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THRILLHAMMER

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I played bass in a rock band called Thrillhammer in the early nineties in Portland OR. We managed to do one self-booked tour down the west coast and recorded an album with Steve Albini at the controls.

The drummer, David Triebwasser, went on to be in Pond and the guitar player, Pete Krebs went on to be in Hazel, Golden Delicious, Stolen Sweets, and others, as well as to have a strong solo career. Pond and Hazel both signed to Sub Pop and got plenty of attention.

After Thrillhamer broke up, I started the band Rotor -- with Ken Adams, who had been kicked out of Pond to make way for David, and Dale Moerer, formerly of the Oily Bloodmen. We played for a couple years, did some recordings (now lost forever) and broke up when Ken moved to Atlanta. Probably about ten people on the planet remember this band.

More people than that remember Thrillhammer, but the band is still a minor footnote in Portland rock history. We were officially dead before we even recorded with Albini in April of 1992. The ensuing five or six years brought the Portland music scene international recognition; besides Pond and Hazel, Portland during this era produced Heatmiser, Elliot Smith, Everclear, The Dandy Warhols, and others.

You may wonder how (or why) we managed to record an album when we weren't even a band any more. We had actually broken up on our ill-fated tour in May of 1991. But when we got home, we heard from Mike Morasky, our friend in Steel Pole Bathtub (who worked for Boner Records), that he had vouched for us with the newly formed German branch of Rough Trade records.

To make a long story short, we strung Mike and Rough Trade along for almost a year to get this record made. Make no mistake, this was a very shitty thing to do. I have apologized to Mike, and Rough Trade guys, if you're out there, I am very sorry that we lied to you. I plead youthful stupidity and greed, but really there's no excuse.

I suppose we did it because we wanted a document of what we had done. I seem to remember that I pushed the hardest for it. Maybe I knew deep down that I, as opposed to my band mates, would never achieve this level of musical notoriety again.

Anyway, various people over the years have expressed surprise that a little known band from Portland managed to record with Albini. Don't be. He's a whore. (Sorry Steve, I just can't ever stop with the Big Black references.) Er, I mean, it's what he did/does for a living. He didn't select who he would record; he would accept pretty much any job as long as he was paid.

And back then, he was pretty damn cheap. At least for an indie band, he only wanted $150/day plus travel. I never heard the details of exactly how badly he screwed major labels... though ironically, that was actually screwing the band, since the recording fees came out of the advance which is actually the band's money since it is generally fully recoupable out of royalties. But I suppose he didn't have much sympathy for a band that signed with a major anyway.

The album was recorded in a few days at Dogfish Studios in Newberg, OR (which tragically burned down a few years later). We slept in the studio and got on each others nerves. (Well, I remember for sure that I got on Albini's nerves.) I think we probably needed a bit more directing. Albini has always insisted that he's not a producer, but is just an engineer... a sonic documentarian, as it were.

So, the result -- called Giftless -- I feel, has some warts. But to this day, when I listen to it, it gets in my head. I suppose this is true of any artist; you can't ever divorce yourself from your creation... it's a part of you. I don't think it's a masterpiece, or anything like that. But it has it's moments, and, well, it's part of my life.

I used to have the full album up here, but in Spring of 2012, Denny Swofford of Portland's Cavity Search Records approach us about rereleasing Giftless, initially as digital downloads, but later, if that does well, as a CD.

I don't really expect a new pressing of the CD, we being a footnote and all. But if Denny wants to give it a shot, that's fine with me (and Dave and Pete). So I've taken the mp3s down for now. When we're properly ignored for a while, as I expect, I will put them back up.


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