#15    SUMMER OF 2003



The Solger Story

by Tony Rettman

Seattle, Washington's Solger were the Proto-est of Proto Hardcore Punk bands. They were formed in the Spring of 1980 by seventeen year old Kyle Nixon after Black Flag came through town and blew his mind. The band soon started playing around town with the expressed interest of bumming out the Ramones-loving old-time punkers and trying to start a good and violent Hardcore Punk scene in their city. After a mere six months of playing around town with the likes of 'Flag and D.O.A. they broke up. But not before laying down some tunes on a buddy's four track machine. The main tracks were recorded in the dressing room of a local Punk club named The Showbox. The vocals were done in such locations as a laundry room, Mary Edward's bedroom and John Stazzaras's kitchen (not, and I repeat, NOT in his living room).
       After all was said and done, Kyle decided to get the songs pressed up onto vinyl. Just to have SOMETHING for Solger to be remembered by. Kyle dubbed the tracks onto a cheapo cassette and sent them off to a pressing plant. The five hundred records that came back were the most honest form of folk art to come out of our country in a long time. The Solger single is one of the greatest scum-encrusted forms of beauty to ever rise up out of the 80s, and many will back me up on this statement. Unfortunately, by the time the record was released in 1981, it was a case of 'too little, too late'. Solger was broken up and the D.C. and Midwest Punks were already blazing away with their interpretation of what was happening in L.A. Solger was most certainly the unsung instigators of American Hardcore (to say the least). The record gained collector status as the years went on. It got to the point where on Sonic Youth's first visit to Seattle in the mid-80s, Thurston begged from the stage for someone to sell him a copy for twenty bucks. Mark Arm ended up giving Thurston his own personal copy, either out of an act of generosity or just so T. would shut up.
Seattle based Garage/Punk label Bag of Hammers re-issued the single in the mid-90s, much to many poor bums' relief. And now in the year 2003, we get a whole fucking CD of Solger stuff! This month Empty Records will be releasing Solger Codex 1980, a three part play of a CD (if you will). It is made up of a remastered/remixed/way cleaned up version of the 7", an unbelievable live set (you gotta hear their version of "What We Do Is Secret"!) and the 7" in all its original, gunk-caked glory.
When Solger vocalist Kyle Nixon agreed to do an interview with me to promote the CD, I nearly crapped my pants! I mean, this is the guy who wrote the song "Raping Dead Nuns," a song I will hold close to my heart until the day I die. And then I'll have the fucker blasted at my funeral! Paul McCartney and all his precious million-dollar-making songs can go sit on his new wife's stump for all I care when it comes to Kyle-penned tunes like "American Youth," "Dead Soldier," or the aforementioned "Raping . . ."
Kyle was a total DUDE and real kick to talk to. For a better grasp on Solger history, go to groups.msn.com/SOLGER.

TONY RETTMAN: So, how did this CD come about?

KYLE NIXON: I bought a re-issue of the Solger 7" on eBay from Jimmy Stapelton (Owner of Bag of Hammers). When he found out it was me, he asked about tapes he heard I had of Solger and he seemed real interested. Then the guy from Grand Theft Audio called me and wanted to do something, but it fell through. So, I called Empty and they were damn happy to do it.

TR: Were you aware of the legendary status of the record?

KN: Well, the fact that it was in the E.M.P. with endorsement from Mark Arm kinda blew me away (Laughter).

TR: So you weren't aware of it?

KN: I heard towards the end of the 80s that it was going for in between a hundred and a hundred and fifty dollars. Then in the past year or so, I had been researching us on the internet and I found out people really liked it.

TR: Now, the part of the CD named 'The Good' (a digital remaster of the 7"). That wasn't taken off the actual record, was it?

KN: No. The original four track recording got into the hands of a friend of The Manson Family named Jim Banner. He wanted to use it for a compilation, so I told him to pick up the tape from Phillipo Scrouge, who did the original Solger recording. He (Jim) ended up taking the recording and putting it on metal tape, which was the highest quality you could get back in the day. Somewhere along the way, the original tape got lost, so all I had was the metal tape to work with. So, 'The Good' is that metal tape transfer re-mastered by Jack Endino (well known Seattle producer/engineer). He made it sound real clean.

TR: Yeah, it's sorta shocking how much he cleaned it up.

KN: But it's still really raw.

TR: Oh yeah! There's no way you're gonna get around that! But I have to agree with Mark Arm in his liner notes. I was shocked to hear the rhythm section as well!

KN: I was used to hearing the old copy, so to hear drums and shit, it sounded totally gay to me! (Much laughter) When Jack played it to me, I said 'This is gay!!!" (More laughter) But I like the way it came out.

TR: How about the live show on the CD...Where's that from?

KN: That's actually our last show. I just talked to the guy who was our unofficial manager back then and he was telling me how I was in tears after that show. I smashed up a wall. I really tore up the place.

TR: Was this the show with D.O.A.?

KN: Yeah, D.O.A. wanted us to go to Portland to play with them the next night, but no one else in the band wanted to go. Paul now tells me the reason he didn't want to go to Portland was because he had a zit on his head. (Laughter)

TR: Appearance is everything, y'know.

KN: Well, I knew at that point the band was toast, so I decided to get the hell out.

TR: What kind of music were you into before Punk?

KN: I was a Led Head....I was real into Led Zepplin. I saw them in '77. I remember reading an interview in Creem or something where they asked Robert Plant or Jimmy Page what they thought of Punk and one of them said they liked The Damned. I bought the first Damned album and I liked it a lot. Then I went out and bought The Pistols and The Clash albums. When I heard those records, I just thought 'This is awesome' .

TR: How did the L.A. stuff work its way to Seattle?

KN: I was reading Slash and other smaller magazines. I got that first Middle Class single and that was my favorite record at the time. Then I heard Black Flag and I was like 'This is it'. I got to sing 'Nervous Breakdown' with them the first time they came to town and that's what made me want to start my own band. I think Black Flag were really the birth of it all. Everywhere they went, they spread this new gospel to the youth.

TR: Plus their philosophy was a little easier to swallow than The Dead Kennedys.

KN: I love The D.K.'s but Black Flag had this intensity plus they were regular guys. Their lyrics were real honest and really captured the feeling of having inner turmoil in the head.

TR: So it was after seeing Black Flag you decided to start Solger?

KN: When I saw and met Black Flag, it was Valentine's Day weekend in 1980. Then I had them come to Seattle again in May for a show I put on, the first all ages Punk show in Seattle. At the end of May, I met Paul and through my girlfriend, we met Doug. We put up a flyer at The Showbox for a drummer and got Tor.

TR: And when did you start playing around Seattle?

KN: The first show was July 14th 1980 at The Showbox.

TR: What was the crowd reaction like?

KN: They mocked us. I jumped into the crowd and everybody moved. They threw me back onto the stage and I landed on the monitor. Then Paul flew out of nowhere and landed on me. A 16 year old kid, his first show...and he broke his guitar! Our third show was August 16th with Black Flag and after that show was an 'after show' party where The Fartz made their debut.

TR: When exactly did you guys break up?

KN: Two days after that D.O.A. show, around October 16th or 17th in 1980, but the e.p. didn't come out until 1981. Rough Trade bought all the records up and distributed them all over the world.

TR: What did you do after Solger?

KN: When Paul joined The Fartz, I became sort of a manager for them. I was promoting shows too.

TR: Paul played with other bands in between Solger and joining The Fartz, right?

KN: Right. He was in The Fags who did 'Scheme and Fraud' (a Solger track featured in the live set available on the CD). I have a tape of them doing it and it sounds incredibly industrial. I think it's excellent.

TR: What was the deal with The Fags?

KN: Seattle is real gay. There were three groups of people in the scene at the time. There were people from the east side, like Paul and Tor. We grew up in middle class homes and we were just unhappy. The University District people were into the Power Pop sound and then you had a lot of homosexuals. They were getting out of the Bowie thing and coming into Punk. I remember seeing The Subhumans, The Lewd and The Wipers at a gay caberet and the urinal traugh was full of semen from guys going in there and jerking off together. So, between the constant shower of spit during the show and the semen in the urinal, I thought 'This is Punk' (Laughter). When Hardcore really moved in on Seattle, it drove away the gay people because they thought it was too macho and insensitive. I always thought Solger had more to it though. We had an artistic sound, we weren't just a bunch of meatheads trying to play loud and fast. We were sensitive young boys growing into men (Laughter).

TR: But what's the story with that band, The Fags?

KN: It was a short term band that became a band named Third Arm.

TR: Cool....So, after promoting shows what happened with you?

KN: I became a Born Again Christian for nine years.

TR: How did that happen?

KN: That would take too long. It would be too esoteric for you! Buy my book when it comes out! After that, I became the number two man in a religious cult and after I got out of the cult, I started getting back into Punk.

TR: You were pretty occupied for awhile there, between the cult and everything.

KN: Well, you know, I missed the whole Grunge thing in town here!

TR: And you care?

KN: At that time, I was working as a chef and a lot of the people I was working with were real into it.

TR: Is there anything else you can think of that we didn't cover?

KN: Well, I hope the cover of the new 7" pisses people off and causes controversy. I already got one complaint. Some guy saw it on eBay and wrote me saying he couldn't believe someone from The Fartz would be involved in something like this.

TR: What was the motivation behind that cover?

KN: Well that song on the 7" ("Do Me A Favor") is about telling someone to put a gun to their head and pull the trigger. So when Jimmy wanted to put out that single, I had to come up with a cover for the damned thing. I was up all night trying to figure something out and I was just sitting there and thought "Put a gun to your head....Pull the trigger... Kurt Cobain!" When we got into a fight with The Dead Boys, it was about beating up the old punks and picking on the old establishment that didn't matter anymore. So, I thought doing that cover was in the same vein. We always wanted to cause reaction and wanted people to beat the shit out of us. And it's real nice to know I can still do that!

TR: What's this about getting into a fight with The Dead Boys?

KN: The Dead Boys came to town and we put the word out that Solger was going to beat the shit out of them. We didn't actually go the show of course (Laughter). But me, Doug, and my girlfriend showed up to the after show party. One of the guys in The Dead Boys' road crew kept trying to get me to swing at him. I just ignored him. Then, I remember sitting on the steps and seeing that same guy from The Dead Boys' crew fly above my head! Apparently he said something to Doug and he (Doug) was real strong. After he landed, Doug and my girlfriend started kicking the shit out of him with their steel tipped boots. Then Stiv Bators comes up and says 'Who's Kyle Nixon?' and I say 'I am'. He was real short and had this pointed stick with him. At this point, I was just honored he knew my name! That was the whole point of saying we wanted to fight them, y'know? To get this guy to know who the hell I was. So I told him his whole Punk Rock act was old and he should move on like Lydon did. I guess he listened to me because he started Lords Of The New Church and it bombed!

TR: And then he died!

KN: Right!

TR: You could of had him on the back cover of the single. Sprawled out in front of a car.

KN: Ah, he's not worth it. He was so small, man! But it's still so funny to me that we got them to react. The greatest publicity we ever had!


Kyle Nixon--Vocals
Paul Fartz--Guitar
Doug Rockness--Bass

the original scum-encrusted release  

the controversial one

The CD/LP on Empty Records

"One last thing, I think, that used to make me wonder. I always wondered if Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth actually ever got a copy of that original Solger record. And he did, Mark Arm gave him his copy, thinking he could just go out and buy another (wrong, lol), in exchange for a rare Sonic Youth record (which he never got). Several years later Mark got another Solger record and had Paul sign it, and then I signed it a few months ago as well." -- Kyle Nixon