Blaine Cook has always been a fixture in the underground in one of America's great music cities; Seattle. From one of the earliest punk groups to emerge, The Fartz, to The Accüsed and now, Toe Tag, Blaine has been belting out the lyrics to some of greatest tunes in the past thirty years.
Now, with dividing his time between his family, a prosperous business and Toe Tag, he's one halla busy man and yet, he made sure to set aside a few minutes and gave them to ThrashHead! Many, many thanks Blaine!
ThrashHead: In the early 80's the center point of the punk rock scene had moved away from CBGB's in New York out west towards L.A. and The Bay area, but you were a founding member of The Fartz, one of the first notable hardcore bands from Seattle. What was the early days up there in Washington like? How did you get introduced to the underground?
Blaine: I was a late bloomer getting into the Seattle Punk scene. Catching on in like late '78. Really, I think that every city had it's punk scene to some degree. They just didn't know it. Around town I'd see graffiti and flyers pasted around for bands like The Lewd, Mentors, Look, DOA, Avengers playing at these different halls or bars. I picked up the first Lewd, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag 7"s at this joint called corporate records; played those things to death.
If you didn't have the record or know someone who did, there was really no way to hear the music. Crazy as it sounds, not everyone had the luxury of having a record player and cassette deck. Tape trading wasn't far off. The first, what I'd call, real hardcore punk show I saw was Veins, Black Flag (with Ron Reyes on vocals) and the SubHumans ( the Canadian band) up stairs at the Washington Hall. There was blood, broken glass, fights and knifes drawn. The Showbox was happening for bigger bands. Smaller places were popping up like Danceland USA, Graven Image, Grey Door, Metropolis. Hall shows were still happening at halls like the UCT, Serbian, Polish, Washington.
ThrashHead: Ok, I have to ask, why The Fartz? Is there more there, or were you just eatin' a bean burrito and it came to you?
Blaine: Like we said, what's in a name? I'm sure that Steve still has some story about why we went with The Fartz; believe me, we were the brunt of many jokes. We had this house in West Seattle we called the "Gas Chamber". We had some of the neighborhood goons graffiti the house; we weren't embraced by the neighborhood...the parties, firecrackers and live music didn't help.
ThrashHead: You guys had put out that first 7" "Fuck Art Let's Fart" (re-released by AT as "Because This Fuckin' World Stinks" ) and the next thing you know, you are signed to Alternative Tentacles. Not long after, the classic LP "World Full of Hate" emerges; first, how did you come to be on Jello's radar and two, what was the gigging schedule like, did you have to play a lot of shows on the road due to the fact Seattle was a bit more limited on venues willing to book punks?
Blaine: We met Jello pretty early on. One of our first big shows was with the Dead Kennedys. He was really supportive of a lot of bands all over the states. His support launched a lot of musical endeavors. By then, I think we'd all ready put that 7" out. An anonymous person donated $500 for us to record "World Full Of Hate". Jello got us some shows down in the bay area and hooked us up with this band (The Fuck Ups) to stay with who had a store front in the mission district. Playing shows? There was no shortage of shows for us to play. If it was a hall show there was a pretty good chance the cops were gonna show up and shut it down... we only did the west coast as far south as Santa Monica and as far north as Vancouver BC..We got from point A to point B however we could; there wasn't really any money in it. For the most part we might get gas money and a floor to sleep on. I think the most The Fartz ever made playing was $75.
ThrashHead: The band's sound is strikingly different to what California was putting out at the time, why is that? Do you think there was a lot more creative independence being outside of "the scene" then?
Blaine: The music The Fartz made was what we could make with our limited musical ability. Those were tough economic times. Even having gear to play through or a place to practice was never guaranteed.
ThrashHead: What were some of the other really great punk bands in the Seattle area at the time which people may not have had a chance to know?
ThrashHead: Tell me about 10 Minute Warning, why the name change, and what happened after the tour with the Dead Kennedys which made you decide enough was enough?
Blaine: That was a stupid move on our part changing the name; caught up in the moment and thought we were doing the right thing. Lifestyle, hard drugs and alcohol were all the usual suspects that drove The Fartz apart. At the time, we changed the name, our original drummer Loud had been replaced Duff. Loud was a good drummer but he was really a guitar player at heart. Duff was harder hitter and had a stronger meter. We recorded 5 songs and released those on a cassette as The Fartz. Next up, the name change then Steve is out of the band. Duff moves to second guitar, Greg Gilmore plays drums and David Guarigues on the bass. My vocal chops weren't up to where the new TMW was going musically so I got the boot.
ThrashHead: Getting back to what you just said, some of us old schoolers knew this, but young punx may not, that, as you just mentioned, GnR's Duff McKagan, who had played in several Seattle punk bands, like The Living, played with you guys, some of which can be heard on The Fartz 1990 album "You, We See You Crawling" 12" EP. Have you run into him since he's gone back to Seattle?
Blaine: Yeah, right, continuing from the previous question... later on that five song demo and some live Fartz tracks got released by Empty Records. Just kind of as a joke, they put a sticker on the record saying something like featuring Duff from GNR. Duff was in a butt load of bands in the late 70's, guy was really talented; played all instruments. He was only in TMW for a short period of time before he made the big move to L.A. The next time I ran into him, GNR was in Seattle playing this really small show at Rock Theatre (really great place converted movie theatre that had metal bands play in one room and punks in the other) They may have been playing with the Fastbacks as he was part of that scene.
Many years later, I went to see the newly reformed TMW play with the newly reformed Gruntruck at the OK Hotel. I'll reserve my opinion on what I thought of both bands....
Anyhow, Duff was in the process of putting together his first solo kind of a deal and said he had a song he wanted me to sing on. He gave me his phone and fax number (before the internet). I tried getting in touch with him . No reply. I sold the numbers on ebay...HaHAHA
ThrashHead: Now comes the period in your life when you Join The Accüsed in '84 and you appear on all the best from this band, including the crossover classic "The Return of Martha Splatterhead", how did you become involved with a band which so many headbangers and punks still consider as one of the best crossover bands from the 80's?
Blaine: I was already friends with The Accüsed when they asked me to join the band. One of there first shows was played with The Fartz and Poison Idea down in Portland. After The Fartz, and getting booted from TMW, I picked up the guitar and played in short lived band called Mr. Stubs and His Carnivorous Chicken Band...when I joined the band it was just like starting over. The first few shows we played in Seattle no one showed up. We really started developing a following by playing down in Portland and in the Everett area.
All the best from this band...yes indeed. I was an integral part of what the band did during those years. The Martha Splatterhead character that the band later took on as a mascot was my creation. Not to toot my own horn, or make any bold statements, but if I wouldn't have been in The Accüsed no one would be talking about the band right now.
ThrashHead: So, YOU were the one who came up with Martha, Niemeyer, he just drew the artwork for the original cover to "The Return of Martha Splatterhead"? For the record, how did Martha come to be?
Blaine: That's the thing with The Accüsed. If we had been a band where one person was responsible for the all the song writing, as is often the case with bands, then god bless you and keep your band going. The Accüsed wasn't a band like that; Tom's actual song writing contributions weren't great enough to put him in the role of the creative mind behind The Accüsed. That's why we had to make the move like many other bands did and split up the song writing credits as things started to get a bit lopsided (with the exception of the last record we did with him where he did come to the table with the riffs but not complete songs and we all took part in the arrangement).
That's the catch 22 with these old bands that keep on playing with only one original member; essentially, you become a cover band. The spark, inspiration and soul of songs gets lost in the translation of being played by so many players.
The name for the Martha Splatterhead character came from a series of bb gun wars me and some buddies used to have in the early 80's; pre-paintball. We all had nick names and one of the guys was called Splatterhead...I wanted The Accüsed to be in the good graces of the Maximum RockandRoll crowd who, at that time, weren't really too keen on bands that were taking on that metal edge. So a female knife wielding maniac seemed like a good idea. Her original image was taken from an underground comic book called Thrilling Murder . I penned those original lyrics on that #37 bus on my way to school/work one morning.
ThrashHead: What were those years ('84-93) with The Accüsed like? Got any good stories to tell when you have grandchildren? ...or stories you would never, ever tell the grandkids?
Blaine: Those years were the hey day of American hardcore. By then, punk wasn't even 10 years old. The whole vibe was so fresh and exciting. Stories? I've forgotten more than I can remember. I don't even know where to start.. The Accüsed played a show in Everett, Washington that was picketed by a religious group claiming that we were promoting cannibalism cuz the flyer for the show had Martha ripping some guys head open or something like that. Touring with GBH; having their bass player mess up his elbow and then Alex playing for GBH for the rest of the tour while at the same time Tom had to leave the tour and the GBH guitar player finished the tour playing with us.
ThrashHead: The late 80's, early 90's we see the emergence of grunge and Seattle becomes the epicenter of the music world, did you view it as a renaissance for the music scene in Seattle, or did it stifle creativity with a bunch of bands trying to be like Mother Love Bone?
Blaine: One or two steps before Mother Love Bone, Malfunkshun was the first band to blend that rock attitude with a punky edge. Grunge... I don't even really know what it means; bands like Skin Yard, Sound Garden they were doing their thing, Green River starts playing and you've got the Melvins down in Montesano. If anything, what happened during those years was music started to get divided up into too many categories and subcategories. Bands were doing it for the "fame".
ThrashHead: After The Accüsed first disbanded, what did you do? I know you started The Fartz back up after AT released the "Because This Fuckin' World Still Stinks" anthology in '98 which resulted with you putting out two new releases "What's in a Name?" in 2001 and a year later "Injustice, 15 Working Class Songs", but what were you doing in the interim?
Blaine: We had done the Splatterrock record on Nasty Mix. Tom quit right as the record was released. At that time we had a European tour booked and a video slated to be shot. We pushed it along for a few more years even were in negotiations with the European branch of Century Media. We knew The Accüsed was something special and we didn't want to tarnish the memory of the band so we packed it in. I got some of my buddies together and we started a band called the Black Nasty. We played around the area for a few years and self released a cd. We started The Accüsed back up for about a year. Played a bunch. The spark just wasn't there and we stopped again.
On the personal side, I bought a small house, got married and had a daughter. I did the stay at home dad thing for almost a year and did some volunteer work in a preschool program with not typically developing children. My daughter was in this program as a peer model. I was also doing a brisk business on ebay which put me in touch with a lot of people.
I got the call from Alternative Tentacles that they wanted to re-release The Fartz material on LP and they were on the hunt for the master tapes. When The Fartz recorded we just rented the tapes we just didn't have the cash to buy the tape. 2' tape only holds 15 minutes of sounds and even back then they were around $150. You'd need two or three plus the ¼ ' to mix down to. You'd end up being $500 just into tape . Needless to say, there were no original masters. Seemed like a good idea to try to track the fellows down and play a few shows. Steve, Paul and myself figured we'd make a go of it. We did bring on another drummer in Karl Fowler. He was a guy I kind of knew but not really... I did know he played drums. We did those obligatory reunion shows. We were having a pretty good time so kept booking shows. Then Mr. Paul Solger bailed on us mid stream. We were playing a pretty big free outdoor show and he was a no show. Former accused bass player Mr. Alex Maggot Brain was in attendance that evening we asked if he'd like to join in on the fun. The Fartz used to play with his old band the Maggot Brains back in the day and we all had history.
So, then The Fartz are going full steam ahead with Alex on the guitar. At the same time he was in another band called the Hot Rod Lunatics with Josh Sinder one time drummer for The Accüsed and band mate with Alex when they were both in Gruntruck with Tom. So we've got some stuff lined up for The Fartz then bass player Steve up and quits. He gives us his blessing to continue on with The Fartz. By that time, we were really playing mostly the new Fartz material and not too much of the old stuff. If we kept things going we'd just kind of be a silly cover band.
The Fartz were put to rest and me and Alex are sitting around thinking about our next move. I really wanted to do a blistering, in your face, Discharge kind of thing and call it Toe Tag...then one more time talk of The Accüsed. There is a lot of history between Tom, Alex and myself and there was some reluctance in resurrecting The Accüsed. We enlisted our one time drummer Steve "O'ring" Nelson and we started jamming again. Admittedly, things were a bit forced and the vibe and love weren't really there. Things stared to go south and we felt it was time to bail. Tom continues to play music under The Accüsed banner.
ThrashHead: Now that you have Toe Tag with some of your old partners in crime. With songs like "Run for cover/Rotting in Sickness", "Four Story Lori" and "Sawtopsy", you guys are showing that you aren't fucking around...tell me about the guys completing the lineup. How's this new project going?
Blaine: Toe Tag that's me, Blaine, on the vocals, Alex Maggot Brain on the guitar for a little longer Steve "O'ring" Nelson on the drums and lastly Steve "The Beast" McVey on the bass guitar. Straight forward, guitar driven in your face; that's how we like to dish it up!
We've put out two singles and a split cd with a Portland band called World Of Lies. We've got songs on more compilations than I can remember. We've been at it for six plus years now with a repertoire of nearly 50 songs. We still practice twice a week. It's a lot of fun. It's as close to what it was like playing in the 80's as we can make it; just for fun. We like playing live, we don't have any turmoil within the band. We all know each other pretty well and can accept each of us chooses to live their lives.
Steve Nelson has recently decided to hang up his drum sticks and call it a day. Before that happens we have a couple of days of studio time booked and we get the pleasure of working with our old friend Jack Endino. Who knows what we'll do with the songs. I'm buddies with some guys in Puerto Rico and they've wanted to do a split for a few years. Putting product out by ourselves isn't a good idea. There's a lot of options out for us. We're all pretty stoked about this and it's a fitting farewell for Steve; we'll all miss the time we've spent together.
ThrashHead: Let's break away from Music for a bit, you have to tell me about the world famous Seattle eatery, Zippy's Giant Burgers!
You and your wife have gotten some serious kudos for your menu, such as Best Burger from a few notable papers and magazines. How did you start it and what are you serving up?
Blaine: We started selling the burgers four years ago. The giant burgers in the name is a throw back to the burger joints of the 50's and 60's when a ¼ pound burger was considered giant. Before we opened, we talked to all of our burger loving friends and really dialed in how we wanted to go about. Burgers seem kind of simple we wanted to things our own way. I work in the restaurant six days a week. We have a really strong and loyal customer base and as with any great place, we know all of our customers by name. We grind our beef fresh every day and make those patties by hand. Rahel came up with this recipe for a real kick ass black bean veggie burger. She had some veggie friends who said they wouldn't come to our joint and eat some premade veggie burger that they could get at the store and we have our own root beer bottled for us. We only serve bottled cane sugar sodas; reminding people of the days when having a soda was treat.
ThrashHead: Ok, obligatory stupid question, your nickname "Zippy", what's the origin of it?
Blaine: I got the nick name zippy back in like 79. I can work pretty fast and was really into underground comics like Zippy the Pinhead. There's another guy from the Dils up in Canada and his nick name was Zippy as well. I ran into him once down in San Francisco he didn't seem to mind that I was using the Zippy tag as well.
(Ed note: Zippy Pinhead played with the Cali punk band the Dils, Canadian legends D.O.A. and now drums with the Vancouver outfit 22nd Century)
ThrashHead: For everyone reading this, any wisdom you would like to share from what you have been able to glean from a life of being a rock n roller, family man and business owner? Does the world still stink?
Blaine: Oh yeah, the world still stinks... so much of the world is living in torment and their cries can't be heard. Not to sound apathetic, but I moved from wanting to change the world into a better place; to focusing on making the world around me a better place.
Check out some choice tracks from The Fartz, The Accüsed and Toe Tag below!