"well, my fondest memory is with way back with Mr. Epp, my first band, and having our first single pressed. That's something that happened in the years between college, and I was living with my parents. I remember holding it and dancing around my suburban bedroom. I couldn't believe I had this thing. It was real. It was big deal to go from a band that just played around to having this physical artifact. There were all kinds of great memories in there, and some fuzzy ones that I'm not sure are real anymore. After such a long period of time, the story get told over and over and you don't know if you're remembering the real thing or the story that came out the real thing. Does that make any sense ? "
Mr. Epp and the Calculations was the brainchild of vocalist Jo Smitty, who thought it would be a good idea to name a rock band after his Bellevue, WA, Christian High School math teacher, Mr. Epp. Along with his friends Mark Arm and Darren Morey (aka Darren Mor-X), both of whom also attended the school, the three gathered at Morey's bedroom to record some material in June of 1980. Darren's brother, Todd (aka Todd Why?), along with friends Tom Wolf and Peter Wick, sat in on the session. Playing various instruments, the group created a backdrop for a story Wick had written titled "The Pigeon in the Fountain Bed." The group heard about a radio contest on KZAM radio where on-air personality Stephen Rabow promised that any band submitting a cassette would receive airplay. For fun, the group decided to send a copy of "The Pigeon in the Fountain Bed." The song aired on Rabow's show, and Rabow declared to listeners that Mr. Epp was "the worst band in the world," a title that stuck with the group until their demise in 1984.
On October 8, 1981, Mr. Epp performed its first official show. The lineup was now whittled down to Arm on guitar/vocals, Smitty on vocals/guitar/alto saxophone, Todd on bass/backing vocals, and temporary drummer Randy Rubato. The group opened for Student Nurse at Queen Anne's UCT Hall, located on 5th and Aloha streets in Seattle. Darren returned as the band's drummer following the show, and Student Nurse drummer John Rubato began helping Mr. Epp produce its debut 7" EP, Of Course I'm Happy, Why?, at Seattle's Triangle Studios in March. The five-song record was released in early 1982 on Pravda Records and featured the underground hit "Mohawk Man," which charted at number one on Los Angeles' radio station KROQ's Rodney on the Rocks program. "Mohawk Man" was included on Pravda's Volume One tape, released that same year. Smitty's Dog Tapes also released the compilation The Public Doesn't Exist cassette featuring the Mr. Epp songs "Spooky" and "Genocide." That summer, the band recorded two tracks at the Morey's home with Tom Dyer producing the session. That fall, they entered TDS Studios with Dyer to record seven more new songs. Late that year, the band performed two shows, one opening for pop star Nina Hagen and the other playing at friend Verna Doherty's New Year's Eve party. Both performances were recorded and featured on the band's cassette Live As All Get Out!, released on Deus Ex Machina/Dog Tapes the following year. At the start of 1983, Mr. Epp was busy with many side projects. Smitty was involved with Doherty and guitarist Steve Turner playing in Doggs with Dreddloxx, while Todd and Arm performed with Jack Klugman & the Ice Picks. These other priorities didn't keep the members of Mr. Epp from releasing new material, though. The band managed to appear on six compilations, which included New Alliance Records' Mighty Feeble early in the year, followed by appearances on Bad Compilation Tapes' First Strike, Engram Records' Seattle Syndrome II, Deus Ex Machina's What Syndrome?, Basic Tapes' Basic Sampler, and Green Monkey's Local Product. With word spreading about the group in Seattle, the band was asked to open a show at the city's Eagles Auditorium in late April for San Francisco punk legends the Dead Kennedys. This was followed by a July 15 Mr. Epp performance at Seattle's Metropolis, where the group used Dyer's Mobile Unit to record the show. That same month, the band decided to add a second guitarist, so they called upon Turner, who had performed with Smitty in Doggs with Dreddloxx. Turner had also performed with the Ducky Boys, which included future Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. Turner was also a friend of Arm, who he met in 1982 through their mutual friend Alex Vincent. The end was near for Mr. Epp though, as Darren confronted Smitty about his waning interest in the band.
At the start of 1984, Mr. Epp's new lineup was still rehearsing in Darren's bedroom, where they ran through their own renditions of the Troggs' "Wild Thing" and the Stooges' "1969" (rechristened "1984" by Mr. Epp). Although the band was practicing in Darren's bedroom, he was not at most of these sessions. Instead, Wick, who had sat in reciting his story "The Pigeon in the Fountain Bed" at the very first Mr. Epp practice in 1980, returned to play drums for a short period. On February 3, the group returned to the Metropolis, where they opened for Andy Wood's band Malfunkshun and Fang. Mr. Epp's lineup for the gig included new drummer Taylia Christian. Although she was added to the group, it was too little, too late. This was to be the final show of Mr. Epp's career.
Following Mr. Epp's demise, Turner and Arm performed in a succession of bands, including Green River, the Thrown Ups, and Mudhoney. Wick, Darren, and Smitty teamed up to form the noise band Lapses in Grammar Afforded to Avoid Sexism. Following that band's split, Steel Pole Bath Tub asked for Darren's assistance on drums. As for Todd, he joined the groups Dead in Baltimore and Fred's Crashshop. Smitty re-released some of Mr. Epp's old catalog in the early '90s. His label, Box Dog, issued material from the band in the form of Tapes From the Dead in 1990 and the re-release of Live As All Get Out! and the What Syndrome? compilation in 1992. These were followed by the Mr. Epp anthology Ridiculing the Apocalypse in 1996. Turner's Super Electro label issued the disc in conjunction with Box Dog
Biography by Stephen Howell
Of Course I'm Happy, Why ?
5 track EP on Pravda Records (1982)
Live As All Get Out!!
Deus Ex Machina / Dog Tapes (1983)
Re-issued on Box Dog (1992)
Tapes From The Dead
Box Dog (1990)
Ridiculing The Apocalypse
Super Electro (1996)
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