Terry Lee Hale: the Sub Pop 200 True Exception

Everyone says they love a maverick, an exception – most people shrug and simultaneously say they aren’t but think they are. As Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes put it “I’m significant!!! …Screamed the dust speck.” To be fair, the tragedy of failed imagination displayed when people strive to be precisely the same as everyone else is grim to behold so in some ways I’d rather at least attempt to live life as a howling dust speck than give up and ‘be realistic’.

I think what happens is people define someone as an exception in the full totality of their being when in actual reality people are only exceptional in discreet components of who they are and what they do; we all make our compromise with the norm even if it just means we can exchange verbiage. Which brings me to Terry Lee Hale who precisely defines it with a smile and a shrug; “conformity is a funny thing…Even if one rejects the more acceptable ‘normal’ lifestyle choices there is still a kind of conformity in alternate choices right?”

I’ve known Mr Hale’s name a good many years as the true exception on the Sub Pop 200 statement of intent – a singer songwriter playing acoustic amid the wall-to-wall guitar image Sub Pop were determined to pump out at the time. In a way it keeps Cobain and co.’s then presence in perspective for me; no criticism of them implied. Their rebel yell consisted of conforming to a particular underground milieu that was rising in Seattle and being deliberately dredged up by Sub Pop. Sometimes it’s just the case that one’s voice is attuned to those around, at other times one walks one’s own path – in Mr Hale’s case, ending up as a lone singer-songwriter on the Sub Pop 200 release and a real harbinger of the direction in which Sub Pop would proceed from around the time of Mark Lanegan’s The Winding Sheet onwards. Ever heard Dead is Dead? It’s a charmer – naturally i’ll encourage you to download it legally so the artist actually receives a touch of commission; contrary to popular opinion most musicians are not rich millionaires who can afford all and sundry valuing their hard work at zero.

A further point of intrigue in his story is how the choice that united Hendrix, Sub Pop and others down the years remained true in the 1990s; it was often easier to be a viable musician and to be valued as such by jumping across the waters; Terry Lee Hale made the trip over to Europe in the mid-Nineties and has made his base here.

The song at the top of the page is from his latest album, song and album both entitled The Long Draw – guitar reminds me of those brilliant recordings Michael Gira, of Swans notoriety, would make playing solo but cleaner and far more expert though.


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