By Allison Babka
By Daniel Hill
By Drew Ailes
By Brian Heffernan
By Joseph Hess
By Joseph Hess
By Mike Appelstein
By Alison Babka
Thanks to the Internet, it's now nearly impossible to forget about a band. No act is too obscure — or too inconsequential — to be ignored. Such is the case with the St. Louis quartet Raymilland, which existed from 1979 to 1981 and played only eight shows in its career. The band made the most of these live gigs, however: Locally, it opened for post-punk legends Magazine at the Kiel Exhibition Hall and synthprog innovators Ultravox at Mississippi Nights, while in Chicago it supported guitar whiz Adrian Belew, punks Chelsea and no-wavers Tuxedomoon. (The band was also scheduled to open for Joy Division in the latter city, a gig scuttled after JD vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide.)
The music collected on Recordings '79–'81 is a good fit with those aforementioned groups: Think the grayscale roar of Public Image Limited's abrasive no-wave/post-punk masterpiece, Second Edition, tinted with plenty of glam-rock oddity, Krautrock-influenced percussive drone and heavy psych-pop.
Annie Zaleski: This is the first release from BDR records, correct? Explain what this is and how long it's been around.
Matt Harnish: Well, I've got the [label] Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars (sort of, not really that active), and Jason has Rerun Records, [which is] starting to be active again. We just decided that we'd combine the names for the releases we did together specifically targeting the St. Louis early punk/wave scene, and BDR Records (bdrrecords.blogspot.com) was the least unwieldy name we came up with.
Jason Rerun: Even though the Raymilland release is catalog number BDR No. 2; it is the first release available to the public, and we had planned it to originally be release No. 1. BDR No. 1 was then reserved for another release that we feel is ground zero for the idea behind the label [Test Patterns, a St. Louis new-wave compilation originally released in 1980]. We ran into some lengthy production delays, but that will be out in early 2010.
How long has releasing this Raymilland collection been in the works?
JR: We've been talking with the band members for almost a year, but it's been just the last handful of months that we've seriously been putting things together.
How did you guys decide that this would be the first collection to be released?
MH: We started compiling music for a proposed St. Louis punk/wave compilation CD about, oh geez, four years ago? That project became a bit frustrating, in that although we were able to unearth a lot of great stuff, we kept running into dead ends and missing people and missing music. We didn't want to half-ass it, so [we] kind of let it slip away. One of the bands we contacted who had the most material recorded was Raymilland. Jason gets the credit for saying, "Hey, if we're not gonna do the comp, let's do something with this stuff." The fact that it was really high-quality recordings and great music, plus three of the four members still living in St. Louis and being into the idea of doing it, made it relatively easy to pull together.
Where did you find all of the music/get the music from?
MH: The guys recorded everything, so it wasn't a question of having enough music, it was them sifting through hundreds of hours of demos and practice tapes to find the "definitive" versions. Jason and I pretty much just got out of the way for that part and let them present what they wanted us to release, the only exception being one track they wanted to cut late in the process ["Unnumbered"], which we bullied them into leaving on.
Listening to it now, it seems really different from what was going on in St. Louis during that time. Is that right? Describe how the band fit into the local music community then.
MH: Not being there, I don't want to make a bunch of grand statements about it, but it seems like the scene was small enough that anybody doing anything interesting was welcome. But yeah, most of the bands were straight-ahead stripped-down rock & roll, just with the added liberation of punk giving them the gumption to do originals. There wasn't really any new-wave [music], at least none we've been able to find. Raymilland aren't even that new wave in the historical rewrite version of what new wave was supposed to have sounded like. They were way more influenced by Brian Eno and Hawkwind and Syd Barrett than by Devo.
I see that the band had a song on a Sub Pop magazine compilation and had a 45 released on a label from Chicago. Are those songs the only officially released music?
MH: The 45 was first released with an art magazine out of Chicago called Praxis. Raymilland sent them a whole tape of songs to choose from and apparently the demo tape was bootlegged and sold at the Wax Trax shop in Chicago. So yeah, three officially released songs and a bootleg.
JR: They actually had one more song on a compilation cassette. It was on the famous (well, famous to record geeks who are into '80s tape culture as well) Ding Dong Tapes label out of the Netherlands. The release was called Inspiration Series No. 1, and I believe only one band member possesses a copy. It's also pretty cool to note that the Sub Pop compilation cassette they were on was the first compilation Sub Pop released.