Archive for backyard babies

R.I.P. Fred Cole

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , on November 10, 2017 by Magadh

fred2I heard today that Fred Cole of the legendary Portland band Dead Moon had died of cancer. I regard this as a tragedy, but if I may be permitted to utter a bit of heresy I will say that I never liked Dead Moon all that much. They just kind of weren’t my thing. I saw them plenty of times in practically every state of mind (other than stone cold sober of course), but I never quite got the lo-fi magic that everyone else seemed to be tuning in to. That said, I will say that there are few people with whom I have crossed paths in music for whom I have so much respect, and perhaps that distance between the first thing and the second is worth a bit of comment.

It was hard to avoid Dead Moon if you came up in the underground scene in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s. It was Fred who handed me the first musical instrument I ever bought, a Gibson SG bass that he recommended because I was left handed and it would be easy to restring. He even showed me how to flip the nut so that the strings would fit right. All of this happened in the course of a twenty minute conversation at Tombstone Music out in Clackamas (after I’d spend an hour trying to find the place because it was on 82nd Drive, not 82nd Avenue). Anyway, it was useful advice, and he didn’t hiccup at the fact that, at that point, knew just about zilch about musical instruments or what to do with them.

I must have seen Dead Moon at the Satyricon twenty times at least. They had the feel of having being around forever, even though they really only formed in 1987. Now, to be 100% honest, I hung around the Satyricon a lot and wasn’t terribly picky about what I was seeing there. In point of fact, I saw The Mentors like three years running (they used to play every year around Christmas on their way up to Seattle), and please believe me when I say that I had no inclination to see them even one time. For me, Dead Moon was kind of like sonic wallpaper in an environment which I was naïve enough to think would never really change.

It never really occurred to me that anyone outside the Willamette Valley actually cared about them until one night in the 90s when a bunch of us were chatting with Dregen Borg after a Backyard Babies show at Satyricon. Someone asked him how they like Portland and he was like, “Yeah, we love Portland. Dead Moon are great!” That was pretty close to the time that I actually moved out of town, and by that point I was so wrapped up in black metal and its more obscure variants that I didn’t really have the space in my head to wind back the clock and revise my judgment.

Well, Fred is gone now and I wish him a happy trip to Valhalla or wherever the legendary rockers go. He had a commitment to doing things his own way, and he clearly never gave a damn about making big or any of the other bullshit trappings that come with playing music. He just went his own way, churning out dark country music recorded in mono. There is something in that fundamentally worth respect. There are and will be many imitators of that way of doing things, but one thing I knew about Fred was that it was a fundamental expression of who he was, and I salute another idol as he fades into the twilight.