Big Meat Hammer
Older, louder, snottier
PfeifleBig Meat Hammer release their
CD at Bull Moose, at 6 p.m., and at Geno’s, with the Marvels, Swampwitch
Revival, and Hate Crimes, March 22.
Punk rock has always been a genre of dichotomy. On one
hand, working class folk trying to set things right; on the other, a
bunch of bloody wankers. Like the Sex Pistols final UK concert: a 1977
Christmas day show for the children of local firemen, laid-off workers,
and single parents that featured the consumption of 1000 bottles of soda
pop. Pretty riotous stuff, that.
Such are Big Meat Hammer, a seemingly grimy lot, with a guitarist
named Skummy Man, who are more than how they appear. Central is Jordan
Kratz, over 40 and still sporting that leather jacket with the dangling
chains, scraggly oft-died hair, and a grizzled set of pipes at the mic.
His attic apartment is a punk rock shrine, covered with Misfits, GG
Allin, Brood, and other punk fliers from the past 15 years. Martha
Stewart would be frightened out of her wits.
But, off to one side, covered in protective plastic, is some serious
stereo equipment, connected to Kratz’s computer. Kratz may be a punk
from way back, but he’s also a computer geek — and that’s not a
derogative term. Kratz had a Website for the Hammer as early as ’95, and
was one of the first in Maine to introduce MP3s and streaming video to
his site. But the punk comes out when you ask him how he got into it:
“because I like to do my own shit,” he says.
He certainly did his own shit on Big Meat Hammer’s debut disc, ten
years in the making, being released tonight (Thursday, March 22) with an
in-store show at Bull Moose on Middle Street and a gig with Hate Crimes,
the Marvels, and Swampwitch Revival at their old haunt, Geno’s.
Please Keep Portland Clean is chock full of 28 tunes, some of
which were recorded as far back as 1990.
“I took my time at it,” says Kratz, with a series of sessions at
Frasier Jones’s Independent Audio out on Deerfield Road. “But it’s not
like I was in there every night.” The result is a clean, thoughtful,
straightforward disc reminiscent in its production values of Never
Mind the Bollocks. “The sound is right up front,” says Kratz. “It
sounds good.” That’s clear off the opening track, “Evolution Leap,”
which leads with crisp Mark Peterson drums — no longer with the band — a
blazing Skummy solo overtop Jim Rand’s rhythm, and indignant vocals from
The recording quality and the overall catchy quality of the tunes
underscores yet another dichotomy Big Meat Hammer and the punk scene
must contend with: this genre founded as anti-establishment just isn’t
very scary anymore. People were wandering around the office recently
humming the words to Big Meat Hammer’s cover of the GG Allin tune
“Drink, Fight, and Fuck.” When you have Eminem gaining national fame
rapping about raping his mother, that mantra seems pretty tame.
“When the Ramones hit,” says bassist and Portland punk historian
Lenny Smith, “you had to twist people’s arms. Now everyone loves the
“Yeah, it takes more than punk to piss off your parents now,” says
drummer and newest member Caleb Wilson. “You put on the Clash and
they’re like, ‘Cool, the Clash.’ ”
“Now people listen to it for the poetry of it,” says Smith.
Things have also fractured quite a bit since the days of the 1980s
when, as Skummy remembers, “you were either a punk or a new-waver.”
“There’s a lot more punk bands now,” says Kratz, “but they’re all
different types, there’s too many classifications: straight-edge,
spiritual punk, Jesus punk. There’s people who think they’re playing
punk rock, but I don’t know what they’re doing.” Big Meat Hammer
attribute the perceived drop in show attendence to this phenomenon.
“In the old days, it was just punk,” says Smith, “now there’s just
too many choices.” And when a punk show does come together, Smith sees
the day-long, ten-band extravaganzas as counter-productive. “People go
for an hour to see one of the bands and then split. Who wants to sit
there for a whole day of pot-luck bands?”
Luckily, there’s always Geno’s, which, in 18 years, has yet to get
stale. “There’s enough different types of bands that I don’t feel like
it’s the same thing all the time,” says Smith. “Bars close down and then
another opens up. Clubs change. I like that Geno’s has had that
longevity.” And Kratz may have put his finger on the reason for their
“A lot of acts have played there because Geno is their friend,” he
says. “He stays open, he pays you out of his pocket if he has to, and he
allows nearly everyone to play.”
Every scene needs a club like Geno’s to keep it alive, even punkers,
famous for relying on no one. “That’s the downside to DIY,” notes
Skummy, “you have to do it yourself. We don’t know how to do it
ourselves, we’re just punk rockers.”
There’s also a downside to being a veteran statesman of the punk rock
scene. “Twenty years ago,” says Smith, “we could have jumped in a car
and drove off across the country,” to support the new disc. “But I was
30 when I joined the band. It’s not as easy to drop your job and go.
Maybe that’s an excuse, but it feels harder.”
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.