Ah, the ever charming Mr Chad Channing his ready-set-go for adding his backing vocals to Nerd Table’s new release, this band always pulls out the surprises. Simple truth, it’s a real indication what dedication can do; the last time I spoke to Adam Casto of the band he was working sixty-five hours a week — kinda hours that make mincemeat of a person — but around it onwards with his music, with creating, with forging the links that make it such an interesting project. You might remember I popped up a link to their last full album “Chasing the Bronco” back in 2013 (https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/01/10/a-nirvana-cover-on-the-nerd-table/) and if you didn’t check it do go seek it out; it features Aaron Burckhard, Dave Foster, Dale Crover and Cris from the Meat Puppets so for a pure Nirvana fan it’s a worthy purchase and for those who love killer punk with an acerbic edge it’s a damn listenable album anyways!
So what next? Well, I’m waiting for my copy of Nerd Table IV: the Quest for Peace to arrive from the U.S., a very well spent $5 U.S. dollars (it’s $4 for the MP3s, I mean, damn, that’s a really good price — I say take a chance!) from https://www.facebook.com/thequestforpeace
In the meantime I decided if I wanted to learn more about Adam’s fanatical desire to perform with his heroes then I thought I should just ask the guy. So, if I might suggest, slap on the YouTube clip of Nerd Table’s take on “Big Long Now” and let the rampage begin…
I guess as I’ve worked away at this blog these past couple years what I’ve really noticed is how many people are out there creating and how the rewards for the vast majority are entirely spiritual — my hypothesis has been that the cash flows to tech firms, overarching organisations and rarely to individuals except in token cases. Basically the vast supply of ‘creations’ (literature, music, art, sculpture, dance) means the individual cost of any item is approaching zero unless there’s some additional cultural weight behind it; superstar status, topicality, whatever. The Nerd Table experience seems to head that way; (Adam) “We all have full time jobs — never made any money being in Nerd Table. I mean we have sold plenty of CDs and made money from gigs but overall we’re not in the plus column. Recording music is NOT cheap…Always been like that for us I suppose. Unless you’re a cover band/Mumford and Sons/Jam band/Cookie Cutter bullshit it’s hard to make any money.” The impact of needing to maintain a regular income in the midst of a capitalist economy where money is the defined medium of exchange for any commodity or essential of living is quite visible — it restricts the time available to create, focuses the time. (Adam) “We usually practice one time a week. The amount of shows we do depends on what is going on with the band. In 2012 we did 17 gigs. In 2013 we did 11. In 2014 only 4. We recorded the new EP this year and added a new bass player (David Lawler) to the fold in April. We have had the very talented Mike Flowers on drums since 2011 so I am very excited for the future. We write here and there.. no real schedule for that. We hope to record again soon with money earned from the new EP.” That perked my interest for sure; I often buy Michael Gira recordings that go toward funding his next recording sessions — expensive to do it right! The days of the $600 dollar Reciprocal Recording session are long past and anyways, spare cash isn’t exctly easy to come by either.
I would say when we first started it was just something to do…Most of the time our guitar player, Nick Nighbert, will come to practice with a verse and a chorus already written (like with “Bitch Eat Baloney All Day” on the IV release) and the band will add a break down or interlude. Other times our bass player will come up with riffs (like on “Fucking Nazi Bitch”.) We don’t really ‘jam’ out songs that much. My favorite thing about being in a band is putting out awesome material. I’m proud of our shit! I’m most proud of the two Nirvana covers.”
It’s hard not to come back to the Nirvana covers. I think all that matters to me is that things like this are done with respect and frankly I think the kinda blood that must have gone into building the friendships and relationships involved is awe-inspiring and admirable. Plus, to be honest, when I first listened I was expecting some garage band but was so surprised! Razor sharp edges, good production, a snotty edge I’d been missing for a while. I did wonder though where it all comes from…Turns out that Nerd Table has always centred on Nick and Adam which often meant bringing in other musicians and through fate, lucky chance, seizing on happy strokes of genius, it became a defining feature! (Adam) “With all the different band members and guests it adds plenty of spice so it never gets stale. I think that’s one of the cooler aspects of Nerd Table…Kind of a Nerdy snowball if you will. It all started with our song Tape of Me. I got Toshi Kasai to play guitar on that. He is really good friends with Dale (Crover) so that led to us flying to Hollywood to have them produce the Nut To Nut EP. Then I kind of went ape with guests on our 2012 album Chasing The Bronco. Nerd Table IV The Quest For Peace is like a concentrated extension of that. There was no master plan…There is one now but I am still working on it! In 2011, my buddy Mitch Holmquist was a huge reason why we were able to get set up with Aaron Burckhard. It would not have happened without him. Initially I was only planning on having Aaron play on an original song of ours called Noise of Earth (Part 4) but at the last minute without talking to the band about it I tacked on the Floyd the Barber cover. Aaron played along with the studio version of the track. We had already worked with Dale Crover on our Nut To Nut EP (2009) so it did not take much convincing to get him to sing on it. I first started talking to Chad Channing on MySpace in 2007. Slowly I built a rapport with him and seven years later he’s on our new EP! I still have plans to record with Dave Foster at some point too. I have actually spoken with him most out of any former member of Nirvana. He’s really a nice guy.”
It’s an ever more extensive catalogue — I confess I simply went ahead and bought up the lot because having listened to “Chasing the Bronco” I was definitely in the mood for a bigger hit of snarl. Just to compare notes I asked Adam what his favourite songs are and, behind the Nirvana work which clearly took some energy given who on earth would want to half-ass playing with ones heroes(?) he points to… (Adam) “A close second and third is Bitch Eat Baloney All Day (w Chad Channing and Paul Leary) and Bloody Tooth (w Rodleen Getsic and Toshi Kasai).” Yeah, I think he’s nailed it. I like it when someone can scream and hold it, where there’s control and viciousness coexisting. Fact is Adam has a great snarl and a way with a telling line; I’ve ended up chanting some nasty lines after a spin of Nerd Table.
(Adam) “I really do feel like I have grown as a song writer. I sing about social and political issues with out being boring or preachy. Lots of humor to go around because I don’t like when shit gets too serious. The one thing I have held on to since the beginning is that you got to ruffle some feathers or piss a few people off. If you can play your music at church or for your parents and they approve then its soft. I am sick of the safe route too many bands do that…As time went on there became more of a focus on tackling topics and trying to make points. There’s more of a focused message and style to what we do now.”
Think it’s called learning, growing…Getting better and more focused on what one loves doing.
Likewise one thing I feel I share very much with Adam and his endeavours is that while wanting to show respect to the things I love like Nirvana, I hate the idea of smothering them, trying to own them. I think inspiration, making something fresh and new with one’s influences is a very fine thing — I’m not sure there’s a higher praise than someone taking what one creates and feeling it deserves to be reborn and renewed. A big part of that is just showing respect and being honest, being real. (Adam) “I would say it’s a delicate balance of bugging without bugging too much. Being genuine has also helped greatly and I think the guys have picked up on that. I am not faking. Nirvana is by far my favorite band. There is a lot of luck involved too. A perfect storm.”
Couldn’t help but divert into Nirvana chatter given this is a gentleman who has devoted time and energy to truly getting to know members of the band; no passing fascination, ongoing decency. General thoughts of a musician on fellow musicians?
“Dale Crover is one of the most talented drummers on the planet. Nirvana was only a side project for him. What would have happened if it was his full time gig? If you consider his work on the Fecal Matter demo he is just as important as any other member besides Krist…Aaron Burckhard was the original drummer. He is a talented guy who I am sure would have approached the band a lot differently had he realized the magnitude. His style fit in with all the weird ass shit Kurt was playing…Dave Foster is the most difficult to judge. There’s a show on the internet from the Community World Theater with him on drums. He really kicks ass on that show. I would have loved to hear some other stuff to get a better sample size. I don’t think he gets a fair shake from articles and what not. You want to judge a guy on what you think you know or one bad incident that happened over 20 years ago. Not cool in my opinion…Danny Peters from Mudhoney was a nice wrinkle to the legacy. He did great on Sliver and the Motor Sports International Garage. I asked him several time to work with Nerd Table. He politely shot me down. Chad Channing a very creative guy. The supposed knock on him is not hitting the drums hard enough. I suppose if you mic him up and turn him up a bit it wouldn’t matter but what do I know. Even Grohl gave him props on writing a lot of Nevermind. Dave Grohl is right up there with Dale. He hits hard and has the chops to do those delicate back-up vocals. A legend in his own right. I really want to get him to do some Nerd Table stuff…”
Ambition! That’s what I like to see. I think Nerd Table have it. (Adam) “At one point I decided my goal is to become culturally relevant. I think I’ve achieved that goal.” Keep kicking it brother.
Here’s hoping a few of you feel like a hit of something new, inspired, collaborative, communal. It’s a beautiful thing.