From Austin at the time, Dwain Woodliff ( “C.U. Squirm”) and his partners in YU ( “Rod Miles” and “Bentley Shaft”) produced an electronic rock sound with high quality fidelity and results. At times they reminded me of L’Edarps A Moth or The Screamin’ Popeyes because of the scientific, devolved and sarcastic lyrical references. Their sound was keyboard heavy and although they used guitar it was prevalent generally. They could get quite funky with punchy drum machine and low end. They produced at least 4 albums in 4 years between 1985-8. Then, Dwain disappeared for like 20 years. Thankfully, we recently got back in touch and he pointed me to his large youtube presence that features the YU material.
As a start, the first four albums I remember buying as a teenager were Blue Cheer’s “Vincebus Eruptum”, The Doors “Strange Days”, The Mothers of Invention’s “We’re Only in it for the Money” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced”. What a great decade to be young!
My adventures in home taping started in high school in the early 70s when my fellow YU member Gaylon and I used a cassette deck and a Sony mono reel-to-reel to record sound-on-sound by bouncing the recordings back and forth between the two recorders while playing or singing along with the speakers. We progressed over the next 15 years to a Dokorder Stereo deck to a Dokorder 7140 four-track to a Teac 3440 and finally to a Fostex A8 eight-channel. Most of the YU recordings were done on the Teac and then the Fostex.
Gaylon and I had been recording songs off and on for about a decade, but when the “punk ethic of do it yourself” thing hit Austin in the early 80s, we decided to actually record some songs like we were a band and release them on cassette. We enlisted my brother David to help us, named ourselves YU, recorded our first tape “We Are YU”, made some videos at the local community access station and we were off! We eventually discovered Option Magazine and sent in a tape. Our first review was in the November 1982 edition, but we didn’t get a lot of response from it. We released our second cassette, “Illusion of Control”, and it was favorably reviewed by Tom Furgas in the December 1985 Option. Dino Dimuro also said very nice things about that release. I guess Dino and Tom had a lot of clout in the home taping world, because we got more response for “Illusion of Control” than any other tape we released.
I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened, but around that time Joe Newman (The Rudy Schwartz Project) was living in Austin, found out my real name and contacted me. I remember he was working on his first cassette release and thought I could give him some advice on how to proceed. I was initially freaked out by this. We were trying to be anonymous because of our intense social deficiencies! However, Joe turned out to be a very nice guy and we helped each other occasionally with equipment loans and mutual encouragement. Of course it turned out Joe needed no advice and produced very interesting music with no help from me. Joe, Dino Dimuro and Don Campau are the three home tapers whose releases I always looked forward to receiving and are really the only ones I remember from 20 years ago. Wasn’t “Snoutburger” great? Yes!
The home taping scene in the 80s was a great opportunity, outlet and motivator for YU. Just knowing we could release a tape and there would be an audience for it (no matter how small) gave us a reason and the motivation to keep writing songs and fulfilling an artistic drive. Knowing you are working on a new release focuses your thought process and motivates you towards that goal. We never wrote for the audience, but we always considered the audience. We always felt that if you were “asking” someone to listen to your tape then you owed them the respect of sending something they might like to listen to. I’m not talking about the style or the professionalism of the music, but rather the quality of the recording. I received many tapes in trade over the years that were unlistenable. I’m sure everyone got some of those. The artists probably had a good idea they were working toward, but the recording was of such poor quality that the idea never came through. YU always tried to make sure that the quality of the recording was not a detriment to someone’s enjoyment of our releases. I’m sure we didn’t always succeed, but we tried.
By the late 80s the members of YU all had family obligations. We faded away never to be heard of again until 2009 when someone convinced me to put our old videos up on YouTube. The response to those led me to make a few new videos for some of our old material. I’ve enjoyed the new video work. It is so much easier now than it was in the 80s. It’s also been nice to get back in touch with some of the people involved in the home taping scene of the 80s. Hello to you all! We are you.