We started the Tool Cassette
Series back around 1991 as an experiment and as a way we could keep some
great music "in print" on an as-needed basis without having to spend a
lot of money pressing records or CDs, since we dubbed the cassettes as
the orders came in. For a long time, this was a manageable and fun project
- with 5 cassette decks in the basement and a lot of volunteer help, we
kept up with the orders. But everything changed when, first, Nirvana got
big enough that the Late tape got some notice, and even more when Dave
Grohl released the Foo Fighters record in 1996. Suddenly he was mentioning
this post-Scream/pre-Nirvana cassette of his great solo songs in a lot
of interviews, and we were flooded with orders, like 100 a month. With
very little help and deteriorating master cassettes, we got in touch with
Dave about getting the master tapes back together and trying to release
the cassette as a CD, not as a quick profit maker, but more to keep up
with the demand. Dave was more interested in keeping it as a cassette,
so we have honored his wishes.
We tried to keep up, with a caveat that it might take a while to get the
cassettes since we had so many orders. But when our two master cassettes
for Late came to the end of their useful lives, and with some of the other
eight cassette masters in the same condition, we decided to remove the
whole tool cassette series from our mailorder. It was good while it lasted.
The tool cassettes were:
Tool 1: Hammer Band: Geek
Geek was one of Jenny Toomey's first
bands. Although Geek songs appeared on a couple of Machines 7"s
and the Fortune Cookie Prize LP, the band never released an album
of their own. With a limited audience and only one tour under their
belt before the band split up in 1990, it wasn't worth taking a
risk. Instead, it became Tool Cassette 1 - Hammer.
Tool 2: Bates Stamper
Another Toomey project, this one
with Dan Littleton from Ida/Liquorice. Slack was essentially a side
project for Jenny and Dan, who were often busy with other bands
and only had a limited amount of Slack time. They recorded together
but only played a couple of shows before Slack got put on the back
burner. With no fan base at all, a full release was a bit ambitious.
Instead, Slack's songs ended up as Tool 2, Bates Stamper. Slack
eventually transformed into Liquorice.
Tool 3: Awl
Band: The Hated
The Hated was an incredible band
from Annapolis, MD from the mid 80s until about 1990. They released
a few records on Vermin Scum which were coveted by The Hated's almost
cult-like following, but there were also reels and reels of unreleased
Hated gems. Instead of letting them sit idle, Dan Littleton provided
us with a 90-minute compilation of Hated material for Tool 3. For
those who are avid Hated fans, you'll be glad to know that there
will be a retrospective Hated release on the Troubleman label in
Tool 4: Pocketwatch
Back in 1990 Dave Grohl was in between
bands. Scream was breaking up, and he wasn't sure about his next
move. While plotting his future, Dave went into WGNS Studios and
recorded about 10 songs, playing all the instruments himself. Dave
ended up giving a tape to Jenny, which immediately became a candidate
for the Tool series. Dave eventually moved to Seattle and became
the drummer for, oh, Nevermind... and then started his own band.
Some of the Late songs eventually appeared on subsequent records,
which made this tool cassette one hot item on the Simple Machines
catalog. We loved the Late cassette, as did others, and its overwhelming
popularity, in fact, resulted in its demise.
Tool 5: Rotochipper
Saturnine was another short-lived
band - a temporary project that brought together Richard Balayut
from Flower and Fontaine Toups for the first time. This cassette
marks a point when our entire outlook on what music could be changed.
Soon after Saturnine, Richard and Fontaine formed Versus.
Tool 6: Supersaw Band: My New Boyfriend
Another Jenny Toomey project. In
the fall of 1990 Jenny moved to Olympia, WA for about a month. While
she was there she formed a band with an unlikely pair of people
- Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill and Aaron Stauffer from Seaweed. Within
a month they'd not only written songs, but had recorded them as
well. The results ended up on Supersaw.
Tool 7: Swiss Army Knife
Band: The Mommyheads
The Mommyheads were a brilliant,
quirky pop band from New York City that, at the time, had one record
out on a small label. Enchanted by their songwriting, we became
friends with them and bugged them about giving us stuff for a Tool
cassette, since we knew that singer Adam Cohen was a four-track
enthusiast and had composed hundreds of clever pop songs in his
room. They finally relented, and Swiss Army Knife was born.
Tool 8: Skuff Tool
Band: Tuff Skool
Tuff Skool was a later addition to
the series, but one we welcomed since it involved our first and
beloved intern, Matt Shawkey. Matt was a huge Geek fan and, as an
enthusiast, he offered to help us with Simple Machines stuff after
school. Matt was incredible. Not only was he our sole intern, but
he also wrote a side-splitting fanzine called "Knuckle Sandwich"
that tackled topics like hair metal bands, and the fact that Nation
of Ulysses was actually Sha Na Na. Matt went away to college, but
kept us posted about his bands and projects. One of them was Tuff
Skool, which was part Superchunk, part Ween. A tool cassette ensued.