The Man Who Started it All — Crypt’s Tim Warren

Tim Warren Berlin
Chatting in Berlin with the Crypt-keeper. Tim Warren. Roky, Tim’s faithful hound, lies beside him.

Life is pretty surprising. If you would have asked me a few years back if this site…or even this blog … would ever have gotten past year two I would have cut you a look similar to the one famed 70s TV sitcom in-law, Aunt Esther used to give to her equally infamous brother-in-law, Fred Sanford.  Dated TV references aside though, it truly is a joy to find people kindly giving their time to keep this blog going.

Tim Warren is one of those people. Founder and sole proprietor of Crypt Records, Tim is one of those rare collectors who has dedicated their entire lives to making sure that people around the world share the same excitement that still drives him day-after-day. Working on an almost fanatical level over 30 years ago, Tim single-handedly was responsible for tracking down long-forgotten singles that even original 60s band members had little use for. Crisscrossing the country by car for months at a time, when the only means of communication was a pay phone and a stamped envelope, Tim amassed a catalog of killer songs that truly exemplified the wildest side of mid-60s teen fervor.  The iconic Back From the Grave series of compilations were the fruits of his labor. Other comps followed that centered on exotica, greasy R&B, and assorted oddities but always with the Crypt level of quality. Even a stint of “modern” bands such as the New Bomb Turks, Nine-Pound Hammer, the Wylde Mammoths among others saw a home on Crypt Records as well.

Fast forward three decades later and I find myself sitting in Tim’s apartment in Berlin. Alongside us, Tim’s doggie Roky quietly relaxes while a Real Kids test pressing cranks in the background. Apologizing for the volume of the record, Tim quickly pulls the needle off and ushers me into his home studio where we hunker down and listen to some live Raunch Hands material at an equally loud volume. As the cuts whizz by, I can’t help but be drawn in by Tim’s enthusiasm. ‘Ya gotta listen to this…isn’t that CRAZY!” We have a few laughs at the sheer outrageousness of some the tracks and then settle down for a chat.

SSA: Tim, thanks again for giving me some of your time. It took a little work to find you. You know nowadays everyone seems to be on Facebook, which is great for tracking down people but is a bit of a double-edged sword.

Unnatural Ax
Boston’s Unnatural Ax, Photo Courtesy of the Music Museum of New England.

Tim: Everybody is on Facebook, but I’m not. Nevertheless, when I was doing the Real Kids research it became a necessary evil. One of it’s saving graces though was how it enabled me able to track down a guy who made live, reel-to-reel, tape recordings of many classic Boston bands at his loft. Stuff like DMZ, Real Kids, Unnatural Ax, all these bands, playing all the time at this guys loft. Amazing, right?

On Facebook I met this fellow who knew Real Kid Billy Borgioli’s widow. At first, I was a little hesitant of his connection, as many of these music-related friendships are very fleeting. To my surprise he turned out to be the nicest,most sincere fellow in the world. In fact, he had paid Billy’s widow thirty-five hundred for Billy’s old guitar that was only worth only about twenty-five hundred. Just a prince.

The original scrapbook list of the 1976 Real Kids loft recordings. Courtesy Tim Warren.

This fellow had rescued two big scrapbooks from the Borgioli’s (each band always has one guy with a scrapbook.) And within that scrapbook was where I first saw this list of songs.  June 21, 1976… June 22, 1976. Two 7 1/2″ reel-to-reels and one 4 3/4″ reel-to-reel. All these live songs on tape. It got me thinking, who had recorded this? That evening I mentioned it to John Felice and he tells me that he thinks the tapers names were Dale and Monica. Unfortunately, he could not recall their last names.

Two weeks later, I’m talking with Jim Felice, John’s brother on the phone. Twenty minutes into our conversation I ask him ‘who are these people?’ I had emailed everybody in Boston by this time. Dale and Monica, loft on High Street, parties there with bands playing. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Nothing. Then, near the very end of our call, Jim suddenly exclaims  “Gabriel! Dale Gabriel. His nickname was Gabe.” Dale Gabriel? Boom!

SSA: You found him.

Tim: I had found him and I immediately called him the next day

SSA: Wow

Tim: “Yup, that was me” Dale told me the next morning “I recorded all those bands on my reel-to-reel deck” blah, blah  blah… “a Studer reel-to-reel deck too…great quality.” And I’m eating this up like crazy. Suddenly his tone changes and he reveals that two months ago, he had to downsize from a house to a condo. And as part of his downsizing efforts, the tapes ended up on the curb as trash. 

At this point I’m thinking, I re-joined Facebook on April 9, 2017, specifically to reach out to people. Hating myself for doing it all along. And while I did send out requests for info on the mystery taper, I often got wrong information and ended up tracking down people months later that had nothing to do with those tapes. All I kept thinking was if only I had found him in April…

SSA: You would have…

The response to Tim’s reel-to-reel salvage mission. Courtesy Tim Warren.

Tim: I would have flown over to Boston and driven down to his home in Virginia Beach, VA and had Boston rock-and-roll history out-the-ass. I would have had, 20 albums let’s say, 20 albums of unreleased, live, bad-ass, rock-and-roll from Boston from ’76 to ’78. God. And to think that that shit was so casually discarded. I even emailed the waste transfer station with an image saying that this was what the reels would look like and that I was willing to pay a $5000 reward for them. Immediately they write me back saying that everything goes straight into the incinerator. You could have heard me scream in Germany. I just wanted to kill myself. Just fuckin’ kill myself. Cause, Christ, you know it’s history, that’s fucking history in a big way… crazy, crazy, crazy.

Bad Music Seminar
Program for the Bad Music Seminar at Shelter Studios, 1988. Art by Pete Ciccone.

SSA: Getting back to the New York scene, can you tell me a bit about The Bad Music Seminar?

Tim: Oh boy, what a disaster! Pete Ciccone (Rat Bastards, Vacant Lot) and I decided to put that one together. As we were both obsessive Milkshakes and Mighty Caesar‘s freaks, our idea was to bring over Billy Childish believing that people would just show up. Yup, (laughs) we lost 45 hundred on that. We flew in The Gravediggers from California as well as outsider artist Jack Starr from Texas. Jack had just had an album released on Norton Records so we had him backed by the A-Bones. Perfect, right? It sounded like the Velvet Underground.

Jack Starr
Jack Starr at the Bad Music Seminar, 1988.

SSA:  Hahaha.

Tim: I wish I had the live tape of that. We probably have the reel-to-reels somewhere. I remember Billy Childish yelling “Hey, Peter Frampton!” to our sound man. He kept calling him Peter Frampton because the poor guy sported long, golden locks like Frampton.

Anyway, we brought the Caesars in and the idea was to have them come in and record. At the same time, record The Rat Bastards, The Gravediggers Mike Markesich (who authored the TeenBeat Mayhem! book) and The Double Naught Spies. That was the plan, and then as a bonus have these bands play live.

SSA: Right.

Chris Such and the Savages
Chris Such and the Savages at the Bad Music Festival. Photo by Jillian Jonas.

Tim: Pete chose half the bands, and I chose half. And, then we tried to find a space that ended up being Shelter Studios on W37th St. I had seen this article about Shelter Studios that described it as some sort of large techno loft smack in the middle of the garment district.

NY Daily news article
NY Daily News article on the Bad Music Seminar 1988

Jeff: It was a pretty rough spot. Most of these music studio-type places in that area were not equipped to handle large groups of people. The elevators alone were only made for three or four people.

Tim: It was insane.

Jeff: I had heard a rumor about Thee Mighty Caesars getting ahold of your credit card and going to town with it at Peter Lugers. Any truth to that?

Tim: No, no, no, no, no. Here’s the here’s the real story. This is the funniest shit ever. We had the band recording in Coyote Studios in Brooklyn when two of them, the bass player and the drummer, had to leave a couple days before Childish. Williamsburg back then you know was a wasteland. There was like, one deli in, 10 square blocks.

So anyway, I’m getting ready to drive them out to JFK for their flight home and they come up to me “Ah Tim, you know we’d really like to get a great meal, at a steakhouse, or something …”

Peter Lugers
The Peter Lugers sign. Photo courtesy of http://endoedibles.com

I quickly recalled that every time I go to Coyote or went across the Williamsburg Bridge on my way to the pressing plant in Long Island City, I passed this steakhouse sign. It always made me wonder ‘whats this Peter Lugers?’ And as I’m not in that income level, the name meant nothing to me. So I mention this to the owners of Coyote, Albert and Mike Caiti, that these guys want to go to a steak place. They were like “Well, there is Peter Lugers, it’s really good.”

So, I drive them over to Peter Lugers. And I tell them that I have to head back to the studio and I’ll come back about an hour and a half to pick them up and then we’ll head to the airport.

An hour and a half later I come back, and I don’t see them. Great. Here I am, dressed like a bum, still wearing the same clothes for three days because of this frantic schedule, running around looking for these guys. I hesitantly walk into Peter Luger’s in a fuckin’ ripped shirt looking like something the cat dragged in.

Billy Childish of Thee Mighty Caesars, Bad Music Seminar, Shelter Studios, NYC 1988.

“Excuse me, um, I left three English gentlemen here at the restaurant about an hour and a half ago.” “Oh yes. Come with me.” The maitre’d led me in and there they are, sitting in front of a huge plate of bones with grins a mile wide. “Is, everything OK?” “Yeah! Relax, relax!” And, boom, there’s another hundred and fifty dollars down the drain. Another cash outlay, more bleeding. At first, I thought they were going to lead me into a back bathroom where I’d find them washing dishes or something.

SSA: Hahaha.

Tim: SoI laid out a hundred fifty for the meal.

SSA: And they got their steak.

Tim: Yup. So, it wasn’t them maxing out a credit card. It was only me looking like a bum, walking into Peter Lugers.

SSA: And just paying them.

Tim: And, paying the bill LATE. When I get back to Coyote they asked me where I took them. I said, “Oh, this place called Peter Lugers.” “WHAT!!!!! That place is really expensive!” It wasn’t that they recommended Lugers, but from my viewpoint, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first. That area was all prostitutes back then. You’d have the Hasidim getting blowjobs in their cars from the crack whores under the Williamsburg Bridge. I was thinking, it can’t be that posh you know, but it is! Hahaha. But I would not have known because I didn’t live on that income level where I could just go out and eat steak for 50 bucks. We were happy with a dollar slice, you know? But yeah that was the story with the Caesars and Peter Lugers.

SSA: Amazing.

Tim: But the Bad Music seminar thing, was chaos and a cluster fuck. I mean we tried to get some promotion. I did a mailing to all my mail order customers since you know, there wasn’t an Internet.

The infamous Might Caesars’ Sgt. Pepper rip.

In the end, nobody really cared. Nobody. Actually, when Childish got back to England, they recorded there. In reality, the Mighty Caesars had broken up long before the seminar. When I originally reached out to Childish I asked him, “Do you mind just coming over for a one-shot reunion show for two nights in New York?” “Sure.” I followed that up with, “Hey, you guys wanna record an album?” “Yeah, sure.” Boom. So after the gig they went back to England and recorded John Lennon’s Corpse Revisited. Pete Ciccone and I did the Sgt. Peppers dis for the cover with all the serial murders, and put that out

Come October 1988, the Raunch Hands recorded the Payday album. And when the album came out, nobody was buying in the States! Nobody. So I just figured, let’s try out Europe. Hahaha .. twenty thousand dollars later…

Tim and the van in Europe. Photo courtesy Steve Baise.

I lost a lot of money on that first tour because I bought a van in Holland. I also bought a dual back line, bass amp, two guitar amps, blah blah blah blah, drums, all that shit. And shipped it over to Europe.

SSA: Man, good luck!

Tim: But, hey, it gave the Raunch Hands a second life. They were dead on the fuckin’ vine you know. I was glad I was able to resuscitate their career. They weren’t getting anywhere since it was all grunge at that point. 1988 was the birth of all that Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin imitation stuff. And it was bad. I remember there was a deejay on college radio station WNYU, this English guy. We’re sitting there in the studio and I’m hearing this thing that sounds like Led Zeppelin to me. Awful stuff, but the DJ is falling over himself “Wow, did that sound just like Robert Plant?!” I’m thinking to myself, and…this is a good thing? What did punk rock do for the world? Hahaha. It’s all over! So yeah, that was the climate at the time.

Pt. 2  Coming in a future post!

 

Give Him a Hand: A Chat with Mike Mariconda

Airborne Mike: The Raunch Hands at Maxwells.

Gritty New York. You hear that term so often that its already become a worn out cliché. Nevertheless, out of the hundreds of bands that can rightfully claim the title of being one of those “gritty” NYC bands, The Raunch Hands were one of the few that encapsulated the whole dirty, sloppy, happy, sadness and madness of this little burg. Sure The Ramones did the same, but by the mid-80s, the “punk” musical climate was changing. Songs were speeding up and becoming more aggressive. Worst of all macho jocks had started to notice and transform the quaint pogo-ing at gigs into full fledged testosterone fueled slam pits. Into this world the Raunch Hands were born. Carrying a youthful swagger they mined the soulful R&B underbelly and spit it back out in a maelstrom of booze and good times. If the city was going to hell, might as well have fun doing it. Not only did they bring the party, the Hands also did what few other NYC groups were able to do. Get recognized throughout the world and yet, remain purely an underground band. Mssrs Chandler, Mariconda, Tchang, Sulley and Brnicevic (not to mention later members Edison, Crowley, & Linzell) kicked up an unholy mess that has yet to be equalled.

Mike Mariconda mixing it up in Italy. Courtesy Fabio Rizzo

I had a chance to chat with Michael Mariconda, guitarist of the RH, about those early years gigging in NYC.

SSA: Thanks Mike for taking a few moments to contribute your perspective on the garage scene in NYC. Naturally, my standard question for everyone is, how did you first hear about the scene?

MM: Basically, by getting the job at Venus Records in 1983. I was in contact with a lot of  musicians that were coming in looking for records of Garage Punk. The post-punk  new band scene was stale so all these great reissues started coming out. What do you do when the next crop of new bands suck? Go and listen to old records…and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t rare to have Jeff Conolly and The Lyres, members of The Vipers, Fuzztones, Chesterfield Kings, Lux and Ivy, Greg Shaw and even Billy Gibbons dropping by to see what was good and for sale. Also people like Tim Warren, Billy Miller, Bruce Planty and our drummer Vince Brnicevic were working on their first volumes of 60s punk comps (all influenced by Nuggets but with much wilder and obscure bands) – Back From The Grave, Hipsville, Open up Your Door and What a Way to Die– all at the same time.

Ad for Venus Records

And Venus was where my pal who was well known in collector circles brought me. How did you get that gig? I recall you already knew quite a bit about music. In fact the reason I bought a Stones 45 from you was because after playing it, you mentioned (correctly, I might add) that it had a hotter mix than the LP version.

I was lucky I got that job as there were a lot of applicants. I tried to sell myself to the owner  as knowing something about 50s R & B which I thought could be a market to sell to the Garage scene rather than just having another guy who was into Garage working there. Scott Curran hipped me to the idea of different mixes between mono and stereo LPs and French EPs or 45s pressed in various countries all sounded a little different. Added up to buying the same record 3 or 4 times.

The Raunch Hands on the Scott and Gary show. Episode 5. Courtesy Scott and Gary.

For people who aren’t familiar, only two record stores in NYC really became the epicenter of much of the garage scene. There were others, like Freebeing and Bleecker Bobs, but the garage-genre folks tended to congregate at either J.D’s Midnight Records or/and Crackers’ Venus Records. Can you tell me a bit about the characters who worked at Venus while you were there?

I always got along with everyone who worked there, Scott, Bruce, Ron Rimsite, Bobby Cook, John Kioussis and the owner Bill Shor all characters for sure but they all had beefs between themselves and all disliked the owner. But, in general, I always enjoyed the job since the musician in me was learning so much about music. Being there was no internet, the only way to try to find out about this stuff was through magazines and people to talk to.

I remember attending The Raunch Hands first gig at 240 West and quite honestly being unsure what to make of it. Only that I wanted to hear more. If I recall correctly did you play a fiddle at that gig for a song or two? Could be just a hallucination.

Yeah I was playing fiddle and lap steel on a few songs in 84-85. Kinda gave that up as it became too much to carry around and too delicate to play after beating the shit out of the guitar for an hour. And the lap steel got stolen right before a gig and I had no money to replace it.

Those early gigs were pretty memorable in that literally everyone seemed to be trashed, the band, the audience. It just basically turned into the wildest house party you were ever at. There was a particularly memorable 2 set night at The Dive close to its demise that I’ll never forget. In fact, your manager at the time came up to me during the show and asked me why I was taping it!

Memorable? Hehe. I don’t remember too much. Part of it was the NYC 4 am bar closing time. No one had a car so no reason to stay sober. Gave everyone a lot of time to get drunk watching 4 bands. I remember when we started going on last instead of first I really had to pace myself to be in reasonably good condition to play. Chandler never did.

Back From the Grave Vol 3.

Tim Warren including you on Back From the Grave Vol. 3 was a stroke of genius. Although we didn’t know it at the time, he instinctively knew you guys fit perfectly into the whole idea of his comps.

People were pretty shocked there was a new band on there, and it was an instrumental. Crypt luckily picked us up after we got booted off Relativity after the 2nd LP…that got us to Europe and Japan and prolonged the band for a number of years.

Set list for the Raunch Hands show at CBGBs on July 15, 1986.

The Hands stood alone in being the ultimate NYC band in terms of attitude, style and sound. Pretty soon others out side of the city started picking up on it. When did you get an inkling that this was starting to become more than just a local thing.

We never really had a concept when we started because we liked all kinds of music and wanted to try to incorporate all the styles we could. That confused a lot of people. Initially when I joined, the group was doing mostly Tchang and Chandler originals because the group didn’t have enough musical knowledge to try to cover a song, they always sounded terrible so they just wrote their own originals.

Chandler really had the pedigree coming from the Outta Place. His unique vocal spin on your R&B-based tunes really set the band apart from other bands who mined similar influences.

Yeah. We kinda stole him from The Outta Place, who I did like very much. We were fans of black R & B mostly. My favorite band in the mid 80s was Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. We started moving in that direction when Tchang started playing sax, so out went the fiddle and lap steel.

Business card size handout. Courtesy Dawn Eden.

I have to ask you who came up with the “Hello, I am a Raunch Hand” card. The hand gestures on the back are what totally make it. I think I still have my band T-shirt with those graphics on it.

I cant remember who came up with it but it was a great idea..Cool you still have the shirt, I do too but it doesn’t fit-not that I gained weight…it shrank!

Finally, in closing, I have to ask you about Billy Miller. While most people know him and Miriam for the Norton label, I don’t think many know how essential he was to the NY music community.  Especially around the time KICKS was their only main product. Personally, I feel his enthusiastic writing was what drew me more and more into discovering new sounds. And, if that wasn’t enough, he was a super-nice, wickedly clever guy. Everyone seems to have a unique story when it comes to Billy. What is your story?

Not one particular story but Billy was an amazing guy. Funny, easy going, great taste. I was lucky to have been asked to start The A Bones with him and Miriam and Mike Lewis and I was nervous as this was his follow up to The Zantees that had 2 amazing rockabilly guitarists The Statile Brothers so I had some big shoes to fill. I learned so much from Billy, always had the time to teach and share something about great old records. His death was tragic, a long painful one. So not deserved. His contribution to music was massive as was/is Tim Warren’s. Both of them have had a huge impact on my life.

Miriam Linna, Billy Miller, Link Wray, Tim Warren and Mike Mariconda. 1984. Courtesy Mike Mariconda.

To this day it’s still pretty amazing that people all over the world who appreciate garage music, in all its permutations, still fondly remember and appreciate The Raunch Hands. Despite all the good and bad things that happened that must be satisfying in some respects.

Yeah, very happy to see the music is still holding up, reaching new people and sounds a lot more spontaneous than a lot of recordings today.

Raunch Hands Gig Postcard

Thanks again Mike. And please, if the RH ever do another gig in this lifetime…you have to cover Hong Kong Missisippi it’s the ultimate RH song that never was.

We might have tried that at a rehearsal but sounded so crappy we gave up on it! A future RHs gig unfortunately will never happen, I have 2 fingers paralyzed on my left hand and Chandler is having a very slow recovery from his bout with cancer. However, I still continue to produce bands and even have a new project in the works.