2006/01/05: Page goes live.
There were several distinct Limp Richerds lineups, but so many people were coming and going, and playing so many different instruments that any attempt to catalog them all would be futile. Instead, here's a pointless (but nicely alphabetized) list of everyone who played with the band. I think.
Mark Arm - percussion
Greg Billingham - bass
Bill Connell - percussion
Werner Cooke - bass, clarinet
Ross Guffy - percussion
Dave Middleton - vocals, clarinet
Charles Quain - guitar, percussion
Scott Schickler - guitar, percussion
Steve Turner - guitar
Scott Warner - bass
click to enlarge
Photos by Tina Warner
© 2005 Deus Ex Machina Records
V/A - The Public Doesn't Exist
(late 1982 or early 1983, Dog Tapes)
Bob Hope's USO El Salvador Show 1983
V/A - What Syndrome CS (April, 1983, Deux Ex Tapes, about a thousand copies pressed)
Death to Ivars / Non-Conformity Sox (live)
Both tracks are identical to the versions on War Between the States.
War Between the States 7"/CS (May, 1983, 100 copies pressed)
A split with Rancid Vat
Pat and Ben / My Dad Forgot His Rubber and I Was the Result / Non-Conformity Sox (live) / Death to Ivars / I've Only Got a Nickel on Me, Honest!
V/A - Sub Pop 9 CS (1983, Sub Pop, a thousand or less copies pressed)
My Dad Forgot His Rubber
Different (better) version than the War Between the States recording.
S/T CS (1984, Deus Ex Tapes)
If you have a copy of this tape, email me!
V/A - Hoop Skirt Loop Yarn VHS (1990, Box Dog Video)
The Limp Richerds only do one number, but that quality of the recording is so poor I don't actually what song it is...
If anyone knows of any other Limp Richerds releases, let me know.
The cliff notes version: Formed in '82, ceased to be a serious band in '84, split for good in '87. Recorded tons of material that no one's heard. Released a handful of cuts on cassettes that no-one cared about. Managed to open for Husker Du and Dinosaur (Jr) and no-one noticed. Just about the only attention they received was an off-hand slagging in Goldmine six years after they split up. Would be legendary if anyone had actually heard them.
The long version: The first time I heard the Limp Richerds was when I picked up a copy of Sub Pop #9. It blew my fucking mind. They sounded like a fart through a marshall stack. Or a clarinet being run through a meatgrinder. Or a 45 being cleaned with a belt sander. I'm stretching for a good description here...I really think Matt Cameron (of Soundgarden) said all that needed to be said with: "The Limp Richerds were pretty bad, but they were trying to be bad."
Mr Cameron was talking to Jo-Ann Green, who was grinding the life out of the vibrant, unpredictable, and violent history of Seattle punk for Goldmine Magazine. The one and only highlight of the 22,000 word quaalude overdose was when various grunge notables argued over who the worst Seattle band were--getting the Limp Richerds a handful of nominations. With descriptions like "spasmodic music," "suburban nerds," and "freaked out," how could I resist?
That was in 1993. It was years before I actually heard something by the Limp Richerds, and even then it was an accident. I picked up a copies of Sub Pop #s 5 and 9, two cassette-only compilations from the early eighties, for their DC content. It was only after I'd started listening to the tapes that I noticed that Limp Richerds credit buried on the B side of issue 9.
I'd actually given up on the Richerds after disappointing run-ins with Mr Epp and Mudhoney. I was not expecting much: Mudhoney were shit and the Mr Epp single was a novelty song and four crappy thrash tunes. I hadn't even thought of the Richerds in years.
The Limp Richerds tune was pure fucking noise. Not punk rock, or hard rock, or cock rock. Chords? Don't make me laugh. Tune? Melody? Not a chance. NOIZE. NOIZE. NOIZE. Sonic Youth? Forget Sonic Youth. Thurston Moore needs to do us all a favor and hang himself. In fact, forget every band to come out of New York after 1977, including Lydia Lunch, the Swans, Big Stick (from the borough of London), Great Plains (from the borough of New Jersey), and Great Plains (from the borough of Columbus), and every other shitty little noise band that's suckled at Branca's sagging teat or Sun Ra's flaccid member. Yes, you're all very clever and daring and breaking new ground and breaking down barriers and reinventing music and destroying rock and roll, now why don't you get off the stage and let the grownups use it.
The Limp Richerds are real musicians. Flailing, uncontrollable musicians, but musicians nonetheless. Like Suburban Mutilation or die Kreuzen, the Richerds take the conventions of punk rock and demolish them. I had to play that first Limp Richerds song three times in a row. Rewind, play, Rewind, play. Rewind, play. It was revelatory. When my girlfriend heard it she crinkled up her nose and shouted, "This is not music!"
Yeah, it's that good.
I interviewed Dave on September 18, 2004—eleven years after I first heard of him. He was the very first person I interviewed by phone, and the only reason I forked out $30 for a phone tap. Special thanks go out to Jo Smitty for putting me in touch with Dave in the first place and James Banner for hooking me up with some Limp Richerds photos and recordings.
I don't know much about the Limp Richerds, so my questions are pretty basic. Can you tell me a little about yourself, where you were born—
Where I was born?
Where you grew up, that kind of stuff.
I was born in Seattle and I grew up in Federal Way. Federal Way, WA, a little suburb.
How did you first get into music?
Oh, let's see...it was probably when I was about eleven years old when I really got into music. I liked Simon and Garfunkel—that was the first thing I was into—listening to the top 40, and crap like that. Then there's the progression, when you get to about the tenth grade you start to like the FM radio stuff, the hard rock, which out here was like, oh, Ted Nugent, Led Zeppelin, and that stuff. I got tired of that after a while and I heard—they used to have this program on one of the FM stations on Sunday night were the listeners could come in with their own records. It was called Your Mother Won't Like It, and they played God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols...
That sounds like a really cool show.
Yeah, it was. Most of the people played their Boston records and whatnot, but one person came in with the Sex Pistols and I heard it—God, that's really what the heavy metal of that time should have been like—most of those groups just did not have interesting lyrics, and that just struck me as a unique tune.
Gradually I became more interested in finding out about the punk rock groups and the new wave groups of that era.
How did you first find out about punk in Seattle?
Punk in Seattle...hmmmm...
Or punk in Federal Way, as the case may be...
(laughs) Federal Way really had nothing going on in terms of punk rock.
The Limp Richerds came about because I was going to community college in Des Moines, WA at Highline Community College. I was taking a journalism class, and my favorite thing there was writing record reviews. They'd have me do the standard crap that you have to do in a course like that, interviewing...oh god...I interviewed some guy who did nature paintings and shit like that, but that's not really interesting.
I also had a comic strip called the Luddens. There was a game show host named Allen Ludden who'd gone into a coma—He was married to Betty White—and I just did this comic strip about a punk group from Ilwaco, WA, a really small fishing village. They were just a comedic punk band from Ilwaco, and they were really obsessed with Allen Ludden, upset that he was in a coma, and they tuned into his game show every day waiting for him to recover. I think I had songs of theirs in the strip. I remember some of my classmates were talking about good names for a punk band, and one guy said the Limp Richerds—kind of embarrassedly, because it's a really bad pun.
It struck me because it was such a pathetic name that I kinda liked it. I wrote a bunch of lyrics around that, then the tunes. I had this crappy little acoustic guitar I'd record songs with. I brought those to class and this guy named Ross Guffy said, "You know, I have a friend who's got a reel to reel recorder, and he's got guitars and stuff. You should come over and we should start making music."
So I did that, and that was like in late '81. I went over to his house and we recorded some songs.
Just you and him?
It was me, Ross Guffy was the guy who became the first drummer, Charles Quain played guitar, and another friend of theirs named Greg Billingham was on bass.
Were you friends with Jo Smitty and Mark Arm at that point?
Ross knew them. He'd go to shows, and he met Smitty. I rarely went to punk shows. I don't even think you could call the Gang of Four a punk band; they were...uh, post-punk, I guess is what they were calling them at that point.
I'd heard Mr. Epp, there was a really good public radio station at that time in Seattle called KRAB, which is really where I heard about a lot of the stuff. They would play Mr Epp, and the Fags, the Fartz, Solger, and that was really where I found out about that stuff.
When did the Limp Richerds become serious?
I don't know if we ever really were serious. It started out that we would go over to Charles' house and we'd make tapes, just record stuff, just farting around. Then...I'm trying to remember the whole chronology of it...Oh yeah, we had an opportunity to play, I guess it was a talent show, at Highline Community College. I had quit going there, but Ross still was. He'd entered us to play in that, and that was the very first show we did. It was pretty hilarious, the audience was just freaked out...they were aghast, man.
(laughing) I wonder why.
They despised it. That was pretty funny. And then...let's see...I think our big break was...Ross had sent a tape to Stephen Rabow, who had a radio show on KRAB, I forget the name of it, and he played our tape. He wanted us to appear on his show, so we did that.
A kind of live in the studio thing?
No, we didn't have access to our instruments there. We just brought some more tapes and he interviewed us.
Another really big deal was when Mike Birch of the Smashchords had called me and said he was really into what we were doing. It just freaked me out 'cause I'd heard them and really liked what they were doing. Plus they were on Rough Trade and that had a big mystique at that time 'cause they had the Raincoats, the Fall, and a lot of great groups of that era. I was pretty impressed that someone who was on Rough Trade heard us and liked us.
How much did the band manage to get released? I only know about a couple tracks on cassette compilations like Sub Pop, What Syndrome, and the Public Doesn't Exist.
Yeah, that's really all we ever did—
And the War Between the States split tape with Rancid Vat.
Yeah, that too. We had like one cassette of all of our material, but that was really small—I don't even know if there were 50 of them made, if that—maybe 20. They were distributed in the little record stores in Seattle at that point.
How did you get on Sub Pop 9?
Umm...it's hard to...I think we just submitted it to Bruce Pavitt and he selected it, for whatever reason (laughs). I had forgotten we were even on that. Was it Death to Ivars on that one?
No, it was My Dad Forgot His Rubber. Stand-out track on that compilation.
Wow, I thought that was Death to Ivars.
I think that was on What Syndrome.
Yeah, it was. Yeah. And the Public Doesn't Exist. I don't even know if I still have What Syndrome. I know I still have the Public Doesn't Exist. We never had any vinyl recordings or anything like that.
Well, the War Between the States tape came packaged with a 45. Whose idea was that?
I think that a friend of Ross' knew Alan Larsen, who was Eric from Rancid Vat's brother. We'd traded tapes with those guys and they invited us down to play in Portland.
At the Met?
Yeah, I think so. It was with Rancid Vat, and I don't remember who else was on that bill...I think it might just have been us two. I think it was Phil...Phil was the guitar player in Rancid Vat?
Yeah, he goes as thee Whiskey Rebel now...
I guess he liked it and said, "Yeah, we should do a tape together."
You've mentioned doing a lot of home recording. Is any of that stuff out there, have the tapes been lost, erased or what?
Oh man, yeah...I still have some of that stuff, but Ross, who I haven't seen in years, borrowed them, so he's in possession of them now, and I don't even know if he has them any more. Most of what we did was home recordings. I remember we recorded in other people's places a couple times, but most of what we did was home recording.
A lot of your songs seem to be joke songs like Rubber, but Pat and Ben is fairly serious, taking on the moral majority and that crowd. Were the Limp Richerds political at all?
Let's see...Yeah, in the sense that I was just interested in commenting on and satirizing the present culture. I guess I wanted to do stuff that was funny but didn't want to be considered just novelty. Like I've Only Got a Nickel On Me, Honest, I kinda wanted that to be considered a political tune in a way too, because it was just about the whole social politics—
Yeah, and how it all begins in the public school system. I wanted to comment on things without being really blatant about it.
Death to Ivars, I guess that's a joke song, but again, that's really a parody of a punk protest tune. Because Ivar is a really innocuous figure—he's just a dude who started some fish restaurants in Seattle. I just thought it would be amusing to turn him into this stereotypical corporate bastard type guy.
How often did the Limp Richerds play out?
I'm trying to remember how many we actually did...I think we may have played once every month or couple of months. A lot of times we'd rent out these halls from really seedy dudes and inevitably the shows would get shutdown by the police like halfway through—if even that.
It's funny to think back about how at the time punk was looked at as like this breeding ground for crime and anarchy by the youngsters or something.
A blight on society.
Yeah, yeah. It's just funny how... I guess rap has really replaced that as the favorite thing for people to flip out about. How it's going to destroy the moral fiber of the youth and all that.
I think it's moved on to dance music and rave culture. "Ecstasy is evil," and all that.
Yeah, the whole Ecstasy culture and everything. Do they even still call it Ecstasy?
I have no idea.
Did you play just with "weird" bands like Mr Epp or with some of the more straightforward hardcore bands like the Fartz?
Oh yeah, we played with the Firing Squad, we played with them. I believe we played with the Rejectors, I think we did. And then later on...as far as the Limp Richerds being an ongoing thing...the band lasted from late '81 to late '83 and that was when we'd tell ourselves that we've got regular practice scheduled, and we're gonna record this, and do these shows, and blah blah blah, but that pretty much ended by late '83, and it just ran its course.
I remember in late '84, another guy in the band got us a gig with Husker Du.
There was local mention of Husker Du, but I don't think the Thrown Ups or Limp Richerds got any comment at all. Then, two years later, we played at the Central Tavern with Dinosaur.
Why did the band split in the end? Was it just kind of the band running down...
We'd done it long enough and I wasn't really writing any new tunes for the band. We were just playing the same stuff over and over. Towards the end there was...it seems like we were really getting into playing a lot of covers. There was a fucking Creedence song we did a cover of...Molina, yeah. Stuff like that.
In fact, for the Dinosaur show, we did In My Time of Dying, which Dylan did on his first album.
We also did Honky Tonk Woman by the Stones, and Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window by Dylan. Stuff like that.
That sounds pretty wild. It also raises another question: what were your influences? You're doin' Dylan and Stones covers, but I hear Flipper and Half Japanese, not all that.
Yeah, I like Flipper and Half Japanese. There are a lot of groups I liked but there was no way they were going to translate into the Limp Richerds—like the Raincoats, I thought they were great, and Captain Beefheart, the Velvet Underground, Neil Young...All the classic rock groups you can think of.
The funny thing, I remember listening back to the the time I was listening to KRAB, which would play a lot of stuff like the Swell Maps and Throbbing Gristle and groups like that. The DJs they had really didn't play much hardcore. I didn't know much about it until I started hanging out with the guys who were in the Limp Richerds. The groups from that era I liked: Black Flag—at least the Damaged record, I thought that was a really great record, and the Meat Puppets, the first 45 they did.
In A Car.
Yeah, that one. They did that kind of country-ish tune on that one. That was the first kind of glimpse that they would do that kind of stuff. Who else...yeah, Flipper, I like them a lot. The Germs were pretty cool.
The thing about hardcore was that overall the groups weren't that good, but there would always be the one or two really good songs by a band...
That stood out from the rest.
Yeah, yeah. I liked the Neos—I think I liked the more off-the-wall hardcore groups rather than the straight-ahead ones.
After the Limp Richerds split did you do any other projects in the '80s?
In the '80s? Let's see. No, not really. I just played the guitar for the fun of it.
Smitty mentioned the Dave Middleton Experience as a current thing.
Yeah. Again, that's just like going over to a friends house and making a few recordings. I guess we were sorta serious in a way in '94 and we played one show...actually, how many shows did we play? We played a couple of shows in the mid-'90s. We did play another show, we played a guitar at a place Smitty had, Second Avenue Pizza. He was the owner for a long time. I guess he sold it though. We played late last year, we did a show then.
And we opened for Mark's group, Bloodloss.
I haven't heard them.
What is it...the band Mark's in with the Australian dude.
Let me see if I can find them (google). The only band of his I'm at all familiar with is the Thrownups.
Oh, man, he's been in a lot of groups. The big ones, Green River and Mudhoney.
Yeah, it's Bloodloss.
Yeah, we opened for them and Stuntman, which is Scott Schmaljohn from the Treepeople.
Are you involved in music at all now?
Oh, just as far as playing guitar with this dude, Dan Trager.
Well, that's about it for my questions. It's been a pleasure interviewing you.
Oh, hey, how did you ever find out about the Limp Richerds anyway? Are you from Seattle?
No, no, I'm from Arlington, VA, right outside of DC.
Yeah. I found a copy of Sub Pop 9 and the Limp Richerds track was just mind blowing. I heard it, and when it was over I hit rewind and played it again. And again. And again. After that I had to track down all this other stuff, which was kinda hard.
Did you ever find the Public Doesn't Exist?
No, I didn't. [Update: Yes, I did.]
And how'd you find Smitty, by the way?
I wrote a letter to Box Dog Sound asking for a tape list and he emailed me back.
So, does Feminist Baseball get into Arlington, VA?
Yeah, it's in Tower Records here.
Wow. They're a lot better there then they are here. I usually have to go to the smaller record stores to find it. I get em from Smitty though. I guess he hasn't done one in a while. The last one I have has a John Fahey interview.
I don't have that one.
Oh, that's a classic man, it's a really funny article about John Fahey.
Well, I will definitely have to track the latest one down.