How’s that old song go? “It was 20 years ago today/ Booze and records taught the band to play/ They’ve been going in and out of style/ But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile/ So let me introduce to you/ The act you’ve known for all these years/ Columbus, Ohio’s rowdy-smart punk band.” Something like that, right?
New Bomb Turks’ debut LP, the brilliant, belligerent !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!, is arguably the most influential album to ever careen out of Columbus. It’s certainly one of the best, a blast of raunchy, primitive, warp-speed garage trash as smart as it is smartass. This is a record worth celebrating, and the band will do just that this Saturday at Ace of Cups.
The !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! Twentieth Anniversary Champagne Jam features opening sets from Clone Defects, Black Owls and J.P. Olsen plus DJ Red Menace spinning punk and garage rock between sets. A gatefold vinyl reissue of the album will be on sale, as will a 10-inch vinyl EP of 1992 demos, both on Crypt Records, the label that originally released !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! in 1993.
The main event, though, will be the Turks blasting through all 16 tracks, revisiting the music that made them icons across disparate underground spheres. Two decades later, !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!’s electrified cocktail of raw nerves, cheap beer and rambunctious record-nerd balderdash still sounds wildly fresh.
To mark the occasion, Alive presents a 9,000-word oral history of the album assembled from interviews with the band members who performed on the record (vocalist Eric Davidson, guitarist Jim Weber, bassist Matt Reber and original drummer Bill Randt) plus producer Mike Mariconda, Crypt Records head Tim Warren, cover artist Arturo De Leon, back cover photographer Jay Brown and more.
Eric Davidson (vocalist): I met Jim (Weber) in Lincoln Tower in the dorm, and we were at the college radio station WOSR, which is long gone. I think the budget for WOSR was, the university gave it something like $6,000 a year. It was something ridiculous. And you could only hear it in certain dorms that had A.M. transistors. You could kind of get it if you had cable on campus. It was just screwy. But it was fun for us because we met in the dorm but then we got to really just play anything we want. They had a lot of records, actually, and whatever we wanted, we got to pull it out and give it a spin.
Jim Weber (guitarist): Eric and I, we lived in the towers together. We had similar taste in music. We both came from Cleveland. So we’d been at a lot of the same shows and just didn’t know each other at that point. We knew Matt (Reber) from the radio station.
Davidson: It just kind of worked out weird that we were all from the Cleveland area and all had somewhat similar tastes.
Bill Randt (drummer): Cleveland was a good place because there were still all-ages shows going on, and sometimes you could sneak into some that weren’t all ages. It wasn’t like lockdown, just a creepy door guy. You could get into most shows. Some of my earliest local things were at the Phantasy club up there, like seeing Death of Samantha.
Matt Reber (bassist): Since we all grew up around Cleveland, we were all at a lot of the same exact shows, but I think Eric was the only one I recognized (from Cleveland) because you can’t miss him. He had a mullet too, to go with the jaw.
Davidson: I only talked to Jim because of the way the dorms were set up in Lincoln Tower. You have four rooms off of one central room. They were pretty ingeniously planned, even though it sucked to live in them, because you were forced to talk to people when you bumped into them in the way in and out of the bath. So I remember walking past the room and Jim was just sitting there. It’s kind of amazing. I have a photo of this, actually. He was just sitting at his desk, and there was a Replacements picture on the wall, and I thought that was kind of cool. So I just struck up a conversation with him about it and then found out he was from Cleveland and we had seen a lot of the same local bands and stuff like that.
Weber: I had just gotten a guitar for Christmas my freshman year of college, this shitty little Korg guitar, and we had these guys in our suite next to us. This was back in the day when it was four people to a room, 16 to a suite, packed in like animals. So these guys next to us were all from Cincinnati. They were all four in a band together, and they were called Out of Order. Any time they’d see an “out of order” sign anywhere on campus, whether it was handmade or whatever, they’d bring it back, like, “Dude! Look what I saw! It’s an ‘out of order’!” And they were really, you know, like ’80s metal kind of stuff. But I will say, they got the Guns N’ Roses record when it first came out, Appetite for Destruction. That record took almost like a year before it hit. They bought it like the week it came out, and they were playing the shit out of it, and it was like, “Holy shit, this is a great record.” And then like a year later, when I didn’t even see those guys anymore, it just blew up. Anyhow, they were in a band, so they taught me. I had a Ramones record, and I would put it on and say, “Can you teach me how to play that?” And he was like, “Yeah, I can do that.” So I started playing and just learning how to play playing along to Ramones records. The first Wire record, which was such great songs, but also very simple and straightforward. So that’s how I started playing. We kind of immersed ourselves in music at that point and decided that we wanted to have a go at it and see what happens. Eric and I played a little bit together just sitting in the dorm rooms. And then once we got off campus, we were able to get serious about it.
Davidson: In the fall of ’89, we lived together in this house on Frambes, and in the basement we had a drum kit there. I would try to keep a beat and scream out some vocals or whatever while he played the guiar part. We did a Buddy Holly cover I think, a Ramones cover, a Billy Bragg song I remember.
Weber: When we were on Frambes, we had a basement that we could practice in. So that’s where we really got serious about trying to get something together. Matt came aboard, then Bill.
Reber: I was working at the Venetian, which is a pizza place next to the Out R Inn. I remember Eric sticking his head under the place where I put the food up. He just stuck his head under, like, “Hey! I heard you play bass!” I was like, “Yeah, sure. How’d you find out I was in a band?”
Randt: Matt and I played in a band for a year or so, and that kind of disbanded. I think he might have been playing with Jim and Eric first. He met those guys at the radio station. We started tinkering around with songs and drinking beers.
Davidson: We knew that Bill would play with hardcore bands, and he played kind of fast, so we were going to be kind of fast. And Matt had a strumming bass sound, which we all dug. I don’t really like those fake fucking funk bass players or whatever. I hate that shit. And Jim and I being college DJs and living together, and kind of like sharing each other’s record collection and making mixtapes for each other and all that, it just happened that we were really getting into the Stooges and MC5 and the New York Dolls and learning about all that early ’70s stuff. And again, the college radio station, we’d be like, “Hey, we heard of ’60s garage. What’s that?” And we’d be pulling out compilations and stuff. And for whatever reason, we just gravitated toward more raw kind of stuff... We were also really into Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore and all this kind of like late ’80s New York kind of sleazy, junky kind of rock, and I thought we might go in that direction a little bit. But hey, you can only go with how everybody can play.
Reber: By late ’89, I think we had our first practice together. Bret Lewis was the second guitar player for our first couple practices.
Bret Lewis (Gaunt bassist): I don’t think they remember this, but when they lived in Frambes that year that I didn’t live with them, I was kind of in the band. And they had to do a show at Stache’s, and I couldn’t make it, so they played without me. I think that Jim at the time was very nervous about playing, and then once he realized he could do it... They certainly didn’t need a second guitar player at all.
Weber: Our first show was at Stache’s, and we didn’t play Stache’s again for a while because we were still basically nobody. But they had a band that canceled, and Ron (House) kept the night and just asked us to play.
Davidson: There’s a movie called “Hollywood Knights”from I believe 1980, and it’s kind of like an American Graffiti ripoff, sort of, but it’s fucking hilarious, just one of those dumb lost ’80s teen movies. Fran Drescher was in it topless. I always like to point that out. Robert Wuhl was the main character, named Newbomb Turk. It was one of those deals where you’re walking down the street, and Jim was like, “We gotta come up with a name, dude,” cause we had a show coming up. Ron House asked us to play a show, and we said yeah. We hadn’t agreed on a name yet. So we were just walking down the street throwing around some names, and I said that, and Jim said, “Alright, yeah. Good enough for now.” And we just kind of stuck with that.
Reber: It was us, and it was Gaunt’s first show, but they were called Black Juju. And the flyer said “Black Juju and the New Bomb Turks,” so I thought that was our full name when I saw the flyer. I was like, “Oh! We’re Black Juju and the New Bomb Turks. That’s a crazy name!”
Weber: I think early on, Eric and I, even before we started playing with Matt, tried to write some songs. I think Eric’s got a tape.Matt and Bill, they had been in bands, they had written their own songs, had done things I wasn’t that adept in doing. That was a big step forward because they had experience. And Eric’s Eric. He’s just a stone freak, in the best possible way. He just lets it all out.
Bela Koe-Krompecher (Used Kids Records, Anyway Records): Eric was such a good frontman, and he just approached it differently than anybody else. He kind of looked like Morrissey with a lot of clown injected. Like potty-mouth clown. He had that sensibility, that showmanship.
Jay Brown (photographer, !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! back cover and CD insert): Eric’s just kind of goofy up on stage, but like in a good way. He’s quick, he’s funny, a little banter. He was just fun to watch.
Lewis: Eric would always be in Brasilia, a coffee place where Apollos is now. He would constantly be writing lyrics there in a notebook.
Davidson: I really did work on my lyrics really hard, probably too much sometimes. I think later I probably did too many words in my songs. But I wanted to find a middle ground between the way Iggy Pop or the Ramones can write really simple but effective, fun things, and then the more elongated storytelling wordplay and puns of Paul Westerberg. And John Petkovic, who was in Death of Samantha, a Cleveland band that was really important to me, I liked how he was more than willing to just rip off lines from other songs and kind of reuse parts on them in a very ’90s postmodern kind of way.
Koe-Krompecher: Lyrically it was very different than any sort of punk rock going on. I mean, “Born Toulouse-Lautrec”? You could definitely see that Eric was an English major. All the puns. Everything was sort of jest, somewhat tongue-in-cheek in a way. Which is weird because I think Eric hates the irony of indie rock.
Davidson: There were some good local bands, but as far as Ramones-y kind of fast, short songs, we weren’t really seeing that around Columbus. We loved a lot of the bands, and it was definitely a growing scene compared to Cleveland. In Columbus it was getting more active, I thought, but there necessarily any bands like the Saints or the Dead Boys or whatever we were listening to.
Randt: Sound guys were always telling Jim to turn down. But it’s not the nature of the beast.
Reber: I’m not saying that we were completely antagonistic to the scene around us, but we definitely had an attitude. There was attitude against us too. It’s weird how things change, but there were a lot of local bands that were more popular bands in town that were just kind of the local version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or the local version of Pearl Jam — not even Pearl Jam, like pre-Pearl Jam or something like that. But we were friends with a lot of the hardcore straightedge kids too a little bit. I remember when we played, one of the first times this guy Ian saw us play — it was the first time he saw us — and he looked at me and said, “You guys, you’re punk rock.” And I was like, “We are? I don’t know!” Of course, we were, but at the time we were just playing stuff like Death of Samantha and The Cynics, which were my point of reference for that stuff. Or the Ramones. Punk rock to me was the Ramones. We were more garage-y than that.
Mike Mariconda (producer, !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!): They kind of distilled the whole Crypt (Records) sound, which was this conglomeration of ’50s punk, ’60s punk, ’70s punk. Certainly the Turks weren’t sitting around listening to rockabilly, but they had a pretty cool concept about retro music that wasn’t too studied. Eric would kind of sound rockabilly, but no more rockabilly than, like, The Misfits.
Brown: There would be these big showcase shows. I remember there was a Datapanik show and all the bands on Datapanik played, and (the Turks) were definitely the highlight. It was definitely between them and Gaunt. It was always a great twofer when those guys played.
Davidson: That’s kind of why we also palled up with Gaunt early on, because Gaunt seemed like guys that also wanted to play fast, short, catchy songs like that too. So we started playing out with them because we both had an affinity for similar stuff and similar cheap beer.
Randt: There was a camaraderie in the music scene. The bands were supported by the local record stores, so I think we were lucky in that regard. I mean, there were people telling us that we sucked, but we still had people supporting us, telling us to keep doing what we were doing.
Movin' On Up
Reber: Early ’90s Columbus, it was all about residencies. So Bernie’s was booked. Monday was the Ark Band, Tuesday was Willie Phoenix, and so . Ruby’s is still the same way to a certain extent. Apollo’s and Stache’s would do it to a certain extent. So the mentality of most bands in town was, “Hey, we are the Friday night band at Bernie’s.” And they made a lot of money, but that was the extent of their ambition. And I think that coming up from where we did in Cleveland and watching some of the bands from that town, we just had a different mentality.
Koe-Krompecher: I think their sound sort of comes from Cleveland, that industrial sound. You can tell they also worshipped bands like Prisonshake and Death of Samantha. Columbus at the time did not have a sound. When you look back at that sound, it was more a Cleveland influence.
Weber: I have records by the guys I went to see when I was in high school. I used to travel to go see the Mice play in Cleveland. So that was always a goal. It’s not about playing every week at this place or doing that kind of thing. It’s more like, “We want to make records and do things.”
Lewis: I can remember momentum building in general, like, “OK, we’re at university, but these guys are really going to make a go at this. This isn’t a fraternity band that plays stupid stuff. These guys are artists who really take their art and their craft seriously.”
Davidson: I believe it was summer of ’91 through summer of ’95, we all lived in a house on East 19th. And Jerry (Wick, from Gaunt) lived in there, not the whole time, but me and Jim and Bill did live in there the whole four years… That would have been right around when !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! was made. We made the early demos in the basement of that house, four-track demos with Jerry.
Randt: We did that Datapanik single with Gaunt. Robert Griffin produced that... It was recorded at the studio where Prisonshake used to record in Cleveland. Mike Rep, he tweaked the levels on it a little bit, and it just brought out kind of the more raw sound of it. So I think that probably piqued Tim (Warren)’s interest.
Tim Warren (Crypt Records): I just really liked the simplicity of the band. The first two songs, “Out of My Mind” and “Tail Crush,” were really super lo-fi. I just heard this potential. And then when they started sending me demos, and then the So Cool EP, it was like, “Jesus H. Christ!” I really liked it just because they weren’t fitting into all the cliché scenes. It wasn’t like this rote retro punk that started exploding everywhere.
Koe-Krompecher: Their sound was very unique at the time. They won over a lot of tastemaker fans right away — Tim Warren, the folks up at Matador, Johan (Kugelberg), Matt Sweeney, Paul Sommerstein, guys at Nasty Little Man. They had them won, like, first listen. Before the record even came out, the first time they heard a tape. Their first single sold out quick as hell. They got great press right away. So they had that momentum.
Randt: Johan, he’s one of those record collector geeky guys, but he’s super smart and really funny. I think a lot of the Turks’ — I don’t know if you can call it success, but our success kind of stems to those guys happening upon something through word of mouth. So yeah, we’re pretty lucky.
Johan Kugelberg (Matador Records): I was working at Matador Records at the time. Bela from Used Kids, who was always a friendly enthusiast, sent me a copy. I dug it, especially the NBT side, which truly reminded me of accumulated punk greats of Ohio days of yore. Tim was and is a good friend, and considering the ridiculous amount of musical enlightenment he'd brought me, I'd on occasion hip him to stuff I thought worthy of his ear-time. NBT were doubtlessly worthy.
Reber: Johan, with Chris Lombardi and Gerard Cosloy, was part of the initial Matador Records thing. And he was running their mail order, and he liked our single, and he wrote about it in the Matador catalog, which was huge for us. He was friends with punk rock record collectors, and he knew Tim Warren and sent it to him. Maybe a year later, Jerry Wick and I went to New York City, and I gave Johan a cassette of ours because I knew he was the guy who liked us at Matador. I figured maybe they’d put us on Matador. But he then forwarded that to Tim, and then Tim called me when I was in that shitty apartment behind Studio Posh.
Warren: I bought the split with Gaunt. I think I bought about 25 copies for my mail-order in Europe, and Johan gave me a cassette like, “Hey, you should check these guys out more.” And I was like, “Oh, shit yeah.” And then I got in touch with them and pre-ordered like 100 of the So Cool EP and was talking about doing a record. And then the next contact was just, “Let’s do this fucking record.”
Davidson: I remember Matt calling me up one night and going, “Dude, you’re not going to believe this, but Tim Warren just called me from Crypt Records, and he wants to do an album,” and I was just like, “What the fuck?” I genuinely knew of Crypt. I loved Crypt. I had a couple of their original bands and I had some of those Back From the Grave compilations, and I had some of those rockabilly compilations that he put out. So I was pretty amazed at how he came across our stuff.
Weber: It was more than just, “Hey, here’s this label that wants to put out our stuff. This is awesome.” We were fans of what they had done. We were huge fans of the Devil Dogs and Nine Pound Hammer, the Raunch Hands and stuff like that. It was a pretty big deal.
Davidson: Even though we’d been together for a while, people were in college, and your friends graduate and someone moves or someone gets married... There was no guarantee all four of us were going to stay in Columbus for the next four years. So I’m thinking, “Hey, this great label wants to put out a record.” It wasn’t exactly a bidding war, let’s put it that way. When you hear of a label that we all already know and respect actually calling us first, it seemed sort of pointless to wait around. I mean, the guy was willing to put money into pressing albums. And we just all kind of thought it would be one of those deals where the local band that puts out one record, ends up in the dollar bin a couple years later, and somebody graduates, and someone else moves on, and this will all be done in about four years.
Reber: I thought that we’d just put out a record, and that’d be it. I didn’t know there’d be records after that. I didn’t know anything would come after that.
Davidson: Tim just sounded like such a great guy. He was so excited on the phone, and so excitable and hilarious. I mean, he just was a nut, and it was so exciting to have somebody that into your band who you’ve never met and who put out records that you like. And he wasn’t some A&R guy. He was the dude. He and his wife ran the label.
Warren: There was this Italian guy, this frickin’ retarded ’60s garage collector, kept hassling me for this one Baltimore garage album. And he’d offer me $400 and I’d blow him off on that. Then he’d offer me 5, 6, out of the blue $1000. And I faxed the Turks, I said, “Welp, we got the money to pay the studio bills!” So I faxed them this kind of funny map of how to get from Columbus to Coyote Studios in Williamsburg.
In the Studio
Reber: By August, we were in Brooklyn.
Randt: Making !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! in New York was almost like a musical spring break. There was so much excitement and adrenaline of being in New York and making a record.
Davidson: We were recording in Williamsburg, oddly enough, which was a fucking hellhole at the time. We were recording on North Sixth, which now is like Shishi fucking dress shops and bars and stuff.
Warren: Mike Mariconda was pretty much the Crypt in-house producer. He would always record bands at Coyote Studios. Prices were good. It was before Williamsburg bloated. It was back in the day when there was one bodega. It was still dead there. Dead as a doornail. It sat lowly and empty. It was nice!
Mariconda: Tim had contacted me about doing the Turks, which I knew nothing about because I wasn’t living in the States, so I wasn’t following what was going on. But he did send me a demo, and the demo sounded good. He agreed to fly me from Madrid to New York to do the session because at the time I wasn’t living in America; I had just moved over to Spain and was kind of working there. I didn’t really know anything about them except from a cassette demo that he had sent. And it sounded good. The demo was kind of cool. It was trashy sounding. That’s what Tim wanted me to go for, you know? …He trusted me to get a pretty dirty-ass sound that he liked.
Davidson: We respected (Mariconda) because he recorded the Devil Dogs and the Raunch Hands stuff, and he knew people like Billy Childish. We were just kind of like, “Wow, neat.”
Randt: We weren’t rich. We just kind of recorded with what we had. Going into a proper studio was nice. Coyote Records, it wasn’t like Electric Ladyland, but we didn’t need to be in Electric Ladyland. We needed some place that was going to get a good tone overall.
Weber: We were in an Explorer that we borrowed from one of Bill’s friends who was a Scientologist... We drove to Brooklyn, set up, started playing. We did maybe three hours of recording.
Davidson: We got there and we set up pretty quickly, and I remember there being five or seven cases of beer waiting for us, which is insane, and went through those really quick.
Mariconda: I was surprised that they all seemed fairly educated. They all seemed to be involved in universities and stuff. It all struck me as being kind of funny, just normal-looking guys who didn’t really look punk or rock or anything else. They struck me as a bunch of suburban Ohio kids, which is exactly what they were.
Reber: I had a shitty amp, which Mike didn’t let me use, thankfully.
Weber: We didn’t play very well. I think there’s only one song on the record that was from that first night. “Dress Up the Naked Truth,” I think, is the one that made it. If you listen to the record, every single song on the record starts at one pace and then ends twice as fast except for that one, which is still paced fairly well.
Mariconda: The first night, I guess they were dragging ass a little bit or something, and I wasn’t totally pleased with the results. We were all pretty tired. I had just flown in, and they had just driven in. I think we tracked five or six songs that night before we packed it in and listened to the playbacks
Weber: Mike was like, “You guys don’t have it.” Seriously, it was brutal. He’s like, “You gotta get your shit together. Tim’s spending a lot of money on this studio. He’s got high hopes for this band, and to be honest, I’m not seeing what he’s seeing. So you guys gotta come in here tomorrow and show me something or I’m going to pull the plug fairly early because I don’t want Tim to waste any more money than he has to.”
Reber: I remember there were tears. Like, “I love you guys.”
Weber: It was one of those, “Hey, we gave it a shot.”
Mariconda: Maybe I was just playing a psychological game with them, but we just left the studio saying, “This is fairly average. You could do better.”
Weber: We stayed in Alphabet City, where our friend Janet used to live. It was this great setup because you could leave everything in the van. There were drug dealers on every corner, and all you had to do was just say, “Hey, look out,” because they don’t want cops coming in there messing up their business. So it was one of the only times I’ve gone to New York where I’ve left everything in the car.
Mariconda: The next day they came in, and they just completely ripped it up.
Warren: August in New York is not a pleasant thing, but they went in there and blazed that shit out.
Randt: The studio was pretty tense.
Davidson: It helps to have a little bit of tension going on, especially with the kind of music we play... Most of all it was fun. I remember it being a pretty fun recording session.
Mariconda: Nobody had a particular punk attitude except for Bill Randt who accidentally hit one of the microphones with a drumstick and then was kind of a douche about it to the engineer after he did it.
Davidson: Bill broke one of his microphones, which was hilarious. One of his mics that were on the snare… He didn’t mean anything by it. He was just wailing. When he played, he lifted his arms. Every beat his arm was being lifted above his head. I mean, he was like a fucking athlete. He was like a caveman or something.
Randt: He told me how much it was worth, and I was kind of a little snide with him. And yeah, he was in my face. Mike had to calm things down. I think it was the alcohol and just having to burn through take after take after take.
Davidson: Of course Bill said some smart-aleck thing, which was hilarious. We were all covering our mouth trying not to fucking laugh.
Randt: I said something like, “Punk rock!” And he’s like, “I’ll punk rock your ass.” I felt bad about it, but I didn’t realize he had put such an expensive mic on my drum. I was expecting, like, the $50 cheapo mic on the snare drum... I don’t think I trashed it, it just went flying through the air, or something popped off of it.
Davidson: By the end of the day, he was fine. It was totally fine.
Weber: Mike would do this thing where he’d just have us play a song. He’d be like, “Aright, that’s good, but this, this and this needs to be different.” So in the modern era, you’d just say, “OK, we’ll fix all those things later.” No, he’s like, “That’s fine. Do it again. Alright, do it again. Do it again.” So each song, we did at least four, five times. Some as many as 10. It got to the point where he would just be like, “OK, that’s good. Let’s try that again.” So the speed of the record is a direct result of Mike saying, “Do it again.”
Reber: We played every song a lot. Around 10 times each. In one day.
Randt: We had to do a lot of retakes because Mike was trying to get good performances. We hadn’t really toured before. We’d played live, but we hadn’t done extensive touring. So our endings were sometimes, you know, you miss the ending, or someone makes a mistake, and we were trying to capture everything live. There was some frustration in the studio from that. It just gets your adrenaline going even more. So some of those songs came out faster than we were planning at the time. But yeah, Mike did a good job of capturing those raw performances.
Weber: Your fifth time in a row on a song, you’re just like, “Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up,” the whole time. Eric’s singing live. Everything else is live. And it got to the point where we had this energy going. It was intense. It was more intense than anything I’ve ever done. Playing in front of people’s always been nerve-racking for me, but this was like that times 10, times 100. You don’t want to make a mistake on tape.
Reber: We weren’t studio savvy. We didn’t know about punch-ins.
Mariconda: We burned through pretty much all of the songs in the day. They were live in the room. It was one of the few times I put the singer in the room with the guitar. There was no isolation, which contributed to the kind of wildness of the sound. Jim’s guitar was so loud it was coming into Eric’s microphone when he wasn’t singing, even when he was singing.
Warren: The sound he got out of the guys just flipped my ass out. That is just a roaring record. I mean, the drums, everything about it. That record is a monster.
Randt: I think they wanted to separate us somehow, and I just remember being pretty persistent about keeping everyone in the same room and keeping it kind of live-sounding. Which isn’t the most professional thing, but this was punk rock. It wasn’t like we were making a jazz record or something.
Mariconda: Part of the great thing about the guitar sound was most of it was coming through the vocal mic. Jim had always said, “Wow, I never got a guitar sound like that on any of the recordings I ever did after that.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because it was a fucking mistake.” I’d love to tell you I planned it and I’m a genius and just rewrite history.
Randt: There’s lots of bleeding everywhere. It gives it a thick sound. I don’t know what Phil Spector would think of it.
Warren: It was warm as hell. It was recorded on half-inch eight-track, and the thing just scorched.
Mariconda: I’d love to say I had a little secret going, but we just basically made them set up and play and got lucky that all the sounds were good and the group happened to be on fire at the time.
Weber: We ended up with about 20 songs. If you listen to “Dress Up the Naked Truth” on the record, it’s like two minutes and 50 seconds. All the other ones are like two or sub-two. Nobody was paying attention to pacing or any of that. It’s literally like a track meet from start to finish, every track.
Davidson: I always say this, but I took it home and I remember playing it for my girlfriend at the time, and she’s like, “Wow, it’s faster than you guys usually play.” And it was. Ron House said the same thing. I think it was just nervousness, like thinking, “Oh my god, someone’s paying for this. We gotta get this shit done!”
Weber: We took the next day off while Mike mixed it, came in that night, and he was thrilled. As shitty as he was to us that first day, he was super-nice to us after the fact. Midway through Saturday, he was like, “This is going to be a great record. Don’t worry.”
Warren: I went to pick (Mariconda) up at the airport in Hamburg, and he hands me the cassette. I pop it into the cassette player in the car, and I just about shit my pants! I was like, “This cannot be real!” You don’t get records that sound like that very often. I tell you. !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! just from the very beginning, from that first spin, I was just like, “Good fucking god!” A record that just hammers you to the wall.
Davidson: (The album title) was from a cartoon called “Jac Mac and Rad Boy Go.” It was one of those things I saw on late night on USA Up All Night or something like that. MTV I think showed it on Liquid Television. It was just a really fucked up cartoon... There’s this crazy line in it where this explosion happens, and I believe it was Rad Boy goes “Destroy oh boy!” And I was literally just lying in bed one night thinking “We’ve gotta come up with a name for this album.” We weren’t agreeing on anything. And I was thinking of that cartoon. It popped in my head, and those guys liked it. I thought it was funny because it was like the whole punk rock thing about “Destroy!” and “Anarchy!”and everything, and I thought we were trying to have a little more fun with it, like “Oh boy! Fun.” It made sense to me, anyway.
Warren: Arturo did the art in Columbus. He was a Columbus artist. The sleeve, I thought, was brilliant.
Arturo De Leon (cover art, !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!): I had gone to art school, and everybody around here knew I did art. I had done flyers for Pica Huss, and I did a single for Girly Machine, and I did a single for Pet UFO and a couple of the other local bands around here. I had done flyers for Greenhorn and other stuff. And they’re like, “Well, you can draw. We’re looking for someone to do a record cover.” And I’m like, “Well that’s cool. I could use the money.” My price was set on a price that Duane from Pica Huss gave me to buy an amp off him. So as soon as they gave me the money for the record, I went and bought an amp off him. It was something like $350. So I totally got fucking ripped off!
Davidson: I’m wondering if he saw “Jac Mac and Rad Boy” because that cover is almost kind of like that cartoon, like that flurry of crazy shit going all over the place.
De Leon: We had a couple beers at Bernie’s before some bands started up. Originally it was the kid holding a bomb, and they were like, “No, it’s an explosion. The kid’s flying out of it.” With, like, porno mags and brass knuckles and hypodermic needles and all that good stuff. All the proper rock ’n’ roll shit... My whole concept for that thing was, “When little boys dream.”
Warren: That cartoon is just a knockout. It nails down the record.
De Leon: It’s so funny, after all these years of just hanging out and meeting people in other towns, other countries even, they’re like, “Oh, New Bomb Turks!” And I tell them I did the record cover, they’re like, “Oh my god! That’s crazy!” So at least I got a couple beers out of it.
Davidson: Jay Brown was a great local photographer... and was always taking pictures at shows and always had good stuff. So he’s like, “Yeah, here. You guys can use this.”
Brown: A lot of those early shots, I think it really does sort of catch them in that moment.
Warren: The back sleeve is a bunch of dudes in an empty club, and that’s it. It’s not like punk clothing, or garage rock clothing. It’s just kids in T-shirts and jeans on some empty stage at Stache’s.
De Leon: I was glad for their success and I thought it was cool that they would become some popular rock band, but you didn’t think they were going to be as big as, like, Black Flag or the Descendents.
Mariconda: They sounded good. Nobody was expecting that the record was going to sell more than the rest of the Crypt Records. Nobody knew that it was going to be greeted so maniacally by fans.
Brown: I remember playing the LP the first time and I was just blown away. It was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe these guys did this. You hope they can put on record what they do live, and they did, start to finish. I played it three or four times the day I got it.”
Reber: People were kind of freaking out. It was like, “I had no idea you guys were very good.”
Spreading the Word
Warren: The first pressing was at Aligned Audio in Brooklyn. I flew into the States every four or five months. Back then it was like $400 round trip, so it was a lot cheaper than trying to hire somebody to do it for me. I would live in a van and pack up records to ship to Get Hip in Pittsburgh that was distributing our records at the time and popped all the other stuff on a boat to ship to Hamburg. My wife and I went on vacation, and we took about 100 copies of the vinyl and a bunch of LP mailers. Each day we’d stop and send like 20 at a post office in Arizona or wherever. We were doing a road trip of the States. And that’s how we did the promo, just mailing it out to decent radio stations and zines from the trunk of a car.
Weber: Two people that are really responsible for our first record doing really, really well, was Matt Sweeney pushing it to people who didn’t usually listen to that kind of music, like SPIN, and Tim Yohannan writing a review in Maximum Rocknroll. That gave us legitimacy with a whole other group of people.
Reber: We had a core group of friends who were around who had a lot to do with the success of the record.
Weber: Matt Sweeney, who worked at Nasty Little Man, did press for us for basically nothing.
Reber: (Sweeney) was a friend of mine from like 1988. But yeah, he freaked out when we played it for him. He was losing his shit. Nasty Little Man was just starting. They were in an apartment when Sweeney started working for them. He’s like, “Yeah, I’ll promote this record for free, but you’ve gotta put me in touch with Guided By Voices.” Because he and all our friends were freaking out about Propeller at the time. So I told him to call Bela.
Warren: I popped a cassette out to Maximum Rocknroll because I said, “Maximum’s gonna flip about this. They’re gonna die.” So I sent a cassette to Tim Yohannan, and he wrote me back, and he was just like, “Holy gods!” I was telling Matt, “I hate to be a cornball, a spewer of corny clichés, but I think this is going to be the record of a decade. This is going to be a real mother.”
Weber: Maximum Rocknroll was very important in the late ’80s, early 90s. As Tim Yohannan got sick and started to move away from the magazine, it started to fall by the wayside. But when Tim wrote the review and we met him on our first American tour, it was a huge deal. He was excited. He’s like this old dude, and it’s like, “Best record I’ve heard in five years.”
Lewis: “Oh my god, a Columbus band was written up in Maximum Rocknroll, isn’t this fantastic?!”
Warren: When Tim Yohannan from Maximum was like, “This is the record of the decade,” I was like, if he says that, Maximum Rocknroll had huge impact. All the guys and gals on the staff were like, “Record of the year. Record of the year. Record of the month. Record of the month.” It was the shit. And that had a huge impact. It really did. And they did get some mainstream press because people just couldn’t really avoid it. You know, like Chuck Eddy in SPIN... I don’t think there were any bad reviews.
Brown: I remember Maximum Rocknroll just raved about it. I think they said something like “the best punk record they had heard all year.” And then all of the sudden they were gone. They toured Europe a lot. And I definitely made sure to try and catch them whenever they were in town.
Hitting the Road
Koe-Krompecher: They toured their fucking asses off. Gaunt toured, but they didn’t tour like the Turks. The Turks were gone like all the time. And they got on good shows. They toured with good bands.
Warren: We toured them in Europe first, and then they toured the States. So the record had enough time to get the buzz out. Some bands they hated touring. The Turks, we put ’em through hell. I think the first tour was like 70 or 80 days. It was like brutal tours. But they were troopers. Fucking troopers.
Davidson: As the years go on, I realize more and more how fucking weird and amazing this was, but our very first proper tour was when Crypt set up the European tour in March to May of ’93. If I remember correctly, we went to Europe and did 54 shows in 60 days. And that was our first “get in the van, drive a few hours, get out and play” kind of tour.
Randt: That was another eye opener too, just touring for the first time, having to get into the rhythm of doing what you do but doing it every day. It’s stressful on the mind and the body.
Reber: The first one was us not knowing what we were doing.
Weber: We used to do weekend gigs. We’d do like Friday in New York, Saturday in Boston, then drive back and have class on Monday. Then, when we got to Europe and had to play every single night, it was just brutal. We didn’t know how to pace a show.
Randt: If you watch any older live stuff, I think the speed sometimes maybe got out of hand.
Davidson: I can honestly say, it’s not like any of us were doing speed or coke or anything. It’s just how we fucking played.
Weber: When we walked into the studio, we didn’t play at that speed. By the time we were touring Europe, we were playing faster than the record. We had gone past that.
Davidson: We really got like a notch faster. Once we got to Europe, the same sort of vibe was happening where we were nervous, we had never toured before, so let’s just get drunk and get the show over with. So we listen back to any kind of shitty live tapes we have from those early European shows, and they’re just super fast. I don’t know how the fuck I ever sang that fast. And we weren’t a hardcore band. If anything that got old pretty quick. We were like, dude, we gotta temper this a little bit, add a couple slower covers, or we’re going to kill ourselves.
Reber: I was, like deathly ill. We were staying in squats too in Germany. You had to pay your dues. The squats alone, there was like 2x4 bunk beds in these abandoned buildings. Some squats were better than others. There were some people that know how to fix shit, that know how to get heating and electricity. And then there’s ones that are run by just, like, drunk, nasty dirt punks. And we played a couple of those. But I got really sick at a squat. There would be a coal-burning furnace, which I didn’t even think existed anymore. And I was getting up to go to the bathroom, which was in complete, utter cold. I’m delirious. I’m shitting water. It was horrible. I thought I was going to die.
Weber: It was actually the sickest any of us has ever gotten on tour.
Reber: It’s one of those things where it built my immune system up, and I never got that sick again.
Davidson: We went through so many countries. I don’t remember how many countries we went though. And they’re small countries, so if you have one or two really awesome shows in Belgium, people fucking remember. And then, they also have the festivals. So on our first tour in Europe — our first tour in Europe! — we played a festival in Harlem, a little town in Belgium — well, it’s not that little anymore — but anyway, we played, and then Radiohead played, and then Janis Ian played. You’d play on these weird bills with all kinds of bands, so all kinds of people would see you.
Reber: Eric would have, like, a sweater vest on. It would freak people out. They expected us to have mohawks.
Davidson: To pat my own back, I think we did really well on that first tour. I think we probably played every show way too fast because we were nervous and drunk and everything, I think we got a really good response, and I’m proud of our band. We showed up on time. We did our fucking shows. And in Europe too, you can’t go up for 20 minutes and walk off. You gotta do like an hour. It was like a slog by the end of it, but it was a lot of fun, and I was really proud that we got through all of that. You don’t think about it a lot at the time. You’re a band; that’s what you do. But as you get older, you see a lot of bands oversleep and miss flights or the van breaks down and they say fuck it. But I should say that we did do pretty well from early on. We didn’t have too many of those horror stories. We fucking showed up, we did our show, and before you knew it, people started coming.
Weber: I don’t think we became a very good live band until after that first European tour. You’re playing six nights a week for eight, nine weeks. When we got back from that, we were pretty adept at what we were doing.
Lewis: I don’t remember hearing a specific song and thinking, “Oh my god, that’s great.” I just remember seeing them live and thinking, “That’s not how they sounded in practice in the basement of Frambes.” They transcended that basement, freshman-year-of-college, REM-ripoff, Joy-Division-ripoff thing and really took it and made something for themselves.
Brown: They just started becoming this monster band. I have seen them probably 30, 40 times over the years and I have never seen them put on a borderline mediocre show.
Lewis: I think maybe also a lot of people then would hear it and then go to the live shows and see if they could somehow replicate it. And they could, and that is what blew everyone away.
Weber: In the States, when we did our first tour with Gaunt in the summer of ’93, by the time we got to the West Coast, things were pretty bonkers. It was out of hand. We were much better live. We had a clue. Things went really, really well.
Leaving a Legacy
Mariconda: They were just like a fast and loud rock ’ roll band. Of course, people want to label it as punk. I think maybe that’s why it sold so many copies, because punk people kind of got it.
Reber: (Brett Gurewitz) and Lars (Frederiksen) basically told us that when Operation Ivy ended and they started Rancid, they took !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! into the studio and told the guy they wanted it to sound like that. “We want Rancid to be like this.” When he was telling us this, he called the record Fun-Oh-Boy.
Weber: It sounds raw, and it sounds intense... It’s like Minor Threat. When you first hear that first record, it’s like, “That’s intense.” And for a brief time in the ’90s, there were people that kind of got into that shit on a larger scale.
Warren: It’s the best-selling Crypt Record ever... I think in the first 16 months it was like 30,000 records. And we were used to selling like 400 Devil Dogs. Well, 400 in the States and 1,500 in Europe with most bands.
Reber: We haven’t signed anything with Crypt, ever, and it’s the only label that we’ve ever gotten royalties from.
Warren: We paid the band for every damn record that sold, and I’m proud of that. All the downloads. It’s a proud thing to say in this modern world, with everybody getting burned by record labels right and left.
Weber: I think from the time period it was unlike anything. Nobody had played garage rock music at that speed and volume before.
Davidson: Unless you’re a total douchebag, it’s important. It’s kind of hard to talk that way about your own band. It’s nice to hear about your band from others. I always joke that that’s what we call royalties in the music business now.
Warren: For a record like that to come out and slam you in the head? Wow. It was perfect timing.
Randt: I’ve met kids who, there’s something about the record that turned them on to being a musician, which I think is pretty neat.
Kugelberg: Tim had already released some current bands on Crypt — Raunch Hands, Wylde Mammoths, Devil Dogs — but it seemed like NBT crossed over to a younger punk rock audience more. I'd say bands were formed around the USA based on the NBT record.
Warren: As far as a watershed, yes it was. And it still blows away all the imitators.
Reber: It’s got the “what the fuck” factor. I mean, just look at the back cover.
Randt: I know it’s not the best work of art. It’s not like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or something, but I guess for American punk rock it is something.
Reber: I always think we kind of stumbled into this situation. We didn’t set out saying, “We’re gonna do something that’s never been done before.” But I really think that it combined a bunch of different elements, like garage rock, rock ’n’ roll sensibility, stuff that we all liked, but it was played with an intensity or wild drunken abandon that were never had before. We just thought we were going to have another record in the cut-out bins like all the bands we admired. But I don’t know, it was like right place, right time.
Weber: It was like Bob Ross would say, “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”
Warren: !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!, to this day, is the shit. It really is the shit.