Grunge happened. Maybe you didn’t approve. Maybe you couldn’t get enough. Maybe you were in preschool. Me, I was seriously down. As cool as it would’ve been if my folks bestowed their precious fuck-up with Eaten Back to Life as a seventh grade graduation present, it wasn’t meant to be. So, I cut my teeth on Seattle’s Big 4: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. And like any preteen suburban dipshit who just wanted to “mosh, dude,” I didn’t prioritize rewinding to forebears like U-Men, Green River, Mudhoney or TAD. Maybe I should have.
TAD’s 8-Way Santa is the Hall of Fame in the October issue. As the Hall of Fame expands, you damn well better believe you’re going to get your bloody red meat (Autopsy in September, a certain group of grindcore legends in November), but you’re going to get curveballs as well. Maybe even some gyroballs.
Longtime staffer Nick Green dubbed 8-Way Santa “the White Album of grunge … easily the most underrated record Sub Pop ever put out,” which is Funny Because It’s True 101. Eschewing their original approach of “blisteringly loud and raw SST/Touch & Go-style noise rock set to a molten Black Sabbath tempo,” TAD embraced melody (slightly) more on this 1991 album, but piggybacking on any “Big 4” commercial success was much harder than anticipated, thanks to an unwittingly controversial album cover that got 8-Way temporarily pulled from shelves.
This is a good read about a genuinely offbeat “fans’ band” that just may change your perception about the G-word. Not to mention the HOF includes commentary from guitarist Gary Thorstensen, who wasn’t involved with the Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears documentary, so it’s likely the first “full band” interview in approximately 20 years.
Here are some interesting bits from bassist Kurt Danielson that didn’t make it:
On the overall writing process:
“We were always most excited about what we were doing in the moment, and we didn’t think that other songs from previous sessions would mesh well. I guess we were lucky in the sense that we were a fairly prolific band and that everyone in the band contributed to the songwriting. Each of us would go through these periods of writer’s block, but never all at the same time. Tad [Doyle] could’ve pulled rank and assumed responsibilities for all of the songwriting, but it was a very democratic band.
“Tad was very encouraging, too. I was always blown away by his ability to come up with these twisted ideas, seemingly out of nowhere, that were very genuine, but bizarre. Tad’s lyrics were pulled straight from a fantastical dream. It was really fun working with Tad for that reason; I always felt that whatever I brought to the table was transcended by the combination of both of us. That’s the magic of songwriting. Good bands have that type of synergy. Tad and I tended to write all of the lyrics, but the music came from all of us. Steve [Wied, drummer] would come up with some really cool beats, and some of those beats became the basis for songs like ‘Jack Pepsi.’ That whole song evolved out of a drum part and a bass lick we came up with spontaneously. Some of the coolest songs came about that way—we’d be at practice and start improvising between songs. We glommed on to the coolest ideas immediately and saved them to develop into songs.
“‘Wired God’ came together that way, too. When we did the split single with Pussy Galore, we talked about having each band do a different version of ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus. I think Sub Pop insisted we focus on something like Black Flag. But the lick from ‘Hocus Pocus’ stayed with us and evolved into ‘Jinx.’”
On the co-headlining tour with Nirvana (pre-Nevermind):
“Sometimes when we’d be with another band on tour, it was a really healthy thing. As you must know, touring is a deadly dull endeavor. It’s the most boring enterprise on the face of the earth. There are moments of excitement when you’re on stage, but the rest of it is dull. When you’re travelling with the same guys 24/7, you tend to get sick of each other, and it’s not a personal thing. When you’re touring with another band, you add more variables to the equation, and things stay interesting for longer.
“If we were touring with Nirvana, sometimes I’d ride with those guys, or one of them would ride with us. The great thing about touring with Nirvana in Europe is that we all had to ride in the same van. It was cramped, but we had more people to share stories with. I remember telling Kurt about my then-wife’s mother, who had an aneurysm during sex. She had to learn how to walk and talk again after that. Kurt was fascinated with this, and wrote a song called ‘Aneurysm.’ Kurt was also fascinated with Tad’s bodily functions. He wrote a song called ‘Immodium,’ because that’s what Tad was taking for diarrhea.”