Justin Chearno: guitar, occasional bass, vocals
Scott DeSimon: bass, occasional guitar, vocals
Patrick Gough: drums, vocals
Treiops Treyfid: guitar, occasional bass, vocals
Pitchblende formed in March of 1991 in the DC Metro area. Justin and Treiops worked together at Olsson’s Books and Records in Alexandria, VA – the same DC- area chain that employed countless indie-rock musicians like Andrew Beaujon of Eggs, Mark Robinson of Unrest, Eli Janney of Boys Against Girls, some evil woman from from Boss Hogg, and a bunch of others.
Treiops had moved from Fox River Grove, IL to DC a few years earlier to study at the Corcoran School of Art and had dropped out a couple of years earlier. Musically, he had sung and played guitar in what he thought was a “punk-rock” band in high school. The charmingly named Nuclear Waste, recorded a bunch of songs, a couple of which are on the Pitchblende Members’ First Bands Tape (which you can’t order from us). In art school he began an electronic music project called Triptic of a Pastel Fern with two classmates which still puts music out on Poison Plant Records although it’s mostly just Treiops’ project now. After he dropped out of art school, he was asked to join an early version of Corcoran classmate Ian Svenonius’ band Nation of Ulysses, but deferred because a.) he didn’t own an amp and b.) had no way to get to their practice space in Maryland. So much for Treiops in a hairnet and natty suit.
While Treiops was ensconsed in his 8-track home studio throughout the late 80’s and into 1990, Justin was enjoying a life of leisure in Youngstown, OH. A punk rock gadabout, Chearno spent most of his nights at the late Penguin pub, playing with the most recent of the 23 bands he’d been in, the Guttersnipes (an earlier Chearno band, Puke, have a song on the aforementioned tape. The crowdpleaser “Cleavage”), watching bands like Laughing Hyenas, Bitch Magnet, and yes…. the Orange Roughys (they rokd!) when they came through town, or occasionaly running sound at said club. Eventually Justin tired of the decadent lifestyle afforded him by 5 cent beer nights at the Penguin Pub and left town to join his girlfriend in DC. Landing a job at Olsson’s, Justin met Mark Robinson who one day asked him if he wanted to play bass in Unrest. Having never heard of them, but knowing they were on Caroline (a much bigger deal at the time then it is now), he signed up and bought a $150 bass. Justin played on the “Yes She is My Skinhead Girl” 7″ (that’s him playing the E on side a and the D on side b) and learned all the songs on KustomKarnal before touring the country, in a Chevy Suburban, together with the Dustdevils. The experience at one point found both Robinson and Chearno at the Eugene, OR Greyhound station ready to ditch everything and catch the first bus back to normalcy. After being back from tour a few weeks Chearno received a call from Robinson saying essentially “I don’t think you’re in the band anymore” – which was fine by Justin, who by that time had tired of the one- note bass lines he was asked to play.
Patrick Gough had lived in the Norfolk, VA area since puberty and moved to Northern Virginia to go to college. The son of two cops (not two gay cops, but that would make for a better story), Gough had briefly learned to play drums for a band in the late ’80’s – The Terraplanes – but sold his kit soon after when the band folded. At a party in Washington, Patrick met Scott, who had briefly gone to school with Gough’s girlfriend (but never knew her). Although Scott’s roommate at the time had gone out with her for awhile, which made for good conversation.
Scott had moved to DC after college in the summer of ’90 with the idea of working for National Geographic Films. When he failed the typing test three times they told him not to bother re-applying. It was in this unemployed, M.A.S.H. re-run watching state that he met Patrick. At a party it came out that Pat had played drums and Scott mentioned the college-rock bands he’d been in up to that point (see the available tape for the Virgin Bus song “A Portugese Fisherman’s Song”) they made tentative plans to start a band. Thus began what would become a string of horrible experiences playing with people, including one instance where they drove out to the suburban hell of Mt. Vernon to “jam” with guys who had a bit of a Perry Ferrell fixation and another nightmare involving a bass player who had small cocaine problem and mysteriously “left town” one day, never to return.
While Patrick and Scott were fumbling about in their half-assed quest to rock, Justin and Trieops started playing together in T.T.’s basement studio with a drum machine. One of these songs ended up on the infamously delayed Matador- release, Teen Beat Fifti (cassette version only). At the end of February ’91, they put an ad in the Washington City Paper that read something to the effect of “Guitarists sick of playing with drum machine looking for bassist and drummer into Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth and William Shatner”. Pat saw the ad, and despite Scott’s indifference, called the number. When Patrick dropped by to take Scott’s roomate’s drums to Treiops’ house, Scott copped out of going with some lame excuse or other, having given up any hope of connecting with anyone interesting or worthwhile (not that Pat and Scott had much to offer, save for a hyper-critical sense of what they thought was good). When he returned a couple of hours later he raving about this “weird guy” with all this recording equipment in his basement who played songs with”complicated rhythms”, Scott was intrigued enough to make plans to play with them in a few days.
The first full Pitchblende pracitce with Scott, Pat, Justin and Treiops went surprisingly well considering. They worked on a song that Justin and Trieops had been playing (a song that became “Pilot Light” from the first album) and a couple of TT’s songs that have since been abandonned. Justin and Scott switched off on bass and guitar and Trieops – who didn’t own a guitar amp – used Scott’s. (for gearheads, see separate listing for complete listing of pitchblende equipment over the years).
pitchblende practiced a couple times a week that spring, with songs veering style-wise from Mudhoney (eek.) to Fugazi, to Sonic Youth to the prevailing indie-pop bands of the time. On July (?) TK they loaded the equipment into two cars and headed to the King’s Head Inn in Norfolk, VA for their first show. Un-named and without any lyrics for all six songs they played under the moniker of COMET ANGER with the idea that when they really sucked (as was planned) if they ever played again it would be under a different name and without the pathetic rep that COMET ANGER would have established. It’s that kind of forward-thinking that got them to where are today.- the top.
Later that summer they managed to write some lyrics to the ten or so songs they knew and decided to record a demo tape – mainly to send out to the CMJ Festival board, but also because pitchblende had started to play shows and thought they needed something to sell. After spending a weekend with Treiops’ 8-track, pitchblende had their first piece of merchandise and were now a legitimate band with huge earnings potential. The ten song tape was “released” with two different TT-designed covers, and contained:
| Side 1
Comatose Snail Punchout
| Side 2
Drop in the Big Drink
Cars (cover of Gary Numan’ s hit, pre Chicago hip)
Amazingly, after sending out a sleeves of tapes to clubs, a few of them actually called, leading to pitchblende’s first “real” show on Aug. ? at the now defunct dcspace. This was followed shortly therafter by another dcspace show with Thinking Fellers Local… in which the inexperienced ‘blende proved less than a match for the San Fran art-noise troupe. Soon after the Thinking Fellers show, pitchblende bought tuners and began the cycle of get out of work early, drive five hours to show, play show, sleep on record collector’s floor, drive to next show, play show, wake up Sunday, drive home, call in sick on Monday. Justin became particlarly adept at this last bit and always seemed well rested compared to the rest of the exhausted ‘blende.
The boys continued to burn the punk rock candle at both ends, recording and realeasing their first single (“Sum”/”Lacquer Box”) and first full-length (Kill Atom Smasher) and doing a mini coast to coast tour of the US in 1992. They finally abandonned their day jobs (despite repeated advice never to do so) in September of 1993. After a whirlwind 7 and a half week tour of these glorious United States, a smelly, sick, but bonded pitchblende returned home triumphant and took on the starving artist lifestyle. Temp jobs came and went, allowing these go-getters to pay their rent and live the carefree life of men unencumbered by society’s petty financial and time demands. The beginning of the end for an active pitchblende came in the Winter of 1994, when, after a disasterous tour, Justin announced his intention to move to New York in the beginning of 1995. Scott followed suit a few months later, leaving Treiops and Patrick – who by this time were not on the best of terms – the sole flyers of pitchblende’s D.C. flag.