Diversions :: Bloodshot Records on the Cramps and Beyond

Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.

Lux Interior died six years ago today, so it's only fitting that the year's first installment of Diversions finds us catching up with Bloodshot Records' owners, Rob Miller and Nan Washaw. The Chicago label celebrated its 20th anniversary last year with the release of  While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records - a 38 track compilation comprised of artists paying tribute to the label's two decade history.

Below, Miller and Warshaw run through their own history with music, and in turn cite the artists that helped form what would eventually define the label's ongoing aesthetic - an unflinching amalgamation of country music and punk. Not surprisingly, the Cramps played a large role. RIP Lux.

The Cramps - Human Fly: Poison Ivy Rorschach's solo is a paragon of minimalism–an anti-solo that’d make a shredder fume, so simple I could have played it---but I didn’t. Besides, she could say more with her icy sneer and the snap of her gum; she was simultaneously the coolest AND hottest woman I had ever seen on stage–before or since. And, next to her, like a warm, breathy voice growling in your ear from behind in a dark room---alluring and forbidding, one half Elvis and one half Vincent Price, one half hillbilly and one half punk, Lux Interior, the showman, shaman, and rock and roll archeologist, led me willingly straight to the underbelly. Hearing “Human Fly” was an awakening, an unburying, a baptism in the waters of music’s continuum. Thanks to that pulsing, distorted, fuzzed-out song, the aural equivalent of a rusted mausoleum door opening, I have taken the road more weird and less popular, and that has made all the difference.

Mekons - Lost Highway: The Mekons' dismantling of the Hank Williams classic from Fear and Whiskey proved that lack of musical proficiency should never be a hindrance, that the "authenticity" debate is as boring as it is stifling---usually carried out by frightened, narrow-minded people craving the status quo, that revolution can sound like a ramshackle mess and that there are a lot of highways to get lost on. They taught me to respect your forbears, but don't revere them, that reverence is a form of murder, it puts music in a jar on shelf in a museum, it suspends it in amber. Monuments are meant to be torn down. After all, as Twain said, sacred cows make the best hamburger.

Oh, and you can still hold strong opinions without losing you sense of humor. Yes, Bono, you can.

Crass - Big A Little A: If only for the genius line "If you don't like the rules they make, refuse to play their game." A call to action that has to some degree or another, consciously or not, informed every aspect of Bloodshot's business model. When shitheads in high school were beating me up for being different, it helped give me the strength to not try and fit in and end up a shithead too, to stay different and fuck 'em if didn't like it. Without that sentiment, I don't think I ever would have had the wherewithal to start a label without knowing a fucking thing about the racket.

Flatt & Scruggs - Randy Lynn Rag: Like so many, I was in a dumb punk band in high school. Like so many, I swiped records from my friend's mom's record collection stashed under the hi-fi. Ha ha ha, I'll take this one, The Golden Hits of Flatt & Scruggs. All white suits and cowboy hats, dumb bumpkin grins and red string ties. Who hadn't done their best hee-haw overbite and sung along to the Beverly Hillbillies theme? Then I played this song. The dexterity, the musicianship, the SPEED hit me right between the ears. These dudes were playing music at a level of talent and sophistication I couldn't even comprehend AND could do it faster than our crap band ever could or would and not break a sweat. I was immediately shamed. And hooked.

Only the good shit. Aquarium Drunkard is powered by its patrons. Keep the servers humming and help us continue doing it by pledging your support.

To continue reading, become a member or log in.