Something like a month and a half or two months ago it was record store day. At my local favorite record spot- Charlotte’s Repo Record- I picked up some hot wax, watched AntiSeen put on a tight set, and talked rock with Eddie Ford. Ford is frontman for one of Carolina’s most raucous, righteous r’n’r rabble-rousers: The Self Made Monsters.
Being the son of a Charlotte punk icon has its perks. One of which was having some of the coolest tin lunch boxes imaginable as a grade-schooler. From Kiss, to Ramones, to my two Planet of the Apes boxes, lunch was my favorite class of the day for the obvious reason-food- and also for the pleasure of upstaging all of my mindless, clueless peers. The coolest piece o’ tin I ever sported, however, was a full black construction worker’s akin to the one sported by Popeye’s hamburger-hound Wimpy. I decked it out with all the coolest stickers I could find: primarily stuff with skulls. Mad Brother Ward, G’n’R’s Appetite for Destruction cover, and this Self Made Monsters image:
Needless the say, I dug it and knew instinctually that I would dig the music when’ere I first laid ears on it.
Fast forward ten or so years. 22 years old and borrowing tons of the old man’s LPs on cd. I come across the album Fine Stew by The Monsters. When I first play the thing on my car console, i’m thrown by the aggression, the roughness, the squealing guitar effects between a few of the tracks. Without any frame of reference, I file it away as something like pared down troglodyte metal and with song titles like “Mongoloid” and “Fine Stew”, and a cover complete with a caricature caveman Ford boiling his bandmates in a pot, my suspicions seem confirmed.
Forget circuity, back to the record store. I ask Eddie if the guys are playing any shows soon and he tells me about an upcoming show planned for the following week up in Lenoir. I instantly make plans to go. The Stooges, The Sonics, The Troggs, and a league of contemporary garage and proto-punk bands having come to my attention, I decide I might really like The Monsters after all and hope to have another extant band to latch onto, to bank my hopes and aspirations on for what r’n’r should and could be. I won’t be disappointed.
The week glides by fairly quickly and I’m off to the mountains of North Carolina with Tyler Adams, friend and drummer of The Boron Heist, in tow. The show is going down at some place called Hotel Hell 10. We drive by it twice before realizing the gig is in an old mechanic garage on a hilly, country backroad. We pull up, a little offput by the conflict between the reality of the venue and our pre-conceived notions of it. Before we even exit the car, this guy walks up and introduces himself as Dave from the headlining act Thing Sloth. He explains that the garage used to be his father’s and that there’s a ton of trails and old picker stuff around and we should walk around and check it out. The trails lead to more trails, which often lead to neighboring homes and outbuildings we’re interested in exploring further, but decide against as it’s not apparent where one home-owners lot begins and another’s ends.
The interior of the garage is a quirky melange of old auto equipment; rock music and horror movie tapes, films, and memorabilia; a large rock wall; and a sound-proofed venue space. When Eddie arrives, I quip, ‘Talk about diy, this is it!’ He concurs.
Three bands were booked for the night, but one had to drop the gig last minute (this seems to be a recurring theme to many of the shows I go to), but most of the thirty or so people who’ve shown up aren’t put off by this as it’s a free show with drinks and snacks on the house… er, garage.
Self Made monsters set up and quickly start their set. A wave of psychedelic, 60s-inflected garage rock quickly envelops the small sound-proofed practice spot. I’m reminded distinctly of Funhouse–era Stooges and catch some heavy T.Rex and Thin Lizzy glam and hard rock vibes coming through. The guitarist and drummer are brothers and founding members of the group alongside Ford, and they are locked in tight rhythmically, stylistically, and in spirit. I can’t help but recall the now-mythical write-ups of The Stooge’s Asheton Brothers who helped hone the core sound of what would serve as a bridge between 60s garage and early 70s punk.
Eddie Ford is a monstrous presence in front of the mic with a distinctive gravitas and personality unique to himself while notably post-glam post-punk post-garage (in the sense of taking them as points of reference). He is one of the most interesting and forceful frontmen of any band i’ve ever seen live or on celluloid. Period.
The Self Made Monsters bassist is a relatively new addition to the group and in energy and focus, he matches the force of the other players of the group. All in all, it makes for a powerful rock and roll experience informed and invected with a number of the strongest traditions within r’n’r’s canon.
With crowd pleasers like “Hook”, “Dinosaur”, and “Monkey Brains” (a track tragically overlooked but infinitely catchy and more worthy of repute than all of what commands pop attention currently), they ignite a relatively small, laid back crowd with an energy only strong compositions rendered with energy and authenticity can. Round that out with a gutter-punk, schizoid, powerhouse rendition of The Sonics classic “He’s Waiting,” and I would call it more than a success.
Next up, the second and final band of the night: Thing Sloth. The group is definitely representative of the Charlotte style even though these are Lenoir boys (I think). Stoner and speed metal influences. Check. Punk and hardcore. Check. Rock and roll. Check. Cds with obscure sci-fi comic book art covers. Check.
Thing Sloth plays a longer set than they might usually to account for lost time from the cancellation of the night’s third act. But with blistering backbeats brewing behind brute, frenetic pacing, galloping bass and experimental guitarwork, the group is an interesting, driving, if not idiosyncratic experiment. I dig it. and it seemed like the crowd did too.
With the free show behind us and free beer within us, Tyler and I got ready to head out after speaking to Eddie Ford, his bandmates, and some of the guys from Thing Sloth. But not before buying some merch! 30 bucks and 20 minutes later and I was leaving with five or six cds, some stickers, and a few Self Made Monsters 7″s. Can’t beat that, eh?
Round about midnight with a two hour drive ahead of us, we rode off into the night, down the mountains, and back into the piedmont, ears buzzing tinnitus shrieks and cool Carolina air rushing on past: Memories of monsters, most recent, just now settling in, of r’n’r music not fade away. Hopefully not too soon that is.