400 Pounds of Punk
He Once Ate a Small Child
scum stats: if there are more than twenty of these out there, I'd be shocked. I'd bet less than half that
As a primer for this post, it helps to have already read this piece...
ok, ok...Cassette Store Day has come and gone and to help celebrate the
meaningless event, I'll talk about an actual real live cassette here that is virtually unknown.
I went to school with Scott Riker, the guitar player in 400
Pounds of Punk. I'd heard in the halls there was someone else who liked
Nirvana to an unhealthy degree. We chatted a bit, probably traded some
bootlegs (back then I had the Into the Black 6 x CD boxset which made me
particularly cool to a specific subset of dorks...I actually still have
it, so you know, if you're a dork).
Scott played guitar and told me he had a band called 400 Pounds
of Punk. At that same time, my buddy Nick and I had a band we were
calling the Rags. Sophomore year. 1997-1998.
In a totally unrelated world, my uncle Jack was starting his band
the White Stripes. One of their first shows was opening for the band
Rocket 455. Jeff Meier, one of the guitarists in Rocket, struck up a
friendship with Jack. I remember, clearly, being at Jack's house in
Southwest Detroit while Jeff was there hanging out. Jack said, "Hey
Jeff, what's the name of your nephew's band we're recording tomorrow?"
to which Jeff replied "400 Pounds of Punk."
I was gobsmacked. Of all the suburban teenage bands out there,
how in the HELL were these guys, to which I had mentally self-invented a
rivalry, recording with MY uncle?
It took me all of five seconds to simmer down. I probably used the perceived slight to practice more. Whatever.
Jeff's nephew, Mike Audia, was the drummer in 400 Pounds of Punk.
Jamie Cherry was the singer, but I'm not sure if he was anyone's
The session seemed to go smooth from what I gathered.
Jack and Jeff probably worked together with the engineering duties.
While only five songs were on the released cassette, the full session
contained a few more, including covers of Nirvana's "Drain You" and
Me and Nick, as the Rags, would go to Jack's house a few months
later and record our two Nirvana covers, "Frances Farmer Will Have Her
Revenge on Seattle" and, duh, "Drain You."
(seriously, if you don't like "Drain You", you're not a REAL Nirvana fan)
The master reel for 400 Pounds of Punk is dated 1-3-98, and even
though I would've thought the session took place as much as a month or
two earlier, I do need to resign myself to the fact that there can very
easily be gaps in my memory.
My biggest take away from all of this is...thank god for cool
uncles guiding aimless punk nephews. Should I ever have a nephew, I will
happily repay my debt to society. Second takeaway...man, I was as
pretty shitty drummer. Probably still am. Mike is SOOOO good on the
tape, blast beats and fills for days. Literally did not feel like a
teenager should be able to play so good. Third takeaway...why didn't I
ask Jack to sing with us??!?!?! Duh. Big regret over here.
Jeff plays the sick guitar solo/lead on the cover of "One Way Or Another" and I'm pretty sure this is the only recording ever with both Jack and Jeff performing together. A nice capture of a brief moment in time that was seemingly forgotten/ignored for far too long.
Pounds of Punk later changed their name to the Surgeon Generals and
actually released a CD on a label either called Jeff Row or Jeth Row or
some weird play on that phrase. Like this cassette, there is NO info to
be found about that CD anywhere, but I know there's a copy of it in my
basement somewhere. Nick and I played the same bill as them, the only
time Nick and I ever took the stage together, for Notre Dame High School
battle of the bands. Spring of '99. We lost, so did Surgeon Generals,
this pretty boy named Ian had a band that did all Creed covers and
Nick and I were joined by Larry on bass and we
did covers like Nirvana "Sliver" and "Dive" and then other things like
"Louie Louie." I remember not feeling great about the performance. I
wanted us to look sharp, so I brought a bunch of suit coats and ties for
us to try class up the joint. In one of the most beautiful memories of
my life, Larry's back is facing me, fiddling with a tie, turns around
and says "How's this look?"
He was wearing a navy blue corduroy jacket, a tie, and no shirt.
It was beautiful. This is what passed for rebellion in an all-boys
Catholic high school. Never mind that Nick, our vocalist, started the
show with a call to the crowd to come closer to the stage, "Come one,
come all...gay and straight alike." I thought we were gonna get pulled
off-stage before even playing note one. I think my bass drum kept
sliding away, songs didn't go off as planned, I was frustrated. I had
them introduce us as The Mindbenders for some reason. Ugh. Sixteen is a
I'm sure there's more to be told, but the girls are swinging from the rafters. It's amazing I was able to write this at all.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
The kind folks at the Detroit Institute of Arts asked me if I could provide a soundtrack to their current Lost and Found exhibit, highlighting vernacular and found photography spanning from the 1860's through the 1970's. I decided to focus on lost and found recordings from the second half of the 20th century. From Detroit. That didn't get flagged by Soundcloud's content management filter.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Seems like Fantano "The Internet's Busiest Music Nerd" has a bit of a following. Also seems like I need to figure out whether I need to look at MY picture or HIS picture when speaking on Skype. Apologies for my less-than-crystalline audio quality...no one told me I needed a fancy microphone.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
Junior year of high school, Spring of 1998, a classmate named Al told me that he'd found a record store that sold local music. In one of the coolest questions ever asked of me, he said "What should I buy?"
Good thing the store was Car City Records, which basically served as my reason for being back then.
The scan above is the hand-written notes and recommendations I gave him back when I was still sixteen years old.
(Pay no attention to Ass Ponys, Mud Hunnie, Pestiside, Blood Rust, The Reble Rousers, Punk U, My Ass the Vampire, NoFX, KRS-One or Suicide Machines...he must've been getting info from some other punks who's tastes seem to not have aged as well.)
Al posted this on Instagram recently and I was shocked at how much I STILL stand by all of these claims and suggestions twenty years later. Either I'm extremely stunted, incredibly reliable, or a combination of the two.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
How A Letter From A Failing Independant Record Label Buoyed The Self-Esteem of a Clueless 15-year-old Virgin and Set Him on a Path of Vinyl Righteousness...
Pulled this one out of the basement recently and was shocked at how responsive, thoughtful and courteous the entire conversation was. When I emailed some of my friends at Sub Pop, their initial response was "Uh oh, how mean a reply was it?"
But this simple letter, along with some "Powered by Sub Pop" stickers, two Eric's Trip pins, something promotional for the Blue Rags (guitar picks? I can't exactly remember) was just the slightest nudge I needed to venture further into the world of independent record labels and mail order. I was 15 years old. I was already asking for classic albums on vinyl. I was salty that the address on the Foo Fighters first album never wrote back to me. I thought I was clever telling Sub Pop they were "swell."
I can never remind myself enough, but the smallest gesture can sometimes have the largest, most unexpected impact. Deep down inside, I don't think I would be on the exact path I'm on today 21 years later had I not received such a caring letter from a record label I adored.
Monday, April 30, 2018
A garage rock time capsule to say the least.
Unheard since 1997, please relish in a time in the not-too-distant past where I was actually not a member of the Dirtbombs. The performance is the EXACT reason why I fell in love with the band and the interview with Mick is revelatory. I could go on and on, but just trust me when I say it's worth the listen. Much respect to Allyson Baker, the then-teenaged CIUT DJ (and now dear friend) who was able to convince these guys to do this performance and was smart enough to tape it! University of Toronto radio...hell yeah.