In 1996, while on tour to promote their album “Love In Exile,” The Chrome Cranks played a show at the venerable punk rock club, The Satyricon, in Old Town Portland. I was a fan and had met the band a couple years earlier, so I went to the show. After it was over I approached them and offered to let them crash at my place. They agreed, packed up their van and off we went.
I discovered the Chrome Cranks in 1994 while I was employed at a small record store in Monterey California, Recycled Records. One of my weekly duties was to order records & cd’s for the store from an independent distributor. We received a catalog in the mail each week, with new releases. I would look through it and select records I thought we could sell at the store. This afforded me the opportunity to order records for myself and my fellow employees.
In one of the catalogs I came across the Chrome Cranks 45 release, “Way Out Lover” with “Some Kinda Crime” on the flipside. The description for the record referenced the Australian band, The Scientists, who at that time were one of my favorite bands. So, I ordered myself a copy.
The Chrome Cranks were a scuzzy New York City band, with a highly distorted sound that kicked my head round the bend.
“Way Out Lover” and “Some Kinda Crime” ended up on dozens of mixtapes I played at work. Mixtapes were almost a daily ritual for me. I would get up early, make coffee, put headphones on, and make a mixtape for the day. My fellow employees, Jason Moore, Hans Dobbratz & Eithne O’Leyne, also made tapes on an almost daily basis. All of us who worked at Recycled Records became fans of The Chrome Cranks.
Jason Moore and Hans Dobbtraz were in a band called Half Sister and occasionally booked shows at a theatre space across the street from the record store. Somehow they got in contact with the band, The Chrome Cranks or their booking agent, and set up a show for the band in Monterey while they were on tour to support their debut album.
About two weeks before the show was scheduled to play, their band, Half Sister imploded over some personnel issues. With the show coming up quick as scheduled, Hans Dobbratz, his brother, Nick Dobbratz, his friend Phillipp Minnig & Jason Moore quickly formed a new group, wrote, composed, and rehearsed a half dozen songs, which they recorded in a small studio in nearby Salinas California run by Charlie McGovern. I am not sure who came up with name for the group, but by the night of The Chrome Cranks show, they were called Dura-Delinquent.
At that time the population of Monterey California, a quiet ocean side town with not much for kids to do, hovered at around 33,000 people. On the nights when all-ages rock shows were put on at the theatre, the turn out was substantial. A couple of hundred kids turned up and packed the place.
The Chrome Cranks played on this tour. They were used to playing small clubs, half filled at best. Despite their pedigree, the band was not well known. The band consisted of Peter Aaron on vocals & guitar, William Weber (who had played with GG Allin & The Murder Junkies) on guitar, Jerry Teel (who led the band The Honeymoon Killers) on bass, and Bob Bert (who had played with both Pussy Galore & Sonic Youth) on drums. Knowing they had this sort of history in their back pocket, plus the fact that I thought their records rocked, I was ecstatic when they played Monterey. The audience turnout was huge, the largest audience on their tour.
Both bands went down a storm. The debut performance by Dura-Delinquent culminated with the song, “It’s lonely being cool,” an intense ballad that had lead singer, Hans Dobbartz jumping into the audience and flailing around with the kids. After the show, they gave Peter Aaron a cassette of their demo recordings, which lead to their record deal.
When the show ended, we gathered at a bar next door to eat, drink and hear stories. When Bob Bert started talking, my jaw hit the floor and remained there the whole night. Every story he told consisted of something along the lines of “I was at the first show by The Cramps at CBGB’s and…” Having been in New York City during that period of explosive musical energy, it was thrilling to just sit and listen.
By 1996 I had moved to Portland, Oregon and was sharing a house on SE 76th, just off of Burnside. I worked at a record store called Music Millennium. I was excited to see that The Chrome Cranks had scheduled a show at The Satyricon, a punk club on 6th Avenue.
The night of the show I took the bus downtown, paid and entered the club. The place was about half-full, which disappointed me. I felt bad for the band, but it did not hold them back. They came to play. Peter Aaron’s guitar clanged out from the stage. It sounded like he had blown a speaker, but they turned up the volume regardless. It was a mean sound balanced by cleaner, bluesy power lines stemming from the strings and fingers of William Weber on lead guitar and the thud and bounce of Bob Bert on drums and Jerry Teel on bass. Onstage, the band had an unapproachable air. An audience member placed his beer glass on the edge of the stage and Peter Aaron kicked the glass off, spraying beer over the audience.
After the show as people shuffled out, as the band gathered up their guitar cables and effects boxes, in a stark, full, all too revealing after show light, I approached the stage and re-introduced myself to the band members. Unlike their performance demeanor, the greeted me with friendly smiles and we chatted about mutual friends. This was when I offered them the chance to crash on the floor at my place.
My house consisted of two bedrooms, a large living room, one bathroom and an upstairs kitchen. There was a finished basement, complete with some sort of indoor/outdoor carpet and wood panelling that would not have looked out of place on the Brady Bunch. The basement area was a long room with one long wall where I stored my record collection, roughly 10,000 records at that time. Considering the large open space available in the basement, I suggested the band crash down there. They all agreed, except Bob Bert, who crashed upstairs. To their disappointment, there was no liquor to quaff or pot to smoke.
The next morning, I woke early and made some coffee. I heard a noise out back. I opened the door and there was William Weber, clad in a leather jacket, smoking a cigarette, playing my roommate’s acoustic guitar. I brought him some coffee and we conversed and grunted our way through the morning. Over the course of the next couple of hours the other members of the band woke and joined us, stretching, groaning, a bit worn out. I made eggs and bacon and soon after they departed, heading onto their next show.
And that’s how the band, The Chrome Cranks came to spend the night at my house. I know it was not a tale filled with woe or danger. But it happened. It happened to me. And I am happy to say that I am still somewhat acquainted with the members of the band, and still listen to their music fairly often.
In case you are unfamiliar with the band, READ MORE ABOUT THEM HERE.