Milwaukee bands reunited—in our dreams, anyway
Three bands that should get back together, like, now
One inevitability we as music consumers have been forced to adjust to in recent years has been the Big Summer Reunion Tour—your opportunity to once more see the original lineups of bands whose original lineups, let’s face it, didn’t mean much to the casual music fan. Really, is the average Summerfest concertgoer that excited about the original lineup of Asia reforming? Last Christmas, Milwaukee was treated to a reunion show of genuine import to the local music scene when Compound Red, Alligator Gun, and Loomis put on one last big show. With the rebuilt corporate dinosaurs on the move again, Decider thought back to last Christmas and asked, “What other Milwaukee bands of yesteryear would we like to see reunited?” Here’s our three wishes.
Sometime Sweet Susan
Who were they? A droney indie/alternative three-piece, Sometime Sweet Susan (named for the skin flick that was Robert De Niro’s favorite date movie in Taxi Driver) employed a brand of guitar fuzz that could also be heard in their Milwaukee contemporaries, Compound Red.
When did they exist? According to singer/guitarist Jim Warchol, the band started as Black-Eyed Susan in 1989, changed the name in 1991 to avoid confusion with a “bad hair metal band” with the same name, and went through two line-ups before disbanding in 1996 after their last gig, a Summerfest performance.
Line-up: Warchol (vocals/guitar), Franz Buchholz (drums), and Thom Mosley (bass) (1990-94); Warchol, Dan Hanke (drums), and Tony Olveda (bass) (1994-95).
Releases: After signing to Futurist Records, the band released Fuse in 1993 (their cover of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” is a scorcher), the Point EP in 1994, and The Coming Lights in 1995.
Why did they break up? “The inevitable story of too many bass players and not enough time,” says Warchol. “We had a whole album's worth of material ready but Futurist were becoming a joke metal reissue label (e.g. Jackyl) as label head Steve Sinclair needed another angle for a tax write-off. Also, around this time, Smashing Pumpkins ripped off our song "Point" (from 1993-94) and renamed it "1979" (in 1996). We probably could have sued. We were all feeling frustrated with the state of music in general, and when Damian (Strigens, bassist who replaced Olveda in 1995) said he was leaving in the summer of '96 for family reasons, I think Dan and I both knew it was time for something new.”
Why should they reform? Demand. At the aforementioned CR/AG/Loomis reunion at the Todd Weir Auditorium, one question on the lips of the nostalgic hipsters in the audience was, “So, why aren’t Sometime Sweet Susan playing this show?”
What would convince the band to reunite? “When the idea was first mentioned I mocked it,” says Hanke, “I guess because I felt like what's done is done; why not start a new band? I've since been told to lighten up by a few people. I would definitely be down 200 percent if we covered a Rush tune!”
Who were they? A punishing industrial collective boasting upwards of four drummers on stage at once, accompanied by guitar, bass, and a percussionist banging scrap metal. A few of those musicians previously played in seminal Milwaukee bands Die Kreuzen, The Crusties, and Boy Dirt Car.
When did they exist? Through the first half of the ’90s, disbanding in 1996.
Line-up: Dave "Blue Boy" Szolwinski (vocals), Dave Rake (guitar), Dan Kubinski (drums, guitar), Tammy Werta (bass), Karl J. Paloucek (metal percussion), Paul New (drums), Jed Chrysler (drums), Erik Tunison (drums), and Dwain Flowers (drums).
Releases: Unfortunately, nothing of note was ever released. “Bill Stace/Walls Have Ears Studio might still have masters,” says Tunison. “We tried for a while to put it out, but it never happened. Some difficulties with finding a label…and a cover...” Paul New elaborates: “We were courted by a small label in 1996, but they wanted all the rights in the world, including the power to ‘turn us into a mariachi band,’ according to management. We weren't so excited about signing on with a label that wanted that much control. I doubt we would have made a good mariachi band.”
Why did they break up? “The band had run its course,” says New. “When Jed Chrysler left the band, that was it for me. He was my very good friend and we were children when it came to FuckFace. He would crack me up just by looking at me. We could have gone on, but without the guy who made me laugh, I didn't feel it anymore. You can’t bring that chemistry together with a stranger on the drums. Jed, Dwain, Erik and I go back so many years.”
Why should they reform? To remind Milwaukee’s original music scene that the word “original” can, and should, be taken very liberally. And to see Blue Boy bash himself in the face with a stick while wearing a steel mask again. Recalls New, “I asked him if it hurt to hit himself with the stick and he replied, ‘Yes, because this mask was molded for someone else's face.’ Blue Boy was special that way.”
What would convince the band to reunite? Pampering. “A tray of deli sandwiches, one large pot of coffee, and a stack of bleached white towels heated to a temperature of 95 degrees all waiting for me back stage after the performance,” insists New.
Who were they? Spastic Neenah/Green Bay weirdo garage-punks who relocated to Milwaukee after Green Bay’s music scene was dealt a severe blow in the closing of legendary all-ages venue the Concert Café. Their 2003 full-length, Psychic Voodoo Mind Control, on Green Bay’s TrickKnee Records, received rave reviews nationally.
When did they exist? 2001-2006. “We broke up on February 18th, exactly 5 years after Dale Earnhardt's death,” says drummer Eric Apnea. “Ha!”
Line-up: Nick G. (guitar, vocals), Paul Reject (guitar, vocals), JonE Reject (bass, vocals), and Lugs (drums), who quit shortly after the band’s inception and was replaced by Apnea.
Releases: The major release was Psychic Voodoo Mind Control, but that full-length was bookended by several 7-inch releases, including “Brainwash City” on Kryptonite Records (run by Wendy Norton of current Milwaukee group Plexi 3). Interestingly, the band’s still releasing 7-inches; TrickKnee is due to release a pair soon, to be joined by discs from Vancouver's Sweet Rot Records and Raw Deluxe Records from San Francisco, with Apnea possibly putting the final release out himself. “If you can't tell, our second LP session turned into five 7-inches ’cause it sucked,” Apnea jokes.
Why did they break up? “Mainly because I went to the hospital twice in two months and Jon quit out of frustration,” says Apnea. “In retrospect, it's not that big of a deal, really. I guess we were getting kinda stagnant, and Nick G. was eventually gonna move to Vancouver to be with his amazing girl anyway.”
Why should they reform? One more chance to hear their ripping cover of “Takin’ the City By Storm!,” originally by classic Milwaukee punk band The Haskels.
What would convince the band to reunite? The right bill, according to Eric. “We'll play whenever we can get a show with ABBA.”