John Schooley duets with punk rock harmonica player Walter Daniels in an empty shopping mall. This is Dead Mall Blues and it’s one awesome recording. Recorded back in 2014 it features John Schooley on resonator guitar and Walter Daniels on harmonica. It’s an eclectic mix up of reworked classic blues tunes from way back. The cover artwork is a collection of photographs of “dead malls”. It’s really thought provoking and eerie to see the malls with no people milling about in them.
It sort of sets the tone for the record really. The music certainly has a haunting quality and a theme of empty space runs through the recording. It was really difficult to pick just one track to feature on today’s show, the LP is just brimming with belting tunes. We’ve been lucky enough to catch up with John Schooley, so read on to find out more about this unique recording and the man himself.
More stuff you’ll learn today
We’re also introducing you to The Rezillos by way of a back to back Double Cover Shot. Two classics from the late ’70s punk explosion, but covers of far earlier recordings from the rock ‘n’ roll era. The Rezillos are touring in the UK during 2020 so if this was for you then get your tickets for their brilliant live shows. Really tight band and still as good as they were back in the day.
New Music from Tobin this week is French for Rabbits which inspires Richard to imagine the day when he might mastermind a supergroup. It’s material that you can subscribe to via our Patreon site for just $1 per month. Your generosity would help us continue broadcasting and expanding. Whether or not you donate we are just glad that you are here.
Bookending the show this week is SAULT and they’ve really got Tobin in a spin. So much so that he’s gone right ahead and purchased their two studio releases on vinyl. Sadly, we’re not playing off of the vinyl this week, but we will do so in the future without doubt. Toucan and Bones Shake both feature in our ongoing “Guess where the band comes from” game and Tobin fails on both accounts.
BIG NEWS – STOP PRESS
We are announcing some big news for From the Bottom of the Record Box on this week’s show. So, get your headphones on, ignore the outside world and come on in. Champe Tabluo by Systema Solar set the tone for the announcement, and their Colombian heritage is the perfect stage to break the news.
- Over SAULT
- Champe Tabluo Systema Solar
- Glad All Over The Rezillos
- I Like It The Rezillos
- We Fell For Miles Toucan
- Uncloudy Day John Schooley and Walter Daniels
- C’mon Get It On Bones Shake
- Middle of the House French for Rabbits
- Masterpiece SAULT
John Schooley in his own words
I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and my first musical influences were guitar-based roots music like blues and country music. I later combined this with punk rock when I finally heard it. I’ve been playing this sort of rock n’ roll (for want of a better term) for going on 20 years. My first record was a super lo-fi 45 on Goner Records as a one man band. My first band was the Revelators who had an LP on Crypt Records. That label that put out the Back from the Grave 1960s garage reissues, and bands such as the Gories and Oblivians.
Whilst in the Revelators I was lucky enough to do some touring with R.L. Burnside and T. Model Ford. Luckily I got to play onstage backing up R.L., which was a huge thrill for me as I was (and remain) a big R.L. fan. There are some clips of me playing with R.L. here.
After the Revelators I had three LPs as a one man band on Swiss label Voodoo Rhythm, which had a similar mix of blues, country, and punk rock. There was also other weird shit as we had in the Revelators, except I played all the instruments myself. So I’ve always had one foot in noisy punk and garage rock, and one in roots based music. Usually, too punk for the roots rockers and too rootsy for the punks!
Europe meets John Schooley
One review of my last one man band album described it as “CharliePoole meets Metal Machine Music”. I thought that was great, but you can understand it probably has a limited appeal. A radio show in Canada did a whole set of my covers of blues and roots tunes, along with the originals, which I posted on my blog.
I toured a lot in Europe as a one man band as the records, being Swiss imports, were hard to find in the states. So it seems like fewer people in my own country know who I am than in Germany, Holland, or Switzerland. The Revelators actually did a reunion show in Spain two years ago. People there still remember the band. After three one man band LPs I was tired of the one man band setup and wanted to do something different. My newest LP is as Rocket 808, which I would describe as Suicide and Alan Vega solo records meets Link Wray.
Dead Mall Blues – John Schooley & Walter Daniels
The Dead Mall Blues album is an acoustic record that I made with Walter Daniels. Walter is a friend I’ve known for years. We actually first recorded together back in the late 1990s with the Revelators. He’s also done records with bands like the Oblivians, and even James Williamson of the Stooges. Walter’s 1990s band Jack O’ Fire was in the same ballpark as my band the Revelators. They both combined blues and punk rock, which at the time was pretty uncommon. I slept on Walter’s floor the first time I came to Austin when on tour, and later ended up moving here.
So, I’ve been a fan of Walter for ages, and as a punk rock harmonica player, he’s a pretty unique musician. Here’s Jack O’ Fire’s version of the Blind Willie McTell tune You Got to Meet Death One Day.
Life after Dead Mall Blues
After the acoustic record, we did an electric LP with the band name Meet Your Death taken from this song. In 2014 I got a new job that paid a living wage, and my landlord had yet to raise my rent, so I had enough money laying around to do some recording. Walter had never been recorded in an acoustic context, he usually plays feedback-laden electric harmonica. Walter and I were both big fans of acoustic blues and played it a lot, but had never done a record like that. Gerard Cosloy of 12XU records was willing to put it out, for which I am eternally grateful, even though his label did more post-punk stuff and wasn’t exactly a blues and roots kinda outfit. I did a post on my blog talking about the records that influenced the album
Even more time had elapsed between 2014 when the Dead Mall Blues album was recorded and the 1960s, when many of the records mentioned in that blog post were made, than had elapsed between the 1960s and when the original blues records were recorded, which was interesting to me. I went with the title Dead Mall Blues because I wanted something contemporary rather than retreading the usual tired blues cliches. Using the mall photos on the cover made me think of the record as being like an acoustic vaporwave album! (Haha)