Monday, December 10, 2012

Wild, Wonderful Heathens (Pt. 2)

By early-1996, Morgantown, West Virginia's Karma To Burn had been a member of the Roadrunner Records' roster for two years, had amassed a catalog of nearly 15 songs and delivered its debut album to their label, only to have it rejected by the powers that be.

Frustrated at the band's current state of affairs, bassist Rich Mullins decided they should buck the label's decision and release some tracks from the recording sessions that should have resulted in his band's first album.

Karma To Burn then self-released its next product, 1996's 'Wild, Wonderful & Apocalyptic', a four-song 10-inch EP that was produced in greater quantity than the previous cassette demo the band had issued in 1995.

This EP brought the band acclaim in the underground rock scene, and made waves in and around the state of West Virginia.

Chuck Nicholas, drummer for the Huntington-based band Chum, was friendly with the members of Karma To Burn by this point (as his band had shared the Gumby's stage with them multiple times).

(Karma To Burn's 'Wild, Wonderful & Apocalyptic' 10" EP, Road Trip Records, 1996)

Chum was prepping the release of its own debut album, 'Dead To The World', on Century Media Records, but Nicholas, who had long been nomadic in terms of musical endeavors (he'd also served time in Huntington's Guru Lovechild and Lexington, Kentucky's Black Cat Bone and Control Freak), was already seeking his next challenge.

Karma To Burn recruited Nicholas into its ranks prior to Chum's album release in April 1996, and also began looking for a vocalist in earnest, in the hopes that it could finally complete the recordings that would form the band's debut album.

The band members didn't have to look very far, as they quickly drafted friend Jason Jarosz to handle vocal duties and set about composing lyrics for the band's numerically titled cache of songs.

Songs previously known as "One," "Three," "Seven" and "Ten" became "Twin Sisters And Half A Bottle Of Bourbon," "Appalachian Woman," "Mt. Penetrator" and "Bobbi, Bobbi, Bobbi - I'm Not God," respectively, and in accordance with Roadrunner's wishes, featured vocals delivered with an almost sinister quality by Jarosz. 

Coincidentally, the label would allow Karma To Burn to include three instrumentals on the record - "Six," "Eight" and "Thirteen."

(Karma To Burn's self-titled debut, Roadrunner Records, 1997)

(The band also recorded a cover of Joy Division's "Twenty Four Hours" for inclusion on the album, and while this would prove to be Nicholas' only recorded appearance as a member of Karma To Burn this lineup did write future classics "Nineteen," "Twenty," "Twenty-Two" and "Twenty-Four.")

Karma To Burn's debut album was finally issued by Roadrunner Records on February 25, 1997, and following a string of East Coast dates the band set out for its first tour of Europe, a four-week stint in the spring of that year that would not be without controversy.

(Karma To Burn with Johnny Mac on France's Canal+, May 1997)

Due to the band's relatively unknown status overseas, Roadrunner, to its credit, had hyped the band and the record, so the vast majority of European listeners presumed this band that they only knew on record was a standard four-piece (vocals, guitar, bass and drums).

Unbeknownst to the label, Karma To Burn had sacked Jarosz following the release of the album and departed for Europe as an instrumental three-piece, all but confusing the audiences that would greet them.

One of the band's more high profile appearances occurred at the Dynamo Open Air Festival in The Netherlands, which also featured the band's one-time vocalist John Garcia, and his new band, Slo-Burn.

(Karma To Burn with John Garcia, Dynamo Festival, 1997)

In impromptu fashion, Garcia joined Karma To Burn on stage during its performance and provided vocals to two songs the band had previously recorded with him.

At the tour's conclusion, the band returned to The States and maintained a rigorous touring schedule, while battling it out with the none-too-pleased executives at Roadrunner.

As a result of Karma To Burn's blatant disregard of the label's demands, it was unceremoniously dropped from Roadrunner's U.S. roster in late-1997, but strangely enough, the European branch of the label continued to carry the band thereafter.

The lack of a record label stateside did very little to slow the band's momentum and it continued touring, while also exploring the possibility of finally joining forces with Garcia for a side project, which was to be dubbed Nino Brown.

But, when the project stalled, drummer Chuck Nicholas surprised his band mates by announcing he was quitting Karma To Burn in the spring of 1998, and promptly relocated to Texas.

The duo of Mullins and guitarist Will Mecum were undeterred and, after undergoing a period of relative inactivity, ended their search for a replacement when they settled on Rob Oswald.

(Karma To Burn live at Drop Shop, 1997; photo by Jim Sands)

Oswald was a friend of the band's from his days spent drumming for the Baltimore-based band Jade (whom Mecum's pre-Karma To Burn band, The Red Oak Conspiracy, had toured with), and had also played in Buttsteak and former Kyuss member Nick Oliveri's Mondo Generator, albeit under the pseudonym Up N. Syder.

The classic Karma To Burn lineup of Mecum, Mullins and Oswald immediately began writing a new batch of songs, four of which would appear on the self-released '' EP that was issued in the fall of 1998.

On the strength of these songs the band was awarded a deal with Spitfire Records, a U.S. label sympathetic to the band's desire to retain its stature as an all-instrumental trio.

Before the release of its first full-length record for Spitfire (and second overall), Karma To Burn would appear alongside such like-minded acts as Nebula, Sixty Watt Shaman and Roadsaw on the 'In The Groove' compilation, which was released in the spring of 1999, and it would also serve as tour support for a number of bands, most notably Queens Of The Stone Age.

(Karma To Burn's 'Wild Wonderful Purgatory', Spitfire Records, 1999)

The release of Karma To Burn's second (and first all-instrumental) record, 'Wild, Wonderful Purgatory', in July 1999, would mark the return of the infamous numerical song titles, and also bring the band wider recognition than had the debut album.

'Wild, Wonderful Purgatory' featured 12 songs in total, five of which had not appeared previously in any recorded and/or released form. (The previously vinyl-only 'Wild, Wonderful & Apocalyptic' EP was appended to the album.)

Karma To Burn had finally achieved success on its own terms, the pinnacle of which was supporting Metallica on a series of dates in August 2000, but the excesses wrought by that success began taking its toll on the band's members.

Mullins, in particular, plunged headlong into the sex, drugs and rock n' roll lifestyle with reckless abandon and, while he was able to hold it together in the interim, his demons and those of Mecum and Oswald would ultimately tear the band apart.

Karma To Burn issued its third full-length album, 'Almost Heathen', in September 2001, and it featured 10 tracks (one of which, "Five," dated to the band's earliest beginnings) and garnered the band the best reviews of its entire career.

(Karma To Burn's 'Almost Heathen', Spitfire Records, 2001)

The band headlined a tour in support of the record in late-2001, early-2002, that featured openers Speedealer, and at the tour's conclusion Mullins would do the unthinkable and decamp to that band.

His move effectively closed the book on the turbulent 10-year history of Karma To Burn.

Mullins' stay with Speedealer would amount to a year's service and he would soon find himself drifting around Los Angeles and, eventually, checking into a treatment center.

Meanwhile, Mecum remained in Morgantown, and formed the all-instrumental outfit Dragon Ass before moving on to his next project, Treasure Cat.

Oswald would begin recording as a solo artist, under the moniker Crack Angel, and join California's Nebula, for whom he drummed from 2007-2009.

(Treasure Cat's 'Choice Cuts', 2007)

(Treasure Cat released its debut album, 'Choice Cuts,' in 2007, and Oswald would be behind the drum kit for Nebula's 'Heavy Psych' in 2009. Former drummer Nathan Limbaugh had also issued his solo debut, 'Chains In The Shed', in 2005.)

Fresh from the abyss, Mullins resurfaced in Year Long Disaster, a band he formed with Daniel Davies (son of The Kinks' Dave Davies) and Third Eye Blind drummer Brad Hargreaves in 2004.

Year Long Disaster released its first record in 2007, and would follow it up with 2010's 'Black Magic; All Mysteries Revealed'.

Miraculously, in early-2009, amid a rash of reissues by a number of European record labels, rumors began to swirl that a possible Karma To Burn reunion was in the works.

The reunion was confirmed in February 2009, when the band (Mecum, Mullins and Oswald) announced that it was getting back together for a tour of both the United States and Europe that spring and summer.

(Will Mecum, Rob Oswald and Rich Mullins, 2009)

Although the members of Karma To Burn stated that they would still continue to concentrate on their other projects, Year Long Disaster would eventually merge with the band (and include Davies for a brief period), Mecum's Treasure Cat went on an indefinite hiatus and Oswald exited Nebula to focus solely on working with his new (old) band mates.

Karma To Burn would record and release its fourth (2010's 'Appalachian Incantation') and fifth (2011's 'V') albums via Austria's Napalm Records, and, as of this writing, was still actively touring.

Oswald was dismissed from the band (for unspecified reasons) in July 2012, and replaced by Evan Devine of Morgantown's Pat Pat.

While the band's history has been an erratic one, it has always delivered musically and its insistence on name-checking its home state as often as possible not only ensures that West Virginia will be remembered for more than just coal miners and moonshiners, but that Karma To Burn will go down as one of the very best acts that the state has yet produced.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wild, Wonderful Heathens (Pt. 1)

Arguably, the West Virginia band that perhaps benefitted most greatly from the exposure provided by 1318 4th Ave., and flew the flag for the state more than any other, was Morgantown's Karma To Burn.

Over the course of its nearly 20-year history, the band would earn a reputation as one of the most uncompromising acts, West Virginia or otherwise, and earn the respect of a music industry that contributed to the band's demise and, subsequent, resurrection.

Much like that of their contemporaries, Karma To Burn's story is a long and complicated one, rife with hardships, lineup changes and the inevitable break ups, but with band's reformation in the spring of 2009, the plot has finally come full circle.

The Karma To Burn story, however, began in Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania, of all places, some three-and-a-half hours from Morgantown, West Virginia.

In 1990, Wormleysburg was the home of post-hardcore band Admiral, who released two 7-inch records (1990's self-titled and 1991's 'Revolving And Loading') and featured a drummer by the name of Will Mecum.

(Admiral's 'Brother Can You Spare A Dime?' 7", Soul Force Records, 1990)

Admiral split shortly after that second release and Mecum promptly relocated to Morgantown in 1991, where he was quickly recruited to play drums for local favorites Tooling For Bovines.

Mecum's tenure with the band was brief, and he wasted no time after the fact in joining forces with local musicians J.C. Belial, Nathan Limbaugh and Orville Weale to form The Red Oak Social Club.

(Mecum had since switched to guitar, so drums were handled by Limbaugh, formerly of the bands Encounter and One.)

The Red Oak Social Club soon lost its front man in Belial, and evolved into The Red Oak Conspiracy, fronted by new vocalist Curtis Duhn.

With the lineup of guitarist Mecum, vocalist Duhn, drummer Limbaugh and bassist Weale, the band recorded a solitary demo, '12 Songs Amounting To Nothing', in 1992, becoming one of Morgantown's best live attractions, and touring with the likes of Baltimore's Jade (featuring drummer Rob Oswald).

(Jade/Red Oak Social Club flyer from the collection of Jon Sula)

At one such performance, in Pittsburgh, The Red Oak Conspiracy met a local musician by the name of Rich Mullins, a member of a band calling itself Dancing Linda (which also featured guitarist Jim Davison).

Dancing Linda had already recorded a demo of its own and this chance encounter prompted the band to relocate to Morgantown, a move that would eventually signal the end of the band in early-1993.

Unbeknownst to the other members of The Red Oak Conspiracy, during that initial meeting, Mecum had found a kindred spirit in Mullins, and together they decided to pursue a new music project.

The members of The Red Oak Conspiracy then parted ways after performing their final show at Morgantown's Nyabinghi Dance Hall November 7, 1992.

Mecum and Mullins, with Red Oak holdover Limbaugh, then formed the band that would become Karma To Burn in March 1993.

(Dancing Linda, featuring Rich Mullins and Jim Davison)

(Ironically, it was Weale who coined the band's name when Mecum overheard a conversation that was being had amongst the members of The Red Oak Conspiracy concerning bad deeds going unpunished. Weale's response to the inquisitor was "I have enough karma to burn.")

While the newly crowned Karma To Burn began composing original material and landing gigs around Morgantown, they also undertook the task of auditioning prospective vocalists.

Among the first to try out was Mecum's old Red Oak Conspiracy band mate Duhn, whom the band performed a handful shows (and recorded) with before he was ousted.

With the landing of a singer proving to be a challenge, the band's lack of recruitment led it to perform at a previously-booked show, sans vocalist, which was well-received by those whom attended and prompted the members to rethink their strategy.

Instead of succumbing to the conventional trappings of rock and roll tradition, Karma To Burn would forgo a singer and be a three-piece, all-instrumental band.

(Rich Mullins, Nathan Limbaugh and Will Mecum, Karma To Burn, 1994)

The conscious decision to be an instrumental band was an audacious one to say the least, as the only notable exception at the time was Palm Springs, California's Kyuss, itself not exactly an instrumental band (as three-fourths of the band's albums contained the vocals of member John Garcia).

Karma To Burn began making enough noise around Morgantown to pique the interest of Gumby's booker Brian Barlow, who brought the band to Huntington for their first performance at the club (in support of Lexington, Kentucky's Groovezilla) on September 24, 1993.

During subsequent visits in late-1993, and throughout 1994, the band had complemented its sound by adding Mullins' Dancing Linda partner Jim Davison to the mix.

On the advice of those whom they met during the band's early days in Huntington, the quartet of Mecum, Mullins, Limbaugh and Davison traveled to Kentucky in early-1994 to demo songs with David Barrick (of Barrick Recording), two of which featured the vocals of Davison - "Joon Was Right" and "Starlet Green Light."

Not long thereafter, Davison began suffering from mental instability and he was removed for his (and the band's) own wellbeing.

(Limbaugh, Mullins and Mecum, 1995)

(During this episode, Karma To Burn tried out Karim Chatila, of Lexington's Leech and, later, The Gasoline Angels, and while he sang with the band at a couple of shows, the union never materialized.)

Karma To Burn's early Gumby's performances not only resulted in the band's introduction to the Huntington scene, but also began an alliance between it and Barlow, whom would prove to be a pivotal figure in the band's development and future fortunes as well.

In fact, it was Barlow who, in a shrewd guerrilla tactic, phoned the offices of Roadrunner Records in New York City, claiming to be a member of one of the label's bands, Die Monster Die, touting the unknown Karma To Burn to label execs.

The label bought it and Karma To Burn was signed to Roadrunner in early-1994, but on one condition - it hired a singer.

While this ultimatum threatened the integrity of the band's vision, Karma To Burn knew if it was to bring its sound to much larger audiences they would have to comply with the demand.

The band had thought they nailed down the vocalist position with Davison, but in addition to his health concerns, as it turned out, Roadrunner was not pleased with the vocals he added to recordings made with Barrick.

(Karma To Burn's self-released cassette demo, 1995)

Regardless, Karma To Burn would issue its first recorded product in 1995 - a self-released cassette which featured four songs afforded only numeric titles, two of which, "One" and "Three," were re-worked versions of songs produced by Barrick.

(Legend has it the band began designating their songs with numbers due to the dyslexia of one its aspiring singers.)

But, Karma To Burn was fully aware that it needed to land a vocalist in order to record and release what was becoming its elusive debut album.

So, the search for a vocalist began yet again.

Among the contenders Karma To Burn flirted with this go-around was Jason Byers and Mike Callahan (both of Cleveland's Disengage), Keith Morris of The Circle Jerks (whom the band met through Buzzov*en, a band for which Barlow was the then-tour manager) and John Garcia of Kyuss.

(Limbaugh, John Garcia, Mecum and Mullins, 1995; courtesy of Nathan Limbaugh)

Although the band would hit it off with Garcia, he was unable to join full-time due to his contractual obligations with Kyuss.

This foursome did, however, do a brief tour of Appalachia during Garcia's post-Kyuss days of late-1995, and the band recorded a handful of songs with him in San Francisco.

(A single song from those recording sessions, "Two Times," would eventually be released on Karma To Burn's fourth album, 'Appalachian Incantation', some 15 years after the fact.)

The majority of the band's debut album was recorded around this time (in North Carolina with producer Steven Haigler), but when it was delivered to Roadrunner they refused to release it on the grounds that Karma To Burn had not complied with the label's explicit instructions that it would not release an instrumental record by the band.

This was the last straw for Nathan Limbaugh, who opted to leave the band for personal reasons, and Mecum and Mullins were now saddled with the burden of replacing the only drummer their band had ever known.

1993: Vernon Howell's Revenge

In terms of luring talent, 1992 proved to be a successful year for Gumby's.

In addition to providing an outlet for such regional bands as Guru Lovechild, Electric Lullaby, Groovezilla, Rasta Rafiki and 10 Foot Pole, co-owner John Kerwood and booker Brian Barlow were also able to entice The Jesus Lizard, Afghan Whigs, The Mentors, Skankin' Pickle and Royal Trux, amongst others, to perform at the fabled club in 1992.

Kerwood and Barlow were quick to capitalize on this success by forging relationships with many of the artists that performed during that year and, as a result, this afforded them the opportunity to bring many back in 1993.

So, while the Branch Davidians were committing self-immolation in Waco, Texas, Gumby's was also on fire.

Among the bands that earned a return trip was New York's Drunken Boat, who appeared for a second time January 23, on the heels of its second album, 'See Ruby Falls', a record that became particularly popular with the Gumby's contingent.

The spring of 1993 brought the likes of Enormous Richard and Candy Says (April 9), The Phantoms and The Lie (April 23), Rusted Root and Rasta Rafiki (April 24), Black Cat Bone (April 25), and Antietam and Scrawl (April 30).

(Rasta Rafiki promo shot from the collection of Denton Anderson)

Morgantown, West Virginia's Rasta Rafiki, a reggae-influenced ensemble, would appear numerous times at 1318 4th Ave. over the next couple of years (including once more later that fall) and become a fan favorite, due in large part to the band's release 'Cousins', which would see the light of day in 1993 as well.

During that summer, Gumby's would host Glorium, El Santo and The Grifters (July 30), Jettison Charlie (August 24), Spider Foot (August 26), Born Cross Eyed (August 27) and Huntington's own Fuzzbucket (August 28).

Fuzzbucket was a four-piece band comprised of Tyler Massey, Alex Kendall, Joel Hatfield and Kevin Allison.

They were formed from the remnants of a band called Festus Rockefeller, which featured Massey and Kendall, and when Hatfield returned from Boston the three musicians began jamming together and performing a variety of cover songs, eventually leading to the formation of Buckethead.

Never ones to pigeonhole themselves musically, the members of Buckethead played an eclectic mix of punk, pop, ska, glam and psychedelic music that differed so much from their local peers that the band became an alternative to the alternative scene blossoming in Huntington.

(Kevin Allison, Joel Hatfield, Alex Kendall and Tyler Massey, Fuzzbucket)

In response to this, the members of Fuzzbucket (which they were now called) joked that they weren't an alternative, but mandatory.

The band added Allison to the group during the two years it took to record its debut album, 'Bucket Holiday', after he had moved next door to Fuzzbucket's rehearsal space and learned the band's songs practically though osmosis.

Fuzzbucket performed throughout the Tri-State area of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, and, more or less, became the house band for The Calamity Café (a Huntington bar and restaurant) during its existence.

The band called it quits shortly after the release of 'Bucket Holiday' and its members went on to feature in such notable local bands as Bacon Hat, Wonderful Pills, The Heptanes, Milk Of Napalm and The Red Carpet Bombers.

To coincide with the beginning of Marshall University's fall semester, Gumby's upped the ante by booking acts like Hillbilly Frankenstein, Hasil Adkins (September 4), The New Duncan Imperials (September 9), BuBu Klan (September 18), Groovezilla (September 24), Electric Lullaby and Control Freak (September 25), and Zuzu's Petals (September 30).

(Hillbilly Frankenstein promo shot from the collection of Denton Anderson)

Hillbilly Frankenstein was an Athens, Georgia-based rockabilly revival band featuring Guadalcanal Diary guitarist Jeff Walls, and it performed September 3 (after having appeared September 25 of the previous year), in support of the band's album 'Hypnotica'.

In October, Born Cross Eyed (October 15), BuBu Klan (October 16), Groovezilla (October 29) and Rasta Rafiki (October 30) returned for their second 1993 appearances, and The Mentors (who appeared a year earlier in October 1992), Five-Eight (October 21) and Sunny Day Real Estate (October 23) also stopped by the club to perform.

The Lexington, Kentucky funk/metal quintet known as Groovezilla was comprised of vocalist St. Jerrod, guitarist Wendell, bassist Scott, saxophonist/vocalist Vee and drummer Chad, and released 1992's 'Search For Neverland' independently and 1994's self-titled via Mausoleum Records.

Much like Rasta Rafiki, Groovezilla would continue to be a presence at 1318 4th Ave. over the next three years.

In the fall of 1993, Gumby's brought Sugarsmack (November 4), Liquor Bike (November 6), Red Red Meat and The Econothugs (November 12), Wally Pleasant (November 13), and Die Monster Die and Control Freak (November 20) to perform at the club.

(Die Monster Die band shot, courtesy of Roadrunner Records)

Formed in Athens, Georgia, in the late-1980s', Die Monster Die was fronted by Alice Cohen and released its debut album, 'Chrome Molly', in 1993.

The band didn't find success until it relocated to New York City and landed a deal with Roadrunner Records, who would release its sophomore album, 'Withdrawal Method', in 1994.

Die Monster Die became one of Gumby's top draws in the years 1993-94, but it was the unwitting role the band played in the success of a then-unknown West Virginia act (that had made its Huntington debut in September 1993) for which the band would perhaps best be remembered. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Total Fucking Godhead (Part 2)

(Author's Note: I was tasked by the members of Chum to pen the band's biography around the time of their reunion in the summer of 2005. While this bio has appeared online in a variety of places, in some cases my credit to its authorship has been removed. What follows is the second in a two-part series of that original biography, updated to include events through December 2012.)

At the time Huntington, West Virginia's Chum officially split in 1999, the band's bassist, Chris Tackett, had already resurfaced in the rockabilly revival outfit The Heptanes (which also included two members of Huntington’s Fuzzbucket, Kevin Allison and Alex Kendall), who released its debut album ‘Phantom Cadillac’ in 2000.

(The Heptanes' 'Phantom Cadillac', 2000)

'Phantom Cadillac' was recorded by the band in three days (in late-1999) and produced by David Barrick, who had also held the reins for Chum's 'Dead To The World' some four years prior.

Meanwhile, Chum vocalist/guitarist John Lancaster had relocated the band to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the breakup occurred, and immediately formed Dead Letter Room and, later, Semi-Automatic, who would release its own debut album, ‘Toiling To Create Glorious Music For The Proletariat’ in the early 2000's.

Concurrently, drummer Chuck Nicholas had finished his stint with Karma To Burn and had been replaced by Rob Oswald (formerly of Buttsteak and Jade).

Eventually, The Heptanes morphed into Milk Of Napalm, which would also feature Chum guitarist Mac Walker and the former drummer of Huntington's Bacon Hat, Marvin Huffman.

In January 2002, the various members of Chum crossed paths when Semi-Automatic was booked to perform at The Stoned Monkey in Huntington.

(Semi-Automatic's 'Toiling To Create Glorious Music For The Proletariat')

Also on the bill was Milk Of Napalm, so the trio of Tackett, Lancaster and Walker announced that they would, for one night only, reunite for a homecoming set of Chum classics. (Semi-Automatic’s Dave Becknell would fill in on drums, as Nicholas was unable to attend.)

It was a well-received performance that left the band’s still-thriving fan base hoping for a possible full-scale reunion.

That would not prove to be the case, as each member forged on in his respective band.

Although the seed had been planted, a proper Chum reformation would only be possible with the inclusion of Nicholas, who had seemingly moved on and left the music scene behind.

As had been the fate of their other post-Chum projects, Milk Of Napalm soon disbanded, as did Semi-Automatic.

Disheartened by the current musical climate, Tackett decided to leave himself to his own devices and started recording new material for his own amusement.

Those recordings would eventually mutate into the experimental, drone outfit Hyatari.

Walker then returned from a stint working as an engineer and the duo added long-time Chum confidant Brett Fuller to the mix.

Hyatari’s doom-laden riffs and monolithic wall-of-sound got the band noticed by heavy music insiders and the band was asked to appear at the Stoner Hands of Doom Festival in September 2003.

That performance led to a recording contract with Earache Records' subsidiary Codebreaker, who agreed to re-release Hyatari’s self-released debut album, ‘The Light Carriers.'

The response to Tackett and Walker's new project was overwhelming, specifically in Europe, and Hyatari would soon appear in a number of overseas publications.

It was during one such interview that it was revealed that the members of Hyatari had cut their teeth playing in the relatively unknown, but highly-respected Chum.

Jochen Boellath, proprietor of a German label known as Daredevil Records was, at the same time, compiling a wish list of prospective bands to be featured on the third volume of his ‘Burn the Street’ series, when he received word that the members of Hyatari were half of the quartet formerly known as Chum, coincidentally, one of his favorite bands.

('Burn The Street' Volume 3, Daredevil Records, 2004)

He immediately contacted Tackett about the possible inclusion of an unreleased Chum track for the compilation.

The idea was a stretch, at best.

The former members of Chum, however, were still sitting on a number of unreleased recordings from 1998 (and earlier) that were to have formed the core of their second full-length album.

Tackett felt that, if reworked and re-recorded, one of those songs, “Embracing The Eyesore,” would fit perfectly on a compilation that was to feature such bands as Nebula, Hermano (featuring Nicholas’ former Black Cat Bone and Control Freak comrade, David Angstrom) and long-time friends from Cleveland, Ohio, Disengage.

Ironically, Lancaster had recently returned home to Huntington, no sooner than to a field a second life-altering phone call from his old friend Tackett about the possibility of re-recording the track.

Having since settled down to start a family, and with no musical projects looming on the horizon, Lancaster optimistically welcomed the opportunity.

The lineup of Tackett, Walker and Lancaster then convened at Stonehenge Audio and, aided by a drum machine, laid down “Embracing The Eyesore.” (Once again, Nicholas was unable to join them due to work commitments in Indiana, where he now called home.)

With band camaraderie seemingly at an all-time high, it was then decided that they would resurrect Chum in earnest and an official reunion was announced in the summer of 2004.

Nicholas finally agreed and began commuting to Huntington to aid his band mates in planning their full-scale assault.

Now that all the principal players were back in place, Chum was booked to perform at Huntington’s Monkeybar in September with Disengage.

They followed that performance with a slot at X-Fest, an annual all-day rock festival hosted by Huntington’s WAMX 106.3 radio station, and also featured headliners Monster Magnet.

(John Lancaster and Chris Tackett of Chum, X-Fest 2004)

Both shows were met with a resounding response and the band committed to writing new material to be featured on their elusive sophomore album.

Chum would also continue to perform sporadic live shows in the summer of 2005, with back-to-back regional performances in July at the Monkeybar and The Sound Factory in Charleston, West Virginia.

The first night was, by all accounts, a phenomenal success, but rumors began to surface that the band’s second performance left much to be desired and internal strife had started to rear its ugly head once again.

Those rumors were soon confirmed when Chum went on another indefinite hiatus.

In the interim, Lancaster formed Earth To Eros, a three-piece featuring drummer Rusty Knight and Barry Smith, his old Guru Lovechild pal, on bass.

(Earth To Eros' 'Black Naked Eye' EP, 2006)

The band would self-release the ‘Black Naked Eye’ EP in 2006, and perform a few select shows, among them X-Fest 2007, before commencing to write and record a full-length album.

Tackett and Walker, meanwhile, continued on with Hyatari, eventually recording and releasing the band’s second album, ‘They Will Surface,’ in 2007.

Following its release, the duo added drummer Jude Blevins to the lineup to fill out their live sound.

One such performance, opening for Nebula in August 2009 at Huntington's Club Echo, also featured a special guest on guitar – Lancaster.

(Lancaster and Blevins had, coincidentally, already been collaborating on a side-project they would eventually baptize Skinfork.)

When Earth To Eros’ next recording session stalled Lancaster took the opportunity to focus on solo material that he had been accumulating over the years.

In late-2009, he officially announced that the members of the band had gone their separate ways and was anticipating the release of his solo debut, which he issued on his own High Fidelio Recordings imprint in July 2010.

Three years in the making, ‘Phantom Moon’ included such notable guests as David Angstrom, Elwood Francis (Abusement Park, Control Freak) Aaron Grubbs (Sleep Throttle, Wonderful Pills), dUg Pinnick (King’s X) and Barry Smith.

(John Lancaster's 'Phantom Moon', High Fidelio Recordings, 2010)

(Smith and Mac Walker would also join Lancaster’s live band for some regional dates in support of the album.)

Meanwhile, as Hyatari was undergoing a period of inactivity, Tackett rebounded as bassist in Dream the Electric Sleep, a band from Lexington, where he now resided.

DTES would release their own debut album, ‘Lost and Gone Forever’ in the spring of 2011.

It was under these circumstances that the now-active former members of Chum once again decided to reunite and re-record a previously unreleased track (“Headhunter”) in advance of a couple of one-off performances in early October 2011.

(Chuck Nicholas would be absent from the proceedings, and was replaced by Hyatari's Blevins.)

(Jude Blevins, John Lancaster, Chris Tackett and Mac Walker, Chum, 2011)

Once such performance would be a homecoming show at Huntington’s V Club, and this was followed by an appearance one week later in Tackett’s homebase of Lexington.

Both shows were a success, and not intended to be anything more than old friends getting back together to jam, just as they had nearly 25 years earlier in an empty band room at their junior high school.

By this point, the members of Chum had grown comfortable with their own legacy and what they had accomplished in the preceding years, so these occasional get togethers had become no-pressure affairs.

Perhaps because of this perception they are well aware that theirs is a legacy that they would rather not tarnish (as so many other once-respected bands had done by sticking around long after their expiration date).

This perspective allows for each Chum performance to be a particularly special affair because one never knows when it may be their last.

(As of December 2012, John Lancaster had released his second solo offering, an EP entitled ‘Crash Test in Progress,’ and Tackett had reunited with his Heptanes cohorts, Allison and Kendall, and they are expecting to release the long-awaited follow up to their 2000 debut early next year.)