The Witches are sweaty. And the pipes connecting the massive shining silver beer tanks are reverberating with music. It’s Sunday night in the Cass Corridor and the tiny Motor City Brewing Works brewpub is at the center of the action again. Tucked away at the back corner of the Traffic Jam and Snug parking lot on Canfield, you might not notice the brewery and its attached pub. But inside, the wood-paneled and ceramic-tiled walls are providing a surprisingly good sounding board for a live recording of the Witches psychedelic-night owl take on rock ’n’ roll.
Past a stack of idle drums and other sundry gear and up a flight of stairs, Motor City proprietor and art/entrepreneurial kingshit John Linardos mans a desk-sized 8-track ministudio capturing the sounds for use on the downtown Detroit rock scene documentary compilation, Ghettoblaster Volume 2.
This is the story of a man, a brew and the music scenes they helped lubricate.
The first Ghettoblaster CD — featuring tracks recorded at nearby Ghetto Studios from such artists as the Dirtbombs, the Hentchmen, Outrageous Cherry and Bantam Rooster — was released in 1997 and caught a period before hype and circumstance made Detroit a musical brand name.
“At that time, I was living in the studio long before Jim (Diamond) moved in,” says Linardos of the living/working space (which, by the way, was once the home of a poultry-processing operation).
“I built the studio even before I built Motor City. It was for other projects and it had nothing to do with money.
“The Detroit Cobras came in and it was just a party-type atmosphere,” he continues. “Jim moved in in ’96-’97 and took the studio part of it up a notch — because that’s what he does professionally. But just as importantly, the music scene was getting stronger then. We started having a lot of parties at the studio as things were starting to gel and things were getting tight.”
These parties — sweaty throwdowns often pairing such punk-rock teengenerates as the Dirtys with the Hentchmen — turned into the impetus to put out a compilation that just so happened to be timed perfectly with the release of Linardos’ Ghettoblaster beer. So was the synergy contrived or mere coincidence? Actually, neither.
“Music’s always something I’m working on. The studio had always been in the background,” says Linardos. “The brewery, in the beginning was a day job. I’m a sculptor, so anyone who knew me before the last five years knew me from the art scene. Ghettoblaster came along at the point where I thought ‘How can I combine the two?’
“It wasn’t a conscious effort in that I thought about combining the brewery with my artistic pursuits as much as it was noticing what was going around me. It’s like how is something born? You can say ‘love.’ You can say ‘instinct’ or ‘the drive,’ but the reality is it’s just born and you have to deal with it.”
The music and the moment captured on the compilation caused even hyperbolically reserved writer Ben Edmonds to ask whether the “slumbering giant had been awakened.”
The answer was, “yup.” A lot has happened to Detroit’s stock on the musical market in the last five years, and one would think that Ghettoblaster would be on at least its fifth volume by now. But Linardos had other fish to fry (i.e. building and opening the Motor City Brewing Works’ brewpub and running a labor-intensive beer business).
But with the ministudio now installed in the brewpub, it seemed like time to try to catch some of the action for posterity.
Ghettoblaster 2 is a snapshot, a time capsule,” says Linardos, “of what these musicians sound like right now. There aren’t really a lot of fun, live recordings out there and this is a good time to capture that. Nobody’s burnt out and we can create a party atmosphere right here.”
So, starting four weeks ago and continuing for the next two months, two bands will play every Sunday beginning at 9 p.m. at Motor City Brewing Works. Slated to perform over the next several weeks are the Alphabet, They Come in Threes, the Dirtbombs, the Buzzards, the Come Ons, Ko & the Knockouts, the Hentchmen, the Clone Defects, the Paybacks and the Go.
“It’s simple,” says Linardos. “I put a reel of tape on and the band’s set is as long as the tape spins — 25 minutes. We have the raw, captured feeling, but with high fidelity. This is how a portrait photographer or a documentarian looks at something — but with audio instead of visual.”
But where things take a turn for the conceptual is in Linardos’ plans for Ghettoblaster Vol. 3. Rounding out the trilogy will be a project involving Detroit’s electronic community — another group of Detroit musicians that spreads the 313 gospel globally.
“I’d like for volume three to be a cross-collaboration between the electronic and DJ guys and the garage community. And the best way to do that is to give the electronic artists the tapes and have them remix the garage stuff,” says Linardos.
“There’ll be reels and reels of material that we won’t be able to use on the rock CD, and any sound source is viable for a track and I’m super interested in that.”
Linardos is bullish on the potential for creative sparks to fly: “Both sides respect each other greatly (and both of them are totally down with Ghettoblaster). The two mentalities are similar in their spirit of creativity — even though they came from very different backgrounds. It’s just a bunch of circles colliding and I love that.”
And so it is that a scene begat a beer, and one genre feeds another genre, and it is proven once again that some of the best ideas are born whilst tipping elbows. Let us all now sing “Kumbaya.”
“It’s like a party, you start to feel guilty,” Linardos laughs. “But it’s the natural thing to do. You know, like getting off a bar stool and starting a brewery!”
Ghettoblaster Volume 2 should hit shelves sometime in September.Chris Handyside writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]