By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
You could call it brilliant marketing or the biggest bonehead move of a young musician's career, but either way, 19-year-old Brian Hedenberg, who fronts the band Glitter Freak, has found a way of garnering extra attention for his new local compilation CD Angels on Horseback. And it's only going to set him back about $10,000.
The CD, which was to be released this week, features some of Deep Ellum's best and best-known bands (Funland, Vibrolux, Lone Star Trio, Jackopierce, pop poppins, and Hagfish among them) and was to benefit the Wish with Wings Foundation, which grants last requests to children with life-threatening diseases. One problem: Hedenberg also chose to include a track from local joke-gross-out band Trough, infamous for flinging fecal sandwiches into the audience during shows.
Trough's contribution, "Don't Make Me," is a lovely acoustic ode to anal rape, containing the poignant lyrics: "In your ass you say no/Don't piss me off/Don't make me/Shove it/Slam it/In your ass you know what I'm going to fucking do..." As an added bonus, Hedenberg included a lyric sheet with the CD, to make sure listeners didn't miss a grunt.
Hedenberg, who initially spoke in the spring with Wish with Wings' founder and executive director Pat Skaggs about the project, says he "never thought anyone would freak out over" the song.
"I really wanted them on it because they're good friends of mine," Hedenberg says, explaining that Trough singer-guitarist James McMillan figured "Don't Make Me" would bring some much-needed "exposure" to the bands, the CD, and Hedenberg himself. "And that's pretty much the tamest song they have. At the time I first heard it, I couldn't even understand what the words were, and I was to the point where I was like, 'Aw, fuck it.'" Only when friends warned him of possible repercussions did he begin to reconsider submitting the disc to Wish with Wings.
Hedenberg, who planned to distribute Angels on Horseback through Clay Thompson's Midwest Records label, had 2,000 copies of the disc printed up, each bearing the phrase: "A Dallas/Fort Worth compilation benefitting A Wish with Wings non-profit charity." Directly underneath is a disclaimer, warning, "Parental advisory, explicit lyrics."
On January 4the day after Hedenberg called the Observer with the news that he feared was going to be "sued" by the Wish with Wings peopleHedenberg notified Skaggs the CD contained a potentially offensive song and that he was going to repress 2,000 more, substituting Trough's contribution with one from Hagfish singer George Reagan.
Skaggs says Hedenberg explained to her that a band hadn't used "the best common sense" when contributing a song to an album for a children's charity, and that he was going to use a permanent marker to erase any references to Wish with Wings on the initial pressing of the CDs, which he will now market to local independent record stores. He also informed her a second version was on its way.
When informed by the Observer of the song's subject matter, Skaggs could only say, "Oh, now, isn't that a real...hmmm, isn't that an excellent topic for something with children's charity? If I had seen that, I probably would have come unglued. Some people have a sense of priorities that are unique unto themselves."
Hedenberg says he had originally conceived of the compilation as a way to promote Glitter Freak--"or, more or less, me," he says--and figured that the best way to defray costs would be to round up some well-known bands and get them to donate their services because a hunk of the proceeds would be going to charity. He figures once all the costs were tallied up--from recording to production to manufacturing--Angels on Horseback set him back about $6,000, money that was to have gone for tuition, room, and board at the University of North Texas this semester.
He planned on making his money back, paying off the bands for whatever expenses that might have accrued, and then donating the rest of the profits (which he estimates at about $11,000, depending upon how well it did) to Wish with Wings. But because he will have to repress the disc with a new song, the costs likely will double, and Hedenberg's parents have offered to help foot the bill, with the rest of the money coming from loans. Still, he plans to give most of the proceeds from sales of the second version to the charity.
"The CD was not meant to be taken seriously," Hedenberg shrugs. "It was meant to basically have fun, and it turned out really good, and I'm proud of it."
During its seven-year run as Dallas' premier hard-rock club, the Basement has been best known for three things: as a backdrop for three Pantera videos that still show up on MTV; as the place where Guns N' Roses, Mstley CrYe, and Skid Row among others threw outrageously decadent after-show parties; and where you could find more topless dancers in the women's (and, sometimes, men's) bathroom than on the stages of Cabaret Royale and Caligula combined. But the fun stops on January 14, when Ed Killmer packs up the hairspray and Spandex and moves his show somewhere down Greenville Avenue in the next few months, when he plans to open a new venue with partner Vinnie Paul Abbott, the drummer for Pantera.
Killmer, who opened the Basement in September 1987, a year after he graduated Texas Tech with an architectural degree, says the club is closing down for a host of reasons, the prime one being that clubs like the Basement--ones geared primarily toward hard-rock and metal--have outlived their usefulness; instead, he insists, they are being supplanted by so-called alternative clubs, the lines between metal and alternative having been blurred into nonexistence over the past couple of years.
"It's probably time to go to the Basement of the '90s because the Basement as it is now has outlived its target market," Killmer says, explaining his new club will be geared toward a Deep Ellum-ish audience and will not have the same name. "When we first opened in 1987 as a rock club we targeted the bare-chested blond-haired pretty boys and heavy metal, and the perception remains what we used to be as opposed to what we are.
"The Basement probably is more of a rock club that you'd perceive, but because the building always has been an old deteriorating building and because of our association with the Pantera name and Z-Rock, people think it's more a metal club and not a rock club."
Oddly enough, when the club opened it initially featured new-wave bands such as the regionally legendary Judys and the Romantics, and even booked Wednesday night shows by such local artists as the New Bohemians, Reverend Horton Heat, and Johnny Reno. But when Club A opened in late 1989, it siphoned off a good hunk of the Basement's alterna-business, and the Metal Mondays expanded to the other six nights of the week.
Since then, the club has hosted everyone from April Wine and Blue Oyster Cult to Jesus Lizard and Barkmarket, its roster reading like a list of "Beavis and Butt-head" pin-ups: the Black Crowes, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lita Ford, Candlebox, Ugly Kid Joe, Kix, Bullet Boys, KMFDM, Cannibal Corpse, Quiet Riot, Raging Slab, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. It also served as haven for the local metal scene, having birthed the likes of Solinger, Lord Tracy, Rigor Mortis, Step Child, and the king daddy of them all, Pantera. In 1993, Details magazine even named it one of the best rock clubs in America, celebrating its caged dancers and wet boxer short contests and "all the hard stuff you can take."
But recently, Killmer says, business has begun to show a noticeable drop-off; he explains that his revenue--at the door and at the bar--is down nearly 25 percent from this time last year.
"Clubs like the Basement and On the Rocks [a Deep Ellum nightclub that shut down just a few weeks ago] are becoming archaic," Killmer says. "The elements you find in rock clubs are changing, and you have to change with it. Five, six years ago, Dallas was among the top rock markets in the country. Dallas happens to have a good rock mentality, but the rock clubs are using something that has passed, and I think it's time for a new formula. This is not a flourishing time for rock clubs. If I was doing better, maybe I could have found a way to keep the Basement open."
But, as it is, Killmer has had trouble keeping up with rent payments on the building and the adjacent parking lot, which is operated by the Kroenke Group out of Columbia, Missouri--which, incidentally, is owned by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame. Mike Decker, the Kroenke Group's local representative, says Killmer has been paying "60 to 70 percent of his rent" in the past two years, but that the real estate company has not "pressed him" for the money.
Killmer insists another reason he is shutting down the Basement is because the Kroenke Group has not made certain repairs to the building and the parking, which he believes they are responsible for. Killmer says he figures it will take $10,000 to make the necessary repairs, and when he contacted the Kroenke Group about helping to defray some of the costs, they balked; rather, Killmer says, they raised the rent. Decker says Killmer is solely responsible for the repairs, however, and that his company is "not kicking him out," but that Killmer is "leaving of his own free will."
The farewell celebration for the Basement commences on January 12 with a party celebrating the release of the Tales from the Crypt film, which features Pantera on the sound track; likely, the members of the band (sans Phil Anselmo) will attend the post-screening fete. The following night, Step Child and another local band will perform, and on January 14, Ice Cold July and Magicbox will grace the club's stage one last time. Rock, you know, on.
W.T. Greer, the pianist-singer who's been a fixture at the Melrose Hotel's Library Bar for seven years, has quit his gig as this town's best lounge singer to record his first album. Tony Sheppard, who has been filling in since his departure, will leave the bar on January 14 and head to Miami's La Playa Hotel, and the Melrose currently is seeking a full-time replacement for Greer and is holding auditions...
Liberty Valance will perform at Bar of Soap in Exposition Park every Thursday in January from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., promising nothing but "dancing, drinking, and singing.