Monday, September 30, 2019

Exit Condition's Pusmort EP and its unheralded greatness

How the hell does one of the best late '80s U.K. thrash records featuring the bassist of Broken Bones, released by Pushead on Pusmort with artwork from Squeal, and with production done by Bones of Discharge end up as a overlooked Jolly Roger that sells for cheaper than partied on copies of hair metal era TSOL albums? Questions like this keep us up at night. Yet such is unfairly the case with Exit Condition's "Bite Down Hard" EP from 1988. There's no justice, there's just us (complaining about it).

We reached out to former drummer Richard Stanier for answers. Together with input from former Exit Condition guitarist Darren Harris (the aforementioned bassist of Broken Bones), he put together these great replies, including the details on a proposed Septic Death/Exit Condition split LP on Pusmort. Huge thanks to Richard and Darren for this interview.
Exit Condition live at the Borough Exchange, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent 1988
NI: How'd you first get in touch with Pushead, and how did doing an EP on Pusmort come about?

EC: I sent a copy of our demo tape, "Impact Time" to Pushead and it went from there. It was Spring 1988 and I used to be an avid reader of "Puszone" in Thrasher Magazine—Pushead used the column to explore the origins of hardcore and to promote new bands from around the world. It was a pretty exciting read at the time. I sent the tape on the off chance we may get a mention in the new bands roundup or something. So you can imagine my surprise when an envelope featuring the famous "skull in hand" design dropped onto my doormat with an offer of releasing our music.

Exit Condition "Bite Down Hard" EP
NI: Who suggested Squeal for the front cover? Did he come up with the concept?

EC: Pushead suggested Squeal. If I remember correctly, he offered to do the sleeve himself, but offered us Squeal as an alternative with a hint that he would like Squeal to be involved. And since the examples of Squeal’s art we had seen were great, we readily agreed. We knew Squeal from his Poison Idea work. Pushead gave me his address and we corresponded for a time to discuss the sleeve. I think Squeal is a Welsh guy that was living in the US at that time, and yes, he came up with the "Bite Down Hard" concept.

NI: How did you get Bones from Discharge and Broken Bones to do production on the record? Were you guys friends with him?

EC: We knew Bones quite well at that time, as Bones was a very friendly and approachable guy around the Stoke punk scene in those days. He used to hold court at a local nightclub, called Chico's, and obviously we were a bit in awe of him as Discharge were an iconic band and he had some great tales to tell. When we first started Exit Condition, he came along to our rehearsal studios, and offered to get us support slots, etc. And he was particularly friendly with Darren.

We recorded our "Impact Time" demo in a couple of sessions in an 8-track studio, and it sounded pretty good, so when it came to doing the Pusmort EP, we thought we'd go to a 16-track studio and it's going to come out twice as good, right? Wrong! We were out of our depth, and when we listened to what we had recorded, we were very disappointed—we thought the sound was weedy and the energy and aggression of the demo was lost. In desperation we booked another day at the studio for a re-mix, and that's when we asked Bones to come with us and try and rescue things. It was very good of him to do that for us, and he did manage to improve it, but it remained a disappointing recording. And as Bones pointed out, "a producer can only work with what’s been recorded, and if what’s been recorded isn't great, then he can't really make it great."

NI: Was Darren playing in Broken Bones at this point? How did Darren end up in Broken Bones?

EC: Yes, he was. He ended up in the band as they had an extensive US tour booked up for the Summer of 1988, and they were in need of a bassist, and they asked him. Obviously, he jumped at such an opportunity and off he went. He joined for that tour, but he remained a member for another few years, recording a 12" and a couple of albums with them. In fact when he left them, I think he was the second longest serving member of the line up, after Bones.

Review from Sounds
NI: Any idea how many were pressed of the 7"? How was the reception to it?

EC: There were 3,000 pressed over two separate runs. The first run sold out pretty quickly, with the second lot going a lot slower. I think I bought the remainder of the second run from Southern Studios (Pusmort's distributor) to sell at gigs, etc.

The reception was pretty decent overall. The punk fanzines generally gave it positive reviews and, in those days, the mainstream music press also featured hardcore punk a little and there were a few good reviews from them too. People seemed to like the record generally, but those that knew the band from live gigs and the demo also seemed to think it could have been better. Southern Studios used to send out "confidential" feedback questionnaires with free records to the movers and shakers in the punk world, and one or two of these were less than glowing.

NI: You guys also appeared on Thrasher's Skate Rock Volume 7 "Noise Forest" cassette compiled by Pushed. How did that come about?

EC: That was a direct result of Pushead's involvement. We were big fans of these cassettes, and for us to be included was something pretty special at the time. I think we were only the second British band, after the great Stupids, to have been featured.

NI: Was there ever any discussion about doing further releases on Pusmort?

EC: Yes, before "Bite Down Hard" came out, Pushead did mention another record—possibly a split 12" with Septic Death, but it came to nothing. There was a long delay between the recording of "Bite Down Hard" and its release, and we became a bit disillusioned during this time. The 7" was recorded in late Summer '88 and didn't come out for about 12 months, during which time many of our contemporary bands had progressed and released albums. When Darren was in North America with Broken Bones, he spoke to a guy that knew the Canadian band Fratricide, and they had recorded a record for Pusmort that had never been released. This worried us, and because we were never told an actual reason for these delays, we decided it would be easier to deal with a British label whose owner we could just pick up the phone and talk to.

Throughout the Pusmort period, I only ever communicated with Pushead by mail! Of course there were no emails and stuff then, but I never actually spoke to the man, and I think on one occasion I complained in writing about the delays, and I think Pushead may have been offended by that—and I greatly regret that, as he did help us no end—but it was a frustrating period, particularly as we wanted to get the record out, and hopefully move on to something better.
Letter from Pushead proposing a Septic Death/Exit Condition split release

"Metallica and Danzig touring together in the U.K.!! You want to go? Let me know!"
Exit Condition in 1988. L to R: Rich, Daz, Shaun and Rob
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 1
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 2
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 3

No comments: