Ah yes, the COLD Farm Jam! The drummer was able to drum with gloves, and the big headphones protected our ears (from the cold at least). Fingers however were forced to fight back against the tyranny of a late Spring cold snap. No doubt beer helped the singer find his inner warmth.
Despite the layering we had a very productive weekend and produced a solid double CD of material. Five singers bare their souls and a significant number of whacked out instrumentals also burst forth. Critical topics are addressed including driving to the farm; playing frisbee, and that place we get ice cream. We can change the world, man!
Disc 01, Track 03 –Sleeping With the Cicadas (Sheep Fiends) – This one is a creepy synth driven instrumental. You are awakening from your seventeen year slumber, get on down. But bring a coat. [Scratch on Guitar]
Disc 01, Track 07 –Down in the Crypt (Sheep Fiends)– A song about the afterlife that really doesn’t do much to promote the afterlife. But if the love hasn’t died have you truly been lost? [Scratch on Vocals]
Disc 01, Track 11 –Forging Frozen Fingers (Sheep Fiends)– Just a lot of guitar playing really. It was very cold out as we set up on Friday night, and we captured this while setting up the sound system. [Scratch on Guitar]
Disc 02, Track 07 –Walking ‘Round Cabrini Green (Sheep Fiends)– Such a great riff to come out of thin air. Matt recounts a hard day’s walking while we play some kind of jazz rock upbeat reggae thing until the crunching takes over. [Scratch on Guitar]
We got together just a few times in late 1995 – drinking, jamming, and recording. Some of this is MX Skroch accompanying Redneck originals. Some of this is just pure improvisation. In early 1996 I joined Redneck onstage at the Double Door in Chicago to play “Space Invaders” and a few others. No one recorded that. But hey, there’s two photos from the show!
Three Track Sampler
Track 01 – Space Invaders (MX Skroch & Redneck Exorcist)– A freaking noise rock epic for your soused soul. A loose framework of a song that allows for some intense delay pedal battles, and philosophizin’ about the end of humanity. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 04 – Ram Tough (MX Skroch & Redneck Exorcist)– A dark psychological evaluation of the less fortunate (and proud). Does inbreeding always lead to higher Dodge sales? I take the form of protagonist and make it all up as I tell you what’s what. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 11 – I’ll Seize You (MX Skroch & Redneck Exorcist)– I believe this is just some improv from Redneck’s practice spot. A bit of melodic inspiration rears its head as Cary’s menacing threats keep you on edge. [Scratch on Guitar]
Brian Cameron lent me seven tapes recorded between 5/4/1999 and 8/15/1999. Brian moved to San Francisco right around this time, and these tapes never really got much attention. From these tapes I edited, produced and named ten brand new Sheep Fiends tracks, as well as recapturing alternate versions of “The Intrusive Cabbie” and “Waves” which had been released before. Mr. Cameron handled production duties on “Valley of Dark”. I also produced a kind of spoken word track from the sole 1998 tape that I had been provided. This mostly instrumental collection captures a fairly aggressive version of the band as we approached the 21st Century.
Three Track Sampler
Track 03 – Follow the Signs (Sheep Fiends)– Space jazz with a Latin flair? Whatever it is… it is funky and heavy and pulsing with purpose. An analog journey into your inner meaning. A fantastic find from our lost 1999 tapes. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 09 – Time Tunnel (Sheep Fiends)– Hip-hop drums join the swirling auditory event. Scratched grooves and sickened guitars yearning for help eventually find their riff. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 11 – Slow Down the Future (Sheep Fiends)– Time itself follows no regular schedule as forward thinkers look backward. We grind and scream for answers, but only the explosions of creation await. With resignation we regress back to the starting line. [Scratch on Guitar]
Back for a second, more steamy Farm Jam! This time Faiz doesn’t make the journey but both Mark and Aaron take their first trip. It’s hot and kind of miserable, but the garage is filled with riffs as it was destined to be.
Aaron takes over noise guitar duties this year and adds more keys, while Mark’s mandolin adds distinctive texture to the tracks. The spooky Casio digital guitar I got in the 90’s makes a suspenseful surprise appearance.
Five Track Sampler
Disc 01, Track 07 – SuperDuperDragonFly (Sheep Fiends)– A song about the journey East. A few liberties with the truth perhaps, but all in the service of promoting caution. [Scratch on Vocals]
Disc 01, Track 08 – The Hell With Church (Sheep Fiends)– A vicious instrumental recorded early on Sunday. Mark’s infectious bassline inspires all sorts of accompanying infernal guitar madness. [Scratch on Guitar]
Disc 01, Track 12 – The Haunted Garage (Sheep Fiends)– It’s a very small house and not a very large garage either. But the spirits that never leave seem not bothered by the lack of spacious living. The spookier side of the Sheep Fiends. [Scratch on Casio DG-1]
Disc 02, Track 04 – Bicentennial Paprika (Sheep Fiends)– Sometimes you’ve got to let the Chef speak his mind. Is his mind on the kitchen? Damn straight! Problems abound with a crunchy rock taste and a stale nostalgia. A standout track one part each trippy, heavy and passionate. [Scratch on Guitar]
Disc 02, Track 07 – In the Middle (Sheep Fiends)– Clearly a commentary on something or other having to do with the human condition. But why such lurching glurpy music? Oatmeal pie double mint chocolate chip surprise, indeed! [Scratch on Vocals]
Recorded at two jams exactly six months apart on the 17ths, this CD overall has a heavier, darker sound. Perhaps it’s just more dense. You get five different vocalists across fourteen total tracks. Sample tracks from three singers are featured below, as well as an appearance of my all-too-rare bass playing. This is open concept, freeform Sheep Fiends for the new decade.
Three Track Sampler
Track 04 – The Grim Reaper is the Grave Digger (Sheep Fiends)– A meditation on the role of death in one’s outlook for the future. Commercialism at its worst. But it’s a pretty, slow groovy jam that dissolves into the gloom. [Scratch on Vocals & Clapping]
Track 05 – Rock & Roll Land (Sheep Fiends)– Nothing slow about this pounding rocker. Brian runs Reason and Aaron modulates infinity while I slide in some lead melody as Brian M. builds upon his sermon. You should come on by – it’s all up to you. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 09 – SidSense (Sheep Fiends)– Yea there’s some heavy Butthole Surfers influence right here. Delay keeps sending you back but the bass locks you in again. Have you met the ancient peoples? They are calling out to you. [Scratch on Bass]
The Rooster Davis Trio accidentally came together over the course of 2011. Faiz moved into Brian’s building and soon learned about the Sheep Fiends that lurked in the basement. The two of them recorded some jams and began doing a bit of overdubbing. I was then given free reign to add whatever obtuse sounds needed to be added.
The Rooster Davis Trio also played live as a three piece just a few times. Some really unique tracks came out of this ultimately short-lived project. Or is this just year ten of the hiatus?
Three Track Sampler
Track 01 – Distant Bells (Rooster Davis Trio)– One of my favorite recordings I’ve been a part of over the past decade. Both gripping and haunting this track bursts into violence when you least expect it. The tension is maintained as it warps between one idea and the next. Live guitar & drums by Faiz & Brian; overdubbed bass by Brian, and my overdubbed bass and guitar as a final step. [Scratch on Bass & Guitar (overdubs)]
Track 05 – Ohioasis (Rooster Davis Trio)– The Hen is pecking at you now. If you were not handcuffed in the Ohio wasteland perhaps you could find relief. But the Ohioasis is just an illusion. [Scratch on Guitar]
This two CD set captures the original Farm Jam experiment which by all accounts was a resounding success. Hell you can even watch “Farm Jam -The Movie” if you are so inclined!
Brian M. floated a crazy idea about a bunch of us driving eight hours to spend three days on a farm in Pennsylvania with no internet or cell service. But there would be a garage in which to set up amps, plenty of tasty food and all the late night noise we wanted to make. The very first Farm Jam had five Sheep Fiends in attendance as well as one of Brian’s friends and is captured here. Five sample tracks are available below the artwork.
The Farm Jam concept really took off and kept happening every Summer for nine years. Farm Jam X was on the schedule but was postponed by the spread of COVID-19. Next year friends…next year.
Five Track Sampler
Disc 01, Track 03 – First Time (Sheep Fiends)– We set up all the gear for the first time in the garage at the Farm, and this dark funky jam was pretty much the initial soundcheck. And I proceed to begin a tradition of songs about the arduous journey Eastward. And yes, I also launch my first volley at America’s worst state – Ohio. [Scratch on Guitar & Vocals]
Disc 01, Track 13 – The Promises Will Tuck You In (Sheep Fiends)– Chimes ring inside your dreams, but “don’t be scared and don’t be alarmed now”. We are here for reassurance. It’s a somewhat beautiful epic journey that morphs into a power ballad. [Scratch on Guitar & Vocals]
Disc 02, Track 01 – Fing-er Numb-er (Sheep Fiends)– An inspired angularity propels this bouncy number. There’s only one true numb-er as far as I’m concerned. [Scratch on Vocals]
Disc 02, Track 15 – The End of the Farm Jam (Sheep Fiends)– Complimenting our opening track; this is the final music recorded at the inaugural Farm Jam. A crazed southern rock boogie vibrates the room and I share my recollections of our antics as I officially announce the End of the Farm Jam. [Scratch on Guitar & Vocals]
This CD captures what happened one Sunday on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 somewhere in Chicago. Faiz continues bringing compelling audio confusion to the party and we ended up playing with a fellow from Brazil who came by as well. It’s quite a varied collection of improvisation considering the same nine guys came up with all this in a three hour period.
Three Track Sampler
Track 03 – They Say (Sheep Fiends)– A slow lurching groove with guitar that sounds like a dying spaceship sets the tone while I croon a vaguely political tale about how only my side has the best ideas. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 10 – The Fucking Drum Machine (Sheep Fiends)– Listening through the raw tapes trying to find useful material can be drudgery. But sometimes you notice several comments about the prevalence of a drum machine…and you get an idea. This track grabs many such moments that happen on the side, and layers over said drum machine to bring the listener INTO the emotion. [Scratch on Vocals ]
Track 06 – Slingin’ the Beans (Sheep Fiends)– Here’s a mellow little two man improvisation with Matt providing exposition on the status of his gut and what should go into it…right now. Matt strums the acoustic and I do some lead accompaniment in an attempt to bring flavor to life. [Scratch on Guitar]
This one has a perfect album title. A very nostalgic jam finds me revealing my activities during Gerald Ford’s inauguration; followed by rage about my stolen backyard and the totality of my past. Meanwhile the weird atmospheric epic “Eyes Wide Like Saucers” recounts a frightening event in Matt C’s youth. And even then remembrances of twins and “baby’s” vie for your attention. A quite varied and engaged collection of tracks.
Three Track Sampler
Track 03 – The Road (Sheep Fiends)– I was so put off by the State of Illinois forcing me to sell part of my backyard that I made up a song on the spot. And later put together a music video with proof of the injustice. A guy does what he can. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 06 – Eyes Wide Like Saucers (Sheep Fiends)– Certainly a highlight of the era. Matt tells a long twisting tale of mystery while the band provides tension through interpretive wind howling, thunder crashing and torrential rain. More suspenseful than the average jam – who or what is in that red pickup truck? Storytelling at its Fiendist. [Scratch on Guitar]
This is a pretty strong jam CD from 2010. We’d grown comfortable with the Rumpus Room studio and felt free to create without stress. Several dirges anchor this heavy record while the topics of outer space isolation, obsessive collecting, the American Dream and nightmares of spiders unfold languidly. And that’s before the remixing starts…
Three Track Sampler
Track 01 – Cowgirl in the Sand (Sheep Fiends)– A completely unrehearsed but surprisingly unique cover of the Neil Young song. I’d been learning it for a week or so and found some solid accompaniment when strumming it out in the vocal booth one day. [Scratch on Acoustic Guitar & Vocals]
Track 06 – Melancholy (Sheep Fiends)– Ten years later this title holds. A slow gloomy journey into hopelessness? Or maybe that’s just what I get from this nontypical ambient track. It seems the aliens have taken hold by the time we reach the end. [Scratch on Bass & Guitar]
Track 12 – Very Avant-Garde (Sheep Fiends)– So what happened was when transferring some audio files of us jamming something went very wrong. Clean guitar became shrieking feedback. So I copied the screwed up guitar track and overlaid vocals from other sections over it to make a song. Then I fleshed it out with people talking. What else could I have done? [Scratch on Guitar & Vocals]
These 15 tracks come from just seven jams that I attended between 2005 and 2009 – six Sheep Fiends events and one guest appearance with the Poker Night String Band. The most notable musical development that occurred during this period was the evolution of the Rumpus Room from a welcoming jam spot into a full-on multitrack studio. This volume of Scratchrock captures the end of the “tape deck” era through our first multitrack recordings. At times somber; at times preposterous, the addition of several new Sheep Fiends participants packs this collection full of surprises.
Four Track Sampler
Track 03 – The Sea Gull (Sheep Fiends)– An unexpected drum machine swings as slide guitar meets a delay pedal on this ornithological instrumental. You can almost see their reflections on the pavement. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 04 – Uranium (Sheep Fiends)– Back to a more organic sound…and topic. Creepy bass anchors this droner where I celebrate the properties of all natural ingredients, and curse the regulations that get in my way. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 06 – Theme From 7 on 15 (Sheep Fiends)– A happy little instrumental for a change. Steady drums allow me to try out a myriad of sounds on my Casio guitar from 1989, while a haunting mandolin plinks inside your mind. Kinda funky; kinda quirky, all Sheep Fiends. [Scratch on Casio DG-1 Guitar]
Track 08 – Fission Overlord (Sheep Fiends)– Reminds me of the mating call of the nuclear reactor. The Geiger counter chirps out its warnings. The oscillator screams at a constant dBm. Drums and bass lazily provide a low end to the techno-fission reaction. Is the Overlord here? [Scratch on Bass]
This album primarily captures a freaky weird Sheep Fiends jam from October 2009. Hillbilly adjacent cover songs mesh with menacing instrumentals. Haunting laughter and oddly wrong pop songs. A strong start for a new decade of Sheep Fiends.
Three Track Sampler
Track 04 – Dread Reaper (Sheep Fiends)– Sounds like noise fusion… maybe? A duet of foul intention is conjured from nothing as Faiz and I twist knobs and scrape metal. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 06– A Different Set of Rules (Sheep Fiends)– An EXPERIMENT blending ambient discussion with random music bits. We were all so passionate at the time, yet I don’t remember what about attribution I was so upset about in the first place. But what you really need to do is make a song out of it. Make a make a song out of it. [Scratch on Bass and Vocals]