The Skeptics In A World Of Their Own Premieres March 25th at the Weinberg Center!
I guess it's only fitting and maybe a bit ironic that The Skeptics In A World Of Their Own, a Keith Chester film, premieres this Thursday at the historic Weinberg Center in downtown Frederick, MD, which just happens to be the Skeptics home turf, and the same town they could barely get gigs in 25 years ago. Long part of a Frederick music scene which only seemed to ooze and fester, always with its own impetuous swagger and contempt for the routine, the Skeptics are finally getting their due in the most unlikely of places. Not only that, but the local folks now have even been calling them legendary and a "garage tour de force"! So, the world premiere of the Skeptics film, followed by a perfomance by the band, promises to be an event. From what I've heard, Chester has crafted a fitting documentary which captures the band's otherworldly dimension-- a sort of This Is Spinal Tap crossed with The Alien Factor. Of course, you would expect nothing less from a UFO researcher filming a documentary about a monster illustrator's band who named their lone vinyl LP after the mythical Snallygaster beast.
Like the beast, the Snallygaster LP itself became somewhat mythical as, although I had recorded and helped produce the LP with the helpful Don Zientara at his world famous Inner Ear studios, I was only able to secure a European release for the LP. We got 50 copies of the LP from the Netherlands company Resonance Records, run by Rory Faber, a well intentioned bloke with apparently horrible business acumen, as well as a check for $750 which covered the not-so-big budget recording. The Snallygaster LP sold well in Europe but attracted virtually no local interest here in the States. Mr. Faber's company even opened up a US branch which only lasted long enough to be sued by the Cleveland band the Pagans for non-payment of royalties. Soon Resonance was caput altogether, and the LP, like the Snallygaster itself, had suddenly dissappeared.
It seems the blame for the lack of a US Snallygaster release rests with me, as my bubble, which had been riding the crest of the 80s punk and garage band resurgence, was about to burst. After trying for years to get financing for Bona Fide, we had finally succeeded in get a pressing and distribution deal with Greenworld in Torrance California, which had been spun off from Enigma Records. They were quite excited about my projects and wanted to do them all, and they loved the Skeptics LP. Of course, things just didn't work out. Greenworld cut a deal to release the Left's Last Train to Hagerstown and I was unwilling to let them have the Skeptics LP until they kept up their part of the Left deal. Last thing I ever heard from Greenworld was an offer for me to get my tapes back (which they had only licensed for 4 years anyway) by sending them $1000 to get out of the licensing agreement. Greenworld was in bankruptcy court with $13 million in debt, and they tried to shake me down for a paltry grand just to get my Left masters back! Needless to say, this scuttled the Snallygaster LP, and my lack of financial resources prevented the LP from a US release. This sorta hurt bad cause I believed in the LP and the Skeptics, and wanted their success so badly. I never released another LP on Bona Fide till I reluctantly revived my label in 2005, a move I was forced to make to combat European bootlegs of George Brigman's music.
Now 25 years later, Keith Chester has put on film the Skeptics story, seen not with rose colored glasses, but through a wall oozing with mud and slime where the band's mere existence is surreal. Despite years of raucous rousing shows, not too many of which were actually in Frederick, the bands relative anonymity gives Mr. Chester some artistic license to be a little creative and he takes the ball and runs with it, much like the Skeptics defied convention and straddled genres, never fitting easily in any box. For those who don't know the band's story, they will most likely see a oddly warped film about an oddly warped band. Can the city of Frederick, home of America's most famous bio-terrorist Bruce Ivins, welcome with open arms a strange, otherworldly film about a band they all but shunned? Will they now embrace a band who sang about screaming transexuals, child molesters, serial killers, posion drinking snake handling worshippers, and Oreos that tasted like something that most people would never want in their mouths? Well, The Weinberg Center For the Arts is calling them legendary, and the local paper ran a huge story on the band last week so I guess the answer is Frederick MD now wants to hear more from the Skeptics.
In honor of the film's premiere, I offer for your listening enjoyment the song that inspired Keith Chester to film a video which he later expanded into his documentary. "A World Of Your Own" features some snakey guitar work from Andy McCutcheon with ghost-like harmony vocals in a self exploratory tale of a bewildered soul who's "trying to get home in a world of his own". Looks like Andy has made it home from LA for the big show and now all Frederick, or at least those in the film, are geared up for it! The other song I selected is a good companion to the film as well. "Haunted Host" is a tale about the haunting of an abandoned Frederick amusement park and shows one unique aspect of the band, their fascination with death, decay and all things grisly. You might detect a bit of Cramps influence here. After all, drummer Stephen Blickenstaff drew the Cramps' iconic Bad Music for Bad People LP cover, as well as being a demon on the skins!
Kudos to Keith Chester for shedding some dark, creepy light on the band who came real close to saying forget it. The Skeptics were an integral part of an incestuous Frederick music scene filled with talent but lacking recognition. The Skeptics, the Dusters, the Subterraneans, the Left, Monster Rock, the Voodoo Love Gods and the Gelatin Skeletons all shared and swapped members while they were making great rock and roll. At last, one small part of the big story will be told--and it will be as twisted as the bands themselves! Let's just hope that the whole world will finally see the Frederick music scene, and especially the Skeptics, ooze and fester for itself. Believe me, the Frederick Film Festival will never be the same, and neither will be the world!
World Of Your Own