Photo by Jay Brown
New Bomb Turks
Interview by Ryan Bray
When Eric Davidson, Jim Weber, Matt Reber and Bill Randt bound together to for the New Bomb Turks in 1990, there were little to no expectations. And in retrospect, it’s easy to wonder why there would be. Even when put in the context of the alternative/grunge/punk garage rock explosion of the 90s, the formula of four guys studying English at Ohio State didn’t seem like a recipe for anything more than the occasional jam session over a few brews.
But the band’s modest ambitions were quickly upended, as the Turks emerged as a formidable garage punk powder keg over the course of the next decade. But even today, Davidson can’t help but be amazed.
“It’s pretty funny,” the frontman turned music scribe said. “It’s weird, because it’s hard to judge your own band and what it may or may not mean to people. But on a personal level, I remember coming up with the band name just walking down the street with Jim [Weber, New Bomb Turks guitarist]. And you don’t come up with a band name thinking you’ll still be taking about it 20 years later.”
But in 2013, we’re talking about the Turks, a band that left a considerable dent on the face of the punk rock landscape in spite of the low ceiling its members initially put over the band’s head. It all started with !Destroy Oh Boy!, the band’s 1993 debut for Crypt Records, which grabbed fans and members of the music literati by the throat as it thrashed along with untamable junk rock energy. The record’s 14 tracks served as a meteoric testament to what a handful of learned college boys can do, and the world was put on notice.
That said, Davidson still can’t help but look back with a certain amount of incredulity.
“In the sort of trash rock world we all came up in, you don’t just sit around and go ‘We’re great, we’re awesome,’ you know? You say shit like ‘We’re drunk, and we suck.’ But it’s fun. After 20 years, it’s OK to say ‘Well, maybe some people care about this record.’
But for as long as it’s been since the record’s initial release, the decision to rerelease the record, as well as the process of repackaging and remastering it, was quick. After Davidson first kicked around the idea of a reissue last year, the other members quickly jumped on board. In addition to the record’s original 14 tracks, the rerelease will also feature a handful of unreleased tracks, while the band got help from the likes of The Hives’ Pelle Almquist, Danko Jones and former Death to Samantha frontman John Petkovic in preparing new liner notes for the reissue.
“It was just a fun idea, because it was 20 years,” he said. “Last year I had a moment where I thought ‘This is the same exact date that we recorded the album.’ I emailed the other guys and said ‘I want to reprint that again.’ We just said ‘Sure, what the hell?’ We revamped the cover art a little bit, and John Petkovic [Death to Samantha], he did some liner notes for us.”
Prepping the record for rerelease also given the Turks cause to wax nostalgic a bit on the circumstances surrounding its original recording. Davidson laughs thinking back to !Destroy Oh Boy!‘s day-long blitzkrieg recording session in the current hipster epicenter of Williamsburg, years before it became overrun with “all these shops and shit,” while he also cringes some at his early stabs at becoming a lyricist.
“We play a lot of songs off that record, but there’s others we haven’t played since 1994,” he said, “It’s funny to go over a few of those and realize ‘Wait, what the fuck was I saying again?’ For me, I realize how I didn’t really know how to go about writing lyrics exactly. I made a pretty good leap in lyric writing after the first album.”
Save for a small handful of live dates each year, the band hasn’t been terribly active since their last full- length release The Night Before The Day The Earth Stood Still in 2002. Davidson has turned his attention toward music journalism, crafting the smut punk tell all “We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut 1988-2001” while also fronting a new project called Livids, while Weber became a high school teacher in 2004. But the reissue brought the Turks back together for a handful of festival dates in Europe the first week of July, as well as a homecoming show in Columbus on June 29.
“20 years can pass pretty quickly,” Davidson said. “We still play every once in a blue moon. Maybe once a year we try and get together because somebody asks us to play, or just a couple of shows a year for fun. But when you’re 20 and you think ’20 years later,’ it feels like this massive amount of time. But it’s still fun to get together as friends and play.”
By Jeff Alexander
Singer Eric Davidson has returned after a six-year absence with Livids, a raucous co-ed punk band that brazenly delivers lo-fi tracks in near record times. By no means a mere continuation of his former group New Bomb Turks, Davidson reflected on his return to the stage.
“I told myself for a while that once I got on better financial footing I would do another music thing. Looking back on the end of New Bomb Turks, 2001 was a terrible year. Our good friend Jerry Wick of Gaunt died in a bike accident, obviously 9/11 happened and the ‘Turks just kind of ran the natural course. We had a good run.”
Davidson applied his passion for music to the written word which ultimately led to the success of his book We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001. Showcasing many of his fellow Ohio cohorts, Davidson sought to inform readers on oft- overlooked bands.
“It was really fun but also a lot of work to put it together. I wanted to give the snowed under basement beer drinkers their day. Mostly, I received good feedback and that makes me feel great since actual money compensation for writing about music is ‘so 20th century’. It’s all been worth it and really fun.”
After moving to New York in 2004, Davidson met up with Jami Wolf (Livids guitarist) in 2011, which proved to be perfect timing as Wolf was looking to start another group.
“Jami was playing in Shop Fronts and mentioned that she and Shop Fronts bassist Alessandra were looking to start a new band. I asked if I could sing and she seemed surprised but said sure,” said Davidson.
Wolf said she had no preconceived notions of how Livids would ultimately sound.
“Eric was on board with the band from day one but it was challenging to find a good guitarist. Sound wise I don’t consider us a new school garage band or whatever, just a straight ahead punk band.”
The search for a second guitarist ended once Wolf’s friend Daniel Kelley agreed to move to New York after his stint in The Re-Volts.
“I originally got into Re-Volts because I’m connected to Swingin’ Utters through their old bassist, Kevin Wickersham. I was floored to be able to play with them and expectations were high. Looking back it opened a lot of doors for me. As far as moving, it’s hard as hell to move that kind of distance but I somehow managed,” said Kelley.
Despite the departure of Alessandra, Wolf stated the addition of Kelley and new bassist Joi Liquor proved to be a smooth transition. Yet another lineup change saw the addition of drummer Greg Collins.
“They (Kelley and Liquor) are the babies of the band age- wise, but everything just really clicked. We got a lot of positive attention and feedback but the band did take a year or so to really get off the ground.”
Davidson stated Livids had no expectations other than to play locally and create music they felt was fun.
“At that point we felt playing in small venues and just releasing some seven inches was what we needed.”
Livids stand in marked contrast to recent New York music trends but Davidson stated the band has found its niche.
“First off, it seems when people say New York some people automatically think Williamsburg. I live in Astoria! There are still good places to play in Manhattan but I think people want music to always be approachable which is not really the case with Livids.”
According to Wolf, Livids continue to last based on the simple fact that expectations were minimal.
“We obviously had no dreams of hitting it big and historically that has been the case with our other bands. We’ve achieved a lot with this band and I think the expectations have been far surpassed. We just go balls out,” she said.