Carl Snow's Summer of Love
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Carl Snow's Summer of Love

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"Torture Brings Out the Best Songs"

Torture Brings Out the Best Songs
Carl Snow and his Summer of Love

by JACK RENFRO
Photos by Sheena Patrick

Carl Snow was on his motorcycle when a kid walked up to him at a stop along the way. The kid insisted the burly biker was a famous professional wrestler.

“Yeah, I seen you. On TV!” said the kid. Snow's certainly got the look: shoulders the breadth of a whisky barrel; weightlifter's biceps, all-too-visible beneath short sleeves; the shaved head; the villainous Fu Manchu mustache. Tattoos everywhere you can see skin, including one across the base of his shaved skull that reads “WFO” in Teutonic script.

“You with that WFO!” the kid went on, mistaking the evil scrawl on the back of Snow's neck for the initials of one of the professional wrestling associations, like the WWE.

If you can't deduce the acronym—it stands for a desirable throttle setting for a bike headed down a long straightaway—ask him yourself.

That's the way it goes with Carl Snow. Dude's got knives everywhere, too. “I'm ready for anything!” he snarls. Never mind that he's a big softy who'll tear up at the mention of a departed friend and dotes on the memory of his father, Ray Snow, gone now almost a decade. Who frets endlessly about his dogs' welfare and will carry on uxoriously about his love for his wife.

The 41-year-old survivor—just barely—of the Cumberland Avenue punk scene of the '80s has a history that interfaces with a dozen bands and scores of musicians who came out of that raucous rock crucible. The auteur behind well-remembered punk and post-punk powerhouses like Koro, Red and Whitey, Snow has been relatively quiet on the local scene in recent years except for the Carl Snow Band and That, an even shorter-lived reunion with long-time co-conspirators Chick Graning and Rodney Cash.

Now comes “Carl Snow's Summer of Love,” belatedly, and not at all as cheesily as the name might suggest. Fall is just two weeks away, but, it is all about love—of music among the all-star ensemble: songwriter Snow on guitar; Hector Qirko on bass; Speedshifter singer Andy Pirkle on vocals; and longtime drummer Stan Duncan. The youthful rage is still there, but, like the players themselves, there's a certain bittersweet romance creeping into the songs: The inevitable shadowside of maturity. The quartet comprises more than 100 year's worth of combined musicianship, assembling to give it another go, this time for the music instead of “making the scene,” that social phenomenon Snow thinks has superseded honest listening and corrupted the very art of the performance.

The boys have cooked up more than enough material for the 80-minute show planned for the Corner Lounge. Mostly Snow originals, there'll be a versatile spread of songs from the hormonally charged years to the rootsier Carl Snow Band's Useless CD to the new, never-before-heard pop and soul-inflected material, plus a few covers.

“Our current fave new tune was actually written in 10 minutes across a quarter of a century,” Snow says, recalling how “Humor Me” was written. Intended for Red, the song never developed beyond the chorus. “When the Summer of Love started playing, the ‘writer button' got pushed down on my head and I paid a visit to the old chorus and all of a sudden, the verse and bridge came tumbling out of my mouth and Blam!: ‘Humor Me' entered our canon.”

Snow claims he is having more fun playing with these middle-aged guys “than I've had since Red, and that was 1980.”

DOWN-HOME MUSIC
A visitor tries to stay out of the way during a recent rehearsal at Snow's home studio. The band is squirreled away in a little nook to condense their sound during this lo-tech run-through. The narrow hallway connects the studio/bedroom to another part of the Prairie-style house dug into the side of Black Oak Ridge a few miles out Tazewell Pike from Fountain City. It's the home Snow shares with the love of his life, Cynthia Loftis-Snow, a hairdresser from a family of hairdressers (slightly funny, 'cause Snow's pate is as bald as an embryo's), and the three dogs they adore so much they leave the TV on for them when they're not at home. The multi-level rancher has a sort of Zen aesthetic to its lived-inness. It's a home and a studio, where Snow records and teaches guitar. Besides working with the Summer of Love, he is also working on a project with Chris Scum (the Dirty Works), and he has a gig making recordings for various audio companies.

Laughing half the time, the band members yell out at each other in the easy shorthand of musicians—how many measures of this; where to put the change. “I was trying to find the bridge,” Duncan hollers over the general din. “I forgot there was an extra ‘A',” Qirko chuckles.

Snow calls Qirko, one of the best guitarists around, a “bassist's bass player,” meaning, he understands the bass is there to be an anchor, not a guitar playing in the lowest register. Think “Duck” Dunn, not Jaco Pastorius. “They're indulging me,” Qirko says, enigmatically disarming any curiosity about a virtuosic lead guitarist's relegation to the rhythm section.

“What could be better? I get to work in the engine room of this big machine,” he adds after Snow expresses delight at finding the most empathic drums 'n' bass combination he's had since being backed by the brilliant, sibling chemistry of James and Bill Dungan (Seavers) back in the Red days. Asked about the dinky-looking Danelectro he's playing with the Summer of Love, Qirko says, “it's the only bass I've got. Jim Williams (bassist for Qirko's own HQ Band) sold it to me years ago. I use it around the house for demos, but I'm looking forward to turning it up all the way at the gig.”

“I grew up with Hector in my life,” Snow says. As a teenaged Bearden High student around '80 and '81, Snow went to both Qirko and the late Terry Hill for guitar lessons. But, he jokes, “my single claim to fame is turning Hector onto XTC. We figured out the entire Drums and Wires album. Then we wondered, ‘Why is my mother giving you money for lessons?' I was also going to Terry Hill for lessons at Camel Studios and Hector at Pick 'n' Grin. It's kind of weird, playing with your teacher, but you get over that.”

The student-teacher relationship Snow had with Qirko and Hill (who together were the frontal lobes of seminal art-punk band, Balboa) rapidly transmuted into comradeship among artists who mutually viewed music as a vehicle for exploration. Today, there remains this “shared area” between them. “Like, a shadow. A good kind of shadow.”

Back to work the boys go, Snow croaking out a scratch vocal to scan the lines for Pirkle, who relishes the opportunity to draw on his sweeter voiced R&B inspirations with this band than he does the harder-edged Speedshifter sound.

This one's ready—“Cherie,” ( “Cherie, she don't love me…” ), a bright, crisp Nick Lowe-ish power lament confessing to a two-dimensional love affair with a certain downscale porn mag. “Rockin' like Dokken, baby!” Snow exhorts the crew.

The bandleader can't get over finding a double-kicking drummer like Duncan to combine with Qirko's savvy bass. Although he is a '70s band veteran (Sanhedrin) and a native of the area, Duncan moved around a lot and only returned to Oak Ridge in recent years, making him the Summer of Love's unknown quantity. Although Duncan had worked with numerous local musicians, including Qirko, in various projects, it was pure chance that landed him in the band. Snow was assembling the hypothetical new band in his imagination when John Tilson (Vacationist League) came over to the house to record. Duncan dropped by to lay down some drum tracks and Snow liked what he heard. “I said ‘sure,' though I had no idea who Carl was,” Duncan says. “We discovered the mutual friendship with Hector, so we asked Hector if he wanted to play.”

Circumstances led Pirkle to the band as well. He met Snow a few years ago when Snow dropped into mutual buddy Rodney Cash's metalworking shop. Pirkle invited Cash, Snow and Graning—That—to open for an upcoming Speedshifter show. Earlier this year, when Pirkle took his son over to Snow's for guitar lessons, the invitation was reciprocated and Pirkle found himself a job singing Snow songs. The Speedshifter guitarist and main singer-songwriter (little brother to progressive country songstress Sarah Pirkle) agrees that few would ever associate Sam Cooke-style “crooning” with the Snow sound, but Pirkle says he looks forward to doing just that with the Summer of Love. “I rarely get a chance to do that with a hard rock band like Speedshifter,” he says. With regard to their songwriting sessions together, Pirkle says it is astonishing to witness Snow's ease with lyrics and melody. “He is so accomplished. He can write anything from punk to country. Whatever (style) he wants and it looks so effortless, too.”

After rehearsal, Snow is clearly elated about the group's cohesion. “It's an amazing thing,” Snow says. “It is magic and I ain't saying that in the schmaltzy, Vegas/carnie/agent way. I'm saying it 'cause it's fuckin' true. No shit.”

IMMERSION THERAPY & BLACK MOSES
The paternal line is the source of Snow's musical germ. Between Ray Snow and his two brothers, little Carl was practically a Skinnerian experiment in cultural immersion therapy. “We all lived in Atlanta and one my uncles came back from 'Nam with this huge reel-to-reel with everything on it, from Joplin to CCR. He'd put a flight helmet on me, plop Plato in front of me to read. Or put headphones on me and play me Sibelius and Rachmaninoff and then that Vietnam-era rock on the reel-to-reel. Dad's dad was a holy roller preacher down in Alabama and that's some serious rockin' 'n' rollin', too,” Snow says, adding that his own religiosity these days—he attends a local Presbyterian church sometimes—is a kind of Buddhist-Christian hybrid. “Dad would also take me around churches to check them out. I liked the black ones best 'cause the music was the best. Presbyterian hymns just don't have the moxie.”

Ray Snow was a traveling salesman. Carl's father and one of his brothers wanted to settle with a business of their own somewhere and that town ended up being Knoxville. But before that was a lot of moving around. Snow recalls being a toddler in Connecticut where the parents would take him along instead of getting a babysitter when they went bar-hopping. The boy ended up atop the piano doing sing-alongs. “I'd sing ‘Rocket Man' or whatever. Bars were my kindergarten.”

During the family's Memphis interim, little Carl was sent to a Montessori school where he happened to strike up a friendship with “a black kid named Vincent Hayes. His dad was Isaac Hayes. I rode to school with Vincent in the Hayes limo.” After school, the boys would go to the Hayes' apartment to play. Little Carl hadn't the slightest idea who Isaac Hayes was at the time. Nevertheless, he knows now: “Black Moses was in the house! I used to bang on his piano all the time.” As if that weren't portentous enough, Carl's father once took him to a
major public event on the capital steps in Atlanta where Carl claims to have “sat on the bench right beside Ray Charles while he sang ‘Georgia.'”

Snow adds, “The stars stalked me when I was a kid!”

Perhaps even more telling was the little boy's exposure at the Hayes' house to the next big thing in audio technology: audiocassettes. Carl began recording himself singing to records and the radio. The fascination with recording and the peripatetic upbringing triggered an impulse to archive everything. “I moved; I lived in a different town every month. I felt like I had to make some kind of impression,” Snow says. “I had to document that I was here.”

BITMAPPING & BALLET
Nowadays, state-of-the-art recording for Snow involves computerized programs like Cubase, and Acid and many other recording and audio types of software for a fully functional audio-video studio. The technology enables Snow to work at home, but the important thing, he insists, is the human component: “We can record anything. But the most important thing is that I was taught by Terry and then Matt Lincoln (at Lincoln's Underground Studios), and then (longtime instructor and band veteran) Rick Wolfe—HOW TO MIC SOMETHING. I know what mic goes to what kind of instrument. I'm real old school about that. I like it the real way.”

This is where the ambient, electronica—“dance stuff, even”—that he has composed comes from, like his techno opus, Bitmapping . And Ballet , which Snow also composed at his digital studio, a track at a time, until he had layered 398 tracks together into a neo-Romantic orchestral symphony. Hoping someday to have the opportunity to showcase these more or less unheard-by-the-public compositions, Snow explains how he relied both on the synthesizer's library of digitized samples as well as samples he created using the many instruments spread around the house: “Baritone guitar: meet the cello.”

“It's like (Karlheinz) Stockhausen (20th Century German minimalist/electronic composer and theorist), his theory of bricks. I'm making my music of existing bricks. I see it,” Snow says, almost mystically. “The bricks are there. If I need an A-flat trio of trumpets doing one-three-two line, I can see that as a loop. I did Ballet in 16-20 hour shifts over three months in 2002.

“I've always loved (art rock pioneer) Brian Eno. Terry turned me on to that stuff. Being around Terry at Camel Studios is why I have a studio. There'd be Terry, and Hector'd be there, and (Balboa/Lonesome Coyotes drummer) Doug Klein,” Snow recalls, still inspired. “Yeah, Camel One (behind Pick 'n' Grin in Bearden) and Two (in Rocky Hill). I was over there the day John Lennon died. I walked in, and Terry was crying and told me he couldn't teach today. I just started crying, 'cause I loved John Lennon. I went to the car and my mother saw me crying and I told her and she started crying. We couldn't make it out of the parking lot for 30 minutes. But moments like that forge (connections between) people.”

SICK BOYS
Around the time of the dissolution of the vibrant Cumberland Avenue music community when one could go hear several original local bands playing at venues only a short walk apart, Snow himself was in one of his retiring modes. It also is when he realized he had contracted Hepatitis C. The blood-borne viral infection can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer. Snow tried to convince himself that he got it during a passage through an Austin tattoo parlor during the '80s. But, “I most likely got it doing arm dope, which is a really stupid thing to do, with dirty-as-hell needles.”

Considering his everlasting health problems and lack of insurance, Snow takes care of himself the best he can through nutrition and exercise (which explains the draft horse physique). Struggling with the illness and its varied depredations on his body is a daily thing.

“It's just hell. I was diagnosed when they first learned to distinguish it from AIDS. The doctors had no strong platform from which to advise me. They didn't know any more than I did. The interferon treatment (which works through the body's immune system) is as bad as the disease. It's not a death sentence, but it's not a sentence for a happy, physical life. But, like everything else, you can learn from it.”

The situation colors every part of his professional and personal existence. It is indirectly responsible for the chronic hoarseness and diminished lung-power, which is why a lead singer was needed for the Summer of Love. “When you can't go anywhere, what the hell are you supposed to do? If you're a musician, you want to be in a band. But you can't. You can't be a studio hack,” Snow says. Unless, of course, the studio is yours. “Luckily, I came along at a time when computers that allow looping, and sampling and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) technology were happening.”

And, anyway, “torture brings out the best songs,” Snow says. As he prepares to leave the rehearsal that day, Qirko insists that the delay of the band's debut means nothing. “It's definitely ‘Carl Snow's Summer of Love,' whatever the season.”

Snow previews an acoustic version of one of his songs, insisting a visitor listen to one more as he strums: “Hey now, don't worry. 'Cause, hey, now, what good would that do?”

- Metro Pulse


"Carl Snow - Bio Via (Sugarcane Digital)"

When one thinks of Tennessee, snow is something that rarely comes to mind, unless of course we're talking about the extraordinary talent of Carl Snow, a living legend out of the Knoxville scene. Over the course of the past 2 decades Carl's playing cards have included such groups as Koro , Red, Screamin' Boy Blue, Big Stickmen, 30-Amp Fuse, Whitey, Birdhouse, THAT, and The Carl Snow Band.

A rocker by nature, one might not expect what Carl now pulls from his deck of cards, an extremely warm and personal offering from this singer/guitarist/songwriter/story-teller. This is quite a change in direction for the 39 year old Snow, whereby most of his past outings included swat-teams of formidable strength (and loudness). Here Carl is armed with "Baby", his 70-somethin' year old Martin acoustic guitar, and accompanied by some of the finest talent Knoxville, Tennessee has to offer.

Carl moved to Knoxville in 1976, and recalls "my earliest influences were my parents, aunts & uncles, and their friends, several times a week they would have a musical get-together. My dad and his two younger brothers were once a Gospel trio, I can vividly remember hearing them covering "Amazing Grace" & "How Great Thou Art". The music that I grew up around, until I was able to buy records of my own, was basically a mixture of blues, jazz and folk. It was my uncle's guitar that intrigued me the most, I would fall asleep most nights up to the age of 6 to the sounds of my uncle and my parents playing & singing. I was entranced by the guitar sound and I can recall wanting to play it, and it being too big for me. Pop had a ukulele that I don't recall touching, looking back I probably viewed it as a kiddy-guitar, and I wanted to play the big guitar. I got my first acoustic guitar in 1976, it was a generic "student" steel-string guitar. My formal lessons commenced immediately".

This was followed by a great period of discovery, taking in the sounds of The Beatles. The Stones, The Who, David Bowie, The Kinks, Neil Young, XTC ... which prompted Carl's guitar teacher, Jennifer Hooks, to recommend to Carl that he begin taking guitar lessons from local guitar hero, Terry Hill (who appears on 5 of the tracks on this CD, and to whom this record is dedicated). "Under Terry's wing, I was given the ability to learn many of my favorite songs on my student guitar. After reiterating the basic chord structures that I learned from Jennifer, Terry began to encourage me to invent my own chords. Soon I was proficient enough, "to my father's ears", to get my first "real" guitar. It was a Takamine, and twice the size of my student guitar. I was splitting my musical meals into 3 basic courses at the time; progressive "art" rock, pop music, and the new arrival of oddballs from New York that we would later call "punks". I was very fortunate to be taught my craft by two of the greatest artists to grace the South; Terry Hill, and later, Hector Qirko (who appears on 3 of the tracks on this CD), both having a great influence on my music, and both deep, deep friends. They mentored me in far more than "guitar playing"; opening doors for me on many levels. After a few years (perhaps less) a "guitar lesson" ceased to be a guitar lesson, and became a communion of sorts, with far more emphasis on the inner dimensions of music, and life, urging me onward, both musically and spiritually."

Carl needn't search far-'n'-wide for something to write about, as his songs are a reflection of his inner-self, and the things that touch his very existence; passion and pain, love and loss, clarity and chaos, humor and dead-seriousness; all-in-all, for Carl it's all about being real. Singing and playing from the heart comes natural, as does this, his debut record as a solo artist. This CD, useless, has probably been in the works for quite some time, without realizing it. Recorded in Knoxville, the CD kicks off, appropriately, with Useless Song ("I tried to write a bridge, but I couldn't find the chords, got another beer from the fridge, lit a smoke, got bored, and wrote this useless song"), followed by One Of Them ("do you remember when you were young, younger than you are now, that some old scratchy record, rescued you, somehow"). As much as these songs are a reflection of Carl, it's safe to say that you, the listener, will find yourself somewhere within these creations. "Instead of sitting down trying to force a song from something, it's more that a song will demand me to write it. On occasion, I might be playing the guitar or something when all-of-a-sudden that lightning bolt hits, and a song appears in front of me asking me for release." "All these big ideas, small words, good intentions, this war of strings and skins feels like creative pension" is how Carl describes this, "the song-writing process" in his song King, adding "why don't you write another like that, we really like that one, if you wrote a lot more like that, boy you'd really be somethin". Well, Carl has written a lot more like that one, and he really is somethin'. In She Only Loves You When She's Drunk, Carl plays the "30-something punk, who's got his mind on miles, wind & chrome", and yes, he backs that up with the 2 black and chrome Harleys parked in his garage, one belonging to Cindy, and yes, there's a song for Cin too, "when everything is cracked Lord, cracked and crumbled, and I get cut, cut on the debris, there is a calmness, a calmness callin', there is a calmness, waits for me, in Cindy's Arms". Carl explains, "Songs are generally, in my brain, filed under the "shit that happened to me" category. I don't write fiction, although (laughs) I do change the names to protect the guilty. My best songs are the ones written in 5 minutes, (more laughter) unless they're 6 minutes long".

The truth of the matter is, Carl's earliest introduction to the sound of music was born while surrounded by blues and folk, followed by 2 decades traveling a much harder sonic road. A biker of sorts, there is a gentler side to this Knoxville porch-swing swinger. It's in no way about reinventing himself, Carl now revisits these (his) roots with useless, a 15 song CD that has already, before its release, been met by acclaim. Carl has many influences here, though it's hard to put your finger on them, only that you'll find yourself feeling quite at home, listening to a record that is destined to join the ranks among your favorites. "I hope you will find these "Useless Songs" to be as useful, both musically and spiritually, as I have".

Mike Gibson, staff writer for Knoxville's Metro Pulse paid a visit to Knox's 613 Recording Studio, to capture a glimpse of the creation of Carl Snow's Useless endeavor, which prompted him to write an article;

A Local Icon Returns

Carl Snow is a portrait of studied resolution poised in front of a microphone stand next to friend and conscripted back-up singer John Tilson. With earphones clamped tight on bobbing noggins, he and Tilson are laying down vocal tracks to a song off Snow's forthcoming Useless CD on a rainy evening at Knoxville's 613 Studio.

"MMMMM-wop, wop!... MMMMM-wop, wop!...," the duo croon in something that falls just short of unison. The vocal line is a backing part on the song "One of Them," a gritty, rousing celebration of rock 'n' roll vinyl LPs, though it sounds like nothing so much as some minimalist take on a cappella doo-wop to the studio onlookers who can't hear the main track blaring in the singers' ears.

"Wait; we missed that last 'wop,'" Snow says, suddenly breaking off and signaling engineer Rick Wolfe to stop the recording. Much animated discussion of humming and wopping ensues, as the three men try to figure how to achieve a happy synchronicity of parts on the already densely arranged track.

All of the recording sessions for the album have had a similarly loose, impromptu character about them, with well-traveled local musicians and FOS (Friends of Snow) trailing in and out, contributing piecemeal parts to a record that will be the first full-fledged label release from one of the city's most accomplished guitarists.

Though mostly absent from the local music scene in recent years, Snow is a veritable Knox rock legend, a burly punk-rock madman who played in any number of notable outfits dating back to the early 1980s. His resume includes stints in Whitey, 30 Amp Fuse, Red and Screaming Boy Blue; he was also a founding member of KoRo, a short-lived but seminal 1980s hard-core outfit whose ferocious early demos are still dearly traded in underground punk-rock circles the world over. Snow is a consummate musician—a studio adept, a versatile multi-instrumentalist, a virtuosic guitar player who was at one point on the verge of attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
- Mike Gibson (excerpts, Metro Pulse, January 2003).

"I decided 3 days prior to leaving that it would be too cold up there".
- Label Bio (Sugarcane Digital)


"Record Snow: A local Icon Returns"

by MIKE GIBSON

Carl Snow is a portrait of studied resolution poised in front of a microphone stand next to friend and conscripted back-up singer John Tilson. With earphones clamped tight on bobbing noggins, he and Tilson are laying down vocal tracks to a song off Snow's forthcoming Big World Records CD Useless Songs on a rainy evening at Knoxville's 613 Studio.

"MMMMM-wop, wop!... MMMMM-wop, wop!...," the duo croon in something that falls just short of unison. The vocal line is a backing part on the song "One of Them," a gritty, rousing celebration of rock 'n' roll vinyl LPs, though it sounds like nothing so much as some minimalist take on acapella doo-wop to the studio onlookers who can't hear the main track blaring in the singers' ears.

"Wait; we missed that last 'wop,'" Snow says, suddenly breaking off and signaling engineer Rick Wolfe to stop the recording. Much animated discussion of humming and wopping ensues, as the three men try to figure how to achieve a happy synchronicity of parts on the already densely arranged track.

All of the recording sessions for the album have had a similarly loose, impromptu character about them, with well-traveled local musicians and FOS (Friends of Snow) trailing in and out, contributing piecemeal parts to a record that will be the first full-fledged label release from one of the city's most accomplished guitarists.

"I'm lucky that I have all these friends who are great musicians," Snow says during a break in the recording, ticking off the names of a few Useless contributors, local luminaries such as bluesman Hector Qirko, singer Kim Baxter, and the late guitarist Terry Hill. Sadly, the record will contain some of the last recorded output from Hill, an influential local teacher and player who died in late 2002 after a long fight with Hepatitis C.

"The idea of 'useless' became the whole thought process behind this record," he continues. "Useless is a zen-like quality. Instead of stripping things down to essentials, I was asking 'What else could I have added here? Who else can I get to play on the track?'"

Though mostly absent from the local music scene in recent years, Snow is a veritable Knox rock legend, a burly punk-rock madman who played in any number of notable outfits dating back to the early 1980s. His resume includes stints in Whitey, 30 Amp Fuse, Red and Screaming Boy Blue; he was also a founding member of KoRo, a short-lived but seminal 1980s hardcore outfit whose ferocious early demos are still dearly traded in underground punk-rock circles the world over.

Now proprietor of his own out-of-home Moss Hill Mastering (he describes it as "an all-purpose 'finish shit up' studio'), Snow says his Big World recording deal was sheer serendipity, the result of an Internet correspondence with the widow of a jazz legend.

Snow met and traded emails with Ingrid Pastorius, wife of the late bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius, through an online Joni Mitchell message board about five years ago. When Ingrid expressed an interest in hearing Snow's own music, he sent her a handful of singer-songwriter demos he had recorded at home with the help of his long-time teacher, the aforementioned Hill. She liked the tracks, and passed them along to Big World Records President Neal Weiss, whose label has issued a number of posthumous Pastorius CDs.

"I wasn't shopping," Snow says. "I was a very content hermit. Then Neal calls me and pays me this huge compliment, and tells me he wants to release a full-length album."

With 15 cuts that have more in common with Leonard Cohen than throwback hardcore, Useless Songs seems a pretty unlikely album for an old punk rocker to make. But in many ways, Snow has always been a pretty unlikely punk rocker. He looks the part, to be sure, with his scars and shaven pate and copious old-school tattoos.

But unlike most reformed punks, Snow is a consummate musician—a studio adept, a versatile multi-instrumentalist, a virtuosic guitar player who was at one point on the verge of attending the prestigious Berkelee College of Music in Boston.

And his tastes have always been diverse, eclectic, as much XTC as SST, his conversations peppered with references to the work of artists like Television, Frank Zappa, or perhaps studio experimentalist Bill Laswell.

"Someone called the stuff I'm doing on Useless 'Americana,'" Snow says. "I have no idea what that is. That's spooky to me, because once anything has a label, it can't be honest. It has to live up that label.

"I like to think of it in terms of an organically fed Brian Eno producing the Replacements covering Tom Waits songs. I think it harkens back to old '70s Nick Lowe, or maybe me channeling a redneck Nick Drake."

Due out later this year, Useless Songs will also serve as a memorial to Hill. A veteran of landmark Knox punk and rock outfits like Balboa, WH-WH and Plynth, his influence as both a teacher and player held sway over a whole generation of local musicians; for Snow, he was at once a guru muse, and friend.

"Terry was a big impetus for getting this record done," Snow says. "He kept telling me, 'You've got to put this out; it's too good not to.' When he died, I couldn't talk or look at my guitar for a month. I got over it by trying to make a record I thought he would like. And I think I did."

- Metro Pulse


"Carl Snow"


Carl Snow has never been shy about offering his opinion, whether solicited or otherwise. A fixture as a guitarist, singer and songwriter on the Knoxville music scene since the early ‘80s, Snow has fronted an array of talented groups, including Koro, Whitey and Red. His current band, Carl Snow’s Summer of Love, features bassist Hector Qirko and singer Andy Pirkle (Speedshifter), and drummer Stan Duncan. Early indications are that this could be his best group yet. Knoxville Voice recently sat down with Carl at his Fountain City home studio for an evening of beer-fueled fun and music. His passion for music was evidenced by his enthusiastic and emotive responses, which at times included seemingly uncontrollable fits of sing-along and air instrumentation. We even managed to extract from the proceedings a few usable, often salient, points.

The Descendants
“Suburban Home”
From Milo Goes To College (1982)

CS: (spoken intro) Oh, God! (sings along) That thing literally gets my ‘nads going, like I was in high school or something, when nothing could break. And what’s so funny is it came up recently, somebody was talking about that crap, emo. I’m like, ‘Emo?’ OK... No. Huh-uh. No! There is no emo, sorry folks. There was punk, and when punk got really fast, they called it hardcore. And when they started singing about girls, you know, you called it “emo,” we still called it hardcore. Dischord Records, I think, should be praised for being one of the greatest record companies ever and bombed into oblivion for launching emo.

Television
“Little Johnny Jewel “(Parts 1 & 2)
1975 single

CS: (Bass intro) I like the bass sound. (recognizes tune) Oh, well, fuck! The thing I think’s really cool about Television, and is really uncool about everybody now… I had this discussion with a few friends about rap. It’s like, rap’s not even a relevant word anymore. When something fails to move forward… what’s that old saying? ’Life’s like a bus; it does not ask for change, it requires change.’ Well, there you have rap.

Thelonious Monk
“Pannonica”
from Brilliant Corners (1956)

CS: Oh fuck, I know this! (sings melody) Monk! I think Monk’s my favorite pianist ever. Quite possibly my favorite jazz musician ever! Monk, [Bud] Powell, [Charles] Mingus, those guys — the crazy bastards — they made that great transition from being archaeologists and linguists, into being, you know, prophets.

Robyn Hitchcock
“Uncorrected Personality Traits”
from I Often Dream of Trains (1984)

CS: (sings along word-for-word with entire track) Oh God, great song! What can you say about that song? (laughs) There’s two great records to own: the record, whatever it is, that will get everybody drinking and partying and all that stuff, and its antithesis, the record that will make people flee for home. (laughs) For me, I’d start drinking. For most folks, this is the call to go home! Its lyrics sound like a cross between Jung and Sherlock Holmes, or something. And the actual theorem, or whatever it is, that the song is may well be true!

Paul Simon
“René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog after the War”
from Hearts and Bones (1983)

CS: That’s the one that might be my favorite off Hearts and Bones. Paul Simon, really, was probably as big an influence on not just my guitar-playing, but on the whole look on what a song was. There’s a few guys on the planet who do write these songs as a craft still, and they write them so perfectly that you can’t distinguish. It’s not craft if you can tell it’s craft. It’s the punch you didn’t see coming. It’s that great little thing that happens between you and that record in that little second where you realize that they were thinking the same thing you were thinking. At least you think that! (laughs) But the craft of that, right now, is sadly being neglected.

Bill Frisell
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
from East/West (2005)

CS: Bill Frisell! The guys that quote hate jam bands, they don’t know what a jam band is! If that’s not jamming, I really don’t know what the fuck jamming is! There’s a huge difference between a jam band and a band that can jam. It’s the difference between pillaging, compromising and parodying and improvisation, and it’s really sad that people don’t pick up on that. I think we kill ourselves a lot musically when we don’t realize that we’re idiots about that.

Terry Hill and the Semi-Conductors
“Self Monster”
from Beauty (1993)

CS: The tune is, I believe, ‘Self Monster,’ Semiconductors, Beauty, correct? Terry Hill, playing that very Mustang. (points to Fender Mustang guitar) Chris Andrews used to call himself Self Monster, remember? I think that’s where Terry got this. God, I miss that guy! (responding to guitar solo) Awww! He’s making Jeff Beck look foolish!
KV: He sounds like Beck at times.
CS: Yeah, he does. That’s so Beck! If he did anything great, it was anticipating. (bending an air guitar note) He hit the note, you know, below and bent up to it right in time!

Grateful Dead
“St. Stephen”
from Aoxomoxoa (1969)

CS: I could have told you who that was from the first note! This is the Aoxomoxoa version. You listen to Jerry, and it’s weird; when you listened to that band at that time, when Aoxomoxoa came out, I mean I didn’t hear it, of course, until I was in high school and my girlfriend’s brother was a huge Deadhead, so I got like, almost anti-Dead for a long time, and then I went to a few shows, and I just remember this weird power those guys had. It’s really true what they said, that there’s no great studio Grateful Dead record. So then you’ve got the live records, and among those, you really don’t get it, either. It’s like that joke, you’ve really got to be there. [Brian] Eno said that jazz on record wasn’t jazz after the second time you played it. And you think about that, and it fucks with you. The moment you can hum the intro to ’Shh/Peaceful‘ off In A Silent Way [Miles Davis] is the moment that ceased to be jazz because it’s now in the realm of the known. Then, it was the explored.

Generation X
“Kiss Me Deadly”
from Generation X (1978)

CS: (guitar intro) Oh my God! (sings along)
KV: You referenced this song in your song ’One of Them.’
CS: And for good reason. That was, depending when you grew up, the punk record that you really identified with, and I think that was a huge one, in no small part due to The Five Twins covering it. And I’m not really referencing Generation X in that song. I’m really referencing [local band Five Twins singer] Brian Waldschlager, and I’m referencing 1981, or 1982, or whatever it was, and being a kid, not able to drive, and going down to Bundulee’s, and there would be Balboa, and there would be The Five Twins, and Brian got up there and sang this great fucking song, ’Kiss Me Deadly,’ and I don’t think it was until after I saw the Twins do it a couple of times that I got the record, which is how current they were on it. I guess guys growing up in the ‘70s had Van Halen I or something. That was my Van Halen I. It was so perfect, and the songs were about stuff that everyone dealt with.
- KnoxVoice


"Interview with Dave Hyde from Destory What Bores You, 2002"

Carl Snow of
KORO
Interview with DAVE HYDE from Destory What Bores You, 2002

On the strength of their one EP, KoRo is one of my all time favorite bands. They played a stripped down, raw brand of hardcore that's as fast as can be while maintaining amazing song writing qualities. That's to say, I don't think you can write songs that are simultaneously faster and more catchy than KoRo did. Along with bands like Deep Wound, Die Kruezen, Anti-Cimex, Void, and Poison Idea, they raised the bar and pushed the limits as to what you could accomplish musically in the genre of hardcore. Unfortunately, those high standards haven't even been challenged.

I managed to get in touch with the founder and main songwriter of this band. The smile didn't leave my face for a few days after Carl first wrote me, and the opportunity to pick his brain and get to know him was more than welcome. While many thought KoRo had disappeared off the face of the earth I found out that, quite to the contrary, Carl is still as passionate about music as ever. I was able to learn a great deal about their history and that the short lived band wasn't just a one night stand in Carl's life as a musician. I’ll excerpt from a recent article on Knoxville's musical history written by Mike Gibson as a way of introduction:
Two of the remarkable guitarists who emerged from that milieu were burly, tattooed axe-mangler Carl Snow and Van Halen-obsessed Bearden kid David Teague, the foundation of Knoxville's Koro in 1982. That hardcore unit set out to be "the fastest, tightest band in the world...and they came damn close," remarks Sewell. "They blew everybody else out of the boat. The first time I heard them, they scared me." The singular ferocity of the outfit (their lone 7-inch is now a punk-rock collector's item) owed much to the skills of those two players. Both were chameleons, capable of adapting their styles to multiple contexts, but best-known for their fast, impeccably tight rhythms and rabid solos. "Carl is as talented a musician as has ever been in Knoxville; he can play anything effortlessly, and he can write it out on music paper," says Sewell. Snow played in a handful of other locally-renowned outfits (Red, Whitey...), as did Teague. But Teague's questing took him to points West, where he would record an independent album with the Los Angeles band Muzza Chunka. The band later broke up, but the six-string deities smiled on this particular son of Knoxville guitartistry. Today, he's a member of the long-running and very successful punk band the Dickies and has appeared on the group's last two albums.
You started getting into music in Knoxville, TN in the late 70's, right? Was there anything happening there locally or did you just start getting into other stuff you heard?

The guys I was hanging 'round those days...well, we had the XTC LPs, SOME Sham 69, Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers, etc, but not much HC (as it was not recognized yet). We (some of us landed in KoRo) had a band in 1979... whew now I feel old. I'm the guy who started KoRo, then I got Dave Teague on board.

How did you go from that first band to KoRo?

Dave Teague used to hang around the Trivia Birds practices and shows, and was/is a good friend. I was "over" the Birds and searching for more and needed a bigger GIT sound. I thought of Dave. The bassist for T-Birds was Danny, Ron's younger brother (not a great bassist). Greg was an incredible drummer, but he was forming Turbine-44 with Trey and Bart so I could not get him. We (Dave and I) found out our long time buddy Ron was a really good bassist, but we needed a drummer. Dave knew this guy in a metal band named Bill (god, was he good). We played him the Germs LP and got him to join. For a while I did the vocals a well as (twin leads) guitar, but those songs were very physically demanding to play (the speed) and I would get dizzy after a few songs. So we hunted with no luck until one day, Scott (Bills much older half-brother) got dragged to practice. We were fuckin' around playing "Amoeba" and "Kids of the Black Hole" by the Adolescents and "Revenge" by Black Flag or something like that when he walked in the garage. He knew the songs! We asked if he'd sing to "Gimme a Break," and BLAMO!, he was in. That's the formation of KoRo.

What about the name Koro?

The name KoRo (also - shookyong) was found in Ron's psychology book (he was the "older guy" in the band and was in college). It was/is a mental disorder that at the time was prevalent among Asians (mainly Japanese) To paraphrase from memory: "Men suffering from Koro (shookyong) have an overwhelming fear that their genitals will be sucked into their body as they sleep. This causes extreme sleeplessness and panic, sufferers have their mates HOLD their genitals as they fall asleep or by a CLAMPING DEVICE (haha) to hold the genitals in place." Now if YOU were 15 or 16 and YOU read THAT SHIT while wanting to name your new band something... how the fuck could you resist!?

So THAT's what KoRo means... always figured it was either nonsense or some obscure word with a deep meaning. Well, maybe it is in a way. Ha. Was there much of a local scene by the time KoRo started playing? What bands were from around there besides you guys?

Sure, great "scene" as scenes go, I suppose. All "scenes" start fairly well only to dissolve into smaller cliques and factions. '79-'85 some great things happened. Knoxville for a while, was almost a shared scene. Bands traveling found K-town a great layover between say "Atlanta, Nashville, Athens etc." so the Athens/Atlanta/Nashville thing (Chattanooga to some extent) "helped". We had B-52's, Big Star, REM, Brains, 86, Lets Active playing here a lot as they shared our region.
Some brilliant K-town bands '79-'85 would be Balboa - incredible and incenerary, the best o' the best by far! A few tunes on local compilation, a BRILLIANT 12" EP (brown cover , then "live like this"), 5-Twins--great teen-love song power pop, Jelly Babies... Later there was STD's (Jon "vox" later was in Whitey w/ me), Turbine 44 (also later incarnations = Turbine 25, L7 "box"), Beyond John, who had a great self titled LP, WH-WH (T-hills band after Balboa) great stuff, UXB, The Scam (Dave's pre-KoRo band), Iron Hawg, The Wedge (Dave's post KoRo band), Real Hostages who were later Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes. They had some good output, a few CDs...not my fav though I like all the guys a lot. Also Hector Qirko Blues Band (Hq's band after Baloa) who are STILL great still a band, Semi-Conductors, another great T-hill band, Teenage Love, Barbed Wire Shela, and on and on...

Knoxville's music history was richer than I'd thought. Was it just local bands or did touring groups pull through town?

We played with too many bands over the years to remember: Decendants, Ramones, Big Boys, Dicks, SOA, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, TSOL, Channel 3, Scream, Chili Peppers, Iggy, and so on. The most fun show was us and Circle Jerks in 1982(3?). The DK show was hilarious. Another funny story was eating with Black Flag. Hank ending the meal in a food fight with. And Ian (Minor, Fugazi) and crew's odd eating regiment (always stayed at my place...very funny).

The EP that you guys put out is easily one of my favorite records, but not many people even know it exists. You didn't press very many copies of the record. I've heard 300 copies, is that right? How was the reaction to the record, did it sell well, was it well received?

You mention us pressing 300 copies... naw, it was 500. We opened for the Dead Kennedys at the 688 club in Atlanta. Jello was a fan, he gave me some whiskey and I ended up selling records out of the box at that show...then (me+Jello+whiskey) I ended up getting convinced to let Jello take the rest of the EP's to California for us. That's why they ended up missing... and also why the EP is so bootlegged.

Oh yeah... Jello took all the records to California? That's strange. Did he sell all the copies, or did they get lost. Or are they all sitting in his basement still.

Well... I knew Jello for a very short while but from what I know about him he probably forgot that the box was in the van until they cleaned! He was theorizing about governmental issues while reading a book by Karl Marx while drinking.

Oh, also, I was actually having a conversation with someone about the KoRo record, and he mentioned that many copies were sleeveless, some had the oversize sleeve, and a few had an offset printed sleeve. Is that true? I never knew about the offset version.

The original EP was regular size with gatefold cover and a hand written phone number inside and "the baby" on the EP itself. What you are referring to must be one of the many bootlegs out there. So, all told, baby plus phone plus lyrics plus old English KORO writing (cover- Koro, 8 songs for a grave age), hand done back and sleeve is original.....ANY others are boots.

Why aren't there any lyrics to "Acid Casualty" on the record?

My mom an pop "put up" the 400 bucks for the ep and we told them "Acid Cassualty" was an anti-drug song, when in fact it was about the band getting high! So you can understand why at 16 years of age I would not include those lyrics. They would have worried my parents. Funny thing: after a while KoRo went "straight-edge", haha. Mentioning Bart and Trey (friends then) and the "goings on" would not have been good at the time.

Lyrics to "Acid Casualty":

Bart's got the ludes, Bart's got the speed
he's a great guy, he's all we need
people call us queer, people call us tweeked
we keep right along X 3
we keep snortin' speed

I start to mumble, I can only stumble, my thoughts all crumble like saltine crackers, I'm fucking up and I don’t know what to do!

At Trey's house...
we fry!

I believe that’s accurate... been awhile.

The first song, "700 Club", is, obviously enough, about Pat Robertson and the religious right. How prevalent was evangelical religion in the early 80's in Tennessee?

I wrote this whole mess after getting sick of Pat Robertson and co. Also, these religious zealots used to harass the fuck out of us at school. They called themselves "young life." It was just an excuse to get drunk Friday at the high school football game and repent later. They used to follow us around trying to "save" us.
Great Bill drum fills and me trying to play a solo in less than 2 seconds.

"Nauseous" makes reference to Carl and David. Is that self-referential/is there any story behind that or was it just a coincidence that the names used happened to be the names to two members?

Haha, deep song. On the surface I wrote it about me and Dave puking, but it had a twist. A lot of shit made me wanna puke in those days. Me and Dave hurling after a bottle of something was an unintented "cover" for everything making me wanna puke. Another funny thing. Blap! is about a dumb girl we all knew who did one to many Qualudes fell down and asked "did I go 'blap?'", haha.

Nauseous
As I said earlier Richard (RIP) Creekmore wrote the words. It started as a TRIVIA BIRDS song (Me, Danny (bs) [Ron's younger brother!] and Greg [Later of (forget the name) "The Obsessed?"...dunno]). At the time Dave had a band called THE SQUAD (hence the line calling him "Dave Squad") Richard called him D-Squid. We used to play this beautiful dump with Dave's "SQUAD", Greg's TURBINE 44 (yup, he was in 2 bands at the time), and Jon’s band JELLY BABY'S (later called STD's). The original (TRIVIA) version was without the intro and outro - Greg could have played it, but Danny was not that great on bass. KoRo decided to do it cause we all dug it, but it needed the "KoRo" signature on it somewhere. At first I was like, well, I like it like as it is, then under pressure (and help) from Dave it was decided to add the intro and outro. I said "o.k. lessee if we can play this!" "Ha!" "I'll show them" The intro is a tough cord progression to say the least, but the guys nailed it. So me wanting still to fuck with them said, "yeah but at the end I wanna do the intro again DOUBLE TIME!!" I thought I had 'em but was wrong (thankfully). This is my favorite Dave solo ever! He nailed it in one take... one note at the solo intro is OFF the neck (high) and Dave was determined to "get it" so he practiced the lick forever with great result. Note: Dave always "wrote" his solo's and prided himself on reproducing them. I always just played whatever came to mind (solo wise). I've noticed the difference in Dave's and my lead styles: what a hoot Dave=Ozzy, metal lead and Carl=Hendrix, jazz, blues lead. The intro/outro became a critical part (years later) of WHITEY's "Guns, Bibles, and Beer". Man, I miss Richard. By the way, he did get quite ill at a show at Bundulees. We had (pre-show) listened (at Greg's house) to the ENTIRE Phillip Glass Opera "Einstein On The Beach" while tripping and drinking. It was enough to fuck with anyone’s stomach!!

After those questions, Carl walked me through the EP, song by song with his recollections of each. Here’s that informative journey:

Government
My rant (sounds hard-line republican now,huh?) about lazy motherfuckers living off the government while their kids suffered. It really pissed me off, since at age 15 I had two jobs and high school. I was thinking "fuck this!" I can barely afford strings!
I love the way Scott belted this one out! Also Ron was playing a fun lil' "groove" bass line over my attempt to place a "blues-solo" mid tune. Dave loved it!! But it was funny as hell (the arrangement) cause we wanted to do so much (like a Yes song) but wanted to do it in under a minute... ahhhh youth, hahaha.

Selfless
I wrote this in an odd way. It started as a grand ending to a discarded song, then Ron came up with a killer bass run during the thump thump thump part, so I just threw some more chords in with Dave one day and it sounded good. At the time we practiced without hearing Scott (no P.A. to speak of and we were LOUD) so the music was done prior to the lyrics. I had seen some BS footage on Reagan's military tactics and a push for enlistment (the few the proud...). I had just finished reading Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and felt that the key "evil-guy" in the book (Elsworth Tooey) and his espousement of "selflessness" fit the kind of guy who would throw his or others lives away in a "holy cause" ("faith in a holy cause is oft times due to lost faith in ourselves" - Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer" [great book]). All in all it was an awkward attempt to link great literature with the BS that was on TV at the time.
Dave's solo still kills me and, as I recall, he was very proud of it.

ITS O.K.
It's about the backfire of apathy, simple as that! The tune sounds quite multicultural in an odd way... Dave, Ron, and I LOVED the band XTC and they had been doing interesting things with polyrhythms. The drums at the intro, also with slow theme over fast theme (Dave's "clean" slow guitar over my bashing near the end), and the (I think) Cuban feel of the beat were a direct result of listening to XTC, and the then newly re-reformed King Crimson (the Discipline LP). I could not figure out how to end the thing and remembered Jello in "The Prey" just adding an ominous line, thus: "you're dead now!"

Dear Sirs
This is VINTAGE Dave, one of his best. I had nothing to do with it's "birth." In practice (my house or Dave's... mmm, I forget) Dave came in with a shiteating grin and played it for me on acoustic with Scott singing... wow... loved it. It reminds me (now) of a slimmed down tune (IE: not overambitious one like "IT'S OK"). DAVEcore at its best. I loved Scott's lyrics, too. "Fuck your cap-gun mentality," especially. I would have thought Dave would have done a solo, but the tune was great without one. Bill was amazing to watch on this one. He looked like Keith Moon on speed, arms everywhere. Maybe one of my all time favorite KoRo tunes, possibly because I always go back to what I wrote and think of improving it. Dave and I had a thing 'round the time he wrote it of doubling each other in octaves or fifths. I had to come up with a "counterpoint" to Dave when in the back of my head I'm thinking "it's perfect like it is, so why fuck with it," but D and I came up with the "fifth run-down" part I play, and, well Dave was right. Had we played the exact same chords it would have been "muddy."

BLAP!
I told ya the background on this one, I think. Friend Velvet Vance was on way too many 'ludes falling down.
This one was all Dave and Scott except for the COWBELL (Bill's crowning Koro achievement). I wrote the Git-line for that part with Dave. It was just bare there as Bill amazingly played triplets on a cowbell while playing at the speed of light ...an amazing sight! Just needed a lil' more insanity so I came up with the progression over the cowbell, but this was Dave and Scott's baby all the way (and later a WEDGE song). Listening to it now, I can't help but wonder: why o' why would Bill go "hair-band" when he played sooooo great?

Acid Casualty
Much too long a story to pen at the moment, but I will say this: it was our "crowd pleaser" and we ended our set with it. I wrote the tune but needed a "tag" near the middle so it didn't sound like a hyper-speed Discharge song. I came up with the line "I start to stumble, I can only mumble, my thoughts all crumble like saltine crackers I'm fuckin' up and I dunno what to do." A LOT of words and a short time to scream 'em in (challenging Scott!)... I could not for the life of me find the "right" chords hence the single chord (which, I suppose, was the "right one") with Bill playing as fast as possible. It worked. WHITEY would later revise it.
TOPIC: snorting speed, while eating 'ludes. A very, very dumb thing we used to do... ahh "kids," haha. "Poor man' rush, poor man's high, at Treys house we fry." Trey McReynolds started TURBINE 44 with Bart (and Greg). It was an anthem of the young and stoned.

A band from Tennessee called Deathreat recently did a cover of "Dear Sirs".

"Dear Sirs," a cover? Wild. I wrote 90% of the KoRo stuff and the song that gets covered is by Dave and Scott!!! Hahaha. Dave and Scott also wrote "Blap!" Scott helped me a little with "1st Church" I think, but the rest was my adolescent angst.

How long after the EP did you wait until recording the "Speed Kills" LP?

"Speed Kills" both pre and post dated the EP. Ya see, we had no money to speak of at the time and had a 40+ song set list (30 minutes). So what we did was go into the studio and record all our tunes as if we were "live." I do not recall overdubbing anything. I believe we just said "roll the fuckin' tape" and played our whole set. It in my opinion is far better that the EP. "Speed Kills" was done in about 6 hours on a 8-track studio that recorded gospel music and some country. Wild scene!
The EP took 4 hours and had a few overdubs on it. The EP falls short of "Speed Kills" for the reason that due to time constraints (minutes on a 45 record) we had to pick and choose the tunes, and hell, 8 out of 40 just did not get it fer us. We argued, bitched, moaned about what the "right songs" would be. Therefore it is not an accurate account of KoRo.
Looking at read-outs of the tunes got a BIG laugh. The longest is “Dear Sirs� at 58 seconds and the shortest is “Acid� at 35 second!!! During mastering I use a 2 second "break" between songs (easier to "read" and "hear" differences in E.Q. that way) with the added 12 second (2 between each song) 8 songs, still the damn thang clocks in at 6:17!!! No fuckin' wonder we used to play a 40 song set in 30 minutes.

Was there much of a scene left in Knoxville near the end of the band? How/why did you break up?

I affectively broke up the band in the 80's as (to me) it was feeling "too comfortable." KoRo played a show without me, using most of my songs and a few new Dave tunes (later he would form a band The WEDGE with his stuff). That pissed me off. Then I formed RED (a band I thought was broader in scope). We "broke up" RED every year for for 6 months to a year (called RED, RED II and RED III). That, as far as bands are concerned, is still my policy... I think you write your best shit as you "form." You should "hit the studio" then (4 months or so). Then you get more familiar with one another, tour a bit "hit the studio" again, play a few shows, and call it a day (so to speak).
For me the studio is a means of documentation NOT commerce. I have had many bands that:
1) toured a lot
2) never played a show
3) played locally a few times
The commonality in all those band is this, a "Sound-Document" was recorded by all of them, not for the intention of release but more for personal history.

After you document it (how) do you get it out there, and do you make a living off it?

A few times I have "gotten it out there," ie: a few of my "post RED" bands such as Big Stickmen "Live in "J-Town". Stickmen were a live band. By that I mean the stage was our place. Screamin' Boy Blue - self titled EP (regionally released), Whitey - "Guns, Bibles, Beer" (regionally released then bootlegged). Band built 50% on the "groundwork" laid by RED, RED II and RED III was 30-Amp Fuse- Demo, yup THE 30-amp Fuse. Odd story, I put together a band from a favorite drummer of mine and a "new-guy" bass player. Mike Smithers had been hanging around (trying to be in RED III once) and he and I had become friends. I was teaching him (over the years) how to play guitar and how to "write" (giving suggestions etc). He had previously been the r-git player for Screamin' Boy Blue, I thought he did a great job so I approached him about 30-amp (as yet unnamed). We recorded, gigged, and finally reached the point where I felt "trapped" by the band, and more importantly, did not want to tour, so I broke it up. Mike then got it back together, using my songs and a few he was coming up with. I was very pissed for awhile as this "fake" 30-Amp was bearing very little resemblance to the 1st version. Then I heard the CD, he did semi-ok, decent tunes and all. We kissed and made up. Still using the name (and fan base) was a calculated, full of shit move on Mike's part.
More stuff I've put out: Birdhouse - "I'm Your Huckleberry" (regional)- an answer to Both RED and Sceamin' Boy Blue, with excellent players, a great "power trio'. PRE- KoRo Bands: DOC-Wog, a cassette is all, Trivia Birds, again only a cassette.

What did the members do after KoRo? Was/is anyone still involved in the scene, or did you all just move on in life?

I'm unsure whether Dave still plays with the Dickies but did last I heard. Why? I dunno. I burned out on 'em in the late 70's/early 80's. Scott - mmmmm - yeah that's what I heard... after trying to be a model overseas and having a wreck, he was always flakey, haha...
Naw, I don't talk to the old crew anymore. I guess we lost track. Ron went to law school and Bill (pussy) still does "hair-metal" bands. I would love to talk with them someday.
Those Chemo shots can make me a bit "pissy" at times... what I said was true but here's the whole story:
KoRo had a shot at being on Frontier records due to the Circle Jerks and we were gonna go to LA with them (and, I think, TSOL). Bill missed his girlfriend and refused to tour. I got very pissed and said "fuck it, why be a band!?" I thought we had broken up. The rest of the guys "reformed" without me for a few shows. That really pissed me off, as I had written over 80% of our material. During this time I was also expanding what I wanted to do musically with my new 3-piece band RED. We wrote a song about my songs being lifted and the "fake KoRo" disappeared. In retrospect I suppose the guys just wanted/needed the cash and the name helped. Dave later formed "The Wedge" and we were pals once again. Bill took the "path of least resistance" and joined "HardKnox" a local lame hair band, then moved to Nashville to drum for Valentine Saloon. His playing suffered from lack of challenge and we all lost track/made fun of/with him. RED got real big regionally, but had to reform 3 times due to (another) Bill (dr) going to Australia to make tons o' $$$$ in USA type bar bands. So I had other bands in the "lag-times" between RED reunions. Ron, Dave and I remained close. Scott moved overseas to be a model and (I heard) was in a bad wreck scaring his face. He was always the new-agey type so yeah that sounds right. Jon Wallace (STD'S) and I were forming a crazed punk/funk/jazz/hardcore thang called WHITEY complete with horns and dancers! Our bassist (another) Scott had to move to Atlanta and our drummer (Rodney) succumbed to heroin addiction. Not wanting to give up Jon and I got Ron, who was by then an incredible bassist, to replace Scott and Lawson Yager (Betty Rocker) for drums. We got big regionally, then I showed my ass/ego by suggesting I do the vocals also (like in RED) ...end of Whitey. So I formed 30-AMP FUSE, with a guitar player who was a RED freak. I got bored with the band (Rodney was back and smacked as usual) and quit. He (name withheld) stole the name and 1/2 my tunes hooked up with Bill from ALL and did a CD, even after kicking his ass I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Regarding the music business... it began to be too much business, so I formed Birdhouse, a band with one objective: FUN. We wrote great shit vowing never to play live (we did once ...out of state). Just write and record. Half of those guys had to make career moves to other cities. So, since I play 20+ instruments, I decided to go further underground recording stuff under odd names and selling CDs in San Fran, haha!!! Also doing orchestral, and "performance pieces" for events in SF, NYC, and here...
Ron, well he got very into being a law guy and last I heard had passed the bar exam! I am real happy for him. After Wedge, Dave moved to LA and started Muzza Chunka, a metalish HC band who I thought was O.K. but not up to his talent. We lost touch due to distance. I would love to talk to him sometime again, we where tight as fuck for so long and he was a hell of a nice guy.

Are you surprised that anyone still cares about your old band?

No, not really. I mean I still love the Big Boys, Descendents/All, SLF, XTC, The Damned, Ruts, Skids, Offenders, and on and on and on...
People would ask about doing a reunion, but:
1. I won't tour (but never say never)
2. I could easily re-learn and play the stuff now but I just can't be pissed and 16 at 35
3. It ain't the early eighties
4. I saw what happened when Buzzcocks, Misfits, Eagles, and so on did it
5. To quote Neil Young, "it's better to burn out, than to fade away"
6. No, I don't think it would happen

I sent Carl a copy of the horribly done recent boots of the KoRo EP by the world's worst bootleggers over at "Reagan Era HC" and he noticed this about the quality:

I did a digital transfer of the bootleg ya sent me. I did, so far, major repairs. They had the right channel almost 31/2 Db's below the left!

So there's the story of KoRo, and a partial look into the life of its founder Carl Snow. I was glad to get to know Carl and to help shed some light on the mystery that is KoRo.

- Destory What Bores You, 2002


Discography

Combined -
Carl Snow, Mike Armstrong & Scott Davis have a massive amount of released and unreleased material.

A sampling of work includes:

Carl Snow 'Useless'
(Lynn Point Records)

A rocker by nature, one might not expect what Carl now pulls from his deck of cards, an extremely warm and personal offering from this singer/guitarist/songwriter/story-teller. This is quite a change in direction for Snow, whereby most of his past outings included swat-teams of formidable strength (and loudness). Over the course of the past 2 decades Carl's playing cards have included such groups as Koro, Red, Screamin' Boy Blue, Big Stickmen, 30-Amp Fuse, Whitey, Birdhouse, and THAT. Here Carl is armed with "Baby", his 70-somethin' year old Martin acoustic guitar, and accompanied by some of the finest talent Knoxville, Tennessee has to offer.

Koro Re-issue (Sorry State Records)

Koro's 700 Club (Carl Snow) may well be the single best hardcore EP of all time...More than likely you've heard the bootlegs, but if you've haven't, imagine the tightest, meanest and fastest band on the planet bashing out eight lightning-quick, sub-60-second rippers. Band comparisons don't do this record justice, so I won't list any. This reissue features a brand new mastering job from the original source tapes (the record may well sound better than the original) and artwork meticulously recreated from the original release, making it far superior to any of the bootlegs that have floated around.

Carl also currently sculpts ambient and experimental musics for the idea/label AmPient Music.

Scott Davis' recording resume includes:

"The FlagPole's Mother of All Christmas Albums"

Donkey "Slick Night Out" and "10 Cent Freaks"

Southern Culture On The Skids, "Plastic Seat Sweat"

Various independently produced tracks from Kingsized Records in Atlanta, Georgia

He's also appeared on tracks for artists: Yellabelly SABsuckers, MC Truth, Dave's Not Here, etc. and is a member of "The TriggerMen Horns"

Mike Armstrong:

Invisible Mind Circus ~ 'Look Inside'

Photos

Bio

"Snow has fronted an array of talented groups, including Koro, Whitey and Red. His current band, Carl Snow�s Summer of Love ...indications are that this could be his best group yet."
(Knoxvoice) 2007

"a good shoo, indeed."
RANDALL BROWN, Entertainment Writer, Knoxville (News Sentinel) 2007

"extraordinary talent... (Carl Snow) a living legend out of the Knoxville scene"
(Metro Pulse) 2003

"serious rocking in the free world"
JACK RENFRO

Torture Brings Out the Best Songs
Carl Snow and his Summer of Love
JACK RENFRO
(Metro Pulse)

Now comes �Carl Snow's Summer of Love,� belatedly, and not at all as cheesily as the name might suggest...but, it is all about love�of music ...there's a certain bittersweet romance creeping into the songs: The inevitable shadowside of maturity. The quartet comprises more than 100 year's worth of combined musicianship, assembling to give it another go, this time for the music instead of �making the scene,� that social phenomenon Snow thinks has superseded honest listening and corrupted the very art of the performance.

�Our current fave new tune was actually written in 10 minutes across a quarter of a century,� Snow says, recalling how �Humor Me� was written. Intended for Red, the song never developed beyond the chorus. �When the Summer of Love started playing, the �writer button' got pushed down on my head and I paid a visit to the old chorus and all of a sudden, the verse and bridge came tumbling out of my mouth and Blam!: �Humor Me' entered our canon.�

Snow claims he is having more fun playing with these middle-aged guys �than I've had since...1980.�

from "Torture Brings Out the Best of Songs"
(Metro Pulse) press link...