Host Lance Davis explains that the podcast is based on his new and as yet unpublished book, Don’t Call It Nothing: The Lost History of ‘90s Roots, Rap & Rock ‘n’ Roll. This 900+ page reference tome is a celebration of the decade's best music, much of which was nearly invisible to the American public.Support the show
All right, welcome to Don’t Call It Nothing, the podcast dedicated to the lost history of 90s roots, rap & rock and roll. I'm your host, Lance Davis, and I just wrote a book of the same name … whaaaaat??? That's right. I just wrote Don’t Call It Nothing: The Lost History of 90s Roots, Rap and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It's over 900 pages, which proves that I do love to keep writing. It's still early for release. I don't know when it's gonna come out. I still got to edit it, do the copyright thing. But, it is done. The first big draft is done.
The book itself is a part memoir, part social history, and of course, part reference manual for the decade. As far as the memoir portion of it, that's really just the introduction. It's sort of my life story, but as it intersects with the music I was into at that time, up to and including the 1990s. I started the decade at Chico State (California) as a DJ at KCSC. That was September of 1989 when I started at the Livewire. I was there for three years? Yeah, that's right three years, eventually became music director, and graduated in ‘92. My mom died on January 1st of ‘93. And so having graduated and you know, spinning because my mom died, I decided to go up to Seattle where I had a bunch of family. Just kind of start things fresh. And of course, Seattle in 1993 was kind of poppin. So, I stayed there for a few years, wrote for the local alternative weekly, The Stranger, and saw a lot of great shows. Some of those articles I wrote I've reproduced in the book, just the text, to give you an idea of what I was listening to and what was out there. From Seattle, I moved back to LA briefly, and then I went east. In fact, I went south, deep south. I moved to Baton Rouge in ‘97, then moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to get my Master's in American Studies at UA. Roll Tide. After that I moved to Austin, but that was in 2000, kind of outside the scope of the podcast and book. So, I will probably address that only obliquely. Oh, do you hear all the dogs barking? I've decided to say fuck it. If you get dogs in the background, you get dogs in the background. This garage is too damn hot.
Okay, so what is the book beyond the introduction? I just kept it straightforward. I do 1990, then ‘91, ‘92, it's basically a rundown of my favorite albums, and also albums worth mentioning, (as well as) EPs, singles, and compilations. But, I think my favorite part of the book really isn't in the book. What I did for each year was create a 100-track Spotify playlist. Every group (on the playlist) is represented once, no duplicate artists, only one cover song for the whole year. I also include a Christmas song in each year, I thought that would be fun. And every Spotify playlist for each of the years, the first track on the playlist has to be the first track on an album and then the last track on the playlist has to be the last track on an album. Then I also have YouTube playlists for each year. It's not 100 videos, it's 150. Some videos like actual videos like as if you were going to get on MTV. That's funny. But those kinds of videos, live stuff, some interviews, not a lot. Between the book, the Spotify playlists, the YouTube playlists, and I think this podcast, I think we're gonna get a pretty good idea of the 1990s at its best. Not the 1990s at its most popular. But, the 1990s that I experienced — and I'm gonna guess a lot of you experienced — at the club level, you know, maybe the concert hall level. But, not this arena level. This Lollapalooza/Warped Tour level. Not that it's bad, necessarily, to go to those. I'm just saying that that is not the framework by which I'm going to define the decade. No, no, no.
This entire multimedia extravaganza is all a part of the same motivation, which is is the best music of the 1990s deserves to be remembered. Simple. Like, that's really what my motivation is. It's 2021, we turn on classic rock radio, if this were a normally functioning, organic culture, when I turn on classic rock radio, I should be hearing music that's about 20-30 years old. That's the 1990s. So give me some GBV. It could even be the ballad, “Hold On Hope,” it doesn't matter. Give me some Pavement. Obviously, “Cut Your Hair” is huge. What about a “Spit On A Stranger”? Instead, what do we get on classic rock radio? We still get “Hotel California.” We still get “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Why is this the framework by which people understand what classic rock means? And in fact, when you go to classic rock radio — KLOS here in LA — you will more than likely hear the Eagles. You'll hear the Stones. You'll hear Springsteen and all those guys. But, you don’t hear Dinosaur Jr. Or, you know, Uncle Tupelo. Or hell, do you even hear Nirvana? You probably do hear Nirvana, but you ain't gonna hear Mudhoney.
So anyway, one of my principal core beliefs, and I feel this to my soul, is that the 1990s was way stronger bottom to top — not necessarily top to bottom, but bottom to top — than maybe any other decade, including the hallowed ‘60s and ‘70s, the so-called “golden age of rock.” Look, obviously lots of great music was made in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But, lots of great music was made in the 1990s. Aren't we allowed to discuss it? Is that not allowed to get a little traction in the culture? I mean, as far as I'm concerned, the best rock and roll and the best roots music in the 1990s, the single greatest problem that it had was not the quality of the music that was being produced. It was the gatekeepers who were not allowing the best music to get to the mainstream. Point blank. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, you had gatekeepers. Yes. Some bands didn't get popular. The Stooges didn't get popular. The Velvet Underground didn't get popular. Well guess what? In the 1990s just about every band was the Stooges or the Velvet Underground. That's how you should you should understand it. 95% of the best music is Big Star or the Flamin’ Groovies or the Flying Burrito Brothers if you want to use all these ‘60s and ‘70s references, and I kind of want to I think that's it's bullshit. Let's celebrate it's been 20 or 30 years. Can we just crack this nut? Let's get down to the 1990s. So what I want to read to you now is literally the first paragraph of the book. Just to give you an idea of what we're going to be doing here. Okay, and here we go.
I hate the 1990s. Not the decade as I lived it, which has remained in a virtually undisturbed state since its events were realized. No, I hate “the ‘90s,” the air quotes version of the decade that stands in proxy for the actual 1990s. Our collective memory of the decade’s music reflects an embarrassing acceptance of superficial knowledge. For example, Seattle means Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Temple Of The Dog. Speaking of Temple Of The Dog, hear all those dogs howling? They do not like Pearl Jam. Oh man. Okay, back to the text. What about the Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks, Silkworm? What about Flop? What about The Model Rockets? To put this in more dire perspective, more people are familiar with Candlebox than they are the entirety of the Mudhoney and Screaming Trees catalogs. And if we extend the geographic reach from Seattle to the greater Pacific Northwest, the average Gen Xer and millennial might know Death Cab For Cutie (Bellingham, WA) and Built To Spill (Boise, ID). But, what about Seaweed and Girl Trouble (they’re from Tacoma), what about Beat Happening (Olympia), The Mono Men (also Bellingham), Dead Moon (Portland), and then Doug Martsch’s pre-Built To Spill band, Treepeople (also from Boise)? What about all of those bands?
The number of southern California rock bands to become massively popular during the decade of the 1990s says more about the efficiency of Los Angeles’ entertainment industrial complex than it does about the acts themselves. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Offspring, Sublime, No Doubt, Tool, Korn, Stone Temple Pilots, Blink 182, all of these bands sold millions, but were as soullessly disposable as a blockbuster action movie whose greatest feature is its special effects. Gimme Thelonious Monster, The Muffs, Dave Alvin, Chris Gaffney, Geraldine Fibbers, Redd Kross, Claw Hammer, Rocket From The Crypt, aMiniature, and The Bicycle Thief. Those were the SoCal rock ‘n’ rollers whose music was invested with heart and soul, but were either too difficult to market or the industry did not try.
So, that is kind of in a nutshell my POV. And my MO. Let's stop framing the 1990s in terms of what the marketers want us to think about the 1990s because they still want to sell Blink 182, you know, shares to publishing companies. No, no, no. That's not who's going to frame this podcast. We're going to talk about the bands that really mattered, that made great music that had heart, soul, balls, ovaries, and the juice of life, man. This is why I titled the book and podcast, Don’t Call It Nothing. That line comes from an Uncle Tupelo song where the lyrical hook is a mission statement.
Don't call it nothing
This might be all we'll ever have
Alright, guys, thanks for sticking around. Go visit the website dontcallitnothing.squarespace.com. I actually have — it's not Patreon because they charge too many fees — it is Buy Me a Coffee, but I have some membership levels. “Like” this video — video (scoff laughs) — “like” this podcast. Can you tell I’m delirious? It's like 100 degrees in this garage. “Like” this podcast, subscribe at places where subscribers do stuff. Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm a veteran. I know what I'm doing. Alright guys. See you next time.