By Jenny Poplar
Almost every year since 1989, Salt Lake Underground magazine, a free, fringy-monthly music rag that’s a bit edgier, grimier and more profane than City Weekly (but we’re still cool, #@$&#!), has released some sort of a compilation showcasing the underbelly of Utah’s robust local music scene.
In the early ’90s, SLUG comps were scrappy cassette tapes that featured a handful of choice acts. But thanks to advances in technology, the tireless efforts of Editor Angela H. Brown and a dedicated crew of music enthusiasts and artists, SLUG peaked with 2004’s exhaustive Death by Salt, consisting of three CDs that featured the work of over 60 bands, as well as a booklet about Utah’s local music scene.
"The goal of Death by Salt," Brown explains, "was to produce a comprehensive picture of the local music scene. We hope to achieve the same thing this year with Death by Salt II." SLUG’s 2006 compilation is slightly smaller, with two CDs, just over 40 artists and band trading cards (yes, band trading cards) in lieu of a booklet. "We received over 200 submissions, and the entire process of putting DBS II together took about a year and half. We’d like to speed things up in the future, but we’re very happy with the way it turned out."
Comprehensive is an apt description for DBS II: Where else will you find drum & bass experimentalists Cosm, alt-country trio Bronco and hard-rockers Thunderfist co-existing in harmony on the same CD?
Guitarist Ryan Fedor of the Wolfs, Tolchock Trio and Buttery Muffins (all DBS II contributors), believes that a slimmed-down Death by Salt compilation is a good thing. "In 2004, I think a lot of bands gave SLUG their leftovers. But this year, the emphasis seems to be on quality tracks recorded specifically for DBS II."
Brown confirms that SLUG sought exclusive tracks but stresses that the bands maintain the rights to their songs so they can eventually be issued somewhere else. Tolchock Trio’s DBS II contribution is actually a re-worked version of "Our Lady of Good Counsel," the first track on their most recent album, Ghosts Don’t Have Bones; the group employed Andy Patterson, the same sound engineer who ultimately mastered DBS II, to alter the sparse, meandering song so that it could be played live with more ease.
Scott Selfridge (singer-guitarist of contributors Coyote Hoods and the Red Bennies) says that DBS II is a great opportunity to do something a little different. "I dared myself to send a recording of a basement tape or a song that wasn’t quite finished but still had a uniqueness and a beauty." Ryan Jensen, vocalist of the Vile Blue Shades, says the VBS track has existed for a while, but it wasn’t intended for any particular record. "It’s about debauchery," he says with a fiendish laugh, "so we figured, why not give it to SLUG?"
Brown notes that SLUG comps always prompt local musicians to begin new, specialized projects-such as Sleeping Bag, a soft, moody collaboration between Dave Payne of the Red Bennies and Kyrbir of Purr Bats, two legendary Deseret rockers who were once both members of the now-defunct Puri-do. Regardless of whether the bands who contributed to DBS II were motivated and organized or intoxicated procrastinators, the end product is an impressive collection of songs that proves that the underbelly of Utah’s local music scene is teeming with hidden gems.
The themed CD release parties for DBS II will also mark SLUG magazine’s 17th birthday: Festivities will include a kissing booth, tarot readings, belly dancers and performances from several of the bands featured on the CD.
"We’re aiming for a circus-sideshow sort of thing," Brown says with smile. "You know, carnies, all of that."