Thanks so much for creating your blog & sharing your stories and information along with interviews, Rontrose videos & podcasts, everything really. As a longtime SSK fan from way back in the 90’s I really appreciate your efforts on their behalf. I hope you’ll keep the blog going, it kicks ass!
The jacket arrived and it’s kick ass. Fits just like it should as if I bought it off the rack. Now I just need a motorcycle. Doesn’t matter, though, I’ll wear it proudly and often, to be sure. I wore it the entire first day (after I zipped out the lining) and I still probably sweat out 20 pounds. It will do me well in the long Logan winters. You are very generous, thanks again! I really like it.
I thought your question/response post was a good read. I like that format. Keep up with that even if it’s just a small piece of the larger project.
So here’s another story for you and you probably aren’t all that interested so no worries if you stop reading. Let me preface this by saying I tend to keep everything from all good memories, which means I’ve kept quite a collection of Supersuckers stuff over the years. For instance, I have the set list from that first show that Ron gave me from Mother’s in ’93, as well as a set list from my bachelor party in North Lake Tahoe in ’05. I’ve got guitar picks from Park City from a couple of years ago as well as the Crocodile between ’00-’03. Lots of stuff that I’ve got dedicated to a display case which I’ll send you a picture of sometime if you’re curious. I know you and others probably have way more.
Anyway, the story is from a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco in ’95. My buddy (blonde guy in picture 3) lived on Russian Hill and treated me to the Sacrilicious tour with the Rev. HH and Hagfish. I was actually pretty excited to hear Hagfish as “Stamp” had playtime earlier that summer (still one of the best lyrics ever in that song, you might remember…). I figured with a lineup like that, it would be worth the trip.
So besides being one of the best venues to see a concert anywhere, you know as well as anyone that the Fillmore has all that history behind it, so you get amped just hanging out along the back. Well, George Reagan steps out there and cradles the Billie Holiday mic like he’s going to kiss it, and belts out their songs in a string tie and a 50s suit like a rock star–in between every song reminding the crowd: “Here’s another song about fuckin’.” Well, this wasn’t a Lisa Loeb concert where you can stand against the wall and nod your head to the beat and feel like you’re getting the experience. I was bellied against the stage by the end of their set, and when the Suckers started, they tore the hell out of the place. It could have been the atmosphere, or it could have been the situation, but for whatever reason, they were really ON that night.
Eddie and the fellas had bottles of Bud on stage (for who knows what reason) and about an hour into the set, Eddie stopped and announced to the crowd, “This guy deserves a beer right here,” and he handed me a fresh bottle from his own limited stage stash. Immediately out of what seemed like no where, 4 bouncers were on me saying they had to take the bottle–no glass was allowed on the floor. Are you kidding me? This was like the Courtney-Cox-getting-on-stage-with-the-Boss kind of moment for me. No way were they getting that bottle. I managed to make a deal with the biggest one of the bouncers that if he let me drink it that I’d immediately throw it away. So he stood there while I finished it. I wasn’t allowed to move until I gave it up. However, I peeled the label from it for memory sake, and got it in my scrapbook as a talisman of the best, most satisfying Budweiser I will ever have (see attached picture 2 for that same Bud label. I told you I kept everything.)
As another sidenote, I took a break during the Rev. set to relax and I made my way to the balcony for a bit. Apparently George recognized me from his set, as he came up and struck up a conversation really out of no where. A really down-to-earth guy, he was talking about how much he missed his daughter and wife back in Texas. That idea that these guys were a lot like traveling salesmen, facing similar hardships away from family for long periods of time, always stuck with me. Makes me appreciate touring bands that much more when I see them.
As I’m writing this, I threw in “Hagfish … rocks your lame ass.” Thanks for bringing up the great memories. Still a good album.
June 22, 2011
Brett E. Shelton
Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences
It wasn’t until recently that I brought him in to consult with me regarding my band. Chris brings a tremendous amount of experience and common sense to the table. We spoke about many elements of my project that were obviously in need of attention. The suggestions Chris made were more economical and efficient than what I was thinking. He also pointed out numerous lesser important issues that I had missed completely. I highly recommend Chris’ consultation skills!
William Paris Billy Walton Band
So there I was, in big ol’ Amsterdam, Club Lek to see the Supersuckers play live on VPRO 3voor12 radio. My band (CARRERA) and I had been writing back and forth with some guy named “Chris Neal”, I had been telling him how our band sounded “pretty good” (pun intended) and how we were willing and able to tour with the Supersuckers. To my -and the band’s- astonishment, Chris wrote that we could team up and play some shows in Scandinavia and maybe some in Holland as well. To put this in perspective; we were just a dutch amateur punkrock band and touring with the Supersuckers in Scandinavia sounded very exotic and daunting! We were completely stoked and starstruck to be in this proposition!
This was all in late 2002, early 2003. I had seen the Supersuckers perform live a couple of times and had been backstage too. I can recall me and a buddy even slept outside one time after a show far away from home. Dancing Eagle was still in the band.
I saw Eddie and the rest of the band lounging at the bar, I gathered all my courage and muttered something in what was supposed to sound cool and english to Eddie “We’re the band that is going on tour with you guys..” Eddie responded something like “Ah! Now I can stop pretending to be an asshole” or something hilarious like that. That kind of broke the ice; however, I was so starstruck that I couldn’t really utter anything “cool” or “normal” whatsoever. The whole plan was kind of on “loose screws” so to speak, but Chris made it all work out and off to Denmark we went. In short; we played like 5 to 6 shows with them in Denmark, Sweden and Holland.
To illustrate how green we were; at the Norwegian border we pulled over to “declare” our belonings, because we had learned that if you drive into Norway without declaring your stuff, it all belongs to Norway on the way out! Stupid enough, we made an inventory list from which we learned we carried over $10.000 in stuff! Turned out Norway wanted us to pay like 10% in taxes (we were not a company at the time), so in a blind panic we called the promotor, the venue and tried to call Chris to help us out. It couldn’t be arranged, so instead of “Drive to the club, that’s where it’s at” – immortal words by Dan “Thunder” Bolton, we drove to the next show in Sweden. Instead, we should’ve just rode on in, obviously.
In all, the band was really nice to us. I guess they didn’t really know who they were dealing with, but that became apparent soon enough. In hindsight, I think we weren’t really ready for such a tour, nor to be a support show for such a “big” band, but we made the best of it and enjoyed ourselves to bits!
Enough about the band, on with the Midfi Guy!
After- and during this one-off lucky shot; touring with the band, I became friends with Chris and visited as many european shows I could (not having a drivers’ license yet) and on a student-like budget. The band, and especially Chris, were always happy to see me again and I started helping out carrying stuff and selling band merch sometimes; I was amazed in the trust Chris had in me. This was like a dream job! I remember later driving around the half of europe to catch as many shows as I could, of which I made some videos as well. The amazing things was that despite I thought “I’m just some weirdo from holland”, they were always happy to see me and down to earth doing so. Chris always went out of his way to get me killer memorabilia like tour cards, a Farm Aid t-shirt one time and loads of other neat stuff.
During my time with Chris behind the merch table, I learned a hell of a lot about the world of rock & roll and it’s monetization; all knowledge free of charge! This has always been -and still is- very special to me, since I got a genuine feeling of belonging and mutual respect. I thank all, and especially Chris, for this unique experience! Me and Chris became good friends; which I still sometimes regard as unbelievable; I guess I’m just a likeable and dependable guy. It’s tough that the things are now as they are: I guess an end comes to all things: Chris left the band, Ron left the band. Living in Holland, it’s not very likely we will ever meet again. If I ever visit the States I will be sure to bring over some dutch goodies to the Midfi Guy in Utah.
Chris, you’re one of the most sincere and hard working people I ever met, I am proud of our friendship, and I will never forget the time we were allowed to spend together!
ThickShag & Marty: http://www.myspace.com/ThickShag
“My consultation session with Chris Neal was by the far the most enlightening conversation I’ve ever had in regards to the business side of being in a band. His tips were not only immediately applicable, but brain-blowingly clever, and most importantly, relevant to today’s music industry. An inspiring chat to say the least!”
Chris Dye, Formerly of Dashboard Prophets…
Sometimes in life you meet someone and your life changes forever, Chris Neal is one of those people for me. I met him in the early 90’s while playing in a band called F.U.K. (Which later became Dashboard Prophets) he came up to me after a show at a club on the sunset strip in L.A. and was really into the band, I could see he had a lot of passion and enthusiasm and this impressed me. He would eventually help us get a demo together and was a big part of us landing a record deal, he was always there for me whether it was advice or a helping hand and this relationship eventually led to a record I am very proud of called “11 Strings 4 Tracks And The Truth” my first solo effort and released on Chris’ label “Richter Records”. I was on break with the band and had been recording some demo’s, I of course let Chris hear them and he loved them and suggested I release them as a solo effort, I took his advice and we went forward with it. This is where he really shined taking me to gigs, selling merch and doing whatever necessary to promote and further the record. Many things have changed in my life since then and it all started One Night At The Coconut Teaszer.
Rontrose, Formally of the Supersuckers…
I would love to offer up a few words for Chris Neal, former manager and all around get things done guy for the Supersuckers. While Chris was with the band we were able to do things in a way not often done in our line of work. Here are just a few of the highlights that I would personally like to share with you. Aside from all of the normal duties you would expect from a Manager (helping with tour routing, hotel booking… too much to list and most of that stuff was pulled off without a hitch) we did a lot of neat “out of the box” things that bands typically do not accomplish nor even try. We would do guitar ebay auctions including lessons from me that portions of the profits would go to The WM3 support fund (wm3.org). We had a great fan club and would make special c.d’s and offer guest list spots to members, we even sold ad space on the side of our trailer to offset the cost. One of my favorite things was auctioning off tickets to a show at one of the nicer venues and offering fans a chance to sit next to the stage, on the stage while we played. Fun to watch people light up and even get to be a part of the show. Getting the fans involved was one of his specialties. Chris was constantly coming up with new and creative ideas to help us to succeed and was very successful in doing so. He was super hard working and tireless, even came out with us most of the time to sell t-shirts!! I hate to think where we would have been without him.
I left the Supersuckers in 2009 after over 20 years. I felt it was time to move on and needed to be home more. I really loved every stage of our career but would have to say the time with Chris was really great to see that we could do it with no label support and just continue to build a grassroots campaign for the band. This is by no means even close to a comprehensive picture of what he did for us, just a couple examples. I would be typing for a year to list everything! It is my honor to call Chris a good friend now even though I am retired from the band.
Ron “Rontrose” Heathman
Eric Forsgren, Former VP of Buying and Marketing of Graywhale CD
As a music junkie and a fan of the Supersuckers, one day while working in my position of Music Buyer at Graywhale CD, I received a package with information on the latest Supersuckers release. On the information sheet, I noticed the contact information as being from my home state instead of the traditional California and or New York number, I decided to cold call the number, and thus started a budding friendship and working relationship with Chris Neal. During this time as Music Buyer at Gray Whale at later owner of my own record store, I was always impressed with Chris Neal’s fanciful promotions. He allowed our working relationship to grow in to a friendship that is still strong to this day.
Only Chris would do a promotion that would include a free slice of pizza and ticket to a show with a purchase of a Supersuckers CD. He came up with unique promotions that allowed an access to the bands that never before and since have been done. An opportunity to learn guitar from the lead guitarist to winning used instruments, excited the fan base and resulted in sales. He would do just about anything to make sure the Supersuckers were selling CD’s out of the store.
He would always make a point of making sure the Supersuckers and Eddie Spaghetti CD’s were in stock. Most label managers never called the store but Chris would leave a lasting impression often visiting the store. The band would perform in-stores as well where most bands didn’t. Chris understood the importance of the fan connecting with their favorite band.
If the business had more visionary guys like him I’d bet we’d all be listening to much better music on the radio and still buying CD’s and vinyl in a store, rather than stealing stuff off the internet.
Owner of Big E’s Music & Movies-an online venture
former VP of Buying and Marketing of Graywhale CD
Dan Nailen, Music Editor of the Salt Lake City Weekly
I’ve been writing about music for 16 years throughout the western United States, and I can honestly say meeting Chris Neal was a breath of fresh air compared to the typical label folks, club owners and concert promoters I deal with every day.
One the one hand, that’s simply because Chris is a nice guy, a true music geek who is fun to talk to about all manner of things related to both the artistry and business of rock and roll. But mostly it’s because of the unique approach he took when working with the Supersuckers and their label, Mid-Fi Recordings.
When the music industry was either flailing about to deal with the changes brought on by the digital revolution, or petrified into inaction by the same, Chris worked hard to find new avenues for the band to explore, different ways to get their music heard, and innovative means for the band and its fans to interact. A pure rock band like the Supersuckers playing at a health food store? Why not? Renting out space on the band’s van to help defray the costs of touring? Sure! Putting the Supersuckers name on an array of products to a degree that would make KISS proud? You betcha.
Rock and roll will survive as long as kids keep plugging in guitars in their garage or bedrooms. But it won’t be the cultural force it’s always been without innovative thinkers capable of seeing beyond the old business paradigms into the future. Chris is one of those thinkers.
Music Editor of the Salt Lake City Weekly
Tom Rowland, Senior Executive Vice Pice President Universal Music Group
I have known Chris Neal for the entirety of my adult life and some years beyond that. As a former day laborer for the mob-controlled MCA Entertainment conglomerate, which included the least innovative record label in the world, he blazed trails previously unknown and henceforth largely ignored. So ingenious were his innovative schemes that I have personally taken credit for several of them, including but certainly not limited to the Interwebs, Peer-to-Peer filesharing, the formerly ubiquitous “When You Play It, Say It” stickers and the “Cassingle.”
Prior to his tenure at the Music Cemetery of America, Mr. Neal worked as a field hand in the burgeoning Virginia Tobacco industry where he distinguished himself around the nightly campfires with acapella heavy metal versions of popular old-timey spirituals. After an incident with a local school boy, Mr. Neal travelled to the Left Coast in pursuit of his passion. When his passion procured a restraining order, Mr. Neal went “off the grid” and lived in various movie sets at Universal Studios, inadvertently appearing as an extra in such landmark films as Dr. Giggles, Gumby: The Movie, Waterworld, Bride of Chucky and Jungle Fever, to name but a few.
He came to my attention when I lost a bet to a former colleague and agreed to take him under my wing until the statute of limitations on an old arson charge ran its course. During this time, he excelled at data storage management, non-water based chemically sanitized apparel retrieval and caffeine-infused hot beverage fabrication. No one in my employ has since equaled his sheer lack of enthusiasm for these fundamental tasks and I will forever remember his daily annoyance at what he referred to as “the megalomaniacal white bourgesois establishmentarianistic oppressive class” that set about to keep him “in his place” on a fortnightly basis, if not more frequently.
I purposefully lost track of Mr. Neal after his stint at some cheap re-issue label when he was forced to move out of California due to its strict anti-Polygamy laws. The People’s Theocracy of Utah welcomed him with open arms but he has yet to convince any underage Mormon girls to join his extended family. I have no idea what he has been up to since those glory days but he tells me that he is one of the most successful music entrepreneurs in Wasatch County. If he is half as successful in his new venture as he was in guiding the ground-breaking career of John Tesh, then you will probably never be bothered by his pesky blog updates.
With Reverence and Awe,
Universal Music Group
Supersuckers Gold Top Members!
The Supersuckers are one of our family’s favorite bands, my wife and I actually had our first “official’ date at a Supersuckers show in Denver. A few shows later we met ‘the MidFi Guy’ Chris, in Denver, working the merch booth before the show. We chatted before and after the show and just hit it off, he was just so full of energy and excitement. The next day I joined the Supersuckers pit club and checked out the MidFi Guys ebay auctions….I was hooked, we have a two-story staircase that is covered in Supersuckers ‘stuff’ I have won on ebay. One of my best ebay wins from Chris was tickets to 2 Supersuckers shows at the Viper Room in LA and hotel accommodations on the Sunset Strip. Without a doubt Chris made that one of the best 48 hours of our lives. In the fall of ’08, we traveled to Seattle for the 20th Anniversary Show… needless to say it was AWESOME and as always, thanks to Chris we had a great time and really felt a part of the whole experience. Last summer, Chris called and asked if we could work the merch booth for a few shows in Colorado, so for a few days in July and August the whole family (me, my wife and 14 yr old daughter) hit the road ‘with the band’. It was quite a memorable family vacation!
Thanks for the memories Chris – Kevin, Shawn, and Kylie
”Brian “Balls-On-Fire” Baltazar, Marketing Guru West Coast Senior Executive
When Chris Neal asked me to contribute to his blog I said, excitedly, “Sure! When do you need a draft?” He said, “Monday.” I said, “Monday’s no good.” He said, “How about Tuesday?” I said, “Dewd, Tuesday’s worse than Monday.” He said, “Alright, what about Wednesday?” I said, “Sure.” That was a true story and I would say that 95% of what you’re about to read from me is true. (Readers note: if you didn’t like what you just read from me, you might want to skip this section. However, I wouldn’t if I were you – I’m going somewhere with this.)
The first time I heard the Supersuckers was the fall 1996. I was “hanging out” (read: getting hammered) with some friends and the song “She’s My Bitch” was playing – I didn’t get it at all. Maybe it was the booze. Maybe it was the dank. Maybe it was the waiting – waiting for the vicodin to kick in and kill the pain of my wisdom teeth being removed three days earlier. At any rate, I wasn’t hooked. (Author’s note: NEVER listen to a band, that you want to like, for the first time after you get your wisdom teeth pulled.)
Fast forward to October 27, 1999. I was fresh out of my final alcohol class and two weeks sober. Just so happened that the Supersuckers were in town at the Gothic Theatre that night – I went and promptly fell right off the wagon. Their music scratched me right where I itched – grabbed me by the face and dragged me around the Gothic. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t hooked earlier (read my author’s note above). I bought their cd at the show and when I woke up at 1pm the next day I did the following: Went straight to their website, signed up for the email group they had going, looked at who’s who in the band, and wondered why their website was so lame for a group that just played a 1,000 capacity venue. On their website I read that they worked with Eddie Vedder, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson; they opened for the Ramones, toured with Zeke, and I was starting to feel PASSIONATE about this band and vowed to always see them when they came to town.
On November 21, 2001 my fiancé and our friends Cody and Sunne went to see the Supersuckers at the, now defunct, world famous Tulagi’s. When we arrived, we went straight to the merch area and met this new guy helping out named Chris Neal. Chris said he was working with band and helping them get their very own record company, Mid-Fi, off the ground. He also said that they were going to start a fan club (read: a good way to give your fans a feeling of exclusivity) and could use some street team (read: you’re not gonna get paid, but you’ll get perks) help for the band. I said yes to both and he put me on the guest list for the show in Denver the next night. There was no wavering, I was PASSIONATE about this band and wanted to help out any way I could.
Wondering why I put PASSIONATE in all caps each time? Because that is what you need – PASSIONATE fans, PASSIONATE band members, PASSIONATE crew – PASSIONATE people (read: Chris Neal) that want you to succeed and want to help out in any way they can so you can be creative and turn people on to your music. Chris Neal gets this concept. Odds are you’re playing music so you don’t have to get a job and you want to go far with this “band thing.” I can’t remember who said it, but the saying goes something like this: “Go quickly alone or go far together.” If you’re in a band, starting a band, thinking about starting a band, whatever, you’re going to be “together” with your band mates, crew, management, etc. and you want PASSIONATE people to “go far together.” In this day and age of flash in the pan manufactured bands Chris Neal understands how to “go far together.”
Brian “Balls-On-Fire” Baltazar