I opened the first Toxic Shock record store in Pomona, CA in 1980. We had five locations in Pomona before moving to Tucson AZ in 1988. We specialized in punk records from independent labels exclusively. We expanded to mail-order soon after, by advertising in music magazines. In 1983, my wife Julianna Towns and I launched the record label and released Noise from Nowhere, a 7-inch, 33rpm EP featuring four local underground punk bands: Kent State, Modern Industry, Manson Youth and our own band Moslem Birth (whose name was a parody of Christian Death).Noise from Nowhere featured cover art by Pushead. With this release, Toxic Shock Records was born. Singles from Modern Industry, Peace Corpse (the renamed Moslem Birth), Mad Parade, Massacre Guys, Red Tide, and Seattle's Skin Yard followed, as well as albums by Italian punkers Raw Power, Corrosion of Conformity from North Carolina, and the Dayglo Abortions from Canada. In 1988, we moved the label and the store to Tucson, Arizona. From Tucson, we released albums by Hickoids, Jesus Chrysler, Th' Inbred, Skin Yard, Hullabaloo, House of Large Sizes, Sloppy Seconds and Treepeople. We also re-established the Noise from Nowhere 7-inch EP as a series. Noise from Nowhere Vol. 2, released in 1989, featured cover songs performed by label bands Hullabaloo ("Highway Star''), Hickoids (theme from "Green Acres"), House of Large Sizes ("Half-Breed") and Sloppy Seconds ("Candy Man"). Eight more Noise from Nowhere volumes would follow, featuring label bands as well as one-off recordings by other up-and-coming bands. Noise from Nowhere Vol. 10 was the last record released under the Toxic Shock imprint featuring, appropriately, four underground Tucson bands. We released a few more CDs and 7” vinyl under a new name—Westworld—including the Decade of Disaster compilation chronicling the Toxic Shock years, but soon focused our efforts to the record store specializing in obscure, underground music, now renamed Toxic Ranch Records
Although it wasn't until 1987 when the "Vicious Circle" LP was reissued by Toxic Shock, the ZERO BOYS serves as proof that trailblazing American punk wasn't exclusive to the big cities on the east and west coasts.Hailing from Indianapolis, the ZERO BOYS with their melodic hooks and sheer energy were recognized by Maximum Rock'n'Roll among others as one of the most important bands to emerge from the hardcore punk explosion happening in the early '80's. Their singer, Paul Mahern was to become quite influential to the label over the years.
I was corresponding with an artist in Boise who called himself Pushead He also contributed a great deal to the early years of Toxic Shock with his creative support and grisly artwork which graced the sleeve of our very first release, Noise from Nowhere, .Brian Schroeder's band SEPTIC DEATH came from Boise, Idaho and are captured in their vinyl debut with a live track on the Barricaded Suspects compilation LP. Pushead designed the album cover, along with the PEACE CORPSE EP and the early Toxic Shock logo.
The DULL were an atypical southern California punk band with their musical minimalism and the Nietzsche philosophy of their singer, Sirdar Dizaye who is a descendant of Kurdish rebels. The DULL were an incredible live band and later spent no less than 100 hours with producer Geza X , recording their "She's a Nuclear Bomb" single.
What can I say about my own band PEACE CORPSE? We had fun poking fun at the absurdities of the time, including the media's stereotypes of punk culture. Our early history is documented with our 6 song "Quincy" 7"EP. The later Peace Corpse years were documented with a posthumous release (the "Terror of History" 12") and the Neil Young cover from the ill -fated Budget Ranch box set. The 3 record release was delayed for at least a year with only 350 made of the intended 1000.
DECRY were another band from L.A.'s suburbs brought to my attention by an enigmatic character named "O" who some of you will recognize as the guitarist for Olivelawn and Fluf. In 1984, DECRY's album "Falling" was hailed by Flipside magazine as a hardcore classic. Unfortunately, they later regressed into a glam rock outfit, but in their prime they were incendiary.
RED TIDE were a Canadian trio from Victoria B.C. Toxic Shock released their "Kelp and Salal" 7" EP. Red Tide's drummer, Ken Jensen is later spent time pounding the skins for another Canadian trio, D.O.A. before tragically he was killed in a fire at his basement home.
MASSACRE GUYS emerged fro the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City and the "Behind the 8 Ball" 7" EP from 1984 was another early Toxic Shock 7". Karl Alvarez and Steve O'Reilly later moved to L.A. to join the Descendents which shortly evolved into the band ALL.
I first saw Italy's RAW POWER at the Olympic Auditorium during a international punk festival headlined by the Dead Kennedys, during the Olympics held in L.A. in 1984. Suffice to say I was totally blown away! I later found out that they had recorded an LP at Paul Mahern's Hit City Midwest studio while on their first U.S. tour. After "Screams from the Gutter" was released they returned to the states for another 3 tours playing more cities in the U.S. and Canada than most American bands at the time. Their second LP "After Your Brain" came out in 1986. They continued releasing albums for other labels and survive to this day with tours throughout Europe and the USA.
No anthology of the Toxic Shock years would be complete without the ZIMBO CHIMPS, another release on our subsidiary label, Budget Ranch. Featuring ex-members of Peace Corpse and Savage Republic. Although the band played only one disastrous live show, they almost changed forever the face of music as we know it. I guess you had to be there.
th'INBRED came highly recommended to me by Jello Biafra and when the band sent a demo tape my way, I was hooked. A band from West Virginia, they dared to fuse progressive rock with hardcore and took a cynical stab at the then just emerging straight-edge movement with "the Positive Song" on their debut "A Family Affair". By the time the posthumous LP "Kissin Cousins" was released it was clear that they , like myself, had become disillusioned with the limitations of the hardcore punk genre. Their drummer and songwriter, Billy Atwell later went on to release a solo LP "Ferret in a China Shop" on another Toxic Shock subsidiary, bobok ltd.
I first caught wind of Austin, Texas legends the HICKOIDS when Toxic Shock obtained some copies of "We're in it for the Corn" LP on Matako Mazuri. They were undisputed masters of beer-fueled country-punk mayhem long before the Hollywood imitation cow-punk scene began. I met the band when I was in New Orleans in1986 during our ill-fated Toxic Shock expansion into the French Quarter and agreed to reissue their then out of print "Corn" LP and subsequently the "Hard Corn" EP. After bringing their brand of lunacy on the road they converted befuddled masses to their music. "Animal Husbandry" showcases the talents of guitarist Jukebox. After his departure, the band regrouped in 1988 with the "Waltz Across-Dress Texas" LP. The anthem to their lifestyle, "Brand new Way" comes from that LP.
I used to hear "Systematic Shutdown" on a Pomona-area college station KSPC and couldn't get it out of my mind. I finally tracked down JESUS CHRYSLER in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (the birthplace of the A-Bomb) and asked if they wanted to record an LP. After Toxic Shock made the move to Tucson in 1988, the album "This Years Savior", loaded with their infectious songwriting, was released and the band did quite a bit of touring, some with the Hickoids before breaking up.
Billy Atwell used to rave about this Seattle band called SKIN YARD. Their self-titled LP didn't exactly bowl me over, but when they sent a demo tape, I was impressed enough to release the "Stranger" single and it's follow-up full-length "Hallowed Ground" at a time (pre-grunge) when the "Seattle sound" had yet to become household words. Skin Yard's guitarist, Jack Endino had recorded just about every band that the burgeoning Sub Pop label was signing at his Reciprocal Studio and between sessions had himself amassed a batch of home recordings. Those songs were more distinctive to me than the next Skin Yard LP to be subsequently released by Cruz and I opted to release his solo "Angle of Attack" LP on bobok.
Another demo tape that arrived at my P.O. Box in 1988 immediately caught our attention. The band was HOUSE OF LARGE SIZES, a power trio from Cedar Falls, Iowa and they had a powerful and engaging sound that was irresistible. Their debut album"One Big Cake" was on Toxic Shock. One of the hardest touring bands on the label since Raw Power, their follow-up "Heat Miser" came out in 1990 and The H.O.L.S. are the first Toxic Shock band to actually make it to the major leagues with their "My Ass Kickin Life" LP on Columbia in '94. We couldn't be prouder if we had given birth to a two-headed calf. These days, Today, Dave and Barb run a cool shop in Cedar Falls called "Mohair Pear".
Another Indianapolis band, SLOPPY SECONDS managed to blend '70's pop/junk culture with catchy songs that should have brought punk rock to the Top 40 in a perfect world. Their Mahern-produced Toxic Shock LP, "Destroyed" that has since been reissued on Metal Blade Records and a few others, while the band put out later albums on Taang! with a 1998 release on Nitro Records.
Paul Mahern emerged once again in 1989 with his new band the DATURA SEEDS who demonstrated a sharp pop sensibility. Unfortunately the stigma of Toxic Shock's hardcore reputation probably prevented many from discovering a great band. "S&P'69" comes from their now out of print "Who Do You Want it To Be" LP, one of our releases that never made it to the CD format, along with Jesus Chrysler.
Julianna Towns merged her personal vision with an otherworldly cabaret sound to create SKINNERBOX. Over the course of 3 years she recorded three LPs for bobok. Her second album "The Playhouse" and should serve as a good introduction to her work.
Yet another unsolicited demo tape was to catch me off-guard. The fact that the band hailed from the tame college-rock capital of Boston was a surprise. HULLABALOO's gritty, blustering and unrestrained approach to music seemed vitally needed and I set my sights on convincing the world of their importance. "Beat Until Stiff" is the title track from the first of 2-LPs recorded for Toxic Shock.
"Guilt Regret Embarrassment" was an appropriate title for TREEPEOPLE's Toxic Shock release and summarized the relationship between the band and the label. I was guilty in delaying its release due to financial constraints, the band may have regretted signing the recording contract with us, and Daniel House is probably embarrassed to admit we showed an interest in the band long before he did. Regardless, "G.R.E." stands the test of time as the band's best albums.
It seemed appropriate to round out or 1994 sampler "Decade of Disaster" with one of Tucson's best punk bands. FEAST UPON CACTUS THORNS were featured on the very last edition (#10) of Noise from Nowhere, a 7" compilation series which started the whole mess and which was revived in '89 after a six year hiatus. F.U.C.T.'s guitarist, John Husok continues the legacy in a sense by playing the same Fender Mustang from the Peace Corpse days.
This brings Toxic Shock, the label full circle back to it's origins as a regional label. Noise from Nowhere #10 is the last release to bear the Toxic Shock label imprint. After ten years, I came to the realization that it was time for a change. The name Toxic Shock had become associated in most people's minds are a hardcore label due to the success of our early releases, but no longer seemed appropiate in 1993. Besides, the name was overused by bad speed metal bands and others. To me, it was becoming hackneyed and outdated. With a new focus in local bands, we decided to change the labels moniker to Westworld.
The days of running a record label were to end in 1994, with the exception of Raw Power's "Reptile House" CD in 1998.
Meanwhile, we concentrated our eforts on running the retail shop. The record stores' name changed with our move to Tucson to Toxic Ranch, maintaining some of our history, but with a regional twist. We hope you've enjoyed this trek down our memory lane .
Thanks for paying attention! Bill Sassenberger
bobok-3 ATWELL, Billy "Ferret In a China Shop" solo from th'INBRED drummer and songwiter. Complex and progressive rock. LP only
TXLP-16 DATURA SEEDS "Who Do You Want it to be?" Indianapolis hard-pop circa 1989 w.ex-ZERO BOY Paul Mahern. LP/cass
TOX-17 DATURA SEEDS "S&P '69/D.A. Pop" MTV rejected the video for the A-side, naturally. Comes with non-LP B-side 7"45
BRR-1 the DULL, "She's A Nuclear Bomb" Geza X produced minimalist punk from So Calif 1985 on Budget Ranch Records. 7"45
bobok-4 ENDINO, Jack "Angle of Attack" Reknowned Sub Pop studio wizard (who produced Nirvana "Bleach" among several others),and SKIN YARD guitarist. Strange experimental rock influenced by the Groundhogs. CD includes 2 bonus songs LP/cass/CD
PS-3 FEAST UPON CACTUS THORNS "Beer Soaked/Third Fued" Tucson hardcore captured live in the studio for Peyote Stomp #3 radio session. B-side has a deconstructed Hendrix cover. wild! 7" 45
WW-12 FEAST UPON CACTUS THORNS s/t (untitled) Tucson's "precision" hardcore punks. Incredible musicianship with nods to Poison Idea, NoMeansNo and the Ventures.Sadly, long overlooked although a favorite Arizona band with sun-baked punk fanatics. Toured with Raw Power in '94 CD only
WW-8 the FELLS "Amped" 11 song Tucson fuzz/punk/garage debut. Now signed to Estrus Records, but this release captures their less regimented lo-fi swagger. Fans of their Estrus release and various 7"s should definately check out the Fells in their prime. CD only
WW-6 FUZZ "Mass Indentity/Demigod" Tucson hardcore which should appeal to Quicksand/Helmet/Fugazi fans. Demigod was a huge hit in Tucson circa '93. 7"45
TXC-12 HICKOIDS "We're In It For the Corn" The first release from these crazy Austin Texas cow-punks. Features the legendary Jukebox on guitar. Proof that country/punk fusion doesnt have to be cheesy but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. LP/cass
TXC-19 HICKOIDS "Waltz-a-Cross-Dress-Texas" Totally insane! Features the songs "Queen of the BBQ", "Brand New Way" and "Toothpick Man" Unfortunately this was to be these crazy Texas Hillbillys last release. a classic from 1989 LP/cass
WW-4 HICKOIDS "Hickoid Heaven" Almost complete (except for their out-of-print X-mas single) anthology of coolest cow-punk band ever. Includes the "Corn" and "Waltz" LPs along with the "Hard Corn" EP. 28 songs in all. CD only (look for auctions on E-Bay)
BRR-3 HICKOIDS "Hard Corn" blue-corn wax, on Budget Ranch Records feature the truckstop anthem "Driftwood 40-23". The last 4 songs to feature guitarist Jukebox. 7" EP
TXLP-21 HOUSE OF LARGE SIZES " Heat Miser" 2nd album from this great Iowa power-trio. Features "Big Bag of Dope" LP/cass
TXC-16 HOUSE OF LARGE SIZES "One Big Cake" Giant Power Rock debut from Iowa. Succinct dada approach to contemporary power trio dynamics. LP/cass
WW-1 HOUSE OF LARGE SIZES "I'm My Own Grandpa/2 Liter Man" pioneer from SST Joe Carducci produced this killer single. 5 songs on the CDEP version. Mandatory for any fan of true rock! 7" 45/CD5
TXLP-18 HULLABALOO "Beat Until Stiff" Hailing from the tame college rock town of Boston this debut "rolls like a big old tank truck fulla beer and piss taking a fast turn on the Alice Cooper Memorial Turnpike" Spin. The cassette has an exclusive bonus of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie". LP/cass
TXLP-22 HULLABALOO "Dead Serious" If you think nudity shouldn't be outlawed, you may reconsider after seeing the cover of this album on German imported vinyl, scary stuff 12" EP/cass
TXCD-22/18 HULLABALOO "Dead Serious" CD combines "Beat Until Stiff" and "Dead Serious" for a seriously brain-damaged ride through the minds and body fluids of one twisted rock band. Incudes a cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star" CD only
TXC-13/7 INBRED (th'INBRED) "Family Pack" Both LPs "A Family Affair" and "Kissin Cousins" on one handy cassette! Mutant WV jazzcore dudes. "Cross Capitol Punishment with Victims Family, Beefeater and Crucifucks and you'll see what this now defunct band was up to. Jazzy,snazzy, stop-on-a-dime delivery with matching intelligence" said MaximumRocknRoll's Tim Yohannon Cassette Only
TXLP-13 INBRED (th'INBRED) "Kissin Cousins" Paul Mahern of Zero Boys produced this their last effort. Thought to be out of print, but we found a box in our loft recently! Solid musicianship, lyrics with brains and cool sleeve artwork. What more could you ask for? LP
bobok-3 INSULIN REACTION "Whats the Point?" gothic LA duo, for fans of the Cure. Features two ex-Peace Corpse members. LP only
TXLP-14 JESUS CHRYSLER "This Year's Saviour" Hardcore-pop hailing from the home of the A-bomb, Oak Ridge Tennessee. Clever, sarcastic lyrics, crafty songwriting. No wonder they were a hit with BBC's John Peel. LP/cass
WW-5 JODIE COSMO/BLACK SAND OF LOVE "Staying Power/Real Cool Time" Black Sun Ensemble's Jesus Acedo is Tucson's answer to Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis, except his can actually play a mean acid-drenched guitar. Stooges cover on B-side! 7"45
TOX-7 MAD PARADE "Right is Right +2" SoCal pop/punk from the 80's. only a few remain of this Paul Mahern produced record. Includes a cover of "Paint it Black". 7" EP (see auctions on E-Bay)
TOX-2 MODERN INDUSTRY "Man in Black" very early Toxic Shock EP, (the second release ever) CAL punk with Damned influences. Very few left! 7" EP
WW-9 MONDO GUANO "Deadwood/Theme from Return to the Fatherland" Weird Tucson absurdist-rock. Think Pussy Galore, Royal Trux. Features Bob Log before his started the spin-off duo, DOO RAG! 7" 45
WW-3 RAW POWER "Screams from Gutter After Your Brain" Coming back in print July '98. Italian classic Hardcore/thrash/crossover legends. Combines their first 2 (and undoubtable best) LPs on one compact disc! CD
WW-13 RHYTHM PIGS "El Paso" West Texas legends who toured US/Europe exhaustively in the '80's and opened the doors in the process to American bands access to German beer! They released two classic LPs on the fledgling Mordam label in the mid '80's. This, their fourth album is a must-have for early Meat Puppets fans. CD only
TXCD-15 SKIN YARD "Hallowed Ground" Seattle psycho-rock from 1989. fans of Soundgarden should check this powerful band out. (different) bonus cuts on each format cass/CD
T0X-9 SKIN YARD "Stranger/Lonely Place" great 1988 Toxic Shock debut single by Seattle Rock Gods! 7" 45
bobok-4 SKINNER box "the Playhouse" Orchestral, flamboyent, dreamy and nightmarish from sometime Black Tape for a Blue Girl member Julianna Towns. Think Coil with female vocals. LP/cass/CD
bobok-5 SKINNER box "the Imaginary Heart of" More ethereo-camp, not for the squeamish. Limited purple wax on vinyl edition. LP/cass
bobok-1 SKINNERBOX s/t delirious debut from 1986 with Julianna Towns (ex-Peace Corpse) and Mark Erskine of SAVAGE REPUBLIC on some vocals LP/cassette
TXC-23 TREEPEOPLE "Guilt Regret Embarassment" Seattle via Boise hardcore/rock legends captured in their pre- C/Z prime. LP/CD/cass