Tom Hazelmyer: I've been too busy to get excited about Bash 13

Categories: Q&A
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Photo by Brian Garrity

In addition to providing the music world with Amphetamine Reptile's infulential record releases and album art for 27 years now, Tom Hazelmyer has also brought some of the best bars to the Minneapolis area with his Grumpy's franchise -- clubs that have also hosted some memorable AmRep-based performances over the years.

Before Saturday's Bash 13, we asked Tom about the origins of his label, his long friendship with Buzz and Mark, and how he got involved in the intricate linocuts that adorn much of AmRep's current releases.

See Also:
Cover Story: Under the influence of Amphetamine Reptile
15 essential Amphetamine Reptile releases


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Gimme Noise: What led you to initially start a record label, and how/when did you transition AmRep from the Northwest back to Minneapolis?

Tom Hazelmyer: The label started as a temporary means to get my own band's records out (Halo Of Flies). I assumed we'd be signed by a 'real' label soon enough and I could ditch the moniker. The singles did well and before I knew it other bands were asking me to release their material. In 1987 I was discharged from the USMC and headed back to Minneapolis -- simple as that.

What was the inspiration behind the legendary Dope-Guns-'N-Fucking in the Streets series, and how did you get so many great bands to contribute?

Most of the great bands weren't quite greats yet when I asked 'em. And later it kind of became a prestige thing to be on it, as the lineup had been so rock-solid through the years.

 Do you take as much pleasure in creating the cover art for AmRep releases as you do the music found on the records themselves?

I was always very into underground graphics -- a huge fan. So I took that end of things very seriously. A lot of musicians only deal with that out of necessity and give it short shrift. To me, it's part of the process -- step one music, step two art. A lot of folks stop at step one, you know.

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How important is it in this digital age of free downloads and album streams to actually give music fans a collector's item in addition to the music itself?

It's turning out to be very vital. Would Sgt. Pepper's be as heralded without that sleeve? Pink Floyd? Sex Pistols? etc. etc. All these iconic music moments needed visual icons as well. I say Sticky Fingers or London Calling and what's the first image that pops in your head?

What initially led you to start creating the various prints and linocuts for the albums?

A coma. Ha ha. I was recovering from a month long coma (meningitis), and my oldest daughter was doing a linocut for school and I decided to join her. They had wanted me to go to therapy and sit there and do sudoku puzzles and shit. I latched onto it. I had to work on regaining my drawing skills, which had been dormant for 20 years while I did computer graphics, but what better time to relearn 'em than when your brain is a bit scrambled.

How did owning/opening Grumpy's come about originally? And how important has having that home base been for these AmRep celebrations and strengthening those decades-long musical friendships?

Hazelmyer: Grumpy's was my father's idea. He wanted to retire to running a bar, and needed a financial partner. I was originally just to be a silent partner, but took to it and did several more bars. We still house and feed old friends and label mates with the bars, and have for years. [New York experimental rock band] Battles made NE Grumpy's their home away from home their first few tours. In a weird way, the label kind of morphed into the bars, so it doesn't seem odd at all. I don't know if it's important that we host these kind of bashes, though it is a great excuse for everyone to get together and cut loose.

What can we expect from Bash 13, and how excited are you about the terrific lineup that you've assembled?

To be honest, I've been too busy to get excited. The whole crew has to kick it out as we're not normally a music venue, so things like Bash 13 has us scrambling to get everything done -- like order Porta Pottys and wristbands and the 4,000 other details. On top of that, I feel compelled to do six special releases and prints and T-shirt designs, which is ball-busting to say the least. Kind of a nice break though for the bars and all involved, and it shakes things up around here, which we like to do.

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See Also:
Cover Story: Under the influence of Amphetamine Reptile

Melvins Record Release Party. $15, 8 p.m. Friday, July 19 at Grumpy's Bar & Grill. Tickets here.

Bash 13. With Mudhoney, the Melvins, Negative Approach, Die Kreuzen, Hepa-Titus, Honky, and Gay Witch Abortion. $35, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at Grumpy's Bar & Grill. Tickets here.


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