(CBS Seattle) – Cheater Slicks, the sonically-chaotic, bassless trio, isn’t really a household name among music enthusiasts. And the odds are even some active followers of punk rock aren’t exactly sure who the band is when brought to their attention.
Nevertheless, brothers Tom and Dave Shannon along with drummer Dana Hatch have been roaming the globe with their “we do what we want” attitude towards music for the better part of a quarter-century, winning the love of some of the mainstays of rock ‘n’ roll. The trio was known in their earlier days for completely clearing bars with loud and screeching, archaic power — something along the lines of Iggy & The Stooges meets a chainsaw.
CBS Seattle sat down with guitarist and singer Tom Shannon to talk about the band’s long-awaited return to the west coast. Cheater Slicks are slated to play this year’s Portland Bender festival happening April 12-14.
First off, why so long without a west coast date?
How do you explain it? You know, time goes by so quickly and we got involved in various things … with Dana [Hatch] having children and Dave [Shannon] having children. We didn’t go on the road very much for a long period of time.
So it’s not necessarily a dig on the west coast?
No, we always have great tours on the west coast. Seattle and Portland were really good places for us early on.
And of course Bellingham … the legendary Garage Shock show, 1992?
Yeah, it didn’t seem so legendary at the time (laughs). It was kinda typical for us at the time to play to a bar and empty it out. We don’t do that so much anymore, but back then it was kind of the norm …. I know some people are disappointed now because we don’t do that so often anymore, I don’t know what the explanation is. Maybe people have caught up with us or maybe we’ve gotten better, I don’t know.
You had said a while back the focus of Cheater Slicks was about being over the top and insane while still being groove-oriented like the Stooges or the Velvet Underground. Do you feel like you guys are still on that same path?
Yeah, I think if anything we’ve gone more in that direction. I think we play looser than we used to, so in a sense we’re more in line with that idea which is kinda cool ’cause we’ve never really given it up after all these years …. I think that our music still reflects some kind of an outlet for us. It’s not that we’re unhappy people, it’s just that music has always been a purging thing for us…
You had indicated in Eric Davidson’s book We Never Learn that leaving In The Red Records would allow you guys to do things weren’t able to do. What are some examples you meant by that?
When we were on In The Red we followed a more structured path where we had more traditional releases …. I don’t really mean that Larry [Hardy] ever told us in advance that ‘hey, you have to do this type of record,’ but at the same time it was hard to branch out because it was almost like we had a set release schedule, so we did things in a very kind of predictable way.
So with Columbus Discount Records and Almost Ready Records, things are completely on your guys’ terms?
Well, with Almost Ready we’ve been working with to do a lot of re-issues which is great because it’s always good to get our records back in print. We’ve got so many, but very few of the are available…including on In The Red…and I’m talking about vinyl of course …. Columbus Discount is great because they’re just supportive for whatever we want to do.
Speaking of Columbus, would you say things would be a lot different had you guys not moved from Boston in the mid 1990s?
It’s so hard for me to imagine if we’d stayed in Boston, that question is hard for me to answer. I just don’t see how it would have even been possible — I doubt we’d even be a band. [In Columbus] we have a lot more freedom to do what we want to do, even on an economical standpoint. We practice in a basement, in Boston we always had to pay for a rehearsal space …. there was just a lot of things in Boston that made being in a band difficult.
Talk about how your latest album Reality is a Grape came to life…
We took a lot of time into making that record and it was really good because we could do multiple sessions at Columbus Discount, so we took about two or three years to record it. We took at least two years to get the songs ready for the first session …. we actually didn’t use anything from the first session, we didn’t use much of the second session, most of the record was from the third session …. It definitely wasn’t rushed, it just takes us longer because there’s so much going on in our lives that it’s just a slower process these days.
Are there plans to release another live album?
Probably not in the near future, except that we have an archival live one coming out on Columbus Discount in the next few months, and that has “Thinkin’ Some More” from 1992, and “Sister Ray,” a version we did in 2009, both songs take up one side of the record.
Who do you you think you’re music has rubbed off on?
I think the thing with our band is that it has a subtle influence on people. I’m not gonna claim that we’ve revolutionized music in any way, but I think just the attitude we put towards primitive, garage-type rock was absorbed in a certain way. It has influenced things quite a bit even into music that’s heard on the radio.
Are there any bands in particular you are looking forward to playing with at the Portland Bender?
I’ve never seen Monoshock, so I’m definitely looking forward to that …. And we’re looking forward to the jam on Sunday.
Yeah, what is that? Is it guys walking up on stage picking up where the last guy left off?
It probably won’t be like that, but if it is a jam it’ll be something where we’re all working together to create some monstrous noise. I think Chris [Gunn] from the Hunches and James Aurthur are gonna help us. It’ll probably just be a giant guitar squall with some over the top drumming as well.
For more information on the Portland Bender, including the lineups for each day, check out the homepage here.
For tickets, head here.
For a three-day wristband, head here.
-Chris Coyle, CBS Seattle
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