If you love a good story about a band whose early origins can be traced back to High School, like Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi was Ozzy’s High School bully), and Quiet Riot, then you will dig knowing this was also the case for Botch, a heavy mathcore band from Tacoma (though the band is often noted to be from Seattle), Washington. According to bassist Brian Cook, he was inspired to start Botch after seeing a gig by Seattle band Undertow–largely considered to be the “founding fathers” of Seattle straight-edge. Here’s the thing–Cook, just sixteen at the time, wasn’t only inspired by Undertow‘s jams, he was profoundly moved by Undertow‘s direct response to some of the homophobic people that showed up to the gig held at what Cook recalls as a youth center just south of Seattle.
Apparently there were a number of homophobic people in attendance that were loudly harassing Undertow fans calling them “freaks” and asking if they were “gay.” When Undertow caught wind of this, they took action. As they took the stage, they told the crowd they had heard what was going on and let everyone know that they were they against this kind of hate, adding that “all” people were welcome at their shows. For Cook, who is gay, this was eye opening, leading him to the conclusion that being in a band and making music also means being a part of a community and being accountable. Now that’s how you start a band, with a strong foundation of inclusivity.
Botch was officially started by guitarist Dave Knudson, drummer Tim Latona, and vocalist Dave Verellen. The trio of friends had grown up together. Cook moved to Seattle in his teens from Hawaii. When the foursome came together it blended Cook‘s love of hardcore punk (Minor Threat, Black Flag), and Knudson‘s, Latona‘s, and Verellen‘s addiction to metal–such as digging Metallica and, according to Cook, other bands residing in the heavier realm of the “alternative spectrum.”
When future Botch drummer Tim Latona approached guitarist Dave Knudson in the school cafeteria, Latonna was already immersed in jazz and had his sights set on attending Julliard. Well, Juilliard was quickly out of the picture when Latona asked Knudson if he wanted to start a band, something he hadn’t actually considered until Knudson‘s invitation. They would start practicing at Latona‘s house, trying to write songs which according to Knudson were just a bunch of “bad riffs” so they decided to play the unrelenting jam “Unsung” by Helmet, and did so over and over again. The first time Cook would join Knudson and Latona, it was without Dave Verellen as he hadn’t joined the band yet.
At first, when the band first started trying book gigs in Seattle, they found that the inclusivity of the hardcore community, you know, the one that welcomed everyone, wasn’t too excited to open their ears or share bills with the weirdos from Tacoma. Thankfully, Botch didn’t fucking care about that and did what they wanted, crafting their sound around what they liked. The lack of Botch enthusiasm would dwindle quickly and the band would soon be playing gigs around Washington State and Canada. Fast forward a bit to 1997 would see Botch playing sizable club gigs across the country on their own musical terms.
Botch was getting a lot of attention, including Aaron Turner of Hydra Head Records who formed the label when he was also a teenager. At the time, Turner was interested in having Botch contribute a version of Black Sabbath‘s “The Wizard” to a 7″ series put out by Hytra Head, In These Black Days, a tribute to Black Sabbath. While that didn’t happen, Hydra Head would end up putting out Botch’s full length debut, American Nervoso. Amusingly, Turner sent Botch their “contract” on a napkin with the request to not “break up” after putting out the record, which, of course they didn’t. Tuner also shelled out six or seven thousand bucks for the recording process–more than he had ever paid any other band on Hydra Head’s roster. By this time, Botch was the biggest harcore band in Seattle, drawing 800-1000 fans to a single show. American Nervoso itself is the output of two years of songwriting, and for Cook, it reflected the “growth” of Botch as a band.
Recording started in March of 1998 with the epic Matt Bayless (of Minus the Bear) at the helm at both Studio Litho (owned by Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam) and Stepping Stone in Seattle. The first song Botch wrote for American Nervoso was “Dead for a Minute.” Botch is full screamo, guitars throttle, at times discordantly, and the track, like the album, does not follow the hardcore formula, but it still remains completely hardcore, albeit reimagined by Botch. Pacing is aggressive just like the diverged guitar work by Dave Knudson. Botch is one of those bands that seems to deserve its own genre. And was created by teenagers who knew exactly what that genre sounded like–and American Nervoso was the gateway to that sound.
As usual, let’s quickly talk about the various reissues of American Nervoso that have come out since its initial release in 1998 which was pressed on some cool colored vinyl.
The 2007 reissue of American Nervoso contains six bonus tracks including one that was not on the original release, “Stupid Me,” and a longer version of “Spitting Black” as well as some early demo put out by Hydra Head. Botch also self-released a remastered edition of American Nervoso but good luck trying to find a physical copy of that one. In 2013 Hydra Head released a few vinyl variants of a remastered American Nervoso, including one for Record Store Day.
For 25th anniversary of American Nervoso, LA label Sargent House has pressed a several colored vinyl variants of the album in silver/blue, clear/blue splatter, clear purple, and your basic black. Now, let’s give you some inspiration to get through today by listening to a few tracks from American Nervoso as it turns 25 as loudly as possible.
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