Brain Tentacles Premiere ‘Fruitcake’ Video, Talk Top Venues
There are plenty of bands that keep things fast, loud and heavy. There are far fewer that keep things fast, loud and heavy ... and put a saxophone front and center. Naked City, John Zorn’s project from the late '80s and early '90s, is one example; the bizarre and mind-bending music made by the Italian group Zu is another. Now you can add Brain Tentacles to that list. This collaboration between Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Dave Witte (Municipal Waste) and Aaron Dallison (Keelhaul) makes music that veers from sinewy and crushingly loud to surreal and carnival-esque and back again at breathtaking speeds.
Given its members’ musical reach, though, the expansive sound heard on their self-titled debut comes as no surprise. Witte and Lamont each play in a number of bands that border on the absurd. Lamont noted that he’s played Brooklyn’s St. Vitus with six different bands in the last five years; Witte, meanwhile, has done so with four. (“You’d better work on that, buddy,” Lamont told him. “Hurry up.”) For their upcoming tour, the band plans to leave a space open for guest musicians to join them onstage — which is how Dallison first started with playing with them. “It keeps it exciting,” Witte said of working with guests. “The whole thing took flight, and blossomed into this noise experience.”
The members of Brain Tentacles also have roots in the world of beer; when he’s not making music, Lamont bartends at storied Chicago venue the Empty Bottle. Witte’s knowledge of craft beer is well-documented, and has led to him working on creating new beers with a number of craft brewers. And that connection to beverages extends beyond beer: One of Brain Tentacles’ first releases was a split 12” released by Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee, made available along with a selection of beans selected in collaboration with the band.
Given the number of shows they’ve played around the country with different groups over the years, their knowledge of great beer and great bars, and the range of music they’ve played, it seemed likely that they had some stories to tell. So, we talked with Lamont and Witte about some of the notable venues they’ve played over the years, from the famous to the obscure, from the long-running to the defunct.
But before you get into that cheeky back-and-forth, check out BT's new, delightfully ludicrous video for "Fruitcake."
SLIM’S, San Francisco
Dave Witte: My first experience at Slim’s at San Francisco was amazing. Every time I go back there with whoever, it’s always awesome. The metalhead cook in the back, who I believe is named José, is amazing.
Bruce Lamont: He’s not there anymore.
DW: Bummer. See, I genuinely got bummed that that guy’s not there anymore.
BL: He’s great. I love Slim’s, and I’ve heard of that fella as well. I’ve gotten to play there a few times over the years, and he always made a point — he’s a huge metalhead, and he’d come out and do a little extra special thing for any of the bands I brought through there. It was pretty amazing.
THE EMPTY BOTTLE, Chicago
BL: I’m super-biased, because it’s in my hometown and I work there, and I’ve been going there for 22 years. It’s this place called the Empty Bottle, and it’s hands down the greatest club in the United States, in my opinion, if not one of the top five in the world. I was just there last night, sipping on a beer. It’s awesome. It’s always been awesome. The programming there is super diverse and creative. I’ve been going there since 1994, and I started working there in 2004. Bruce [Finkleman], the owner, and I, we’re really good friends. I’m wholly behind everything that goes on at that place. We’ve had everything from metal shows to improvisational jazz to honky-tonk country Fridays to all that. DJ stuff, hip-hop, whatever. To me, that’s just the world. It’s great. That’s my favorite.
DW: I agree. It’s a great venue. Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever played there.
BL: Holy shit, really?
DW: I’ve seen lots of shows there, and I’ve always enjoyed the bands. Everyone’s always cool there. There’s always a good beer selection, so it’s perfect for me.
BL: We’re going to fix that.
THE GROG SHOP, Cleveland, OH
DW: I always loved the Grog Shop, when I first discovered that place. It was a great place, tons of amazing bands, and they had a really forward-thinking beer menu, which was super important to me, way back when, before anyone else.
BL: Agreed. The original and the new location.
THE KNITTING FACTORY (former location), New York City
DW: The Knitting Factory was always cool, too. Did you ever play the Knitting Factory?
BL: Oh yeah.
DW: At the original location?
BL: Yeah! That place was nuts. You’d have to park outside and wait until they gave you your call time, and then they’d rush your gear in. We played there about 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago. We pulled up and they said, “Just wait in the car. We’ll need you in an hour.” We said, “An hour? We’re playing in an hour and 15 minutes!” They said, “Yeah, we know. Don’t worry about it.” You’d set your gear up — “Okay, you’ve got eight minutes.” “There’s not a crowd here.” “Don’t worry about it.” Eight minutes later, there was a crowd in there, and you’d play your set. “All right, get out!”
DW: In and out.
BL: They’d have seven shows going on at once, or whatever the fuck that was. Insanity. It was the craziest shit. No offense — I’m kind of glad that’s not around anymore.
THE CONSERVATORY, Oklahoma City
DW: You walk in and you go, “Oh man, this is gonna fucking suck.” The neighborhood’s shitty — it looks like they tried to burn it down a few times.
BL: I can’t believe you just dropped that one. That’s awesome.
DW: The thing that was most exciting for me, being a beer nerd, is that you walk in there and they have that awesome list of beers. There’s a big sign that says, “No Low Point Beer Here.”
BL: Good memory. Do they have a record store next door, too?
DW: Yeah! It’s a really good record store, too.
BL: Guess who played bass for us when we played the Conservatory the first time? A young kid from Revocation known as Brett Bamberger. Amazing. We pulled into this place and went, “What is this shithole?” It was South by Southwest week, and we were making our way down to Austin. We looked at the bill, and we went, “Oh my god!” This was with Yakuza — we were opening for a band called Cheer-Accident. We are polar opposite bands. Both bands are pretty goofy, but they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet someone in-house went, “This is a really good idea. I think we should have Cheer-Accident and Yakuza play together.” We all know each other, and we were laughing, going, “What the hell is this?” It was killer. It was like being on acid. We couldn’t comprehend what the hell was going on.
SIBERIA, New Orleans
DW: You know why? Because their Polish food menu is fucking incredible.
BL: That food menu is amazing. And the fact that they just booked Brain Tentacles on an all-death metal show. We’re pretty stoked about that. So, all of the people who show up for that, they’re going to be scratching their heads, like, “What the shit?”
DW: They’re going to be bummed out.
BL: That’s the first thing that’ll come out of my mouth. “Get ready to be bummed! We’ll see you at the food stand when we’re done. Try the pierogis — they’re amazing!”
TWISTER’S, Richmond, Va.
BL: What was the club where, when Yakuza and Burnt by the Sun played in Virginia, and me and Teddy [Patterson, of Burnt by the Sun] had the alcohol tester thing?
BL: That was in ’02 or ’03, I think. I remember, it was the owner, Teddy and me. And we’re all blowing, and I ended up blowing a .34. Everyone went, “WHAT?” and freaked out. And I had the van keys — I was supposed to drive that night! Teddy was like, “You’re not even drunk, dude!” “I know!”
DW: Ted was real impressed with that.
BL: He was all, “Holy shit! You can really drink!” “I didn’t even drink that much!” It was messed up, or … okay, I drank that much.
Did the venue have a good selection of beer, or was the breathalyzer just there?
BL: They just had it there for fun, and the owner got a kick out of it. We were just fucking around. And, like I said, I had the van keys in my hand. I said, “Well, I’m not driving now.” I handed them off to another band member. Who knows what we were drinking that night.
BOTTLETREE CAFÉ, Birmingham, Ala.
DW: I remember doing that for the first time, and the hospitality was outrageous. Everyone was super-nice, and then you had these little trailers …
BL: The Airstream trailers. They used to have this little courtyard in the back that was fenced off, and there was barbed wire so it was safe, and they had Airstream trailers for the bands. You’d get to stay there in the back after the show. You could leave your gear inside. The sound was amazing, the food was amazing, everyone was so cool. Corrections House played there, and I loved it. I fell in love with the place, and I started talking to one of the owners. Word got around, and I said, “Yeah, I work at the Empty Bottle.” “That’s one of our favorite clubs! It’s what inspired us to do this.” I said, “Kickass! That’s awesome. Bottletree, I get it.” This oasis in Birmingham, Alabama. And, yeah, it closed a year ago.
ASSORTED VENUES, Philadelphia
DW: The First Unitarian Church. Really, anything Sean Agnew runs rules, because everyone who works for him rules. We always have such a great time. Stalag 13, the famous squat in Philly years ago — I played tons of shows there. It was a lot of fun. There was definitely no hospitality there, but it was amazing.
UNKNOWN VENUE, Vancouver, British Columbia
BL: There was this club in Vancouver, run by a woman named Punk Rock Wendy. It was down …
DW: … in a totally gnarly section? I don’t remember the name of it, though.
BL: She was awesome. That place was there for a long time, too. She was a super-cool lady. I remember we played there with Yakuza. At first, she was kinda standoffish — we were asking for our drink tickets, and she literally handed us one ticket each. We played our set, and she walked up to Matt [McClelland] and said that she loved the band so much. She handed him a six-pack and said, “That’s yours. Tell the other three to come get theirs.” She was handing us six-packs at a time. Every time we went to get another beer, she would hand us a six-pack. She took those dudes upstairs and smoked them out like nobody’s business, for hours. I remember thinking, “Guys, you’re high as shit.” But I don’t do drugs. Just kidding.
DW: What are drugs?
BL: I’ve never heard of them. Just a lot of alcohol.