by Brandon Lane
My life with the mighty Pincushion began way back in the early nineties. I had befriended a fellow bagger by the name of Tim while working at the mighty Thriftway. Through our mutual love of Danzig we were able to overcome our deeply instilled public vs. parochial school revulsion of one another and become friends. All of our early conversations were centered around music. Tim turned me onto a whole new world of kick ass bands. It was a Social Distortion/Misfits tape that Tim loaned me that would forever change my musical tastes. (I still haven't given the tape back, by the way). At the time I was playing in my first band, a screechy metal garage band. One evening while collecting carts, me and Tim jumped into my bitchin' Camaro and I played a tape of my band for him. I remember Tim really digging it. He was one of our first fans. Many years later, Tim would tell me that this was the inspiration he needed to get into a band. I guess it was a "if these idiots can do it, so can I" kind of thing. Who would have known that a crappy boom box recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit would be one of the inspirations behind one of the best bands to come out of Cincinnati? Before this, he had always talked about this mythical band that him and his friends were going to start. He was going to be the drummer. The problem was, none of them new a damn thing about music. But that didn't stop them. One day Tim informed me that indeed they had put together a band. The original lineup consisted of: Tim on drums, E the produce guy on rhythm guitar, Mark the chiseled guy on lead guitar, Chuck the "holy crap that guy just drank 15 Burger lights in an hour!" on vocals, and last but not least Heyob the "I look like a good catholic soccer player" on bass. I was a little less than impressed when Tim told me about the band. It sounded to me like they were going to be pretty bad. Come on, Tim had never even played the drums. So like a week later, Tim tells me that they were going to be playing their first gig at a party. I couldn't believe it. Here I am in a band, practicing my ass off in some guy's basement, and these fools are already doing gigs. Unbelievable. Well, the party came and me and all of my friends came out to see them play. I'd like to say that the first show blew me a way, but I just can't. My god, they were bad. There were about twenty of us packed into this small basement watching the band. It was cramped and loud. From what I remember the set consisted of mostly Misfits covers, that 'Going out West where I Belong' song, and a couple of originals. The band was a bit loose to put it mildly. I'm not sure why E was there (probably because his dad owned the drums that Tim was playing) but he was very lost. Tim was sitting on a lawn chair beating the drums with a couple of two by fours and not even thinking about using his bass drum. Mark and Heyob showed a bit of promise. I believe they were taking some lessons at that point. And then there was Chuck. Above all of the red faced screaming and spitting on the mic there was something promising coming out of him. I remember standing in the back yard discussing the performance with everyone and agreeing that he was the highlight. Yes kids, there was a spark of what would one day come.
I don't remember E being with them ever again after that show. He became one of us in the crowd. I started showing up after this point to watch the guys practice in the basement of Tim's moms house. Ma Anneken deserves an award for allowing the boys to fill every Saturday afternoon with the beautiful sounds of their sweet music. It seemed like they were peaking until one practice when Tim suddenly started using his foot and began playing the bass drum. It was then that Pincushion would begin to establish their sound. Suddenly, they were making more than just noise. I helped them record a few songs back then on a four track. They always looked to me as the guy who knew something about music. I guess knowing all of the notes on the guitar neck qualified me as an expert. It was a good time though, and I learned a bunch along with the guys. I even filled in for Mark on guitar once while he was on vacation. Unfortunately, I was pigeonholed into the "metal-guy" category, so whenever we played a song Chuck would shout out "solo" and expect me to spend the next five minutes masturbating over the rhythm. It was great and the guys were definitely improving. Somewhere around this time, the boys played their first bar gig opening for my band at this really crappy bar in Delhi. It was a lot of fun though. They even got paid for the gig. They were becoming rock stars!
The next stage of Pincushion came when a few of the guys moved out of their parents houses to the legendary 2918 Vaughn Street house. Oh what a house. Nothing but cheap beer, olive oil, and loud music for all. This became the new home of Pincushion. By this time, I had given up my hopes of becoming the next Van Halen and sold my soul to the cover band devil. My band shared the basement with the guys for a practice space. We played a keg few parties at the house. The way I remember it every party was the same, we'd play a bunch of covers and all of the girls would be down in the basement worshipping us, then Pincushion would drive everyone out the back door while we were taking a break. Let's face it; preppy college chicks just didn't get it.
It was early in the Vaughn Street days that Pincushion played the infamous battle of the bands at Bogart's. What an experience that was. The band played good, but they were still a bit stage shy. Chuck kind of lurked around the stage lost, not really knowing what to do with himself. John, the drummer in my band spent most of the show sitting in front of Tim's bass drum to keep it from sliding away from him. Mind you, the drum was laden with fertilizer and cinder blocks, but iron calves Anneken still managed to move it. The guys played pretty well and managed to advance to the next round. Crazy.
Around this time I had begun giving Mark some guitar lessons. He was a quick learner and was really improving. The problem was, I may have been a bad influence on his playing. I remember Tim yelling at me for teaching him Sweet Child o' Mine. Apparently, Mark kept playing it at practice. Not exactly in line with the punk image that the guys were trying to foster. The Pincushion boys had really started to tighten up. Their originals were becoming quite good. I can remember how into the early songs I was. Songs like Silent Spring, Bobby Sox, My Stereo, American Cemetery, Gravity Boy and Someday really showed that there was true song writing talent in the band. We did some four-track recording during this time. These turned out really good. Tim still insists that the early four-track version of Bobby Sox was the best. The band even managed to score a Sudsy's gig during this period. I got busted at the gig for saying that I was a member of the band and getting the drink perks. I also made my stage debut with them singing the song Someday. I still remember it fondly. Somewhere around this time, Mark began drifting from the rest of the band members. I think he was going through a female induced nervous breakdown. Chuck also started messing around with the guitar around then. Anyway, communication became crossed between Mark and the other guys and suddenly he was gone and Chuck was playing guitar. There was never a word said between the four of them. It just happened. So began the Pincushion that we know and love today.
Things were a bit rusty when Chuck took over the guitar duties. The music may have suffered at first but the energy was completely elevated. The guys threw themselves harder than ever into the music. Many of the songs from the original tape were written during this period. A few were carryovers from the Mark days but several were new songs brought forth by Chuck. By this time Heyob was also becoming a standout. It seemed like every time I came to the house (which was quite often) I would hear the sound of Heyob practicing through the window of his bedroom. His bass playing was getting very good. All of my metal-head buddies were impressed by his super-fast playing. Probably not what he was going for, but he had gotten pretty good none-the less. He was also hanging out with some local punks. I'll never forget going up to Sudsy's and seeing Heyob hanging out with a bunch of squatters. He was really becoming part of the scene. Tim was also becoming a monster behind the drum kit. His patented machine gun snare rolls became part of his style. All of the practice was finally paying off. From what I remember some more shows started coming in and the band started to pick up some new fans around this time. It seemed that things were finally on track.
The next phase of Pincushion started when the three of them moved to the Parker House. This also coincides with Chuck's next stage of alcoholism. Nothing like a keg fridge and a Nintendo to increase ones tolerance. My first memory of the band at the Parker locale is watching the guys practice and playing some new songs. They were getting ready to record some new songs in the studio. I'm pretty sure that this is around the time that they became good friends with the guys from Spodie. I don't remember being at the session for "We're no Punks", but I remember being really proud of the tape when it came out. I also remember wondering what in the hell Chuck was saying. I remember someone asking me what language he was singing in when they first heard the tape.
A while after the first tape came out, we recorded several songs in the basement of a friend's house. While he was out of town, we snuck in and turned the entire basement into a makeshift recording studio. The control room was in a bedroom that was entirely black. Black walls, ceiling and carpet, no windows and a strobe light. Very creepy. It was used as some sort of evil sex lair. It managed to add a really cool vibe to the recording atmosphere. Greg, the bass player from my band, was the engineer for the recording. We had a pretty nice setup and recorded everything to ADAT. The recordings became known as the "Jane's Blackroom" recordings. Several of the songs from this session appeared as ghost tracks on the 'Maggot' album. The session served as a preproduction session for Maggot. Most of the songs ended up being rerecorded for the CD.
The band was getting more and more recognition locally and had formed an alliance with Spodie, playing shows and hanging out together. The first time that I met them was in the studio during the sessions for the 'Maggot' CD. You can year me and John Ring singing backup on Typical, the opening track. The band moved to the next level of songwriting on this album. Songs like Gluesniffer, We're no Punks and Under the Stars showed some new aspects of the band. The CD was well received. The band was playing several shows around this time. Many were basement shows at the Parker House. They were also playing out of town shows with the Spodie boys. Heyob and Spodie Dave had become practically inseparable. Leave it to art and punk rock to bring two guys together. The boys were building quite a following too. I remember all of the kids jamming into the basement and singing along to all of the songs. It was pretty cool to see all of the hard work finally paying off for them. But alas, a dark cloud was looming. It seemed that the guys were in for a bit of a shakeup.
The next phase for the band was a rather dark one. Once again lack of communication would have an impact on the band. The lease ran out on the Parker House and Chuck and Heyob found a new place to live, leaving Tim on his own. The prospect of having to make the dreaded move back home didn't do a whole lot for Timmy's normally cheery mood. There was a definite rift between the guys. A rift that in hindsight was totally unnecessary, but a rift nonetheless. Tim spent most of the next few months sleeping on my couch enjoying the A/C in my apartment. The band went on a hiatus for several months during this time. It's rumored that Chuck and Heyob played a couple of shows with a stand-in drummer, but that is just too crazy to believe. The guys ended up getting together to record a song for an upcoming compilation. That was "Somedaze" which was recorded for the 'Punk at 1600' CD. How ironic is it that the song was mastered at the wrong speed and ended up sounding like the guys recorded it in comatose state. It was sort of symbolic of what the band was going through. The session did open the lines of communication back up and the band would eventually reunite with a once more renewed sense of enthusiasm.
The next thing I remember was recording the songs for the Spodie/Pincushion split seven-inch. The session went really well and the three tracks from the seven-inch were some of the best songs that the guys had ever written and recorded. Tim was back and channeling all of his attitude into his drum set. The best part of the session had to be when the engineer kept hearing a strange rattling sound coming through the kick drum mic. It turns out that Tim's patented potting soil drum ballast had sprung a leak and was rocking like gravel at the bottom of the drum. All in all the session went great and the songs turned out awesome. Pincushion was back at the top of their game.
The next couple of years were spent playing some shows and writing new songs. As a band, the music grew a lot during this period. Chuck's songwriting matured, slower rhythms and more introspective lyrics started showing up. Many of the older punk bands disappeared during this time but the Pincushion boys held fast. They wrote a whole new stable of songs that would become the next albums material. The recording of the newest album was pretty smooth. The new songs translated very well in the studio. The album is a testament to the durability of the band. A lot of changes began around the time that the new album was being recorded. Tim lost bunch of weight and Chuck lost a bunch of hair. Heyob surprised the world by getting engaged and making a baby. Crazy stuff I tell ya...
Well that's all I can remember. I'm sure there will be more. I'm sure I'll be around to remember it. Thanks guys, it's been fun