San Francisco Bay Guardian, 1998
It was a nearly packed house when Black Lab took to the stage Friday night at Slim’s. By the time the second number, “She Loves Me,” hit its stride, a sleazy effect seized the crowd. Bridge and tunnelers
dressed in their flannel Friday best bobbed their heads; their girlfriends swayed to bassist Geoff Stansfield’s throbbing groove. Singer/guitarist Paul Durham seemed a touch removed, but it gave him an authority that
the crowd seemed to eat up. Here was their (the twenty-somethings, I mean) Thin White Duke. Durham’s head moved side to side while the rest of his body remained still, save for his ever-sweeping picking hand.
For the entire set, Black Lab held the audience entranced with their intensely danceable numbers. One woman by the side of the stage made it her own personal drum, keeping time to drummer Bryan Head’s emphatic drumming. Head made sure to place the emphasis on all the right parts of Durham’s songs, elevating them from static pieces to dynamic, interactive works that relied on audience synergy. Gauging by the whoops and hollers, Black Lab delivered the goods.
At the end of the first song of the set, Durham held out a note in an exceptionally strong tenor. A baseball-capped man was overheard saying, “He’s got a voice like an angel.” Guess all that time spent in two Idaho church choirs paid off.
“In Seattle, they like to be insulted. When I asked people in Vancouver if this was a disco town, they thought I was talking about Cecil’s strip joint,” said Durham. With that Durham and crew banged out a slamming cover
of Bowie’s “DJ.” Lead guitarist Michael Belfer added wah wah flourishes for that authentic flavor. Bassist, Stansfield added impossibly high backing vocals to Durham’s pristine falsetto for that gospel chorus affect.
“You might think that it’s fun up here playing guitars, but it’s work,” explained Durham. “The fun part is getting to open up for your heros.” He went on to then mentioned that a few months ago, Black Lab opened up for Throwing Muses. (Crowd cheers.) “Now we get to open up for Tanya Donelly.”
(Even louder cheers).
yo, so Andy and I put this evil little track together and the people at Blade wanted to give us money to put it in a movie. how cool is that?
I love techno. I have to write so many fewer lyrics. in fact, only two lines. and in one of the lines, I got to use the same word twice. awesome.
I don’t think this song (check out “hear”) represents a shift in the Black Lab sound, just a little diversion. hopefully, you’ll be hearing a lot more of our stuff in movies and tv. “Remember” has been playing in “What I like about You” and “See the Sun” was in an episode of “The Days.” I would have let you guys know but they never tell us mere musicians when they’re actually going to air the stuff.
anyway, hope you’re all well and getting ready for some chill time at the holidays. I know I am.
Hi everyone. so, here at Black Lab central we are getting out of the music business and into the business of making music — making it ourselves and then making it available to you. we’ve got a couple more leads to pursue in getting See the Sun distributed but if it doesn’t happen in the next months then I’m just going to print it up and get it to you direct.
meanwhile, my friends have been bugging me for years to release the old stuff I did with my critically-acclaimed, acoustic-based singer-songwriter folk-rock experiment of the mid-90’s called Durham. so what the hell, I made up some artwork, sent it off to the press, and here it is:
Ten Million Years
Songs from the Nineteen Nineties
so now my friends are happy, and hopefully you’ll be happy too. it’s all good stuff, listening back on it. I hated it for awhile but now realize why people love it so much. it was recorded extremely well and mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling, and still sounds really good. it’s prettier stuff, but with some muscle and you can hear the darkness of the Lab creeping in as the songs progress.
eleven of the songs are from this group, which included Hershel Yatovitz (Chris Isaac’s band) on guitar, Jim Kassis (Rinde Eckert, etc.) on drums and Paul Baker on bass. among these eleven songs is the original version of “Time Ago” and the song “Dream in Color,” the newest version of which will come out on See the Sun, and “Walk Slow,” which we recorded for “Your Body Above Me” and will someday appear as an outtake. the guys are great musicians and had it not been for our idiot manager we would have signed with Mercury in 1995.
this disc also includes an unreleased acoustic version of Black Lab in the studio playing “Wash it Away” (it’s my favorite version), as well as LIVE acoustic duo versions of “Can’t Keep the Rain” and “Sleeps With Angels” (with extra bonus attempts at comedy). the cd ends with the original demo version of “Ten Million Years” from the acoustic session that got me signed to Geffen. it’s a different take on the song, interesting and beautiful in its own right.
it’s fifteen songs for fifteen bucks, guaranteed shipping within 3 days of your order (yes, I finally got a damn fulfillment company). the money from this cd will allow us to keep recording, getting a new album ready for release (one way or another) in January 1995. the first fifty orders gets a nifty “Your Body Above Me” sticker.
I’m also cleaning out my storage and am offering my remaining stock of vintage Black Lab tour shirts. get one while supplies last and I’ll send a free, autographed, lp-size “Your Body Above Me” promotional flat for your bedroom wall.
what else… oh yeah, the “I Feel Fine” ep is almost sold out — I think I have about ten copies left. order one now and I’ll autograph it however you like (examples: “will you marry me? love, paul” “I hate your dog. love, paul”)
ok, enough. I realize I never wrote liner notes because I don’t want to tell you what the damn songs are about. I don’t want to tell you anything about them. I want people to just listen without preconception. listen.
what else… oh yeah, the “I feel fine” ep is sold out. sorry, just plum ran out of ’em. we’re also running low on the girl’s white t-shirts and the boy’s black t-shirts (now in XXL!) so get ’em while they’re hot.
hi everyone. please give Derek a round of applause for taking this mess over and making it run. I was never cut out to be a webmaster, despite my tendency towards control. I should have turned it over to him a long time ago.
I’ve been swearing I’d write an update but there’s been no glowing news to report so I haven’t. this’ll have to do.
we got new management and even some play on stations in Arizona, Texas, Hawaii, and on Star here in LA. the labels came back around for another sniff but no bite so far. the management company is great and doing all they can in an industry that is contracting week by week. I’m assuming it’s going to happen we just don’t know how yet.
meanwhile we’re writing more stuff, doing a lot of co-writing for and with other people. not sure where the future lies, only that this is the only thing I know how to do and I’m going to keep doing it, one way or another.
I also want to say thanks for the hundreds of fantastic messages we’ve received through email and from people who ordered stuff from the website. I wish I could reply to every one but I have promised myself I would stay focused on getting us signed. your descriptions of how much the music still means to you after five years or more is incredibly encouraging in the bad moments when I just want to quit.
I realize that black lab makes music that was never meant to be disposable. you don’t hear a melody unless it has lived inside me for months and proved its endurance and substance. I’m beginning to realize that the songs also live this way for some of the people who hear them. this characteristic means that they might not hop out of a radio and lodge in people’s minds the way other bands’ music does, but I know these songs also have their place in the world.
so bless all of you for staying engaged and letting us know what black lab means to you. I miss you. I miss the road and the contact with fans that makes it all less ephemeral…
check out the streams of three of the songs from the ep if you don’t already have a copy. I swear I’m going to get some liner notes up soon.
also, as some of you may know, I’m an obsessive Throwing Muses fan. recently I recorded a Kristin Hersh song for a tribute cd that you can get at http://www.kuma-chan.com/web/onlineshop.html. or you can check out the real thing at amazon (I recommend ‘house tornado’ or ‘hunkpapa’).
take care of yourselves