STARK RAVING MAD
STARK RAVING MAD:
Spunge Oid - Vocals , Steven Hershon - Drums
Raidy Kilowatt & Bob (Byte) Wilson- Bass
Sam - Guitar
Colleen - Booking / Promotion
Jack Crack McDuck Daniels - Cover Painting , Band Artwork
One can hardly mention Stark Raving Mad without first mentioning Pissed Youth! Pissed Youth! formed in Houston, Texas in 1982. The lineup included front man, Sponge (Jeff Tunches); drummer, Steve Hershon; bassist, Barry D’Live; and guitarist, Charles (last name?); . Steve was married to Colleen, sister of DRI’s Spike Cassidy, and we enlisted her to book and promote our shows. Also known as PY!, we were influenced by hardcore bands of the era like Dead Kennedys & Black Flack, and Texas Bands, DRI & MDC. Pissed Youth blasted short, fast sets onto the stage of the local hardcore club, The Island. Our first t-shirt was a drawing by local artist, Kevin Bacos, of Sponge grabbing Ronald Reagan by the collar. While living and practicing at the infamous Beer Vats in San Francisco, Barry left the band, so we returned to Houston where we recruited bassist, Sam Blanton, former drummer of Doomsday Massacre. We traveled to NYC and played with Suicidal Tendencies at a Saturday Matinee at CBGB’s. Then, Charles quit just before a gig at the SIN (Safety in Numbers) Club with MDC. Now older, more pissed off, and madder than ever, we reformed with Sam playing guitar and & Bob Byte on bass and renamed ourselves Stark Raving Mad in 1983.
We practiced every night at the Brooklyn loft of our friend, Justin Tentler. Our first show was with Jodie Foster’s Army in New Jersey. All band members worked day jobs, and we pooled our money for recording time at a studio called Noise New York. We pressed 1,000 copies of our first record, a 45 RPM 12", in 1984. In true DIY style, we created and photocopied the lyric sheet ourselves. Although we called it "Stark Raving Mad," the title of the record became known as "MX" thanks to the cover art which was drawn by a true barefoot, Haight Ashbury era hippie named Jack. We sold the record via mail order by advertising in fanzines like Maximum Rock N Roll and Thrasher. We were befriended by Steve Kaye, a DJ who helped us with mail orders and played the record and interviewed us on his WUSB radio show, Turmoil. After the release of MX, we left NYC and returned to Houston.
In Houston, we played some shows at Ronnie Gaitz’s club, Cabaret Voltaire. KPFT hardcore DJ, Chuck Roast, gave us lots of airplay on his late night show, Funhouse. Jack did the artwork on our t-shirts and flyers. In 1985, we recorded our second record, also 45 RPM 12", at Rampart Studios with Raidy Kilowatt on bass. We called it Amerika after Jack’s 6-ft. by 6-ft. oil painting which was featured on the cover.
Stark Raving Mad toured parts of the United States in 1984 and 1985, cramming 5 people, all our equipment and belongings, and Onyx the cat into a van which became our second home at times. Late in ‘85, we played a show in New Orleans with the Dead Kennedys. Our final show was at CBGB’s in 1986. Colleen played bass on the first half of the set, and as a favor, Bob Byte played bass for the second half. We even recruited saxophonist, David Sawyer, for the gig; something simply not done in hardcore.
In 1988, German label, Nuclear Blast, combined both MX and Amerika and released them on one 12" record in white vinyl. One year later, Nuclear Blast released re-recordings of some of the tracks, along with a recording of the final CB’s show on a 10" record called Social Sickness.
In 1995, Stark Raving Mad reformed in New York as a threesome; this time with Sam on guitar and vocals, Steve on drums, and Colleen on bass. Our music had evolved, and we wrote some new songs; but before we could get them to vinyl or CD, we lost Steve to a heroin overdose. Now, over 20 years later, Stark Raving Mad is proud to present MX and Amerika on CD to collectors and fans. Enjoy and remember!
Stark Raving Mad
from Task #1, March 1985.
It's hard enough to interview a band live on the radio (how to fit four or five people in a room big enough for two, having only one mic for all to share), but even tougher when you've hung out with the band and know everything about them already. Hopefully the questions I've asked on the night of August 15th, over WUSB-FM, allowed the listeners to get an understanding of what Stark Raving Mad are all about. Thanks to Sponge (vocals), Sam (guitar), Bob (bass), Steve (drums), Colleen and Ronnie. One final note: this is not all of what was said that night, just what I was able to make out from the tapes.
SK: How about a brief history of the band?
Sponge: Three of us are from Pissed Youth, we came up here last summer (from Texas), our guitarist disappeared on us and went hone, so we're finally pulling it back together. Our bass player switched to guitar and we met a person here, Bob, and he's joined us and he's playing bass.
SK: Where are you living now?
Sponge: Brooklyn, the asylum.
Bob: I moved out.
Sponge: Yeah, he couldn't handle us.
Bob: I had to go to Bellevue.
SK: How's the Texas scene different from New York, are you happy with the New York scene?
Sponge: Well, that's in the city, y'know, the skins and everything, they're like Nationalists.
Sam: It's a big city, there's all different types of people.
Bob: The worst part about it, is that the skins say that they're anti-political, and that's just a bunch of crap. Because they're into Amerikan politics, they're into supporting Ronnie end everything like that. So whenever they come out and say 'politics and music shouldn't mix', which they say a lot, and they get down on bands like MDC, they're full of it. But there's good bands in New York, Bag People and Virus, it seems like they're pretty cool.
SK: How is Texas different from New York?
Steve: It's a small scene, it's a lot more oppressed in Texas. The kids seem to be a lot more close. They're more into fighting racism, narrow minds. Here it's totally apathetic, they don't care. They say here it's so much more difficult to make it, which it isn't. That's all that matters, just making it and partying.
Bob: It's a fad, they're into moshing.
Steve: We got something to say.
Bob: They're a bunch of poseurs.
SK: Do you want to talk about "Capitalist Cunts", your problems with DRI?
Sponge: It's a rather long story. They ended up stealing our bass player in 'Frisco.
Steve: After we supported them and helped put their first record out we just...
Sam: I think the song tells it all.
SK: Let's talk about "Rapist", Sponge wrote it.
Sam: Bob wrote that.
SK: I thought Sponge wrote that.
Steve: No, he's a slob.
Sam: He has his moments, y'know. Not too often.
Bob: He's pretty lazy.
Sponge: I am very lazy.
Sam: We say 'Sponge write a song', he'll come up with a song.
Bob: We out a carrot in front of his mouth, and that helps a lot.
SK: Okay Bob, tell us about "Rapist".
Bob: It's a combination of two things, one is the inability to make sense out of a lot of the things we perceive in our environment, and the other, the rapist is part of that environment that confuses you.
Sponge: Ronnie baby is a rapist, and so is every other oppressionary government.
Bob: You see support for rapists, you see chauvinism in society, and you see a lot of things that are conducive to that. You don't understand why all this is the way it is. Rape is supposed to be a real bad thing, yet we support a lot of things that influence that. But we don't deal with that stuff either, it' the media.
Sponge: The way I interpreted the song, I feel a lot of society is being raped by the government, y'know, all over the world.
SK: Is it just the governments or people who can get control of power?
Sponge: People who get control of power all the way around. The faster parts of the song are whet we are gonna do about it.
SK: How about "Fuck The Army"?
Sam: That's an old phrase. I was in the army once, a long time ago. That's about all the people who were sandbagged or lied to by recruiters to get in the army and then couldn't get out, and had to spend two or three years out of their lives, usually when they're 17-18 years old, it's the best years of their life. Once you sign on the line, there's no way you could get out. It's a little easier now, though. But that was the common phrase when I was in, in the mid-70's. It's an all volunteer army, of course, nobody had to go.
Sam: That's true, I don't know. A lot of the things they did you wouldn't believe. It never leaks out. So, we wrote this to let everyone know how we feel.
Sponge: It's kind of like a story, a guy that gets drafted, his first impressions of what's going to happen to him.
Sam: This is particularly true, like the first part. Sponge got a little message from his mother that he got a letter himself. We don't write about something for the hell of it.
SK: You have a lot to say, are you reaching the right audience? Do you think most of the punk audience already knows what's going on?
Sponge: We'd like to reach further also.
Sam: Basically, we're getting various responses from the punk audience. A lot of people think that we're too political, that we're just preaching. We're not preaching to nobody. We're just telling them to stand up, listen to what we say and form your own opinion. We're not going to put something over on you, we're not telling a bunch of stories, we're just telling you what's going on.
Sponge: As we interpret it.
Sam: Just try to make people aware of what's going on, so they can think for themselves. Cause most people are just like, 'aw well, I don't care, what's going to happen is going to happen'. And that's not the attitude to have, because then they say 'Oh, why did this happen?'
Sponge: They're wrapped up in their music television and what Duran Duran's doing, and they're not even interested in politics and what's going on in the world.
Sam: We don't write love songs, there's too many love songs.
Orders are what you'll do
SK: But do you think playing punk music reaches the wider audience you need to get? Doesn't it seem to alienate you?
Sponge: I think the scene might grow. I think other people see things from it. You can go into stores and find MDC records. I've gone into commercial record stores and found MDC records. I think it does reach out to more people.
Bob: Just in general, a lot of different ages have reacted, from the few times that we've played, a lot of different kinds of people have reacted to it. That's what goes on when you start mixing politics and music, people aren't going to limit themselves to just a certain saying, that they just like this musical style. Because once it seems to say something pertinent, then you start getting into a larger audience. When you're dealing just exclusively with the punk rock audience, you're dealing with a varied group of people. But basically, it's a fad and style that people get into, it's just a scene and a place to be at, feel like you're a part of. But not everyone in that will extend themselves from that group and try to reach out to other members of society.
SK: What's in the future, a tour, or getting the record out?
Sam: First things first, we'll get the record out, get it around a little bit.
Steve: Trying to get it distributed, then hit the road for a while.
Sam: We're tired of working. It cost a lot of money to do this, and we're doing everything ourselves, and we ain't afraid to work for what we want. We're not workaholics or nothing, but when we want something we go out and work for it.