research conducted by Lord Litter
My connection / friendship / cooperation with Darrell Draeger is the perfect example what the original Cassette Culture really meant - and still means! Well, I'd rather say *this kind of culture we live* because Cassette Culture sounds very fetish and this is definitely not meant and as we will see in this interview there was often more art involved than *just music on cassettes*.
When I received the first Hermanos Guzanos tape I immediately heard that this was another example for something being really *unique*. "The Worm's Turn" - 1989. The sound was basically groovin', improvised with a touch of *space* but there was also something that reminded me on bands like ZZ Top. Plus - the cover was really something else! A comic, three guys as worms.
We kept exchanging tapes. Their music became wilder and the covers colorful and very spaced out. I played their music on my radio shows. We did the usual communication - which means "4 paged letters with teeny tiny writing" - as Darrell Draeger puts it in his Cassette Culture blog.
Then Darrell Draeger, who was my Guzanos contact asked for tracks for a compilation and I was happy to take part in the project, which I think in the end had a very *defined* sound.
The tape Refried Dreams all in all offered a kind of Rock music that *they* don't do anymore. Definitely no big time stadium rock but also no snotty small club punk sound. Ah .. yes...a unique rock variety!
We got along very well so it was almost inevitable that we planned a cooperation. The result was the Lord Lunar & Hermoonos Guzanos tape "Surfin' on the Moon!" released 1990.
The last contact I remember was ca. 2001 when they did a movie. A crazy 1950s Monster movie homage in black and white, "The Creep". Then we slowly got out of touch.
About two years ago I rediscovered a CD rerelease of one of the Hermanos Guzanos tapes - "The Worm People" - and played a couple of songs on my show. Then Don Campau (who else???) provided me with Darrell Draeger's email address because I wanted to send him the playlist. Or was it completely different? However we got back in touch again.
Ever since we're back in touch as if the 30 years never had been. The funny thing is that at the (new) beginning we really got *exchanging* again because we're both into the bizarre side of cinema.
On the movie blog The Dwrayger Dungeon, he and ex Hermanos Guzanos musician Gary Wray offer a Cyclopedia of the Wild 'n' Weird Side of Movies & TV. So again it was a part of *culture* that we both very much admire that brought us together .. on a almost daily basis.
But - Darrell Draeger also has a Cassette Culture blog (which he activated mucho since we met again) - "Facts, Myths & Lies of DIY music 1987-1993". There he introduces us to the part of cassette culture he was involved in. And even that we were very closely exchanging in these years the part of the cassette culture he is presenting seems mainly really unknown to me. Except for people who much later got in touch with me with CDs for my radio show!
So - here are the original Hermanos Guzanos with their entire story.
Preamble written by Darrell Draeger:
Gary was usually the drive behind the music, Brian was the only one not stoned or drunk, and I was in charge of lunacy and networking. Gary would want to do things over and over, and I wanted to do things once. I'm going to tell you one more stupid quick story about one song, "Jorge and Tony." One day I found a cassette tape in the gutter in the street outside Brian's apartment by some Mexican band. It was a música norteña tape that had been run over and all but crushed by some car, and barely played. So, we grabbed one track, and it was all distorted, and I added some lyrics of words I found in a learn how to speak Spanish book, and we made a fucked up fake Mexican song, but the best part is, some guy wrote me after hearing the song, and wanted to know more about that genre of music, because he thought it was totally legitimate. That, my friend, in a nutshell, is how Guzanos worked.
Lord Litter: When, why and how came The Hermanos Guzanos together?
Darrell Draeger: Gary and I have been goofing off with music and tape recorders since High School. Before music, we did really bad comedy sketches, and recorded them on my Wollensak reel to reel. His dad had a dobro and a mandolin, and we'd just try and play them without knowing anything. Later, in the 70's, after we got out of the Army, whenever friends got together we would always usually jam. There was never really any singing going on. Gary moved to Fresno where he met Brian, and I was living in Bakersfield, and they both moved to L.A. Once or twice every couple of months we'd all get together, and goof off some more, and sometimes Gary's friend Dino would do some yelling into a microphone. Gary and Brian are both underground comic artists, and one year we went to the San Diego Com Con, and I got to meet some of their comics friends. One of the people I met was the very cool artist Bob X., and his brother who called himself Johnny Primitive. Johnny told me he made electronic music and sent tapes to college radio stations and was well received, and I thought that we should try that with some of the music we were making. We never had any aspirations to be successful, so we chose the least professional name we could come up with, the worm brothers, but misspelled in Spanish, thus Hermanos Guzanos.......
Gary Wray: I think Darrell and I decided on a small trip one day to form a garage band, I had a Telecaster, we started adding a drum machine, keyboards, effects, amps, recorders, etc. to our equipment list. Darrell came up with the band name. **We had an alternate singer in the beginning named Dino Bivona, he can be heard on our first 3 live recording albums.
Brian James Riedel: As far as I can remember, it started with us getting together in Gary’s garage and goofing around. When the drum machine was added it gave us something to play along with. I think this was around 1985 or 1986. I had never played a music instrument until we started goofing around in Gary's garage. The audio file below of "Now!" is my first recorded guitar work ever. I was just jamming by myself while waiting for Gary to do something in the house. When he returned, he heard what I was doing and started recording it. It wasn't too long afterwards that I bought my used bass in a second hand record store (Hollywood was crawling with them in the 80's).
LL: How did you record? Did you play live?
Darrell Draeger: We recorded a lot of stuff on whatever tape deck was available, always live, and one track. I bought a Roland drum machine because we didn't know a drummer, and were tired of playing without one. We had no goals at all, we just liked to get together and have fun.
Somewhere in there we got a Tascam four track, and starting laying down tracks, and pretty soon we actually had enough songs to make a tape, so we did. We did one live gig at a party in Los Angeles. HERMANOS GUZANOS - "Live" - Oct 33, 1991.
Gary Wray: We started with live recordings, after 3 albums, we went to multi-track recordings. We played one live gig.
Brian James Riedel: Earliest recordings were done in Gary’s garage in Woodland Hills. Most of the rest were done at Darrell’s house in Bakersfield. We did one party for a friend. We learned to play about three of our own songs so we wouldn’t look too bad. That’s where the John Bartles cover “Poland, China Sized (live)” was recorded. We did that one without any rehearsal or idea what we were going to do. Basically, a spur of the moment jam.
LL: I read somewhere that the first cassette was quite professionally duplicated but had a wrong band name?
Darrell Draeger: We were so in awe of ourselves, we took our first set of tunes to a professional recording studio named Powerhouse to get it mixed down in 1987. We only afford an hour of studio time, so there were a couple of things that didn't quite come out sounding like they were supposed to, but it made a much better master. We then had 500 cassette tapes professionally made by a company called Rainbo, because I think that was the minimum order and because we thought we could get rid of that many. Brian made a brilliant drawing of the three of us as worms for the cover. The tapes had the correct name on them, but the boxes that they came in all said Hermanos Guzmanos on them. I was relieved that the tapes had the correct name, since like what's a Guzmano? I think that be something like Wormhand Brothers. I think I still have a box of 30 if anybody's interested!
Gary Wray: No, that is incorrect on the title mix up but was professionally mixed.
LL: How did you discover the worldwide network?
Darrell Draeger: That's a damn good question! I was the guy who did 99% of the networking. I kept extensive records, because I knew I would be asked this question one day. I sent the first copy of "The Worm's Turn" which for the record was supposed to be a takeoff on Shakespeare's "The Worm Turns," to YECCH Tape Products in Norway in 1987. Most likely I got their name and address from a review in Option magazine. I sent the 2nd tape to a Les Dorsceid in Wisconsin, but I never heard back from either of them. The third tape went out to Bret Hart, a musician who also wrote reviews for Option, and he did send me a tape in return called "Shiny Too Shiny." After that I sent out a series of tapes to radio stations and magazines with marginal luck, but after sending tape #56 to Don Campau is where it probably finally really got going, because Don had a radio show called "No Pigeonholes" and was also a networking monster. Suddenly, there were all kinds of new names and places to send things, and it just got bigger and kept going for quite a few years.
Gary Wray: Darrell, correspondence was his thing, I concentrated on recordings.
LL: What was the feeling when suddenly all over the world The Hermanos Guzanos were heard and distributed?
DD: WEIRD! But it was never enough for me..........
GW: It was great, we ended up on over 60 different compilations tapes worldwide during that time.
BJR: What’s wrong with these people? haha
LL: The exchanged cassettes, what did you think about the music you received? What did you think in general about the network and the people taking part?
DD: Because I'm not really a musician, I'm a fan and collector of music, so the more music I got in return, the more I wanted! And so much of it was good! It felt great to be a member of such a cool supportive community of artists, working outside the system like a bunch of musical Van Gogh's who would never be famous in their own lifetimes, but didn't really care, because that's not what it was all about. It was just having fun and making music for a lot of us.
GW: Darrell generally checked out the music, I was stuck in in the recording area. I thought some of the music was great, interesting people too.
BJR: There is a lot of great music out there if you look for it.
LL: The releases of the band always had extremely unique covers - who created them?
DD: That was one of the neat things about having real graphic artists in the group. The covers that had caricatures of the three of us and some others were done by Brian, and Gary did the rest.
GW: I think I did the most covers (we had 17 albums), Brian Riedel did the rest, Darrell worked on a few of them also.
BJR: I did “The Worm’s Turn”, “Back in the Alley”, “Bound For Guzburg”, “Country Fried Worms”, “Ducks and Covers”, and the early works volumes “Sleaze Weazels”, “Bombs From Heaven” and Pancho’s Arena”. I’ve done comic books, movie stuff, paintings, pogs and other graphic stuff for most of my life. I've basically retired from art and comics altogether. Occasionally, I will sell a painting or two. Mostly I take care of the house and pets waiting for my wife to retire late this year. For more of my work, my blog is still up (don’t ask me why).
LL: How did it happen that you released the Refried Dreams compilation?
DD: I've always liked various artist compilations whether on vinyl or tape, so by this time I had traded tapes with a lot of cool folks, and we had been on all kinds of compilation tapes, and I figured since I have impeccable taste in music, and had met so many cool artists, that I could put together the ultimate compilation, and I still think it was one of the most listenable various artists cassettes at the time. Mark Hanley, Don Campau, John Bartles, The Mumbles, John Trubee, Al Perry, Big Jed, Crash N Burn, and all my friends in Germany, Lord Litter, Rattus Rex, Die Manner, & Heinz Kuppers, and Hermanos Guzanos! it was a really amazing array of talent that I think to this day is yet to be appreciated!!
GW: That was Darrell's idea, since he was receiving so many tapes with great music.
LL: When, why and how did the band break? What happened to the third member? Why and when did the cassette culture days come to an end for you?
Darrell Draeger: We never did break up, we just faded into eternal obscurity. Gary moved back to Bakersfield, and he and I did a couple of tunes, but our personal lives became more complicated, and our musical creative energies lessened, and we turned to other things.
Gary Wray: By 1994 things were changing for all of us, It was getting hard for us to get together and I started performing with a band called The Beasleys in LA with other friends, I think we performed around 25 times - our live performances weren't that great because our lead guitarist was always too loud with too much sonic effects. Our recordings were pretty interesting, I did a lot of the writing.
Brian James Riedel: As the third member, I stayed in Los Angeles while Gary moved back to Bakersfield. It got a lot harder to do stuff together after that.
You then did a movie!? How did that come about?
Darrell Draeger: We had a public access TV show called "Offbeat" that also disintegrated, so there came a time in our lives when we weren't doing anything any more when Gary got this crazy idea he wanted to make movies. He was a big fan of low budget films, and with the new age of video recorders, he was convinced we could make a movie, and (Here's the big fable) make money from it. Gary was living off eBay, but I still had a full time job working working 50 hours and driving 12 hours a week or more, so it was fun at times, but also quite a burden for me. Gary had a few scripts he'd worked on, and my wife and I went to Las Vegas one weekend and I literally had a dream that we had made a movie called "The Creep," and it was playing on the television. I told Gary, and we decided that was the way to go. He wrote the main story, and together we put together all the details. One of the most time consuming things was the sound and music. I wanted to use our own music, but when the Director couldn't work with our tracks while editing, we decided to use computers and the "Acid" program of stitching music together. The director then dumped the whole thing in our laps, and we should have went back to our tracks but didn't. Another guy who I don't remember his name made us a complete soundtrack, but it was so wrong on many levels, we were forced to do it ourselves. It took months. Brian was still in L.A. and didn't have time or resources to help. He did design the "Creep" logo for the DVD box though. So Gary ran an ad on the local paper, asking for volunteers. It got real complicated in a hurry, and is no doubt a story unto itself. By the time we finished two films, one short, and two unfinished movies, I was toast. We still have sealed DVDs of "The Creep" for sale if anybody wants to see one. Here's the IMDB link to "The Creep". The best part was that we got to spend a whole day with our childhood hero, the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Forrest J. Ackerman, who accepted our invitation to be The Host. That was a great day for me.
Gary Wray: I nearly had two of my scripts produced in Hollywood in 1996, ATOMIC FRANKENSTEIN and THINGS FROM MARS, retro fifties style double feature. So, I came up with a low budget script I thought we could produce ourselves. Darrell had a b/w dream that he himself was in it, his hair was messed up and looked mean, the title popped up and it said... THE CREEP! That's where the title and idea came from. Then we did SILVER ANGEL vs. THE DEATH ZOMBIES in 2003, great little movie. We also had two other movies that were never finished, VIRUS MAN and VOODOO CLUB. We had had enough...
LL: You now host two blogs, one about obscure movies one about the cassette culture years. How did that come about and what's your intention?
Darrell Draeger: I am a huge fan of all kinds of music, and when bloggers started handing out songs and whole albums to download, I started gobbling up music of all genres, and one of my favorite resources was a blog called "Spread the Good Word" hosted by the Reverend Tom Frost in Paris, France. Tom is an awesome musician, and a great historian, and would post up a song, and some biographical info about the artist on a daily basis. The music was classic Hillbilly, Surf, Blues, and stuff like that, and almost every song was a gem.
So, I started thinking about what I could contribute to the world musically that nobody else was doing, and it dawned on me that there was a time in the what we called monster movies of the 50's and 60's, when there was a lot of cool music that was never really released on vinyl, and if it was, would be almost impossible to find, so taking Tom's format, I started a blog called "Monster Movie Music," and it also has a the title "13" just for luck. The first post was July 15, 2007 and was some space music from the movie "Angry Red Planet." My format was one or two pictures from the movie, and a sound clip, and some brief written info. I thought it would only last a year or so, because there were only so many movies that met my criteria, and I would run out of material quickly. I did 43 posts the first month. Most of them need to be redone the way we do it now.
May 9, 2008, Gary decided he wanted to be part of the project too, and did his first post, a Mexican movie, "El Regreso Del Monstruo." He decided he wanted to be called Tabonga, and would speak in "Pigeon English" but he grew tired of the persona after a while, kept the name, but started writing in more regular English. I almost deleted the whole blog a couple of times after getting threats of copyright violations for the sound clips, and that's why most of them are no longer available. We started putting up the sound clips for only 30 days to get around it, and today, rarely use any at all. I also never wanted to venture past the 60's, but now it's anything goes.
THE ANGRY RED PLANET - Paul Dunlap - "Sound Clip No Longer Available" (1960)
A few years later, I decided another good thing I could share with the world without getting into trouble, was music from all our old tape trading days, so I started a blog about cassette music. After about a year or so, I decided that I couldn't give the subject the full attention it deserved, so I deleted the whole blog, something I deeply regret, and on November 16, 2013 I started it all over again. This time, I told myself, to just do it whenever I could and be happy with it. Sometimes months would go by and I didn't post anything, but It didn't matter to me. In 2017, I decided I needed to devote more time to the cassette blog, and with the encouragement of Lord Litter, I've been posting now on a regular basis since then. The funny thing is that Lord Litter and I wrote and traded tapes a lot back in the 80's, but I hadn't heard from him in 20 years or so, and I think one day, out of the blue, I emailed him just for fun. We only had some brief conversations, and he turned me onto a character in the movies I was totally unaware of, Jerry Cotton. As it turned out, Jerry Cotton films were difficult to find, and I think after I finally tracked them all down, I wrote him again, and discovered that he was also a huge movie fan. Somewhere along the line, we just kept finding more things in common, and now we write weekly. I just always thought it was funny that it was movies and not music that reignited our friendship, and then it went back to music again.
Gary Wray: I'm one half of the team on our movie blog where we've reviewed tons of movies and TV programs with a 'wild 'n' weird' bent. We're going on out 11th year! I'm very proud of this site, it's awesome! Darrell takes care of the music blog.
LL: I read on one of the re-releases of your tapes on CD-R that the cover was created by "The Dwrayger Dungeon" - so is there a direct link from the Hermanos Guzanos to your Movie blog_work?
Darrell Draeger: Direct link indeed! To us it's all the same. "Dwrayger Dungeon" is a name that Gary and I used in high school for a shed in his backyard we used to hang out in. It's a combination of both our last names, Draeger and Wray. It was also the name of a mimeographed magazine we made when we were in high school. It's just been an unplanned natural progression.
Gary Wray: We have yet to do a HERMANOS GUZANOS blog, we just contribute to the music blog, which are linked.
LL: Tabonga, one of the Hermanos Guzanos musicians is cooperating with you on the movie blog and creates some absolutely incredible sculptures. How would you *define* them? Does he sell them?
Darrell Draeger: He sells them when he can, along with a lot of his other artwork, but I'll let him explain all that.....
Gary Wray: Tabonga! is Gary Wray - My stuff is basically retro monster stuff, at this point, I've sold over 5,000 pieces worldwide. I've included a few pieces to check out .. more you can find here.
Ok folks that concludes our journey into the monstrous world of the Hermanos Guzanos ... visit their blogs and get in touch to find a rare species!
Vive La Difference