On the occasion of Sing-Sing Records’ reissue of Screaming Urge’s 1980 “Homework” single earlier this year, I touched base with Myke Rock and Michael Ravage about the Screaming Urge days and the beginnings of Columbus Punk. Since I spent a decent chunk of my 20’s in the Columbus music scene, I wanted to hear their perspective about what things were like in the nascent stages of development.
STV: I first encountered Screaming Urge through a few different avenues– Used Kids Annex bins, The Offense, and Chuck Warner’s Homework Comp. What were you guys doing in the pre- Screaming Urge days? How did you guys meet and what was going on?
Ravage:I met Rock in 1979. We were both in Ohio. We were one of only 4 punk bands in Columbus. My first band was just called “Urge” in 1973.
STV: Vertical Slit and Twisted Shouts were around too, right? And not part of Nowhere 78?
Ravage: They came after us.*[see note]
STV: Were they on yr radar?
Ravage: Twisted Shouts were then, sorry. That was Ron and David’s duo.
They broke up before nowhere 78.
Myke Rock: Pre-Urge, I was in a band with my 2 sisters. I met Rav in ’79 at age 15 but was a Screaming Urge fan prior. But was quickly introduced to the scene. We were called Gold, Silver & Diamonds. We have a super rare 45. Ron wanted some a couple years back. We won a bunch of teen talent shows and played on a local TV program called Schoolies, live at the Ohio State Fair.
STV: Schoolies– I will try and find that. What kind of music was that then? Gold, Silver & Diamonds–great name. Was Schoolies a cable access thing or specifically a taping for the Ohio State Fair?
Ravage: it was on channel 10 WBNS a CBS channel, as I remember.
Rock: It [Gold, Silver & Diamonds] was kinda R&B Jam. – Schoolies was a WBNS 10TV shows on Saturday mornings. The taping at the fair was our reward for winning the talent shows.
STV: Its astounding how much cable access material is out there. I can’t even start to think about how much amazing footage must be in existence in Ohio. Had you made other CATV videos besides the two on youtube?
Ravage: There are videos of us we need to get our hands on.
Rock: All sorts of stuff. Unfortunately there is no more Cable Access in Cbus.
STV: That material must be somewhere, No?
Rock: Yes we have at least 5 videos not on youtube.
STV: That you are not in possession of?
Ravage: No, we are not.
STV: Sounds like it’s sleuthing time. You gotta find that stuff, i’m sure it’s great!
Ravage: We saw some at Arlus’ wake, so we know they are still around
Rock: I think Marshall Barnes might have a couple more. “Runaway” perhaps.
STV: With video, time is certainly of the essence. So the sooner you get that transferred the better.
Ravage: I have “Runaway Rock,” just haven’t put it up because of “the secret”
Rock: Oh, the secret…
Ravage: It’s not a big secret, I’m putting it up soon. It’s a Marshall Barnes Video.
STV: If you want, we can post it with this interview.
Ravage: It’s a thought.
Rock: Oh, what about “Won’t Someone Rock Me.” Didn’t we do a video for that?
Ravage: Yes I had that video up for a bit, but Dons wife asked me to take it down.
Rock: Marshall had the cable access show that these vids were made for originally.
STV: So he did the Schoolies program? Was there any connection with School Kids Records?
Rock: No. Schoolies was a WBNS 10TV program (CBS affiliate-Columbus), and was a program actually for school kids. School Kids Records was never.
STV: So that wasnt the cable access station, I see now. What was Marshall Barnes’ show called?
Rock: Wow, can’t remember right off. Ravage may know.
Ravage: I think it was called “Night Music” it was on cable channel 21.
Ravage: 10 tv was over the air, channel 21 wasn’t
STV: When did you hear Rocket to Nowhere?
Ravage: I heard it in 1978. Mike [Rep] gave me a copy.
STV: Did you know Mike well at that point? Or just around in the same scene?
Ravage: Yes, I knew him. He’s always been around.
STV: Ever beat him at pool?
Ravage: I need to make something clear– I paid for the pressing Of Homework, and asked Mike if I could pretend it was on a label and he just said Ok, and that was it. I even redrew the label. The Sin- Sing release it’s the first we are making any money off of homework. Mike had nothing to do with it. I just redrew the new age logo.
Rock: Yet he lists it as one of his releases.
STV: Funny how time and lack of clarification can re-historicize a narrative sometimes– but it totally makes sense. Had you wanted him to release it initially?
Ravage: No–I just thought it would be funny to make it look like there was a label. After that, he started putting out other new age records.
STV: A forged label–clever.
Rock: I think “Accept It” was first. His band’s. [True Believers] and hw was #2
Mike Rep has a listing somewhere on the web for New Age releases.
STV: Earlier today, I was sitting around my apartment looking at The Offense, which reviews The Ramones and Screaming Urge at The Columbus Agora in 1981. It mentions “Myke Rock’s stage antics were well received by the crowd” Can you describe this stage persona? Were you channeling someone in particular? What was the audience’s response?
Rock: First, the Homework video nicely illustrates my movements, “antics”. I’m not sure I’d know how to channel someone if I ever had to. I just moved to how the music moved me. It was an internal urge and nothing to do with anyone or anything outside of me, the band and the music. I think about half the crowd at the Ramones show were into us and if memory serves, the rest were politely waiting for the main course. Never the less, it was a great experience and to meet the Ramones back stage. There was a big celebration in the Ramones dressing room for Johnny’s B-day (don’t know if it was actually the date of his birth, but they sure celebrated). They trashed their dressing room and asked us if they could switch with us. We said “sure, you’re the RAMONES!!”. Then we saw the total confetti, cake and unidentifiable debris, mess left behind! I might have had some left over cake.
Ravage: You’ll notice in the videos that most of the jumping around was done by Myke rock, I was unable to, due to a heart condition–it goes out of sink all the time, so I had to watch myself. Myke has gone through ceiling and more than a couple of walls, I think it’ was as fun for me to watch as the audience. In the videos from 1979 you’ll see me looking around a lot to see where Myke is at, I kinda always strolled around, which I still do. When we played live, in those days Rock was a lot wilder on stage than in the videos. Rock’s telling of us and the Ramones is right on track, but I was very nervous because right to my right, out of sight of the crowd Johnny Ramone was watching the whole thing, so I was thinking “oh shit” he’s checking out my guitar playing.
STV: You started the Nowhere Fest in 78– the show that brought the first four Columbus punk bands together. Which everyone agrees was a success. So what happened next–how did the scene solidify? Did it take time to catch on, or was it an immediate response? Once venues saw that you could draw a crowd, how gradual did their interest accrue? How did you see the Columbus punk scene changing after that first Nowhere 78 show?
Rock: The Nowhere ’78 I’ll leave to Ravage as I wasn’t there.
Ravage: I put Screaming Urge together in May of 1978 with some members coming and going for just 2 or 3 rehearsals, we didn’t make our debut until November 3rd, 1978 after I rented a hall with a stage and got a hold of the other 3 bands, meaning there was no place to play at all. I do believe it is because of nowhere that clubs began letting punk in, because of that show drawing a huge crowd, it made the papers and clubs took notice, after that things really began to change, there were at least 5 or 6 clubs we could count on to play locally, and a lot more bands popped up.
STV: How much work went into all of this planning, and how did you even find out about bands at the time that were coming from other cities? I think the H2D website mentions something about Mr. Unique and Leisure Suits— from Detroit. Did Screaming Urge befriend bands in other cities mainly through touring? Or was it through syndication?
Ravage: We were booked on the same bill at a club in Detroit with Mr. Unique and the Leisure Suits, we loved them and they loved us, so we knew we wanted them in Columbus, for Columbus to enjoy, and Myke was the one who took care of this one, renting out the Garden, getting a hold of the suits, and doing a lot of the promo. There were a lot of bands that we became fast friends with, but over the years most of the names escape me, Superman’s Girlfriend come to mind, they were from Texas.
STV: What was yr relationship with Cleveland bands and that whole scene like? How did you perceive them and vice-versa?
Ravage: Our favorite band from up around the Cleveland/Akron area I’m pretty sure I’d say is The Human Switchboard, but I also enjoyed playing shows with the Lepers, The Adults, we still have a nice relationship with the Human Switchboard as you can see thay are in our “Likes” on our facebook page. We thought of Cleveland as the bigtime!
STV:Screaming Urge were signed to Stiff Records in 1980–H2D said that the deal was botched by yr manager at the time–but you continued to tour. Was there interest in a UK tour at some point? Did you continue to tour to try and find a record deal?
Rock: I remember speaking to several management types in the UK, but nothing really materialized. I don’t remember ever speaking with Ravage and Manic about how we must tour to find a record deal. Sure, it would have been nice, maybe, but that never was something to define the band. We toured, basically, because we generally got the respect we felt we deserved in places other than Columbus.
Ravage: The deal with stiff was botched by our “so-called” manager, Steve Garner, they wanted to release our first album, as it was, by me sending them the album, I have saved several letters from Stiff, they gave up after Steves relentlessly telling them he “owned” the songs and wanted more money than they were willing to give, I think they ended up telling him Fuck You. We kept touring because we loved to play, still do, if you could get us a booking in NYC we are there!
STV: It seems that graffiti was ubiquitous to the punk scene in those days. It shows up in many stories and photos from the scene during this period. Was it something that was appropriated from the whole Graffiti scene in New York?
Ravage: I have to give full credit to Zero Watts of the Blades, the very 1st. punk band in Columbus, he started it and all the bands copied him, I think we were all unaware of the NYC graffiti at the time, for us it was a way of getting the name out in public, so then when you put a flyer up, people would go, oh, I’ve heard of them.
*The Vertical Slit LP was indeed released in 1977, most likely in Columbus- and most likely pressed at Musicol. An insert for one of his records mentions his arrival to Columbus in 1976. Also, Rep’s notes included in “Blind Boy in the Backseat” mentions that “I first met Ron House on stage. It was 1978, the day Keith Moon died.” 7.Sept.78 -Rep also saw them a week prior clear the room at Stache’s. ’78/’80 are the dates credited to the music on that release. Since Nowhere 78 happened nearly in ’79 (November of 78) maybe the bands hadn’t yet come into contact with one and other? Twisted Shouts and Vertical Slit were most likely around in 78, but facts surrounding this moment seem to be murky in a lot of ppl’s memories.
*Special thanks to JAMES E for assistance and fact checking*
Screaming Urge is recording a new album featuring never recorded Urge material and new songs. They are open to discussing this project and other potential vinyl reissues via email, and they expect their new official website to be launched soon.