Monday, April 18, 2011

Farewell Mad Men

On April 2nd, 2011, the band Mad Men -- which has nothing to do with the television show of the same name -- played their 10th and final show. The previous 9 and former existence of this band spanned six lineups, three years, three cassettes, two continents, two compilations, two mesh shirts, one t shirt, one bootleg, and one official vinyl release.

The germ that birthed the whole mess was a conversation with NJHC luminary Bob Shedd after surfing in Point Pleasant, NJ in 2006. We both agreed that the undergrowth of these fiercely local punk scenes in the 80s kind of lent itself to the most interesting conversation and let the imagination run wild. With the bigger names in punk history, you can dream all you want, but a lot of the visual imagination and folklore is already filled in via all the documentation that went on. Musing about the zebra mussel losers that opened a show in some shore town in NJ, the reaction to the reaction's reaction of punk, is what really got us laughing and talking until four words spilled over: Let's do a band. We named the band "Square Glasses" which is about as nonsense and useless a band name as you can get, fitting for the underachieving fiction of our band. I'd play all the instruments, Bob would sing. The name changed a few months later during a tete a tete with HC magnate, Brandon Ferrel. Thanks Brandon. Needless to say Bob didn't really work out as a vocalist or as a band member, but i'm sure he's happy being the finger that flicked the first domino. Thanks Bob. I still strive towards the effortless accidents and natural "just be" of those bands.

Throughout its existence, there was a passive effort to keep things a little bit secret and out of the spotlight (including still referring to MM in the third person at the hour of the tell-all, as if i'm not involved). As you'll note, the subtext of this blog is "The Humble Narcissist" and perhaps Mad Men were the ultimate first steps out. Be at the centre without being at the centre. The whole ethos of the project was to create something anonymous and 'normal' that would go through the same steps that any other band would have to. A product more of itself than of something else. In 2007, I was in two well known bands, both of which were pretty prolific, and had already done a side project (Pinkeye) to which I was actively credited. Doing a solo project is gimmicky enough, let alone catching up on rest-on-laurels and so in the eternal combat of self vs the projected self, the 'minimalist' approach to Mad Men was born.

Mad Manifesto ver 1.0 -
-Cassettes only
-do not credit yourself directly
-maximum reference to Mental Abuse
-no particularly conventional art/delivery methodologies (within reason)
-garner minimal attention outside of efforts to make a release
-stay local

The first cassette came out during the weekend of Halloween 2007, and took about a week to get rid of one way or another. 7 months later we played our first show in Brooklyn, NY at an after party for Systematic Death, with an all American lineup. Rule six completely broken.
The second cassette was released the very same night.

Mad Manifesto ver 2.0
-10 show (or less) expiry date

Fitting that after one performance the end was already in sight, but I thought that the temporary restrictions of the band would make it work harder to be more of a special thing without diluting what it had to offer. Like i said, other projects I was involved in were arguably overseasoning the meal with countless releases and tours (all in stride these days) and so a laid back approach was probably best. Plus, if things burnt out fast there'd be time for the next project, and if they took too long at least there would be a way out. Knowing the day you die is also a good reason for people to get involved/interested...assuming you're going to give them something worth living for.

Show 1 - Government Warning + Parsons and Jonah minus Kenny
Show 2 - Ditto
Show 3 - Omegas + Jonah
Show 4 -Jonah on drums/vocals, Jon Sharron, Ben Cook, Justin Smalls
Show 5-10 aka the real Mad Men - Jonah, Jon, Ivan, Ben, Erik
Wildcard (another rule broken): St Louis w/the Abused - Rob Ruz, Ben Smith, Andrew Diaz, JF, a guy who time forgot.

Mad Manifesto ver 2.5
-it's O.K. to be on a compilation

Compilations, bar a few, are generally the landfill of any musical output. The regional compilation is something different. A regional compilation is like a well timed photograph. Do it right and you've got the most wonderfully composed, interesting, well coloured moment in time captured. Do it wrong and you've developed the photo where everyone is blinking.
Regional efforts almost always focus on the lesser-knowns, and that tends to be where you find the green bits in the desert. They act like a resume or a letter of intent to the music consuming world or maybe like an ad in the back of a newspaper or in Variety. Simply 'something' amongst everything else. So Mad Men were on two compilations, both focusing in some way on Toronto/Southern Ontario: "Toronto's Burning," and "City Limits"

Mad Manifesto ver 3.0
-get over yourself and just do a record

After 3+ years of playing and existing, a bootleg of both demos, and the cat really being out of the bag about who the band was and what the band was, it was time to give up on the artifact ban for Mad Men. The last two songs MM had written were really good, I thought, and deserved better than just a cassette and some poorly ripped mp3s, or Stigma forbid, another bootleg (respect to Noel, regardless...oops!). The ethos of the underachiever had to go out the window a little bit as well, but not so much that the previously shattered 'stay local' rule couldn't be patched together for the single official Mad Men release on Slasher Records. Depending on who you talk to, and whether or not they were in the Slasher Records club, this choice might also fall into the underachiever category ;)

So there you have it. An extended description of Mad Men with a few images to help it along. As a reward for making it through this post, HERE is the official Mad Men mixtape, to be released by me, forthcoming.

Here's the tracklist:

SUSPIRIA (orig. by Goblin)****
NOT (orig by NYC Mayhem)*
NO GODish (orig by Mental Abuse)*
GO FOR IT (Orig by Chronic Submission)**
TOO HOT Clevo Intro***
SLAPPED IN THE FACE (Orig by NY Hoods)***

*Live at Sneaky Dees Sept 10/09 recorded by MTM
**Rehearsal Tape at E.E.R. mid '09
***Live at Sneaky Dees 3/25/10 recorded by MTM


Photos by MTM, the author, Sarde Harde. Original artwork by Ryan Hogan

1 comment:

  1. Man this was a great read. I'm a CS fan, and a little obsessed with Fucked Up, but I always felt that the Mad Men demos were untouchable. Still missing two of the tapes though... which are a pain in the ass to search for on the internet cause of how hyped that TV show is. I guess that may have inadvertently added to the mystique you searched for.