Bay Area threesome (two of whom originally hail from Bozeman, Montana) Steel Pole Bath Tub put a happy face (well, sorta) on industrial-strength grind rock, leavening its pitbull riffs with jaggedly humorous short stories that couldn’t be further from established noise-boy motifs. Trouser Press
With their penchant for the use of bizarre TV samples, guitar feedback and tape loops, Bozeman, Montana trio Steel Pole Bath Tub seemed an unlikely candidates for major label attention. Yet, by the early to mid 90s labels signed such bands as Helmet, Melvins, Jesus Lizard and Unsane and, finally, SPBT also got a major label with Slash. Unfortunately, as was often the case with others, the relationship went sour and after one album for the label, SPBT were never heard from again. The band’s final album appeared on shelves 6 years after it was originally recorded.
SPBT formed in 1986 in Bozeman, MT as a duo of guitarist/vocalist Mike Morasky and bassist/vocalist Dale Flattum.After moving to Seattle, they also recruited former Mr. Epp And Calculations member Darren Mor-X (Darren Morey) and move again, this time to San Francisco. By the late 80s they recorded “We Own Drillls” EP and signed with local label Boner (which also was an early home to Melvins) and 1989 saw the release of their debut album “Butterfly Love”.
Trouser Press pointed out that while “Butterfly Love” was a good album (in particular due to great drumming skills of Darren Mor-X), it still didn’t demonstrated the band’s full potential. According to TP, their 1990 EP “Lurch” fixed some of the one-dimensionality of its predecessor due to improved guitar playing of Mike Morasky. Boner Records reissued both “Lurch” and “Butterfly Love” on one CD in 1990.
According to Trouser Press, the band’s 1991 LP “Tulip” featured more distinct songwriting than its predecessors, with Morasky and Flattum developing two different voices – “Morasky tends toward self-contained audio noir stories, while bassist Dale Flattum intones ominous real-time journal entries”. TP also pointed out that the band got a better control of samples and lyrical content.
One of the more curious sides of the band was their eclectic choice of covers (most scattered through various singles) of songs by the likes of Hendrix, Velvet Underground, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth.
The band’s next album – 1993 “The Miracle Of Sound In Motion” – was one of the last records that the band released through Boner Records. According to Trouser Press, the album fully discloses the trio’s workaday experimentalism.” and “provides the most cogent crystallization of the band’s sound yet, falling smack in the middle of the intersection between mind-control and muscle-flex.” The album also included surprisingly straight cover of Pogues song “Down All The Days”.
Further on, they also recorded six-song EP “Some Cocktail Suggestions”, which was produced by Steve Albini and came complete with bartender guide, as well as advice on how to create a hangover remedy.
Their first (and last) album for a major label was 1995 “Scars From Falling Down”, which came out on Slash. In a retrospect, its hard to tell exactly what kind of commercial potential the label saw in SPBT as the band didn’t water down their sound or made it softer or different in any way from its predecessors. Instead, they band’s sound became tighter and more aggressive, as compared to their previous albums.
All of this didn’t help matters, however, and the band was dropped from the label in the mid 90s. SPBT recorded a single with two Cheap Trick covers (on Man’s Ruin), 4-track single for Genius Records and one final item for Slash – “Twist / Surrender” single (which included the same Cheap Trick cover track that was included on Man’s Ruin release). 1996 also saw the release of Unwound / SPBT split on Honey Bear Records.
Nothing was heard from the band again until the new millennium, since the band members decided to concentrate on side projects and other work – Morasky went to New Zealand and worked as a special effects technician on Peter Jackson’s movie “Lord Of The Rings”, while Flattum moved to North Carolina in order to pursue visual arts.
Finally, in 2002 the band was able to obtain rights to release their post-Slash material and in 2002 they released “Unlistenable” (title referring to the reaction of Slash representatives to the demo tapes that the band presented them) on their own label 0 to 1 Recordings. Originally recorded in 1996, the label execs called the album “a soundtrack to nothing” (not neccesarily as bad of a description as one might think, according to AMG). The album included a cover of Cars song “What I Need” and according to AMG there was plenty to enjoy on the album, even though it also sounded “messy and all over the place”.
Outside of SPBT, band members were also in a number of other projects, including Duh, Tumor Circus and Milk Cult. In 1991, the band appeared on Flipside Records compilation “The Big One”, alongside Offspring, Green Day, L7 and Bad Religion by using the name Steel Pole Melvins Task Force. This turned to be another demonstration of the band’s sense of humor, as Melvins had nothing to do with the song.
Dale Allan Flattum (CC Nova, Milk Cult, Tumor Circus)
Darren K Mor-X (Darren Morey) (Tumor Circus)
Mike Morasky (Bumblebee, Duh, Milk Cult, Tumor Circus)
Butterfly Love 12″ (Boner, 1989)
Steel Pole Bath Tub / Melvins Split 7″ (Boner, 1989)
Arizona Garbage Truck / Voodoo Chile 7″ (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 1990)
Lurch LP (Boner, 1990)
Lurch / Butterfly Love CD (Boner, 1990)
Tulip CD / LP (Tupelo, 1990 / 1991 / Tupelo, 1991)
European Son / Venus In Furs 7″ (Communion Label, 1991)
Live 7″ (Your Choice, 1991)
Steel Pole Bath Tub / Jawbreaker Split 7″ (Staple Gun, 1991)
Bozeman CD / 12″ (Boner, 1992)
Best Of Steel Pole Bath Tub CD (Sento, 1993)
The Miracle Of Sound In Motion CD / LP (Boner + Tupelo, 1993)
Your Choice Live Series CD / LP (Your Choice, 1993)
Some Cocktail Suggestions EP CD / 10″ (Boner + Tupelo, 1994)
Auf Widersehen / Surrender 7″ (Man’s Ruin, 1995)
Scars From Falling Down CD / LP (Slash, 1995 / Genius, 1995)
Tragedy Ecstasy Doom And So On 2×7″ (Genius, 1995)
Twist / Surrender CD (Slash, 1995)
Steel Pole Bath Tub / Unwound 7″ (Honey Bear, 1996)
Unlistenable CD (0 to 1, 2002)
“Bee Sting” on The Thing That Ate Floyd (Lookout!, 1988)
“We Walk” on Surprise Your Pig – A Tribute To R.E.M. (Staple Gun, 1992)
“Down All The Days” on The Mission District: 17 Reasons (Mission Merchants, 1992)
“Chemical Warfare” on Virus 100 (Alternative Tentacles, 1992)
“Kung Fu Love” on Milk For Pussy (Mad Queen, 1993)
“The Seventh Hour Of The Seventh Day” on The Smitten Love Song (Karate Brand, 1994)
“The 500 Club” on CMJ New Music August Vol. 24 (College Music Journal, 1995)
“Twist” on Introducing Vol. 2 (Indigo, 1995)
“The Ghost” on Twisted Willie (Justice, 1996)
“A Washed Out Monkey Star Halo” on Dope Guns and ‘Fucking In The Streets Volumes 8-11 (Amphetamine Reptile, 1997)
On a Different Note:
- Theory Of Everything – Bios – Steel Pole Bath Tub
- Boston.com Interviews Melvins
- Show Review – Melvins at the Paradise Rock Club (06.03.11)
- 9 From 2009 – Vol. 2 – Ancient Sky, Celan, Shrinebuilder and more
- Review – Melvins Lite – Freak Puke