SLIM MOON of KILL ROCK STARS – Song For Ewe

Slim Moon c. 1986

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is co-founder of the legendary punk rock record label Kill Rock Stars founded in 1991 in Olympia, Washington, a label which started to put out spoken word records, but which became synonymous with riot grrrl, being the home of Bikini Kill, Heavens To Betsy, Bratmobile (and US home to Huggy Bear) but also local heroes like the drop D tuned demagogues Unwound. It was a label which was self-consciously artist led and artist geared not to mention proudly feminist and LGBT+ friendly. What was not to like?

When writing the original VS fanzine, which had been very much been inspired by Huggy Bear and Cornershop and the new DIY punk/riot grrrl scene in the early 90s around Wiiija Records, I quickly became enamoured by KRS and managed to get on the mailing list to review brilliant records like those by godheadSilo, Universal Order of Armageddon and comps which really stick in my mind like the “Rock Stars Kill” one (I was a bit late for the original “Kill Rock Stars” edition) and “A Slice of Lemon” (joint with Lookout) – of which I had the posted on my wall in student digs.

I was also big into Mary Lou Lord, and when a chance came to visit Gary Walker from Wiiija Records pad in Highbury, North London to interview Mary Lou came about I jumped at the chance, not least because it gave me the double whammy of meeting and interviewing Slim Moon, a man whose taste I very much admired. We walked and talked up to a nearby pub and swapped stories all the way back too. I possibly later hung out with Slim & Gary at the Free Kitten show at the Highbury Garage around the same time, though the memories are hazy I’ll be honest. Not sure I even remember gigs in this post pandemic world!

The issue of Velvet Sheep that both interviews featured in, VS #17 then became legendary in my lifetime as it was the one that John Peel mentioned live on air on 26th May 1995, so Kill Rock Stars are forever etched in my mind, and so I made it a mission to try and get Slim back onto these pages when we went digital a few years back. And I’m pleased to say, here he is! Welcome back to VS, Slim Moon!

here’s that Peel mention…

VELVET SHEEP ON JOHN PEEL SHOW 1995

and the Velvet Sheep 17 cover…

Kill Rock Stars truly went from strength to strength, being an early home to Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Gossip and The Decemberists to name a few notables! (Not forgetting Slim’s own band Witchy Poo). Slim left the label in 2006 for other pastures, but I’m pleased to say he’s now back there in his spiritual home (since Sept 2019) as the executive punk. They’ve got new records coming by MAITA, Mi’ens and an expanded Elliott Smith re-issue, so things are healthy.

Here’s one tune I’m ever grateful he exec’d back in the day…(and one I was lucky to see played live at a tight and clammy instore at the now defunct Rough Trade, Covent Garden)…

As a true music fan, I was keen to find out Slim’s choice of tune, and he does not disappoint, not least as he’s done his homework, and supplied supporting texts. No citations needed here, they’re all provided. And it’s a true slice of edutainment, which I love. So without further ado, here’s Slim Moon’s “song for ewe”…

“My song is “Somebody’s Always Leaving” by Stonewall Jackson.

I never met Billy Ruane, but his legend traveled all the way from Boston to where I lived in Washington State on the other side of the country. Here are some links about him:

https://www.wbur.org/artery/2015/11/24/billy-ruane-monument

http://archive.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2010/10/29/remembering_billy_ruane/

Billy Ruane, champion of Boston music scene, dies at 52

Billy Ruane

The little I knew of him in 1990 was like this: A friend from Boston handed me a stack of mixed cassette tapes and said “These were made by Billy Ruane – he’s a guy who goes to every show at the Middle East and dances on the tables and has the best taste in music ever.” Apparently he’d carefully made master tapes of all his favorite songs divided by genre, and he’d run off copies for people and give them away to all his friends.

Each cassette had a different genre and every tape was impeccable, packed with obscure beauties. Jazz. Dub. Standards. Ohio Punk Rock. New York Punk Rock. Etc. The Country tape was mostly songs from the 50s and 60s. I’m a big fan of country music from that era but I hadn’t heard most of these songs, including the stunning “Somebody’s Always Leaving” by Stonewall Jackson. For a long time it was very hard to find a copy of this song, but now of course everything is on the internet.

The song reminds me of other very bleak very simple songs I love. “Failure” by the Swans. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. “World War” by The Cure. “Big River” by Johnny Cash. “Lord, I’m Discouraged” by The Hold Steady. “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. “Is That All There Is” by Peggy Lee. Several songs by The Smiths. It also reminds me of the John Cougar album title “Nothing Matters and What If It Did?”

There’s an unrivalled beauty in simple unvarnished nihilistic depression. I like to think this Stonewall Jackson rare gem from a forgotten mix tape gives me a little extra insight into what a guy like Billy Ruane was all about – loving life and not expecting much from it, maybe. I dunno, I never met the guy but I still sort of feel like I did. I definitely knew folks like him. May we each never be without a Billy Ruane in our lives.”

THANKS SO MUCH TO SLIM MOON. 

Here’s the Kill Rock Stars website and Bandcamp:

https://www.killrockstars.com/

https://killrockstars.bandcamp.com/

KRS are still putting out great stuff, and I loved the recent-ish album by Lithics. Here’s a song for ewe from the band’s Aubrey Hornor (choosing The Petticoats).

AUBREY HORNOR from LITHICS – Song For Ewe

And for old-time’s sake check out the “songs for ewe” from Justin & Vern of Unwound…

JUSTIN TROSPER of UNWOUND – Song For Ewe

VERN RUMSEY of UNWOUND – Song For Ewe

Here’s Dan’s from godheadSilo…

DAN HAUGH of GODHEADSILO – Song For Ewe

…and Slim Moon’s old kindred brother in arms, Gary Walker from Wiiija Records…

GARY WALKER of WIIIJA RECORDS – Song For Ewe

Author: Nick Hutchings

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