Feature – A Decade of Debauchery: Die Slaughterhaus Hits the Double Digits, by Jhoni Jackso
Mark Naumann didn’t intend to run a record label. He didn’t plan for his first house rental after graduating high school, a slumlord-run place off 14th Street, to play host to raucous, near-frightening but completely unforgettable shows on the regular, either. July marks 10 years of Die Slaughterhaus, the house venue-turned-label that, since its start, has been a major player in shaping Atlanta’s punk-rock scene. And the whole thing — and the community created because of it — it all just sort of…happened.
Peel slowly and see: Bobby Ubangi goes
Besides Naumann, the residents who left home for the Haus in 2001 were three Black Lips members (Cole Alexander, Jared Swilley and Ben Ederbaugh), Colin Mee (Deerhunter’s first guitarist) and the Harris brothers, who Naumann says “don’t really do anything anymore.” The house itself, he says, was already a punk house. They rented it after a friend who’d knocked out walls to form a massive living room. That’s where the shows happened.
More than the aforementioned bands played Die Slaughterhaus since its debut in 2001, of course, and though a lot of them are now obsolete — like the Lids, Tabitha and the Spooks — many of their members have regrouped as different outfits. Bands associated with the era, like the Carbonas, who were already active before Die Slaughterhaus, have also been reincarnated (in this case, as GG King). But it’s not the music that made the house notorious — it was the deliberate debauchery that ensued at every show.
“It was literally just a bunch of fuckups getting together, getting completely wasted, playing punk rock and smashing shit,” Nauamann laughs. “Throwing bottles against the wall, trying to jump through walls. I saw a bathroom door get thrown out of a window. There was a bunch of kids outside throwing bottles against the house, and literally right after, Jared [Swilley] had come outside and was berating them and saying, ‘This is not a trash-the-house party! Fuck you guys, what are you doing?’ And literally right after he said that, a door came flying through the window.”
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Despite the antics, the music did matter. Within a few years, Die Slaughterhaus’ two most prevalent performers, the Black Lips and Deerhunter, surpassed the scene to become indie-realm giants. Not only did the Haus provide a place for those bands and others to hone their skills (or onstage personas, in some cases), but Naumann and company also cultured a collective of punk-rock pushers and lovers — and it stuck.
“At the time and the place, Die Slaughterhaus was the punk scene for Atlanta. Most of the bands started on their own, but we all kind of came together,” Naumann recalls.
A lot of the Die Slaughterhaus clan was already together, really, before the notion even existed. Naumann’s older brother played in a band with Derek Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall, as well as Jack Hines, one of several Atlanta ex-pats on the K-Holes lineup. Coyote Bones’ David Matysiak and Mason Brown (then forming Jet by Day) were on the same roster — they all attended Dunwoody High School. So did Naumann himself, who played in the Renegades with Swilley and Alexander. They all went to Dunwoody, too.
How one school bred so much solid music is beyond bewildering. That those bands were, coincidentally, so likeminded and all generally functioned under the Die Slaughterhaus motto, “Fuck shit up and die,” elevates that grooming ground to mind-boggling.
“When we were 15 and in the Renegades, that was the logo and motto,” Naumann says of the Die Slaughterhaus credo.
That crude one-liner was emblazoned on their jackets, he recalls, and at one point, the school deemed all Renegades paraphernalia gang-related.
Cole Alexander briefly considers steering the
Black Lips in an acoustic folk direction.
“I remember walking through the neighborhood over to my friend Julian’s house and this car full of Mexicans pulled up,” Naumann says. “They’re like, ‘Hey man, are you in the Renegades?’ The kid in the front seat had a baseball bat — I thought I was gonna get the shit kicked out of me. What happened was one of our friends wrote ‘Renegades’ on the wall in the stairwell [at school], and he didn’t notice it was next to a swastika. So they thought we were a racist gang, and I had to explain to him — he’s the bass player.”
Soon after, the Black Lips emerged from the Renegades, though without Naumann. That’s when Die Slaughterhaus debuted — with the Black Lips’ first 7-inch, Ain’t Comin’ Back.
“It was really more of a self-release,” Naumann says. “I didn’t have a whole lot of involvement in that first record. So it was really more of the Black Lips started the label, and then the responsibility got passed onto me.”
He and Ederbaugh decided to start releasing friends’ albums. But in 2002, Ederbaugh died after his car was hit by a drunk driver. The Black Lips continued — they’d just released their first full-length through Bomp! Records — and Swilley and Alexander focused more on their own objectives, not the label’s.
“I just kind of stuck around. I was putting all the money in,” Naumann says. “[On tour, the Black Lips] were constantly pushing the label, networking with people, introducing me to people that they met in cities that I would have never met before. But as their career grew, they had more of their own responsibilities. The record label became more and more my responsibility.”
Naumann mentions the label’s financial side in stride. It took some prying to figure out that, in the upkeep of the label, he depleted his savings, a sum he’d been accruing since elementary school. At the time, money was just a footnote for Naumann, if that. Shows were a bigger concern.
“We didn’t really stop having shows at the [house], just people starting moving out on me, one at a time,” Naumann says. “I couldn’t afford to stay there by myself. After that, I just couldn’t ever find anything with a basement.”
So Naumann increasingly orchestrated — or at least slapped the Die Slaughterhaus name on — shows at legitimate venues. The Neutron Bomb, Somber Reptile and Echo Lounge (all defunct) were frequent go-to spots, as well as MJQ and the EARL. The label also brought Atlanta its first punk-rock fest — the Shutdown.
|Beware all ye who enter here: Die Slaughterhaus #1.|
A lot of the details are blurry for Naumann — how many Shutdowns? Who played? When did they dub it Die Slaughterhaus Fest instead, and why? — but he remembers the one held at the Neutron Bomb as an especially rowdy event.
“As soon as bands started playing, it was just a sea of beer cans back and forth,” he laughs.
“By 2004, Naumann moved the remainder of the Die Slaughterhaus gang into a new, slightly more organized house in Grant Park for about another year’s worth of mayhem. But when two new local labels, Rob’s House and Douchemaster, emerged around 2005, Naumann’s label was nearly ecliped — mainly for lack of funds.
“I got kind of cut out,” he says. “By the time I can afford [to put out an album], it’s already been released and promoted and mastered.”
Surprisingly, Naumann isn’t bitter. He’s thankful for Rob’s House and Douchemaster, even when they’ve snagged releases he’d been eyeing.
This is not a trash-the-house-party:
Jared Swilley don’t need no doctor.
“It bummed me out for a while,” he admits. “But it’s better for the scene to have someone with more money to be able to promote our friends. It’s better for them; they get more exposure. I don’t have the money to put behind records like they do.”
At 19, Naumann says he hadn’t found his footing as a one-man label — and 10 years later, he’s not finished figuring it out.
“I’m still learning what I’m supposed to be doing,” he says with a shrug. “I think, had I put a lot more work into it, had I know how to promote stuff properly…things would have been more profitable, I guess. Hindsight’s 20/20. There’s no telling what the reasons are for why we’re here today, but it is what it is.”
|The Spooks get silly.|
Releasing 7-inches from the Frantic and Crusaders of Love, though, are high notes for Naumann. This year, he hopes a few new highlights will materialize. One is Adrian vs. Predator, which Naumann says will either be a split between Barreracudas and Predator or a mash-up of both, and a new project from King Louie of New Orleans.
And although Naumann’s struggled plenty with the lineup, the 10-year celebration fest will likely be another highlight. He attributes some of those issue to dealing mainly with friends.
“A good analogy is like, way back in the day when everyone worked at the Majestic [Diner], I would go in there several times a week and just sit and hang out. So then when I was actually hungry, I’d be sitting for two or three hours waiting for someone to take my order,” he laughs.
Lately, Naumann’s been playing bass for Baby Dinosaurs vs. Extinction, working six to eight shifts per week (in the EARL’s kitchen and at a pizza joint in Norcross) and living in a place that wouldn’t work as a venue. Besides the fest, he hasn’t booked many Die Slaughterhaus shows in the past few years.
“It’s just the amount of headache,” he explains. “There’s always 100 different schedules you have to work with and the amount of bullshit you have to deal with to put a decent show together…It’s fun every once in a while, but doing it full time isn’t something I want to get into.”
For a while now, Die Slaughterhaus releases have been cut down to two each year, tops. He’s reaching for more, though.
“I’m trying to get my financial situation back to where I can put all the bands out I want and actually be able to do records on a more regular basis. Ideally, I think once a month is good,” he pauses. “Between three and five a year is probably more feasible for me.”
Humility is a quality not readily found in punk rock, but Naumann boasts a healthy amount of it. He hardly claims Die Slaughterhaus as his own, though now, it truly is. He’s quick to note the help and support from all ends of the scene has fueled the label from the start.
But sometimes, it’s okay to pat yourself on the back — sometimes it’s deserved.
“I don’t think Rob’s House would have started if they hadn’t seen what [Die Slaughterhaus was] doing and been motivated by that. But there’s no telling,” he grins.
Check out all the live shows this weekend at the Earl, and 529 in Atlanta. INFO HERE: http://pabstblueribbon.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/die-slaughterhaus-records-10-year-anniversary-party-earl_eav-529_eav-friday-july-15th-16th-2011-pbr_usa/
As always enjoy PBR responsible.