Urinals/100 Flowers: A History
The URINALS formed in 1978 as a five-piece parody of punk rock, at UCLAís Dykstra Hall dormitory. The band consisted of Delia Frankel (vocals), Steve Willard (guitar), Kevin Barrett (toy drums), Kjehl Johansen (toy organ) and John Jones (later Talley-Jones, bass). Their sole performance as a five-piece was a four-song set (two originals and covers of the JAMís "This is the Modern World" and the Jetsons theme song) played at the dorm talent show, which was held in the buildingís cafeteria. The acclaim was immediate and, as a bonus, the jazz band which followed them was thoroughly outraged.
The usual "creative differences" surfaced early with Frankel and Willardís decision to depart. The remaining trio soldiered on, with Johansen picking up the guitar in place of the wheezing Emenee organ. None of the three could play their instruments, which was considered an advantage, as it forced the band to rely upon material of a tightly focused scope. Few of the early songs ventured beyond two chords.
Their debut as a trio came on Halloween eve 1978 during a dorm-wide party. Vitus Matare, keyboard-player for LA power-punk band THE LAST, stumbled upon the band and proposed to record them. Utilizing the infamous Dokorder 4-track and a microphone designed for underwater use, four songs were recorded for release on the bandís DIY label, Happy Squid Records. The peculiar ambience of the record can be traced to the technological limitations of its recording, Kevinís clicky-sounding toy-drum kit, and the guitar & bass being played live through the same amplifier.
As the Masque bands began to
make inroads into the Hollywood nightclub scene, the URINALS worked the
UCLA circuit: Dykstra Hall and Kerckhoff Coffee House. The second release,
"Another EP" was recorded in a film-scoring stage at the Motion
Picture/Television department on campus. Although this was a three-track
recording, the superior technology available yielded a more focused sound
this time around.
A scene was beginning to spring up at UCLA, with homegrown talent like NEEF, PROJECT 197 (Bruce Licherís initial project, pre-SAVAGE REPUBLIC), which featured Kevin on its release, and ZILCH, who similarly released records. Soon to come was the LEAVING TRAINS, who, like the URINALS and the TUNNELTONES (Licherís next band), staked out their own parking structure rehearsal space on weekends to take advantage of the free electricity and the massive sound which results when amplified distortion meets a large reflective concrete structure. (This sound is similar to that found on the "Sex/Go Away Girl" single, which was recorded in the basement weight-room of Dykstra Hall, during a weightlifting session!)
The bandís first show off-campus
was considerably off campus, resulting from an invitation from Raulís
in Austin, the locus of South Texasí punk underground. The URINALS + "Ack
Ack Ack Ack" lyricist Kathy Talley dutifully loaded themselves and
their equipment into Kjehlís tiny yellow Capri for a non-stop 24-hour
drive into the Heart of Texas. A two-night stand there dispelled the prevailing
notion that all LA punk bands sounded alike. The local media was supportive
and thankfully open to the conceptual appeal of the "sound of people
struggling with their instruments," as Kjehl put it
The URINALSí alter-ego was ARROW BOOK CLUB, which took its cue from the PORTSMOUTH SYMPHONIA, whose members played instruments with which they were unfamiliar. With ABC, the URINALS were able to straddle two worlds, that of pop/punk music, and that of a more experimental improvosational approach, such as that of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, whose ranks included LeFORTE FOUR and DOODOOETTES.
THE LAST and BLACK FLAG were both enthusiastic supporters of the URINALS, and frequently asked to have them as support. At Blackieís (on LaBrea), the URINALS were on the bill the night BLACK FLAG was arrested on stage for disturbing the peace. Eventually, competence began to set in, and the material became more sophisticated, though its aggressive directness remained. The band felt uneasy using a moniker than no longer reflected the throwaway attitude of its early days. After much discussion, a new band name was decided upon, 100 FLOWERS, taken from the Maoist Cultural Revolution quotation, "Let 100 flowers bloom and 100 schools of thought contend."
After having scrapped its 4-track URINALS album, the band, and producer Vitus, began work on its 8-track album debut, which was recorded at Orange County Recorders over time, as the band could afford the sessions. With musical competence came disageements over musical approach which caused the band to break up, and the album and follow-up EP came out posthumously. The former was eventually released in February of 1983, one month after 100 FLOWERS had played its farewell shows at Russell Jessumís Anticlub. A follow-up EP, "Drawing Fire," was to follow a year later.
In 1996, Urinals reformed with
the intention of starting from square one -- playing their earliest tunes
with directness and energy. Shockingly, punk rock was now commercial and
something of a known commodity (Nirvana, Green Day, Blink 182, etc.),
so the Urinals found that they had an audience. Thanks to their "historical
significance" they found themselves on bills with the likes of Sonic
Youth, Mudhoney, Creeper Lagoon, The Cows, and Nashville Pussy. But the
band knew that one must move forward or die, so they began to write new
John, Kevin, Rod Barker in 2001 (Photo by Kat)
2006 saw a new guitarist, the multifaceted Rob Roberge (also a novelist and filmmaker,) and a new name, THE CHAIRS OF PERCEPTION, which was to signal the next evolutionary step in the band's history. In January of 2008 however, the band reverted to its original name. For current URINALS activity, including streaming audio, video clips, and performing schedule, please visit www.myspace.com/chairsofperception .
The band's material has been
covered by THE GUN CLUB, LEAVING TRAINS (twice), HALO OF FLIES, ELEVENTH
DREAM DAY, YO LA TENGO (twice), THE DISHES, THE REDS, MIKE WATT, and THE
BUTTHOLE SURFERS, among others.
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