Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mike Watt & Letter To The Screamers

I contacted bassist Mike Watt through his website ( after discovering that he is the former brother-in-law of Paul Roessler, keyboardist on the Fender Rhodes for the Screamers (1978-81), through past marriage to Kira Roessler, bassist in Black Flag (1984-86) and in the duo Dos with Watt since 1986.

• • •

This is a copy of the letter I am forwarding whenever possible to people who might have contact with former members of the Screamers:

Dear Screamers,
While rooting around in some archives in Toronto, I came across materials from the Center for Experimental Art and Communication (Toronto, 1973-78). CEAC, you might recall, hosted some of the first punk concerts in Canada under the banner "Crash & Burn". Documents from the Crash & Burn events include show posters, photos and a small collection of audio recordings. One of these recordings is a Screamers demo tape. Apparently someone associated with the band or in the band itself submitted the demo to possibly play Crash & Burn in '77 or '78 (?).
I was able to get a copy of the recording and I've brought it with me to L.A. It consists of "Peer Pressure", "Eva Braun" and "Punish or Be Damned". All great versions, though a little muddy. To improve this, I've remastered the audio to hopefully capture the energy and intensity of your music. These are rare demos, I believe, as they're not on the Xeroid Records Screamers compilation, which seems to hold claim to being authoritative.
My reason for being in L.A. (I live in Halifax, NS, Canada) is to hopefully find all the former members of the Screamers in order to give you copies of this recording.
As strange as it sounds, giving "gifts" like this is the core of my art practice. For me, the application of a gift economy counteracts the state of hyper-commodification the art world is currently in. Although this is an "art" project, it isn't "candid camera" or "punk'd" or any crap like that. In no way do I want to visually document my personally giving you the recording: that would be a double-edged gift, wouldn't you say? The condensed version of my ethos and approach is the following:

"Two activities are central to my art practice: research and gift-giving. Through loose research within archives, private collections, libraries and other sites, I am interested in recovering lost histories found in the form of overlooked objects or information. My primary objective is to return this material to the individuals and communities that have direct interest in the subject matter. The material I exhibit in art spaces is the documentation and residue from the processes of research and gift preparation."

I hope this is clear but if you have any questions, please ask! I would be grateful if you could let me know your whereabouts so I can bring you the recording. I am in L.A. until the end of August.

Looking forward to meeting you soon,
Craig Leonard

Monday, June 25, 2007

Crash & Burn Demos

Today I remastered the Screamers' Crash & Burn demos (Peer Pressure, Punish or Be Damned, and Eva Braun) then had a dub plate made of the recordings. The final result is mind-blowing. I'll be using the dub plate to make a mold in order to create my own vinyl. More on this process soon....

Punk Photographer Jenny Lens

I contacted the punk photographer Jenny Lens through her website ( thinking she might know how to find some of the Screamers. A few emails later, we discussed the idea of sharing the exhibition space at Raid Projects so her archival photos of the Screamers can be shown alongside my record project. Damn good idea, I'd say.

The Neutron Bomb

While carrying a copy of We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, I was stopped on the corner of Arcadia and Alameda by a man named Bill Lopez. He was keen to chat since he was deeply involved in the LA punk scene in the 70's and 80's. I asked him if he knew the whereabouts of any of the former members of the Screamers. He didn't, but he took my contact information and said he would put me in touch with a former contributor to Flipside Fanzine (1977-84) who might.