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The First Thing To Turn Me On: The Birth Of Dead Moon
The Quietus , September 25th, 2021 08:15

In an extract from the oral history book Dead Moon: Off The Grid, Fred Cole, Kathleen 'Toody' Cole, and Andrew Loomis recall the origins of Portland's wildest garage rock band

Dead Moon. Us Tour. Beachland. Photographer unknown

FRED: My mom was working at Safeway in Tacoma. We went down there and saw this band that was playing on the back of a flat bed truck – four cowboys in red cowboy shirts and shit. I was about nine years old and I thought, “Oh my god, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” I didn’t even care what music they were playing, it was just so fucking cool. Then I was ten or eleven and my mom got a 45 of Jerry Lee Lewis doing ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ I just knew I had to get on stage and unleash my terror. I went crazy for the song, singing at the top of my lungs and all that shit.

Then, when I was like fourteen, me and my sis-ters saw The Beatles on their first tour. It killed me. Shortly after that I got this first band together. We had a drummer (laughs) and we played his sister’s seventh birthday party. It was our big debut. Then we got a gig at the high school for a talent show. We were supposed to play like three songs. We got through I think one and a half. The principal came out and says, “This is not the kind of talent we want.” That was pretty funny. Then I heard about this youth center. So I went down to talk to this guy: “We got this band and I think we can play maybe about twenty minutes.” He goes, “Well, it’s gonna be about fifty bucks,” and I go, “I think we can do that.”

I go back and tell the other guys we gotta come up with fifty bucks. I think it’s a good deal because people are gonna hear us. There was like fifty kids there or so. We did our twenty-minute thing and after I reach in the wallet and pull out the money, he goes, “What’re you doing?” I go, “Well you said fifty bucks.” He goes, “Yeah, I pay you.” I couldn’t believe it. It was so much fun, how could you possibly get paid for this? You can have fun and chicks are digging it. I’ve been working my ass off doing two jobs and going to school and I thought, “Oh fuck, fuck school.”

I played bass with Barracudas, The Little Red Roosters, and then I got in this one band called The Lords as a bass player. I was singing a little bit. I was getting arrested every night cause we were playing on the Las Vegas strip until 2 a.m. and curfew was midnight. My mom was just fed up with me. “You gotta get it to-gether, Fred, or you’re going to prison.” I got my GED through Salt Lake college correspondence course. Anyway … I got into The Weeds with part of the guys from The Lords…

ANDREW: Fred and Toody – I’ve known them for a looooong time. They had a music store called Captain Whizeagle’s downtown when punk rock was just starting. They sold me my first drum set after I ended selling weenies on the corner. I borrowed $185 from my older brother. Fred was behind the counter and Toody’s brother Pat was working, too. Fred, typical Fred, cigarette hanging out of the fucking mouth behind the counter, “So what are you playing, jazz, punk rock? You want something you can beat the shit out of?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and he’s like, “OK, well, Pat (grumble), the blue Pearl (grumble),” so I got that. Still owe my brother 185 bucks!

Andrew © Carla van de Marel, 1992

They did a lot for music around Portland. I went and saw anything that Fred was in. Toody wasn’t even playing in a band then. The first time I saw them play together was with The Rats. I saw them with the three different drummers. Went through Rod, Sam, then Louis. The Rats was my first and still are my favourite band. Because when I listen to music it’s the same as smells or something: it’ll take you (claps hands together) right back to that day or whatever. They send me. I put those records on and I’m just, “Wow!”

TOODY: I remember seeing Andrew working at Satyricon. He was probably barely old enough to even be in the joint. But we didn’t really know him – we’d seen him around, from playing Satyricon and what not. He just looked interesting, like a person we wanted to meet.

FRED: I’m a real believer in destiny. I’m a real believer in karma and chemistry and all the shit. The first time I remember seeing him, he was walking down the street with Kat. I just thought “Oh, flamboyant motherfucker, that dude looks really cool.” Next time I saw him, he was playing in Boy Wonders. I wasn’t real terribly impressed with his playing per se as I was with the way he looked on stage, and the possibilities. This was when we were in The Rats. When we got fed up with The Rats, we decided to start playing our country shit. So I thought, “OK, let’s give this guy a go.” So we had a practice with Andrew playing country. Actually, I asked his brother, because they looked so much a like.

Fred © Carla van de Marel

ANDREW: This one day, my little brother called me up and he goes, “You really got to talk to Fred.” I was like, “Why?” “He spent an hour and a half talking to me about this new band” At the time, me and my little brother, people always thought we were twins. But they did this thing called the Range Rats and it was in between country and punk. I was totally intimidated. I couldn’t do it. I get the drums the way that I’m used to playing them, and I came out just playing trash.

FRED: It was just a fucking disaster. We tried all kinds of country beats…

TOODY: He tried like crazy.

FRED: And he’d go (makes messed up drum sounds). And I’d go, “Oh man, that is so fucking not right. Have you ever heard country?” He goes, “Yeah, I love country”. I go, “Did you ever listen to the drums?”

ANDREW: They were nice about lettin’ me down easy. But I took it hard.

© Willem Kolvoort

FRED: We did the Range Rats and then we finally decided, “Fuck this shit. Let’s just play some old Rock ’n’ Roll.”

TOODY: Our plan at first was just to do nothing but cover songs, and that’s pretty much what we did for the first three to six months.

FRED: I said, “Let’s try that Andrew dude out again.” I know he can play just something really basic. He was really solid on that shit.

ANDREW: I started playing and just never stopped.

FRED: At first he just wanted to play cymbals. I go, “Just fucking play snare and kick and high hat. And very seldom use those fucking cymbals.” He wanted to be this flamboyant drummer playing all this shit.

TOODY: He found his own niche and really got his own style down, and he’s completely well known for that. He’s his own original.

TOODY: The man was magic with working a crowd and he loved it. We loved it as well, but there was some points it was just too overwhelming. Thank god we had each other. We’d just go and hide. Take over, Andrew, see you on stage (laughs).

FRED: Do your thing.

TOODY: His thing was,“Wanna meet Mom and Dad?” (laughs).

ANDREW: “Ma and Pa, where the hell are Ma and Pa?”

TOODY: We were his safety net, which was cool. And he pried us out of our earth sign ground-ing. He put the balloon up and we held onto the ropes, half the time.

© Ed Goralnick

FRED: It takes a real mixture of people. If you have too many people that are the same, it’s lik eugh.

ANDREW: I was in such a bad state when those guys … I mean, they picked me up like a little lost, wet kitten – stranded. They plucked me out, like, “We’ll keep this one.” I owe a lot to them. But I also do something for them, too. The Rats were brilliant. Three different records, three different drummers. I don’t know how manywe’ve done, I think we’re up to like twenty-two now or something. That even freaks Fred out. “Man, I’ve never been in a band this long in my life.” He did The Lollipop Shoppe, which is other people’s claim to fame, it’s not his claim to fame. He’s got a song, ‘Claim to Fame’, which is probably one of my favourite songs by him. I love it, man.

TOODY: We were lucky that we happened on the magic chemistry and that Fred and I were already such a solid core. Andrew was the top of the pyramid. Together the three of us were incredibly strong.

FRED: He was our missing link.

ANDREW: Total respect for them. There’s things we disagree on. Definitely (laughs). But when it comes down to it, you know, that’s penny-ante shit. But, like, just the basics of how things go with your family, your heart, your brain, whatever, they’ve already been through these things. They’ve had more deaths in the family than I have, had more friends pass away. They were playing through the 60s and lucky to make it out alive and shit, but that’s when I was born. We just buried … well, didn’t bury her but just had to say goodbye to a friend of ours not too long ago. The day she did pass away, Wanda,god rest her soul, I got a phone call from her girlfriend that she wasn’t gonna make it through the day and I just spun out. She died of cancer; she had really had it bad. I mean, there’s no good cancer, but when I talked to Fred … he’s like, “Oh yeah, more power to her now. She’s a guardian angel.” Just shit like that.

TOODY: We were a great support system for each other. Known for that.

Dead Moon: Off The Grid is published by Ventil