DEAD ELVIS ARCHIVE

Archive of a Dublin based record label which existed between 1994 and 1999. This blog is intended as a means to compile tracks from label releases, recordings by friends of the label, demos by bands associated with the label and relevant photos and video material.

Jul 23

JUBILEE’S FIRST OF MANY FORGOTTEN CLASSICS: BETTER THAN I KNOW MYSELF

Jubilee - Better Than I Know Myself

I was present for some of Jubilee’s first recording session in 147. I sure of this because I remember Jack recording his sax line for the A side of their eventual Hi Tone single - ‘Everyone’s Clown’. They arrived in to do a couple of days recording with Marc just as the Dead Elvis label was getting off the ground. I liked them initally despite my gut reaction to their extremely limited abilities as musicians. I wasn’t crazy about them though.They were all over the place really when trying to play their own songs. However some of those round me were crazy about them because of their self released single. The guys in Wormhole were actually in awe of them - something I didn’t really get. My brother Og, like Wormhole, was particularly crazy about the B side of the single and he raved about it and them. After a dose of repeated plays I got with the program. It’s an incredibly raw and emotional song. Again Og was a John Lennon fan when he was younger and I guess he heard something of John Lennon in the Plastic Ono Band era in this.

It was, on the surface, certainly unlike, in the rawness of the recording and performance, anything I’d heard him being into beforehand. I can’t remember what Marc and the other Eamonn thought about it but it definitely influenced our decision to do whatever we could to get them to record something for Dead Elvis as soon as possible.

I’ve just listened to it again for the first time in at least a decade. It’s blowing me away. It got no attention at the time or since - but Jesus - it’s a lost classic in my world. I would bet that Marc is responsible for the cheesy but quite lovely string synth line in the final part of the song. I also hear a violin. Is it real? Who played it? My mind is a blank. I also note that another song was recorded during the session and never released. I’ll have to follow up on that.

Thanks to Conor from Dublinopinion.com for the MP3. I have the single but it’s wrecked beyond belief. Dublin Opinion produced an audio documentary about the band in 2009 which is available at this link.

The photo below of Niall and Fergus is definitely from around that time. Their website indicates that it was their first ever publicity shot. Lee is absent from the shot. He drummed on the A side of the single which Jubilee released themselves on their own imprint.

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Jul 22

AN EARLY WORMHOLE FAN WRITES / JOHNNY’S VIBE

Johnny’s Vibe - Wormhole

The following account was sent to me by Steve Rennicks, a longtime Wormhole fan. He was actually the first person to buy a Dead Elvis release. He’s written in detail about the history of Wormhole in the past. I’ll be posting about his extensive account of their history later on. I’m working through this account and adding stuff in brackets and italics where I think relevant. The short track above is Johnny’s Vibe. It was on one of Wormhole’s early demos recorded with Johnny Heydon* and eventually ended up as a track on ‘Chicks Dig Scars’. The photo below is of Steve and it dates from sometime in the 90s.

* Anyone got a contact for Johnny? If u have please get in touch through the contact form.

I moved to Dublin in September 1992 to start an apprenticeship as a printer in the Cabra area of the city. The first gig I went to now that I was living fulltime in Dublin was Mercury Rev and Rollerskate Skinny at The Rock Garden that November. I mention this as I’m pretty sure Wormhole and many of my future friends were at this pivotal and shambolic show.

I remember going to some Hope gigs next like Lungfish at Barnstormers and at Bolton St. D.I.T., which I was attending on what my company called ‘Block Release’, began seeing lunchtime performances by local bands of the day like Flexihead and Pet Lamb. I had done a few music fanzines in my teens and through this had contacted Eric Scott of a Dublin group called Vains and often now went to see them play at places out in Inchicore where they were from and The Rock Garden, Barnstormers and once in The Earl Gratten. None of these venues exist anymore.

The first time I saw Wormhole play was in April 1993 when I was going to meet Eric in the Attic and they just happened to be first on the bill. It was my first time at that venue as well and I went by the time on the poster, which means very early, and they were still sound checking. I got talking to Johnny Heydon at the bar who had already recorded them on 4 track and may have been there to do their sound that night and for some reason he introduced me to Dave who was just passing and that was it. They were on a bill which included In Motion and Unease, two other important bands of the time whose members I would also become friendly with over the next few years.

I liked Wormhole a lot but maybe no more than the other two groups that night. But they did stick in my mind because they had put on a show, were loud, were certainly entertaining and seemed for real. As they played a lot at this time, doing supports mostly, I ended up seeing them a lot and I grew to like their music. One of their mates was Joss Moorkens and he became a friend of mine too and he would play their demos on a pirate radio station called Alice’s Restaurant and I remember listening to his shows a lot and thinking these songs were incredible.

Joss and a mate of his had planned to release some of the Johnny Heydon demos as a single. Finally at about the fifth time I saw Wormhole, again at the Attic in October 1993 when they were finally headlining, I got introduced to Anto by a mutual friend, Dave from Bayside, and we became friends. Then I gradually got introduced to the rest of the band and we all got on so well even to this day for some weird and hard for any of us to explain reason. I remember very well that Anto was shocked that I would consider myself a fan of the band and had actually come that night especially to see them. Although I also remember him telling me at this early stage that other people were already interested in working with the band, I’m not sure if Eamonn Crudden was in the frame yet. I remember trying to advise him but I didn’t have a clue so we talked about music we both liked no doubt.

(When I first met Wormhole the Wiijja label had already expressed an interest in releasing something by them. They had played on a bill with Huggy Bear sometime in 1992 or 1993. I didn’t know about Joss and his mate’s plans until Steve sent me this.)

I only went to ‘Crush’ in Fibbers which Eamonn was running (was it ever called Smash?) a few times from September 1993 onwards and saw local bands there like In Motion, Sunbear, Groundswell, Tucker Suite and Female Hercules although I remember often going to Fibbers for the nightclub and late drink experience as they had an amazing outdoor area. I don’t remember speaking with Eamonn or noticing him at these gigs. I did meet Marc Carolan and was in the basement studio of 147, which they were calling Fuse, while equipment was still arriving in January 1994.

(It was never called ‘Smash’)

I was there as a guest of Eric’s band The Vains who were doing a probably one day demo session. I never had to be asked twice when an opportunity for doing something new like this would come up. I remember Eric telling me they were the first band to record there. I’m not sure if that’s accurate. I still wouldn’t have met Eamonn yet or anyone else connected to 147 apart from Marc. Marc was certainly totally relaxed, very funny and totally professional at this time. He also could play anything; I remember there was a keyboard beside the desk which he played on one of their tracks. This was amazing for me to see how a song was recorded as I would have been 21 at the time. I’m even more amazed now to find that Marc was only 17 or 18, he definitely seemed about my age to me.

(I have a feeling the Vains might have been the first band to record in the studio when it was set up in the basement of 147. Marc will know this I’m sure. About Marc’s age. I looked at his some of his pages and I am pretty sure now that he had just turned 20 at the time. I was exagerating his youth in earlier posts. He seemed like a nipper at the time I suppose because he was my friend’s younger brother.)

I gradually must have met Eamonn not long before Wormhole’s album ‘Chick Dig Scars’ came out. I can remember bumping into him and buying it in some venue or other as he had some copies with him in a plastic bag. This would have been in early May 1994 as the very next weekend I took the train to Cork to see Wormhole support Mexican Pets in The Village. This was an amazing trip for me and most of us stayed at the infamous house of the Cork group The Shanks. This was the night I really got to know Graham, Dave and Eamonn as well. We didn’t really sleep, way too uncomfortable but we were all buzzing. The next weekend Wormhole launched their album in Whelan’s in Dublin to a full house and it all went to another level for them. Fantastic times.

(I’m pretty sure Steve attended some or even most of the recording sessions for ‘Chicks Dig Scars’ in 147. That’s probably how we actually got to know each other to any degree initially.)

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BRENDAN GRACE’S MANAGER’S STUDIO / ‘CAN YE PLAY ANY ELVIS?’

Wormhole (& Marc) - 44 Bulldog Intro

The other Eamonn was in touch to remind me that he first desk in 147 was a 16 channel studiomaster desk accompanied by  a tascam TSR 8 half inch tape machine. He bought them off Irish comedian Brendan Grace’s manager in Sligo in 1993 together with some ‘really good’ B&W speakers which Marc loved. The gear had a pre-history recording Country and Irish acts. Marc used to joke about this pre-history with bands. In fact I think his japery that is preserved on a small excerpt on ‘Chicks Dig Scars’ by Wormhole might have been inspired by this. He’s asking in a horror-culchie voice if the band can ‘play any Elvis’. It’s linked above.

Alan Lambert and Eamonn were interested in recording equipment because they were looking to record a soundtrack for an intended ‘abstract’ film project.  The soundtrack for the film was completed eventually years later but the film never got made. Eamonn had asked everyone he knew at the time for £10 to sponsor the project and had got together nearly £2000 to buy some studio time to record the soundtrack … but then decided it was a much better idea to just go ahead and buy some studio gear. According to him it was me who spotted the advert for the gear in Hot Press. I have absolutely no memory of that though I do remember their film plans. The desk (and speakers) was used extensively by Dead Elvis and by D1 Recordings as well a little later on in the story.

Below is an image of 147 from the time. Eamonn’s room described in the previous post was on the top floor at the front.

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Jul 21

FIRST RECORDINGS IN 147 / MEETING MARC (AGAIN)

44 Bulldog - Wormhole

Amaze - Pincher Martin

Time - Pincher Martin

The three tracks included with this post were all recorded in 1993 in 147. When the recording gear arrived it included basically a few mics, an 8-track desk and a reel to reel 1/4’ tape machine. Absolutely no fancy stuff. I will try later to get Marc to fill in some of this kind of techie detail.

The gear was set up in a room upstairs initially. The setup in the basement came later. In fact I doubt either myself or Marc were even aware that there was actually a basement in 147 at that point. I wasn’t living there yet at this stage. Through the ‘Crush’ club I had gotten to meet, as i’ve described below, quite a few of the bands of the time. As the club thing was going on the other Eamonn was involved in getting together recording gear with an acquaintance of his with the idea of setting up a recording studio in the building. I can’t remember what their intentions were - but I suggested that some of the bands I was coming across and asking to play across the road in Fibbers might be interested in recording demo tapes.

Sometime around then Marc Carolan showed up at one of the gigs. We went back a long way - to childhood in fact - as his family lived up the road from where I was brought up in the countryside outside Dundalk.  I hardly knew him at that stage because I had been good friends with his older brother rather than him as a youth. I had picked up my friendship with Joe again since we had re-encountered each other after we graduated from two different colleges. Marc had just been Joe’s kid brother to me - except for one important detail. When they were kids - Joe around 15 years old or so and Marc something like 11 years old - they had gone through a spate of recording what I can only describe as a series of lo-fi albums on basic cassette recorders. ‘The Hot Petunia Corporation’ was their unforgettable moniker. Their family had a lot of musical instruments lying around - and while Joe was the songwriter - Marc at a very early age was great on all the instruments he could get his hands on.

Joe was knocking out these tapes and handing them to me regularly for a period of maybe three months. As far as I know they’re all lost. Joe was quite strongly under the influence of the endless stream of Fall albums which I listened to obsessively between the ages of 16 and 18 when they undertook this kind of stuff.

After myself and Joe went off to college  Marc continued to play music and somewhere along the way got himself a 4-track. I wasn’t paying that much attention at the time but sometime after hooking up again with Joe after we had finished college - I noted a 4-track and a drumkit in the Attic where Joe and Marc hung out in their house. Marc could record and did a lot of it according to Joe. I didn’t hear any of this stuff he was recording but remembered these basic facts when I met Marc in ‘Crush’ in 1993.

Again the details are blurry in my mind but I remember telling him about the fact that recording gear had arrived in 147 and asking him if he thought he could record bands like those at the club with it. He said he could, despite the fact that he’d only ever used a 4-track up to that point, and it was completely obvious that he was into doing so. He was very young at this point. I think he was like 17 but will have to check this detail with him.

Between me, him and the other Eamonn we hatched a scheme to see what could be done in terms of recording with the gear that was there. It’s worth remembering that there were very few mics in 147 at this point. Like maybe 4/5. I knew the line-ups of various bands and thought it logical that we get Marc to record Pincher Martin first as they had a drum machine which could plug straight into the desk. Marc could concentrate on instruments and vocals without having to attempt miking up a drumkit. I guess I talked to the band and offered them the opportunity to do some free recording. They must have played at ‘Crush’ at some point before that because I knew them and also knew one of their songs - ‘Amaze’.

The first demo came out really well. I can vaguely remember Marc and Derek from Pincher Martin having fun with unconventionally produced guitar sounds and messing with the drum machine. That’s about all I can remember. I do remember the tape. An image of the cover which we knocked up for it is included below. I listened to an archived version in the last week or so and remembered all of the songs on it very clearly. I found that version, from which I’ve posted two songs, on the DIY Irish Hardcore Punk Archive which is linked to on the related projects page here. I reckon that the demo was mastered onto cassette from the desk as there was no DAT machine in the ad-hoc studio at the time.

After that we decided to continue with a band with a drumkit. It was clear that Marc had done a really good job on the Pincher Martin tape. Not only that but the band had taken to him and there was little fuss during the quite productive session. Wormhole had, of all the bands that had played in ‘Crush’ made the biggest initial impression on me and they were picked as the next guinea pigs. I can’t remember how many songs they recorded with Marc. I have no memory of the session whatsoever tbh. I think it was two songs. One of them was ‘44 Bulldog’ and the other (I think and will have to check) was an instrumental called ‘Collide’. Again the tape sounded really well despite the fact that Marc was operating with very limited equipment.

One very clear memory I do have from the period immediately after the session is myself and the other Eamonn sitting in his room on the top floor of 147 listening to 44 Bulldog over and over. It was simply a great catchy song in which the band sounded relaxed, confident, arty, sardonic and rocking all at the same time. It didn’t sound like a demo. It was a song about a handgun sung from the point of view of a person sitting in a car being shot by said gun. It didn’t sound like a band finding their feet. It was absolutely clear from it that Dave had a real ‘rock’ voice and that Graham was shockingly fluent on lead for someone who was only 15 or 16 at the time.

Wormhole must have given us at least one of the two 4-track demos they had recorded in the year before that (with Johnny) around the time of the session. I can also remember myself and Eamonn listening to a substantial amount of their material and articulating to each other that this was a jewel of a band. We knew as well by then that they were fun to be around. I reckon that the plotting to do something in terms of a record label began pretty much around that point. Again I’m going to have to do some research before I post properly on that.

A remixed version of the ‘44 Bulldog’ that was recorded in that initial session with Marc, with nothing added other than a  some intermittent tones from the 8 track desk and a simple synth overdub, was to become the 14th track on Wormhole’s debut album and Dead Elvis’ first release - ‘Chicks Dig Scars’. The album version with those overdubs is also included in this post.

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Jul 20

147

I’ve been chatting to the ‘other Eamonn’ about how we came to meet each other. It’s important to the story because without 147 there would never have been a Dead Elvis. My memories of getting to know him are very sketchy indeed. We met in 92 or 93. I was living in Phibsboro at the time and starting to get increasingly interested in making music videos. I had made a couple of quite crappy videos on Hi-Band video for Sack sometime in the immediate period before getting to know Eamonn. Then Donal Scannel, who lived in the same house as me in Phibsboro, together with a couple of friends of his - Dave and Niamh - made quite a lovely video on Super-8 for a Brilliant Trees song called ‘Home’. It looks crude now due to the passage of time but at the time, for something with barely any budget, it looked lovely compared to stuff shot on video. Donal was really into trying to make low budget music videos then. He realised that our other friend Donal Dineen presenting No Disco meant that there was an outlet for stuff if it could be got together somehow. The same crew later made a very well known low budget video for ‘Revelate’ by The Frames.

Anyway, that Brilliant Trees video, and my awareness of a potential outlet, inspired me to have another go at making videos for Sack. I was really really into their tunes at the time and they were coming up with very evocative songs. I plotted with John Brereton constantly at the time over a series of evenings in his house in Drumcondra. We were looking for ways to get his band noticed.

I was quite stunned by the fact that such an amazing band with great songwriting and an absolutely mesmerizing lead singer - Martin McCann hadn’t got a label or an outlet and we were trying to do something about this. One of the things we decided on was to make a set of abstract videos for four of the Band’s songs. These were to be based on filming very simple and hopefully resonant material which did not include band performance. They were to be shot on Super-8 - a couple of three minute rolls per song as there was no cash about for anything more. It’s easy to forget how absolutely broke everyone always was in the early 90s.

I wasn’t confident with anything to do with film at the time and I suppose I must have looked around for someone who might be a cameraperson. Myself and Eamonn Doyle most likely got together through a college friend of mine who is the one person we both knew before that period. I visited him in 147 asked him to help out. He worked on the two Sack videos with me. We used a Canon Super-8 camera which Filmbase had for hire to shoot videos for ‘What Did The Christians Ever Do For Us’ and ‘Superwierdo’. They came out REALLY well and we got to know each other slowly as a result - resolving to attempt to continue cranking out such videos. Barely anything we made together is available in any kind of decent quality online - something I hope to remedy with a trip to the RTE archives soon.

I would have been a quite regular visitor to 147 around the time of making those videos and can remember being fascinated by some of the cast of characters that were around there at the time. Alan Lambert, mentioned in several posts below, and Liam O’Callaghan were artists - and - though I was always interested in art - and had made a video about art in Dublin with my friend Joe just before this period - they were probably the first self-described artists I ever hung out with. Eamonn would have described himself as a photographer at the time. He had beautiful framed B/W prints on the walls of his room up at the top of 147 - some of them really exotic as he had been into travelling in the period before we met. I particularly remember this image from Jamacia which he’d shot on a kind of reggae pilgrimage to there in 1991. That would have been another thing we had in common. I was also interested in photography and had been doing BW shots for the Dropout publication described in the ‘Crush’ post below. He had loads of amazing photography books which would come in handy for raw materials for posters over the next couple of years. At some stage around then, for reasons unknown, Eamonn offered me a room in the building as a living quarters rather than a studio. I jumped at the chance despite the fact that the interior of the building was pretty seriously run down despite Eamonn’s ongoing efforts to improve what was there.

My early memories of the building, as I’ve said, are very sketchy. The one thing I do remember is the fact that Eamonn, in a makeshift kitchen at the top of the stairs, made coffee with a percolator. I had NEVER seen that being done in someone’s gaff previously. It was great coffee and made for endless buzzy conversations.

The snap below is of John Brereton - Sack’s main songwriter - and Martin McCann - their lead singer. It’s taken from a video made by someone other than me and the other Eamonn at a time unknown in the 90’s.

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Jul 19

'CRUSH' IN FIBBER MAGEE'S

Dead Elvis was born on Parnell Street in 1993/4 in and around this financially disastrous club which I ran for quite a long period. It was during that time that I got to know many of the bands who Dead Elvis dealt with in the following few years.  Noel from Fibbers asked me to do something downstairs in the club midweek. I have no idea how that came about apart from the fact that I lived across the street from Fibbers and haunted the place. I decided to try to combine live music in one room and DJs in another. I had become aware of the thriving gig scene a short time before that - maybe in 1991 - having accidentally stumbled into one of the final few nights of the ‘Anarchy Night Cafe’ upstairs in Fibbers. I was totally blown away by three bands that they put on that I’d never heard of at that point - those bands were Tension, Mexican Pets and The Shanks from Cork in their original incarnation.

I started making a point of attending gigs in earnest - seeing stuff like Female Hercules and Flexihead for example in the JCR in TCD where I was working at the time. Previous to that the one band I really followed around everywhere they played were Sack for whom I’d begun to make a series of extremely low budget music videos. I had started doing photos writing bits and pieces for a freesheet which was run out of the house where I lived in Phibsboro, in the early 90’s, just before I moved into 147. People like Colm O’Callaghan, Donal Dineen and Jim Carroll were involved and it was edited by Donal Scannell. They were into what I considered very bland mainstream acts like An Emotional Fish, The Stunning, Engine Alley. Very ‘industry’ kind of stuff. At this point Donal began presenting No Disco with Colm producing and that was what started me off making low-budget videos initially. Donal also gave me space in the magazine to start writing about the more ‘punk’ stuff that I was coming across. I remember an interview with Jam Jar Jail and one with Female Hercules. I also remember - to my eternal regret - slagging off Flexihead in one of the articles. I was actually in awe of these people I was meeting. I guess, chronologically, that this was around the time that the Blunt label started to release EPs by Pet Lamb.

'Crush' was always messy in terms of getting enough people in to pay the rent which Fibbers demanded. Basically nobody bothered with the room where records were being played. People did attend the gigs though which took place in what was basically an alcove off the main downstairs room with enough room for 30/40 people. Bands played on the floor as there was no stage. Jam Jar Jail were the first band to play and they brought Wormhole with them as support. I'd never heard of Wormhole at that point but can clearly remember them playing 'Lay It On' at either their initial gig with Jam Jar Jail or their own headline slot which followed shortly afterwards. Jam Jar Jail rocked the place too but something rang bells absolutely bigtime with me with the Wormholes. Melodies and pure aggression at times. They sounded like The Stooges I thought at the time - even though they hadn't even heard The Stooges at that point. And they were amazing characters - pure fun to be around - particularly Dave who was (and still is) probably one of the most entertaining raconteurs I'd ever met. Shane from Jam Jar Jail was brilliant at the time as he introduced me to loads of people and gave me lots of advice about who to ask to play. I hadn't a clue about running gigs at the time and was really concerned with what equipment would be needed and how much it would cost. Shane said that all that was needed was a vocal PA and he was right. And then, quite slowly,  an interesting series of coincidences started to unfold around the club and environs. I'll deal with those in a later post.

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Jul 18