Saturday, February 27, 2010

Three bands for Milton Garrison or a Vexed-related post

While I was searching on a gig poster website, about a week ago, I decided to type a rather familiar band, namely The U-Men. The only poster that drew my attention and finally made me came back so soon with a new mystery solved, was the one you see on the left. It features the great north-west legends The Wipers and the U-Men, along with Altered and Circle Seven.
I wrote here a little piece about Vexed a couple of months ago, and I got to admit I didn’t insist that much on the roots of the band. In other words, among others, I also forgot to note that other previous bands in which Milton Garrison played before Vexed, were In Vitro Pope and Altered. Apparently Milton’s website doesn’t mention anything about these last two or about his contribution in the band Yeast. And so quickly I was stricken by the idea of writing a post about all Milton’s projects. Being aware of not having any rich sources I could use, I’ve contacted Milton Garrison. He was really kind and answered to some questions I had about his music involvement along the years.

1. What can you tell me about the bands In Vitro Pope, Altered, and Yeast?
In Vitro Pope: 82-83
The band's genesis was a weekly jam among my self and two teen women non-musicians. At the time I could barely play and I was “the band leader,” if such a thing existed. We sucked badly in most ways but enthusiasm. But the U-Men, especially Tom Price, were very kind and agreed to play a party or two with us.. I never tried very hard to play the songs. I just made noise. I loved the band more than I can tell you. And shared a tear at it's terminal moment.

We have a demo tape which as I recall was recorded in our bass player's attic. The session was really called for Limp Richards a NW noise band if there ever was one. But since it was at our bassist's house we horned in and got a tape out of it. My chief bit was to turn the phaser on full and bash all six of the strings of the fender copy (property of Patrick McCabe of Drills, and active on many recordings of the drills,) and wail about the existential wash that was Reagan era landscape. I think Jack Endino digitized it for me. I'll look again.

The Altered: 83-84
Hiro Yamamoto: bass
Billy Warner: drums
Milton Garrison: Guitar and Vox
At the time the In Vitro Pope tape was recorded, Billy was jamming with Hiro Yamamoto and Kim Thayil whom he had found through the grape vine. Both were fresh young men from Chicago.

Although Billy and I were best friends, I was seriously worried. Because you didn't have to go far to find a better singer, writer or guitar player than I. Having said that, at the time I was blossoming as a guitar player. I embraced song structure if not guitar technique. I enabled a different chord voicing for each song. Needless to say we weren't punk nor metal enough for most tastes.

Hiro decided to cast his lot with Billy and I. We spent several months woodsheding and then actively gigged. At one time Hiro and Billy lived in the same house with Chris Cornell. We rehearsed in the largest room, it was Hiro's.

Fortunately for us, we had good friends that got us booked at the big, for the time, all ages venue, Metropolis. We ended up playing at least five times there opening for national acts: The Wipers, and Violent Femmes among many peer local bands of the day. At that time the owner of the Met said that I made him laugh. Splui Numa was a proto grunge band of the time that also played often. As I recall , they were quite witty; as were Mr Epp, with stage banter. We were later joined by a talented singer and writer with which we gigged briefly. We never recorded.

Yeast: 87-89
Memory does not serve all personnel changes. The base membership was the following:
Al Tompkins: bass
Daniel House: drums and vocals
Matt Cameron: drums at one or two shows when our drummer bailed.
Milton Garrison: Guitar and Vox

Of all my bands this was the only “off” band that I gigged with. Formed with members of Vexed, Daddy Hate Box, Skin Yard, and Soundgarden it was also the sloppiest since IP. I also thought we had the best chance of getting a deal. Although Soundgarden was one of the few being signed by that time, things we're feeling ripe in Seattle.

I had heard Nirvana, Tad, and the rest and could tell something was changing. But I was sure Vexed wouldn't be part of it. So for a time, Al and I tried to take the band to a different level with trying different drummers and vocalists until I retired from public performance in 1990. I would reemerge to reform Vexed in 92'.

2. Did any of these bands release anything? (If yes, what was the record label and who was the producer(s) of the material(s)?)

Yeast was the only band of those listed above, other than Vexed, to record. C/Z records released: Too much of one thing b/w this; a 7” 45. We we're also on a Teriyaki Asthma. Jack Endino, Rich Hinklin and Phil Ek worked on various recordings.

3. With whom did Yeast share bills that era?
Yeast played with many of the heavies of the era including: Tad, Love Battery and Soundgarden. We also played with Common Language and other alt rock bands playing the circuit; Squid Row, The Vouge, the Central and other lesser known clubs.

4. Did any of the bands, In Vitro Pope and Altered, share a similar sound to Vexed?
Not really, none of the other bands I played in sounded much like 1988 Vexed. But you need to understand Vexed was really three different bands. The early 84 version was more similar to Pell Mell and Talking Heads than Killing Joke. That would come later when we nailed our style. So I'd have to say that early Vexed sounded like late The Altered and to a lesser extent, Alfred Butler's earlier band Death of Maratt.

5. Was Vexed already formed when you were performing in the band The Drills?
The collaboration I did The Drills happened largely in the early 80s. The earliest around 82'. So my involvement occurred during In Vitro Pope and The Altered. Some may have happened during early Vexed.
6.Did you perform in other bands after Vexed split?
You know I didn't until last year. I formed the band: Enter the Nine and played about a year: This band had more to do with all the bands I've been and none. I say this because I put it together with out any preconceived notion as to what we would play. I called it a mix of Neil Young and Fugazi. It will sound like Seattle to some folks. And that's fine because I'm proud to be lumped with Seattle bands. I love that heritage.

7. Have you done any reunion shows for either of these bands?
I'm currently recording some songs on my PC. The bassist of Enter the Nine, Steve Alpers, will contribute to the project. I finished the preproduction in January 2010. I've since been layering. It will sound decidedly more pop than many of my previous efforts. But I sill love punk and metal and you can hear that in the mix. I will post the songs to myspace.

As for previous efforts: That's something I'd do in a heartbeat believe me and I think I've made it clear to one or two people of that. So for the record I'm interested.

Milton also offered to get me in touch with Allen Tompkins. I didn’t missed that chance as I wanted to find out more about the band Yeast. See bellow :
”Yeast was a collaborative side project that started with me, Milton, and Daniel House (CZ records owner) about 1988-89 or so. Over the short time we played together, we had 2 additional singers, Micheal Fantod, and Eric Johnson (Pearl Jam's go to guy). We opened for a number of fairly bad ass local shows, but never hit the road. That was really the only regret, but we really didn't need to tour.

Our single "Crisco Wristwatch" had both accolades and a bitter hate letter from the Yeasty Girls of NY... with a cease and desist threat, claiming first right to use the word Yeast... I remember that Daniel framed the letter and had it on the wall of the SubPop offices. The record cover, if you can find it, is classic!”

What are your best memories from that time?
“My coolest memory was a benefit show we did for The Fluid, on tour in Seattle, their equipment was ripped off. The lineup was pretty cool: Yeast opening for SoundGarden, Mudhoney and the Fluid. I remember passing out fliers the week before at a Mother Love Bone and Jane's Addiction show.”

Allen Tompkins played in a number of Seattle band starting from ’85. That list includes: Strange Bulge, Ebb and Flow, Death and Taxes, SET, Yeast, Mr Happy (members of The Derelicts and Gas Huffer) , Daddy Hate Box (members of TAD and Coffin Break) , Curtis (Joy Division cover band), Wally World, The Sheites, Kristen Barry's Band, Jangletown, Sledge, Derision, Mustard, Resonator, El Revengo, Dark Matter Noise, The Jaggies, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (Tad's new band). Currently he plays in Misericords along with Kurt Danielson and Mike Mongrain.

from Yeast - Crisco Wristwatch 7''
Too much of one thing


Anonymous said...

good~ keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice day........................................

AT said...

I think Jeff Kleinsmith (of Stymie and Fireclown) designed that Vexed poster.

Ho said...

Just for the record, the lineup for that Fluid benefit show that Allen Tompkins refers to at the very end of this post was Soundgarden, Fluid, Swallow and Vexed. No Mudhoney. It was the only time Swallow played as a three-piece as their guitarist had a motorcycle accident & was in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Just found an in vitro pope live tape....
Trying to digitize....

Anonymous said...

Live invitro pope tape at

David Larew said... check out my youtube for more...very cool archives