10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #8: Mighty Sphincter's Untitled 1984 EP
Arizona has no shortage of offensive band names. One might even say we're right up there with Texas in having the most offensive band names per capita. Mighty Sphincter is no exception.
The band itself is something of an enigma. Known, perhaps, by fans of the dark and spooky worldwide, Mighty Sphincter's odd time signatures and punk/metal riffage make them an utterly unique band, not only in their home state, but in the music world. Led by guitarist Doug Clark, who has in many ways been Mr. Everything for the band over the entire span of their career, Sphincter (as fans and Phoenix music folks typically refer to the band) has never really officially ended its significant run.
Clark's brother Dan (The Feederz, Victory Acres, and Joke Flower) said, "You know, my favorite record from that era [early Arizona punk records] is my brother's record. The one with 'Heat House' and 'Fag Bar' really stood out for me."
High praise indeed, even if it might be drenched in some Clark brotherly love. The untitled first seven-inch EP the elder Clark talks about features four songs you will not soon forget. "Heat House," and "Fag Bar" make up the A side and "Exterminator" and "Electric Hose Bag" make up the B side of this hard-to-find Placebo Records gem. Equal parts prog rock and scathing attack on hardcore punk, which had become either too tame or too regimented for the likes of Doug Clark, Greg Hynes (drums), Joe Albanese (bass), and Ron Reckless (aka Ron Grotjan, vocals).
One thing is certain: The gentlemen who made up this incarnation (and all incarnations, really) of Mighty Sphincter could really play. The late Albanese (also of Godwads, Victory Acres, the Brainz) was one of the best bass players to ever come from Arizona. Hynes, who is a master of the odd time signature, had been in the Teds prior to joining Sphincter and replaced Mike "Bam Bam" Sversvold (JFA, The Harvest, Rabid Rabbit, and so many others). Reckless (who was also in the incredibly named The Very Idea of Fucking Hitler) was probably the weak link, musically, but was still a commanding stage presence and not afraid to let his freak flag fly to nail any live performance. While the production quality of their 1984 debut release is indicative of the time, the session accurately caught the energy and tension that were apparent in live Mighty Sphincter performances in their prime.
Hynes joined Mighty Sphincter in late 1983.
"I was in the Teds, and Bam Bam was in Sphincter at the time. Bam had trouble with the odd time signatures with the Sphincter music and suggested to Ron Reckless that they try me. I loved Sphincter because I thought they had the right idea about the absurdity of the Phoenix music scene at the time," stated Hynes.
This seems to be an increasingly common feeling from folks who were part of the early Arizona punk rock scene who were growing weary of the lack of originality coming from a lot of the third- and fourth-wave bands who came through town.
As for the recording process, Hynes remembers, "I was half-owner of Placebo [Records] and Tony [Victor, Placebo partner] and I thought it would be worthwhile to record Sphincter in a studio. We recorded at Cerius studio on Scottsdale Road with Allen Moore. We recorded and mixed the entire seven-inch in a few hours. I love that seven-inch."
"Heat House" comes right in and packs a punch. Clark and Albanese, backed by Hynes' driving backbeat, pummel the listener with prog-metal punk rock weirdness, which became synonymous with the Phoenix weirdo sound. There is something so unhinged going on, right from the beginning, that allows this three-minute Sphincter song to reel you in and not let go. Reckless repeats the chorus, "Fight or die to live in the Heat House, fight or die, it's always the same. Fuck or fight, it's still so hot out, fuck or fight, your butt's on the line." According to Hynes, this song is about prison, ironic considering that Reckless penned the lyrics and now resides behind bars himself. The song is a highly incendiary way to kick off this influential seven-inch.
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