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Garage rock veterans play the Brass Rail
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
For Matt Cotton, it’s been a dream of his to bring one of his favorite bands through Fort Wayne. “You know the movie Fitzcarraldo, where Klaus Kinski wants to build an opera house in the middle of the jungle?” he says. “This is my version of hauling the riverboat over the mountain.”
He’ll finally cross the peak when Dead Moon play the Brass Rail on September 20th. Cotton, who works at the Brass Rail and runs Terminal Weather Productions, his own booking agency, says Dead Moon has a long history. Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Fred Cole has been in music since the late 60s, writing a minor garage/pop hit called “She Must Be A Witch” with a band called the Lollipop Shop. “He was known as ‘Deep Soul Fred Cole, the white Stevie Wonder’” says Cotton.
After that, Cole lead a 70s punk band called the Rats. Dead Moon (bassist Toody Cole and drummer Andrew Loomis fill out the line-up) has been around since the mid-80s, and the way they do business reflects the punk, “Do-It-Yourself” spirit. They run their record label, Tombstone Records, out of their own record shop and music store in a town about 35 miles outside of Portland, Oregon. They do their own recording, mixing, and production, and even cut their own masters, using the same machine that was used to cut “Louie, Louie” once upon a time (talk about having a little history in your records). “It’s a cutting lathe,” says Toody Cole, Dead Moon’s bass player, who got the machine from a radio station. “One of the DJs was one of the managers for the Kingsmen, and they cut their records on that thing.”
But though they may be described as “punk,” Cotton says that that’s a better description for the way they do things rather than how the music sounds. “They call themselves a ‘garage power trio,’” he says. “I’ve always described them as… if you were at a last chance gas station in the middle of the desert, and there was a little AM radio sitting on the gas pump playing music, that’s kind of what they sound like. Desert music — old, spooky, kind of an epic quality to it.”
Cotton says that Dead Moon leader Fred Cole is partially deaf in one ear, so their records are always mixed in mono, giving them a spooky, eerie quality. “But live, it’s a different story,” Cotton says. “All of a sudden, they’re this huge rock band.”
Toody Cole says the band is perfectly comfortable being labeled an underground garage band. “Fred writes songs in a lot of different veins, but we kind of get dumped in with the underground garage, low-fi kinda thing,” she says. “A lot of it is reminiscent of old rock n’ roll, part of it has a punk edge to it. We do ballads, a little bit of everything really. Some of it is very R & B, so we kind of hit on a lot of styles.”
I ask Cole what a band that has been playing “garage” for around two decades thinks of the current garage rock revival. “We’ve been doing it forever, and it’s just something that’s always been happening out here in the Northwest, so we’re like ‘Great, I’m glad you guys are finally getting it now,’” she says. “But we’re not jumping on anybody’s bandwagon. We’re the mule pulling the cart.”
Anyone who might get a little irritated with the different genre labels thrown around these days — punk, garage, etc. — shouldn’t wonder what they’re going to find with Dead Moon. Quite simply, this is just good, no-frills rock n’ roll. And Cotton also says that the “vibe” of a Dead Moon show is far from the negative, angry aura other punk or hard rock shows he’s experienced. They may not play “happy music, “but Cotton says that in his experience, the “vibe” at a Dead Moon show is always positive. “Come down and see what you think,” he says. “They’re a really unique band.”
Dead Moon (with Friday the 13th and Lurking Corpses)
Brass Rail, 1121 Broadway
21+ show. I.D. required. Tickets: $5. Available through Convolution Records, The Brass Rail, and Tip Top Tattoos.