In the winters of 1990 and 1991, the band I was in, Uncle Wiggly, was fortunate enough to tour in Europe. These tours, and our first LP release (on the independent Nur Scheiss label), happened largely as the result of a friendship with the Austrian band H.P. Zinker, who had lived for a time in NYC. Bandleader Hans Platzgumer used to list his favorite groups thusly: "Led Zeppelin, Metallica and Uncle Wiggly."
Though the bulk of our shows were within Austria, we also played in Switzerland and Holland, with some glorious days off in Prague, Amsterdam and parts of Germany. The crowds varied from small to large, but were almost always thunderously appreciative. At the time, we had a small but solid following in New York (mostly East-Village based), but New York crowds were often jaded and scenesterish; everyone was in a fucking band. It was revelatory, then, for us to play long, three-encore sets to cheering, enthusiastic kids who may or may not have heard our one and only album. We were nobodies being received like artists.
Traveling as a band is unquestionably the way to see Europe. People opened their homes to us, we ate great (mostly free) meals, and yes, adorable teenage girls hitchhiked from one city to the next to see us play. We also had the honor of sharing bills with the cream of the Austrian underground, and though, much like NYC at the time, many bands in Europe were trying to sound like Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore, the memorable ones were all distinctly voiced with something original to offer. Aided by the fact that I was a "radio personality" at the time, I flew home with a neat stack of promo vinyl and cassettes.
Where are they now? Dunno. I haven't spoken to any of these people in years, though a few of them, Andi Haller from Loud and Maz Lauterer from Maz Paniac in particular, were good friends of ours at the time. I remember these tours and the people and places involved very fondly, especially now that I'm a full-time desk jockey and rarely find the time to make music.
Attwenger - Hans-Peter Falkner is the Jimmy Page of the ziehharmonika (accordion), and in fact bares a strong physical resemblance to the Zeppelin auteur. With drummer Markus Binder, the duo melds traditional Austrian folk music with punk and ska backbeats—wholly original, and quite something to see live. This mp3 represents side A of their debut cassette (Nur Sch. Rec!, August 1990). [Cassette Side A mp3]
Loud (aka Laut) - Loud were a methodically jammy post-punk trio, often slow and deliberate, like the Abwärts with tar on their boots. Singer/guitarist Martin Reiter ran the Nur Sch. label, and with bass player Hannes Urban (and several others) lived at the Kanal, a nightclub/group home/art collective in Schwertberg, Austria, about 2.5 hours' drive from Vienna. These guys smoked a lot of hash, mixed with tobacco of course; we showed them how to get really shitfaced by leaving the tobacco out. "Three Girls" was their best song, this version recorded at (Uncle Wiggly and Fly Ashtray member) James Kavoussi's Toxic Shock studio. [Car or Life mp3] [Three Girls mp3]
H.P. Zinker - H.P. Zinker were playing intricately arranged post-metal before it was fashionable. In addition to several early independent releases, the band made one record for Matador and several for the Fire label before disbanding. Hans and Frank were great guys, and were very supportive of Uncle Wiggly; Hans was our chief advocate for a while, once traversing the pitted walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge on roller skates to see us play. They were both Tiroleans, from the Innsbruck area in eastern Austria. Frank Puempel took the money he made in H.P. Zinker, bought a Vespa and returned to Innsbruck. Hans Platzgumer continues to make music in the electronic/ambient arena. [Don't Know What's Going On mp3] [Sunshine mp3]
Suahelimassiv - We never played a show with the Swiss duo Suahelimassiv, but I wish that we had. Both members were involved with the club in Luzern, Switzerland where we played our final European show. Drummer/guitarist Steffi created the papier-mâché Kopf der Elche that adorns the cover of Uncle Wiggly's There Was An Elk album. [Piss-Hai Qh mp3] [Birds mp3]
Maz Paniac - Maz Lauterer (pronounced "Motts") had a wry sense of humor, and a bizarre rigid posture as he menaced the stage with his upturned chin and oddly tuned telecaster. Maz Paniac was his band project, where bass and drums accompanied his militaristic riffage and pained lyrics. "Paniac" was as it seems—an intentional fusing of the English words "pain" and "maniac." [Intro mp3] [Ripp Off mp3] [Der Arsch In Der Auslage mp3]
Extended Versions - The band Extended Versions was a duo of tall, scary, grimy Austrian leftists (Christof Kurzmann and Helmut Heiland) who made a raucous noise with scratchy guitar, fuzz bass, soprano sax, flute and an overtaxed drum machine. The were influenced by Suicide and The Velvet Underground, and sounded like a less-patient 39 Clocks. Extended Versions made 2 excellent LPs, both of which should still be in the WFMU library. [In This Town mp3] [Revolution mp3]
One final note: Our Austrian friends who visited New York over the years were quite pleased and impressed by the individual-slice pizza available citywide, pizza in Austria being largely a sit-down, full-pie affair. We, in turn, went hog wild for the Austrian street food, mainly the sausage (aka wurstl), sold in a multitude of varieties at all-night imbiss stands in every major town and city. I still crave a kasekreiner with a hunk of chewy rye bread and sweet mustard.