Saturday, February 23, 2008

BIG BROWN HOUSE, Scrappy James (cassette, 1987)

Before we begin, I just wanted to mention that Hillary Clinton is having a rally over at Kim Deal's old high school today. Doors open at 10 a.m. Bring your bass. (Bill already called sax.)

BIG BROWN HOUSE was an Antioch College band in the late '80s. I think OXYMORONS did a show with them once, but I don't remember.

And that's the full extent of my first hand BIG BROWN HOUSE knowledge.

However, Gail always liked these guys and was friends with at least one. She tells me that they often traded members back and forth with THE GITS, another Antioch band at the time that you might have heard of. Apparently, just about every member of BIG BROWN HOUSE played in THE GITS and vice-versa at one time or another -- except for Mia Zapata.

For the uninitiated, Antioch College is located in Yellow Springs, about ten miles outside of Dayton. In THE HIGHWAYMEN post, I'll be writing more about Yellow Springs and why Yellow Springs is considered part of the Dayton music scene (at least by everyone who does not live in Yellow Springs). But today I'll just talk about BIG BROWN HOUSE.

At the time Scrappy James was recorded (1987), BIG BROWN HOUSE was:

Benjamin London - guitars, vocals
Steve Moriarty - drums, vocals
Adrian Garver - bass
Roger Garufi - vocals

The music here is great just as music, but it's also interesting in sort of a historical sense. It's definitely post-punk, and with a hint of goth in the vocals -- very much late-'80s Miami Valley. But there's also the definite flavor of something we'd all start calling "emo" a few years later. This is music in transition. Considering that and THE GITS connection, this stuff deserves some kind of limited run CD rerelease (then again, I think you could say the same thing about TOOBA BLOOZE, THE HIGHWAYMEN, and a number of others on this blog).

This tape was recorded at Studio 716 in Ann Arbor, Michigan but subsequently remastered at SoundSpace in Yellow Springs. Chris Hertzler, who engineered the remastering, also engineered THE GITS cassette Private Lubs in 1988 (re-released in 1996 as Kings & Queens) and has since worked with DRY BRANCH FIRE SQUAD, THE CHRISTMAS JUG BAND, CRAZY JOE & THE MAD RIVER OUTLAWS, and THE CINCINNATI WOMEN'S CHORUS.

Years after this was recorded (1996, I think) when I was living in Yellow Springs and Larry Kampf was working at SoundSpace (which I'm pretty sure still exists today), my band HEIKE recorded a couple of songs out there. I must say that Larry somehow got the most powerful guitar sound I've ever heard out of that studio. Unfortunately, I've no idea what became of those tapes. Maybe Larry's still got 'em somewhere.

I know a lot of other local bands recorded things at SoundSpace but for the life of me I can't name a single one right now (except THE GITS, of course). It's a nice studio: a nice big room with separate booths attached -- good separation. SoundSpace used to do cassette duplication too, and they had a massive set-up for that. Before I saw it, I had never really thought about how cassettes were mass produced. You can't stamp them out like vinyl records or CDs. You have to basically record them all individually. At SoundSpace there was a big room with something like fifty individual cassette decks all linked to one master deck. You put in the master, and then I guess you loaded all the other machines with blanks and then you hit "play." I don't know why, but there was something eerie about that room. Grog liked it though. He saw all those decks lined up and couldn't help comparing it to the process he normally used to make all those OXYMORONS cassettes, which was exactly the process you'd think it was: he did them all one-by-one on his home stereo. I don't know about you, but that would've driven me batshit right around tape number thirty-four (and Grog made hundreds -- no wonder he's super-batshit).

I wonder what happened to all those cassette decks at SoundSpace. Probably sitting in a storage room somewhere -- or perhaps unloaded for cheap and written off their taxes as a business loss at some point (doubtful, though, since the tax code would've already allowed them to deduct the basis at a standard rate over the statutory life of the asset which was probably used up long before final disposition of the equipment -- then again, maybe section 2433 would have allowed them to... fuck! see what tax class does to you? don't ever go to law school...).

In 1989 BIG BROWN HOUSE and THE GITS moved to Seattle. I'll let BIG BROWN HOUSE guitar player/vocalist Ben London take it from here:
Suburban Voice #35 (1993)Ben: That's when I was in college . I went to Antioch College and I was in that band with a couple of guys who are in the Gits . We all went to school together and moved out to Seattle together in '89, when we graduated.

SY: Why Seattle?

Ben: We moved out with a large group of people and it was before the big music thing had really exploded. The only band I had ever heard of from Seattle was Soundgarden, and that was just because I was a college DJ at the time and got "Ultramega OK ." We'd done a lot of traveling and we were talking about wanting to be in a big city, after having gone to college in a tiny little town . New York was too expensive, San Francisco's so expensive, Chicago's so cold . Seattle, it seemed like it was really cheap to live out there and it had a nice climate and we had a couple of friends out there . It just happened that we got out there just about the time this whole thing was gearing up . When we first got out there, Mudhoney and a lot of the early Sub Pop bands were just starting . I missed out on the U-Men and Green River.

SY. : How long did Big Brown House stay together when you moved to Seattle?

Ben : About a year. We'd been playing the whole time when I was in college and when you're in college I guess you experiment with a lot of different styles. Once I got out there, I wasn't enjoying what we were doing . I was just playing guitar in that band and Steve and Matt were concentrating more on the Gits and I decided to get my own thing going, so I quit. I was working with Tommy, our bass player, at the time and kind of put the thing together from there.

---Suburban Voice #35 (1993)
You can read the rest of the interview here if you'd like. It's in PDF form, so you'll have to have Adobe Acrobat installed.

If he was a college DJ at Antioch, he was most likely on WYSO, Yellow Springs' public radio station. That station still exists, but I understand they stopped letting Antioch students be DJs some time in the mid-'90s.

After leaving BIG BROWN HOUSE, London formed ALCOHOL FUNNYCAR with then-BIG BROWN HOUSE bass player, Tommy Bonehead.

BIG BROWN HOUSE and THE GITS appeared in the 1987 documentary film, The Antioch Adventure, Part 2. The first Antioch Adventure followed certain Antioch students in 1967. The second did the same thing with then-current Antioch students twenty years later. You can read a little more about these films here. I read somewhere that one could once order both films through The Antioch Bookstore, but I checked their site and that no longer seems to be the case. However, if you go looking for the movies, it's probably a good place to start.

Track list:

1. Morning's Light
2. Face Down
3. Eight Dead Grandmothers
4. Snacked on by the Bugs from Hell
5. 76 on 70
6. No Ball Games
7. Sawblades
8. Menudo on the Edge (of Town)
9. Wet Metro Stop
10. Vertical Hold
11. Immaterial

Download it! (60 MB) (re-upped on 2-2-2013)

The cassette insert contains the lyrics for "Vertical Hold" but none of the other tracks.

The copy I ripped has the labels on the wrong sides. I don't know why I consider that significant enough to mention.

This recording comes to us from the deepest recesses of the Gail Dafler Collection.

UPDATE (2-2-2013): The downloadable file contains only the MP3s.  There are no scans of the cover, cassette, or insert.  Unfortunately, I can't find those files right now.  But so many people have been asking for this one, I thought re-upping without the scans would be okay for now.  When I find those scans, I'll add them to the zip-file and re-up this again.  But until then, you'll have to be content with just the recordings.

Other than this cassette, BIG BROWN HOUSE had one other release that I know of: a sort of compilation cassette of outtakes, live stuff, and oddities released in 1989, shortly before the band left for Seattle. I will, of course, be sharing that one.

The only other extant recordings by this band are a pair of songs on Bobbing for Pavement, The Rathouse Compilation CD released in 1994 (long after BIG BROWN HOUSE broke up). The two songs are "The Raft" and "Another Drunken Winter," which is also on the other BIG BROWN HOUSE cassette. I haven't heard Bobbing for Pavement, so I don't know if the version on the comp is the same as the one on the cassette. The compilation also features two songs from THE GITS, two songs from HAMMERBOX, and various others. It's out of print, but you can get it dirt cheap ($3.33!) from some Amazon Sellers.

And that's it for now. Enjoy!

take care


ps. If you're unfamiliar with the tragic tale of Mia Zapata, check her Wikipedia entry. Check the links at the bottom too. Apparently, there's a GITS movie in the works.

pps. In case anyone's wondering, I have nothing to share from THE GITS, and unless someone has a taped live show or practice or something to that effect, I won't be sharing anything by them here. I haven't checked thoroughly, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that everything they recorded is still in print and easily available via the web. In fact, the 1996 GITS demos collection Kings & Queens is a re-release of a 1988 cassette Private Lubs, most of which was recorded at SoundSpace, with one track ("Graveyard Blues") recorded at Canal Street Tavern. You can get the CD from CD Universe. You can download the MP3s from e-music.

ppps. Believe it or not, this post really is about BIG BROWN HOUSE.


Anonymous said...

Good entry, I've always wanted to know a bit more about BBH. I had spent a year at U.D., and knew many of the punk/indie/metal DJs at the campus station and that was where I had first heard of BBH and they actually seemed to have made more a mark amongst the college crowd or maybe just the enthusiastic people I knew at the station that were really into them. :P Anyways, later, I finally had gotten to see them once or twice and enjoyed their live show. It was then a few years later, visiting some friends from Dayton that had also moved to Seattle had I heard of The Gits (not even realizing that BBH also moved there) and later found out that there was some kind of cross over of members with this band The Gits. I was fortunate to have been able to party at the Rathouse (members of The Gits, 7 Year Bitch, DC Beggars, probably others too) in Seattle even, but The Gits were on tour at the time, I believe in Europe. That being said, I never did get to witness power of The Gits. Apparently, that movie on The Gits has been completed. Check out the film site: The Gits Movie

jones() said...

I remember BBH being pretty popular too but conspicuously absent from the playlists of WWSU. Maybe it was the fact that their stuff was on cassette (which made it harder for DJs to cue up). And not to be overly dramatic, but I think there was also just a little tension between Wright State people and Antioch people. I don't want to overstate anything, but it always seemed to me there was a completely different feel among the people who went to one college as opposed to the other. Then when you throw UD in there, which has a feel that's different from both Antioch and WSU, things get kind of interesting.

As for the Gits movie, yeah I was looking over the web site and found some information that makes me think there might be some footage from Canal Street Tavern in the film (probably too much to hope that it's Mia singing "Graveyard Blues," but who knows?). I also found a collection of trailers on YouTube -- will post in a couple days.

But now I'm also interested in seeing those Antioch Adventure films. Apparently, they're not documentaries as I originally thought but scripted dramas set in and around the campus and all over Yellow Springs. I gotta check 'em out.

take care


Anonymous said...


Thanks for writing about one of my favorite bands to play on a regular basis in D8N OH, Big Brown House. They played regularly at Canal Street Tavern and during a cassette release party every table had a bottle of Champaigne for the event celebration. I went to see them play a dance at Yellow Springs High School. They were super nice guys. Roger Garufi was a big Iggy Pop fan. I have a couple of letters from the band that I'd love to share and many pages in my journal dedicated to details of the shows that I attended. I had two favorite songs that I could never hear enough "8 Dead Grandma" and "4th of July". I saw Adrian Garver play with band that opened for the Chickasaw Mud Puppies at Canal Street back in the 90's. I can't remember the bands name. If anyone knows what any of the guys in Big Brown House are up to these days, I'd love to hear what they are doing. Talk about you later Pat.


mite said...

I now have the movie clip from Antioch Adventure II with the music of Big Brown House. You can link to it here:

I also have the clip from the Gits which is a bit short. I'm not sure what the song is called. Here's the link:
-- mite

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jones,
I have the tapes of us at Sound Space. We should probably get them transferred to digital media at some point. Do you know anyone with a working ADAT machine?


jones() said...

I thought Dennis' ADATs were working again, but I could be wrong.

Ben London said...

What a blast from the past. I never thought the cassette works of Big Brown House would make their way onto the web. I have very fond memories of playing shows at the Canal St. Tavern and the Building Lounge.

Ben London

Adrian said...

Interesting to see this! I will always have fond memories of playing in Dayton, not the least of which was opening for the Flaming Lips at the building Lounge where the Lips kept blowing the power with the Butthole Surfer's light show. Wayne ended up getting naked and playing Zep covers.... Roger Garufi asked them after the show where they were coming from and they said "Buffalo" so I thought they were lake Erie boys for years...

I am currently playing in a band in Seattle called Motorik and still loving it.

Anonymous said...

I have recently found some video footage of BBH. I will be posting it on YouTube as soon as I get it converted...

Brother of band member.

Moxy said...

My memoirs of Big Brown House.

In November of 1985, I went to the annual Punk show at Antioch College to see Dead Kennedys with special guests, Active Ingredients, out of Lexington and Antioch's very

own, The Brothers Voodoo. It was a tremendous show and all the bands were excellent. The Brothers Voodoo came out and tore up the stage with songs like "The

Window" and "Bach's High Jack". I remember the guitarist playing some Led Zep riffs in between songs while tuning his guitar. I went to the Antioch Punk Rock show a

year later and found that The Brothers Voodoo had changed their name to Big Brown House. According to Roger Garufi, "...there were too many bands with the name Voodoo in them." so, they changed their name. I remember they had two opening bands. One, an experimental band called 2 Car Garage and the other called White

Picked Fence (which I believe may have been an early incarnation of The Gits.) I remember singer Roger Garufi being lowered from the ceiling on a rope to the stage. Roger

was wearing a turban and rope and proceeded to peel off layers of clothing throughout the performance. They played an awesome set including "4th Of July" and ended the

show with an enthusiastic cover of "War". Brilliant! I wouldn't see them again until a few months later when they began to play shows at Canal Street Tavern's Band

Showcase on Thursday nights (I think). If memory serves, they would play ever other Thursday night opposite Tooba Blooze. It was then that my friend Drew and I

befriended the band and became their biggest fans. Just a great bunch of guys. We never missed a show. It was like a party every time they played. I remember some of

the cover versions they did during that time were "No Ball Games" by Basement 5 and "Down In The Park" by Gary Numan. Of course, the song that we always requested

was the band's masterpiece and the best song in the world, "Mrs. Vengeance"! Adrian Garver's bass solo in that song was priceless! I vividly recall one night when Denny

Wilson was there and the band decided they would do something extra special for him, so they broke into a cover version of "The Rainbow Song" (by Tooba Blooze). I think

everyone got a kick outta that. Eventually, the band moved to Seattle and Adrian left the band to join DC Beggars. Matt Dresdner of The Gits replaced him but after a

short while, the band broke up. Matt and Steve Moriarty continued on full time with The Gits while Ben London played in Alcohol Funnycar. I'm not sure what ever happened

to Roger. Some Big Brown House tracks made their way onto Seattle comps including, 'Bobbing For Pavement' and 'Hey Joe: Seattle's Own Coffee Compilation'. I wouldn't

see any these guys until many years later while watching the television show, 'Unsolved Mysteries'. Ben and Steve were being interviewed concerning the rape and murder

of The Gits' lead singer, Mia Zapata, in 1993. A very tragic way to see these guys again.

Thanx guys for the great times and great music!

"Bruce Springsteen used to hang with Menudo"


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Erandi calavera said...


Erandi calavera said...

please update this album

Anonymous said...

could someone please re-upload the ablum? it's the only rip on the web so there's no chance at all to get it from anywhere else, alas.