Track By Track Discussion With Terminal Mind’s Steve Marsh at TeamRock

Everything you need to know about the best punk album you’ve never heard

Long-lost Austin punks Terminal Mind talk us through their newly-released Recordings album, almost 40 years after it was recorded

While they might only have been a band for three short years, the career of first-wave Texas punks Terminal Mind was a storied one. Alongside being offered coveted support slots alongside Iggy Pop and The Big Boys, between 1978-81, their ability to spin the sounds of John Cale, Wire and The Clash into their own brazen racket allowed them to lay down a template for punk mimicked by generations of Austin punks who followed.

But for almost 40 years now, the band’s collected output has lain dormant. Until now. Cut to today, and Recordings, their first-ever official album release, collects the tracks from their original, out-of-print 7″ (which gathers a pretty penny over on Discogs, for those interested), their contributions to the Live At Raul’s compilation, along with a host of previously unheard tracks.

To celebrate the album’s release, frontman Steve Marsh talks us through the album, track by track.


I Want To Die Young

“This was the lead song on the four-song EP that we recorded in September 1979. When I wrote this song, I remember being bored silly by the conversation topics of my elder relatives at a family reunion and the lyrics just falling out of me.

One of my favourite LPs at the time was The Who Live At Leeds. I played that record to death; I loved that version of My Generation. I wasn’t even thinking about that song when I wrote this one, but it certainly gave me permission to put my angst into words. There was definitely an anti-old fart agenda going on [laughs]. Yet, the song is still relevant now I’m over 60: it’s about how you live your life, not how long it lasts.”

Refugee

“The lyrics for this song were loosely based on the latter years of Arthur Rimbaud, long after he had given up poetry. He was a gun runner and coffee merchant in North Africa, and developed what turned out to be bone cancer in his leg. He was trying to get back home and died in Marseilles after an amputation. I was introduced to his writing by being a huge fan of Patti Smith. The subject of feeling like a refugee, of being lost between lines, is perennially relevant.

This was song number two on the EP, which came out in January of 1980. Right at the exact same moment as Tom Petty’s Refugee. Oh well.”

Sense Of Rhythm

“I made it a point to not write love songs, but occasionally I would write an anti-love song! This one was inspired by the desperation and total abandon that I observed on the dance floor at gigs. I say “observed” – I don’t dance. This was song number three from the EP.”

Zombieland

“The final song from the EP was always the set closer. I remember sitting on my porch one afternoon, and some frat in the neighbourhood was playing Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen so loud that you couldn’t escape it. That song just felt like the perfect summation of everything I hated: cute, nostalgic escapism. A perfect soundtrack if you were a moron in business school and wanted to feel a little ‘rock’n’roll’ without having to commit anything to it. Nothing like the world I was living in! I remember thinking ‘This music will rot your brain! Jungleland – more like Zombieland’.

The big rave-up section was another result of the influence of My Generation from Live At Leeds. Every time we performed this live, I would try to come up with something different to spout off about, either an anecdote or an observation, just to make it a unique event.

When we recorded the song, in order to simulate the bullhorn tone in the spoken section, I recorded myself into a portable cassette recorder in a closet, then played it back into a microphone during the vocal tracking. I also got our guitarist Doug to track a layer of anti-solo noise, but we only used the very tail end of it on the original EP, as the song comes out of that section into the last verse – I was talked out of using more. When we were dumping the tracks to digital to do the remix, on what was probably the very machine that we had recorded it on originally, I found out that we had recorded three extra noise tracks, so I was able to mix them in while still being true to the original recording.

We didn’t have a producer for the session, and the engineer was some guy who worked with country music so he didn’t get what we were doing at all. It was a case of ‘I can’t hear the drums’, ‘I can’t hear the guitar’, ‘I can’t hear the bass’… ‘now I can’t hear the drums again’. Also, the engineer was a big believer in mixing through tiny speakers (‘If it sounds good on these, it’ll sound good on anything’). I’m really glad that [producer] Louie Lino and I got to finally mix it right!”

Obsessed With Crime

“This was one of two songs that we recorded as demos with a friend of ours named Kerry Crafton, who was studying to be a recording engineer. It was done in the studios at the University of Texas’ radio, television and film building. Kerry went on to record Scratch Acid, Roky Erickson, Agony Column, and tons more, but we were his first guinea pigs, and he gave us our first taste of a recording studio. Being a college studio, it was a lot brighter and cleaner than any professional studios I’ve been in since!”

Fear In The Future

“This is the other demo. I can hear the influence of John Cale on these, from the Island Records era. I asked Doug to play a solo with as few actual ‘notes’ as possible, kind of an anti-solo, to set an ominous, lurking tone. The robot voice at the beginning was a bit much, but otherwise I think this holds up nicely.”

Radioactive

“Now we’re into the live tracks. This song and the next originally appeared on the Live At Raul’scompilation LP, along with The Next, The Skunks, Standing Waves, and The Explosives. Each band recorded a set to a mobile truck and then picked two songs to be included on the album. There was never any question that this would be one of our selections, although I can still see the look on Doug’s face glaring back at Greg on the drums as the song tempo just took off!

Back then, I was working at a sandwich shop called Thundercloud Subs that used to play the local rock station on the radio. I was working a lunch rush around the time that the record came out, and I was hearing something that sounded a lot like this song playing on the radio, and I was thinking ‘damn, somebody else beat me to it!’ Turned out it was actually my song – I just never expected to hear it on the radio.”

Bridges Are For Burning

“Another anti-love song; I can hear an influence from the early era of Ultravox. I loved their record Ha! Ha! Ha! This one made the cut onto Live At Raul’s because I kept forgetting the lyrics to the one I wanted to include!”

(I Give Up On) Human Rights

“This would have been my pick to go on Live At Raul’s, but it was a new song and I didn’t have the words down yet.

The theme I was dealing with was an exhaustion with people expecting the world to be fair. It just seemed like protesting the evil things that were happening in the world, or even expecting a sane approach in America to the issues of the day, was just hopeless and ultimately getting nowhere. The song turned out to be a kind of revenge fantasy of the oppressed; an identification with radical action as opposed to peaceful demonstration. If the world didn’t care, then you’d have to make ’em care. Like I said: fantasy.

I have a friend who has an archive of recordings from that period of the scene, and this came from a rough board mix of the set for Live At Raul’s. Fortunately, it was the only tune from that mix that sounded like it was mixed right. It’s got a Clash/Wire vibe to it that I like a lot.”

Black

“This song was inspired by a girl named Melissa who was our super-fan. She used to wear all black to every show, and she even had a little “no symbol” tattoo. In keeping with my thoughts about love songs, I figured that it was okay to almost write a love song if the title was Black.

Missing Pieces

Both this song and Black were from a tape that somebody recorded with a portable cassette recorder one night at Raul’s. We were able to clean it up and make it sound a lot better than the original, which was totally muffled sounding. We even had to simulate stereo at one point because the cassette player apparently malfunctioned briefly; maybe the person holding it didn’t realise they were pressing on something that caused it to track mono!

Again, you can hear the John Cale influence, and maybe a little Stooges. This song is probably the earliest piece written that is on the album. Every set needed one song about mental instability that fell apart at the end.”

Bureaucracy

“This is the only recording I could find of the band once my pal Jack Crow (R.I.P.) had joined on synth. It comes from a live video shoot at a street party near the UT campus. You can hear the sound change as the camera moves around and the mic changes direction. Those street parties were a blast! There was a church with a large outdoor patio facing the side street that served perfectly as a stage. We played with The Big Boys, Standing Waves, The Next.

The topic of ‘bureaucracy’ as a metaphor for detachment (and psychosis) seemed pretty obvious at the time, though I would probably substitute ‘corporate control’ if I was writing it today, since that seems the bigger threat now.”

Terminal Mind’s album Recordings is available now via Sonic Surgery Records.


Austin Chronicle Exclusive Premiere of “Refugee” From Terminal Mind

Lost & Found: Terminal Mind

Thirty-seven years after breakup, debut LP hits

The anthem on Terminal Mind’s sole release, a self-issued 7-inch stamped with the universal “no” symbol that routinely fetches over $100 on eBay, spun a nihilistic punk declaration: “I Wanna Die Young.”

Vintage Terminal Mind (Photo by Ken Hoge)

Instead, the short-lived Austin band (1978-1981) has aged to a vintage in which there’s now demand for a long overdue retrospective. Friday, homegrown reissue specialists Sonic Surgery Records unveil the bluntly-titled Recordings, a remastered collection of the band’s four-song EP, quality live cuts, and previously unheard demos.

Grayscale art-rock with punk desperation channeled through instrumental and songwriting legitimacy, the triad of bassist/vocalist Steve Marsh with twins Doug Murray and Greg Murray on guitar and drums, respectively (they later added synth player Jack Crow), remains an act locals still celebrate despite a short lifespan and being under-recorded. Historically, Terminal Mind’s music hasn’t been easy to come by – save for those who’ve nabbed copies of the rare EP or Live at Raul’s compilation – so Recordings is a worthy dive into a crucial and obscure sliver of the cap city catalog.

The melodic “Refugee,” from the original EP, demonstrates Marsh’s penchant for meaningful rock songwriting. The chorus spells it out:

Refugee, that’s the way the real world treats you.
Did you think such a person could exist?
In a war, there are winners and there are losers.
I’m in between.

Before Recordings drops Friday, give “Refugee” a spin here.”

Exclusive Suspirians Music Video Premiere for “Nocturne”

Suspirians debut video for "Nocturne"

Today, Austin Texas band Suspirians, are debuting the new video for “Nocturne”. The track is off the band’s current release Ti Bon Ange, now out on Super Secret Records. Suspirians, play July 23rd in New Orleans, LA.

Quote about the video & song, by Marisa Pool, singer/guitarist of Suspirians:

“The song was originally called ‘Oh Mouchette’ inspired by the Robert Bresson film Mouchette. It’s a loveless tragedy about a young girl who is treated cruelly by everyone in her life. Thus the title ‘ octurne’. I was in awe of the sad beauty of this film and related to it on many levels. Mostly my own experience as a young woman navigating misogyny and abuse. Writing and performing it has been a way to channel my personal trauma and rage in a positive way. But I put a twist on it and made my character in the song survive even if she had to carry her own head around to do it. Its not a pretty song but It has meaningful core and is about finding strength in human misery.”

On the video:

“We honestly didn’t have much time to make a video, unfortunately! But we brought friends together to make it happen. Neil Ebflow created the visuals by using modular video synths and our friend Steve Marsh of Evil Triplett helped edit live footage shot by our other friend Ángel Delgado-Reyes. It turned out cool!”

Rock music, when done right, will always take us into a netherworld that we never knew existed, but we always somehow felt was within ourselves. The cosmos of inescapable rhythm, in-your-face melody and words, all speak simple truths that perhaps we couldn’t speak for ourselves. Austin, TX trio Suspirians summons that netherworld with their sophomore album Ti Bon Ange.

The album title is taken from a Haitian voodoo term that translates literally to “little good angel” — the part of one’s soul that holds one’s individuality and personal qualities, which leaves the body when sleeping so you can dream. It’s a title quite befitting of the experience listening to Ti Bon Ange, where listeners become immersed in a sound, not just casually attending to it.

From the first notes of the album, throughout its 7-song, 40 minute duration it’s clear that Suspirians aim to deconstruct rock in a way that’s both psychedelic and mysterious as much as it’s direct, infectious and powerful. Guitarist/vocalist Marisa Pool, bassist/keyboardist Stephanie Demopulos and drummer Lisa Cameron craft songs that shape-shift from part to part rather than follow traditional verse-chorus-verse structure. It’s a wall of guitars and subtle synth layers, vocals drenched in reverb and on the brink of feedback, powerful and open drumming that allows the songs to flow like molten lava without ever sounding lethargic. Points of reference bridge a wide array of psychedelic, punk and experimental sounds: Pylon, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Stooges first album, Frightwig, early Butthole Surfers, Roky Erickson & The Aliens, late 70s British post-punk and more.

“We would end up getting lost in the songs together in a sort of epic fever dream,” Pool says. “We did not overthink or over control anything on this record. It was all about going with the flow and following our instincts.” Suspirians’ self-titled debut album — with original drummer Anna Lamphear — was comparatively a more straightforward and garagey affair. Pool and Demopulos began experimenting with their sound soon after and with the addition of Cameron, they collectively found the aesthetic they were after. Cameron’s extensive musical history — having played with the legendary Roky Erickson, as well as celebrated Austin psych band ST37 and other improv/noise projects — helped the band expand its vision. Suspirians’ former synth player Sheila Scoville also guested on the recording.

Ti Bon Ange was recorded at 5th Street Studios with engineer Evan Kleinecke, while the band was still navigating their way through the nascent songs. “We had some raw and powerful basic tracks to bounce off of and the rest of the time was just having fun playing really loud and experimenting,” Pool says. The results are equally as deliberate and completely free as groundbreaking rock’n’roll should be.

Artist: Suspirians
Album: Ti Bon Ange
Label: Super Secret Records

01. Fortune Spider
02. Nocturne
03. Moonwave
04. Black Holes
05. Clean Evil
06. Scarlett Sleeps
07. Divine Spark

TOUR DATES:

07/23 New Orleans, LA @ Saturn Bar
07/25 Nashville, TN @ Betty’s
07/27-29 Indian Meadow, WV @ Voice of the Valley Fest
07/31 Cincinnati, OH @ Rakes End
08/01 Indianapolis, IN @ State Street Pub
08/02 Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class
08/04 Akron, OH @ Hive Mind
08/05 Kansas City, MO @ Blind Tiger

Austin Cultural Exchange & Self Sabotage Present

poster by Kelsey Jenkinson

7:00 PM — Bob Hoffnar + Mike St. Clair
7:30 PM — Ralph White + Steve Marsh
8:00 PM — Horne + Holt
8:30 PM — More Eaze w/ Dane Rousay
9:00 PM — Ben Bennett [Philly]
9:30 PM — Self Sabotage Social Soiree*
10:00 PM — Adam Busch / Lisa Cameron / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
10:30 PM — Caleb de Casper (with visuals by Chris Svoboda)

Tiny Book Collection presented by Jennifer Hecker (archivist;head of Town Talk Library) and Josh Ronsen (artist/musician)

at the Museum of Human Achievement (Springdale & Lyons, behind/adjacent to Canopy)

*Dyr Faser had to cancel due to snowstorm in New England

Austin Chronicle feature on Evil Triplet & Steve Marsh

Evil Triplet‘s main man Steve Marsh gets the feature treatment  in the 10 February 2017 issue of the Austin Chronicle. He talks about the upcoming debut double LP OTHERWORLD that we are putting out and talks about Terminal Mind, one of Austin’s seminal punk bands (we will be reissuing remastered Terminal Mind tracks via Sonic Surgery), as well as his involvement with other bands and the Austin music scene. There is even mention of our future cassette release of Steve’s electronic music project Radarcave (coming out on Self Sabotage). Read all about it at http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2017-02-10/austin-punk-pioneer-steve-marsh-climbs-the-star-ladder

Laktas, Marsh, and Volpi
(photo by John Anderson, Austin Chronicle)