Seattle-on-the-Lake: Hitsville’s Guide for Soon-to-Be-Recent Arrivals

Billboard’s detailed exegesis on Chicago this week–four stories covering an extraordinary four full pages, detailing the scene, the labels, and the bands, all under the banner headline “Chicago: Cutting Edge’s New Capital”–makes Chicago’s status as the next big rock ‘n’ roll thing as official as it gets. (Hitsville contributed an article on local labels.) What denizens of the last few next-big-thing scenes (Athens, Austin, Seattle) found was that such a designation immediately produces a wave of bands and industry people panning for gold. Despite the obvious opportunities for hazing such a situation presents, it’s probably incumbent on us to make these pilgrims as comfortable as possible in the months ahead. To some extent they will be helped by Billboard’s thoughtful inclusion of a map of Wicker Park, including such local landmarks as Idful studios and the Rainbo. But in order to facilitate what in the computer world is known as “buzzword compliance,” Hitsville offers the following potpourri of musical factoids for soon-to-be-recent arrivals.

Such information is not to be displayed wantonly; outsiders will want to use it only when the occasion demands fitting in. For example, you’re an enterprising A & R dude from Opportunistic Records. You walk into the Rainbo. As per number two below, you say:

Wrong: “Hey, is National Kato here?”

Right: “Nate around?”

Other than that, you’re on your own.

1. Steve Albini’s new band is called Shellac. The other members of it are drummer Todd Trainer, from Rifle Sport, and bassist Bob Weston, from the Volcano Suns. But Albini doesn’t want any publicity.

2. National Kato’s real name is Nathan David Kaatrud. He now likes to be called “Nash,” but old friends call him “Nate.”

3. Refer to local scenesters using their business affiliation as a surname: Mike Potential, Rick Didjit, Dave Medusa. On the liner notes to Saturation, Urge Overkill thanks Pat Empire: That’s Pat Daly, who puts out the Empire Monthly fanzine.

4. Blackie Onassis’s real name is Johnny Rowan. He grew up in Beverly.

5. Urge’s name comes from the Parliament song “Funkentelechy”: “Brought to you by the makers of Mr. Pro-Long / Better known as Urge Overkill / The pimping of the pleasure principle.”

6. Radio stations are referred to almost exclusively sans the “W”: ‘XRT, ‘NUR, ‘CBR.

7. Courtney Love was on the rebound from Billy Corgan when she first met Kurt Cobain, on the Chicago stop of the Nevermind tour.

8. Before Ministry, Al Jourgensen was a guitar player for hire in a new-wave band called Special Affect; now he’s moved to Austin, to hang with the Butthole Surfers.

9. Metro was called Stages back in 1982; when current owners Joe Shanahan and Joe Prino took it over they called it Cabaret Metro. But they changed the name to just Metro last year.

10. The Jesus Lizard’s complicated family tree is as follows: David Yow used to be in Scratch Acid, who were from Austin; he played bass originally, then became the singer. Scratch Acid’s rhythm section was bassist David Wm. Sims and drummer Rey Washam. Those guys all knew guitarist Duane Denison. Then they all moved to Chicago; Sims and Washam backed Albini in Rapeman. Then Sims joined Yow, Denison, and drummer Mac McNeilly in the Jesus Lizard.

11. That’s the Jesus Lizard, not Jesus Lizard.

12. Members of two fairly well known groups have recently moved to Chicago. Poi Dog Pondering leader Frank Orrall and several other members came here in 1992 from Austin. Now officially reconstituted under the name Poi, the band includes Poi Doggers Dave Crawford (trumpet), Susan Voelz (violin), and John Nelson (percussion); saxophone players Brigid Murphy and Paul Mertens; Dag Juhlin of the Slugs; and ex-Mekons drummer Steven Goulding.

13. Goulding moved here from England in 1989 to be with his wife, a Chicagoan. Mekons mainstay Jon Langford followed in 1992 for the same reason. (To be with his own wife, not Goulding’s.) But the Mekons aren’t dead: there’s a new record coming out on Touch and Go sister label Quarter Stick this fall. Langford’s also a visual artist: it was he who penned the cartoon history of Urge Overkill in NewCity a few months back.

Chart Watch

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream falls to 20 on the Billboard 200 album chart after its astonishing debut at number 10 last week. The drop is no big deal: it conforms to sales patterns now that Billboard uses the SoundScan method of counting actual numbers of records sold each week instead of relying on record stores’ general sense of things. The first single, “Cherub Rock,” hits MTV’s ultracoveted Buzz Bin this week, vindicating Billy Corgan in his insistence that it, rather than the more radio-friendly “Today,” be the first single. Meanwhile, Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana” rises to 13 with a bullet on the Album Rock Tracks chart, domain of the likes of Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, and Bon Jovi. Word is that album radio doesn’t necessarily sell records (only MTV does that anymore), but who’da thunk it? Urge guested on 120 Minutes last week, but the show’s resident numbskull, Lewis Largent, asked lame questions. Meanwhile, Liz Phair was the subject of a three-minute interview with MTV newsperson Tabitha Soren over the weekend. The segment featured the two of them engaged in pretty frank girl talk (Q: “How did you rationalize sleeping with your first boyfriend?” A: “I was a late bloomer. I didn’t have sex till I was about 19”) as they sunned themselves at the beach and rode roller coasters at Coney Island.