Grunge at Ground Zero: The Story Of Bam Bam

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Two month ago I made a rather ‘shy’ post about the Seattle band Bam Bam. I say “shy” because I wasn’t able to provide much info about the band. Surprisingly enough the internet isn’t able to provide much info, either. But, a Facebook page dedicated to Bam Bam exists, as well as the Buttocks Productions, a web site, run by Scott Ledgerwood the band’s bass player. The good news is that, throughout Buttocks Productions, the band’s unsurfaced material is being released as we speak. Thus, at the dawn of this year a remastered version of Bam Bam’s first Demo from ‘84 was released and can be purchased on CD Baby and Amazon.

Still, for a band that has been the basis of the grunge genre, along with Green River, Melvins and the U-Men of course, there isn’t a Wikipedia page, or at least an article that covers their history, influences and shows.
Listening to the band’s up-mentioned demo is mesmerizing. Sludgy punk rock in the vein of Flipper mixed with dashes of post-punk, goth, even ska, played with a hardcore energy and a muddy sound. Tina’s voice is crazy, powerful and unexpected: switching from chaotic to a dreamy-noir warmth, sometimes thrown all over these noisy, dark and heavy instrumentals. The crossover between metal and punk, rhythm changes and unusual scales mark the beginnings of grunge…To me, Bam Bam’s music has personality, I know it because it makes me nostalgic for an era when I wasn’t even alive. Check out “Curses in the Dark”, “A Long Time Ago” and “Going to a Party”. That being said, Bam Bam is the band that should have open the Deep Six Compilation, the intro to what had become the grunge movement.

I was intrigued to find out more and just like that, faith made it that I bumped into Scott on FB. We got to chat along and he, as well as the guitarist Tommy Martin, have agreed to put some light on one of Seattle’s most underrated bands. Check out the full/uncut interview below:

How did you get into punk rock in the first place and did you play in any other bands before Bam Bam?

Scotty: I was in lots of bands when I was in school; buttrock-metal (Foxx) to glam (Baby Jasmine). After high school, I just pissed around a bit (musically speaking).
It’s no secret that here in the States music in the late ’70s had gotten rreeeaaallll ponsy and sterile. A lot of us were very bored and eager for something new. I started searching backwards at first; Yardbirds, Kinks, Wanda Jackson, Velvets, MC5, Pretty Things, Stooges, even hippy bands like Arthur Lee’s Love and the Jefferson Airplane! Hey, Crown Of Creation’s alright and Called In Sic released a damn good cover of Love’s version of Little Red Book a few years back, so..
Around 1980, I had a friend who was a few years older try to ‘shock’ me by playing some of his room mate’s music: Sex Pistols, Avengers, Pil, X, Clash, X-Ray Spex.. He seemed pleased that I liked them despite his confusion as to why. There was also KZAM (especially dj Stephen Rabow) and KCMU out of the UW who’d play stuff called ‘new’ music. That meant not quite Black Flag or DKs, but maybe Buzzcocks, 999, some Patti Smith, XTC or whatever.
I guess the first punk record I bought was Dead Kennedys-California Über Alles/Man With The Dogs. Probably. Or maybe it was a Sex Pistols ‘Bullocks’ cut out. Ok, how ’bout this; I bought the two the same week, yeah. But Pil’s Metal Box; that was 3rd! Probably..
Why’d I get into punk? Ooo, the raw sound… the urgency of the guitars, ya know? And a lot of punk dealt with subjects that felt more relevant to me. Most of what I write about is at least partially based on my own or someone close to me’s experiences.
Punk was like pop music with all the shiny audio-sominex veneer ground off with a rough grit belt-sander. It all made more sense to me than what was (and is still) being shoved up our ear canals.
Tommy: It’s primal man. And punk rock was a natural procession or should I say reaction, for a mixed family to embrace. Tina and I were constantly facing adversity and challenges from all directions. People were pushing us to the side, so we figured why not go ahead take things to the edge ourselves? It was a natural move that just kind of happened ..naturally!
I was in a pretty cool band called The Metroids before Bam Bam. After the Metroids, I was with Sex Therapy (the band), who I left on.. let’s say not the best of terms. This time around I was determined to get in a band where I had a say in the direction, in the music, the writing, ya know? So rather than join someone else’s band, I decided to form Bam Bam.
Scotty: And Bam Bam was the only band Tina Bell was ever in, can ya believe that? She was a fucking natural.

What was the first incarnation of Bam Bam and how did you get to know each other?

2Tommy: The first line up was Tina Bell, Matt Cameron, Mr Scotty Buttocks and myself. Tom Hendrickson came on board after Matt left.
Scotty: I answered Mr Tommy’s ad in the Rocket- “Forming new punk band; need bass & drummer”. I showed up in a van driven by a burly friend (John ‘Hempfest Santa’ Seth) with my Rickenbacker and my fat ass Ampeg (which John handled with comical ease). Tommy says otherwise, but I think I was hired before I played!
Tommy: Man we tried out a lot of guys; Scotty was the only one that fit! Like a glove man. I mean there was no question.
Scotty: Mitten woulda rhymed ya know..
Tommy: Huh?
Scotty: Fit like a mit.. (ha ha) fuck it, never mind!
Tommy: (Heh heh) Ok.
Scotty: When I met Tina Bell for the first time, I felt like I was meeting royalty. I was actually intimidated by her beauty and confidence. That soon changed to adoration.
Tina, Tommy & I basically spent the Spring & Summer of ’83 writing.. a lot! We did almost nothing else, 5-6 days a week. Then early in August, I came to practice as usual, and Tommy announces with an evil laugh: “We’re gonna go steal us a drummer”! I’m like “Uh..Ok?”
We went to a wee bar where a pop cover band was playing. We sat like dicks in the front row through the whole set. Apparently the group already knew Matt (who was a neighbor of mine at the time) wanted to be in a ‘real’ band and was leaving. He’d talked to Tommy a day earlier and had already joined us. But it still felt a bit dicky!
Tommy: Mercenaries!
Scotty: It was Tommy who brought in Tom Hendrickson after Matt left. Good drummers are worth their weight in gold (or was it weed?).. Gold. It was gold. (ha ha)
Tommy: Yeah, gold.
Scotty: And of course, Tom Hendrickson’s drummer for Called In Sic too, hell yeah! Gotta trust yer drummer man. Guitarists can be dicks (ask Tommy!)
Tommy: You know it man!
Scotty: And we singers are moody as fuck, but drummers: Make or break ya’s!
Tommy: I met Tina when she and Christina Pullen, the director of Langston Hughes Theatre, answered my ad for a French tutor.
Langston Hughes Theatre was working on a production with Mt Zion Baptist Church; a big central hub for many of Seattle’s African American community. Tina’s family attended Mt Zion most of her life.
They wanted Tina to sing C’est si bon in French; Eartha Kitt style! So they called me up and we started working on it together. And she got it, boy she nailed that shit!
That’s what first brought Tina and me together. Fell in love, got married & had TJ, started a band. (heh heh). Typical American post nuclear family!
Kent Stevenson was Mt Zion’s music director at the time. I’m actually producing him now; “Songs for little dogs”. And Christina became TJ’s Godmother.
A couple years after we were married, Tina and I were getting ready for bed and I said “Hey, you’re a choir trained singer with a great voice and a sexy bod; you wanna sing in my band?” She was like ‘Sure, why not?’ It was that simple.

What is the story behind the band’s name?

Scotty: Bell & Martin; it’s an acronym for Bell & Martin.
Tommy: It was my also my nickname when I was a wild little guy running through the house! Plus fuck yeah; we liked the punchy percussive sound of it!
Scotty: We’d been calling ourselves ‘Scotty’s Tee-Shirt Armpit Putty Love’, but it seemed a bit long, so we switched to Bam Bam at the last minute. Wait; that’s not right. Bell & Martin; it’s an acronym for Bell & Martin.
Tommy: And my baby nickname and we liked the percussive kinda sound of the name itself!
Scotty: What; no putty love?
Tommy: No putty love.

What were your influences and how would you describe the band’s sound in the incipient years?

Scotty: Dks, X, Pil, Big Boys, Bowie, Clash, Iggy, Black Flag, Black Uhuru, Minutemen, Motorhead, Hawkwind, Gang of 4, Fear, Peter Gabriel, X-Ray Spex, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, Circle Jerks, Can, Germs, Flipper..
Locally; The Fartz, March of Crimes, Cannibal, U-Men, 10 Minute Warning, Green River, the Accused, the Enemy, the Fags. Portland had some pretty cool stuff back then too: Dead Moon (miss ya Fred), Sado-Nation, Wipers, Napalm Beach (Tina loved Napalm Beach-Teen Dream album). DOA from BC were fun too.
Growing up, I’d listened to lots of Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Rush, Kiss, Neil Young, early Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, glam rockers like Sweet, Mott, NY Dolls, Slade, T-Rex. This was way before Bam Bam, but the damage was already done!
And there was a metal stamping machine at an electronics place I’d worked at with a really cool beat; ka-chaw…ssseuu-CHUNK! ka-chaw…ssseuu-CHUNK! I thought it’d be pretty cool to use it in a song and foolishly said so to my co-workers. I read Iggy had been similarly inspired..yeah, go machines!
Tina hated being asked to describe our sound. It is hard to pin down. Lots of bits all mixed up, really. Punk, metal, ska, prog.. hard-fast-raw-sludgy-driving.. alternate tunings & scales, chopped timings & rhythms. And lyrics about real life (usually). That’s about it, innit? And the queen Tina Bell soaring on top of it all!
Oh yeah; “We’re the echo from the big bang”! (that was the answer I gave to a similar question back in the way back when).
Tommy: When I was about 8 years old, I started learning classical/spanish guitar at the University of Washington, and have jammed every since with other players of all styles. I listened to the obvious greats; Jeff Beck, Santana, Allan Holdsworth, Jimi. Definitely a fucking Hendrix man. And Ennio Morricone (seriously, I like that guy)!
When Tina and I were married, we played music ALL the time; non stop. There was always something different playing at our house when TJ was growing up. Metal, Motown, punk, R n B, reggae… Marvin Gaye, Black Uhuru, Sam Cooke, Motorhead, Curtis Mayfield, Suicidal Tendencies, Aretha.
I’ll tell ya; Tina was the real rocker, I was the soul man, man! But I guess I am still a rocker at heart too.
Tina taught pre school children at Mount Zion Baptist Church. That’s where she learned to sing; in the Mt Zion choir.
Her music inspiration came from a lot of sources; some traditional, some not so traditional.
Running around the house singing Doors, Johnny Cash, or Frank Sinatra songs; it sometimes drove her very sweet, very African American daddy nuts!
I mean; she certainly loved her father.. But that’s the rebel that was Tina, man. She didn’t do it just to annoy him, but I think it sometimes tickled her that it did!
Of course there was also R n B, lots of Motown, Dionne Warwick, and especially Aretha Franklin. Aretha was a Goddess to both Tina and me.
Scotty: During Bam Bam, Tina pretty much listened to the same shit the rest of us were listening to; DKs, Bad Brains, Big Boys, but she REALLY loved the Doors and Metallica!
Tommy: Oh God, she played ’em ALL the fucking time! I mean sure, I like Metallica; I turned her on to them but..
Scotty: Yeah, she definitely dug her Metallica & Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin & Chrissie Hynde were influences on her too.
Tommy: The Divinyls.
Scotty: Yeah, she liked Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett; the song Elsie.
Tommy: That’s the one.
Scotty: What is it with songs about junkies? We’ll have to write us one.
Tommy: (heh heh) Yeah we’ll have to do that!

In one, 2 or more words, how would you describe the personality of each member of the band?

Tina: rocker, sexy, cynical, loving, tough, generous, brooding deep thinker.
Scotty: bit of a clown, loyal. generous, quick to anger-quicker to laugh. socially bored-politically angry.
Matt: open minded, focused, playful, generous, loyal, kind.
Tommy: perfectionist, mentor, guitar god, loyal, protective, cultured, (he can’t help it; he spent some formative years in France!)
“Tom Tom” Hendrickson: funny, giving, loyal, joyful, dedicated, strong.

What do you remember from the “Stress” recording session/s? How was working along with Chris Hanzsek? Were you the first band to record with him?

3-1st question-
Scotty: I remember Tommy blew out the windows on the first day with his Marsha Marsha Marsha cranked to 11..
Tommy: Wha?
Scotty: Hanzsek LOVED that!
Tommy: Ooops, (heh heh) The trains; remember the trains Scotty? The place was right beside the tracks man.
Scotty: Oh yeah; the whistle stops! Reciprocal Recording was located next to some train tracks. Not just a couple; lots.
Tommy: And ya sure couldn’t record with that shit goin’ on.
Scotty: We had to take a break when ever trains went by; no shit. Chris had a stop-watch clock thing on the console that we’d rush over and whack to stop time on the session. It became a game of sorts.
Tommy: Yeah, beat the clock.
Scotty: OK, I remember Tina getting very frustrated during a long session for ‘Free Fall From Space’. This was after several takes for the “faaaaaaallll” part.
There was a BIG difference between the subtle intro-chorus and the climactic “fall” segment of the song. She’d busted her ass and got some good takes, but parts were ‘over present’, so they’d tried moving her around, different mics, & screens, tweaking settings, limiters etc.
We’re all standing close together in the same room, as Tommy & Chris are changing mics and discussing various ways to handle Tina’s “dynamics”.
She glares at them a while and suddenly turns to me and in a voice non too subtle says “Scotty why the hell are these guys doing this to me?! What the fuck’s the matter with them?! How many times they gonna make me do this”?! To which I replied “I..they..uh..” or words to that effect. (ha ha)
Tina Bell owned an audience live, but she didn’t care much for studios.
Tommy: No, she did not.
Scotty: And it’d been a looooong day. Despite her annoyance though, she totally NAILED the wail at the “fall” part of the song!
Tommy: Oh yeah!
Scotty: She was fucking breath taking. I still get shivers from her when I listen to that song.

-2nd question-
Scotty: I love Working with Chris Hanzsek!
Tommy: Yeah, Chris is great!
Scotty: Besides possessing great ears, he’s real good at finding the happy medium or smoothing shit out if things go off in a session.
Bam Bam did several sessions at Reciprocal Recording with Chris, so it made sense having him remix and master these old songs we’re now releasing.
In addition to recently remastering Bam Bam’s stuff, Chris also mastered Called In Sic’s ‘New Truth’ sessions (produced by Mr Tommy Martin).
Yeah, Hanzsek’s good people. We’re still good friends; been on family hikes and stuff.

4-3rd question-
Scotty: We were his & Reciprocal Recording’s first Seattle band; Hanzsek says as much in a Billboard Magazine interview. {Sept 17 2011}. He said Bam Bam were the first band from Seattle’s scene he got a check from that put out a record! (ooo- ha ha!)
Chris told us he’d finished with Bam Bam just before he started working with Green River. Reciprocal charged about ten bones an hour then. Even we could afford that! After a year or so though, he raised it to what, $14?
Tommy: Something like that.
Scotty: There was also that thing out of Detroit: The “D” Show. When Chris Hanzsek & Jack Endino were on it a couple years ago, they list Bam Bam amongst the first bands Reciprocal Recording Studios worked with. Both Hanzsek and Endino said we’re (Bam Bam) “part of Seattle history”.
Cool. Thank you Chris & Jack! We’ll take any & all acknowledgements we can. By the way, they’re absofuckinglutely right; Bam Bam IS part of Seattle history baby!
While we don’t give 2 shits who’s “first”, we do care very much about securing Tina Bell’s legacy and regaining our proper place as a major contributor to Seattle’s music scene.
Tommy: Tina’s now the reason for all things Bam Bam man.
Scotty: She’s the driving force of inspiration for all of this. I mean, Tommy & I got Called In Sic if we feel the need to make some noise. We’re pushing Bam Bam for ‘the Bell’.
Tommy: For ‘the Bell’.

What is the story behind the “Ground Zero” video. Were you planning on releasing a full-length at the time and did you ever get any record-label offers?

Scotty: I thought it (Ground Zero) was gonna be on Deep Six! It should have been. We were courted by CZ Records for a while, but things didn’t work out. There was slight interest expressed here and there, but I don’t recall a lot of serious offers.
Tommy: No there wasn’t a lot of interest from record companies in general. This despite the fact we had droves of people coming to our shows, and Bam Bam had several times been voted ‘best local band’ in radio and magazine polls.
The original inspiration for Ground Zero was our awareness that we were living right across the water from Bangor; the US Navy submarine base. That of course meant we were also pretty much fucked if the Russians bombed it or whatever. We were a prime target, living across the Puget Sound from the sub base. Plus we’ve got Boeing in the area.. And Navy Base Everett.
Scotty: Whidey Island Naval Air Station, and Joint Army Airforce Base Lewis/Mchord. AND we’re a target that’s physically located close to Russia; we’s the big red dot in the center!
Tommy: We knew we’d get wacked big time if world war 3 were to start up. Armageddon Ground Zero baby! It seriously kind of freaked us out a little, ya know?
Scotty: We’d recorded more than an albums’ worth of tracks with Hanzsek at Reciprocal, but cost restraints prevented a full release (oo-err).
We put out ‘Villains’ as an ep and with Adam’s (director Adam Burke) help, released the Ground Zero video single that same year (1984). Bits and pieces found their way onto cassettes and compilations, and we’d always planned on officially releasing the rest; it just took us a couple decades (ha ha).
Tommy: We’d have gone without eating if it meant we could’ve put a record out; we were that serious about it! But it’s just sooo damned expensive. Fuckin’ hard to do it yourself man.
Scotty: No shite.
Tommy: ‘Shite’? I like that.
Scotty: Al-rhite then! The Best memory of (or story behind) making the Ground Zero video: the Marine Corp MPs on the US Navy’s Bangor submarine base kindly requesting we cease filming and immediately remove our spotty bottoms from the premises.
Adam was shitting himself; he thought they’s gonna bust us and nick his gear! They were actually rather polite considering we were trespassing on a military base to film a video criticizing same. We moved down the beach per their request. I don’t think they’d have let our asses go so easily if that shit happened today!
Tommy: Aaawww, No!
Scotty: Tina gave me the name Scotty Buttocks at the wrap up of the Ground Zero taping. The titles guy asked how my name was spelled, but before I could answer she says: “B-U-T-T-O-C-K-S”. It stuck. Folks tell me it’s a happy name, so I’ll keep it!
Tommy: It IS a happy name!
Scotty: See? Look at him smiling there. I’m keepin’ it, yeah!

Whom did you share bills with and what are your best memories from that period?

7Scotty: Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, the Melvins, Faith No More, Bob Mould, No Means No, Candlebox, Fastbacks, U-Men, Guns N Roses, Skin Yard, Napalm Beach, R Gang, Cannibal, Refuzors, Homewreckers, SadHappy, Room 9, Chains Of Hell Orchestra.. Later; Joe Satriani, Stu Hamm, Yngwie Malstrom, White Zombie (Mommy 1993).
Don’t know if it’s a BEST memory, but I remember the first time the Melvins played with us. It was at The Grey Door and was their first show in Seattle (May 5th 1984). Buzz said it was their first ‘real’ show ever. They were a bit nervous and played super fucking fast!
Tommy: I was mixing sound that night.
Scotty: Two hat Tommy! Chris Hanzsek was there too. He said “they gave you guys all of 12 minutes”. Well, they was 12 GOOD minutes! They kicked ass, but no sludge; more as a fast thrash punk band.
Kurt Cobain was a roadie then, and he dropped one of my guitars, gouging it pretty bad (the Nirvana that guy)! I was already annoyed that it happened, but when he said “Come on Scotty; it gives it character”, I got a wee bit pissed off. I’m like “Shit dude, I’M the one who ‘sposed to give it character”! (ha ha)
Aw, Kurt was too sweet to be mad at. And in the long run, he was right; it DID give it character! I still have that old Ibanez and can’t help but think of him when I play it.
Tommy: Oh, tell ’em about the time we were opening for R Gang; Duff McKagan’s band, at the Grey Door.
Scotty: Yeah yeah, R Gang! One of the many bands Duff played in.
Tommy: God, are you kidding me? I know, right?! Duff was in a shitload of bands before the Guns n Roses thing… and after.
Scotty: Including Bam Bam for one night; he played drums with us when we hosted his going away party.
Tommy: (heh heh), Yeah he did!
Scotty: We all thought he was a bit off ’cause he hadn’t actually been hired yet when he moved down there; he packed off to LA for an audition. I guess he knew a glammy-punk guitarist-drummer from Seattle would be the perfect bassist for G n R.
Tommy: The power of positive thinking.
Scotty: Anyway, Behind The Grey Door was an underground hall; literally under-fucking-ground. This was the same place where the Melvins opened for us a couple months earlier. The Grey Door was a non sanctioned night club I guess you could say, in the heart of underground Seattle.
The front entrance, which was like, a quarter of a block back and 2 – 3 floors above the stage and dance floor, was an unmarked steel door painted grey. No sign or markings what so ever. (Ooo, what we do is secret!) Wasn’t like it was really THAT hard to find though.
Tommy: That place was a fucking trip! The REAL Seattle Underground man.
Scotty: Inside it was predictably dark & dank. You had to walk down several flights of stairs, ducking under beams, piping and shit, then it opened up into a big space with hard wood dance floor and the stage at the far end.
The band Cannibal squatted there, living under trap doors in the floor, in cement cubby holes in the wall. You’d see motorcycles burning tires in circles around the dance floor, people chugging bottles, passing ’round bongs & burning blunts (oh my!). There was a couple skateboard ramps off to one side for kids to rip on, and a potpouri of graffiti on a scale most real clubs would never allow. Oh and those effervescent porty-pots, Yeah! It was like a cleche’ movie set. Seriously though; a very fucking cool piece of Seattle history.
Tommy: Yeah. That place was absolutely bad ass! But that night with R Gang, we had NO power. It had been totally cut off.
Scotty: That was R Gang? I thought it was Dr Love..(yet another of Duff’s bands) Weren’t The Refuzers there too?
Tommy: Probably..Were They?
Scotty: I think so. We did shows with both of ’em, and we played the Grey Door a lot.
Tommy: I think it was R Gang. But regardless who the other band was; the power had been cut off. Completely.
Scotty: So Tommy went topside to nick some electricity from the nearest neighbor.
Tommy: (heh heh) the Democratic Party HQ.
Scotty: Hey; They were the closest. It was a totally apolitical decision, yeah!
Tommy: I just pried open a window and wedged my little ass in. Then I fed a power cord down through the floor of their offices to the guys waiting below.
Scotty: Everything worked great til the extension cord’s own weight caused it to disconnect half way thru the show! “AW”!
Tommy: People were fucking freaking out! We couldn’t use the window entry to reconnect it; there was just too many people strolling about by then.
Scotty: We had to climb up a couple ladders balanced on rafting in the pitch fucking dark to re-connect it! I have a …healthy respect for heights. I don’t like climbing ladders balanced on beams in the pitch fucking dark!
Tommy: Scared the shit outa people when everything blacked out, didn’t it?
Scotty: Scared the shit outa ME!
Tommy: (Heh heh)
Scotty: It took about a year for the cops to finally close the place down. I had a lot of fun at the ‘Door’. There’s a print business on the East side called Grey Door Graphics. It seems the woman who owns the shop named it after a punk club she used to hang at as a teenager. Great place.
Tommy: Yeah, it was a great place man.

5

Why and when did Bam Bam called it quits and did you continue to play music afterwards?

Scotty: The band as a whole or individually? (ahem) All of us left on compleeetely amiable terms for musical differences, artistic growth, and/or career expansion, yeah. There’s your honest in depth explanation! (ha ha)
Matt left in 84. I left in the mid 80s. Tom Hendrickson followed shortly after. Tina left in late 1990 and Bam Bam became a 3 piece instrumental.
Tommy: With Nick Rhinehart, Mike Peterson and myself. The 3 piece Bam Bam put out a few releases: ‘Kids Hate Us’, ‘Live ’91’, and ‘Pollywog’. We also recorded an album at Heart guitarist Roger Fisher’s studio which he and I co-produced (another recently found Bam Bam master). So there were actually two Seattle Bam Bams.
Scotty: Bam Bam ceased in 1993 when 3 piece Bam Bam added Sweaty Nipples vocalist Brad Mowen and became Mommy. Mommy put out an album too, didn’t you?
Tommy: Come on; you knew that.
Scotty: Well yeah, but I’m pretending I didn’t for them..
Tommy: Aw.
Scotty: Now I’ll pretend I didn’t know Mommy also won the Seattle Yamaha Sound Check award thing.
Tommy: Ok Scotty.
Scotty: I completely left music for a while to be a family guy. In 2001 when my kids were old enough to lock in the basement, I started Called In Sic with my son Ryan on bass, Bam Bam’s 2nd drummer Tom Hendrickson, and my silly ass on guitar and vocals. A real family affair. My wife Sandy Scandals was our manager, son in law Joe sang with us a bit, and my cousin Dave assisted in just about everything else.
Tommy joined Called In Sic in 2010 and as far as I know, he’s still in! We’ve done shitloads of shows, several videos, put out 2 EPs, an album and 10 singles; we’re still staggering & gasping together.
So, Called In Sic is Bam Bam minus Tina Bell plus my son Ryan. Since I often brought Ryan to the studio with me as a wee lad, he was sorta in Bam Bam too, Yeah! So the saga continues.
Tommy: The reason Tina left Bam Bam is that she’d simply had enough.
Scotty: Yeah, she was sick of the lack of recognition after busting her ass for years.
Tommy: We’d faced some adversity man, big time! Adversity up the ass from all sides, really.
Scotty: That’s what finally took the piss out of her. Tina wasn’t a braggart, but she knew she should’ve been big. Knowing she’d already earned yet had been denied her place, only made it worse. That’s what fuckin’ killed her man…years before she actually passed.
Tommy: It fucking ate at her.. We’d been pushed to side for being outside the norm.. for years! I would say things to her like “Come on Tina; this makes us stronger; We’re underdogs! Everyone loves the underdog fighting against the evil racist fucks! Persevere; someday folks will look upon you as a hero!” But it wore her down. After a while, it kinda fucked with her psyche a bit. I think that’s why she shut herself off.
Scotty: Yeah. She turned her back on a world she felt had turned its back on her. Years later Tina and I were talking about how she hadn’t been ..’accepted’. She seemed puzzled more so than personally hurt by it. She felt an injustice had been done to her (she’s right), but she wasn’t seeking pity, more of a pragmatic understanding as to why.
There wasn’t any real warning when Tina was finally fed up and decided to quit. She just …did! She totally fuckin’ quit!
Tommy: You could say it was kinda sudden. Very sudden in fact! Bam Bam was packing to head down to Dogfish Sound to do some recording with Drew Canulette. I said “it’s time to go Tina”, and she flat out says ‘No. I’m not going’. Just like that. She wouldn’t go no matter how we prodded and reasoned. She’d had enough and she just couldn’t take it anymore. She’d been facing racist misogynist bullshit from day one, and just said fuck it; no more. So the band went to Portland and started recording without her, hoping maybe she’d change her mind. She didn’t.
While we’re there, Drew got a call from Bob Mould’s people asking if he knew of a good replacement for the snow delayed band that was to be opening for Mould on the West coast. “Well yeah, there’s a killer 3 piece right here with me now”! Three piece instrumental Bam Bam was born. Just like that.
Bam Bam’s first show as a three piece was opening for Bob Mould. We played a fucking killer set! I’m pretty sure that’s because we were all terrified as hell man! But we did Ok; we did MORE than Ok. I really liked playing with Bob. And Husker Du? Fuck Yeah, come on!
Scotty: There was a lot of talk about a Bam Bam reunion during Called In Sic’s New Truth sessions; each band supporting the other for shows. Tina and I were working together on a couple ideas for new songs. Tommy and I had new songs for Called In Sic and were already being filmed in the studio and at rehearsals. Tina was to be interviewed & filmed, then join us for a couple tracks, but… (shit)..Fucking crushing, losing her.
A Tina Bell Bam Bam tribute would be nice, yeah? Matt Cameron, Om Johari, Tom Hendrickson.. a couple folks have expressed an interest. Who knows? Maybe someday.
Tommy: It’ll happen. You can be sure of it.

6

What are your thoughts regarding the grunge scene that emerged from Seattle and why do you think the Bam Bam’s story was left unsung for all these years?

Scotty: Chris Hanzsek and I spoke of this a couple years ago. It’s been a story half told nearly from the start.
The success of the grunge scene in the ’90s, along with some incomplete narratives, have marginalized the influence of the formative years and cut a few vital pieces out of the story. The result has been a narrowed focus on a few bands and relative ignorance of the scene’s true beginnings.
People are reluctant to accept changes to “truths” they’ve held for years. Once a story’s been told, it’s hard to made addendums to the record regardless of one’s validity.
Also, some people don’t like to hear about possible racism or misogyny, but.. Shit, it was fuckin’ there; sometimes subtle, sometime not so.
Tommy: Oh HELL yes it was there! All the fucking time, man.
Scotty: I recall Tina being called the ‘n’ word more than once; in San Francisco, on stage in Seattle..
Man, in Seattle she grabbed the mic stand, and with all of her 90 odd pounds, she swirled it around her head 2-3 times for centrifugal assist and smashed both these skin head wanks in the front row. She fuckin’ NAILED ’em! The first one took the brunt of it and went down. The other caught the finale of her swing on the nose-Splat! Tina stormed off humiliated and fucking furious. Tommy dove into the fray with his guitar still strapped on, but the crowd was already clearing them out. That was a fucked up moment to say the least. Took a while for Tina to calm down enough to come back and finish the show. Enrages me to this day.
Tommy: It was not the norm in the U.S. for a woman of color to front a punk or a hard rock band in those days.
Scotty: Yeah. Some people had trouble accepting a black girl who didn’t conform to their expectations. They’d be more comfortable if she were a soul diva or hip hop singer rather than a hard rocker. But Tina Bell was pure rocker spirit, man! I’ve never known anyone who lived the ‘rock ethos’ as genuine as she did. She breathed music. It defined her. It was her life.
The lack of a strong Bam Bam market presence for years didn’t help, but finding our old master tapes & videos a couple years ago is changing that. Those bloody tapes LITERALLY survived fire and flood man, they were meant to be released, yeah! *
I suppose my departure and the move to Europe weren’t well timed either.
There’s probably numerous reasons. And let’s face it Tommy-boyo; our personalities ARE rather abrasive! HA! Now THERE’S the real reason!
Tommy: Secret’s out. Now they know, (heh heh).
Scotty: And know this; We WILL get Tina Bell’s Wikipedia page returned. It is unbefuckinglievable they allowed it to be taken down in the first place. The ‘wiki rep’ that removed her page did so on Christmas day with a “Bah humbug” included as part of the official Wikipedia notice of removal. Real classy Wiki. A racist misogynistic dick alone on Christmas taking his frustrations out on our Tina. Now that is truly fucking pathetic!
Tommy: Like I said man; facing adversity from all sides.
* Tommy’s place flooded while he was on tour a few years back. Bam Bam’s master tapes were inches from a soggy death! Then he entrusts them to me and a couple years later, we lose half our stuff in a fire; but NOT the masters! As the fire threatened to spread to the building where they were stored, I was at first prevented from entering by firefighters. But after convincing them I was definitely going in for those tapes, they assisted me in their rescue; helped me carry them out and everything. True heroes to music, those guys!
We were lucky that particular building wasn’t in flames yet, fact it only got a wee scorched. But the main storage was a complete loss. I’d moved the masters from there only two weeks earlier along with my ’56 Les Paul-Two Weeks! Fuck me that was close! Still lost a lot of stuff though.

You’ve released a Demo session of 11 songs as well as 2 singles of the band as digital files throughout the Buttocks Productions. What are your future plans? Is there more material out there that you plan on releasing?

Bam Bam 1990. pic by Michael Patnode

Scotty: Bam Bam’s ‘Show What You Know’ made the list of “Ten Best Singles for 2018” at several music sites & publications in Brazil (Sopa Alternativa, Metaleiras Negras, Negras no Underground).. Pretty cool for a re-issued 1984 song. We fucking LOVE the people of Brazil!
Tommy: Yes we do!
Scotty: So hell yeah! We’ve got a couple more releases in the works. An 8 song Bam Bam ep/album later this year from the Reciprocal Recording sessions with Chris Hanzsek: ‘Free Fall From Space’.
Tommy: It’s either a long ep or a short album.
Scotty: Is that a half empty half full thing?
Tommy: Best of both worlds man.
Scotty: I’ll take a piece of each.
And Tommy will be remixing Bam Bam’s “famous” Villains (also wear white) ep at his brand new state of the art Speed Of Sound Studios in Seattle.
This year also marks the 15 anniversary of Called In Sic’s eponymous ep (what we jokingly call our ‘White Album’) and we’re planning a re-issue to celebrate. And there will be more Called In Sic music coming out of Speed Of Sound Studios too, so stay tuned kids. Ooo.

There you have it! The funny, the heartbreaking, the unsung grunge ‘n roll saga of Bam Bam, the band that should have been!!!
So, go on, follow their FB page to keep up with their releases! There are also a few live clips on youtube you need to check out.
To quote Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino “Bam Bam are part of Seattle’s history”.

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