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David Minnick: Absolutely Crabid


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AAJ: Why a ska band?

DM: Because it was the most ridiculous sort of band to start in 1986. Ska had just fizzled out, so it was a joke band. We ended up being the only ska band that didn't listen to ska and didn't take ourselves seriously. We'd do classic rock tunes but not in a ska vein, every once in a while—just to mess with people. Every time we did interviews, it was complete lies. We'd make stuff up to see it printed and play it all totally straight. I think we did one radio interview where we pretended not to speak English.

AAJ: What led you to start the Crabid Music label?

DM: In 2000, Gangster Fun just sort of fell apart, for one reason or another. I decided it was worth the investment to buy some recording equipment. I put together all kinds of weird projects that seemed impossible when I started them. After years, though, I managed to finish them. I didn't know what to do with these things, and I talked to my brother [Chris Minnick], who does web pages for a living, and said, "You know, we ought to start a label. I've got all kinds of music we can put out." So that's how Crabid happened. Any crazy idea I get, I can sell at least 20 copies.

David Minnick / The Sursiks AAJ: Give me some background on Crabid's CD releases, beginning with the Sursiks' debut, I Didn't Know I Was Singing.

DM: Josh [Silverstein] gave me ten phone messages on a CD. I'm listening to this like, "I might be able to use this for something." I couldn't chop it up and rearrange it to make it any funnier—it was already pretty funny. What else could I do? So one night, I tried to notate one of them. And with that stuff, it's so tedious—I would go two seconds at a time, play four words over and over, figure it out, record that piece, and go on to the next two seconds. After a while, there was a melody, but it was a mess. It didn't make any sense rhythmically, and I couldn't harmonize it. But if I put drums to it and kept amplifying the melody, it started to sound more legitimate.

I wasn't planning on a record, but then [saxophonist] Gary [Robertson] came over and said, "Dave, you've got to hear this message I got." He had no idea I was working on any other phone messages. I figured that was a sign, so I just kept going.

"Sursiks" is a word that my wife and I would use to talk about cigarettes when the children were around. "I'm going to go outside and check the sursiks." We'd seen [the film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)] years ago and that line ("I must show her the sursiks") just sort of stuck.

AAJ: And the Sursiks' follow-up, Lydia Grace.

DM: My oldest daughter would always come into the studio while I was working, and she always wanted to grab the microphone and say things. Over a period of a few months, I amassed a couple hours of a three-year-old girl talking and singing. Working backwards, I figured out what notes she was singing and put music to it. The things a three-year-old comes up with are actually better than a lot of the things adults come up with for songs. I learned that if you stop excluding the kids from the music, it takes a lot less energy, and plus you can get some really great stuff.

AAJ: Oven Mitt Johnson, Hot Guitar (Crabid, 2005).

DM: All the guitar solos and a lot of the rhythm guitar parts are done with an oven mitt. You should try it with an oven mitt. It's very free—you don't worry about hitting the right notes. The bass and keyboards and everything else is just played normally.

The Sursiks (l:r): David Minnick, Gary Robertson, Judith Teasdle

AAJ: Zermos, The Last Night of August (Crabid, 2006).

DM: Gary Robertson does sax on just about everything—Gangster Fun, the Sursiks records, Oven Mitt Johnson. Zermos was me, Gary, and my sister-in-law's friend [Ryan Enderle], who plays jazz stand-up bass. We recorded two hours of totally free improv for bass, piano, and alto sax. The nice thing about that is that I didn't have to master it; very little time was spent on it, because we just edited it down to an hour from two hours, and didn't try to fix anything. That worked out well. It was cheap and quick [laughs].

[Before Crabid], the hassle of trying to put records out was more than I wanted to deal with. I'd just go on to the next [project]. It's nice now that at least a few people can hear them. I usually get tunnel vision when I'm working on something, and I don't even think about it coming out. I just get into the individual notes, rhythms and sounds. When it's done, I don't know what to do—I usually get sick when I finish something! But it's a great feeling to create something that didn't exist before.

Selected Discography

The Sursiks, Christmas in March (Crabid, 2009)
The 180-Gs, 180 D'Gs to the Future! (Seeland, 2007)
The Sursiks, Lydia Grace (Crabid, 2007)
Zermos, The Last Night of August (Crabid, 2006)
The Sursiks, I Didn't Know I Was Singing (Crabid, 2006)
Oven Mitt Johnson, Hot Guitar (Crabid, 2005)
Gangster Fun, Graphospasm (Self-released, 2000)
Gangster Fun, Pure Sound, Pure Hogwash, Pure Amphetamines (Jump Up, 1998)
Gangster Fun, Time Flies When You're Gangster Fun (1 Cupp, 1992)
Gangster Fun, Come See Come Ska (Ska Records, 1989)

Photo Credit
Courtesy of David Minnick and Crabid Music


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