The Birth of Pornflakes-The Seattle Pornflakes
Hello, my name is Snackie. I was born April 18, 1966 in the city of Baltimore. Except for a brief stint in Seattle, Washington (1990-1991) and an ill-fated move to New York City in August 2001 (talk about bad luck), Baltimore has been my home.
This particular story though begins in Seattle, Washington. I moved there in July 1990 following a love interest of mine.
In Seattle, I began writing a lot of songs (some good, most bad). I was determined to make a cassette of my songs and mail them to my friends back in Baltimore by X-Mas 1990.
So with a Rickenbacker guitar, TR-505 drum machine, beatle bass, acoustic guitar, Digi-Tech delay pedal, some old unfinished recordings, and a lot of time on my hands (I was unemployed for 4 months), I put together my first full length release and called it "Pornflakes-They're Not Just For Breakfast Anymore".
The name "Pornflakes" I came up with about a year before while hanging out at my favorite Baltimore watering hole - The Mount Royal Tavern.
Anyway, I was pretty stoked that I had made this tape and thought it would be real cool to perform the tunes. Not having a band, I made a master cassette tape leaving out the vocals and a guitar track. The idea was that my then girlfriend Corky and I would sing along with the tape while I played guitar.
So, we actually did this for 3 shows till I was to embarrassed to show my face in public anymore.
Needless to say, this incarnation of Pornflakes or "The Seattle Pornflakes" didn't pan out. By mid -1991, my relationship was falling apart and I missed home so I decided to move back to Baltimore.
The Rise of Pornflakes-Back to Baltimore
In September of '91, I moved back to Baltimore and into a house on Eastern Avenue with my friend Augie Bucheit. Before I moved to Seattle, Augie and I had been in a couple of bands together. Augie is a drummer.
Augie and I began practicing some of my new material with the intention of making a band and scoring lots of chics. But we needed a bassist.
I had played bass briefly in a band called "The Beatoes" in 1987. Charleigh Chadwick was their guitarist and an excellent musician (not to mention a ruthless poker player). I asked Charleigh if he would be our bassist and he accepted.
Now we needed the icing on the cake-THE LEAD GUITARIST. This job required a specialist, someone who knew all the Beatles licks and who would bring his own pot to rehearsal. That person was Berkeley Savage.
So the 4 of us rehearsed for about 2 months till we decided we were ready to amaze the world and we sort of did. That day came on March 15, 1992.
Our first show was a huge success but we needed a name. For some reason, I was reluctant to call the band Pornflakes. So, I threw a party at my house and the band played in my bedroom which was our rehearsal space. I made about 20 tickets that got you into my room. Each ticket had a list of 8 band names and a space to fill in your own name. The results were inconclusive and I decided to just call the band Pornflakes.
Now we were a legitimate band and it was time to ROCK THE WORLD! (or was it ?)
Well, the ball was rolling and for the next several months we played quite a few shows for a new band.
We got a regular gig at a terrible club downtown on Calvert Street. The Rage was opened about a year before they closed their doors and packed away the smoke machine. My memory of this club is very cloudy (Ha, Ha).
In April of 1992, we added a fifth member to the group. Ron Ray was a 40 something year old computer wiz who happened to play a little trumpet (when he wasn't on an all day liquor binge). Ron also is a dear friend.
Sometime during the summer of 1992, Berkley started blowing off practices and announced that he would be leaving the group. Berkley got a gig with a local reggae group called "Uprising". He suggested that we ask his friend "Crash" to join the group. Crash played with a local R&B group called Chaz and would regularly come to our shows. We asked if he would like to join the band and he did in September 1992.
Crash was a monster on guitar. A little Stevie Ray and whole lot of Eddie Van Halen. Crash totally changed the band's sound, we actually sounded BIG! Peoples' jaws would drop when he played a solo, which was about 99.9% of the time. Little did I know that Crash and Berkley would be just 2 of a dozen or so members I would have to replace during the band's 4 year tenure.
The Gong Show (September 18 & 19, 1992)
I grew up with a large brass gong hanging in our family living room. When I moved out on my own I took the gong with me. The gong became the center of many house parties and at one party a friend of mine (Michael Daugherty) actually starting pounding on it with a hammer. Anyway, I guess I was a fan of the gong show and had this gong so I decided to do the The Gong Show. I basically recruited all my friends: those interested in performing, judging and MCing. For the role of Chuck Barris I had but one man in mind-James Buckman. James is my best friend and, more importantly, he LOOKS JUST LIKE CHUCK BARRIS. So, I get the space (14 K. Kabaret), I get the acts, the judges and Pornflakes, of course, the house band. For 2 nights we pack the place and this is where Pornflakes begins to get some notoriety.
Stay tuned for Gong Show video clips.
The Rise of Pornflakes-Continued
On Mother's Day, 1992, my mom's house burned down. My mom, Judy, was a baker at the notorious "Louie's Bookstore Cafe". It was notorious for it's artsy decor and wait staff, not to mention the shitty service. Louie's had a benefit party for my mom and the band played. Anyway, I think I met Leonard Mayfield around this time and knew he played trumpet. A few months went by and I was gearing up to take the band into the studio to cut our first album. I asked Leonard if he would like to be on the record. He accepted and joined the group in October 1992.
I had been listening to a lot of Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Waits and The Beatles. I wanted to make a recording that told a story and used a lot of samples. We had a piece in our set called "Turn Off That Television" and I decided to center the recording around this piece. We brought in a television and simply changed the channel between songs. I also had a bunch of choice samples that I wanted to use but did not have a sampler. Charleigh suggested his friend Mark Harp.
I had heard of the legendary Mark Harp and clearly remember, to this day, the first time I heard "I've Got Five Dollars" on the radio. Charleigh arranged for us to meet at Mark's place and discuss what we had in mind for the recording. Mark had heard some of our demos and practice tapes and liked what he heard. He signed on to help with the project and joined the band.
Turn Off That Television
On November 7 & 8, 1992 we went to the very reputable Hat Factory operated by Tony French and recorded our first album-Turn Off That Television.
Arguably the band's best album. Turn Off That Television would receive rave reviews from a variety of Zines including Flipside. Coffee would receive some airplay and Goddamn was included on Reptilian Records' compilation "The City That Breeds".
Also during the summer of 1992, I believe at the 14 Karat Cabaret, we were seen by a guy from Erie, Pennsylvania named John Johnston. John had a small record label called Trailer Life Records. He really liked the Coffee song. He also liked another local band-Cloaca. Long story short, John offered to release a 7" split single-Pornflakes "Coffee" backed by Cloaca's "Diggin' In That Bag".
Like most naive, wanna-be rock stars it was my belief that in order to make it big you had to play in New York City. I started looking for gigs in New York shortly after the release of Turn Off That Television. I tried the usual places: CBGB's (we would eventually play there), The Mercury Lounge, The Continental and landed a gig at a place called The Bond Street Cafe. The guy who booked the place suggested we charter a bus and basically bring an audience. Sounded logical to me and fun. So, I chartered a bus from a Clyde's Chartered Bus Service and sold tickets at $25 a pop. The ticket got you to and back from New York and admission into the show. So on April 30, 1993 we loaded up a chartered bus with 30 people, a keg of beer and headed to New York. When we got there most of the people who came hit the street and only came back when it was time to go back to Baltimore. I can't blame them. Hey, it was still a hell of a good time.
The record release party for our split 7" was held May 7, 1993 at the now defunct Hour House. I remember this show particularly well as the band played pretty poorly before a 200+ audience. I learned later that our trumpet player, Ron, was high on heroin which would account for his sitting on the edge of the stage all night rather than playing.
I was greatly influenced or maybe I should say inspired by another Baltimore band - The All Mighty Senators. I was in complete awe of their sound, their show and their audience. I didn’t want to emulate the Senators but I did want to have a larger than life band. So, it was time to add another player. I put some “Horn Player Wanted” flyers around town. Up to this point I had only recruited people I knew into the band until a student from Johns Hopkins University answered my ad. Da “P” stands for Pornflakes! Actually, it stands for Partridge-John Partridge. Johnny Partridge answered my ad and although he was a bit boyish with his eyeglasses, short hair and oxford shirts he had a great sense of humor and played both tenor and bass sax well.
Who's in the band?:
In case you've lost track, here's the band lineup in the summer of 1993:
Snackie-guitar, Augie-drums, Charleigh-bass, Mark Harp-keyboard, Crash- guitar, Ron Ray & Leonard Mayfield-trumpet, John Partridge-sax.
Now we get to the afore mentioned "Upheaval”. I think we made it through the summer of ’93 before I finally got fed up with Ron Ray. His drinking, among other things, had gotten out of control and I was tired of baby sitting so, with most of the band's blessings, I fired Ron. Next, we brought aboard the now internationally famous Miyuki Furtado as percussionist. I officially met Miyuki sometime in 1992 at a party at his house where, presumably, I past out in his bed. I also knew of Miyuki from such groups as Funkyard with whom he played percussion and sang. I thought Miyuki would be an excellent addition to the band and he was. Next, I guess I had heard one to many Eddie Van Halen influenced solos or I had lost my mind but I basically kicked Crash out of the band. I felt, at the time, that his sound was not right for the band. In hindsight he was perfect for the band.
Quick note: September 3, 1993 we played at CBGB's. What a dump!
In response to firing Crash, Leonard quit shortly there after but did come back to record on our second album. Mark started playing guitar in addition to playing keyboard. And, just to keep things interesting we added a trombone player. Todd "Chutzie" Hulslander was a recording engineer- grad student at Peabody. We found Chutzie via another "Horn Player Wanted" flyer.
We Mean Business (November 1993)
Time to go back into the studio. This time to the up and coming Hound Sound Studio on Maryland Avenue. For this album I was looking for a real party feel and invited, among others, Landis McCord and Barry Hampton to join us. Landis and Barry were members of The Allmighty Senators and two of the most gifted musicians I have ever worked with. There were a lot of engineering blunders during these sessions and I decided to pull us out of the studio sooner than later. The result was a 10 song album simply titled "Pornflakes". Another strong effort; this album would also spawn a single (Business & Asshole backed by Chris Pfister-Trailer Life Records), 2 cuts (No End & 8142) would end up on a compilation disc (Smirk, Titter & Wink- Crank Records), Cow Pokers got some airplay and we even got a decent write-up from our own City Paper who, up to this point, had repeatedly trashed us. (they liked the Chris Pfister song).
The Pornflakes Christmas Special (December 17 & 18, 1993)
The Gong Shows were so much fun I decided to write a little play. A week before Christmas 1993, we were performing at the 14 Karat Cabaret. I had this book called The Meaning of Christmas and adapted it for the stage. It was basically the story of the 3 wise men and their coming to see the new born king. I wrote a script, bought some bales of hay, dressed the band as shepherds and recruited some friends and actors. The result was pretty hilarious but poorly documented. I do have the original script though, you can find that on our Odds & Ends page.
By 1994, Pornflakes had become a true working band performing on a weekly basis and traveling more and more frequently to cities outside of Maryland. But things were about to unravel again for the 'Flakes. Charleigh had been suffering for sometime from CFS and by late spring or early summer of '94 had had enough of being in a professional rock band.
Introducing Barry Hampton. Barry was a member of Allmighty Senators, among other groups, and the most naturally gifted musician I had ever known. Barry was an excellent bassist, drummer, guitarist, and played a little keyboard and sax. Barry had recorded with the band on our 2nd album and had sat in with the band on a number of occasions, not to mention he was a good friend. So, when we needed a bassist, Barry was the first choice.
Before Charleigh left the band, May 1994 to be exact, we went back into the studio to begin work on our 3rd album. This time to Peabody Institute where Chutzie was studying to be a recording engineer. The studio was very sophisticated utilizing 24 track digital tape and full automation. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it. I was very use to mixing our material but was not comfortable at this particular mixing console. The results were, well, "mixed".
Shortly after recording at Peabody but while I was still mixing Charleigh left the group and Barry joined. Then Harp and I had an altercation at a rehearsal and Harp quit the band. Now I had to scramble to find yet another guitar player. I'm not sure who suggested it but I quickly began teaching Miyuki all the tunes on guitar and, in no time at all, Miyuki was our #2 guitar player. Then, later that summer, Chutzie got an engineering job in Pennsylvania and we shrunk into a 5- piece band.
Who's in the band?:
In case you've lost track, here's the band lineup at the end of the summer of 1994: Snackie-guitar & keyboard, Augie-drums, Miyuki-guitar, Barry-bass, John Partridge-sax.
What Do You Look Like - NAKED?!
We had begun recording our third album in May when the wheels came off. When things settled down a bit, in September ’94, I decided to resume recording. We had 5 completed songs from Peabody, not enough for an album. Also, the Peabody session was recorded with a completely different band but they were my songs and I wanted to use them. I decided to make these songs the B-side of the album. With the newly formed band we recorded 7 more tunes in my bedroom/practice space. I had been listening to a Ween album (The Pod) that was recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder and figured I could do as good a job. So, I went and bought a top of the line 4-track cassette recorder (Marantz PMD740) and recorded the rest of the tracks for what would be our third album “Naked”. For the finishing touch, Miyuki and I and took a portable tape recorder out for a night of drinking and interviews.
Our mission-ask anyone and everyone, “What do you look like naked?”. 30 minutes of drunken tomfoolery, we should have released this instead of the album. Instead, we took the best answers and put them in between songs on the album. Overall, Naked was a bit disappointing. The songs were performed well but we’re poorly recorded and produced. One song (It Sure Looks Different) did appear on the Hat Factory CD compilation “Walking By A Building”. And Naked was the first album to feature songs by other members- Naked by Barry and Carob by Miyuki.
A Trombone and a duck named Quacksey
We had recently lost Chutzie when fate brought us someone new. Miyuki and I were driving to a rehearsal when I spotted a guy carrying a trombone case. I pulled up to the guy and had Miyuki ask him if he wanted to play in a rock band. He gave us his number and we had ourselves a new trombone player. Steve Miller was a real character. There are so many funny stories that center around Stevie it’s hard to decide where to begin. Let’s start with his pet duck Quacksey. Quacksey was an 18” high rubber duck that quacked when you squeezed it and it rolled on wheels. Quacksey became sort of a seventh member of the band and the band’s mascot. Then there were the inflatable stage props such as the giant inflatable Quacksey head and giant inflatable baked potato. When I say giant, I mean GIANT. Steve had fashioned these out of rolls of plastic and painted them. At key moments on stage he would inflate them via a vacuum. If I remember correctly, the Quacksey head only half inflated while the baked potato, which was camouflaged in foil, inflated to full capacity during performances of our song Hot Potatoes.
La La La La La La La Love
In March 1995, we began a tour of Baltimore studios and recorded 14 songs for what would be our 4th and final album-"Love". In many ways, this was the band's best effort. It incorporated many talented musicians, recording engineers and the band was at it's peak performance level. There were strong contributions from Snackie, Barry and Miyuki. Mark Harp produced an updated version of the song Get With It (originally released on Naked) and played keyboards on a few numbers. There were also several guest musicians-Melissa Sharlat (vocals), Kelly Sheperd (flute) and Sean McCaul (vibraphone). This album would also spawn a 7" single (Ain't This The Life backed by Transmission-Nutrition & ABC Alcoholics-Trailer Life Records)and received praise from the Baltimore City Paper (FINALLY).
At the same time, the band was beginning to crumble from within. Miyuki was getting more serious with his new group (Gerty) and Barry was looking to front his own group. And I was starting to feel less and less silly and the songs I was writing were becoming more and more morose. And then came the final nail in the coffin-THE PORNFLAKES TOUR.
The Pornflakes Tour
Even if you've never been in a band you've probably heard horror storys about a band on tour. Well, here's another one. In july 1995 we set out on a tour that would take us as far West as Chicago and was supposed to take us as far North as Boston. Within the first couple of hours, as we were ascending the Allegheny mountains on I70, the van began running hot. I decided it was merely a load issue and the mountains and proceeded to our first destination-Pittsburgh. Luciano's was a nice dinner theatre that was packed when we walked in as there was a murder mystery in session in the dining room. But, they had us perform in the downstairs bar where approximately 3 people were hanging out and we were paid something like $16 for gas money. The next day we headed to the Night Owl in Dayton, Ohio. It was now clear that the hot running van was not just a passing problem. We take it to a Pep Boys who can't find anything wrong with it. We get to the Night Owl, a jazz club, where they're expecting to hear jazz. Unfortunately, we had not worked on our Jazz Odyssey Set. I guess the good folks at the Night Owl felt sorry for us because they paid us $200 and put us up for the night. Things seemd to be looking up. Off to Chicago and the tour really starts heating up-literally. We were about to hit one of the worst heat waves ever in the MidWest and that heat wave would follow us all the way back home. In Chicago we have some friends, as well as my sister, in attendance and we have a pretty good show. TIME TO PARTY! We all go out for a night of drinking and carousing. By the time we get to my sister's place I'm to drunk to find the keys and some of the guys start getting impatient. An argument ensues. Next stop-Detroit. In route to the Old Miami, it has become so hot we must run the heat in the van full blast to keep the van from over heating. John had a thermometer and the heat in the van was aound 120 degrees fahrenheit. At the club we nearly get our asses kicked by some bikers and escape before anything else can go wrong. I should mention that our friends The Immigrant Suns did attend this show. If they hadn't we would have played for the hated bikers and the bartender. Low on money and spirits we head to Syrcuse, New York and the Lost Horizon. On our way to Syracuse we find a lovely campground by a lake and pitch tent for the night. By early morning the wind begins picking up and the sky turns a dark gray. Some of us begin packing while others, like John, sleep a few more winks. The wind really starts picking up and the rain comes down in buckets. We send a rescue team out to retrieve John whose tent (with him inside) is being tossed around like a tumble weed. With the aide of a branch ,which John grabs onto, we get him back into the van. The Lost Horizon was a huge club that seemed all the more massive with no one there. And no one was there, I don't even remember meeting a soudman. The next night we were to play at The Middle East in Boston but, worried that the van would not make the trip to Boston and then home, we decide to cancel the Boston show and head to the suburbs of Philly before the van completely dies. Just before dawn we arrive outside of Philadelphia. John and I are the only ones awake and we're a little giddy. We find a campground where hundreds of bunny rabbits are running about. For some reason we find this to be hilarious, I think we were losing our minds. We take the day off for sight seeing. The next day we arrive at the club, whose name escapes me, only to find that we are not scheduled to perform. We debate whether to end the tour or stick it out one more day. We opt for the later and head to NYC and The Knitting Factory. And that was our first and last tour. The van got us home but died shortly there after. Like the van, the band died shortly after that.
As bad as the tour was I don't think I was considering disbanding the group until Barry and Miyuki told me they wanted out. I couldn't see the band without the 2 of them and decided to end the band when they departed. We discussed it and decided to go out with a bang. First, we prepared for our 3rd record release party (An Evening Out On The Town With Those Freeloading Pornflakes featuring "Transmission-Nutrition", "Ain't This The Life", "ABC Alcholics") Then we opened for Jimmie's Chicken Shack at Hammerjacks where we were nearly booed off stage by 1200 people. Next we asked Mark Harp if he would like to rejoin the band for a few last shows.
"L" is for later folks
We didn't perform at all in the beginning of the year while gearing up for our record release partys in February and our farewell show in April. We set the date of our final show for April 5, 1996 at the beloved Memory Lane. The plan for the evening - pull out all the stops. We performed Chocolate Cake with generous helpings of Entenmanns Chocolate Cake, The Pink Panther skit, The Beastie Boys skit and much more. We invited a few of the old 'Flakes to join us on stage and a few friends and fans. My mother tended the merchandise table and my girlfriend filmed most of the evening. All in all a great, sad, and well attended evening. And then it was over.
I learned a lot from Pornflakes. Mostly that it's really hard to keep a band together. But it taught me how to be a better band leader, and gave me the skills I would need for my next group The Swingin' Swamis (1997 and still going strong)