Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hey, Dummy - Fall In Line 7"

Welcome to another edition of Friends of the Bend! This time we welcome Jason Kucsma, former frontman of Hey, Dummy, to drop some knowledge on us about the history of the band and their powerful 7" EP, Fall In Line:

My friend Dennis recently posted a photo album on Facebook titled, "Bowling Green, 1995-96: If You Can Remember It, You Weren't There." And this, my friends, sums up why it's taken me several months of prodding from Theodore and my own self-flagellation for being a flake to actually sit down and write up what little I remember of the Hey, Dummy years. What follows is a loose recap of a period in Hey, Dummy's life -- as told by the only guy in the band who, unlike his former bandmates, isn't making any kind of contribution to music these days.

Hey, Dummy was me, Tony Cavallario (Aloha), Mike McNeeley (No Sanctuary), and Eric Koltnow (Aloha, Six Parts Seven). The band was born from the ashes Chunk Iron Chest in the early 1990s when Mike and I were fortunate enough to connect with Eric and Tony to start what we hoped would be some amazing amalgamation of the indie/punk/hardcore/jazz/experimental music that we were each into individually and collectively at time. Earlier in Hey, Dummy's career, we tended toward really basic (and fast-as-fuck) punk rock, but Fall In Line can more accurately be described as a more mature (read: schizophrenic) Hey, Dummy that had finally grown into ourselves as a hardcore band benefiting from the skills of a classically trained percussionist and a superbly talented guitarist. Add Mike's ferocious bass and my untrained vocals to the scene, and Hey, Dummy was a case-study in controlled chaos. During rehearsals, I would watch Tony, Mike, and Eric work together to write the songs while I worked on lyrics primarily inspired by my own personal reckoning with what it means to be a white political activist in rural NW Ohio. While early songs were sarcastic jabs at our punk rock activist subculture, later Hey, Dummy covered more theoretical issues about white privilege, personal accountability, and animal rights (we were all vegetarian/vegan at the time).

The Fall In Line 7" followed our cassette demo Products of the Industrial (R)Evolution, which was recorded in the early 1990s at an old town hall in Rudolph, Ohio -- about 10 miles from our home base of Bowling Green, Ohio and located across the street from a cemetery. The demo was recorded in 1 1/2 days, but could have been done in a day. On the first day, we practiced and recorded all the songs to our satisfaction. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we turned to the guy (whose name escapes me) to see how things sounded, and he told us that he accidentally forgot to hit the record button on the deck. He had been checking levels and monitoring our progress without ever actually recording anything. When our rage reached a peak, we looked at the guy, and he was asleep at his mixing board. He was purportedly narcoleptic and dozed off when things got a little stressful. We came back the next day and plowed through the songs and called it a day.

Learning our lesson, we recorded Fall In Line with our friend Mike Pennington at Eric and Tony's house, our practice space and future house-show mecca. The 7" received some favorable reviews in HeartattaCk, MRR, and other zines that put us in the Born Against or Submission Hold camp -- brilliant family with which we were all pleased to claim kinship, though never felt quite deserved. Incidentally, the sleeve and liner notes were designed by me and cruelly document my early career as a self-taught graphic designer. I loved collecting old encyclopedias and children's books -- lifting illustrations and photos with abandon for use flyers, zines, and myriad other projects.

Recording Hey, Dummy was a small part of our history, though. The joy we got from the band was playing live shows around the Midwest on a handful of small tours. A trip down the East Coast to play with Pink Collar Jobs, Griver (future Hellbender) and others took us all the way to Gainesville. Midwest tours took us to South Bend to play with our friends, and we even found ourselves in Kalamazoo and Chicago playing shows with Los Crudos and Charles Bronson. And here's where the "if you can remember it, you weren't there" comes in. So much of our short history was enveloped in brilliantly great parties with friends and extended punk-rock fam that it's all a nostalgic blur to me. It's hard for me to point to specific instances where Hey, Dummy changed my life, but the overall experience of learning from these guys and just sharing in the experience of playing music that made people happy (or challenged people in some instances) was an overwhelmingly formative experience for me. Bad recording quality and all, I still love to listen to this shit.

-- Jason Kucsma


I go back a long way with the guys from Hey, Dummy. Jason, Mike, and I all went to high school together, and I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth from The Bend to Bowling Green, OH throughout the mid-90s. I witnessed the earlier incarnations of the band (Chunk Iron Chest, The Schlitzed), and watched their sound mature and gain momentum as Hey, Dummy. Their shows were always so much goodness, and was lucky enough to see them play numerous times in various locations. For me, there's really something special about witnessing good friends create great music, which was part of the reason for starting this blog in the first place.

Hey, Dummy was kind enough to host Chikkenhead and Obstruction for various shows in BG, and we did what we could to return the favor. They played in South Bend twice; once at the Green House with Ground Round, and another time at Clifford the Big Red House with The Mad Dogs, Obstruction, and a couple others I can't recall at the moment. The first show was a lot of fun, as they let me stand in on second guitar for a few songs (which they probably regretted soon after). The second show was a tad bittersweet, because although their set was through the roof, Jason ending up losing his voice, putting "the big kabosh" on the Hardcore Ron Studios recording session planned for the following day. A real shame, as the band was near the top of their game and would've really shined under Ron's recording mastery.

Thus, we are left with this great EP, Fall In Line. Whatever is lacking in production is more than made up for with energy and emotion. I, too, still love to listen to this shit. It was self-released by the band in 1997 on Saturnalia Records.

And because we love ya, and because this might be the only place this band is ever documented online, we're also posting what might arguably be the rest of the recorded works by Hey, Dummy for your listening pleasure.

Hey, Dummy - Cassette Recordings


goLab said...

gotta play first cuz your not as good as Branson.
much love for Hey, Dummy!

doug said...

I remember there being a skateboarding accident when they were in town to play at Clifford. Something about riding down the big hill on St. Louis Street by the hospital and trying to ollie to slow down,but that didn't quite work. And so Mike said hello to the pavement.

Anonymous said...

Oh shit, I completely forgot about the skateboarding accident. Those were some blurry blurry times.