Friday, March 7, 2008

THE KILLJOYS (a.k.a. THE RAGING MANTRAS), Will (promo cassette, 1989)

NICK KIZIRNIS (who played guitar in THE KILLJOYS/RAGING MANTRAS) is playing a solo gig tomorrow night at Therapy. Show starts at 9 p.m.

Okay, if you want to skip my rant about snow, weather, and stupid people, just scroll down until you see the list of band members.

Let me guess: it's snowing like a motherfucker and you're stuck inside desperately browsing the web for something to keep your mind off the fact that you won't be able to go anywhere tonight or, if you're at work, that you still have to drive home in this shit?

Maybe I'm wrong about all that, but I, for one, am getting a little tired of this snow bullshit. Maybe it's global warming as Al Gore would have us believe (and I agree) or maybe it's god deciding to fuck with Ohio (and who could blame him?) or maybe it's the all-pervasive aura of crap and bad times that has always seemed to saturate this area, but whatever the reason, the weather around here is totally fucking off and has been for years now. Three days ago we had a monsoon -- today, a blizzard.

And I'm not going to be able to drive up to school tonight for Business Associations class. Oh yeah, did I mention that law schools never ever close for weather? Seriously. I mean, they do close sometimes, but in the last two and a half years, I remember Capital closing for weather exactly once -- and that was under far worse conditions than this. Maybe it's the bar's way of thinning the glut of lawyers that law schools produce -- I mean, 35% of the people who started with me have already dropped out, and apparently that's only a little more than typical (I think the national average is 25% or thereabouts). For the 60% remaining, maybe the bar figures they can cut that down if we have to make repeated death-defying journeys through mountains of snow all the time. Who knows?

But it's not really the weather or the driving or the shovelling that really crimps my dick, it's the way Daytonians react to the possibility of a few flakes of snow as if they are heralds of the apocalypse. No shit, people around here go absolutely insane with fear right before we get snow. The news today advised people to pick up ten gallons of water per day per person in the house! I went to the grocery store this morning to pick up some cat food, and as usual I found it jam packed with people grabbing snow shovels and filling up carts with groceries. I don't quite understand that. I mean, we've had some bad snow in the past, but at its worst, I don't remember being stuck in the house for more than a day, maybe two at most.

Yet people are stocking enough groceries for a week. I don't understand why they do that. Do they think we'll all be trapped in our houses for that long, even though it's meteorogically impossible for Ohio to get that much snow? Do they just not keep enough groceries on hand to last more than half a day? Is there something about snow that commands Americans to consume 200% more than the oversized portion of the world's resources that they consumer already? Fuck.

But what the hell? It's for exactly times like this that I save up the best treats to be found among our (meaning Grog's, Gail's, and my) collections of Gem City Arcana. This one comes from my bag of tricks. Let's do it:


Rob Schaefer - bass, vocals
Jim MacPherson - drums
Ed Lacy - keyboards
Nick Kizirnis - guitars, vocals
Gregg Spence - guitars, vocals

Gregg is not credited on any of the materials included on this tape (because he didn't usually play live with these guys), but I know he at least played some guitar on it (listen for the clean Rickenbacker -- all distorted guitars and all leads are by Nick), and I'm pretty sure he supplied some backing vocals.

The cassette is a Maxell UR 60 that Nick Kizirnis gave me long ago. The info sheet says the tape contains an "advance excerpt" from a planned full-length release called Will, but I'm pretty sure this is more than just an excerpt. Although Nick wrote the titles of only five songs on the insert, the tape actually contains eight. I'm pretty sure that's everything they recorded for Will.

Here's what the band has to say on the info sheet that came with this cassette:
Formed early in 1987, the Killjoys have been playing in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas and plan to release an all original cassette, entitled Will, early in 1990. The band has been called alternative/progressive rock, and are known for their strong live shows.

The Killjoys play original songs, though they will torture songs by the Jet Black Berries and True West, as well as pieces by other alternative/college oriented (whatever that means) bands.

The Killjoys are Rob Schaefer (bass and vocals), Jim MacPherson (drums), Ed Lacy (keyboards), and Nick Kizirnis (guitars and vocals). All four have been previously involved in other musical projects in the Dayton area. They are now playing in the midwest and promoting their upcoming cassette. The enclosed cassette is an advance excerpt from Will.
I've never seen a production copy of Will. THE KILLJOYS circulated tapes like this among radio stations, clubs, and friends for promotional purposes before Will was released. As I said, the tape is consumer branded, and came with an information sheet folded in a way so as to be slipped into the cassette case displaying part of a picture of the band (taken at Canal Street Tavern) through the front of the box. A scan of the sheet containing the full picture is included in the download package. Sorry about the fold lines, but it had been sitting in the cassette case folded up like that for fifteen years before I scanned it.

After changing their name to THE RAGING MANTRAS, this band released another cassette in 1991 called Fish Head Test Monkey Music (which may have been the first official release on Big Beef Records, but only Andy Valeri would know for sure).

I must've seen THE KILLJOYS dozens of times between 1988 and 1992, before and after they changed their name to THE RAGING MANTRAS (because, according to Ed, there were already too many other things named "Killjoy" at the time). Both THE OXYMORONS and PLANET ED played with them many times, and all of us got be fairly good friends. They were the only band that ever got me to dance (that includes DEMENTIA PRECOX -- much as I love 'em). Long before Nick gave me this cassette, all these tunes were pretty well burned into my brain just through seeing them live.

Rob Schaefer was a very tall guy with long hair, glasses, and huge hands for bass playing (Gail used to say he looked like a Teddy Graham from far away if you squinted right). As I remember, he was more or less the dominant creative force behind most of what THE KILLJOYS did. My impression is that Nick, Rob, Ed, and Jim contributed pretty much equally to the music and the whole theatrical thing that came with this band, but Rob had the most input overall and seemed to write most of the lyrics (if one of the band members would like to correct me on that, they should feel free). His day job at the time was as a manager at the famous Rock'n'Roll Kinko's on Brown Street (so called because pretty much every band in Dayton went there to get flyers done -- usually while Rob was working). After THE RAGING MANTRAS broke up, I believe he pursued that career full time. The last time I saw him was in 1994. Jen Cook and I came to Kinko's to get COLAVISION flyers copied. We talked for a while, and I never saw him again. I don't know where he is today.

Chances are you already know as much as I could tell you about Jim MacPherson, but for clarity's sake, here are the basics: he played drums in this band and, at that time, had a bigger kit (eight or nine pieces, I think) than he would later use in THE BREEDERS. Jim wrote the lyrics for "Spaceman Jack" and maybe others. He had been in one or two bands prior to THE KILLJOYS. This interview with Jim MacPherson briefly discusses (among other things) how Jim came to leave THE RAGING MANTRAS and join THE BREEDERS. He played drums for a number of bands later, including REAL LULU and GUIDED BY VOICES. Find out more at his Wikipedia entry.

Ed Lacy is in my top five most intelligent people I've ever known (specifically, he's number three -- edged out of the top spots only by my genius older brother and my super-genius high school buddy Kris Pleis). He can talk politics, music, art, literature, and science in a genuinely engaging way (a rare talent among the super intelligent). He can appreciate the complexities of life's big abstractions as well as the significance of the seemingly mundane. Ed was entering his thirties at the time of THE KILLJOYS' heyday (if they had a heyday), so he already had a bit more history to speak of among the punk and alt-rock subcultures than the rest of us. Apparently, in his youth, Ed was fond of pulling public theater type pranks like showing up to greet Ronald Reagan while he was on the campaign trail in 1980: dressed in a Nazi SS uniform and just standing their silently the entire time with one arm outstretched in Zeig-Heil style. In my entire life, I don't think I've ever done anything that cool -- Ed was doing stuff like that as a teenager.

After THE RAGING MANTRAS, Ed played in CAGE (with Nick Kizirnis), THE LAWN JOCKEYS, and a number of others. I remember several occasions over the years in which he and I would talk about playing some music together (most recently, in 2003 when I wanted him to play piano for a cover of "Christmastime Is Here" at THE VECTORS CD-giveaway Christmas show), but we never got around to doing it.

Throughout his time playing in Dayton bands, Ed was also a substitute and later a full-time teacher for Dayton Public Schools, but he got out of that a few years ago. Until 2005, when he finally shook the dust of Dayton off his feet and moved to Florida, he worked with a former friend (and Angelle Gullet) at Mazer. I'm not sure what Ed is doing musically or professionally now.

One last thing on Ed: for those who don't know, yes, he is the "Ed" after which my old band PLANET ED was named.

I'll have more to say about Nick Kizirnis when I post on THE OBVIOUS (his first band), but for now, I'll just say he's an all around great guy with a distinguished history playing music around these parts. After THE RAGING MANTRAS, he formed CAGE (indie rock combo which also included Ed Lacy, Matt Espy, and Gregg Spence) and THE MULCHMEN (surf-rock, with Gregg Spence and Brian Hogarth), both of which broke up in the mid-'90s. More recently, he played with THE JET AGE (which included former members of OO OO WA, among others) but quit that band in 2004 (I think). Later that year, he released a solo album called Into the Loud, which is available from Atom Records and through Nick's web site. Today, his band NICKY KAY AND HIS FABULOUS KAY-TONES is currently on hiatus, but here's hoping they get back together soon. Most recently, I saw him play with a kids music band (the man can play anything) at the Greene around Halloween 2007. You can catch him solo tomorrow night (Saturday, March 7, 2008) at Therapy on Third Street here in town.

If I could play in a band with any Dayton musician right now, it would be Nick Kizirnis.

Raging Mantras VideoBig Beef Records produced a two hour RAGING MANTRAS live video available at this link (it's near the bottom of the page, so you'll have to scroll down a ways). The video pretty much captures the full-blown RAGING MANTRAS multi-media stage show (accurately described in the write up on the video).

Will Dalgard roadied for these guys extensively, so I think he should get a little credit for making this music possible.

Okay, this post has become a monster, and I want to save a few things to say for when I post THE RAGING MANTRAS other cassette, Fish Head Test Monkey Music. So just a few track notes before we get to the download:
  • The music is actually better classed as prog-rock, rather than indie rock (I always thought of these guys as kind of like a slicker-sounding PERE UBU or CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN with longer and more complex arrangements). This was before the big local music explosion of 1994, and at that time Dayton had a far smaller number of bands than it does today. So out of necessity, bands of widely varying genres would end up on the same bill. It wasn't uncommon to see punk from THE OXYMORONS or THE OBVIOUS on the same bill as R&B from TOOBA BLOOZE, new wave from THE PLEASURES PALE, dance-pop from DEMENTIA PRECOX, or prog-rock from THE KILLJOYS.
  • I believe "Spaceman Jack" is about a hunting accident Jim had once.
  • The dialogue in the middle of "Nightstick" is spoken by Nick Kizirnis (as the cop) and Ed Lacy (as the motorist). This was always my favorite KILLJOYS song, and I'm pretty sure it was a favorite with Ben, Nick, and Grog too. THE OXYMORONS used to make a habit of spontaneously launching into a mangled rendition of the last few bars of "Nightstick" whenever we felt like it.
  • Gail has lent me a tape that includes DOBIE WILLIS covering "I Pledge" at a Musician's Co-Op show that is simply priceless (the same tape also contains a solo set by Nick Kizirnis -- will post the whole thing soon).
  • My only complaint about this tape is that "Dance of the Thundergods" does not include the spoken-word "Hermaphrodite Story" that Rob used to tell as an intro when THE KILLJOYS played it live. Although I have no recording of Rob telling that story, I do have a recording of Ben doing a hilarious parody of it at an OXYMORONS practice.
  • For gee-tar geeks, I'm pretty sure Nick was using a Les Paul with a Rat Pedal and a Roland Jazz Chorus for most of this (Nick, correct me if I'm wrong -- I've played guitar for twenty-four years, but I'm still pretty clueless about guitar equipment).
  • All these songs were recorded at the Cro-Magnon studios in its original location on the opposite side of the Front Street Warehouse from where it later moved in the early '90s. At that time Cro-Mag was 8 tracks.
  • All these songs were engineered by Joe Buben.
Track List:

1. Spaceman Jack
2. Raging Heart
3. Nightstick
4. I Pledge
5. When Will It Come?
6. Dance of the Thundergods
7. Diseases of the Tongue
8. Nothing New

Download It! (52 MB) (link re-upped 2-1-2013)

For some reason, I mis-titled "Diseases of the Tongue" as "Throb" in the download package -- don't know why I did that.

Anyway, download, listen, enjoy (and go see Nick tomorrow night at Therapy, 9 p.m.).

So now I see that they have, in fact, closed the law school. Happy Snow Day!

take care



btlsmum said...

Geez, Pat that was a prolific post! This is one I've been waiting on since you started this blog. I totally agree on the Dayton/snow thing.

Big In Day-town said...

Jones, you read my mind with that rant on snow. Had a three-hour journey back from C-bus on Friday, yet it wasn't as annoying as the way the idiot "locals" act. Right on!

spectacle said...

old times, good music

FYI- Raging Mantra's Robert Schaefer married in 1995 and they moved to California.

palaeologos said...

FYI : Rob & his charming wife are now living in a Dallas suburb. I got to catch up with him when we were in town visiting family; he hasn't played music since the RMs broke up. Unfortunate, IMO, because he's a talented guy. I used to have a copy of the Killjoys demo cassette from back when they were a trio (with Kevin Mulhall--now a classical guitarist, Rob, and Jim). I don't suppose you'd want to upload that one as well...? :)

Gary M Photo said...

Awesome... these guys always put on an excellent show. Nick pointed me here... the download link has expired. Any chance of reposting it. Thanks!