Living in Buffalo, I've seen The Blowtops go through a Spinal Tap-esque succession of drummers and bass players, but throughout their close to ten years of existence the core of Aaron on guitar and Creepy Dave at the front have remained intact. That they've continued to evolve and improve as a band despite an ever-revolving rhythm section in a city that has gone from great for music (see the Baseball Furies/Rust Belt Revolt glory days), to a black hole (today) speaks for their perseverance and determination as musicians and artists. They've managed to create their most formidable line-up in their current incarnation, eschewing a bass player altogether and including Tracy (ex-Concubine Forming) on organ, and Scott (ex-hardcore bands and one time co-worker of Joe Domino) on drums and hardware. I've seen and heard a lot of Blowtops, and I can vouch that they are at their best right now, writing great songs, and at their peak live. This interview was conducted sometime earlier this year at the bar where Scott works, as we sat outside under heat lamps and smoked on a particularly mild late-winter evening in Buffalo. In true Blowtops fashion, a band to which nothing comes easy, I ended up recording the interview at high speed, which made transcribing a real bitch, and then lost the entire second tape. So what follows is what I could salvage. They're on tour any moment now on the West Coast with compadres Tractor Sex Fatality, so go and see them. The first recording of the "new" line-up will be available soon on Big Neck Records as the "Insect Mind" LP. I suggest picking it up, even if you weren't enthused with previous Blowtops efforts. It's their best yet, and quite a bit different than what they have done in the past.
TB: Tracy, how'd you end up in the band?
Tracy: It has a lot to do with work, that's how I met these guys...
Tracy: Yeah, they found me on a street corner begging for a job. No, Aaron was telling me how he wanted an organ player one time, and I mentioned how in my past I had taken spme piano lessons and could play a little bit, and he provided the organ and I tried out and it seems to have worked out.
TB: Were you playing in Concubine Forming then too?
Tracy: Yes, I was.
TB: Why get rid of the bass?
Aaron: Because bass players suck...we just wanted to try something a little different. So we decided to change the instrumentation. Our bass player at the time was going to switch to second guitar, but he ended up getting married or something and just quit, so it ended up as us four. We get along, no fights, and the more people you have in a band the more things go wrong anyway...
TB: So is this the most solid Blowtops line-up?
Tracy: You better say yes...
Aaron: It's the most solid as far as I don't think anyone's quitting anytime soon.
Dave: It's the best chemistry-wise we've ever had.
TB: You guys just recorded an ambum with Wharton Tiers recently. How was that?
Aaron: Kind of expensive. But he's really good, and he doesn't lie to you about whether you sound good or not. It's still at the same place place he recorded some Sonic Youth records and stuff, in the basement of his brownstone. It was interesting, you could sit down there and look at like the the master tapes of the first White Zombie record and stuff like that. Which is actually a good record.
TB: So did the early White Zombie vibe come through on the recordings?
Aaron: I wish (Laughs). I guess we took too long though, like ten hours. He was telling us that record only took like six hours to record and mix...
TB: So who's putting it out?
Aaron: The new recordings are being released on Big Neck Records. We're supposed to have them for the tour but that could go either way. They will definitely be available through Big Neck in August or September.
TB: Speaking of Big Neck, you guys were Bart's first ever release. How helpful has Bart been in the history of the band?
Aaron: Incredibly helpful. He started the label because he doesn't play any instrument and he just like music a lot. He's not your typical label guy. After one drunken conversation years ago between me, him, and Sean from Jimmy Jack Hoodlums, it was decided the first release would be a split between us and them (JJH). But, like most everyone in Buffalo they had no initiative and never got anything done so they didn't get their shit recorded in time. So the first Big Neck release became a Blowtops single. Bart would do pretty much anything for any of the bands on the label, too.
TB: You've helped Big Neck find some of their "talent". Is it true you guys discovered The Mistreaters?
Aaron: That's what they like to say (laughs). Kevin Mistreater bugs me every time I see him about that crap. Last time I saw him when we played Milwaukee, he hugged me and thanked me for his career...but...he was just really psyched because they got to go to Holland and a bunch of places...
Dave: Actually, they discovered us.
Aaron: Yeah, we were doing some short tour, and we had an open date. They e-mailed me and we played with them, and they were the first band we ever played with out of town that we really liked.
Dave: That show was the most merch we ever sold...
Aaron: All to The Mistreaters!
Dave: If they would've just waited an hour, we became good enough friends where they would've just got it for free!
Aaron: They had only been together like six months, playing the stuff off that first tape. They were seriously the best band we'd played with that we had never heard before. I went home and told Bart to get in touch with them.
Dave: And now they're rock stars.
TB: You guys also have the distinction of being the first Buffalo band to do a record on Estrus, back when that was a big deal.
(Talk here turns to a discussion of local public access legend/entertainer Mr. Ski-Mask, who actually recorded the Blowtops a few times...this entire interview could be about Ski-Mask stories/history, so we'll save that for another day...)
TB: What were you trying to accomplish musically by forming the Blowtops years ago, and where are you going with it now? What bands were you drawing from?
Aaron: We were very excited at the time, of course.
TB: Before the Furies too...
Aaron: Yeah, they copy us.
Dave: They got the shittier cover too...
TB: What do you think of the bands on Estrus these days?
Dave: Who's on Estrus these days?
Aaron: Nuff said there, I guess. Well, The Mistreaters record is really good. That's a great record. I honestly don't know any other band on Estrus these days. The Mummies?
TB: They don't count. So after the single you did the LP on Flying Bomb. How did you hook up with them?
Aaron: From a demo tape we recorded. Jim Hollywood was still in the band and we mailed out like a hundred tapes and didn't hear back from anyone. And we were just mailing them to anyone we could think of. So we got back from tour and got a call from Andy and he asked us to come to Detroit and record. And it was the first time someone we didn't know liked our band, at least enough to pay for recording. So we went out there, played some shows with Bantam Rooster, met those guys, and did the recording with Jim Diamond in like six hours.
Dave: It was like the week after he had recorded the Andre Williams record.
Aaron: Yeah, it was really exciting, that was back when we were young and still got excited about these things...Mick Collins was in the studio. I was kind of let down though 'cause he didn't look as cool as he did on the Gories' records.
TB: What, he wasn't wearing a suit and skinny tie?
Aaron: Yeah, no suit. He kinda had a little beer belly. He was actually wearing sweat pants.
TB: Aw, total image crusher.
Aaron: Yeah. Sunglasses and sweatpants. I was totally sad...
Aaron: Initially, we were in more punk sounding bands called Suck and The Headknockers, and they split up and we just didn't want to do that stuff anymore. I didn't want to sing anymore, so I decided to play guitar, which I hadn't done since like sixth grade, and we told Dave he was gonna sing because he had never sung in a band, and he was also gonna play guitar.
Dave: Did you tell me or ask me?
Aaron: We told you, I'm pretty sure. It was like, look, this is what we're gonna do...
Dave: I think it was my choice. It's pretty funny that you knew I wanted to sing in a band since I was a kid...
Aaron: Ok, it was Dave's choice. We just wanted the songs to be slower and noisier and kind of heavy and whatever...we quickly learned we couldn't play very well, so we co-opted the garage style. And at the time, 1996 or so, all the garage stuff was still good, like the Estrus Makers stuff, The Mummies and shit, but no one used distortion at all, and it was all kinda clean sounding. Nosiy only because of overdrive or volume. But I wanted to use a lot of distortion, like on the early Jesus and Mary Chain records and Pussy Galore.
Dave: Nick Cave and Birthday party stuff too...
Aaron: We all ove the Birthday Party. Just the general creepiness of their records mostly.
TB: You did a good job combining Cramps/Misfits horror imagery with Big Black/Touch & Go kind of heaviness too...
Aaron: Because I love Big Black.
Dave: I love The Cramps.
Aaron: And I don't really think we sound like them...
Dave: Gun Club, Flesheaters...
Aaron: Cabaret Voltaire. The early stuff. "Mix Up" is a great record.
TB: Where'd the D.I. cover come from?
Aaron: I really like D.I., a lot of the early Rikk Agnew stuff. The First Christian Death record. We did an Adolescents cover when we recorded with Jay and Alicja.
Dave: With a blistering guitar solo by Jay Reatard! It'll be on the box set that's coming out in 2013. I'd cover the entire first Adolescents record...
Aaron: The last time we were drunk the subject arose that we were going to cover the entire Reagan Youth record. It seemed like a good idea.
Dave: I wasn't drunk.
Aaron: I was serious. We'll probably make more money playing in Buffalo doing that. I don't think we've told Tracy about this plan yet...
Dave: Nowadays we're just trying to jump on the garage bandwagon..
Aaron: Yeah, we're gonna be the next Jet.
TB: Aaron, please come clean about the fact that you are a huge Klaus Nomi fan...
Aaron: I like Klaus Nomi a lot.
Dave: It's true. Ever since I've known him.
Aaron: If I was a little more drunk I'd sing some Klaus Nomi right now. Seriously. Very poorly, but...
(The conversation here turns into a lenghty discussion of events that unfolded after and during the last Rock'n'Roll Bloodfeast, involving Steve RadioBeat, a spatula, busted chops, and a rampaging Mac Blackout, among other things, that could be an entirely separate article on it's own...)
TB: So what's going on in Buffalo. I have no idea, and I live here...
Aaron: I don't like a lot of bands that are here. But the difference between now and ten years ago is tha the bands that are playing are trying to do something, whether you like them or not they're getting out and trying to do more than play Broadway Joe's every Thursday. I like Trailerpark Tornados, and they're out touring, they have a van, they did an LP now. They're not just content playing the Tudor Lounge once a month which is great. Because as far as live music goes this town is dead. I could actually make some money in a Duran Duran cover band and play weddings and bar mitzvahs, but to do rock'n'roll originals is too hard now, unless you do something really palatable to normal people. Plus the DJ thing is big now, but it's all records you could listen to at home, so why bother going out? Hundreds of people go that DJ night at the Mohawk and they're just raking in the cash playing records, which I guess is brilliant because it's a lot easier than lugging around amps, but that just says something about the people in this city. Plus, Buffalo is holding on to Eighties metal like no other city in this country. Dave can attest to this.
Dave: Lots of mullets here.
Aaron: Yeah, if you want to have a huge following here just start a bad Cannibal Corpse rip off band and you will do nicely at The Continental. Buffalo is like five to ten years behind every other city.
Dave: Plus, being able to drink at bars until 4:oo am doesn't help...
Aaron: I've never been in a place in my life where I've known so many people that had so many good ideas that never happen.
Dave: They talk about it though.
Aaron: I've heard some great ideas in this town at 3:00 am/
Dave: That's 'cause you're drunk too.
Aaron: No, I remember them. And while they're telling me I'm thinking, what a great idea, shit, this is never gonna fucking happen. You gotta be fuckin' kidding me...
TB: If only one Blowtops record could survive, which would you want it to be?
(After this point Scott joined in on the interview and we talked about how he got in the band, his bicycle accidents, hardcore, and more shit about Buffalo if I remember correctly. It was pretty funny, trust me. Maybe the tape will surface in time to be transcribed for the Blowtops box set release...)
Dave: The one that's coming out next...
Aaron: Out of all of them, I think the 10" is the best. And the new one I just gave you, I think it's our best.
Tracy: The last one before I was in the band, with Sean on bass.
Aaron: We actually recorded that one with Wharton Tiers too.
TB: A different one than the one with Tracy on it that Bart is doing?
Aaron: Yeah, we never did anything with it. It made no sense. It wasn't rock'n'roll enough for the garage labels, and it was too garage for the weirder labels, so it just kinda got caught in the middle.
Dave: Well, Tracy likes it at least...
Interview by Rich Kroneiss
Pics by Dale Nixon
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