Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What is "Creeps Music"?

From the original 1996 "Creeps Headquarters" website, now defunct:

Yeah, late at night in Rockcastle County you hear 'em clonkin' 'n' bangin' on whatever they can find, drunk on cough syrup and mouthwash. They're havin' a good ol' time, even as they're grimly aware of THINGS WHICH YOU DON'T EVEN WANT TO KNOW ABOUT. Yep, they got the creeps.

"The Creeps" is like "The Blues". Not just a musical genre, it's a feeling, a state of mind. It's that indefinable something that passes ghostly and Neutrino-like between the cracks of your very perception; the stark, gut-wrenching awareness that time is passing.

You had the Creeps when you were a kid. Maybe you still have it now. Maybe it'll come back to haunt you later like a resurrected zombie of your former childhood, returning to check up on you.

From the original 1996 Creeps FAQ:

WHAT IS "THE CREEPS"? According to ancient Kentucky slang, it's a mysterious state of mind, satori-like yet continuous, indefinite yet obvious. JSH says that listening to tapes on his Creeps label is the best way to grasp the concept.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF CREEPS PRODUCTIONS? Well, primarily to promote the purveyors of musicians and artists who are a part of the Creeps "movement".

WHAT DOES CREEPS MUSIC SOUND LIKE? Usually it's primitive, very low-budget, low-fidelity stuff, Almost always poorly recorded. Contrary to popular belief, however, it is not limited to scratchy rural appalachian voodoo music, although this indeed lies closest to the heart of Creeps. Creeps Music can be as simple and infantile as Central Rock Company or as complex and infantile as Team Latex.

IS THE CREEPS MOVEMENT STRICTLY A KENTUCKY THING? Well, although it is as inherently connected to Kentucky as Zydeco is to Louisiana, there are Creeps artists in other places (such as Scott Armel, Jon Wiening, and most of Shay Quillen's buddies). Many artists are technically recognized as Creeps music even though they've never ever heard of it. (Daniel Johnston, The Tinklers, The Mummies, and Sexton Ming all embody the spirit of the Creeps).

From Mitchell Newport's 2003 essay "That Low Gruesome Sound":

The first modern Creeps album is generally considered to be "Sounds of the Pogo", an extremely low-distribution cassette by a pre-teen Jeffrey Scott Holland in 1974. The album's title refers not to the punk dance - which didn't yet exist - but to a character in a homemade comic book drawn by Holland and Greg Hisle. The star of "The Pogo" comics was a very "Incredible Hulk" type sympathetic monster whose head, bizarrely, resembled Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum. The "music" on the album mostly consisted of some "atmospheric" sounds that was quite industrial-noise before its time. There were also spoken interludes with Hisle, filled with in-jokes (the meaning of which have been long since forgotten). Among the juvenile chatter, however, are references to "the Creeps".

Retrovirus & Opportunistic Infection made their first early primitive recordings around 1976 and continued to record throughout the late 1970s, though their true career didn't really kick in until the early 1980s when they blossomed into the purest of all Creeps bands. The early recordings were heavy on singing along with other musical sources from radio, TV and albums, and also featured predominantly covers of then-popular classic rock songs. A common motif for RV&OI at this time was to try to cover the songs completely straight and serious at first (as best as possible with their extremely limited musical abilities) and then gradually let the song build up to a complete insane rant and freak-out, much in the way that Sam Kinison would do with his cover of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" many years later (not to mention The Soft Boys' cover of "That's When Your Heartaches Begin".)

The early RV&OI cassettes were all given names like "21 Heavy Hits", "Rock Gold", or "30 Rock N Soul Magic Moments", taking these titles directly from common cheesy K-Tel type compilations of the era. Years later, another Creeps group, The Hartman Band, nodded to this tradition with their album "20 Great Truck Drivin' Songs".

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