Sunday, 12 April 2015

THE MUMMIES.......Sheer brilliance or just plain crap ?

4 Guys in bandages !
The Mummies, love them or loathe them, they were truly the nearest thing the US had to a Trash band per se. Yes, there were The Fireworks with their stripped down garage-rockabilly and the Daddies of all Trash-Garage-Rockabilly bands, The Cramps as well as a good few more lesser known bands. But The Mummies were different, not a trace of any 50's influence whatsoever, opting for a more 60's style approach with a healthy dose of raucous punk attitude, almost single-handedly creating the phenomenon of budget-rock/lo-fi in the states (Hasil Adkins apart). Embracing ineptitude as a prime quality and generally not giving a flying fuck. And while there were a million garage bands in the US, each following the revivalist principles with varying degrees of zeal, The Mummies were a straight forward party band out for fun or so it would appear.........

First single. That Girl.
The Mummies were a four piece American garage rock band from San Mateo, California, formed in late (Dec) 1988 by Larry Winther (Guitar), Trent Ruane (organ, vocals), Maz Kattuah (bass) and Russell Quan (drums) with their true identities, hidden beneath homemade raggedy, though pretty cool Mummy costumes, taking their cue from the iconic Boris Karloff character in Universal’s classic horror movies although they'd probably been watching the goofy Hanna- Barabara cartoons of the 60's & 70's too
Flyer for the debut gig.
Musically, they drew heavily from the raw Pacific North-West (USA) sound of the early 60's, most notably The Wailers & The Sonics as well as the Frat-rock of the The Kingsmen, not forgetting the scuzzy guitar influence of Link Wray either. Around this time England had seen the various incarnations of Billy Childish's bands, not least The Mighty Caesars, the earlier Milkshakes and (probably the most influential) Thee Headcoats who were also a significant influence on The Mummies and the appreciation was reciprocal even going as far as The Mummies releasing an album on Billy Childish's label 'Hangman', the fabulous 'Fuck Cd's, It's The Mummies' LP. As well as a tour with Thee Headcoats early in the 90's.
The Mummies had their first gig at the Chi Chi Club after 3 months of practicing together, although it would be reasonable to ask what those practice sessions actually consisted of ? For the rest of the year (1989) they played regularly around California, notching up some 30+ gigs including several at the 'Pony Express Pizza Parlour' !!!  

First LP (A compilation of 7"s)
It would take until 1990 and the formation of their own label Pre-BS before their first single came out (That Girl), swiftly followed by another (again on Pre-BS) called 'Food, Sickles and Girls'. All in all, The Mummies released 5 singles in 1990, for Estrus (The Fabulous Mummies, their nod to The Wailers), Rekkids (Skinny Minny) and Regal Select (Shitsville) to which the label got warning letters about using a beer brand logo or somesuch. All of these releases were comped for the Estrus album 'Play Their Own Records' released in 1992.
1991 saw the Mummies playing outside of California for the first time (Canada, New York and the N.West US), going on tour with The Phantom Surfers and again later in the year with Thee Headcoats but this was not before going into the studio to record an album for Tim Warren's Crypt label which would only see the light of day quite some time later (1994) as the bootleg 'Tales From The Crypt'.

And there was I thinking they were a 90's band
'91 also saw them appearing on various comps (you track them down) including 2 tracks on a 60's garage comp put out in France called 'Follow That Munster Vol 2'.
Much had been made of The Mummies stance regarding their output and their (Most commendable) 'Vinyl only' position which didn't last, although admittedly it was years before they actually appeared on CD for the first but not last time. They also enjoyed the reputation of being a 'Fuck You' band, famously giving Sub-Pop the two fingers and whilst they probably got a kick out of it as well as some cliquey kudos, I doubt very much that the label gave it a second thought. This 'don't give a damn' attitude along with their now infamous Lo-Fi ethos eventually took them to a new low, almost becoming a parody of themselves with a race to the bottom of who could release the worst record and still get the fans to swallow it.

Skinny Minnie 7" (Rekkids).
At The beginning of 1992 following the bands return to San Francisco, they decide to call it a day and split up !!! but such was the demand for The Mummies material that another handfull of 7" singles were released during the course of the year for the likes of Estrus, Telstar & Rekkids as well as albums on Estrus, Telstar and Hangman. 1992 was also the year that The Mummies appeared on the loathed CD format....'Fuck The Mummies' was apparently put out by a disgruntled label owner following a disagreement of sorts. Around this time Europe had cottoned onto the Mummies in a cult sort of way and offers for tours were being made in the event they reformed.....and after an absence of 12 months they took the opportunity of doing just that, spending a month on tour with Supercharger around Europe, actually kicking it off with a date at CBGB's.

Well worth picking up.
Apart from the tour, not a lot actually happened for them in '93 but '94 saw them return to Europe on their own for a month, headling in their own right. Even managing to squeeze in a recording session for John Peel at the BBC studios which was subsequently put out as a 7" bootleg on both white and black vinyl, it has also recently resurfaced on pink vinyl and with labels this time as the first simply had plain white ones, it also has one of the better sleeves in my humble opinion. An LP, 'Party At Steve's House' was released on German label Pin-Up as was a 7" called 'Gwendolyn' too, not their strongest releases. The faux Sub-Pop single suddenly appeared on the scene in early '94 as if to add insult to injury regarding their snub of the Seattle label, although there have been whispers over the years that it was all a bit of a marketing ploy and that The Mummies and Sub-Pop were the best of friends, whichever is true ? it's hardly relevant now. 

Double 7"split for SFTRI.
Since splitting again following their return to the US after the '94 European tour, they frequently reformed for Festivals and the odd, short jaunt around Europe, Japan and South America, releasing a further 6 singles and 4 albums over the years, 2 of which were CD's no less......A great legacy on vinyl and fond memories for the folk who got to see them and for those of you who didn't ? There are plenty of videos out there to see what you missed. 
Since parting and going their seperate ways (reunions notwithstanding), they have been involved in numerous bands and projects, not least Russell Quan who was in The Dukes of Hamburg, The Count Backwurds, The Flakes and The Bobbyteens to name but a few. And both Russell and Trent Ruane spent time with Surf supremos, The Phantom Surfers, not bad work by any means.   

Without further ado and as they say, FUCK THE MUMMIES !      

The Mummies website, full discography, gig history and tons of flyers/posters, worth half an hour of anyones time ! :

Enjoy, D.

1 comment:

  1. The Mummies were great when I saw them in Pars in 1993, but the real deal on this tour was Supercharger. Both bands shard the songs "Sooprize Package For Mr Mineo", the Mummies trying to pretend it was their song, ahahah.
    The Mummies were great too at Born bad fest a few years ago.
    Thanx for the reminder, Mr D,