I AM HEAVEN – S/T LP

One thing that is difficult about running a blog such as this one is trying to remember details. I’ve said it before in previous posts, but in regards to certain musical projects or time periods, my memory is pretty much void. An obvious solution of course would be to go to other interested parties and ask them to contribute their thoughts or memories. Believe you me, I have…unfortunately, what I get is a lot of ballooey.

Fortunately, I did see Mike Parsell last night, and he was able to give me a little background information about today’s subject, I Am Heaven.

I Am Heaven was a very short lived band that formed somewhere in the area of 1995. As Mike explains it (and I summarize), after Frail broke up, he teamed up with Eric Wareheim and Fred Coldwell who had been playing in a band called Elements of Need. Brian Hutchinson (a fella who had played in a band called Lollycolumn) was looking for a band and thus, I Am Heaven was formed.

Mike, who had been playing drums for Mandela Strikeforce, would stay on the drums, Eric played guitar, Brian would play bass and Fred would sing. They started practicing pretty steadily and began playing shows pretty quickly. One thing I Am Heaven was known for was their equipment. Believing in the idea that, “more volume meant more awesome”, I Am Heaven boasted the following gear when they played live:

2 – 8×10″ Marshall guitar cabinets
2 – 2×15″ Fender bass cabinets
2 – Mark II Marshall guitar heads
2 – Ampeg bass heads

Mind you, this was potentially enough wattage to power a small radio station, but I Am Heaven, only being around a short while, rarely played outside of basements. Needless to say, a typical I Am Heaven show (while visually impressive because of the sheer amount of equipment) rarely sounded like anything more than ear-splitting noise. Which was a shame since they had a great bit of talent between the bunch of them and some righteous grooves.

That’s why it was such a pleasure when they recorded this 12″ LP. To this day, I don’t think anyone can say for sure if it was ever officially released, but I managed to get my hands on a copy of the vinyl, sans cover. Was there a cover? I don’t know.

The record was recorded at Snugfit Studios by an older fella who lived with his Mom. Several bands would record there over the years and it’s understandable why. The ride cymbal on this I Am Heaven recording sounds great. It’s really difficult to get a good ride cymbal bell on recording so when you find a person that can, you stick with them.

Of course, following I Am Heaven, Mike and Brian would go on to form Goodbye, Blue Monday with Tim and Chris from True High Fidelity. Eric would form Ink & Dagger with Don Devore and Sean McCabe and Fred would kind of groove out for a while.

Sorry, no song titles on this slab of wax. Enjoy!

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FRANKLIN – THEY SAID IT WITH FIREWORKS 7″

Franklin’s second 7″ was called, They Said It With Fireworks. It was released in 1993 on Slug Sounds Records, the label that released our first 7″, Something Blue, Automotive. At the time, we were spread out as a band. I was living in Baltimore, Maryland attending school while Roy was studying at Tyler School of Art and Greg was at Haverford College. Ralph was working of course and being Ralph.

I would travel back from school as often as possible so that we could practice. However, it was pretty rare. One thing about Franklin, was that when we practiced, we never sang. Our practices were strictly instrumental and often, lyrics and melodies would only be added when we played live or when we recorded. This was of particular interest when it came time to record and none of us really had any idea what the vocal melody would even be. I guess you could call it, “surprise singing”.

After the positive recording experience we had had at Hound Sound in Baltimore, we decided to continue on with it and make it a tradition. However, Tony French, the fella who had recorded our first 7″ was now working out of a new studio. An as yet to be built studio called Big Heifer. We would end up being the first band to record in this studio with Tony and upon arrival on a Friday night, the studio was still unfinished. Literally, drywall was still going up when we got there. This of course made us a bit concerned but we made the best of it. We would sleep in the studio while recording, practicing the two songs that would make up this 7″.

The songs themselves, Sliding and Sprinkler would go on to be two of my most favorite Franklin songs. Sliding would indeed become a favorite of the folks that liked us and would be a heckle that would continue until our final show. “PLAY SLIDING” someone would yell at almost every one of our shows. I never knew whether they were being sarcastic or not, but I’ll leave it to them to decide.

Somehow, the studio was ready to roll that Saturday morning and we spent the next 48 hours banging these songs out. I still have a notebook where I first drafted the lyrics to these two songs. An oddity since Ralph would typically pen his own lyrics.

There’s something about the manic nature of the song Sprinkler that still gets my blood going. While only being 3 minutes or so in length, it was the first time I felt we had written a song with varying chapters. It seemed as if it went somewhere from chaos to mania to resolution.

During the mix down of Sliding, Greg would suggest tossing distortion onto the drums at the beginning of the song. A sweet little effect that we would use again when recording Sliding for our first LP. However, on that recording, we put the distortion at the end of the song. Numerous reviewers would confuse the intentional addition of distortion as surface noise when they heard it…ah well. The best laid plans, ya know?

Sliding

Sprinkler

THE TAZMANIANS – FINAL RECORDINGS

Today, we’ve got the rest of the recordings I have of The Tazmanians. The first post I put up about our songs targeted the music we had recorded over the summer of 1989.

This final batch were all recorded at various times prior to The Tazmanians morphing into The Random Children somewhere in the spring of 1990. By this time, we were sophomores in High School when our friend, Haim Koenig introduced us to a fella named Ralph Darden.

Ralph grew up in Mount Airy, the final stop in the city of Philadelphia before one succumbs to the suburban wasteland. Haim knew Ralph because they had played in a band together called Grooving Power. Haim, always the most direct of people, thought The Tazmanians were good, but that our singer Ron wasn’t all that keen. Because Haim was a year older than us and had a way more impressive record collection than any of us, we pretty much considered him, “Right” in most topics about music and bands. So, one night, Haim brought Ralph to one of our practices at Niles Martin’s parents house. We liked Ralph instantly. A few weeks later, Haim would bring Ralph to see us play at Springfield High School’s Battle of the Bands (photos coming!). We sort of knew instantaneously that we wanted Ralph to be our singer. He was hilarious, creative and most of all, fucking punk. He was from the city (which gave us the feeling of being way cooler than we were) and he knew about the city, he knew kids in the city…it just made sense. Plus, he could sing.

Thus, being completely shallow, self-absorbed High School kids, we kicked Ron out (a life-long friend at the time) and Ralph joined. Kind, kids are not. Especially kids in bands.

Here are some photos I dug up from the particular night we met Ralph for the very first time. It’s odd to have a visual document of the moment you meet someone who will go on to be one of your longest running friends…but I’m glad we do!


T.J., Ron and Brian. You can see Ralph sitting in the doorway between T.J. and Ron.


Ron


T.J.


Brian


Greg

End – Recorded 9/18/1989

Take a Stand – Recorded 11/4/1989

Reunion Time – Recorded 11/4/1989

In the Past – Recorded 12/9/1989

Thieves Guild – Recorded 12/9/1989

FLIER DEPOT!

Chris O’Neill was kind enough to scan these old fliers from his personal collection. It’s definitely true that fliers, pre-computer design days, had a charm all their own. Cut up, xeroxed messes that showed actual hands-on interaction with the medium. Anyone could (and did) make fliers and each was a piece of art in their own right.

I suppose I could explain each of the shows these fliers were for, but maybe that would rob them of their charm. Too many words are bad sometimes. Enjoy!

By the way, is it “flyers” or “fliers”? I never can remember.

ASPERA – UNRELEASED DEMOS

Sorry for the delay in updates! I was out of the country for a spell and things around here got a little slow. However, this is a sweet little nugget.

As anyone knows, good bands tend to evolve. Sure, maybe The Ramones didn’t change all that much, but besides them…good bands evolve. Often, this leads to backlash. Music fans like their bands to stay consistent. They like what they like and when a band switches gears too quickly on them, it can be a disaster. I know this first hand from my days playing with Franklin. For every person we met that enjoyed our later records and our more dub inspired approach there were at least two more people saying, “Fuck, you guys suck now! Go back to sounding like a band from DC.”

As a musician, it’s always a fine line between evolving and alienating the very people who wanted to listen to you in the first place. Life sucks, right?

Anyway, Aspera Ad Astra were one of those bands that enjoyed evolving. Each of their records changed in a dramatic way. From a more standard shoegaze approach to the almost mind-fuckery of their Sugar & Feathered album to their electronica inspired Oh, Fantastica record. Hell, they even evolved their name choosing to switch from Aspera Ad Astra to just plain Aspera in their later days.

Aspera had a lot folks that really went along for the ride with them, but there were just as many people who probably asked, “Huh?” I was certainly one of them from time to time, but now, going back to some of those records, I’m amazed at just how far ahead of the curve they were at the time and my confusion was my problem and definitely not theirs.

These recordings are from the Aspera vault. Some of their final demos before they disbanded in the spring of 2004. Of particular interest is “New Song Demo” and “New Song Rehearsal”. It’s fun hearing what an Aspera demo sounded like versus a live performance of the same song. Enjoy!

New Song Demo

New Song Rehearsal

Lop Lop Life

Almost To The End

Instrumental 1