Thursday, June 26, 2008

Appliances-SFB: Article about SFB re-issue

Regular readers of this blog (there must be at least seven of you by now) are most likely aware that I once played bass in a group called Appliances-SFB. Thanks to the efforts of drummer Meredith Young and Rusty Olson of Rockhaus Guitars, the previously unreleased third album, 3rd & Long, and our debut album, SFB, are now available on CD. It's a bit odd to see these albums being (re)-released after all this time. Appliances-SFB were in existence for 19 or 20 years and I was a member of the band for 17 years. We rehearsed and gigged quite a bit for most of my tenure and received little recognition. I choose to believe that, for the time, we were possibly too adventurous musically to gain any commercial success. Even if I'm wrong about that (I was wrong once; it could happen again), the fact that we were based out of Madison, WI didn't help a whole lot. There were bands in Madison during that time (Killdozer and The Tar Babies, for example) who may have had more commercial success, and deserved every bit of it, yet, as far as I know, none of them were able to really make a living at it.

So, here we are in 2008. It has been almost eleven years since the last A-SFB show (8/03/97). The first and third albums are out on CD for the first time. I don't have access to sales figures (I don't think anyone is getting rich on this project), but there seems to be an awful lot of interest in the group now. More than while we were active, and I don't know how to explain it. Still, it's gratifying to me to know that there are people out there to whom our music meant a lot. We invested a lot of our energy in this group. I think we were pretty good and pretty creative. Our live shows were always an adventure. Our recordings didn't capture the sheer energy of our live shows (recordings rarely do), but I think they were also pretty good.

When I think back on it, I realize that, although we were based in Madison, we probably played in Milwaukee something like five times for every time we played Madison.
Below, you will find an article from Milwaukee's In Music about the re-issue of SFB. The article mistakenly states that SFB stands for "Sh*t for brains". In reality, SFB may have stood for many different things (Sharks Fear Bears; Short, Fat & Balding are some possiblities), but "Sh*t fer brains" might well be the official version. Note the proper spelling of the second word: "fer", not "for". Read it if you so desire.

If you wish to purchase these very important bits of rock history, you can get them from B-Side or Mad City Music Exchange in Madison, Rockhaus or Atomic Records in Milwaukee, Rushmore Records (sorry, couldn't find a link for them) in Minneapolis or CD Baby on the internets.

Stay tuned for more posthumous A-SFB news.

In Music

Rockhaus reissues classic Appliances-SFB debut

Although based in Madison, we wouldn't blame you for thinking Appliances-SFB were a Milwaukee band.

By Bobby Tanzilo
Managing Editor

Although the band was from Madison, Appliances-SFB was a fixture on the Milwaukee music scene at the dawn on the 1980s.

More than Tar Babies and more than Swamp Thing and other Mad City bands, Appliances could reasonably be called part of the Brew City alternative rock and roll scene, playing regularly at The Starship, Niko's, The Palms and later at Café Voltaire and The Underground.

"The Appliances SFB were this amazing progressive yet edgy band from Madison who slipped into the Milwaukee scene like a nerdy A-Team, kicking ass at their shows, then leaving town before anyone knew what happened," remembers veteran musician Ron Faiola, who is now Webmaster of "In the early '80s Milwaukee didn't have an 'alternative' band with as many good musicians like the Appliances."

The band's Milwaukee connection continues well over a decade after its demise. In 2004, Rusty Olson of Rockhaus Guitars on the Southwest Side issued the band's third and final disc, "3rd and Long," on Rockhaus Records. It was the label's first release.

Now, Olson has reissued the band's definitive musical statement -- its eponymous 1984 debut -- on CD, too.

Olson says that the reissues came about thanks to the music store.

"I get to meet and talk to lots of musicians every day at the shop," he says. "Often times discussion is spent on gear, repairs, shows and recording projects. On just such an occasion I had been talking to (drummer) Meredith Scott Young about a recording his band Appliances-SFB had done some years back. It had been recorded, mixed and mastered and never released."

"3rd and Long" was recorded at Madison's now-legendary Smart Studios in the early 1990s with Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson who are three-quarters of the band Garbage.

Despite the fact that Olson's expertise was in guitars, not in releasing CDs, he decided the music was too important to pass up the chance to issue it.

"I thought this was a shame to see hard work and time spent on something just to have it on a shelf and never heard, so I asked him what they were going to do with it, we came up with the idea that Rockhaus should put it out.

"It could have seemed like an odd idea at the time for a guitar shop to do this, I couldn't think of a good reason not to do it and the idea rather appealed to me anyway."

Where "3rd and Long" is a fairly traditional, edgy post-punk rock and roll record, its roots are decidedly more engaging. And those roots are best experienced on the 1984 "SFB."

The manic vocals of singer Tom Laskin recall nothing less than the earliest work of Nick Cave with The Birthday Party. And if the music is a little more traditional post-punk on tunes like "Nothing" and "The Pest," other tracks, like "Mr. Ugly" and "Neo-Fascist" are firmly in the vein of that landmark Aussie band.

Olson says he's thrilled to reissue a disc that's as important to him as "SFB" is. ("SFB," incidentally, stands for 'sh*t for brains" and the band tagged it onto its name when it learned there was another band called The Appliances.)

"This one was one of my personal favorites," he says. "To have my name anywhere near it would have been an honor really. Most of all They were nice enough to let me do it. It was out of print and getting hard to find. I thought it would be nice to still find it on record store shelves.

"You know, for kids' sake," he adds, referencing a song title from "3rd and Long."

The disc has been mastered from the original ½-inch master tape, which Olson says was, fortunately, still in good condition.

"Its great having the reissues because back when an Appliances 45 or LP would come out," says Faiola, "if you didn't buy a copy right away, it would disappear -- either sold out or suddenly unavailable for some seemingly sinister reason."

Although Appliances-SFB broke up years ago, all of its members are still musically active, Olson says. Bill and Ed Feeny are in The Reptile Palace Orchestra and Ed is also in the Motor Primitives. Laskin writes for Madison's Isthmus newspaper and plays guitar with a band that does experimental recordings. Guitarist Bill Siebecker still plays guitar and works as a stage actor and drummer Young plays with Bad Dates and The Subliminal Overtones.

Olson says he hopes Rockhaus will continue to release CDs and has his sights set on two more Appliances discs for a start.

"There is the second record 'Green Door / Them' that has not been put out on CD yet. I also took in a reel of (unmixed) 2-inch tape of a live recording to Smart Studio a few weeks ago to be mixed down. Who knows, might be a busy year for the Appliances SFB.

"There is lots of really interesting music that is out of print or unreleased for whatever reason from the Midwest. If I can do something about it, I think I should. My business depends on local music to survive. I think the two go hand in hand."


Pagan Sphinx said...

Well, good on you! I'm about to try to get a sample. Congratulations.

I don't know a thing about Milwaukee or Madison but judging from the photo, you all look like you'd fit right in here in the Pioneer Valley, or the Happy Valley as lots of us fondly call it. (western Massachusetts)

Suzy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzy said...

Nice article.

Suzy said...

Where was the final show, by the way? Is it still standing, or did it burn down? I thought it was your fingertip tragedy that was the final nail in the coffin, but looking at the date, that's not the case.

Pagan Sphinx, I lived in Keene, New Hampshire for a short time, and I always read The Advocate.

Anonymous said...

Far as I know, Laskin hasn't played in any band for about a decade.

Ed said...

Hello, Anonymous,

You could be right about that, I have no idea. I just reprinted an article, and where author-dude got his information is unbeknownst to me. As far as I know, everything else in the article is accurate, including one fact that I didn't know before I read it, so I have no reason to question that particular point.

gomonkeygo said...

Ed! Just found your blog and the news of the CDs - I'm a very happy monkey - now we just need the second album.

Good to see you at the Mekons show; hope things are okay. Stop by my blog and say hi. (Yeah, this is "Connie's brother" as most people know me).

Take care!