If you know me you might have heard of a little thing called “The Christmas Album.”
Just in time for the holidays…here is an tale from my upcoming book “Tales From the Pumpkin Patch” where I give all of you the amazing details on how all of that went down. Enjoy.
Jingle This–Tales From The Pumpkin Patch
Many life changing things happened to me in 1997. It was the year that I not only discovered the wonder of the word “froth,” but also chose “Dr. Frothy” as a performance moniker for my artistic weirdness. That name would over time become shortened to the “Dr. Froth” that you all know and love today.
The Pumpkin God, cornerstone to all frothy mythology and madness was also given life in that time.
It was the last year of my youth. I turned a frightful twenty years of age in the middle of it, and by that time the next year I would be married and settled down. It was the final year that I lived with my folks while I attended South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.
Austin and I experienced the “Last Great Summer” that year, though it would be a decade before we would sadly realize it.
More notorious though, it was also the year that I would mastermind the record “Jingle This.” The recording would become better known by those who were there or heard it as “The Blasphemous Christmas Album of 97’.”
The band was my first post-high school group and I had named it Lactescent. We had found the word in a book of my Mom’s called “The Dictionary of the Most Difficult Words in the World.” Lactescent meant secreting milk, and considering my pre-froth nickname was Milk, we all found this to be an appropriate band name.
There were only three of us. Besides myself, I had the good fortune to have one of the best drummers I have ever worked with in my entire life jamming with me. His name was Skeezix. Skeezix and I never could find anyone that played guitar in the manner that we wanted, so I trained another bass player named Farmer Weed to play guitar from scratch.
This approach did not lend itself to really amazing guitar playing, but we did get the sound we wanted. Since the music was mostly rhythm section orinated, the guitar lines were not too difficult. I also wrote all the guitar parts as well, so it was not an impossible task to teach them to Farmer Weed.
Farmer Weed was appropriately named. He liked to dress in overalls with no shoes, and on many occasions, no shirt as well. He looked like he had just hopped off a tractor, sparked up a blunt, and grabbed a guitar. Skeezix and I liked him immediately.
A few years prior to this I had discovered while playing in a band named Grindstone that recording studios existed. I should probably clarify that statement. I already knew that recording studios existed, hell I did my first session in the 8th grade for the Vista Middle School Jazz Band. My high school band Reconciled had recorded a demo at South Plains College for a student project. The misunderstanding that I had been operating by was that, for the most part, real recording studios were only available for bands that had recording contracts. I thought they were locked down tightly for all but the record companies that held the magical keys to the kingdom, opening the gates only for those deemed worthy of entrance.
This was wrong.
You can only imagine the earth shattering possibilities that descended upon my brain when I learned that anybody can book time at a studio and all you have to do to get in there is pay for it. Holy Shit.
Skeezix and I immediately booked some time at the same studio as Grindstone. The owner gave me a great deal.
“Yeah, we can get you in here,” he had said, “How about $300 bucks a song?”
I handed over six hundred dollars and booked some time.
Most people assume a song will be about three and a half minutes long. This is not the case in progressive music. We like our songs long as fuck. I neglected to inform the studio owner of this small detail. One of the songs were going to record, “Products of Lunacy,” was over eight minutes long. The other one, “Cannon Inversions,” would clock in at sixteen. Of course, the engineer had burnt me a CD at the end of the session since as far as he was told we were paid in full. When the owner later approached me with a bill for a thousand plus I just laughed at him. It was the last time we used that studio.
But I continued to record, in fact most of my money over the next several years would be spent in that endeavor.
Farmer Weed joined up with us shortly after that first session and we recorded some great tracks at another place in Lubbock. Every time I hear “Lung Cookies” or “Madagascar Funk Beaver Visits New Orleans” I still crack up.
After suffering great financial hardship, Farmer Weed decided that it would be in his best interest to join the National Guard. He left for training at the end of August that year and would not be back until Christmas time. Skeezix and I had to put Lactescent on hold for the semester, but the two of us would still get together and jam, just for grins.
I was also playing in another band at the collage named “High Stroud” at the same time. One of the guitar players decided he would like to jam with us while we were waiting for the return of the Farmer.
We called him Geezer because despite being 18 years old he had managed to bang his forty plus speech teacher. Though we all gave him tons of shit for it, we each secretly envied him because not only was that really cool…she was also smoking hot.
The magical idea came to me as Skeezix and I were eating at Burger King. There I was, munching down on a Whopper with cheese when all of a sudden I blurted out “We need to do a Christmas record.” This was at the beginning of November.
Skeezix could not come up with a compelling reason not to do this, and since I had enough money for the studio time, we decided it should be done. We were only missing a few key components for this project: Music, lyrics, a choir, and rehearsal time.
On the way home I picked up a beginning piano book for Christmas songs at the local music store. By the next day I had arranged the songs that would become “O Flaming Weed,” “Frothy The Demon,” and the first two movements of “The Nutcrackedher Suite.” Skeezix and I began to hash these out and Geezer said he would be more than happy to be involved.
Time was short and we needed a place to rehearse this crap where we would not be interrupted. My Uncle Keith had a rent house up in the sphincter of the universe, a little town called Higgins, up in the panhandle of Texas. By little I’m talking about a gigantic population of a couple hundred people at best. He told me that if we wanted to drive up there he would let us jam in the house for the weekend since no one lived in it. The road trip was planned.
The lyrics were, of course, left up to Austin and I. We came up with some real gems. For example:
From “Yuletide Froth: A Milky Medley”
(to the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear”)
Said the prostitute to the naked man
Do you pay what I charge
Said the naked man to the frothy whore
Do you accept mastercard
The jizz, the jizz, running down her chin
Was a tale of that that she did
From “Frothy The Demon”
(to the tune of “Frosty The Snowman”
Frothy The Demon, sold his soul to hell
He was a jolly ol’ fella, till he met the devil
In a dank ol’ prison cell
Frothy The Demon, escaped just recently
They found the prison guard on the ground
He was beaten very badly
Down through the village, with eyes as black as coal
Out came the child so tender and mild
In his head Frothy put a hole.
From “Jimmy…He Comes”
(to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus”)
Here comes Frothy Claus, Here Comes Frothy Claus
Right down Frothy Claus lane.
He’s got a full auto, sound suppressed Uzi
And he’s blowing the kids away.
His real names Jimmy and he used to be
A nice, nice postal man.
But now he’s out there laying waste
With a Soviet made Ingram.
You get the idea. Several other great songs made an appearance. The trick with the lyrics was that we wanted to make it a parental advisory record by using content only. In other words no major bad words. Balls and Jizz was as ugly as it got, but the content was horrendous.
Austin was still in High School at the time, but spent quite a bit of it in ISS (in school suspension). He had refused to do a theater assignment on a rewrite of “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Finally, out of annoyed frustration he had completed the assignment while in ISS and turned in “Twas The Night Before Samhain.” The result involved calls to parents, other teachers, the pastor and of course forced visits to the psychologist. We could not think of a more appropriate track than that for this project so we set it to music and made it a duet. We ended up adlibbing and fucking off portions of it during the recording in mock arguments in the studio. The original was never returned to him by the school or the psychologist. Sadly, this means that some if it is lost forever. Between our memories and the recording, this is all of it that Austin and I can recall:
Twas the night of Samhain and all through the house
Not a creature was living, not even my spouse
The daggers all hung from the knife rack with care
With hopes to impale you as you’re strapped to the chair.
The children were fleshless on hot beds of coals
While legions of darkness tormented their souls
Then in the fireplace, Santa appeared
Across his fat cheek the red liquid was smeared.
“Satan sent me” he yelled with a roar
“Yeah fine, whatever” I said “but use the damn door”
“I’m taking your soul” he said through clenched teeth
“We’ll see about that” I said as my knife I unsheathed
“Screw this” he said as he leapt from the hearth
I let the blade answer for me as it pierced through his heart
He died with a whimper, not with a bang
Merry Samhain to all, to all Merry Samhain.
It was amazing writing. And it made an interesting song as well. The only snag we ran into on the lyrics was an argument that we had. Austin really wanted to burn the nativity, and I was against it. Much bickering and wrath ensued, but I won out and we did not write lyrics about setting a nativity scene on fire. Looking back, I should have let him do it. There was no way we were going piss off Baby Jesus any more than we had already at that point. The idea that we had better not go too far after all the other shit we had written was ridiculous. It was like trying to be nice and not slap some guy in the face after we had just kicked him in the balls thirty-seven times… wearing steel toed boots.
That weekend, everything had been arranged and we were headed up to Uncle Keith’s rent house to hash everything out. I had booked time the next week to record the whole thing in one night. This meant that we had a deadline and the pressure was now on. We had to deliver some Christmas bullshit.
The entire weekend we took the material and perfected it. Amazingly Higgins survived the invasion of our contemptable weirdness and we were able to complete our mission in peace. I guess that is what the spirit of Christmas is all about. In the end there turned out to be a ska, prog, and folk mix to the compositions. There was just enough heavy shit in it to still sound like Latescent.
Upon our return we had once week to recruit a choir worthy of such an amazing project and we had no problem in outfitting one in fine style. In fact, when the magic day to record finally came we had quite the entourage with us. There was in addition to the band and Austin, the singing twins from High Stroud, Tweed, Moose, Jevin The Ballet Dancer A.K.A. Thrustynuts, Cough Dog, Eric Metze, and Ryan “The Wolfman” Singleton.
We arrived at the studio at seven in the evening and would leave at seven the next morning. In that twelve hour period we recorded seventy plus minutes of retarded bullshit. Our engineer, who would have normally never agreed to stay all night, had such a great time that he was sad to see it end. At least once he was laughing so hard that he fell from the console onto the floor. I don’t know what he found funnier, the content of the music or the fact that some dumbass (in this case, me) would pay money to record it.
We crammed the Frothy Choir around four mics set up in the main room when it came time for vocals and let it roll. My favorite part was at the end of “O Holy Jizz” when the engineer just let the tape keep rolling and everybody adlibbed some completely far out shit for several minutes. That we did this is even more impressive when you factor in the massive quantities of drugs and alcohol that was consumed by most everyone involved with the exceptions of Skeezix and I. That’s O.K. though, because everyone else took enough drugs to cover seventeen choirs. Even Keith Richards would have been impressed at our boys.
We came back a couple of days later and mixed it down (again in one night) and that was it. The project had been completed.
The time elapsed from the day at Burger King until we had a copy of the finished product in hand was exactly 17 days. That has got to be a record of some kind. It was as if the thing had a life of its own, kind of like the One Ring from Lord Of The Rings. It wanted to be recorded.
Afterwards we made several copies on cassette tape and began to freely distribute it around the school to whomever was dumb enough to …err… I mean, whomever wanted one.
You would think that claiming mine and ten other guys eternal souls would be enough for the blasphemous album, but it came back to get me one more time. Everything has its price they say.
They were doing a concert for a thing called “Toys For Tots” that year. This is where some bands play, they broadcast it on the radio, and people show up and get wasted. It only costs you a toy to get in and see the shit live. The toys are then given to needy children, so everybody wins. “No honey…I have to go out and get drunk tonight. Think about the children.”
Whoever it was that was in charge of putting together the lineup had heard that we had released a Christmas album that was gaining popularity and contacted US to play at this event. “Have you heard it?” I asked the voice on the phone. “Of course, it’s great. Can you do it?” Surly the voice on the phone would never lie to me. Concert promoters NEVER do that. Maybe other people really got enjoyment out of the totally tasteless bastardization of Christmas songs. “You got it” I said “We will be there.”
The gig would go down as the worst one I ever played in my entire life. Not only did a blizzard outside make the turnout only the desperate, but after we launched into “The 10 Days of Sodom” the radio station decided to no longer broadcast our portion of the show. This was our first song. Most the choir did not make it do to the weather and we sounded like idiots. At least it was enough to put a big black mark next to my name in the magical folder that all concert promoters have access too. I know this because I have never been asked to do anything like that again. Ever.
The curse of being a musician is that you are eternally critical of your own work. You always think that it could have been better and for that reason it is hard for you to really enjoy the things you make that are so loved (or hated) by others. I have a feeling that this burden is carried by artists of all kinds.
It is not that way with the Christmas album. Those two nights in the studio were the most fun I have ever had recording anything. Probably a lot of this has to do with the fact that none of us really cared what it came out like. It is this reason that it kicked ass.
Each year at Christmas I pull out “Jingle This” and give it a listen. As an off color comedic endeavor it is perfect and given the chance I would not change a thing about it. The memories it brings of its creation, the people that helped make it happen, the people it pissed off, and of that time period in general are priceless. Those alone are worth the price I paid for the studio time.
For the record, Mom has never listened to “Jingle This.” This is probably for the best.
If St. Peter sends us all to hell for taking part in this, there is no way that he will be able to do it without a chuckle.