Carl Snow of
Interview with Dave Hyde from Destory What Bores You zine, 2002
On the strength of their one EP, KoRo is one of my all time favorite bands. They played a stripped down, raw brand of hardcore that's as fast as can be while maintaining amazing song writing qualities. That's to say, I don't think you can write songs that are simultaneously faster and more catchy than KoRo did. Along with bands like Deep Wound, Die Kruezen, Anti-Cimex, Void, and Poison Idea, they raised the bar and pushed the limits as to what you could accomplish musically in the genre of hardcore. Unfortunately, those high standards haven't even been challenged.
I managed to get in touch with the founder and main songwriter of this band. The smile didn't leave my face for a few days after Carl first wrote me, and the opportunity to pick his brain and get to know him was more than welcome. While many thought KoRo had disappeared off the face of the earth I found out that, quite to the contrary, Carl is still as passionate about music as ever. I was able to learn a great deal about their history and that the short lived band wasn't just a one night stand in Carl's life as a musician. I’ll excerpt from a recent article on Knoxville's musical history written by Mike Gibson as a way of introduction:
Two of the remarkable guitarists who emerged from that milieu were burly, tattooed axe-mangler Carl Snow and Van Halen-obsessed Bearden kid David Teague, the foundation of Knoxville's Koro in 1982. That hardcore unit set out to be "the fastest, tightest band in the world...and they came damn close," remarks Sewell. "They blew everybody else out of the boat. The first time I heard them, they scared me." The singular ferocity of the outfit (their lone 7-inch is now a punk-rock collector's item) owed much to the skills of those two players. Both were chameleons, capable of adapting their styles to multiple contexts, but best-known for their fast, impeccably tight rhythms and rabid solos. "Carl is as talented a musician as has ever been in Knoxville; he can play anything effortlessly, and he can write it out on music paper," says Sewell. Snow played in a handful of other locally-renowned outfits (Red, Whitey...), as did Teague. But Teague's questing took him to points West, where he would record an independent album with the Los Angeles band Muzza Chunka. The band later broke up, but the six-string deities smiled on this particular son of Knoxville guitartistry. Today, he's a member of the long-running and very successful punk band the Dickies and has appeared on the group's last two albums.
You started getting into music in Knoxville, TN in the late 70's, right? Was there anything happening there locally or did you just start getting into other stuff you heard?
The guys I was hanging 'round those days...well, we had the XTC LPs, SOME Sham 69, Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers, etc, but not much HC (as it was not recognized yet). We (some of us landed in KoRo) had a band in 1979... whew now I feel old. I'm the guy who started KoRo, then I got Dave Teague on board.
How did you go from that first band to KoRo?
Dave Teague used to hang around the Trivia Birds practices and shows, and was/is a good friend. I was "over" the Birds and searching for more and needed a bigger GIT sound. I thought of Dave. The bassist for T-Birds was Danny, Ron's younger brother (not a great bassist). Greg was an incredible drummer, but he was forming Turbine-44 with Trey and Bart so I could not get him. We (Dave and I) found out our long time buddy Ron was a really good bassist, but we needed a drummer. Dave knew this guy in a metal band named Bill (god, was he good). We played him the Germs LP and got him to join. For a while I did the vocals a well as (twin leads) guitar, but those songs were very physically demanding to play (the speed) and I would get dizzy after a few songs. So we hunted with no luck until one day, Scott (Bills much older half-brother) got dragged to practice. We were fuckin' around playing "Amoeba" and "Kids of the Black Hole" by the Adolescents and "Revenge" by Black Flag or something like that when he walked in the garage. He knew the songs! We asked if he'd sing to "Gimme a Break," and BLAMO!, he was in. That's the formation of KoRo.
What about the name Koro?
The name KoRo (also - shookyong) was found in Ron's psychology book (he was the "older guy" in the band and was in college). It was/is a mental disorder that at the time was prevalent among Asians (mainly Japanese) To paraphrase from memory: "Men suffering from Koro (shookyong) have an overwhelming fear that their genitals will be sucked into their body as they sleep. This causes extreme sleeplessness and panic, sufferers have their mates HOLD their genitals as they fall asleep or by a CLAMPING DEVICE (haha) to hold the genitals in place." Now if YOU were 15 or 16 and YOU read THAT SHIT while wanting to name your new band something... how the fuck could you resist!?
So THAT's what KoRo means... always figured it was either nonsense or some obscure word with a deep meaning. Well, maybe it is in a way. Ha. Was there much of a local scene by the time KoRo started playing? What bands were from around there besides you guys?
Sure, great "scene" as scenes go, I suppose. All "scenes" start fairly well only to dissolve into smaller cliques and factions. '79-'85 some great things happened. Knoxville for a while, was almost a shared scene. Bands traveling found K-town a great layover between say "Atlanta, Nashville, Athens etc." so the Athens/Atlanta/Nashville thing (Chattanooga to some extent) "helped". We had B-52's, Big Star, REM, Brains, 86, Lets Active playing here a lot as they shared our region.
Some brilliant K-town bands '79-'85 would be Balboa - incredible and incenerary, the best o' the best by far! A few tunes on local compilation, a BRILLIANT 12" EP (brown cover , then "live like this"), 5-Twins--great teen-love song power pop, Jelly Babies... Later there was STD's (Jon "vox" later was in Whitey w/ me), Turbine 44 (also later incarnations = Turbine 25, L7 "box"), Beyond John, who had a great self titled LP, WH-WH (T-hills band after Balboa) great stuff, UXB, The Scam (Dave's pre-KoRo band), Iron Hawg, The Wedge (Dave's post KoRo band), Real Hostages who were later Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes. They had some good output, a few CDs...not my fav though I like all the guys a lot. Also Hector Qirko Blues Band (Hq's band after Baloa) who are STILL great still a band, Semi-Conductors, another great T-hill band, Teenage Love, Barbed Wire Shela, and on and on...
Knoxville's music history was richer than I'd thought. Was it just local bands or did touring groups pull through town?
We played with too many bands over the years to remember: Decendants, Ramones, Big Boys, Dicks, SOA, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, TSOL, Channel 3, Scream, Chili Peppers, Iggy, and so on. The most fun show was us and Circle Jerks in 1982(3?). The DK show was hilarious. Another funny story was eating with Black Flag. Hank ending the meal in a food fight with. And Ian (Minor, Fugazi) and crew's odd eating regiment (always stayed at my place...very funny).
The EP that you guys put out is easily one of my favorite records, but not many people even know it exists. You didn't press very many copies of the record. I've heard 300 copies, is that right? How was the reaction to the record, did it sell well, was it well received?
You mention us pressing 300 copies... naw, it was 500. We opened for the Dead Kennedys at the 688 club in Atlanta. Jello was a fan, he gave me some whiskey and I ended up selling records out of the box at that show...then (me+Jello+whiskey) I ended up getting convinced to let Jello take the rest of the EP's to California for us. That's why they ended up missing... and also why the EP is so bootlegged.
Oh yeah... Jello took all the records to California? That's strange. Did he sell all the copies, or did they get lost. Or are they all sitting in his basement still.
Well... I knew Jello for a very short while but from what I know about him he probably forgot that the box was in the van until they cleaned! He was theorizing about governmental issues while reading a book by Karl Marx while drinking.
Oh, also, I was actually having a conversation with someone about the KoRo record, and he mentioned that many copies were sleeveless, some had the oversize sleeve, and a few had an offset printed sleeve. Is that true? I never knew about the offset version.
The original EP was regular size with gatefold cover and a hand written phone number inside and "the baby" on the EP itself. What you are referring to must be one of the many bootlegs out there. So, all told, baby plus phone plus lyrics plus old English KORO writing (cover- Koro, 8 songs for a grave age), hand done back and sleeve is original.....ANY others are boots.
Why aren't there any lyrics to "Acid Casualty" on the record?
My mom an pop "put up" the 400 bucks for the ep and we told them "Acid Cassualty" was an anti-drug song, when in fact it was about the band getting high! So you can understand why at 16 years of age I would not include those lyrics. They would have worried my parents. Funny thing: after a while KoRo went "straight-edge", haha. Mentioning Bart and Trey (friends then) and the "goings on" would not have been good at the time.
Lyrics to "Acid Casualty":
Bart's got the ludes, Bart's got the speed
he's a great guy, he's all we need
people call us queer, people call us tweeked
we keep right along X 3
we keep snortin' speed
I start to mumble, I can only stumble, my thoughts all crumble like saltine crackers, I'm fucking up and I don’t know what to do!
At Trey's house...
I believe that’s accurate... been awhile.
The first song, "700 Club", is, obviously enough, about Pat Robertson and the religious right. How prevalent was evangelical religion in the early 80's in Tennessee?
I wrote this whole mess after getting sick of Pat Robertson and co. Also, these religious zealots used to harass the fuck out of us at school. They called themselves "young life." It was just an excuse to get drunk Friday at the high school football game and repent later. They used to follow us around trying to "save" us.
Great Bill drum fills and me trying to play a solo in less than 2 seconds.
"Nauseous" makes reference to Carl and David. Is that self-referential/is there any story behind that or was it just a coincidence that the names used happened to be the names to two members?
Haha, deep song. On the surface I wrote it about me and Dave puking, but it had a twist. A lot of shit made me wanna puke in those days. Me and Dave hurling after a bottle of something was an unintented "cover" for everything making me wanna puke. Another funny thing. Blap! is about a dumb girl we all knew who did one to many Qualudes fell down and asked "did I go 'blap?'", haha.
As I said earlier Richard (RIP) Creekmore wrote the words. It started as a TRIVIA BIRDS song (Me, Danny (bs) [Ron's younger brother!] and Greg [Later of (forget the name) "The Obsessed?"...dunno]). At the time Dave had a band called THE SQUAD (hence the line calling him "Dave Squad") Richard called him D-Squid. We used to play this beautiful dump with Dave's "SQUAD", Greg's TURBINE 44 (yup, he was in 2 bands at the time), and Jon’s band JELLY BABY'S (later called STD's). The original (TRIVIA) version was without the intro and outro - Greg could have played it, but Danny was not that great on bass. KoRo decided to do it cause we all dug it, but it needed the "KoRo" signature on it somewhere. At first I was like, well, I like it like as it is, then under pressure (and help) from Dave it was decided to add the intro and outro. I said "o.k. lessee if we can play this!" "Ha!" "I'll show them" The intro is a tough cord progression to say the least, but the guys nailed it. So me wanting still to fuck with them said, "yeah but at the end I wanna do the intro again DOUBLE TIME!!" I thought I had 'em but was wrong (thankfully). This is my favorite Dave solo ever! He nailed it in one take... one note at the solo intro is OFF the neck (high) and Dave was determined to "get it" so he practiced the lick forever with great result. Note: Dave always "wrote" his solo's and prided himself on reproducing them. I always just played whatever came to mind (solo wise). I've noticed the difference in Dave's and my lead styles: what a hoot Dave=Ozzy, metal lead and Carl=Hendrix, jazz, blues lead. The intro/outro became a critical part (years later) of WHITEY's "Guns, Bibles, and Beer". Man, I miss Richard. By the way, he did get quite ill at a show at Bundulees. We had (pre-show) listened (at Greg's house) to the ENTIRE Phillip Glass Opera "Einstein On The Beach" while tripping and drinking. It was enough to fuck with anyone’s stomach!!
After those questions, Carl walked me through the EP, song by song with his recollections of each. Here’s that informative journey:
My rant (sounds hard-line republican now,huh?) about lazy motherfuckers living off the government while their kids suffered. It really pissed me off, since at age 15 I had two jobs and high school. I was thinking "fuck this!" I can barely afford strings!
I love the way Scott belted this one out! Also Ron was playing a fun lil' "groove" bass line over my attempt to place a "blues-solo" mid tune. Dave loved it!! But it was funny as hell (the arrangement) cause we wanted to do so much (like a Yes song) but wanted to do it in under a minute... ahhhh youth, hahaha.
I wrote this in an odd way. It started as a grand ending to a discarded song, then Ron came up with a killer bass run during the thump thump thump part, so I just threw some more chords in with Dave one day and it sounded good. At the time we practiced without hearing Scott (no P.A. to speak of and we were LOUD) so the music was done prior to the lyrics. I had seen some BS footage on Reagan's military tactics and a push for enlistment (the few the proud...). I had just finished reading Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and felt that the key "evil-guy" in the book (Elsworth Tooey) and his espousement of "selflessness" fit the kind of guy who would throw his or others lives away in a "holy cause" ("faith in a holy cause is oft times due to lost faith in ourselves" - Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer" [great book]). All in all it was an awkward attempt to link great literature with the BS that was on TV at the time.
Dave's solo still kills me and, as I recall, he was very proud of it.
It's about the backfire of apathy, simple as that! The tune sounds quite multicultural in an odd way... Dave, Ron, and I LOVED the band XTC and they had been doing interesting things with polyrhythms. The drums at the intro, also with slow theme over fast theme (Dave's "clean" slow guitar over my bashing near the end), and the (I think) Cuban feel of the beat were a direct result of listening to XTC, and the then newly re-reformed King Crimson (the Discipline LP). I could not figure out how to end the thing and remembered Jello in "The Prey" just adding an ominous line, thus: "you're dead now!"
This is VINTAGE Dave, one of his best. I had nothing to do with it's "birth." In practice (my house or Dave's... mmm, I forget) Dave came in with a shiteating grin and played it for me on acoustic with Scott singing... wow... loved it. It reminds me (now) of a slimmed down tune (IE: not overambitious one like "IT'S OK"). DAVEcore at its best. I loved Scott's lyrics, too. "Fuck your cap-gun mentality," especially. I would have thought Dave would have done a solo, but the tune was great without one. Bill was amazing to watch on this one. He looked like Keith Moon on speed, arms everywhere. Maybe one of my all time favorite KoRo tunes, possibly because I always go back to what I wrote and think of improving it. Dave and I had a thing 'round the time he wrote it of doubling each other in octaves or fifths. I had to come up with a "counterpoint" to Dave when in the back of my head I'm thinking "it's perfect like it is, so why fuck with it," but D and I came up with the "fifth run-down" part I play, and, well Dave was right. Had we played the exact same chords it would have been "muddy."
I told ya the background on this one, I think. Friend Velvet Vance was on way too many 'ludes falling down.
This one was all Dave and Scott except for the COWBELL (Bill's crowning Koro achievement). I wrote the Git-line for that part with Dave. It was just bare there as Bill amazingly played triplets on a cowbell while playing at the speed of light ...an amazing sight! Just needed a lil' more insanity so I came up with the progression over the cowbell, but this was Dave and Scott's baby all the way (and later a WEDGE song). Listening to it now, I can't help but wonder: why o' why would Bill go "hair-band" when he played sooooo great?
Much too long a story to pen at the moment, but I will say this: it was our "crowd pleaser" and we ended our set with it. I wrote the tune but needed a "tag" near the middle so it didn't sound like a hyper-speed Discharge song. I came up with the line "I start to stumble, I can only mumble, my thoughts all crumble like saltine crackers I'm fuckin' up and I dunno what to do." A LOT of words and a short time to scream 'em in (challenging Scott!)... I could not for the life of me find the "right" chords hence the single chord (which, I suppose, was the "right one") with Bill playing as fast as possible. It worked. WHITEY would later revise it.
TOPIC: snorting speed, while eating 'ludes. A very, very dumb thing we used to do... ahh "kids," haha. "Poor man' rush, poor man's high, at Treys house we fry." Trey McReynolds started TURBINE 44 with Bart (and Greg). It was an anthem of the young and stoned.
A band from Tennessee called Deathreat recently did a cover of "Dear Sirs".
"Dear Sirs," a cover? Wild. I wrote 90% of the KoRo stuff and the song that gets covered is by Dave and Scott!!! Hahaha. Dave and Scott also wrote "Blap!" Scott helped me a little with "1st Church" I think, but the rest was my adolescent angst.
How long after the EP did you wait until recording the "Speed Kills" LP?
"Speed Kills" both pre and post dated the EP. Ya see, we had no money to speak of at the time and had a 40+ song set list (30 minutes). So what we did was go into the studio and record all our tunes as if we were "live." I do not recall overdubbing anything. I believe we just said "roll the fuckin' tape" and played our whole set. It in my opinion is far better that the EP. "Speed Kills" was done in about 6 hours on a 8-track studio that recorded gospel music and some country. Wild scene!
The EP took 4 hours and had a few overdubs on it. The EP falls short of "Speed Kills" for the reason that due to time constraints (minutes on a 45 record) we had to pick and choose the tunes, and hell, 8 out of 40 just did not get it fer us. We argued, bitched, moaned about what the "right songs" would be. Therefore it is not an accurate account of KoRo.
Looking at read-outs of the tunes got a BIG laugh. The longest is “Dear Sirs” at 58 seconds and the shortest is “Acid” at 35 second!!! During mastering I use a 2 second "break" between songs (easier to "read" and "hear" differences in E.Q. that way) with the added 12 second (2 between each song) 8 songs, still the damn thang clocks in at 6:17!!! No fuckin' wonder we used to play a 40 song set in 30 minutes.
Was there much of a scene left in Knoxville near the end of the band? How/why did you break up?
I affectively broke up the band in the 80's as (to me) it was feeling "too comfortable." KoRo played a show without me, using most of my songs and a few new Dave tunes (later he would form a band The WEDGE with his stuff). That pissed me off. Then I formed RED (a band I thought was broader in scope). We "broke up" RED every year for for 6 months to a year (called RED, RED II and RED III). That, as far as bands are concerned, is still my policy... I think you write your best shit as you "form." You should "hit the studio" then (4 months or so). Then you get more familiar with one another, tour a bit "hit the studio" again, play a few shows, and call it a day (so to speak).
For me the studio is a means of documentation NOT commerce. I have had many bands that:
1) toured a lot
2) never played a show
3) played locally a few times
The commonality in all those band is this, a "Sound-Document" was recorded by all of them, not for the intention of release but more for personal history.
After you document it (how) do you get it out there, and do you make a living off it?
A few times I have "gotten it out there," ie: a few of my "post RED" bands such as Big Stickmen "Live in "J-Town". Stickmen were a live band. By that I mean the stage was our place. Screamin' Boy Blue - self titled EP (regionally released), Whitey - "Guns, Bibles, Beer" (regionally released then bootlegged). Band built 50% on the "groundwork" laid by RED, RED II and RED III was 30-Amp Fuse- Demo, yup THE 30-amp Fuse. Odd story, I put together a band from a favorite drummer of mine and a "new-guy" bass player. Mike Smithers had been hanging around (trying to be in RED III once) and he and I had become friends. I was teaching him (over the years) how to play guitar and how to "write" (giving suggestions etc). He had previously been the r-git player for Screamin' Boy Blue, I thought he did a great job so I approached him about 30-amp (as yet unnamed). We recorded, gigged, and finally reached the point where I felt "trapped" by the band, and more importantly, did not want to tour, so I broke it up. Mike then got it back together, using my songs and a few he was coming up with. I was very pissed for awhile as this "fake" 30-Amp was bearing very little resemblance to the 1st version. Then I heard the CD, he did semi-ok, decent tunes and all. We kissed and made up. Still using the name (and fan base) was a calculated, full of shit move on Mike's part.
More stuff I've put out: Birdhouse - "I'm Your Huckleberry" (regional)- an answer to Both RED and Sceamin' Boy Blue, with excellent players, a great "power trio'. PRE- KoRo Bands: DOC-Wog, a cassette is all, Trivia Birds, again only a cassette.
What did the members do after KoRo? Was/is anyone still involved in the scene, or did you all just move on in life?
I'm unsure whether Dave still plays with the Dickies but did last I heard. Why? I dunno. I burned out on 'em in the late 70's/early 80's. Scott - mmmmm - yeah that's what I heard... after trying to be a model overseas and having a wreck, he was always flakey, haha...
Naw, I don't talk to the old crew anymore. I guess we lost track. Ron went to law school and Bill (pussy) still does "hair-metal" bands. I would love to talk with them someday.
Those Chemo shots can make me a bit "pissy" at times... what I said was true but here's the whole story:
KoRo had a shot at being on Frontier records due to the Circle Jerks and we were gonna go to LA with them (and, I think, TSOL). Bill missed his girlfriend and refused to tour. I got very pissed and said "fuck it, why be a band!?" I thought we had broken up. The rest of the guys "reformed" without me for a few shows. That really pissed me off, as I had written over 80% of our material. During this time I was also expanding what I wanted to do musically with my new 3-piece band RED. We wrote a song about my songs being lifted and the "fake KoRo" disappeared. In retrospect I suppose the guys just wanted/needed the cash and the name helped. Dave later formed "The Wedge" and we were pals once again. Bill took the "path of least resistance" and joined "HardKnox" a local lame hair band, then moved to Nashville to drum for Valentine Saloon. His playing suffered from lack of challenge and we all lost track/made fun of/with him. RED got real big regionally, but had to reform 3 times due to (another) Bill (dr) going to Australia to make tons o' $$$$ in USA type bar bands. So I had other bands in the "lag-times" between RED reunions. Ron, Dave and I remained close. Scott moved overseas to be a model and (I heard) was in a bad wreck scaring his face. He was always the new-agey type so yeah that sounds right. Jon Wallace (STD'S) and I were forming a crazed punk/funk/jazz/hardcore thang called WHITEY complete with horns and dancers! Our bassist (another) Scott had to move to Atlanta and our drummer (Rodney) succumbed to heroin addiction. Not wanting to give up Jon and I got Ron, who was by then an incredible bassist, to replace Scott and Lawson Yager (Betty Rocker) for drums. We got big regionally, then I showed my ass/ego by suggesting I do the vocals also (like in RED) ...end of Whitey. So I formed 30-AMP FUSE, with a guitar player who was a RED freak. I got bored with the band (Rodney was back and smacked as usual) and quit. He (name withheld) stole the name and 1/2 my tunes hooked up with Bill from ALL and did a CD, even after kicking his ass I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Regarding the music business... it began to be too much business, so I formed Birdhouse, a band with one objective: FUN. We wrote great shit vowing never to play live (we did once ...out of state). Just write and record. Half of those guys had to make career moves to other cities. So, since I play 20+ instruments, I decided to go further underground recording stuff under odd names and selling CDs in San Fran, haha!!! Also doing orchestral, and "performance pieces" for events in SF, NYC, and here...
Ron, well he got very into being a law guy and last I heard had passed the bar exam! I am real happy for him. After Wedge, Dave moved to LA and started Muzza Chunka, a metalish HC band who I thought was O.K. but not up to his talent. We lost touch due to distance. I would love to talk to him sometime again, we where tight as fuck for so long and he was a hell of a nice guy.
Are you surprised that anyone still cares about your old band?
No, not really. I mean I still love the Big Boys, Descendents/All, SLF, XTC, The Damned, Ruts, Skids, Offenders, and on and on and on...
People would ask about doing a reunion, but:
1. I won't tour (but never say never)
2. I could easily re-learn and play the stuff now but I just can't be pissed and 16 at 35
3. It ain't the early eighties
4. I saw what happened when Buzzcocks, Misfits, Eagles, and so on did it
5. To quote Neil Young, "it's better to burn out, than to fade away"
6. No, I don't think it would happen
I sent Carl a copy of the horribly done recent boots of the KoRo EP by the world's worst bootleggers over at "Reagan Era HC" and he noticed this about the quality:
I did a digital transfer of the bootleg ya sent me. I did, so far, major repairs. They had the right channel almost 31/2 Db's below the left!
So there's the story of KoRo, and a partial look into the life of its founder Carl Snow. I was glad to get to know Carl and to help shed some light on the mystery that is KoRo.
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