Q&A with the Fluid's Matt Bischoff

Matt Bischoff, bassist for the Fluid, which reunites on June 20 (click here and here for more information), put the thump into the band. He also fronted the late, lamented band '57 Lesbian and served a stint with Boss 302, one of two groups opening at the Fluid's big gig. Just as important, he's a straight talker, and his forthrightness is apparent throughout the following Q&A.

After talking briefly about his post-music life, Bischoff goes back to the beginning, touching on his first bass and his stints in two important Fluid precursors, White Trash and the Frantix, which gave him the opportunity to make noise with Rick Kulwicki, Garrett Shavlik and James Clower. From there, he shares memories of MadHouse - essentially the Fluid with longtime Denver scenester Augy Rocks on lead vocals; his introduction to John Robinson, whose arrival completed the Fluid's formula; the act's live debut; the recording of the Fluid's first slab of wax; entreaties from Sub Pop, a then-tiny imprint that wouldn't stay small for long; a fairly dormant period, marked by the formation of '57 Lesbian, that ended when Hollywood Records suddenly expressed interest in the Fluid; the misbegotten recording of the Fluid's major-label bow; the problems that led to the group's split-up, and his anger at Shavlik, who left in favor of his own side project, Spell; the players with whom he kept in touch in succeeding years; the decision to get back together for Sub Pop's twentieth anniversary celebration following a rather tentative telephone conversation with Shavlik; the early rehearsals; and his sense that the Fluid's comeback will burn bright but not long.

Even so, it's fiery stuff.

Westword (Michael Roberts): What's your day job?

Matt Bischoff: I work for a lighting distributor. It's based out of Austin. I'm one of the corporate buyers for a bunch of different product lines all over the country.

WW: Do you have to travel a lot?

MB: Mostly just to Austin, which is where the headquarters is at?

WW: There are a lot worse places to visit than that.

MB: Yeah, it's pretty nice down there, and all the people I work with are really nice folks, so it's not so bad.

WW: Do you get to see any music when you're down there?

MB: So far it hasn't worked out where I had any time. Usually I go down during the week and come back on a Thursday or Friday. Hopefully there'll be a time when I can go down there over the weekend, maybe come back on a Sunday evening, and be able to go out on Sixth Street and do that. Plus, Robinson lives down there part of the time. I'm hoping one of these times I'll be able to hang out down there with him and just goof off for a couple of days. But it hasn't happened yet.

WW: Well, let's talk about hooking up with Robinson - but first, I want to get some background. Are you originally from Boulder?

MB: No, I'm from Denver.

WW: When did you first get into music?

MB: When I was in high school. I was working at Sears at the receiving dock, and you got the employee discount, so I bought a bass out of the Sears catalog (laughs).

WW: How did you choose the bass over any other instrument?

MB: I thought it would be the easiest (laughs).

WW: Did it turn out that way?

MB: Yes and no. Initially, yes. Later, no. It's one of those things where the more you get into it, the more you find out there is to learn. I started out learning how to play simple stuff: "Beat on the Brat" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" and that kind of stuff. It's like, "This is pretty easy." And then you get more involved in trying to learn different kinds of stuff, and it's like, "It's not as easy as I thought."

WW: What was your first band?

MB: The first band I was in was with these guys Dave Paul and Craig Miller, and we really only played one time up at the skate park in Boulder - the High Roller skate park that used to be up there. We were called Annex Red. We were just a little three-piece band, bass, guitar and drums. We practiced a bunch, made up some songs, and then played one time, and... I don't know. We needed some direction, and I ended up meeting James and those guys.

WW: So by this time, you were living in Boulder, right?

MB: Yeah, I'd moved up to Boulder the year before. I was just floating around, sleeping on the couch of my folks or sleeping over at friends because I didn't know what I was doing. So we ended up hanging out in Boulder a lot, because we were all into skateboarding and all that. We hung out at the skate park a lot. That was like '79, '80. And then after I got out of high school, I ended up moving to Boulder to go to school up there, and I ended up living there for a few years. But that was the extent of my Boulder thing other than going up there for shows after that.

WW: How did you first meet Garrett and Rick?

MB: When James moved back to Boulder from L.A., I met him. And I'd met Garrett because we had a bad drummer, and the singer in the band at the time, which was sort of a precursor of the band White Trash, was saying, "There's this really great drummer. His name is Garrett Shavlik, blah, blah, blah." So we took beer over to his house and tried talking him into playing drums. And about that time, we ended up playing a little bit, and that's when we met Rick. I think Garrett knew Rick from skateboarding stuff, some slalom stuff they used to do in the mid to late '70s, and we all kind of knew each other from that point on. I was playing with James and Garrett and doing the White Trash thing. And then I bailed on that so I could play with Rick and Dave, do the Frantix.

WW: How would you describe White Trash's music?

MB: It was thrash music. We were trying to play weird little chord riffs as fast as possible, with hopefully some somewhat funny lyrics. Trying to be somewhat funny and political and whatever - as much as eighteen-year-old kids can have a clue about it. We wrote a lot of stuff that was mostly just funny to us. It made us laugh. So we were like, "Whatever - we're going to do this. And we're going to do it at breakneck speed."

WW: Do any recordings of that stuff survive?

MB: Yeah, there were some recordings. At least some of it I've got on my computer. The only things that were done were cassette tapes. We actually went into a studio and recorded a handful of songs, and it was a pretty decent recording, actually, for not knowing what the hell we were doing back then. It was on a cassette, but I've got my cassette deck and my turntable set up so I can record. There's a lot of obscure tapes my friends have given me, and demo tapes. So I'm like, "Okay, I'll dump this stuff on the computer so I can burn a disc and listen to it in the car." I've got a little bit of that stuff. It's kind of weird.

WW: I was going to ask how it holds up. Have you listened to it recently?

MB: I listened to it when I recorded it on the hard drive, and it was all right. I thought it was kind of funny, and the playing is pretty good, actually. The drummer's really good. Garrett's really good, and by the time he was eighteen, on a drum kit, he was really quite good. He played quads and stuff in marching band, so he knew how to get around on a drum set. That makes a big difference. If your drummer sounds like he knows what he's doing, it makes everything else sound a little bit better. It helps.

WW: How did you end up in the Frantix?

MB: [Frantix drummer] Dave Stewart kept bugging me. Their buddy Paul was playing bass, and he was a super-cool guy, but he wasn't really what they were looking for in a bass player. It was like the root note and that's it. And I'd met Dave and Rick. They'd seen us play, and I'd seen them play, and I really liked what they did - and Dave just started calling me. He just kept bugging me, and so finally I said, "All right, I'll come down and we'll throw down a jam." And we started jamming once a week, twice a week, and pretty soon some stuff happened in White Trash that made it really easy for me to say, "All right, I'm getting the hell out of Boulder and throw in with these guys. They're doing more along the lines of what I want to do."

WW: What happened in White Trash?

MB: It was one of those things with one of the bandmembers. He was kind of a late addition guy, Granny Cleveland. He was a really cool guy, but we had a problem with this Mercury Café show, because our singer, Louie, was like, sixteen, and there was some problems with work permits or some bullshit - because all the rest of us were over eighteen, and Louie wasn't. And Granny went off on me like it was my responsibility to get the kid a work permit. And I was just like, "Whatever, man. I never signed up to take care of that bullshit." That made it really easy for me to say "sayonara."

WW: What was Louie's last name?

MB: Largesse. He was a good kid. He was up for pretty much whatever in that band. He didn't really write lyrics. We wrote all the lyrics and then gave them to him and said, "Go for it. Sing them however they fit." And he'd go for it. He had all the energy of a sixteen-year-old kid.

WW: Was the Frantix an overall upgrade in musicianship, but still pretty wild and thrashy?

MB: It was a little bit more rock and roll-based, as opposed to just putting weird chord progressions together that sound interesting and playing them really fast. It was a self-taught guitar player, a self-taught bass player, pretty much self-taught drummer, but really rock and roll influenced. But we were playing it fast and stripped-down, so it ended up being pretty fast music. It was more along the lines of the kind of music I liked listening to as opposed to hardcore.

The Frantix had a little bit of that in them, too. Everyone who was playing on the local scene at that time, you had to play up to a certain tempo or else everybody would get bored. But it was more of a rock and roll thing for that band, and as time went on, we got a little bit more elaborate in our songwriting and the way we put our pieces of music together to go with where this singing went or this bridge went. It was just kind of a big training ground for me and Rick, especially, as far as arranging songs and putting different things in to make different things happen, and always getting around to back where we needed to be. It was a big learning process for us, because none of us had any training into how music worked. We either had to make it up or figure it out ourselves.

WW: How did the Frantix transition into MadHouse?

MB: That was after the Frantix kind of split up and Rick and I were looking to do something. So we contacted Shavlik. He was living in Boulder at the time, working up there, and he started coming down and we worked on some stuff. We had a guy who played second guitar and sang for a while, but that didn't really work out, and then we had a fire, and we had to regroup there and get the gear back together. And then we ended up hooking up with Augy Rocks and did that for a while, and played out. It was something where I'd already played in the band White Trash with Garrett and Rick had always wanted to do that. And it just sort of all fell into place.

It was just one of those things where Garrett wasn't doing anything, really, and we needed a drummer, and we wanted to do something different from what we had been doing. Kind of continue the same thing, along the lines of where we were headed toward the end of the Frantix and continue beyond that. And once we got Augy singing, he was kind of an odd piece to the puzzle, but he kind of fit in his own weird way. Because he actually wrote lyrics. He'd say, "Here's how it goes, and I have a basic idea of how I want to sing it," and we'd say, "Cool," and figure out what riffs we had that we were working on and build a song. It was just a progression.

WW: And yet Augy didn't end up sticking, and you moved to John. How did that happen?

MB: It was just the same kind of thing as ever. It works for a while and then it doesn't. Augy's an odd bird. He's a good friend of ours, but he was into his own weird little trip, and it started to deviate away from what we were doing. It was just one of those mutual things where it's like, "You're way ahead of us." That's basically what we told him. We were like, "You're making up these songs where you need fricking Queen to back you up here," or whatever. And we wanted to play this rock and roll shit.

And John reappeared in Denver. He lived in Boulder during the first iteration of all this stuff, and for whatever reason, James had started playing with us after Augy went away, and we had James and Rick on guitar, and we needed a singer. I can't remember how it went down, but we ran into John somehow and ended up doing some stuff. We went over to his apartment with some stuff we'd recorded on my four track in our practice space with no singing - just some music we were working with. And he listened to it a few times and came up with something to sing to it, and we were like, "Okay, cool. You're in."

WW: In talking to John, I was surprised to learn that he'd never really been in a band before the Fluid. Did that give any of you pause? Or did you think, we know him, he's cool, it'll work out great?

MB: Yeah, it didn't even seem weird at the time. He didn't even really know how to sing beyond knowing how to sing basically as a human being; you either know how to do it well or you do it poorly, generally. And if you do it poorly, you can learn to do it better or you can sort of have a grasp of it and get better from there. And he just sort of seemed to have a grasp of it. James and Garrett knew a little music, a little music theory. But generally beyond the basics, we were all self-taught. So it was like, why not? The dude's got energy, he's got the enthusiasm for it, he can actually halfway sing - and that's good. Me and Rick can do okay, but basically it was nice to find ourselves in a backing vocal role as opposed to having to sing all the stuff and play all the stuff. So it wasn't a weird thing. This is all pretty much working out the way it's supposed to.

But we had no idea exactly what he was going to do onstage. When you practice, you stand around and you play the stuff over and over again and you fix the parts that you're not getting and make sure everybody's on the same stage. Then when you get in front of people, you have no idea what's going to happen. So we had no idea he was going to take so well to the whole performance side and really kick the energy up quite a bit. It's just one of those things. You go with your instincts, and it turned out quite well, I think. He turned out to be a really good frontman. He sang well enough, and he really put a lot of time and work into getting better as well.

WW: That first show you did at the German House: Was it in some way people watching you but also you watching John and thinking, wow, this isn't what we expected?

MB: I was pretty impressed with the whole show. I figured we'd do okay because we were playing with some pretty good bands that were established and people knew who we were. And there were a lot of people there. I was just stoked that so many people showed up. This was our first show as this band. We may have been members from blah-blah-blah, but we were an unknown quantity, and people still got into it. Yeah, we were all checking it out, and we didn't really know what was going to happen. We knew from being friends and being around and the humor we had as a group, we knew we all got along in this certain way. But it's a whole different thing when you put a crowd, an audience into the mix, and what that brings out as far as a performance. And it was all an upper. It was like, "That guy's really going apeshit over there." Even at the time, he had hair halfway down his back, and we're playing this pretty raunchy type, Rolling Stonesy, sixties-y, punk-rock kind of shit, and he's just going off. And we're like, "Oh. This is working." It was a real upper, you know.

WW: Everyone else has talked about how the Fluid was primarily a live band above and beyond everything else. Did it come together really quickly? And was it kind of impressive to be in the middle of that?

MB: That show, and all the stuff we did after that, were the biggest shows we'd ever played. It was like all of a sudden there was this whole thing going on in Denver in '85, '86, where people were really into whatever it was we were doing - as well as some other bands in town. It was really easy to put together a pretty cool three-band bill and really attract a lot of people. And that really feeds the energy of the band, because all of sudden it's like, we actually made some money. We can pay to fix whatever's broken or put some gas in the vehicle or whatever. And to me, what was really cool about it at that time, and it stayed that way pretty much the whole time, was it was fairly easy to come up with new material.

We'd work on it hard; we'd have to work on it hard to get it the way we wanted. But it was like, it was always coming. There was always new stuff. Everybody had new ideas. The drummer would have an idea for the basis for the song, and he'd even have an idea for how the guitar riff would go, and he'd hum it out - and Rick and James would figure that out, and I'd figure out my part. And the next thing you'd know, we were passing the paper around and everybody was writing down ideas for lyrics, and by the end of the practice you'd have a tune.

That was what was most impressive to me, how easy that was, especially in retrospect given some of the other things I've done, where it was like pulling teeth to get a song across. Everything just kind of was easy at that point for some reason. Maybe it was because of the age of the bandmembers, and we were putting so much energy into it. You have nothing else going on in your life when you're 24-years old. If you're us, anyway. You go to work and sit and think about playing the guitar all day, and then you do it at night. If you focus all your energy like that, something's bound to happen.

WW: I've heard a couple of different stories about where Brian Nelson [a friend of the band] got the money from to finance Punch n Judy. Do you remember?

MB: As far as I remember, he had been in a car-motorcycle accident or something and gotten a settlement - gotten some money out of it from the insurance company of the driver who'd caused the accident. That's as much as I ever knew about it, and that was good enough for me. It was like, "I don't give a shit where you got the money. That's plausible." I mean, that could have been a cover story for I don't want to seem like a little rich kid and I inherited the money, so I'm going to say I got hit by a motorcycle. I don't know. That's all I ever knew about it, but that was fine by me. I was like, "You're paying for it? Cool." He was going to do a 45, and we talked him into a record, which didn't end up costing much more than doing a couple of songs, because the way we were at the time was, let's just blast through them, finish them up, put the extra little bits on them and away we go.

WW: In talking to other folks, they say they don't feel like most of your recordings captured the way you sounded live. Do you feel that way, too?

MB: Yeah. It's a weird thing, because I've never really heard us live. I've never stood down there and listened to the way the band sounds. But I know what it sounds like onstage, and I know what it sounds like in different size rooms. I know what it sounds like where I stand. I thought the more recordings we did, the better they approximated something. But it's a cop-out, really. It's like, the first one's excusable because we didn't know what we were doing, and that's charming. Punch n Judy, I had that on vinyl, and I put it on the hard drive and put it on a CD, and it sounds pretty all right for what it is. I've got a car with a decent stereo system, and you can hear the bass; it's all there. The guitars are a little bit weak and the drums sound kind of funny, but as we went on, I thought they got better. But that's all they are anyway unless you do an actual live album, in which case it's still mixed. So who knows?

Yeah, I always thought that there were other bands out there that weren't nearly as volume-oriented or rowdy that actually got off better studio recordings than us but didn't really sound that way live. Whereas we sounded a certain way live and we always had the hardest damn time trying to get it onto the tape. But as far as it being really frustrating, it's not really that. It's just supposed to tide you over from the time we play there and then you buy this thing and you listen to it for the next couple of months and then we'll be back and you can see us live again. Which is the way a lot of our Fluid fans all over the country were like. They were like, "I just got the album so it can tide me over until the next show," because they were into the live part of it.

WW: You ended up on Sub Pop, which at the time no one really understood what it would turn into. But when you went to the Pacific Northwest, did you have a sense that there was something happening there?

MB: Oh yeah, we really did. I was familiar with Sub Pop probably more so than the other guys. At the time, my wife was doing a radio show up at KGNU, so she turned me onto a whole bunch of stuff back in the mid-'80s that you had to look for - Scratch Acid and all that other stuff. Later on, it became a little more prevalent. But there was this thing called the Sub Pop 100, which was the first twelve-inch thing that Bruce put out. It had some weird stuff on it and it had some really cool stuff on it. So I'd already heard of the label, and since we'd caught the attention of Reinhard [Holstein, founder of Glitterhouse Records] in Germany, we ended up going up there because there was an expressed interest from them.

And when we got up there, the shows were just packed. Like maybe in a 7 South-type place like the Vogue, but packed to the gills, and people just being so into it. The shows we did up there: We played up at the Central and, well, I don't remember where all we played. But they were packed and people went apeshit. Because that's what they were doing for the bands up there. The bands up there were really hitting hard, hitting on all cylinders, and people were really used to it. Second-generation bands out of the punk scene. All these guys had been in the punk-rock scene in the early '80s or whatever and gotten better at their music and writing and whatever, and now they had this band that was totally killer.

So that's what the people up there were used to seeing. And then we come up there, and we're the same kind of thing, but with a Denver sort of approach. We definitely weren't playing the sludgy, grungy stuff, but we looked the same as all of them. We get up there and discover that everybody's wearing black boots and flannel shirts and a t-shirt underneath that and kind of look like shit. And we're like, "Oh, that's the way I look coming from Colorado" (laughs). It made sense up there. The Pacific Northwest, it's kind of chilly up there. But we all looked the same, and we came from the same sort of background. Everything kind of went different ways, but the scene up there was unbelievable. There were so many different bands, and everybody was into playing with different bands, and we made lots of friends really fast up there with bands and also non-band people who'd say, "Hey, stay at our place. We've got lots of room." So we always had lots of friends who kind of looked out for us more or less.

WW: Within the next few years, there was a frenzy of Sub Pop bands being signed to major labels, and you guys weren't immediately part of that. Did that frustrate you at all?

MB: It was a little bit like that. They made us offers and stuff like that up there, but we'd be like, "That's not really much of anything to do an album." We basically did Glue on a no-contract type of basis, basically. It was an experiment. They sent us out there to record with Butch Vig, and we ended up doing it for next to nothing compared to what people spend on records, even though it was just seven or eight songs. It was an experiment, and I think it was probably one of my favorite sounding things. We had a lot of fun making it. It was kind of a weird place to go record. Wisconsin in the middle of February. But as far as the signing thing, we never really did anything with Sub Pop as far as that goes.

WW: John thought the Sub Pop contract had basically ended after Glue. Is that your memory?

MB: If that's what you want to call it - if it was a contract. It was very much an indie label thing with no money to speak of. I didn't really consider it to be anything other than an agreement to record a record, which is all we did. I don't think we had anything like that before we did Roadmouth, although I could be wrong. But it was one of those things where I think we kind of screwed up, too. In a way, we probably should have just gone for whatever we could get from them and stuck with something that we knew. At least they were a known quantity.

WW: And they also understood your music and were on your wavelength.

MB: Right. They were the guys who were standing in front of the stage when we first went up there, along with everybody else. So in retrospect, I think maybe as a band, we thought we were something we weren't quite yet. You know what I mean? You start thinking, we're pretty hot shit. And you kind of have to have that attitude to do it. You have to think that you're a big deal. But probably it would have been in our better interest to just have stayed with them, maybe done the next record with them rather than not doing it with them and going elsewhere. Plus, there was quite a lot of dead time in between when we put out Glue and when we finally got the last record out.

WW: How long was it?

MB: I don't know, but it was long enough for '57 Lesbian to do quite a bit of stuff. At that point in time, when that was all going on with Andy [Johnson] and Jenae [Pleau], we wrote a whole shitload of songs, recorded, played a whole bunch of songs, did a whole bunch of stuff - and the Fluid wasn't even practicing or anything for quite a while there. Limbo. I don't know how long it was, but I think it was quite a while, which I don't think was really in our interest, either, in retrospect. Hindsight being what it is, it probably would have been smarter for us to... Well, I don't know. Who can say? You can second guess yourself to the grave. I just think we probably should have gone for it and put out another Sub Pop record and seen where things went from there, which maybe would have been better and maybe would have been worse.

WW: During some of that down time, you were getting contacts from major labels - people interested, but not quite ready to pull the trigger?

MB: Art Collins was our manager, so to speak, for whatever that was worth, and stuff was being worked on - and we were in contact with each other to some degree. But we weren't playing. We might have been rehearsing a little bit here and there, writing some songs, because we obviously wrote some stuff for the new album. But he was pursuing that with this label, that label - and that's one of those things where after a while, you're like, "Whatever. Show me the money. Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whisky." There was a lot of talk, but not a lot of action.

WW: When did you hear about the Hollywood possibility? And how quickly did that bubble up into something substantial?

MB: We all knew about it as soon as they expressed interest. Everybody was really interested in the fact that they might be offering some real money, which was nice for a change. But all of us were skeptical of the whole thing. We were like, these people know about we do like we know how to build a fricking jet airliner - which is zero. But it had its benefits, and it went pretty quickly. They didn't really lowball us. They offered a pretty decent contract to do what we did, and all of us individually got some pretty decent money out of it up-front, which in my case I spent all on gear. Pretty much everybody spent it on gear and things they needed at the time - maybe even rent for some of the guys. And I was like, shit, we can go spend as much time we want recording this thing. So rather than sitting around saying, "They're not the right label," we were like, "Whatever. Let's go make our album and see what happens."

WW: You guys were so DIY, and I know there were eyebrows raised at the time about Hollywood being owned by Disney.

MB: Believe me, our eyebrows were raised, too. To us, it was like poetic fucking justice. Like, see what happens if you dick around too much? You end up being gobbled up by Disney. Gotta go work for the Mouse, you know. That was our big joke: "Got to go work for the Mouse today."

WW: What were your thoughts about the process of making Purplemetalflakemusic?

MB: It was kind of comical from the get-go. It was kind of a joke. They sort of tried to put us in this studio in the middle of nowhere, in the Redwood Forest. And of course Rick and I freaked out. We were like, "No way, man. We're an urban rock and roll band. We need to have a corner liquor store and cigarettes and stuff - and what is there to do there?" They flew us out there to check out the studio, and we basically vetoed the whole thing. So we ended up in Sausalito, which was arduous at best. Great studio and Mike [Bosley], the guy who produced and recorded the whole thing, was a good guy.

But you're still in Sausalito. You're on the whole other side of the bay from San Francisco and living on these frickin' houseboats that are bouncing around in the middle of the night from boats going by. But it was definitely the nicest studio we'd ever been in and a lot of really nice gear and a lot of vintage gear and stuff like that. I didn't end up recording pretty much any of my stuff in that studio, though. Every bass amp I had up there I broke like almost immediately upon trying to do anything with it. Everything they brought me I broke it. So I ended up recording over Thanksgiving at Hyde Street studios, which made me happy, because some of my favorite bands in the world recorded at Hyde Street. That's where Flipper recorded, so that was fun as far as that went go.

But James and Garrett bailed after the recording and the other three of us stayed and went down to Southern California, to L.A. - lived in this really weird hotel for three weeks while we mixed it. And that was really interesting, and it was really funny. Bosley had to try to make this thing sound like something the record company was going to be behind. Plus he had three very vehement assholes in me and Rick and John saying, "That's not right, man. You've got the drums way too loud, the guitars to low and the vocals too loud." So it was interesting. I liked the way it turned out for what it is.

WW: So you don't feel it missed the boat that much?

MB: As far as being a studio thing and really trying to make something that could be played on the radio, as far as a reasonable mix, I think it's pretty good. I think he did a pretty good job of getting the guitars. You can get the sense of the power behind it. But once again, it's a recording. It's probably our best one technically in terms of depth and all that, and some of the songs I really like a lot. But as far as being my favorite thing, it's not.

Some of the songs are amongst my favorites, but as far as an actual, complete thing, it's hit or miss for me. Sometimes I think it got a little overwrought. And also it sort of takes a shine off of all that stuff when you take so much time. We'd never taken as much time as we did with that thing. Before, we'd go in there and record it and mix it - do some overdubs and do our vocals. We're down at Ricky's house doing our rehearsals and I'm flashing back to the backing vocal thing where he and I were trying to do it for this one song - take after take after take. Millions of them, it seemed like. And it's like, Jesus Christ. We never would have put that much effort in it. Like, "That's good enough. Bury it in the mix a little bit. They're backing vocals!" (Laughs.) But oh no, it had to be perfectly on key all the way through this long thing. And we were like, "Oh, Lord."

WW: Spontaneity had always been a big part of what you did before that.

MB: Yeah. Everybody knew what they were supposed to do within a fairly loose framework. You could either join in or not depending on whether your voice was really hoarse from being on the road. It was flexible. And then, all of sudden, you're in the studio and it was very inflexible and really evident when something's not quite right.

WW: Speaking of not-quite-right, the band didn't last very long after the album came out. Looking back, what were the factors that led to the breakup?

MB: To keep it on nice terms, people had other things going on and had gotten to a frustration level with it not happening the way they wanted it to happen. Garrett was already doing Spell, so he bailed for that, and James and John followed shortly thereafter. Which left me and Rick to go, "Shit, we don't even have a band. Let's just cool it, then." Personally, it was pretty disappointing to me. It was one of those things where we didn't really even go out and promote that thing worth a shit. Everybody kind of bagged on it. It was like, what did you expect? Because we spent $75,000 making an album, everybody in the world's going to know about us? We've still got to go promote the thing, we've still got to go tour the thing. Even little punk rock bands know that. You put out a record, you've got to hit the road.

It's not like nobody knew who we were, but as far as instantaneously everybody in the universe knowing who we were and how great we were, it was like, "Uh, that's wishful thinking." So it was disappointing to me in that sense. But if, on the other hand, if something's bugging somebody - you're already in that place where you're bugged and not filling it, there's no amount of talking that's going to change that. And so at first I was really pissed off at Shavlik for bailing on us. But on the other hand, I could understand where he was coming from. He's got this other thing that's really kind of blooming, going really good for him, and this is a pain in the ass. This constant back-and-forth with the record company and the manager, and making sure everybody in the band is on the same page about what we're doing, and everybody having their own ideas about what we should be doing and what we shouldn't be doing, and people wanting this and that. Blah blah blah, on and on, and I could totally understand where he was coming from.

So in retrospect, I have to respect him for making the decision to say, "You know what? I could half-ass it through more of this, or I could just say 'fuck it.'" In a way, I actually have more respect for him, because that's basically what it was. It was like, I can do this, but my heart's not in it at this point. It's completely burned me out of it. I'd just be up there as a dude playing the drums. I wouldn't be what you guys need me to be. So I have respect for that. I mean, shit, we could have maybe even had a worse time.

WW: You mentioned '57 Lesbian, which I always thought was a great band. After the Fluid ended, did you throw yourself into that?

MB: Yeah, I did some of that. The problem with that whole thing - that was a really cool trip, but after the letdown of the whole Fluid thing, I don't know. I ended up with April [Froschheuser] from Fort Collins on bass for a while, and we did what I think are some pretty interesting recordings on super-primitive equipment: eight track reel-to-reel tape. But it got to the point where I sort of lost interest in doing any of it. I thought, I've done this for long enough and I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of dragging amplifiers around, I'm tired of staying up until two o'clock in the morning and having to go to work the next day. I'm not 25 anymore. And that's pretty much when I decided to stop doing it. But then I got talked into doing Boss 302 for a while, which was really a blast, too. That, I didn't have to do anything. All I had to do was show up and play the bass. I didn't have to write any songs, I didn't have to think. I just played the bass.

WW: Remind me when that Boss 302 period was.

MB: Let me do some addition and subtraction. I think it was about ten years ago.

WW: After that ended, did you put music on the shelf for a time?

MB: Pretty much. I pretty much said, "I'm over it." I even went so far as to sell all my shit except for my guitars and my basses. Sold all the amplifiers except for my Marshall guitar amp, and my p.a. stuff I kept. But I sold all my bass stuff. I thought, I'm not going to do that again. And now it's like, goddamn it, that amp I sold goes for $2,000. I got it for $300, and only got a thousand for it when I sold it! (Laughs.) I pretty much just said, "I'm over it," and I really didn't think I'd have anything to do with any of it again.

WW: And then the phone call comes about the reunion idea. Were you reluctant at first?

MB: I was like, "Mmmm, I need to have a face-to-face conversation with a couple of people about this." Because it wasn't a phone call as much as an e-mail. John sent an e-mail. I was interested, though, because I got it that there was actually interest from everybody. And to me, I really love all those guys. They're my bros from way back, and if everybody's into it, then hell yeah, let's do it. I wasn't against it or anything. I love playing with Rick and James, and the opportunity to play with Shavlik again is a nice one, and I always like seeing John and doing stuff with him. It was one of those things where I thought, I need to get together with Rick and James and talk about it, and they're fully, 100 percent behind it. I go, "What about Garrett?"

So I talked to him on the telephone and any axes we had to grind, we decided that's water under the bridge. Let's have fun with this and just kick ass. If we're going to do it, let's do it. So in the space of a pretty short amount of time, talking to everybody, it was like, hell yeah, let's go. I never thought that opportunity would present itself. It was kind of out of left field for me, which is fine. I look at it as an opportunity. My son lives in Seattle, and he's 22 now. He probably hasn't seen the Fluid since he was about four - that and when he was inside his mom's uterus, because she went to shows. So it'll be cool for him.

And Rick's kids, they're almost thirteen and little blossoming rock and rollers, playing guitar and getting quite good at it. It'll be a gas for them. My little niece is fourteen, and she's all excited to see the Fluid, because she's never seen them, and my little brother, he's seen us a bunch of time, and he's all psyched. And all our friends in town, well, I think all of the people in town who don't go out anymore will drag their sorry asses out to the show. That's what everybody's telling me - like, "I go to two shows a year now, like Radio Birdman and whatever, but I'll be there." Which is cool.

WW: Had you been in touch with everybody?

MB: I hadn't talked to Garrett since he moved out of town. Well, I think I ran into him once in Seattle when we were up there years ago. I guess I was up there visiting my son, and I think I ran into him that night, but that was about it. John had been in Denver a couple of years ago, and we exchange Christmas cards - that type of deal. And James and Rick I see regularly. I mean, James was over last night to watch the hockey game, and it would have been like that whether we were doing this or not. And Rick, I tend to end up over at his house at least once or twice a month just to hang out in the afternoon and drink beer and shoot the shit and listen to music. Plus my wife works with Rick. They work at the same place, the same place I used to work.

WW: Where's that?

MB: That sign shop where Ricky's been for eternity. So those two guys, the guys who were in Denver, James and Rick and I ride motorcycles together and hang out and do this and that and the other together. So we were already the same as we ever were.

WW: How is playing with them, with [former Baldo Rex drummer] John Call sitting in for Garrett?

MB: It's been really cool. John has really applied himself. He gets nothing but the biggest props for putting energy into something that's not really anything to him other than to just be a part of it and to help his friends. But it's kind of cool because all of a sudden he's having to learn some weird stuff, because Garrett did some weird stuff. He had his own style of playing, a lot of different kinds of beats. And John's learning these things. Every time we play, he's got something else figured out that makes it even more like it's supposed to be for us, what we're used to hearing. It's like, "Way to go, John. You nailed that." So it's been really fun, plus he's an elusive sort. It's kind of nice we get him nailed down once a week, so we get to see him and hang out.

WW: What are you expectations for the reunion? Is this handful of shows enough? Or would you like to see something happen beyond it?

MB: Personally, I've got a job and I've got two mortgages, a house I live in and a rental property I need to take care of, a job that's not like a restaurant job - it's a real job that pays me real money. I'd like to play in Denver, do the stuff here, and go up to Seattle - but beyond that, I'm not really too interested in doing too much after that unless somebody wants to do something specific. And if everybody wants to go somewhere to do something, I'm certainly not getting in a vehicle and driving around for weeks at a time. No way. If somebody in the bands wants to do that, that's great, but that's not the way I see it.

I want to have some fun, do this stuff, and I have no problem with playing here and there. If we're actually doing what we're doing and relearning all this stuff, if there's something that we can do that's functional, I'd be way functional. But I'm not going to live the rock and roll lifestyle at this point in time. I'm a little too old for it. You know what I mean? I'm mostly looking forward to once we get out of Ricky's basement and all the proper gear is in place and we've got a place lined up to play where we can actually do our thing for real instead of on rinky-dink little practice amps, I'm really looking forward to that - especially the Denver shows. The Seattle thing is more for everybody else. It'll just be a fun thing to go up there and see friends for me.

WW: How about recordings? Some of the other guys have talked about remixing and putting together a compilation? Is that anything that interests you?

MB: Yeah, anything like that is cool if it's in the realm of possibility. I'm not going to do it.

WW: You had your fill of mixing fifteen years ago.

MB: Yeah. If Sub Pop wants to put something like that out, if somebody wants to document this thing and put it out - because Mudhoney's going to be playing, Green River's going to be playing, some of the newer Sub Pop bands are going to be playing. It should be a pretty cool thing if they could cull some old footage from all the different bands, it could be a pretty cool thing for someone to put out - like a DVD of some sort to commemorate their little trip. I'm all for any of that stuff. But that's for other people to worry about - John Robinson or whoever wants to pursue having something re-released. That's great. I don't care one way or the other. I make my own compilation CDs. I put whatever I want on there.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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