It was the winter 2000-01 that the seeds of Mr. Furious Records were planted (though howie&scott had been playing covers since 98). We didn’t know at the time – and how much of our scene have we ever understood, even now? Pieced together here is a collage of songs from our past, less distant than we probably imagine. It’s our own “Phantom Menace,” complete with clunky dialogue and the real risk of over-illuminating beginnings whose mystery is part of their meaning. The Nebraska Verses are a story intended for those who bring to the music an established interest in MFR and the people behind it.
Notes by howie.
Nebraska Verses: C. Howie Howard (howie&scott, Shacker, echoes, the Remnants), Cory Kibler (Shacker, The Remnants), Scott Morris (howie&scott), James Tucci (Shacker), Annie Aspengren (Shacker), Tim Jensen (Blame the Game), Tim Konecky (Blame the Game), Ian (Blame the Game), Ryan Thomas (Blame the Game), Josh Oberndorfer (the Remnants).
1- Party Fowl – The Remnants 2001/May/17 – Last Day of Freshman Year
Recorded (you guessed when) straight to 4-track in between moving boxes and furniture out of Frees. The Remnants were a party band, and this track was one of Cory’s two originals that made our regular set.
2- Charlie’s House – The Remnants 2001/May/17 – Last Day of Freshman Year
Josh’s songs veered between charmingly disturbing pop like “Charlie’s House” and loping guitar soundscapes (such as “Best To Your Wedding”). His sense of humor (“Me eating my own teeth!”?) warped me permanently.
3- Staircase(demo)-Yes(interlude) – howie&scott 2001/December (practice tape) 2002/January (work disc)
My practice tape for Scott in early December 01 was made in preparation for recording near and far over the coming New Years’ long weekend. h&s is a mad collision of strummy 70’s folk, jazz, spacy prog rock, and acoustic pop; “Staircase” stands in between the latter two. The “Yes” interlude, recorded only weeks after near and far was finished, shows me already in process towards new songs and sounds that would lead, two years later, to signs.comets.
4- Wishful Thinking (live) – Shacker 2002/April – Coffeehouse Bootleg – Doane College, Crete
Copied and burned for friends around town, Shacker’s first “recording” was made on campus after Tucci and Cory had filled yellow travel coffee mugs with cheap, fruity wine and made me carry it over to the gig.
5- Mightier Than The Sword (live) – howie&scott 2002/July/4 – Country Club, Crete
Mike Morris tells the story of h&s for us at the town 4th of July fireworks show, hosted annually by the Blue River Community Band. I was three days home from my first trip to Africa; 6 weeks in Ghana. Though not included that night, the quiet ending of MTTS often included vocal improvisations calling us towards justice for the Palestinians.
6- My Friends (live) – howie&scott 2002/August/2 – Solid Ground, Lincoln
The first or second song I wrote (ever); just a blues riff in F and story-lyrics pulled together from titles of old Led Zeppelin songs. Who could have guessed it would become h&s’ signature tune of the pre-electric period?
7- 4B and JATC (live) – howie&scott 2002/October/12 – A Light Burning – 13th St. Coffeehouse, Omaha
On tour all month long with Arturo Got The Shaft as part of (r)ocktober, our set at 13th St. Coffee was a peak of both our musicianship and showmanship; the results of playing out 2 or 3 nights every week. The entire show from the 12th was released online through the old website as A Light Burning, half of a double-live mp3-only release with The Shaft; Blades of Vengeance. “Just Around The Corner” lyrics by Charles Muff.
8- This Needle – Blame The Game 2002/November/22 – Solid Ground, Lincoln
Tim played drums with h&s from time to time, and Blame shared this night at the Solid Ground with us.
9- God Bless The Strokes (original version) – echoes 2002/December – Project:ECHO
Scott and I invested in the core of a home studio (Project:ECHO), beginning work in November 2002. As I was reading manuals and testing equipment, I became stuck on a chiming 2-chord lick; married to a simple mono drum loop, that sound test became the original “God Bless The Strokes.” It wasn’t howie&scott, and it didn’t have a home until I needed, then started, echoes in summer 04. The 15 months from November 02 to January 04 include the recording of Shacker’s first record, Pardon My Pretension, But Isn’t It Blackbeard’s Birthday? in the late winter of 2003 (released spring 03) and howie&scott’s signs.comets in the summer of 2003 (released January 04). The original Mr. Furious releases through mrfuriousrecords.com (Shacker’s The Dimly Lit Room (MFR003) and Knowing Her Best, Blackbeard Defends the Open Sea (MFR001), and echoes’ nickel EP (MFR002)) were recorded spring and summer of 2004 for MFR’s launch in September.
10- Autumn As A Design For Settled Nerves (original take) – Shacker 2003/January – Project:ECHO
The …Blackbeard’s Birthday album was recorded twice; first multi-tracked and overdubbed to a metronome, then live to disk. The CD version contains live takes from the second sessions, except for “Placing Blame” and “Fully OK” from the first to-a-click recordings. Here is “Autumn” in its original extreme clean-to-obscenely-fuzzy disparity.
11- Fully OK (second take) – Shacker 2003/March/7 – Project:ECHO
Selecting which take of “Fully OK” to use on the …Blackbeard’s Birthday CD was the hardest decision we made. This, the later live version, is more sparse, has another melodic guitar solo, and includes a funny rhythmic thing in the chorus that I liked, but could never quite make smooth; maybe that was the point.
12- Gotta Get Out – Blame The Game 2003/March – Project:ECHO
13- Time Warp – Blame The Game 2003/March – Project:ECHO
The Blame fellows came to Project:ECHO and gave me an engineering workout just months after we started the studio, with fantastic results. Laying down six songs for an EP that was never released, “Gotta Get Out” (if you’ve been to Tim’s hometown, Blair NE, you’ll know) and “Time Warp” are my two favorites from those sessions.
14- Placing Blame (live) – Shacker – 2004/February/25 – Powerless III, Duffy’s, Lincoln
While I was in Africa again for October-December 03, Cory and James were busy reworking Shacker-without-drums, going acoustic and bringing Annie in with her cello. It worked well enough to get us invited to StarCityScene.com’s “Powerless III” show; the show inspired us to record The Dimly Lit Room.
15- One Stereo (live) – Shacker 2004/May/1 – Doane College, Crete
My little gold kit sounded like absolute death itself in the gym – huge & tight, you wouldn’t believe it if you saw. Cory was still a bit drunk from the night before, which was not typical, but not unheard-of either. He was going through an obsession with vocal reverb, and sound guys at every venue we played somehow turned it out of control every damn time. Shacker was usually dancing on the verge of coming unhinged in concert, careening through our songs in a way that felt good, not dangerous.
16- I’m Coming Home (live) – Shacker 2004/May/1 – Doane College, Crete
About halfway through the song, you can hear the sound guy finally turn my mic up (loaded with reverb, naturally…)
17- Major & Minor (live) – howie&scott 2004/May/14 – 9th. St. Basement, Lincoln
We scored this gig simply because I’m an obsessive email-checker, and Kelly’s digital call for bands offered the spots to first-responders. I love playing with bands whose sounds aren’t like ours; JVA is very punk, and Westside Proletariat is very hardcore. Electric h&s is very… hard for me to describe. Lincoln-music.com doesn’t exist anymore, but the music at the launch party was killer.
18- After Hrs War (live) – howie&scott 2004/May/14 – 9th. St. Basement, Lincoln
The three songs we picked from this show all happen to be in 6/8 time; suggestive of h&s’ method. I don’t intend to write in 6/8 so much; I think I do it naturally, because that meter lends itself to polyrhythmic play in a way that 4/4 doesn’t.
19- After The Countdown (live) – howie&scott 2004/May/14 – 9th. St. Basement, Lincoln
There is a fury that is not necessarily violent or destructive, but strives and wrenches towards the very high ends that call it forth. “I’ve never walked in silence…” – surrounded always by others, and the ultimate Other; through these verses and after, I continue struggling to give that fury a voice and a name.