Bassholes

Bassholes

BandBluesPunk

The originators of lo-fi, fucked-up, two-man bent blues. "It's sort of like punk rock." - Don Howland

Biography

The Bassholes, released on the utterly independent Dead Canary label, is the first full-length by the band of the same name since 1998’s Long Way Blues on Matador and When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again on In the Red. While the two-piece band, comprised of singer/guitarist Don Howland and drummer Lamont “Bim” Thomas, has been active in the years since - touring the Midwest, West Coast and Europe in the interval - recording has been problematic since Howland’s move to North Carolina and Thomas’ to Cleveland around the time of Long Way Blues’ release. Howland recorded a solo album for Birdman called The Land Beyond the Mountains in 2001 that would’ve been a Bassholes album if Thomas had been around, but time and distance were a problem.

Up to this point, the Bassholes, reflecting Howland’s bi-polar nature, had a sort of rhythm going with their long-players: the first, third and fifth albums were recorded in deep, deep lo-fi, while the second and fourth were big studio productions. The former batch (Blue Roots, Deaf Mix 3, and Long Way Blues) were considered by listeners to be weird to the extent that “experimental” often turned up in reviews, while the latter batch, considerably more listenable and likable to an audience that preferred rock to wondering whether their speakers had blown, were more straight-ahead, owing largely to the rushed nature of $40-$100 an hour recording sessions. The good guys at Dead Canary, after releasing an e.p. of lo-fi weird stuff recorded in a broom closet in Asheville, offered the band a chance to do something new – record some of the weird stuff in a hi-fi setting. Howland and Thomas met up in their old hometown of Columbus, Ohio and fed off the mostly but not entirely positive vibes of familiarity, working in a comfortable and well-appointed studio (Workbook) with a master engineer in Jon Chinn. The result is The Bassholes, which is far and away Howland’s favorite record in the chain. (But then, it ought to be.)

The Bassholes began as a two-piece in 1992 in Columbus, Ohio. The 2-piece format was not so much an aesthetic decision as a practical one. (It was certainly not a trendy decision; there were no other two-piece bands going then until the Flat Duo Jets canned their bass player.) Gibson Brothers singer/guitarist Don Howland, a father and an inner-city middle school teacher, realized he had a lot of songs he still wanted to try but was too stress-fried to deal with organizing a 3- or 4-piece band. A country blues fanatic, Howland was fond of those impromptu Lightning Hopkins recordings from the ‘50s when Spider Kilpatrick or Connie Kroll happened by to play drums, and the Bassholes, but for a three month or so period when they tried adding a bass player, has remained a guitar-drums duo from the get-go. A series of 45s on various labels (compiled along with unreleased stuff from the period on an upcoming release on N.Y.C.’s Secret Keeper) and an LP on In the Red (Blue Roots, the label’s first full-length, later reissued on John Fahey’s Revenant label) were recorded in the converted stable house behind an operating funeral home with ex-Gibson Brothers’ drummer Rich Lillash manning the tubs. They moved inside the home, down the hall and past the draining room, to work on material for second and third LP’s, and the band (with Thomas subbing for Lillash at a Cleveland gig and sticking on ever since) has cantered along and accepting, finally, its cult status.

Hooking up with Grafton’s Lou Poster, who drove the band on a Midwest jaunt in his fur-lined ex-CIA conversion van, the Bassholes recognized a kindred spirit. The two bands did some gigs together, Grafton’s meat-and-spuds-and-suds Midwest power rock and the Bassholes’ how-do-two-guys-make-all-that-noise? din complementing one another nicely. When Poster said he was starting Dead Canary (the name harkens to Poster’s roots in the coal country of West Virginia), the Bassholes, who only work with friends, said they’d be happy to do an e.p. for the fledging label. The idea for doing an full length album on Dead Canary naturally followed.

Howland, who continues to teach middle school history and English because it is meaningful work, has a tough time describing the band’s sound to people who ask, but it is a sound reflects the sensibilities of a man who is first and foremost a music lover, and has been since his dad would bring home Top 40 hits - Animals and Sam the Sham and Gentrys and Castaways - on 45 every payday back in the mid-‘60s. A list of the covers the band has undertaken over the years might say as much about where the Bassholes are coming from as any critic blurb; it includes both widely influential and remotely obscure tracks alike but they all share a certain surreal if wanton bleakness and they are all songs Howland loves passionately: “Broke Down Engine” by Blind Willie McTell (a live staple presented here in high fidelity), the Avantes’ “Baby Go,” Joy Division’s “Interzone,” the Fugs’ “Comi

Discography

Singles
98 Degrees In The Shade (In The Red, ITR 008, 1992)
John Henry 7" (Sympathy For The Record Industry, SFTRI 175, 1992)
Wooden Tit
(She Said I Had A) Problem 7" (Bag Of Hammers, 1995, BOH 033)
Hey O.J. (In The Red, ITR 031, 1995)
Lion's Share (In The Red, ITR 041, 1995)
Interzone 7" (Seldom Scene Records, SEEN04, 1997)
Bassholes Featuring April March 7" (Sympathy For The Record Industry, SFTRI 514, 1997)

Albums/EPs
Blue Roots LP (In The Red, ITR 014, 1993)
Blue Roots CD (reissue, Revenant, 1997)
Haunted Hill LP/CD (In The Red, ITR 025, 1995)
Deaf Mix Vol. 3 LP/CD (In The Red, ITR 049, 1997)
Long Way Blues/1996-1998 LP/CD (Matador, OLE-305-1/2, 1998)
When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again 2xLP/CD (In The Red, ITR 059, 1998)
The Secret Strength Of Depression LP/CD (Sympathy For The Record Industry, SFTRI 587, 2000)
Out In The Treetops 2x7"/CD (Dead Canary, DCR001, 2003)
Bassholes LP/CD (Dead Canary, DCR005, 2005)
Broke Chamber Music (early singles and unreleased) CD (Secret Keeper, SHH3, 2005)