Studio of Doom

Jessie's Pet Cat

Musicians: Wilson Abbott, Laureen Brian, Jim Eagan, Carl Dexter, Damian Magista, Aaron Kirsnick, Jason Rubin, Amy Hickox, Phil Custer, Tim Brush, Tess McCauley, Rick Rackleff, Tom Hacket, Robert Rensel, David Chamberlain, Paul Visminus, Harold Lane.

Dedicated to the memory of all who performed herein.
Special thanks to Je'sus and Pusmon for the precious kitty.


  • Stone Soup: Who Will My Love Go To?
  • Drizzle: Drifting Man
  • Cheshire: Bottle
  • Strange: Twelve Boats
  • DreamKitchen: Claude Monet
  • Cheshire: Sunbath
  • DreamKitchen: To a Sick Child
  • Harlodo and the Grufs: Who Is the Crazy One Here?
  • DreamKitchen: Life's Rhythms
  • Moodboy and the Diva: Ophelia
  • Cheshire: Fly
  • DreamKitchen: Fire Across the Garden Gate
  • Moodboy and the Diva: Breathing Water

    Original Album Notes (from 1993)

    Olympia has become somewhat famous for it's thriving music scenes. Even so, like anywhere, much music gets made that doesn't often get heard; sometimes real treasures remain hidden in the margins. This tape samples music from one network of musicians who, so far, have been doomed to only sporadic fawnings and adulation -- doomed to survive on the salves of futile mutual ego-massages cloaked in the typical ruses of false modesty and the wistful daydreams of inflated grandeur -- all the while posing, too hip to care, pretending that "Kill Rock Stars" equates with an evolved political consciousnesss, and so forth. Boohoo.

    In a weak moment, Carl Dexter and Laureen Brian complusively invested in the equipment necessary for a high quality eight-track recording studio for their home. Their band immeadiately broke up. As a result, Carl was inspired to use the studio to record a number of other local artists. Some of the recently recorded material has been publicly released, including a tape by DreamKitchen, Carl and Laureen's new band with Jim Eagan and me, and two releases by Cheshire on their own "Spiral" label, the seven-inch "Fruit"/"Vegetable" EP and the Cats, Candles, Friends and Faeries LP. However, most of the material Carl has recorded remains unreleased until now. The bands broke up too fast. Hence the name "Studio of Doom."

    Carl eventually realized he was sitting on a wealth of material, some of it incredibly beautiful. Perversely, he decided that this work should "go out," or at least some of it be represented, so this sampler was conceived. I don't think Carl realized that in the process, besides making available some otherwise lost gems, he was offering evidence of his own gifts, too: his brilliant musicianship, impeccable technical craftsmanship, and generous spirit. It should be noted that all of these recordings were made free of charge to the artists; Carl provided these labors out of his own love for the music itself.

    As I listen, I realize that this tape is also a document of friendships and family ties that go back almost twenty years.

    Some history: Carl and Laureen met in the early seventies at Jefferson Jr. High and have suprisingly been more or less together ever since. Carl's first band, "Northern Waste," formed out of Olympia High School. When bassist David Daniels quit the band to leave town, Laureen joined to replace him. After the band's inevitable break-up, Carl and Laureen formed a new band with Jim Eagan and Robley Gillis, orginally called "Silverfin."

    Silverfin began landing professional gigs and left a legacy of some haunting original recordings. The band during this time, roughly 1978 to to '81, also became the nexus of a cultural scene dubbed "The Small Talk Cafe." Amoung other activities, the Small Talk organized shows of original music by various local bands, held at the old Unitarian church (now Quaker) on Tumwater Hill.

    One of the other bands to participate in Small Talk was "Strange," a five-member band in which I played. After bassist Don Morris left the band, Strange gave its last performance as four-piece band at the Small Talk in 1978. (Carl swears this was not his fault.) A live recording of Tom Hackett's "Twelve Boats" from that night was printed on limited edition "Souvenir Album" after Strange broke up, but the recording quality was so poor that, in 1992, Carl invited the four of us to reunite to make the recording that appears here.

    During those years and thereafter, members of both bands participated in a number of ad hoc recording and performing projects. Both bands feverishly fought their inevitable fates by taking on new identities over the years.

    Robley left his band (what had been called "Silverfin") and moved out of town, producing beautiful solo work, much of it in the "ambient" musical style of Brian Eno. Robley was replaced by Gerry Amandes, and the whole band moved to Seattle. Meanwhile, under both configurations, the band went through name (and identity) changes, including "The Larks," "The Elbows," "The Nodes," "The Bellowtones," "The Astrotots," and "Tabu." Jim and Gerry left the group in 1987 to play with other bands ("The Basementals" and "The Assumptions," both defunct) and to perform as a duo at Venice Beach (also defunct). Meanwhile, Carl and Laureen traveled and toured as a duo. When Jim moved back to Olympia in 1991, I joined with the reunited long-time threesome to from "DreamKitchen."

    Meanwhile, Strange broke up in early 1979. Although I was the one to officially call it quits. I the the fact that pianist Robert Rensel was taking on the responsibilites of starting a family contributed to our demise. However, within a year, drummer Rick Rackleff rejoined with Tom and me to form a new band, "HRU," with Diane Gruver and Rick's brother Dave. HRU debuted at the Small Talk in 1980, but broke up in 1982 after only a few additional performances. However, within a few years, I had joined forces with Rick and Tom once again, joined by another old friend, Paul "Pablito" Visminus. This foursome is called "The Grufs" (pronounced "Groofs") and has been playing together ever since, over ten years now. Obviously, we have yet to record in the studio itself.

    Pablito's musical background is jazz. The Grufs have therefore taken a more eclectic (and haphazard) course of development. In recent years, they have featured Harold "Haroldo" Lane, infamous "ranter," as a guest performer at several shows. One such show, performed at Barb's Soul Cuisine in June of '92, was recorded live. Carl engineered the mix and taped the performance. on his portable DAT machine. Haroldo has not publicly performed with the Grufs since.

    Paul continues over the years to be active in jazz. Rick has played in other (defunct) bands including "Harvey" and "Spellbound Blues Band," aka "Alibi"; currently, he plays in "Naked," an excellent exciting Olympia band which, incidently, is now talking about trading recording work with Carl! Oh dear.

    In the last few years, many of us have worked with and made friends with a handful of younger musicians whose work is included here. To begin with, Tom began doing some wild improvised ambient performances with Damian Magista; on one of his visits back to Olympia, Robley joined in, too! These "animalizations" were performed under the names of "Dr. Seuss" and "Sam I Am." Since then, Tom has joined up with Matt Love, Dunstan Skinner, and a few irregulars to continue in this experimental vein; it's called "Blood Paradise."

    Later, Damian joined with his friend Jason Rubin and with Amy Hickox and Aaron Kirshnick to form the band "Drizzle." One block up Fourth Street lived some recent arrivals to Olympia, members of a three-man group called "Cheshire." The members, Tim Brush, Philip Custer, and MIke Stark, had all gone to school together in Poulsbo. Another sort of "scence" was forming.

    Carl and Laureen came to a show in May of '91 at the North Shore Club to watch a show that included the Grufs, Drizzle, and Cheshire; immediately, Carl invited Drizzle into the studio and worked with them to produce a full-length tape, a cut of which is included here. Thereafter, they immeadiately broke up.

    The following summer, Carl and I worked to record Cheshire, who had become my personal favorites. Two of the cuts, "Fly" and "Sunbath," represent these sessions and are outtakes from the their EP release. Immeadiately thereafter, Mike quit the group and later moved to Ashland.

    Damian had briefly played with Cheshire, but Mike was permanently replaced with bassist Tess McCauley. During 1992, Carl engineered Cheshire's beautiful new LP featuring the threesome; two of Phil's songs from that album are included herein.

    Carl also worked with ex-Drizzle members Damian and Amy to record new material with supportive accompaniment from Laureen Jim; the duo was christened "Moodboy and the Diva." Two exquisite cuts are represented here.

    That summer, Carl organized a new "Small Talk" series, this time with the sponsorship of Anna Porter at Dreamz Galleria. The series included performances by Creep, Treehouse, DreamKitchen, The Grufs and Haroldo, Cheshire, Moodboy and the Diva, Monkey Funk, and Naked. Phil also organized a percussion jam as part of the series.

    Ex-Drizzle member Jason went on to form a new band, the "Void", but that band enventually split up too. Members of Drizzle re-united for a while, but that didn't last either.

    Damian now plays with a new band called "Foodpusher"; as of this writing, it looks Cheshire has thrown in the towel. However, DreamKitchen, the Grufs, Blood Paradise, and Naked are still at it. We'll see.

    During the last few years, Carl, Laureen, and Jim have also been jamming with Wilson Abbott. The "Stone Soup" cut features Jim on vocal and Wilson on slide. Carl says the song was written especially for Jim; it came to him in a dream wherein Jim was perched on a rock half-naked in some ancient millennia and clime singing this very song.

    All four of the DreamKitchen songs are recently recorded and unreleased. My two songs are improved re-recordings from "closet tapes" I'd done in 1987 with the help of Tom Hackett. "Fire" is currently in the Gruf's performance repertoire.

    Hopefully, (dear God) this will not be the end of it. I hope that as you listen you sense the common thread that makes this diverse work something of a piece in spirit. I hope you're as moved by this collection as I am. I think you'll agree that Carl has helped to bring together (and break up) something quite special here.

    David Chamberlain

    | Email |