January 12, 2012

January 12th, 2012 : Cause & Effect : Seaweed

Like so many band discoveries of mine in the '90s, it all began with a tip off from sales reps who worked at various labels and distributors and sold to the record shop I worked at in N.J.. Before email blasts and faxes these sales people would call us and run down the list of new releases they had to sell. It was never just a cold reading of what records they had, they were almost always personal and extended way beyond whatever they were trying to sell us. I learned in great detail about who these sales reps were, where they came from, and most importantly the nuances of their local music scenes. Sales reps were rarely just employees for whatever company, they were music collectors too and often played in bands. A perfect example of this would be Mark Pickerel who was my first Sub Pop sales person. He was also the drummer in the Screaming Trees, from Washington state, was record collector, and knew everything there was to know about the bands from his region. Every call from him was an education in music, especially what was happening in his backyard. From him I learned about not just Sub Pop, but K, Kill Rock Stars, C/Z, and that list goes on. Big and small labels alike. Sub Pop distributed hundreds of local labels and through these calls with Mark I discovered a world of music coming out of Wa, OR, and ID. I eventually moved to Seattle and learned much more about their music community but the core of my education to that scene came via telephone years before my feet touched ground in the emerald city.

My introduction to Seaweed came from Mark and like so many of us who were passionate about underground music at the time, when you loved a band's record, you tracked down their mailing address (usually on the backside of a record or insert in the record) and you wrote them a fan letter. You asked if they were touring to your part of the country any time soon, you asked if they had more releases, and if you were like me, you offered them a floor to crash on if they toured. For me buying records and selling them at a shop wasn't enough. To really give back to the music community I was passionate about I wanted to extend my home to them. Often these bands were broke kids who didn't know the rest of the country well so they really needed a free place to stay, food to eat, and a local tour guide. We were all in this together, I would hope other people would do this for us when our band toured so befriending bands from all over the world was just a natural part of how our DIY culture worked. There was a massive network of small bands and fans writing letters to each other and from these pen pal friendships occasionally came life long friendships. Seaweed is one of those bands for me. We wrote some letters, they crashed with me for days at a time when they came to the NYC area (I lived in Hoboken / Jersey City then), and when our bands broke up and we all grew ancient, social media outlets like Facebook helped to revive many of these long lost friendships.

Usually each band has one member that is the main letter writer and Seaweed's guitar player Wade Neal was that guy. He was my band contact and while I know all the members, he and I were by default the most familiar because of the letters exchanged. When we stumbled across each other on Facebook the timing couldn't have been any better. Suddenly Seaweed was announcing reunion tour dates and I would have the opportunity to see them again in person (NYC) and do something I never dreamed would happen, I got to see one of my favorite Northwest bands play again.

Seaweed's importance in the timeline of hardcore and punk isn't one that is written on every history wall. For whatever reason some bands get more credit than other over time and Seaweed has for the most part remained more of a cult favorite among those who like heavy music mixed with melody. The reality is there were the hardcore bands on labels like SST and Dischord who helped lay down some important stepping stones but the next generation of band who grew up on those records (not to mention lots of metal, classic rock, emo, and new wave) developed upon that base that further expanded into post hardcore. Much like Quicksand on the opposite coast, they were  offering heavy music with all these other influences of the day (not to mention that grunge was taking off in Seattle near where Seaweed was from so there are shades of that to Seaweed too). I truly believe bands like The Deftones wouldn't exist without bands like Seaweed helping to build upon the foundation of melodic hardcore with shades of Metal mixed in. Today there is an endless number of heavy bands shamelessly adding Pop elements but int he early '90s this was still considered strange and alien to folks who either only liked Pop music or just hardcore or just Metal.

Tune in tonight to hear a band you may or may not know (but should!) tell their story through the records of their influences and peers. From 7pm to 9pm tonight I will be playing music that Wade has personally selected and while he will not be in the studio with me, he has written little footnotes about many of the tracks and I will post them to the WRIR website.

It's funny, I know I was influenced by Seaweed while playing in Dahlia Seed but I didn't know how much I had in common with their roots and influences until I began working on this radio show. I can hear now exactly why I love Seaweed so much and like so many Cause & Effect show, learned a great deal about how interconnected we all really are.

Thank you Wade for taking the time to pick tonight's set and I am really looking forward to it playing throught it all tonight!


Set list , the show download, and Wade's notes about the show are here.

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