A Season of Stuff: big kicks

A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016.  The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc.  Come on in – check out my stuff.


In 2001 I finally started a record label – one of those things that every punk/hardcore kid talks about at some point – “I’m gonna put out some records.  I’m gonna run a label.”.  The label was Hardtravelin’.  The first release was the “Go Down Fighting, Come Up Smiling” compilation CD featuring something like 24 bands that were regularly playing Roboto during its early years.  Then, with some help from my friend Joey, who was at the time doing Hope Records, we began to do some other records – Io’s “The Willow Snag” CD and then my band He Taught Me Lies “The Monkey Part of the Job” CD both in early 2002.

Joey and I then began talking about doing a seven-inch series. The idea was to put out a series of a half-dozen or so 7″ records by local bands all with some thematic packaging and/or concept.  I think Tree Records’ “Post Marked Stamps” series from the 90’s was our main inspiration.  The first band we decided we wanted to work with was Alpha Control Group C [formerly The Control Group(pe)].

ACGC were a band that didn’t play out too much but they were, I think, well liked and respected.  Dan has been in Pressgang and Human Investment.  Tim had been in Davenport and Human Investment.  They were all really great musicians and made some fucked up angular new wave/no wave/post rock/punk rock mess of stuff.  Dan’s guitar playing was fucked up (in a good way), his vocals unique and his lyrics bitter and biting.  To this day Tim remains one of my favorite Pittsburgh drummers.  One top reason is that he always seems to be enjoying himself so much when he plays (and, he’s just a great drummer).  Justin laid out some funky keyboard parts and some raspy/soulful vocals on occasion.  Lenny gave them some driving low end.

Good dudes and we were stoked to work with them, but I think it became obvious to Joey and I that the 7″ series wasn’t going to really happen as imagined and the ACGC guys had their own ideas about what they wanted the packaging to be like, so we just decided to do this as a one-off 7″ release.

ACGC wanted to do letterpress covers and wanted to work with local printers Third Termite, which meant the covers would look awesome but also meant some extra expense.  ACGC agreed to pay for the necessary letterpress plates to be created, so all was good there.  I remember we got the test presses of the vinyl back and they sounded off, so we had to get them re-done.  A handful of small problems worked out and finally everything came together and the record saw the light of day.  There was no proper release show – but they were playing some Manny show at the 31st Street Pub and we kinda made that their release show.  I don’t remember who they opened for but there wasn’t much attendance and i’m not sure we sold any records.  I think that was my first time at the pub.

But the covers looked great….


Of course, in the long standing tradition of punk rock, Pittsburgh punk rock and the soon to be tradition of Hardtravelin’ bands, ACGC called it quits shortly after the record came out. Justin moved off to Chicago and while they would play a few more shows in the future, the record never got the attention it deserved.  They would get back together again a little bit later and record another batch of songs for a CD that they would self-release, though they would ask Joey and I if they could put the Hope and Hardtravelin’ names on it (as if this would help the record sell?)  That CD, “Beta Decay”, is also an awesome release.  I still have a handful of copies of the 7″, so if you want one, get in touch.  Someone might still have a stack of those CD’s laying around.

Anyway, a couple years back now Dan was getting ready to move out of Pittsburgh and was clearing out his house of unnecessary belongings, trying not to haul too much stuff with him on his way to DC.  He dropped me a message asking if i’d want the letterpress plates from the 7″ cover. These are metal plates (copper?  bronze? brass?) mounted on wood.  They are pretty handsome on their own, so I thought they’d be cool to have around, and as I mentioned yesterday, I did consider myself a bit of a pittsburgh punk archivist, so, of course I said “Yes, I will take those”.

There are a total of 3 plates.  Two smaller plates make up the plates that were used for the “yellow/gold” sections on the front and back of the cover.  Then there is the one big plate (shown above) that was used to create the black sections.  The two smaller plates hang out on a shelf in our front living room downstairs while this larger plate sits on the desk in our guest room.

The label would fold in 2006 after 13 releases.  A good time but I was never good at trying to sell things and bands kept breaking up, so I called it, but I think I was lucky enough to put out some really great records by some great people and be part of a really sweet time in Pittsburgh music.  Having these printing plates around the house is a cool reminder of this release, the label and that specific time in my life.



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