Just as SST Records is gearing up to mark its 10th anniversary, the company's co-founder, Greg Ginn, is launching a new label, Cruz Records. Cruz will release Ginn's own projects (once a broken finger heals enough to let him play guitar again, that is) as well as records by a few other acts. Cruz's first release will come this week with a debut album by All, a group including former members of the now-defunct Descendents. Another debut, by the band Crash Bang Crunch Pop, will follow in March.
"I felt that sometimes being involved with SST caused some conflicts with my own music and I'd rather just deal with SST as a non-musician," he said, stressing that he will remain a partner in SST with his ex-Black Flag mate Chuck Dukowski. Cruz, though, will be completely separate from SST.
"What I want to do with Cruz is experiment," Ginn said. "Try some different things with a very small company, different things in terms of ways to reach people with music."
And where did the label name come from?
"I just saw some graffiti and I liked the way it looked."
LOTSA GRAVEL, BUT NOT MUCH ROCK: If Al Davis has his way, the San Gabriel Valley will have its very own National Football League team. But what about a good rock music club?
With the abandonment of its trial run of weekly shows with the likes of the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada at Handlebars Saloon in Pasadena, the only nearby setting for original music is the Green Door in Montclair. The 300-capacity club began hosting notable alternative rock acts like Firehose and Dave Alvin just after the first of the year. But for many in the San Gabriel Valley, even that is no more convenient a drive than going to Hollywood or downtown.
People close to the scene agree that the valley has a natural club-going audience, particularly drawing on the Pasadena and Claremont areas, as well as some promising musical talent in bands like the Wrens and Harvey & the Lifers. Esther (Madame) Wong obviously saw possibilities there when she attempted to open a club in Monrovia last year, only to be unable to get zoning clearance. But she and others believe that a night spot along the lines of a Club Lingerie or Madame Wong's should be able to succeed in the region.
"That's what you have to shoot for," said Harvey Cohen, leader of Harvey & the Lifers. "The area could support someplace that people like Marshall Crenshaw and Peter Case could play."
Richard Reese, who booked the Tuesday night shows at Handlebars in November and December, agreed: "What you have is upper-middle-class kids with cars and money and clothes and nowhere to go."
So why isn't the San Gabriel Valley rocking?
"There's a lot of different reasons," said Patrick Bacich, who books the shows at the Green Door. "I think that all the acts want to play near the heart of Hollywood and L.A."
That was echoed by Andy Spindler, lead guitarist in Harvey & the Lifers. "Getting industry people out here is hard," he said. "You've got to generate excitement to make people pay attention to you."
PAPERBACK WRITERS: "Lots of time when someone is dancing on stage wearing lingerie, people don't listen to the words," said Pleasant Gehman of the Screamin' Sirens. "Iris (Berry, of the Lame Flames) and I thought it'd be fun to do things where people have to listen rather than just watch our bustles."
The pair's bustle-busting plan is the Ringling Sisters, an association of local female rockers who write as well as sing and display their talents in spoken-word readings of poetry, vignettes and pithy observations of the scene. Newly added partners in rhyme include Texacala Jones, Debbie Patino, Debbie Dexter, and Johnette Napolitano, regulars in such bands as Tex & the Horseheads, Raszebrae, the Devil Squares and Concrete Blond, respectively.
The Ringling Sisters have made a name for themselves with several well-attended benefits (the most recent one at Raji's over Christmas to get toys for children in Hollywood) as well as one slim "volumette" titled "The Ringling Sisters," on sale at bookstores as well as record outlets such as Vinyl Fetish. In February another Xeroxed volumette will come out, and then later this spring a bound copy of their work will be available on Sherwood Press. A spoken-word recording is also being planned and they're set to appear Feb. 29 at Club Lingerie.
"It's like a new avenue," said Gehman, who co-wrote a screenplay, "The Running Kind," with "Frank's Place" producer Max Tash. "We didn't want to live the trends in the clubs so we thought we'd do something that is our own 'trend' and yet is more timeless. Also people can't label us and say 'That's a cowpunk poet.' "
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: Kevin Slerger, the bassist for John Trubee & the Ugly Janitors of America, was stabbed to death in Amsterdam in December during the last leg of the band's European tour. The group has found a replacement for their last few dates before leaving on an Australian tour in May. And Trubee's latest LP, "Strange Hippie Sex Carnival," is slated for a late spring release on Omnipotent Pariah Records. . . . Rob Ritter, the bassist for Thelonious Monster, has departed the group and will be replaced by Tex & the Horseheads bassist Smog Vomit. Horseheads guitarist Mike Martt has also become a regular Monster member.
NASHVILLE WEST, REVISITED: A the end of March, Enigma records will release "A Town South of Bakersfield 2," the sequel to a 1985 anthology of local country talent that helped land big label contracts for Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores and George Highfill. Like the first "Bakersfield" album, this one was put together by executive producer Dan Fredman and producer Pete Anderson. The lineup this time: Jim Lauderdale, the Crazy Hearts, Re Winkler (a duet of Re Van Bleck and Anne Harvey), Candye Kane, Jeffrey Steele, Jann Brown, Dave Druhan, Lucinda Williams, James Intveld and Anderson's Pete & the Big Shots. Enigma will also release a CD containing both "Bakersfield" volumes.