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Among influential music entities in the Twin Cities, Amphetamine Reptile Records is often criminally forgotten. Run by Tom Hazelmyer, the man also behind our area's three Grumpy's bars, the fiercely independent label has put out hundreds of important underground punk, noise, and rock albums over the past 27 years. Though the Twin/Tone record label got a lot more local headlines for its ties to the Replacements, Amphetamine Reptile — or just AmRep — has long been just a few crucial degrees removed from Nirvana.
Two of the tightest ties to the Seattle college rock, and later grunge, scene are the respective frontmen for seminal alt-rock acts Mudhoney and the Melvins, Mark Arm and Buzz Osborne. Whether AmRep made the bands, the bands made the label, or both, a near-immediate synergy began three decades ago. Hazelmyer encountered them both while he was serving in the Marines in Seattle in the mid-'80s. By 1986, AmRep was born in a crate under his Marines barracks bunk. Initially it was to give his new band Halo of Flies credibility, but friends increasingly wanted Hazelmyer's intense artwork and scene respectability associated with their bands too.
Hazelmyer moved back to Minneapolis following his discharge in 1987. The following year, he featured Mudhoney on the first volume of the salaciously titled 7-inch series, Dope-Guns-'N-Fucking in the Streets. The Melvins were on Dope-Guns' fifth volume in 1990. In the ensuing decades, Mudhoney and the Melvins have endured while churning out commercially overlooked critical successes. Meanwhile, their Pacific Northwest bretheren formed bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Ever the underdogs, Arm and Osborne's bands maintained untamed creative energy and acerbic attitudes over the years, and they always kept in touch with the irrepressible Hazelmyer.
Mudhoney, the Melvins, Negative Approach, Die Kreuzen, Honky, Hepa/Titus, and Gay Witch Abortion play Bash 13 on Saturday, July 20, at Grumpyâ€™s Downtown; 612.340.9738
AmRep's Bash 13 on Saturday marks the latest in a semi-annual series of Grumpy's music extravaganzas — the kind of shows that can only happen in Minneapolis with Hazelmyer's input. This one features the first Minneapolis Mudhoney performance in over a decade, legendary Milwaukee band Die Kruezen's return after 20 years, and the first-ever local performance by Negative Approach. Plus, there are anticipated sets by the Melvins, Honky, Gay Witch Abortion, and the closest we are going to get to a Cows reunion when Kevin Rutmanis and Shannon Selberg perform together with Hepa/Titus.
Ahead of Saturday's event, City Pages spoke with the oft-hilarious Buzz Osborne, Mark Arm, and Tom Hazelmyer regarding their storied history with one another and Amphetamine Reptile, and what we can expect at Bash 13. As it turns out, mutual appreciation of yet another Twin Cities band first brought everyone together.
Tom Hazelmyer: Buzz and I first met when the Melvins were opening for Hüsker Dü in '84 in Seattle. I was at the show to see hometown friends Hüskers, and was blown away by them. We didn't start hanging out until a couple years later, as the Melvins high-tailed it out of Seattle pretty quickly. That and they didn't hang out in Seattle when they lived in Washington.
Buzz Osborne: Seattle at the time [early '80s] didn't have that big of a music scene, so a big show was a couple hundred people, max. We came from a long ways from Seattle [Montesano, Washington], and it was nice when we were finally able to wrangle a way to drive ourselves to Seattle, because we certainly didn't have parents who were willing to drive us up there.
Mark Arm: It seemed like while the Metropolis [a legendary but short-lived Seattle club that closed in '84] was going, you guys were playing here like almost every weekend.
Osborne: [laughs] Yep. Every weekend. Yeah. What was weird is that we lived this sort of transient, sleeping-in-cars type of existence, because had I stayed in that town for too much longer I probably would have just blown my brains out. I don't know if you remember it this way, Mark, but when I first started going to shows around there in the early '80s, it was a lot of leather, older people, punk rockers that disappeared relatively quickly after that. They looked really fucking scary.
Hazelmyer: Mark and I met in '85 at a Wipers show. The singer of the opening band U-Men said there were these guys in a band called [Arm's previous band] Green River that want to meet me because I was in [seminal Twin Cities punk act] Otto's Chemical Lounge and they were fans. It was weird hearing that, as Otto's was unknown outside the Twin Cities and only had one single out. I was pretty flattered. What I didn't know was that Mark and [future Mudhoney bandmate] Steve Turner were both pretty fanatical record collectors.
Arm: Tom was stationed in Whidbey Island and Steve went to school in Bellingham, and so they would just hang out in Bellingham and shop for records and stuff. Steve and I were in a band that put out our singles and all of our records on Amphetamine Reptile pretty early on called the Thrown Ups.
As the '80s went on, Mudhoney and the Melvins found themselves lumped into the grunge movement, but they didn't reap the commercial and financial benefits that others received. Similarly, while the Replacements and Soul Asylum picked up steam in the Twin Cities, AmRep bands such as the Cows and Hammerhead remained on the fringes. Both locally and around the country, Hazelmyer was building a roster of disenfranchised and overlooked talent.