Music News

Tenth Power

In late spring of this year, I was kicking myself for having missed the 10-year anniversary show for local label Truxton Records. A few weeks later, the label's proprietor, Dave Ramsey, described the event to me while we stood on the patio of Casey Moore's in Tempe. It sounded like a raucous night, with sets by all of Truxton's bands, and I felt like a dumb-ass for missing such a momentous evening. I was even more disappointed when Ramsey told me he was thinking about hanging it up after a decade of putting out records -- he had a garage full of stock as it was, and Truxton has never been what you'd call prolific.

But several months later, he added another band's record to his catalogue, Heather Rae and Her Moonshine Boys' Just a Shot of Shine. And this weekend, Truxton is throwing a bash to celebrate the release of a DVD documenting the infamous 10-year celebration Ramsey had been telling me about. Truxton has kept on truckin' despite Ramsey's warning he was close to giving it up, and this weekend I'll finally get to see a redux of the anniversary show.

On a recent afternoon, I'm back at Casey's, sitting down with Ramsey and two of the drummers from the other three Truxton bands -- Vince Ramirez of Flathead and David Kains of Sonic Thrills and Grave Danger -- and he says to me again, "We're probably going to scale things back a little bit, but every time I start thinking that, there's new projects that come up. Things come up and I figure this is cool and important enough that it ought to be documented, at least for posterity's sake."

At the age of 46, and with a wife, a 10-year-old daughter, and an 8-year-old son, Ramsey couldn't be blamed for wanting to bow out of the game. Releasing local bands' records for 10 years will never make you rich -- Ramsey works for the same paper distributing company he did at Truxton's inception. "I've broke even on everything," he tells me, though. "I haven't lost a dime on any of this. That's the only thing that enables me to keep doing it -- that enables the wife to let me keep doing it."

Ramsey is a lifelong Arizonan, raised in Lukeville on the Arizona/Mexico border near Ajo. When he moved back to Phoenix after a couple of years at college in Pocatello, Idaho, in June of 1979, he quickly immersed himself in the burgeoning punk-rock scene. Like millions of fans, including myself, he dreamed about having his own record label one day, but it wasn't until he'd been at Unisource, the paper distributing company, for a few years that he could finally afford to, and he found his perfect debut act in the roots-rock trio called Flathead.

"I got to talking to Greg [Swanholm, vocalist and guitarist of Flathead] and telling him how much I enjoyed the band and everything, and did they have any records or cassettes or CDs out, and he said, 'No, we sure don't.' I kept looking for their ads and fliers, following them around, going to see their gigs. I struck up a friendship with Greg and Vince, and I kept bugging them about if they had anything out and if they were gonna get something out. Finally, Greg says, 'If you're so damn interested in seeing product out, why don't you work on something?' So I did."

Truxton's first release in 1995 was Flathead's "Alcohaulin'" b/w "40 Acre" seven-inch, which was followed by the band's self-titled debut CD a few months later.

When Ramirez started a side project with longtime Valley punk rocker and musician Kevin Daly called Grave Danger, Ramsey snapped up that band as well, and has been putting out the notoriously rambunctious (to put it nicely) shockabilly outfit's records -- including last year's Death City -- ever since.

Truxton's third band, which rounded out the entirety of the roster until Ramsey put out Heather Rae and Her Moonshine Boys this year, was his longtime friend Jim Monarch's band, the Sonic Thrills.

Strangely, the 10-year anniversary show on April 16 at Hollywood Alley was the first time the three Truxton bands had all shared a stage. To flesh out the evening, Ramsey had his friends the Smoky Mountain Skullbusters and Dammit Jim open up the show.

Ramsey's brother-in-law, Peter Ehling, an aspiring filmmaker who lives in Chicago, had encouraged Ramsey to get the three bands together for the anniversary, and to film it for a DVD. So with three cameramen and Ehling directing the action, they documented the evening in a film that Truxton's releasing this weekend, where it will play in the background while the Truxton trio of Flathead, Grave Danger, and Sonic Thrills play, along with Dammit Jim.

"It made for a great night," Ramsey says. "Five bands, lots of missed notes, bum notes, blown vocal cords, drunken emcees. It was a typical Truxton Records roster night."

Ramirez adds, "It's definitely not real polished . . . it's a good representation of what we all look like in a bar setting."

I've yet to see the finished edit of the film, which Ramsey says runs well more than two hours, but I'll definitely snap up one of the limited run of 200 copies that he's pressing. Few bands have the longevity of the ones on Truxton's roster, and keeping a local label running for a decade is even more of an anomaly. And I'm definitely not passing up the chance to see the three rabble-rousing acts together onstage again.

Ramsey may still grumble about giving up the ghost with Truxton, but I suspect otherwise. Kains mentions to me that Sonic Thrills has just wrapped up recording its latest full-length, and I'll bet my ass that's bound to tempt Ramsey and Truxton into action again.

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Brendan Joel Kelley