Dead Moon Biography
Last updated: 09/29/2001 05:23:24 AM
Andrew Loomis, bartender and drummer, had only talked to Fred a couple of times when he was asked to join a newly-to-set-up band, again with Toody on bass. Fred and Toody still had "some weird-ass kinda country & western" as their aim then, which wasn't exactly what Andrew had been playing in his previous bands (like Snowbud & the Flower People, and the Boy Wonders), and things didn't really work out then - that was only some time later (when Fred and Toody said "O.K., we're gonna do rock'n'roll, Andrew - what do you say?").
Then things really started rocking out... After the first rehearsal with just rock'n'roll in mind, Fred, Toody and Andrew had this idea like "fuck, yeah, let's do this!" The name Dead Moon was picked after seeing a huge red moon over the Nevada desert, but 'Red Moon' became 'Dead Moon' since a band name with two four letter words made more sense to Fred, who says "it just looked better that way". The first gig was on September 17, 1987; the band played "after a couple of stand up comedians - we put up our equipment and everybody split, so we played for three people" (Fred) "...and the bartender!" (Toody)
The first single, 'Parchment Farm' b/w 'Hey Joe' (released in 1988), was cut on a 1954 Presto-88 mono disc cutter; a present from Toody for Fred's 39th birthday. They actually had to break out a door post to get the thing in, but there it was: the disc cutter that once gave the world the Kingsmen's classic 'Louie, Louie' single. It took Fred some time to get it fully operational, but when it worked, nothing could stop Fred from doing things his way and his way alone. The record label to release these home-made records from then went on under the name Tombstone Records ('music too tough to die'), and Fred and Toody also released plenty of other bands on Tombstone (as you can see!).
The first album, 'In The Graveyard', was recorded at the Fresh Tracks studios (I'm sorry, Toody, you said it wasn't but this is what it says on the sleeve!), produced by Fred and engineered by Steve Parker, but soon after that the recordings were made at home too. "We record (...) live in the bedroom, the hall and another room, with shit spread out all over the house". In 1990, with three Dead Moon singles and three albums in the Tombstone catalog, things really started to happen: Dead Moon were asked to play a couple of gigs in Europe and the German label Music Maniac (tipped off by Greg Sage of the Wipers) wanted to release a compilation of the Tombstone records. That became 'Dead Moon Night', strangely enough not cut on the Presto machine (although the sleeve claims '...mastered by Fred Cole') and not in mono ( the sleeve says 'stereo', too).
In the same year, and in the same way, Music Maniac quickly released a second compilation - or maybe compilation isn't the right word; of the fifteen (!) songs on 'Thirteen Off My Hook', seven were previously unreleased (including five songs with the Rats' Louis Samora). Anyone raising eyebrows over this Music Maniac release policy should listen to these (otherwise 'lost') songs first...!
Sunday July 1st 1990, the band played the first of many gigs at the Vera club in Groningen, Holland. It was the club's 10th anniversary, lots of press around, which made this gig a major breakthrough!
So was the Metropolis open air festival in Rotterdam about a year later... I can remember Andrew walking on stage, discovering the huge (I mean huge) crowd out there, then quickly disappearing backstage and returning with an armful of cans of beer - a welcoming present for the audience: "here, catch!!" The band started off with 'You Must Be A Witch' and everybody went instantly apeshit. Music Maniac and the people behind it (notably Hans Kesteloo and his wife Angela) also helped in making Dead Moon widely known, although Hans is the first one to admit he hasn't got a clue what exactly the 'Dead Moon magic' is. Maybe it's the candle on Andrew's drum kit...? The following conversation comes from a radio show:
Toody (to Andrew): "You were the one who came up with the idea of the bottle and the candle, so I'm curious as it seems like it's always been there, when did you start that and what made you think of it?"
Andrew: "No, Weeden had the candle, I always had the bottle...there was a hole in the drums and it looked like it fitted, so I just put it in. I had a candle in front of the drums for a while, and Weeden was doing something there and set in top of it and Fred said: 'wow, leave it, leave it - that's lucky!' That was the first tour..."
In retrospect, it looks like Fred was right...You should know that Fred considers things 'lucky' (or 'unlucky') a lot: "yeah...I'm really superstious, in all kinda things...for example when I've played bad, I never wear the clothes I was wearing again. I have a whole closet of 'bad' clothes!"
Andrew and his thirsty drum kit The album to follow the two compilations, 'Live Evil', was the first album to appear simultaneously as an LP and CD, both on Music Maniac, with entirely different sleeve artwork for both (something they would repeat for 'Strange Pray Tell'). It was recorded live at The Longhorn, Stuttgart (Germany), on the 23rd of August 1990, with Edwin Heath behind the P.A. mixing desk for the sound (as he has been since day one in Vera). The whole thing gives you the exact atmosphere of a Dead Moon gig, including Fred's guitar being out of tune on 'Remember Me', Andrew trying to catch on with what Fred is doing (starting off 'Dagger Moon'), Toody apologizing for having "fucked up big time" on 'Johnny's Got A Gun', and the whole bunch ending "drunker than a skunk" but in absolutely 100% pure r'n'r brilliance.
For the die-hards, the whole concert is also available as a (home-)video - one camera viewpoint only, but it's cool all the same! The video actually has some extras (like Fred changing strings, Toody calling Angela on stage, and an extra version of 'Walking On My Grave').
The follow-up studio album, 'Stranded In The Mystery Zone' (from 1991), is another great home-made record, containing songs like 'Clouds Of Dawn' (originally written for Zipper but never released) and the anthemic 'Spectacle'. On the sleeve of the LP version (Tombstone and mono!) you find probably one of the most extensive 'thank you' lists ever; if Dead Moon "wishes to thank everyone", they sure as hell try to actually do thank everyone - using almost the entire back side of the LP's sleeve. The CD version (on Music Maniac) doesn't have this, but unlike the LP sleeve, the CD booklet has all the lyrics. And the album contains the 'Over The Edge'/'In The Altitudes' 7" as 'CD only' tracks.
The next three albums were all recorded at home, mastered by Fred, and released by Music Maniac as LP and CD, with the 'extra tracks' idea being dropped after 'Strange Pray Tell'. The release of 'Crack In The System' was done simultaneously with the re-release of the legendary 'Zipper' album, since more and more people became interested in Fred's musical legacy.
Like the previous albums, the 1995 album 'Nervous Sooner Changes' spread the word of Dead Moon being one of the most exciting bands around today, if not the most exciting band ever - and the tours brought the band all over Europe (including the former Eastern European countries) and even Australia and New Zealand, where a special 'tour souvenir' compilation CD was released. Back at home inbetween tours, Tombstone Music was moved to the current address and turned into a cool western-saloon-type of thing.
The photo on the right is the Tombstone Music store, as it is today (give or take a parking lot and such...)!
In 1996, the fact of Dead Moon being still on the rise was illustrated by their appearance in 'Hype!', a documentary film covering the music scene of Seattle and surroundings - and the rise and fall of 'grunge'. Although no way near a typical grunge band, apparently Dead Moon were considered hip, interesting, or influential enough to give their view on a couple of things: the whole idea of "fuck it, we're gonna do it ourselves, being in complete control ourselves" for one thing. The footage includes Fred fucking around with the famous disc cutter, bits of interview, and a snippet of '54/40' played live (the whole song being included in the soundtrack CD).
The '97 release, 'Hard Wired In Ljubljana' (or 'Live Mono'), is another live double album - and a very cool one, too. The sleeve features a drawing by Peter Pontiac that's beyond description, so cool! None of the 'Live Evil' songs were given a repeat performance, and for the first time there's a fourth musician: Sjef Huurdeman (of the Dutch band Sgeurvreters) on blues harp in 'Killing Me' - a cool guest performance for sure! Another novelty is the limited edition CD+CD-ROM version of this album. Although Toody said "we're not really computer friendly at home", the band has clearly given their full support to the making of this CD-ROM.
It's a lot of fun, and personally, well, although I'm pretty analog myself (click 'view source' of these pages and you'll die laughing) I don't think there's any harm in fucking around with all these new possibilities. As long as "defiance against all odds" is the bottom line of what the rock'n'roll of Dead Moon is all about, I don't care. I mean, if you're so terribly focussed on the "it's mono and it's lo-fi" bit, howcome you're on the internet anyway?! Just remember that even that mono disc cutter once was a state-of-the-art piece of equipment!
After the "Ljubljana" album, things were a bit quiet for a while - or at least that's the impression one might've had. Yeah, Dead Moon toured Europe (a 'short holiday in Europe' as the Paperclip fax called it... call that a holiday??) but we had to wait two full years for a new album. The result was definitely worth waiting; 'Destination X' is another set of soon-to-be classic Dead Moon songs. So what was keeping them? Lack of inspiration? Nope - just some things like Fred and Toody building some extensions to Tombstone music (the store) and Fred taking his eldest grandson fishing for the first time.
But as we all can see, the 1999 tour was taking the band all over Europe again; they had a short trip Down Under, played some gigs in the US again, and the only difference is that they have even more songs to pick from. And there's a new tour shirt (being sold by Doug this time). One real difference is the fact that tourmanager and sound-engineer Edwin is no longer on board: he too became a daddy (congrats!) and now devotes his time to Hannah Jane instead of going on tour... (see "small print" section, what it says for 'Destination X'!).
The 'following' that Dead Moon have built up in all these years keeps growing and growing; and in addition to that, great bands all over the globe see Dead Moon as either soul mates or it was Dead Moon that inspired them to make some 'dirty noise' for themselves in the first place - and this led to the release of a real Dead Moon Tribute Album, a double CD even, by the Portland based Last Chance label (who have close connections with Dead Moon themselves). US, European and AUS/NZ bands give their versions of Dead Moon/Fred Cole songs, and it's a blast! Meanwhile there are no signs that Dead Moon will ever slow down... so this story will be continued - again and again.