Joe Carducci

Joe Carducci’s name looms large in SST lore. During the period of time he was co-owner at the label they released some of their most legendary records, and many consider this era (1981-1986) to be SST’s heyday.  He left in 1986 to pursue writing, and he’s released several great books and screenplays over the years. Joe recently took a few minutes to answer some of our questions:
Image from We Got Power!: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California by David Markey and Jordan Schwartz 

 Do you recall Simon Smallwood's band Dead Hippie at all? I can't seem to find much on them, and I'm really curious if they were around the scene and how the decision to bring Simon on with Würm was made.

I don't think I ever saw Dead Hippie. I think I just heard of the band in the press details of the Würm album release. There wasn't a tape floating around that I recall. I think chuck was frustrated that the Würm guys couldn't get it together to play more gigs once they got the album out. He went back a long ways with Ed and Lou; there were amazing photographs of Würm in mid-70s Hermosa Beach at the recent  Spot show at Cornelius Gallery. Global became its own world by ‘84 so we weren't privy to everything going on around adding Simon to Würm, etc. They got recording studio situations that I don't think were as good for the sound of the records as Total Access would've been, both for Würm and SWA.
Simon Smallwood

What can you tell me about Magnolia Thunderpussy? I've heard it said that they were very much on SST's radar and were actually signed to the label, but the band broke up before they could release an album. Any truth to that?

I got the Magnolia Thunderpussy cassette that came to SST and didn't think too much of it. I don't know what Chuck or Greg thought of it but I don't remember them bringing it up. I don't think I saw them live but the tape seemed derivative of various SST bands, but I thought that of B’last too.  I think Greg and Chuck thought so too but eventually they signed them.

So Magnolia Thunderpussy was actually signed? Do you know why the decision was made to not release the album, considering you released albums by other bands that had already split up?

No, they weren't signed in my time there, the tape came in in ‘85 I think. I still have it. Not sure if Greg intended to release something. I know Henry knew them well and some went to work for him at 2.13.61 I believe.

Magnolia Thunderpussy "Starin' Down The Sun" CD Art, 2004

I recently saw an SST press release that came out in 1985, and it had a Henry Rollins/Lydia Lunch LP called "Help Us Hurt You" listed as coming soon. Do you know if that was actually recorded and what it was? Music, spoken word? Any idea on why it didn't happen?

I don't remember what the Rollins/Lunch album would've been, but they did a performance art happening under that title, maybe at Lhasa club or Club Lingerie, which outraged a lot of people who wrote letters into the L.A. Weekly complaining. They charged people admission one at a time to come through a doorway into an area where I think Lydia mauled them while Henry verbally berated them, like a series of individual customized performances. Hard to put that on a record!

Do you know if catalogue numbers were being released in order in 1985? It kind of seems like it was all over the place, like maybe releases were assigned catalogue numbers but then released out of sequence?

They were never in order by actual release. The touring bands took precedence and were often hurried to get out before touring. Bands often weren't ready with inserts and info for typesetting by dates, I might tell them I needed to have covers, labels, inner sleeves done by the time the pressing plant was ready to go. That's why (there is) sticker copy on Weeding Out, and the typos on the lyric sheet on Surviving You Always. Saccharine was on the BF tour and the record had to go. We didn't sell records on the tours but the distributors needed a week to get the records, and a week to ship to shops.

1985 SST Press Release

Was there any serious consideration given to releasing the Charles Manson record, or was that just something Henry was saying in interviews for shock value?

We had the labels done and the Manson record mastered and tests okayed. I designed cover art but then we never printed jackets because Global started getting threatening calls from the prison, I think it was; Charlie had some enemies I guess.

Just one of many amazing Raymond Pettibon Manson images.

Any other bands you can think of who's record got passed on or never materialized that you wish would have come out on SST?

I was always ticked off that we didn't do an Across The River album. I talked with Greg and Chuck about them and they were into it. They'd opened for BF in Riverside and then played with Saint Vitus in L.A. a few times, but they broke up and we hadn't got on it fast enough. I think the bandmates are now releasing the live set tapes that Dave Rat recorded at one of the County Line SST festivals. I wasn't there by then, but I remember reminding Chuck about Across The River as I was leaving the label. Also, I should have set up my friend's band, the Metropolitan Jug Band, up in Portland to record. We never talked about it, but later I got Dave Lightbourne's band onto the Upland label I was doing with Bill Stevenson. The Portland band had Fritz Richmond in it - he'd been in John Sebastian's jug band in Boston - and was a big local attraction up there in a scene organized around the Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley, etc.

At one point Greg talked to me about wanting to have Dr. Know (ed. the band, not Bad Brains guitarist) on SST (but I) don't know why that didn't happen. Secret Hate was another band that broke up before we thought of doing their follow up to the New Alliance ep.

At some point in ‘83 when Spot went to Austin to record Big Boys and Dicks, the Bad Brains came to L.A. and had decided to record with him, and I think let us do the record. They hadn't made any plans with us but must've figured if BF was in town between tours Spot would be around. So that didn't happen. We had a hard time getting out all the recorded SST bands and keeping titles in print then, but we wanted to do a Bad Brains album. Greg and Chuck had told them so. Red Cross could have done a record with us anytime too, (but) they didn't want to.

Secret Hate

Many of the people we’ve spoken to that recorded for the label mention that you often taped shows. Were these audience style with a tape recorder, or were they board tapes? Any real gems in your collection? Is there any chance of any of them ever seeing the light of day?

One that came out good was the New Alliance band, The Plebs, so I just checked the EQ master that Water Under The Bridge did for a cassette only release of it. I wrote some liner notes for it describing the party at Unicorn. Most of the more rock style bands didn't record well on the Aiwa machines I had.  Board tapes never sounded that good either, everything is kind of disembodied, since the band needs to hear a different mix, and even the PA mix is different. Some of the low key small room recordings come out best with only vocals going thru PA.

Coming Soon on Water Under The Bridge Records
What can you tell me about Upland? How did you and Bill end up doing the label together?

Bill Stevenson was already in Ft. Collins when I moved to Laramie in ‘95. Bill's studio, Blasting Room, was recording some bands he knew who didn't have a label so he thought about starting one. I would come down on Fridays and try to oversee what his young guys were doing on the releases. We decided to do Upland for the roots or acoustic bands. My late friend David Lightbourne was also in Laramie with his band , so we thought we could add Spot and Drag The River, which included Chad from All. Then we just happened to meet Ben from Grandpa's Ghost and we added them to Upland. They did the most releases but never recorded in Ft. Collins. The labels had problems, but I guess it was Napster after 2000 that made even what we could pull off fail to sell records. Wretch Like Me was the main O&O label band and they were a powerhouse band, almost like the 5-piece era of Black Flag without Greg Ginn's soloing. Every slow song they recorded they'd always take off the records at the last minute so they never got heavier. It was all cd except for the first O&O 7" vinyl Wretch Like Me, and the Tanger album which they recorded at Albini's studio.

Wretch Like Me, Owned & Operated Recordings promo shot

Was the Spot album you released called "Unhalfbaking" newer material he did he have older recordings?

Spot had been recording a lot so we didn't really know what he would put on an album for us. He had a band called the Delorean Mechanics, and that broke up, so he did mostly his solo material, which was new stuff, done while he was in Austin. He's now in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

When did the label stop releasing albums?

Not sure when the end of O&O/Upland was, probably 2007. Wretch did three CD’s and one 7", there was a great Shiner CD towards the end, and a best of All collection. Probably should've done vinyl only releases, but there were still record stores and some chain interest when we started, then it all dried up.

Thanks for your time Joe.

I'm glad you guys are interested.

Joe Carducci moved to Hollywood in 1976 intending to write screenplays. Instead he found himself up and down the coast in the music business working with or at KBOO, Systematic, Neo-boys, Dead Kennedys, Negativland, Voice Farm, SST, Black Flag, SPK, and others in Portland, Berkeley, West Hollywood and Redondo Beach. He resumed writing screenplays in Chicago in 1987 and wrote a string of books: Rock and the Pop Narcotic (1999), Enter Naomi-SST, L.A. and All That... (2007), Wyoming Stories (2007), Life Against Dementia (2012), and Stone Male: Requiem for the Living Picture (2016).  Carducci also has a number of screenplays optioned including two of the three that can be found in his Wyoming Stories collection.


Joe's Blog 

Buy Joe's books

Water Under The Bridge Records

Joe's interview on the podcast

Buy We Got Power!


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