Embarrass Fair, age 14
When I was 20
years old, I finally got the hell off the iron
range (northern Minnesota), and moved to the hometown of my
favorite band, the
Replacements. This was in 1987. I had been dreaming of this
for many years, thinking how great it was, having a music MECCA
right here in my home state. For about six years prior to this big
move, I was playing covers in high school bands. One of them was
called the Imports. We did have about twenty original numbers with
that band, all recorded on cassettes, and we all wanted to move
down to "da cities" and become rock
and roll stars. We had no idea what we were getting into.
I moved first,
then the drummer, then the bass player (Russell Bergum), and eventually,
the KEYBOARD player (Jim Kennedy). Our first gig was at FERNANDO'S
on 15th and Lake Street. What a disaster. What a let-down. Then
we played NEW BAND NIGHT at the 7th St. Entry, where future rock
luminary Ed Ackerson was our soundman. Ed LOVED us! We were IN!!!
Then, some things happened. It was like that old Bryan Adams song--Jimmy
quit, Timmy got married. I shoulda known we'd never get far... Well,
at the time I was glad that band ended. It was weird new wave ART ROCK and I wanted to do something else. My next move was to become a SOLO
ACOUSTIC performer, and try the "coffee house" circuit.
My first gig
doing that was at the Gioco cafe, in Dinkytown (later renamed Espresso
The "show" was
pretty good, and some of my friends came to see me play. Two of
the friends were Russell Bergum (the ex-Imports bass player, who
was all into new wave and Paul
McCartney), and my brother, Glen. Glen had graduated fom high
school a few days before. I was at the graduation ceremony and party
and while at home, I saw Glen and our dad come close to kicking
the crap out of each other. I said, "Glen,when I go back to da cities,
why don't you come with me, eh?" He did. Anyway, back to the Gioco
cafe. After I played, Russell expressed interest in playing his
stand-up bass that he kept from high school with me on some songs.
I said "sure, why not. We're NOT gonna play no NEW
WAVE, though. We're gonna play what I want to play."
Then later that night, Glen expressed interest in playing some percussion
with Russell and I. He said, "We'll call ourselves the Glen-Russells,
with a 't'." The Glenrustles were born. We had no idea what we were
Well, Glen got
himself a snare drum with his graduation money, and took two twigs
and fastened a tambourine to it, then took a coat hanger and fastened
a pot lid (no pun intended) to it and attached that to the snare
drum. Then we found some maracas. Glen had his drum kit. At this
point, he was playing with sticks cut from our back yard. We lived
in Columbia Heights, north of Minneapolis. It was the summer of
'88. We were out of the nest for good and writing tons of tunes.
We practiced three or four times a week. It was a new sound.
25, 1988 we had our first gig as "Rich Mattson and the Glenrustles".
It was at the Gioco cafe. Then we played the New Band Night again,
the Uptown Bar, the 400, and worked on recording an ALBUM. In November, '88
(sometime around there) Glen and I found a house to rent on 28th
& Harriet, in the UPTOWN neighborhood (where all the cool musicians
lived). It was awesome, and CHEAP. The basement was like a concert hall. We
had neighbors only on one side, and they were MUSICIANS, TOO! And there was a RECORDING STUDIO across the street! We
got two roomates, one of them being Jim Kennedy (the old Imports
keyboard player), and the other a bass player/record collector named Jimmy the Sloocher.
Jim Kennedy learned how to play guitar over the few months since
the Imports broke up, and genius that he is, decided to join our
band, and play guitar, banjo, piano, and fiddle. The only one he
COULDN'T play was the fiddle. He returned it to the music store
the next day.
We set up the
"studio" (my 4-track) in the living room and recorded our debut
ALBUM in one night. It turned out to be a nine song cassette. All
we ever wanted was to be on TWIN/TONE. That never happened, but
that's another story. We dubbed those cassettes in my room, one
after the other until we had 200 of them. We even got our name in
the City Pages (weekly entertainment rag) with a blurb written by the great Jim Walsh.
We kept after
gigs, playing goofy places like the Valli Pub (a pizza place), Fernando's,
the Seward Cafe, eventually getting into the 400 Bar, and the Cabooze.
Our main venue, though, was that basement. We had parties, parties,
PARTIES!!! Every other weekend, at least. The strangest mix of people
showed up; punkers, deadheads, skinheads, cokeheads, metalheads,
you name it, they were represented. Nothing bad ever happened, (save
for the time "Baggs" shit his pants on the stairs) and nothing ever
got stolen or broken--nothing we cared about, anyway. Those were
strange days, indeed. We built up our eclectic following. Many of those faces I still see at shows today.
Early in 1990,
Russell announced that he was moving to Chicago. I was a little
upset, but not much because Russ was always studying and way more
into school. He wasn't a dope-smoking moron like the rest of us.
The big problem was finding a replacement. Also right about this
time Jimmy K. decided to finish school in Bemidji, so he too was
leaving. Now I was worried.
Glen was working
at the "Leaning Tower of Pizza" with Greg McAloon, who said he played
bass and guitar. It took about a month to get him into the basement
to jam with us, but when he finally did, we had a new sound. It
was good. Glen had been practicing on a full kit that we bought
for $50 from some hippy. I rediscovered my old Gretsch guitar and
Peavey/Plush amp combo. We decided, somehow, to "plug in", as it
were. All of a sudden we were an electric 3-piece rock group. We
instantly recorded another ALBUM at Leo Whitebird's studio across
the street, and went to work dubbing those tapes. The gigs were
starting to roll in. We still played our parties, too, although
our house was slowly turning into a total shit-hole.
Sometime early in 1991 I managed to get a van that had no holes in the floor, a good heater, and only leaked oil a LITTLE bit. Now we were hell-bent on taking our show on the road. We had the van,
we had the demo tapes, we even had a little press from our hometown--what
were we waiting for?
Our first couple
of "tours" were to Chicago and back, with our friends DOG-994-some
of the biggest maniacs in Minneapolis rock history. It was the six
of us putting along down I-94 laughing our asses off. I can't say
(remember) much about the tours, except that we didn't make any
money--I mean we DIDN'T MAKE ANY- you know how some people say they
didn't make any money, yet they got paid $25? Well, we didn't make
ANY money. In seven shows, I'd have to say we performed to about
25 people, half of which were club employees. Sound bad? Hell no!!
It was a kick in the ASS!! We had a great time. We were young, stupid,
and drunk. We went back and did it again, countless times. Later
in the Glenrustles' career, we started calling going on tour an
"exercise in futility".
O'Cayz Corral, 1991
We met some great
people and bands on the road, and some awful people and bands, too.
Most of all, we had fun. God, there's some pathetic road stories
in the Glenrustles. Just amazing. No label support, no radio support,
no guarantees, just the bond of friendship, and ROCK AND ROLL. Ah,
memories--Glen laying face-down in some park in Chicago, going to
the Western Union in some godawful neighborhood in New Orleans,
sleeping in the van in January outside Madison, the sound of Jimmy
puking...all the glory of rock superstardom. We eventually did start
to get paid for our roadtrips, but it was never quite like being
home in Minneapolis, where we were beginning to pack 'em in...
was I? So we were a 3-piece power trio for most of '91 and some
of '92, until Jimmy Kennedy came back from Bemidji with his business
degree. He re-joined the band, now playing guitar full-time. We
recorded and released a couple singles that year, and sent out a
lot of demo tapes to big time record labels. Twin/Tone was floundering,
and we didn't even want to be on that label anymore. We had 7" records out on UPRISING RECORDS! They were a little label run by some friends from Detroit we met on the road. Really good guys, even though we tortured them when we stayed at their houses. We were a belligerent, cantakerous bunch, and our Iron Range way of fun was a little more outrageous than your average joe's.
Glen had started
his own band, called the Peasants sometime in '92, and the house
on Harriet was abandoned. We were practicing in my new basement,
a couple blocks from the old party house. The new basement was smaller,
and had two rooms in it, and I decided to make it into a recording
studio. I took out a $1900 loan from my Grandad and bought a 12-track
recording/mixing machine, slapped up a window between the two rooms, and went to work full-time recording friends'
bands. Flowerpot was born. I charged $10 an hour for studio time. At first it wasn't sounding so good, but I learned fast and found out how to get the most out of my cheap-ass gear. I experimented a lot on my own, recording a lot of tunes that never
got released in any form, save for the errant demo type tape floated
out to those stupid record labels.
Backstage, First Avenue, 1992
In April of '94
the Glenrustles did another tour to Chicago and back when things
got a little too crazy. Glen was trying to drive the whole band
insane. Like he wanted us to kick his ass. On the way to Milwaukee
we decided, after almost ditching him at the Wendy's Oasis, that
he should leave the band. We went to Milwaukee and Glen chanted
"DAHMER, DAHMER, DAHMER"
the whole time. We stuck to our decision.
to Minneapolis, we started auditioning drummers, and settled on
our good friend Rob Gilboe. Now there wasn't a Glen or a Russell
in the Glenrustles. It never occured to us to change the name...we
were too famous.
With Robbie in
the band, we decided to save all our gig money (something my brother
never allowed us to do) and make the ultimate ALBUM, and make c.d.'s!
In late '94 we went into the Third Ear Recording complex and began
recording what would become BROOD,
our first "real" ALBUM, with Tom
Herbers producing. It took about a year to record the whole
thing, as we spread out the recording dates (so we could pay as
we went), and make it the perfect ALBUM. We still played our usual
two to three gigs a month local, with a road trip once a month,
to Duluth, LaCrosse, or Chicago. I owe a lot to Tom Herbers, the
sessions recording that ALBUM
taught me a LOT about how to get proper sounds.
Once BROOD was
completed, we sent out a lot of tapes, thinking "of course we'll
get that record deal now!". We didn't, so we put it out on our
own SMA (Start Making Albums..or Suck My Ass..depends who you're
talking to) Records. I've got a kickass collection of rejection
letters if anyone would like to see 'em. It's kinda funny. Well,
BROOD went over like gangbusters around the twin cities, and we paid off the manufacturing
costs in 2 months. Local papers gave it nice reviews, and it was
good to get some recognition, for a change. The national reviews
were kind of luke warm, though, so we went right to work on the
next ALBUM. This time I took what I learned from Tom Herbers and
recorded the whole thing at my own studio. We stretched the recordings
out over a year, recording songs as they came, over the winter of
'95 and spring of '96. Those were tough times for me, personally,
and it shows in the writing. The band was kicking holy ass
live, and packing rooms all over town. We even made some waves in
Chicago, by now. Yet with all our ass-kicking and half-baked promotional
efforts, nobody in the "business" seemed trustworthy. We couldn't find
a booker, we couldn't find a label, we coudn't even find a manager,
let alone someone to sell t-shirts that wasn't full of hot air and/or beer. I was becoming bitter. And maybe
even (God forbid!) a little jaded. A lot of promises were made and broken. In Stone, the second ALBUM came
out in the summer of '96. To this day it remains some of our biggest
supporters' favorite. Jim Meyer wrote a really nice review of it in the Star-Tribune, and it was nominated for "best rock album"
at the Minnesota Music Awards. Over the next year, big changes would
take place in the Glenrustles' camp...
Sometime in the summer of '94 I got disappointed in my dayjob. It seems my employers wouldn't live up to their handbook and didn't give me a raise which, according to the handbook, was guaranteed if you were a good employee. I was a driver for a courier company. I was great at it. Always on time, with speeding tickets to prove it. I didn't mind that job, but one day, after receiving my limp little paycheck I up and quit halfway through my shift and didn't look back. I took the chance that maybe I could get by on studio and band earnings. Turns out I was right. I wouldn't recommend quitting like that to anybody, but I guess I was pretty pissed off at the time.
A short while after "IN STONE" came out, late 1996, Robbie decided,
over much brainstorming and turmoil, that he didn't want to
be in a band anymore. It was nothing personal, he just had to "get
on with his life". So, weighing my options, which were A)start a
whole new band, or B)just get another drummer and keep the GLENRUSTLES going. I decided to check
out the latter first. Glen was first to volunteer his services.
I was surprised and tentative about it at first, then said, "what
the heck?" Since leaving the band, Glen and I had become better
friends, better brothers, and we'd both GROWN UP a little. Glen
was finally getting over the fact that Kurt Cobain was dead. Also,
Jimmy Kennedy was seeming less and less interested in what rock
and roll had to offer him. He had become more interested in playing
jazz piano, something he had done since I "discovered" him playing
Floyd Cramer in his parents' basement. This was Jim's true calling,
I figured, and I didn't call him when Greg and I went on to practice
with Glen on drums again.
So now we were
back to the old POWER TRIO, and it felt good, kinda. I didn't like
having to cover all the guitar parts and singing too, while playing
with what was becoming known as a bunch of party animals. I'm no
Jimi Hendrix. I didn't know how I ever did it before. Things were different
We kept recording,
all through the changes, and never stopped playing shows. Something
was always on the books. We did some shows as a three-piece, after
one of them Graham
Gregorich, an old aquaintence from the 'range, said how he'd
LOVE to play guitar with us. After one particularily disastrous
night, I gave him a call. I made him two cassettes of songs to learn,
and within a week he had them all LEARNED. We had a new sound. It
was good. To wipe the slate clean, a third ALBUM, Fire At Night,
was released in December '97. This album consisted of stuff we recorded
with Rob & Jim and some with Glen. Some of the songs Glen played
drums on were recorded the night he re-joined the band. A couple
other songs were recorded with our friend Leo Kuelbs on drums, and
a couple more didn't even have any other Glenrustles on them at
all. Only one song, "Whole Lotta Nothing", has the entire new lineup
on it: Me, Greg, Glen, and Graham.
So, Fire At Night
came out in the midst of the Christmas season, in 1997, and was
virtually ignored by all the press. Big deal. It wasn't super-consistent. It was a weird record. Time will tell. Personally it's my favorite GLENRUSTLES ALBUM.
we re-formed the Glenrustles with our new guitar player, wrote a
whole bunch of new songs, recorded 'em, logged in around 65 gigs,
(mostly LOCAL) and looked at our happy, friendly place at the bottom
of the rock HEAP.
At some point
during the year we mixed down a bunch of songs and, noticing that
each album we release has an extra word in the title, agreed to
call the collection "Honey Grease and Neptune" (4 words, fourth
album-get it?). The more we played locally the less people showed
up to see us. I was beginning to tire of the local scene and seriously
thought about my future in music. Was I going to just keep on recording
bands and play locally, or was I going to get the heck outta Minneapolis?
The rest of the Glenrustles were always pretty indifferent as to
where we took it. Greg and Graham were beginning to settle into normal
home (40-hour work week) life, and Glen had "HIS BAND" to keep him busy.
Right as we were
finishing "Honey Grease and Neptune" I bought a house
with my (then) wife in Northeast Minneapolis. It was a tiny little
place, with a 2-stall garage. It was all we could afford, all we
"qualified" to afford, anyway..I called up by good friend
Greg McAloon the bass-playing taskmaster carpenter and asked him,
"Hey Club, do you think it would be possible to build a recording
studio in a 2-stall garage?" His reply, "Anything is possible."
So Flowerpot III was born, in a garage in Northeast Minneapolis.
Many of my favorite recordings would come out of that little room
In November of
1999 I took a road trip out east with my lil' yellow dog Pookie
to visit my cousin Mark (the guy who got me started on this path
to rock and roll obscurity) and to clear my head..step back a little.
During my visit to Connecticut we spent some time in NYC, bopped
around the coast a little, and did some jamming. I decided that
when I got back I would try something new.
I had thought
of the name Ol' Yeller back a long time ago when Robbie Gilboe left
the group and I was pondering starting a new band. I liked the name
because, as I was over 27, that is OLD, and seeing that I screamed
myself hoarse by the end of every gig, well, that's the "yeller"
in me. Also I just love my yellow dog. Hey, the old Disney
movie was pretty good too!
When I returned
from the east coast, I found my friend Dale Kallman had returned
from Montana, where he had been living deep in the backwoods, surviving
off roots and berries and fresh fish. Dale, a multi-instrumentalist,
had always displayed a natural ear for music has a great voice, and seeing he had
adopted a big monstrous yellow lab bitch it was automatic that he
be the bassist in my new group.
Keely Lane had
long been my favorite local drummer, and I had the opportunity
to record him with his country band Trailer Trash on several occasions.
I talked to him about playing on some of my songs, just in the studio.
Our sessions together worked out so well, and we got along so good
that I HAD to have him in the new band. Keely readily accepted,
and committed himself to our new sound. He had no idea what he was
At first we toyed
with having Greg McAloon and Graham Gregorich on guitars, therefore
making it a THREE GUITAR ONSLAUGHT, and patterning ourselves after
Springfield, but the old Glenrustles laziness permeated rehearsals
and I quickly grew frustrated with organizing 5 guys. Also, I had
bigger goals of touring RELENTLESSLY, and I knew Greg and Graham
wouldn't be up for it in the long run.
While having troubles
keeping Greg and Graham interested in the Ol' Yeller project, I
met a guitarist named Randy Casey. Randy talked big and played guitar
like nobody I have ever jammed with. We got together a few times
and he agreed to join the group. His wife at the time was a big-time talent manager and she had some big ideas for us too, which I thought was pretty cool.
and into 2000 I had about 20 basic tracks I was working with. I
recorded the guitar and drums with Keely, sometimes overdubbing
Dale's bass, sometimes playing everything myself. Once Randy joined
the band, we recorded around 6 songs live in the studio for our
debut album. We kept working on the stuff, eventually releasing
Ol' Yeller album in February 2001.
going great. We were rehearsing a lot, like I wanted to, we had
tours planned, then Randy bailed on a big New York residency at the MERCURY LOUNGE, due
to lack of funds. But Dale and I liked the idea of being total bums
in the big apple, and went out there anyway, for a month. Keely's
gal had a baby boy, so Keely stayed home too. This was a great trip
for Ol' Yeller. We decided to keep it an efficient touring machine,
and go three piece with me covering all the guitar parts. I was writing within my vocal and guitar playing range, and people were digging the sound.
So the rest of
2001 was spent touring, rehearsing, and recording new songs as they
came. Another album, "Nuzzle", was released in February 2002. We
toured our butts off (by my standards) behind that one! We had no
idea what we were doing (er, getting into) but we went out of our
minds to book ourselves all the way to any coast for as long as
we could go, which fortunately was never more than 3 weeks at a
time. That one 3 weeker from Texas to Mississippi to LA and back
was murderous! No a.c. in the van! It was mid-June! I was pleased
as punch to play the TROUBADOUR though! That and driving the coastal
highway #1 was worth it all. Dale and I did all the advancing for
the shows, we became quite the team but were having a hell of a
time balancing all that work with playing as well. After awhile
it got pretty frustrating doing both. We worked on hiring a booking agent, a label, a publicist, we hit SXSW every year and met a lot of people, promising all kinds of things. Mostly again, delivering hot air. Dale is a few years older than me, and our style of touring was wearing him down. It took a lot of stamina. We'll
get to that in a bit..but let me tell you, there were a LOT of good times
on the road, and we were actually breaking even financially.
We didn't look back, took no prisoners, left no stoner left unturned-on,
wore blisters through our axes, and all that, then came home and
recorded more. It became a cycle I got purty comfortable with.
We'd record whenever we had a chance, one or two songs at a time.
Before you know it, we have 16 or so songs to meld into an album.
The next one down the conveyer or through the cosmic airwaves was
"Penance", with all those tales of cheatin', sneakin',
and thinkin' too hard about
life and what everybody else has on their minds. It's good to get all that stuff out, but I don't get stuck
in the roles. Generally I'm genuinely happy.
Anyway, the story..
"Penance" was a giant leap forward in getting our name
around, and even scored us international licensing with the wonderful Blue Rose Records in Germany. Over 2003 we kept the touring machine
rolling, wearing grooves in the trail we were traveling to NYC,
to Austin, over there to Mississippi, back in KC again, try this
place in Athens Ohio.. Over the winter Dale was getting a little crunchy, and we almost booted him out a couple of times. He would drop
the ball if he figured noone was listening and noone cared. I'd
get mad at him onstage, and I'd feel terrible later about it. The pace was too much. We were becoming one of those bands that argue. One
night at an acoustic gig in Northeast it all came to a head and
we wound up calling each other "asshole" between songs.
Dale had quit having fun at it and his bullshit meter was a little too sensitive. When I think about
it, I don't think anyone ever cared about Ol' Yeller as much as
Dale Kallman. He just can't bear playing in Springfield Illinois
to 3 people or St. Cloud MN with the football game on the bigscreen.
We had quite the brotherhood
going on, but we were beating our proverbial heads against the proverbial wall. The Nuzzle-Penance era was an amazing time in the life
of my mom's favorite band. In hindsight, I don't know if he quit,
or if I fired Dale. We needed a break from each other. Well, the day after he quit (or got fired) we had a show in Duluth
so I hastily threw the Glenrustles in the van and made it a Glenrustles
show instead. A tour was looming on the immediate horizon so while
we were in Duluth, I asked Greg McAloon if he would go on tour with
us, and maybe even be in the band. I didn't have to twist
his arm, Greg was ready to play again.
That tour, in
February of 2004, was a much more laid back vibe, less worries,
less hand-wringing/head holding and I knew we were going somewhere
good. Greg doesn't do harmonies, so I practically broke my Gretsch
in half making up for the lost vocal parts.. Keely and Greg get
along like puppies at playtime. Before we left I called an old friend
of Greg, Keely and mine. Just to put the bug in his ear.."So
Andy, we were thinking about adding a guitar player.." Andy
Schultz from Hibbing is the guy. I knew his band Betty Drake was
going through some tough times, 2 of its 4 members moving out of
state, and it would be hard to imagine a guy like Andy not actively
playing the guitar in a band. The timing was just right. I had been
a fan of Andy for many years, and his acceptance to join the ranks
of the Yellers meant a lot. The full-on new lineup made its debut
March 12 2004 at the 7th Street Entry. Everybody commented on what
fun we appeared to be having. Together we completed the "SOUNDER"
album, scraping together a few leftovers from the Dale Kallman days
and recording a good chunk of it from March to August 2004 with
the new lineup. SOUNDER
was released on September 7. 2004 to rave reviews and many great
accolades. We were honored with the MMA
award for "Best Americana Group" shortly after, and
the album made many "best of 2004" lists. However nicely
we were treated in print and around the twin cities, the tours we
embarked upon that year were pretty dismal, attendance-wise. The
places where we still really seemed to click were New York City
and anywhere in Texas. Somehow, everywhere in between seemed different.
Something about college towns; they're supposed to be great "markets",
but the kids move in and out of there within a year, and with those
changes comes a new tide of musical taste. It seemed to me that
the "americana" tag wasn't so cool anymore. 2004-05 were
the years that the sampler pretty much took over rock and roll.
Either the sampler, or very very very very very quiet and precious
singer-songwriters with little tinker-toy instruments. We just thumbed
our noses at the trends and kept on doing what we do best, which
is rocking. And we got louder.
Somehow, in the
midst of all this "Sounder" support, we got roped into
playing at wedding receptions for friends and/or fans. Over the
summer of 2005 we played 4 or 5 wedding receptions. Here I was now,
the wedding singer! We still do play weddings.
Thing is, Keely, Andy and I all cut our teeth playing in cover bands. Those songs don't leave you. Greg's motto is, "If you can hum it, you can play it" and he can hum pretty much anything on the radio. I didn't set out for Ol' Yeller to be a cover band, but it helps with the bills sometimes. Sometimes we'd wind up in the strangest places imaginable, and honestly,
the stranger the better for me. The best is when the wedding party keeps asking
for more ORIGINAL music. That is cool.
Later in the summer
or 2005 as my marriage fell apart, I got the wild idea of moving out of the city, and started
looking into houses further north. The idea was that I could operate
from anywhere. With today's technology, why be bound to city living
if I want to live in the country? Well, I followed through, and
in October of '05 I bought myself a church up by my old hometown
of Eveleth! I went to work on renovating it straightaway, making
it into a studio with living quarters. I spent that whole winter
remodeling it myself with money I made selling the church's pews. I named the new studio SPARTA SOUND, as it wasn't no Flowerpot any more.
In the meantime,
Greg had started his own construction company, Andy became a dad,
and Keely decided to pursue his dream of being a Nashville drummer!
Suddenly I felt as if the band was going to be no more! I was distraught.
Towards the end of the winter, sick with the flu, I wrote my bandmates
a letter (not an email) asking them if they still wanted to do this
Ol' Yeller thing. It was all too dramatic, but up in my little rock
and roll paradise I was feeling abandoned by the guys I was building
it for. Well, bygones being bygones, my good pals Greg and Andy
understood my plight and stood by me in the search for our next
drummer, as Keely was certainly out and moving to the country music
capitol of the world. He got a great gig straight off the bus in
Nashville. Yes, he is that good.
The first band
I had record in my new studio was the Gleam. These guys are great
friends of mine, and their singer (Zack) and I spend hours talking
music and ideas. We really got down to brass tacks one night and
he recommended with an iron fist that we try out a guy that drummed
for them for one show. I saw that gig and thought the drummer was
over qualified for the Gleam..but probably could play the Ol' Yeller
stuff damn good. "You gotta get Buck", Zack repeated,
again and again. He was referring to Ryan Otte (the Gleam had nicknames
for everybody..to them I am Dickie Skins..I even drummed for them
for one show). Ryan Otte played in this great band called Little
Dirt that I ran sound for once, and I remember seeing him at Ol'
Yeller shows too. I gave him a cd with 21 songs on it, we got together
2 weeks later and played 18 of them without stopping. He beat us
up. And he joined Ol' Yeller.
The rub of this
new drummer story is that we had so much music recorded with Keely
to get out.. With all our personal stuff making time fly by I hardly
noticed it took 2 years to put together the last Ol' Yeller ALBUM,
which I called "GOOD
LUCK", as in "Good luck with that." I heard that
phrase, on average, probably 10 times a day every day from July
2005 to May 2006 as I bid farewell to the big city. Keely did too.
So did Andy, as did Greg with their respective businesses in the
carpentry field. The album, "GOOD
LUCK" was more or less Ol' Yeller's swan song. We received
3 MMA awards
in 2006 with that album. And I was named "Producer of the Year!"
After I moved back up north, the band was more difficult to keep together than I thought it would be. Everybody was "growing up" and getting on with life, and getting busy. I was still writing songs, and making demos of the songs onto Andy's 4-track Fostex, having a good time at it, drinking Tisdale wine, all by my lonesome. I'd send the songs down to the band, but when we got together we'd never have the time to run through them or work on parts. I cobbled together a solo album, "Inspiral Notebooks", that I released on my 40th birthday. I started thinking about getting some guys together from up in my neck of the woods for an original project.
In the spring of 2007 I recorded some acquaintences from Duluth, a band called HOTEL CORAL ESSEX. The principal songwriter in the band was Tony Derrick, a brooding guitar torturer with a soulful singing voice. I flipped over his tunes, and the cd got stuck in my player for months on end, some of my favorite recordings in my new place. Their cd came out, sorta, and the band wasn't doing a lot of work. The next time Tony came to record, he came by himself and he and I worked up another 5 or 6 songs. He was bothered by the state of his band, wanted to play more shows and record and work on music more. The bass player, Jason "Kokes" Kokal, from Hotel Coral Essex showed up for one of Tony's sessions and we got along great. During a break in the session, I brought up the idea that maybe the three of us should join forces and start up something new. I played them my demos. They readily agreed, let's start a band!
We tried out a few drummers from Duluth but we weren't clicking with any of them right off the bat. I had recorded a cover band from the Iron Range called the Six 9's, and the drummer was a younger guy who had all the chops and musical knowledge of someone more my age (by God, I was 40 years old). His name? Derek Rolando. A very talented fellow with plenty of time on his hands to rock, and a great outlook. The best part is that he lives 4 miles away from the studio! I gave him a cd of mine and Tony's demos and we got together for the first time early in 2008. It clicked right away. Smiles all around, we had ourselves a band. What to call this new group? While I was recording my demos on the 4 track I started calling the project "Rich Mattson and the Tisdales," after the cheap wine I was drinking. I threw that name out there, "How about we call it the TISDALES?" There were no arguments there, it had a nice ring to it. And I believe at the time we were on our 4th bottle of Tisdale.
The Tisdales began
work on recording an album straightaway. I would spend the day getting
the studio set up for their arrival and we would knock out the tunes
to tape every week. We released a cd single, "Faces" b/w
"Brass Knuckles" to coincide with our arrival. Our first
show was on the 4th of July 2008 at Pizza
Luce in Duluth. After that we went all-out, recording and booking
shows. One of our first shows was at the North
vs. South Music Festival in Kansas City MO. We were well-received
everywhere we went. Our first album, "Bakers
Dozen" was released on November 25th to encouraging reviews.
In June of 2008 we took off on tour and went all the way from Duluth
to the other end of I-35, San Antonio Texas, and a bunch of places
in between. Another album, "Out
With the New" was released March 9, 2010. More songs and
recordings were always in the works.
We kept getting
together, usually on a Wednesday night, to write songs, jam, and
record. I have had great times with the Tisdales. We played loud.
I put my old worn out Gretsch away and picked up a cheap Telecaster
with a Bigsby and set about destroying that for awhile.
Apart from the
Tisdales, shortly after my relocation to Sparta,
I started playing folk music with my old friend from Minneapolis,
Baby Grant Johnson. We started out doing acoustic shows together
and going back and forth, him playing a song, then me playing one.
After a few of these gigs we decided to learn songs together and
dedicate ourselves to keeping the folk tradition alive, and take
some road trips together. We called ourselves the
BITTER SPILLS, a name I'd been kicking around for awhile that
suited our style and sound. Grant is one of my best buddies, and
we dig deep for old folk chestnuts to perform. Between 2006 and
2010 we released 4 volumes of folk songs, made available only at
shows or directly from us. The best of these 4 volumes (traditionals
and originals) became our only commercial release, "Folk
Song Favorites". Grant and I still get together to this
day and play those old folk songs that we love so much.
In 2011 and 2012
the Tisdales worked up another album, to be called "Supercaldera".
It was released in June of 2012. A great album, probably our finest,
it was more or less dead in the water as the band sort of fizzled
out that summer. Hard to pin down exactly what happened but we still
get together and make some noise now and then, and there werent
any hard feelings.
was recording in my studio a lot beginning in 2007 with the Magpies
and Shotgun Daisy. She is one of the kindest and most enthusiastic
people I have ever met, and one hell of a singer. After a few years
of working with her, and eventually playing some gigs with her,
we fell in love and we started the band Junkboat. Aside from Junkboat,
we started playing as an acoustic duo..pretty much anywhere, anytime.
Germaine moved to Sparta in the winter of 2010 where we work on
music and tend to the studio business, and enjoy each other's company.
She's such a great motivator and someone who is pretty much "up
for anything." What a great person to have as the love of my
After the Tisdales disbanded and Germaine and I started writing
together, I got it in my head to record some of her more country-style
songs with Keely and Dale (Ol Yeller), and our new pedal steel
playing pal Mike Randolph. The result was Germaines Generator
album. Meanwhile I had songs piling up and Ol Yeller was having
fun playing together again so we recorded the album
Levels and released that in 2013. The reunion was
short-lived, although we did get down to SXSW that year and played
a lot of shows. It was tough to keep the band going while we lived
so far apart.
Later in 2013 I decided I wanted to put together an acoustic group,
UP NORTH, to perform sort of a retrospective of my work. I also
wanted to focus on the work Germaine and I were doing and excelling
at. I decided to call the band Rich
Mattson and the Northstars..a name I threw out off the top of
my head but turned out to be the name of the band who played at
my parents' wedding (the Northstars)! My good nephew Curtis Mattson
was recruited to play the drums (as he knows my entire catalog of
tunes), and Eli Bissonett was brought in on the violin. In search
of a bassist, I went on a whim and called up (original Glenrustles
bassist) Russell Bergum, who was only performing with the Mesabi
Community Orchestra at the time, aside from his residency as Doctor
of Sports Medicine at the Virginia (MN) clinic. To my surprise,
Russell was ready and willing to play again! So here we are, "full
circle" as they say..and what a fun group. The original lineup
with the Northstars released a single, This Town (Ghost Town)
b/w Points North in October 2014, and a full-length
album in June of 2015. It still stands as a fine testament of
our original cosmic folk sound, with Russells
inventive upright bass lines, and Elis sublimely composed
that album came out, Russell moved to Rochester to work for the
Mayo Clinic and was replaced by Kyle Westrick, who Germaine and
I knew from Ely. While changing bassists, I picked up a new/old
Gretsch and was itching to play electric guitar again. Eli wasnt
keen on the excessive volume and was also beginning a teaching career
at UMD, and decided to move on with his life. I called upon Ryan
Young, who was on a break from Trampled By Turtles, to fill his
shoes. Ryan accepted, and although he lives in Crystal MN, a long
way from Sparta, he played tracks on our next album, Starmaps,
which we released in October of 2016. Russell played bass on most
of the album, emailing tracks from Rochester, and Kyle played on
a couple songs too. It was a strange experience to put together
Starmaps" with tracks emailed from Rochester and Crystal,
but it remains one of Germaine and my favorite recordings.
The next one we
were determined to record together, as a band. And that is how Aeroplane
Mode came to be. Released a year after Starmaps,
in October 2017, the songs were all recorded at Sparta Sound with
Curtis drumming and a very enthusiastic and electric Kyle on the
bass. Ryan did most of his violin tracks in Sparta, and some at
his Neon Brown recording studio, in Crystal. Germaine and I put
many hours into getting it just right. We were becoming quite a
solid unit. The band was playing 3-4 times a month, and traveling
all over the state, from Grand Marais to Bemidji to the Twin Cities
and beyond. In the fall of 2017 Curtis landed a teaching job in
Stillwater MN. After much consideration, he announced to me that
he was leaving the group to focus on teaching. He also promised
to fill in if ever we need him. Of course I understood, as this
was his calling, and my nephew gracefully bowed out of the Northstars
shortly after the release of Aeroplane Mode. The silver
lining in that dark and worrisome cloud was that my good friend
and Ol Yeller cohort Keely Lane was ready and willing to fill
the seat behind the drums on Curtis departure. So it goes,
and Trampled By Turtles reunited and went into full-time touring
mode so we more or less dropped the violin from the lineup over
the course of 2018 and the Northstars sound grew more electrified
In May of 2017 I bought my dream guitar, a fireglo Rickenbacker
330. I had a Rickenbacker 360/12 back in 1987 that I gave up to
buy a motorcycle a year later. It wasnt a fair trade, I sold
the guitar for much less than what it was worth (although it was
exactly what I had paid for it). Since parting with it, I swore
someday I would get myself a 330 (slightly different shape), and
a 6-string at that. Little did I know it would take until I was
50 years old to afford myself that gift. My friend Ross Steinberg
helped me find one in Minneapolis, and I am still amazed at how
we managed to find one as nice at this. Once I got it home I couldnt
put it down, and it was like new life was breathed into my hands
and suddenly I could play new things on the guitar that I never
imagined possible. Of course I had to get a tremolo arm in order
to keep in pace with the Gretsch somehow..and I still do use the
Gretsch for some things (reunion gigs, Neil Young tribute gigs,
recording) but that Ric has been my main axe since the first song
I played on it (Man In the Corner Shop by the Jam).
I wrote a lot of new songs with the Rickenbacker, and was ready
to put out another album in the fall of 2018, but decided not to
rush it and put some extra time into the tracking and mixes for
Totem, released January 2019. And this is the one, the
latest album is always the one..but this one..Totem..we are so happy
After all these years being in bands it's still a blast. I can't
imagine living without this creative outlet and the bond of playing
music with friends. The bands I've been in all through life have
been my best friends, to coin a term from the '60's, my "soul
brothers." Of all the groups I've played with I can't think
of one enemy of all the players. That's what happens when you keep
it real and the money doesn't ruin everything. In retrospect, if
I think about "What if such and such a band would have gone
big-time," I think it probably would have wrecked everything,
and we would have spent all the money by now. Maybe that's a cop-out,
but it's certainly not something I dwell on. I'd much rather have
friends and the enrichment that playing music and working with music
people offers. Im an artist. Im cool with that.
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While we're here on the bio, I might as well mention all the other
bands in my life, some proud moments, some funny stuff, some hobbies...Other
than the aforementioned bands, I've managed to stay pretty busy
with side projects and playing some parts on my friends' albums.
1981-September 1982: Easy Tilt Eveleth, MN
Mark Saari (my cousin); guitar and vocals
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
Marsh Thompson; bass
Tim Leseman; drums and vocals
*Prior to this lineup, Mark and I used to jam with me on bass, and
Dennis Frye on drums. Other "jammers" around this time
were Russell Bergum, Kris Kvaternik, Wade Bendarik, Paul Mayasich,
Jim Rosati, John Viikensalo...
1982-1984: Alibi Longmont, CO
Mark Shultes; bass
Jamie McGregor; drums
Lorn Potter; guitar and vocals
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
*When I was in 10th grade the Mattson family up and moved to Colorado.
We were soon to be back in Eveleth, but those two years really blew
1984-1987: The Imports Eveleth, MN
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
Tim Leseman; drums and vocals
Russell Bergum; bass and vocals
Jim Kennedy; keyboards and vocals
Tom "Monk" Cerar; guitar and vocals, summer 1984
Jim "JJ" Rosati; guitar and vocals, 1984-1985
Summer of '84: This band had no name, but all we did was play U2
songs with a few Alarm and Clash tunes thrown in for good measure.
Ray Sherrod; bass
Jeff Lutz; drums
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
1987-1988: Eleven Long Haired Friends of Jesus In A Charteuse Microbus
Columbia Heights, MN
Paul Seeba; guitar and vocals
Tim Krutchowski; drums
Jim Kosluchar; bass
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
*We were all roomates who moved from "da range" to "da
cities", and we all played music, so what the hell? We changed
our name for every gig (all 4 of 'em).
1989-1990: the Groundskeepers Minneapolis, MN
Frank (Robert) Fitzgerald; vocals and guitar
Rich Mattson; guitar and backround vocals
Peter Anderson; drums
*Frank Robert wrote all these great tunes and all we did was practice.
He went on to form a new band every 6 months and probably still
is...great stuff though, I tell ya...
1991-1992: Thick Minnesota, USA
Alex Minotte; drums
Jim Kennedy; guitar, bass and vocals
Dan Aronen; guitar, bass and vocals
Rich Mattson; guitar, bass and vocals
*This was a fun little cover band that played parties and bars from
Bemidji to Biwabik. Usually a 3-piece, they would call themselves
"Thick and Rich" when I sat in.
1990-2005: World On A String Minneapolis
John Eric Theide; piano, guitar, vocals
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
Robbie Gilboe; drums
Greg McAloon; bass
Peter Anderson; drums
Jim Gruidl; guitar and vocals
Dave Boquist; bass, fiddle and vocals
Micheal Mackelreth; bass and vocals
Randy Broughten; pedal steel
Glen Mattson; drums
Patty Jansen; bass
*This was a Neil Young tribute band that played once in a blue moon.
I must pay tribute to the man who taught me how to play the bass,
drums, rhythm and lead guitar, and vocal harmonizing, not to mention
respect for the acoustic guitar. Before Neil, all I liked was Ted
Nugent and Van Halen!
1993-1996: Beangirl Minneapolis, MN
Steph "Tulip Sweet" Dickson; vocals and bugle
Rachel Berven; piano
Jason Deming; drums and dingers
Shannen Lach; bass and vocals
Peter Nicolai; accordian and vocals
Dale Kallman; trombone
Dan Haeg; the original guitarist
Rich Mattson; the next guitarist
Jim Kennedy; the last guitarist
Rob Stealcheat; conga
Terry Judson; Terry Judson
*I played in this band for only a couple months, but I recorded
two ridiulously fun albums with them and made a lot of very good
1995-1996: Beyond Zebra Minneapolis
Jason Logan; vocals and guitar
Mike "Chicki" Crego; drums
*Scott Allen; bass
*Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
Grant Johnson; guitar and vocals
Greg Ebel; bass and vocals
*Very much a band before me and Scott Allen signed on to go on a
big month long south to east coast tour!
1997-1999: The Odd Minneapolis
Tom Siler, aka "Tommy Obsession"; lead vocals
Mark Mallman, aka "Count
Rockula"; keyboards and vocals
Dan Haeg, aka ; guitar and vocals
Jason Deming, aka "Scott Jaffee"; drums and vocals
Rich Mattson, aka "Reggie Pype"; bass and vocals
*This was my first real gig playing bass with a band. We got voted
number 1 best new band in the "Picked to Click" critics'
poll in City Pages in 1998 and that was the beginning of the end.
God it was fun though..
Fall 1999: WHOGASM Minneapolis
Christy Hunt (Roger Daltrey)
Dan Haeg (Pete Townsend)
Shawn Walker (Kieth Moon)
Rich Mattson (John Entwistle)
*A Who tribute band that only played one mind-blowing show, at the
1998-2000: Kirk St. James Minneapolis via Dallas TX
Kirk St. James; vocals and guitar
Rich Mattson; bass
Ken Devoe; drums
this is the band that went on the west coast Supersuckers tour whence
I got to play at the WHISKY A GO-GO! Other members included:
Johnny O'Halloran; bass or drums
Tom Cook; drums
Rob Gilboe; drums
Jaques Wait; bass
*Kirk moved to Minneapolis after Tenderloin broke up and recorded
some stuff at my studio. Then we did some shows together. Now he's
back in Dallas Texas.
y los Guapos
Dan Haeg; vocals and guitar
Jon Davis; bass
Baby Grant Johnson; guitar and vocals
Bob Anderson; trumpet and melodica
Rich Mattson; drums and vocals
*Somehow I got roped into playing drums with my buddy Dan, and stuck
with it for 2 years!
1999-2001: Jason Sack Band Minneapolis
Jason Sack; vocals and guitar
Rich Mattson; guitar and vocals
Pete Boulger; drums
Micheal Leggs; bass
Jim Kennedy; keyboards
Jim Crego; guitar (fill in)
*Jason was the leader of Beyond Zebra.
2002-2004: the Blue Violets Minneapolis
John Ewing; vocals and guitar
Steve Brantseg; vocals and lead guitar
Tom Cook; drummer guy
Johnny O' Halloran; bass 1996-2001
Micheal Whitten; keyboards
Rich Mattson; bass
*These guys, also known as the John Ewing Band, are good friends
of mine. I recorded all three of their albums and knew all the songs,
so I filled in on bass when Johnny O' Halloran was busy.
2004: The Gleam, Minneapolis
Zachary Kordusky; vocals and guitar
Tim Wreck; vocals and bass
Dickie Skins (Rich Mattson); drummer guy
Eric Gustafson; drums (2002-2004)
Butch; drums (2004-2005)
Bonson; drums (2005-present) I played drums for one gig and bass
one or two?..but I help produce their records..
Winter 2005-2012: The Prodigal Sons (of the Iron Range)
Mark Saari; vocals, bass and guitar
Rich Mattson; vocals, bass and guitar
Glen Mattson; drumber
This was a side project with my brother Glen on the drums, and cousin
Mark playing guitars. We played 100% "Goodtime Music".
That is, if the crowd can't sing along, we don't play it.
Summer 2010-Present: Germaine Gemberling, Sparta MN
; vocals, acoustic guitar
Rich Mattson; guitar, vocals
**other players from Germaines albums and live shows:
Mike Randolph; pedal steel guitar
Eli Bissonett; violin
Keely Lane; drums
Dale Kallman; bass
Summer 2010-2014: Junkboat, Sparta/Minneapolis/Ely MN
Germaine Gemberling; vocals, acoustic guitar
Rich Mattson; lead guitar and vocals
David K. Loy; drums
Al Schroeter; bass .....This is Germaine's ROCK BAND. She writes
the songs and the boys in the band kick 'em out!
Summer 2006-Present: The Bitter Spills, Sparta/Minneapolis MN
Baby Grant Johnson; vocals, 12 & 6 string guitars, resonator
Rich Mattson; vocals, 6 & 12 string guitar, harmonica .... Folk
duo with my good buddy, keeping the folk tradition alive!
January 2013-Present: TIRED EYES* and/or BROKEN ARROW† - Neil Young
Rich Mattson; guitar, vocals
Glen Mattson; drums, vocals
Dale Kallman; bass and vocals
Jim Guidl; guitar, vocals†
Summer 2012-whenever: The ChaChaChas
Rich Mattson; Acoustic guitar, vocals
Warren Pulford; Harmonica, congas .. this is a fun duo that plays
some lake and bar gigs up north, mostly covers and good time music.
Winter 2014-???: Rangers On Merlot
Joe Louma; drums and vocals
Al Oikari; keyboards, guitar, lap steel, vocals
Rod Dockan; guitar, bass, vocals
Rich Mattson; bass, guitar, vocals
Weve played 2.5 gigs so far, mostly up in the Lutsen/Grand
Marais area. A fun band of friends.
Rave and the Governors
Dave Rave; vocals and guitar
Craig Teiken; vocals and guitar
Rich Mattson; vocals and guitar
Terry Isachson; guitar
Chad Mittag; guitar, bass, vocals
Tom Cook; drummer
Mike "The Hammer" Johnson; drummer
Keely Lane; drummer
David Loy; guitar
Charley Varley; bass
Germaine Gemberling; vocals
Edie Baumgart; vocals, label
the Canadian rock star and legend, has been coming to Sparta Sound
twice a year, in January and June to record, and write songs, and
play shows around MN. He is a true inspiration to everyone around
Also while were here, heres a list of some bands/artists
I have shared a stage with over the years:
Trampled By Turtles
Babes In Toyland
Reverend Horton Heat
North Mississippi All Stars
The Flamin Ohs
Dead Man Winter
Two Cow Garage
Drivin and Cryin
Tyler Keith and the Preachers Kids
Run Westy Run
John Dee Graham
Built To Spill
Roger Cline and the Peacemakers
The Gear Daddies
The Carpenter Ants
Ike Reilly and the Assassination
Bill Bulinsky of the Electras
White Iron Band
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