Greetings From Planet Stupider
The Mulchmen's latest CD on Big Beef Records,
picks up where last year's "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!"
left off. The ethereal theremin that kicks off the album's opening track "Delta
Velocity" sets the tone for a record that takes off into some unexpected territory.
"Greetings From Planet Stupider" features some of the
Mulchmen's most hard-rocking, and most dark and moody, wordless endeavors yet.
Big Beef Records has some prime cuts coming from their studios on this rainbow-colored outing. You can't quantify it as surf yet the influence is echoing in the distance. This is instrumental rock. How do you stick a group like this in a particular genre? You just can't. Tabbed as surf-rock, they prove time and again that it's a very narrow description of their diverse sound. Their range is too far into the distant galaxies of instrumental wanderings to be categorized. This is a really good example of how to use your talent and explore and experiment with music. It's much easier to do when you don't have to sing a note. Let the music do the talkin'. It speaks loud and clear and it works.
I found this group and their music to be entirely enjoyable. I am scratching my head and wondering why I haven't heard more of these guys. They really cook. The group never lets up and is in a fine tuned mode of synchronization. Get smarter and listen to "Greetings From Planet Stupider" instro heads!!
The Mulchmen are about the primacy of a succinct, clever guitar melody traversing the middle- and low-ends over a reliable march beat. Like another band they have shared the stage with, Man...Or Astroman?, the Mulchers feel the allure of space references through simple effects and reverb. On "Delta Velocity" the employ this approach while incorporating a Western feel and theremin in their patented unrushed tempo. The power trio opts for a two-guitar approach on "Ripchord". Put it all together and you have an instro-rock band that owes as much to Link Wray and Duane Eddy as they do to Dick Dale. On the final track we get to hear "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson", the two-part scorch-relax-scorch show closer that only the live audiences have previously been privy to. Compared to prior releases, "GREETINGS" is an excellent synthesis of The Mulchmen's fertile blend.
THE NEW GANDY DANCER (U.K.)
HANG NINE (U.K.)
Nick Kizirnis, Cruise Director and guitarist, leads The Mulchmen on their merry way through some pretty powerful territory; personal favourites being the double-picked mayhem of "The Stalker", the Pink Panther-esque "Go-Go Boot Camp", the particularly tuneful "Pocketful of Pennies", the bizarrely named "Tiddytwister", the vaguely...er...Shadows-ish "Shadow Walk" (as you know, I'm a sucker for all things Shad) and the heavy metal of "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson".
If I were to make two criticisms they would be these: there is no great variety of sound on display here; The Mulchmen are a three-piece, with the occasional addition of the theremin and a lot of the tunes are tonally very similar. Did I say two criticisms? Ah yes - why no titles to rival the fabulous "A Man With No Reverb Is No Man At All", from "Louder Than Di..."? I guess that's a fairly small criticism! - Jon Deadman
THE DAYTON VOICE
When we showed "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson" to Brian, Gregg Spence says, "he goes, 'this isn't surf. You're not pulling something over on me. We're not playing surf'."
For the last four years, Spence (drums), Nick Kizirnis (guitar, theremin) and Brian Hogarth (bass), under the guise of The Mulchmen, have been blurring the lines between surf music and instrumental rock. "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson", the closing cut on the trio's excellent new LP, "Greetings From Planet Stupider" (Big Beef Records), shows how far the group has progressed over the years. The cut is actually a two part medley that dramatically meshes two unrelated songs together. It starts off as a minute long garagey, four-to-the-floor romp then rides a wave of distorted guitar into the second portion. Suddenly the song is a moody creeper with Kizirnis' guitar providing a nice pop melody line. As things progress, the song builds from a pretty ballad into the heart of a disaster zone with drums bashing, guitar raging and theremin wailing like a siren.
The Mulchmen started as a fun little project. Nothing more than a couple of friends, veteran rockers quickly approaching the 30 mark,getting together to have fun, rip on each other and learn a bunch of surf covers. As an added laugh, Kizirnis, Spence and Hogarth decided to try their hand at writing some original instrumental tunes.
The months passed and soon the instrumental trio had a set full of mostly original material and, as it turned out, a bunch of damn good songs. The musicians were having so much fun and so were the growing crowds that flocked to the Mulchmen's shows that they decided to concentrate more on new material. Soon the side project was their primary musical focus. Enter longtime friend, video producer and local record maven, Andy Valeri, who offered to release an LP on his locally based Big Beef Records. The Mulchmen headed into the studio and began work on their full length debut. In the meantime, Indianapolis-based label, recordhead, stepped in to release the 7" single, "All the News That's Fit to Surf". "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!", the group's full-length debut, followed in mid-'97. The record replaced themes of water and sun with more earthen elements, bastardizing their surf with forays into instrumental pop, punk and rockabilly. It was fitting for an instrumental group from the landlocked Midwest. The record did better than the trio imagined, even finding a spot on MTV. Two of the music network's program's, "The Real World" and "RoadRules", repeatedly used tracks from Louder Than Dirt.
This summer The Mulchmen started work on their new full-length CD while also completing Covered With Mulch, a cassette-only release of covers like Link Wray's "Rawhide" and "Jack The Ripper", "Shake Some Evil" by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and the Tornadoes' "Bustin' Surfboards". "After we finished the first record it didn't feel like it was time to stop," Spence says of the group's busy recording schedule. "We just wanted to keep going. I was just learning how to record. I learned about drums sounds and getting the guitar sound. I started listening to albums differently than I had been before. I had been in the studio for a little bit of time and [had] really gotten my hands on the equipment. I was really into it", Spence says. "Gregg spent a lot of time on micing techniques for the new record," Kizirnis adds. "He went in and spent an evening setting up the drums and getting a good sound. We spent some time on guitar too, but a lot of time on the drums because he had very specific ideas. When it came back around weeks later and we mixed, it was like, bam, the album laid itself out because the drum sound was there. The effect was powerful for us. You know, wow, this is it," Kizirnis says.
Recording and releasing two albums at one time is a big undertaking even under the best of situations, but this year the Mulchmen pulled it off despite many life changing events. "I got married this year so Gregg and Andy produced the record," Kizirnis says. "It was something they had been wanting to do so they were kind of running the show." "We were producing two records and a wedding at the same time," Valeri adds. "It got pretty crazy." "It's like 'Three Weddings and A Funeral', Spence says with a chuckle. "Two records and a wedding," Spence, Kizirnis and Valeri say in unison, followed by much laughter.
In the six month period it took to get the record from the recording studio to a finished project, the Mulchmen had more than Kizirnis' impending nuptials to contend with. Around that time, all three musicians changed jobs and their lives got even more hectic. Hogarth, a family man, had to juggle work and a home life and find time to practice, record and perform live. Even though the group was still a fun project, it took some scheduling maneuvers to pull everything off. "We had to deal with the complications of personal lives," Valeri says. "Everybody's jobs were becoming more intensive, plus we were all in Nick's wedding, so we had to deal with different arrangements."
"I'll never again record anything when anyone near me is getting married," Spence interjects. "If I even hear about a wedding, that's it, the recording's off," Kizirnis adds, as the conversation veers off into laughter, more jokes and personal asides.