We lost one of the unsung heroes of hardcore. SPOT, the legendary producer for SST, who helped define the label’s gritty and upstart sound passed away on Saturday from complications due to pulmonary fibrosis.
I thought I was going to use this space to talk about SPOT and his legacy but yesterday the New York Times ran a tribute to SPOT that celebrated some of his many achievements. The piece goes into great detail about ten songs from records that SPOT produced and still doesn’t scratch the surface with regards to his impact on American counterculture.
SPOT was one of those hinge figures that connects people in crucial ways. The guy with access to a photocopier. The woman who can develop photos. Every scene needs a SPOT (or two or three or ten). SPOT was a writer, photographer, and a musician before he was a producer. The place where he developed photos also had a recording studio. He was living out of his car, writing reviews and taking pictures for the local paper. The studio was having a problem with break-ins so they didn’t mind when SPOT, who worked part-time at the studio, spent the night there. During the studio’s downtime he started experimenting with the equipment. Then one day he met a guy at the vegetarian restaurant down the street named Greg Ginn. He told him all about Media Art Studio and rock and roll was never the same.
It was a bittersweet surprise to see some of SPOT’s words quoted from Corporate Rock Sucks. It’s gratifying to know that when people want to learn more about SPOT there’s a place they can go to read about his life and legacy. On the other hand, I’m not thrilled about providing fodder for obituaries. I’ve been going back and forth on this for the last 24 hours. It makes me sad to think that many of the people who made the soundtracks to our lives are on the exit ramp of theirs. Since Corporate Rock Sucks came out less than a year ago at least three members of the SST family have passed on, two from the same band.
I never got to meet SPOT. I spoke with him twice: once to interview him for the book and again to get some clarity on the photos I licensed from him, which amounted to a second interview. I liked speaking with him. During one of our interviews, he told me all about the oatmeal he was eating. There was something about his spontaneity and syntax that immediately reminded me of Keith. What is it about those cats from Hermosa Beach and the peculiar way they address the world?
The fact that I never got to meet SPOT is another one those things that sits uneasily with me. When I was writing the book proposal for Corporate Rock Sucks I envisioned flying out Sheboygan, Wisconsin and hanging out with SPOT, but that never happened because of the pandemic. There’s a limit to how well you can get to know someone during a phone call. Time and distance conspire against you. On the other hand, I got to talk to a lot of people who were sitting at home because the pandemic prevented them from doing their jobs. Win some, lose some, but you still gotta pay the tax.
I don’t entirely trust my feelings about SPOT’s passing. After his stroke, when I learned that he had the same lung disease that my mother succumbed to in 2021, I prepared for the worst, meaning I went back to those days during my mother’s illness. One hot and sultry summer night back in Virginia, I went for a long walk and listened to my interview with SPOT. Transcribing hours of interviews in three to five second intervals can have a narcotizing effect. Sometimes I just need to hear people talk and string actual sentences together. I listen to the interview in the car or while walking around town the way some people listen to podcasts or the radio. I remember the joy or listening to that interview after a long day by my mother’s side, and coming to grips with everything that SPOT had shared with me. Now my mother’s gone, SPOT’s gone, and someday I will be too, and all that will be left are the recordings. Digital ghosts in the cloud.
I could wrestle with these things some more or I could do something about it so I’m going to do something. I’m going to put together a tribute zine to SPOT. Maybe I’ll print the interviews I did with him. Maybe I’ll ask some folks to write about him and share photos of him. If the project doesn’t get too cumbersome maybe I could have it ready to go by the time the paperback edition of Corporate Rock Sucks comes out in June. This is an all hands on deck kind of deal so if this is something you’d like to read, assist with, or contribute to, drop me a line.
Bombay Beach Literary Festival
What is Bombay Beach? It’s a small unincorporated town on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. It’s got an elevation of approximately 250 feet below sea level and even fewer year-round residents. In other words, the perfect place for a literary festival.
The first Bombay Beach Literary Festival was going to kick off in March of 2020 and you know how that ended up. Three years later, the mad crew of organizers, many of whom are old friends from the LA lit community, are trying again. I signed on to be a part of the fun in 2020 and I’m going to give it another shot.
My event is on Saturday, April 1 at 6pm with the writer Rob Roberge, whom many of you also know from the Urinals, and Patrick O’Neil author of the instant classic Anarchy at the Circle K. This shambolic reunion of reformed scumbags is being billed as a Fireside Chat. We’re going to topple pedestals and ruin reputations (most likely our own) and have a grand old terrible time. You should come. Click on the image for the schedule.
This statement really got me. "It makes me sad to think that many of the people who made the soundtracks to our lives are on the exit ramp of theirs." If I can help with the SPOT project in any way (design) please reach out.
that festival looks fun!