Josh Reynolds Speaks
Josh Reynolds Speaks 7" (Moo-La-La, 1997)
When I first started this recently neglected blog, one of my friends suggested that I post the Josh Reynolds 7" I put out. Good idea, I thought. I wonder if I can find the disc that the record was mastered from, as it might have a better sound to it. Found the disc and no, not better sound, but that is unimportant for now.
So who is Josh Reynolds and why make a record of him? Here is the story: During the 1990s, Sacramento had a very vibrant DIY punk scene. There were cool places to play, a lot of bands, zines, and places to hang out. The Midtown area had yet to be gentrified, lent itself to bike riding, and had house with great porches that encouraged drinking beer. Being in the shadow of San Francisco, Sacramento had a slight inferiority complex. That coupled with its small town nature made a very unpretentious, very kicked back place. As such, it drew others who thrived on that kind of atmosphere.
Josh Reynolds appeared in Sacramento some time in the mid 90s, as part of a small influx of out of town punks. We got a few from Santa Cruz, one or two from Philly, one from Little Rock, and a few other cities. Though from Tennessee, Josh came in a surge from Portland. Once here, he immediately found that the lazy days and wet nights suited him fine. After drinking with him one evening at one of our many punk houses, we started to hang out regularly. I'd show up at his place at 4 pm and ask whiskey or tequila? If it was warm out, we'd go with tequila, figuring that the Mexicans who invented it live in desert land and it is made from cactus, therefore it must be the thing to drink when it is hot. After all didn't Warren Oates guzzle the stuff during Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia? We would walk to the corner mart, get a couple pints of hard stuff and walk around and drink. The more Josh drank, the more he told stories and when he told stories you shut up. Josh not only had crazy tales to tell, but he told them so great that those drinking with him would listen for hours.
After story session number 106, I figured that I needed to put a record out of Josh's tales. The way I figured it was that storytelling is just as much a part of punk culture as music, zines, art, and fashion. Yet it is the one thing that is unrecognized. Perhaps that is because its main storytellers we know from print. Zines like Cometbus or oral histories such as Please Kill Me seem to take the place of storyteller...kind of. They are not the same as sitting around and listening to someone reel off a tale of punk rock fucked-upness. I knew that every scene had at least one guy or gal who was the resident storyteller. At parties or shows they would bullshit with their friends and usual wind up with a small audience listening to some riff on shoplifting or a crazy drunken show. Of course, no one calls it storytelling or the people listening an audience. But that is what it is. I figured that what Josh was doing needed to be documented because it was just as much of an insight into American punk rock circa 1997 as a record or a zine. It was punk rock anthropology.
So I asked Josh to come up with a tale, which was easy as he had a few that he liked to tell over and over (each time a bit different), and set a date to record him. We both felt it was important that he do it in front of people. Not a big crowd but a dozen folks at a punk house. So we got some beers and invited people over. I set up a cassette deck and a couple mics - one for Josh and one for the audience - and rolled the tape. The first time we did it, Josh was so excited that he kept knocking the mic around. That session was ditched. A couple weeks later we got some more people together and did it again. This time Josh cooked.
Tape in hand, another friend and I went to his place and slowly started editing things. Josh had a coughing fit at one point, knocked the mic off the stand at another, and then there were a few "ummmm what was I saying". I wanted to cut that out. Plus I had 28 minutes of tape and was told the most I could put on each side of a 7" was 11 minutes, fidelity be damned. Computers being what they were in 1997, it took weeks to edit the thing down to 22 minutes. And technology being what it was, when we finally burned it onto a cd, what we got was something with parts that distorted. Ack! The project was creeping along and Josh was about to move to Seattle so I said fuck it and sent the thing off. I pressed 300 copies and sold about 100. Unfortunately the public was not quite so enthusiastic about punk rock anthropology as I was!
But, you, perhaps you are. I've chopped the thing up into four bits. Part 1 & 2 are side one of the 7". Parts 3 & 4 are side two. The fidelity is not great. There are parts that are too quites and parts that are too loud. Listening in headphones might be your best option.
I've lost track of Josh, but I believe he now lives in New York City. I am sure he still tells stories.