Plaid Back On The Flagpole – fIREHOSE Reconvenes

Sunday, 15 April 2012

While there may have been bigger names in alt-rock, there's no question that few have been as respected as that of fIREHOSE. Formed out of the heartbreaking wreckage of the Minutemen in 1986, fIREHOSE can not only claim to be the first “post-hardcore” band with a direct link to the initial movement, but also helped expose the alt-rock and grunge scenes to the public by bringing their sound to a major label (Columbia Records) and beating the landmark releases by bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden by months. Needless to say, the mark that fIREHOSE has left on both pop culture and pop music is indelible but – in part because when the band called it a day, the group's members actually went on to other things and didn't try to promote nostalgia for fIREHOSE while they did it – most of their virtues have gone unsung until now. Now though, with a new retrospective release entitled lowFLOWS which collects the two albums that they released on Columbia out and the band back on tour for the first time in almost two decades, fIREHOSE is making waves again. “It's really weird and kind of coincidental that lowFLOWS happened to come out right about now, because we had already started planning the tour before we knew about it,” explains fIREHOSE singer/guitarist Ed Crawford of the circumstances surrounding the reunion. “We didn't really plan it or intend on coordinating the tour with anything, it just all lined up and worked out that way [chuckling].

“Watt and I have always been in contact no matter where I've moved,” continues the singer, “and any time he came through town with The Secondmen or The Missingmen or whoever he happened to be touring with, we'd be talking and I'd come out to see him every now and again. There was never really any animosity or belligerence to overcome or anything like that, it was just a matter of finding a reason to do it. Coachella came asking if we'd be interested in participating with them this year so that was two shows we could do, and we thought that  it might be nice to book some more dates up the west coast if we were already doing two.”

The events and scheduling of them seem almost charmed, but the fact that lowFLOWS just happens to collect the releases which saw fIREHOSE at the absolute pinnacle of the powers and includes a few previously unreleased treasures to sweeten the deal is just too good to pass on. Listening back to them now, the material collected here [1991's Flyin' The Flannel, 1992's Live Totem Pole EP and 1993's Mr. Machinery Operator are the albums compiled –ed] seems to play even more vibrantly and clearly like the first formal pushes of grunge and alt-rock into the mainstream arena as songs like “Down With The Bass,” “Can't Believe,” “Flyin' The Flannel” [which almost plays like a stylistic battle cry for the Nineties in a multitude of ways now –ed], “Anti-Misogyny Maneuver,” “Blaze” and “Witness” all present many of the lynchpin structures and dynamics that alt-rock would turn platinum in the music's glory years between 1991 and 1996. The catch (and really the greatest hook from a historical standpoint) here though is that each of those dynamics and principles of style emerge solid and ready to be copied; not contained in show cases, but actively working hard as Crawford, bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley run them through their paces. The extra live cuts appended within The Columbia Anthology illustrate that the band was capable of presenting the exact same kind of power on stage as they could under the good mikes too.

Perhaps as intended, The Columbia Anthology works as the best kind of flyer for fIREHOSE's faculties as a band in the early Nineties but, according to Crawford, the group plans to bring the exact same kind of show with the same level of energy now as they did back then. “The rehearsals have been going well,” exclaims Crawford brightly when conversations turn to the work which has gone into getting fIREHOSE seaworthy again. “There has been some dust on the shelves and a couple of cobwebs in the corners, but it has been going really well and smoothly.

“After we agreed to begin rehearsing, it was really just a matter of picking out the snogs that we could realistically re-learn – some of that stuff is pretty hard and there's no way we'd have been able to put it together in two weeks – and just buckling down and doing it,” continues the singer. “When I really looked at it, I had a list of about thirty songs that I could do so I had to cut that down a bit, then we got together and started working the material. After I had that moving, Watt and George each added some of the songs they really wanted to do to the list, and we started sorting out what we could put where in it. We're going to do a bit of a retrospective set list; beginning with a couple of songs from Ragin', Full On and going all the way through with one or two from Mr. Machinery Operator. It'll pretty much be a little snapshot of fIREHOSE – '86 – '94.”

Such planning and structure applied to the band's new shows can't help but get some of the embers of excitement within both the band and its fans glowing but, beyond the band's “snapshot shows,” Crawford is hesitant to say what exactly fIREHOSE has planned for the future. “The shortest, easiest way to say it is that we were able to do this now so we agreed to do it, but we were also very lucky to be able to say that,” explains Crawford pensively. “I'd been talking to Watt about doing something with fIREHOSE for years now and, with him primarily doing The Stooges at the moment but The Stooges being off the road right now, it seemed like a good time to give it a try – but that doesn't mean we're always going to have that kind of luxury. Watt's got The Stooges which is his focus of course, and I recently got a new band going called FOOD – which is unofficially an acronym for Far Out Old Dudes [laughing] – and we've been writing and want to record and tour, so it will all just come down to scheduling.

“We wanted to do this so we are and, when we have more time to dedicate to it, we will. We haven't ruled anything out – we may do some new writing, we may book some more touring – we're just playing it all by ear and seeing how it goes, but we're keeping every option we have before us open and are entertaining them all.”



fIREHOSE is on tour now. For an updated schedule of shows, click here .


lowFLOWS – The Columbia Anthology ('91 – '93)
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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