd say that'd be our best work!
TD: What was the worst thing you did?
KURT: There were some really terrible shows as well. We geared up to be hated early on, so we'd bring things to throw at the (non-existent) audience. Phonograph records, the worst was hot dogs. They came right back at us (duh) and squishy slimy stage not conducive to a proper technique! I guess bananas would be worse, but not by much. Funny thing is, no-one really hated us to start with. We had a song to play when things got out of hand - which they never really did, but we'd play it anyway. It was called "Stop That!"
AL: I don't think we did any WORST things, there were only BETTER and BEST things. Everything happened exactly as it was supposed to happen.
TD: Final words?
AL: Lulu Garguilo, Kim Warnick, Bob Westphal, Rob Brown, Shannon and Steve Headrick, Carla Abrams, Randall Fehr, Johnny Vinyl, Jeff Larson. These were our friends, and each one helped us be a band. We all had a lot of fun together, and I hope they remember those years as fondly as I do
KURT: CRAM IT.