When you think of Willard, two words come to mind – identity crisis. You see, the band hails from Seattle, Washington – the birthplace of grunge. They emerged around 1989 – right in the middle of the 80’s – 90’s grunge movement. And to top it off, their debut album “Steel Mill” (1992) was produced by the legendary Jack Endino – the man responsible for Nirvana’s “Bleach”. And still, with everything around them screaming “grunge!”, Willard managed to deliver a sound of their own, compromising between the music they were surrounded by and the music that came from their various influences… Willard was heavier than Pearl Jam, rawer than Soundgarden and definitely more aggressive than say, Mudhoney. Plus they had this whole metal thing going on about them, making the album sound like Pantera meets early Nirvana. “Steel Mill” was a real treat for fans of heavy, groove-laden music. Twelve tracks, including a cover version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom”, filled with sleazy, monstrous riffs and packed with hard rockin’ melodies – what else could you wish for?
The band remains a phantom from the past, one of those groups that were this close to making it big but never really got the golden ticket. Even after all these years “Steel Mill” is a fantastic listen, an album that gives a whole new perspective to the “grunge” label. Heavy and uncompromising, this re-release is sure to blow your speakers…
Metal Mind Productions presents a remastered edition of “Steel Mill”. The new digipak edition of the album is limited to 2000 copies. Digitally remastered using 24-Bit process on a golden disc. Release date is scheduled for 2nd August in Europe and 5th October in USA (via MVD).
“Steel Mill” (remastered)
Label: Metal Mind Records
Cat. No.: MASS CD 1365 DG
Format: CD Digipak (limited edition of 2000 numbered copies)
Genre: Metal / Grunge / Alternative
Release date: 02.08.2010 Europe / 5.10.2010 USA
3. Sweet Kali
4. No Confession
5. Steel Mill
8. High Moon
10. Double Dragon
12. Water Sports
Willard was brought to life by five Seattle locals – guitarists Otis P. Otis and Mark Spiders, bassist Darren Peters, drummer Steve Wied (who originally played in TAD) and vocalist Johnny Clint who joined the band last. It wasn’t really clear at first what musical style they wanted to explore – it seemed that Willard took sludge, doom and heavy metal and threw it in one bag along with some hard rock and, yes, grunge. The result? Pretty close to what the Melvins were known for – a dirty, distorted guitar sound mixed with heavy slab bass and pounding drums, closed altogether in one psychedelic punch in the mouth. The group released their self-titled EP in 1991 through Green Gel Records. The tape contained only four tracks (“Stain”, “Little Monkey”, “Dark Chamber” and “Never B-4”) but this was more than enough to catch the attention of Bruce Pavitt of Sub Pop who was at that time “looking for a touring machine”. Surprisingly, the group’s guitarist Mark Spiders refused the offer saying that he didn’t want Willard to become a part of the “Grunge Bandwagon”. The band made it clear that their place was in the underground scene and they wouldn’t change it for the world. One particular event seemed to confirm this statement – after playing an outdoor show for the “Pain In The Grass” festival at the Seattle Center, Willard got banned by the Seattle Police Department and the City of Seattle. Soon the group proudly introduced their new T-shirts saying “Banned by the SPD!”. For them, this was a moment of glory comparable to hitting a gold record…
Willard eventually released their debut album “Steel Mill” throughout Roadrunner Records on July 21st, 1992. Rumor has it that some of the band members actually worked at a steel mill, hence the album’s name. The critics instantly tagged the music as “grunge”, but Willard was heavier than Pearl Jam, rawer than Soundgarden and definitely more aggressive than say, Mudhoney. Plus they had this whole metal thing going on about them, making the album sound like Pantera meets early Nirvana. They owed a lot of it to the producer Jack Endino who apart from Nirvana’s debut, helped create a bunch of other memorable records by such groups as Gruntruck, Skin Yard, Screaming Trees, TAD (to whom Willard was often compared) and later in his career – Therapy? Willard’s debut offering was a real treat for fans of heavy, groove-laden music. Twelve tracks, including a cover version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom”, filled with sleazy, monstrous riffs and packed with hard rockin’ melodies – what else could you wish for?
Unfortunately, Willard disbanded after recording their second album – “Bone Grinder” – which eventually never got released (at that time the band played with a new bassist, Tyson Garcia). One of the demo tracks from that album, “Larie”, was later found on a compilation record called “Seattle Music Scene Volume 2”. Otis, Mark and Johnny went on to form Ditch Witch, where they played with Tad Doyle of TAD. The band never managed to release any material (except for a couple of bootlegs) and soon was re-named to Cluster Fuck featuring a line-up consisting of Doyle on drums and vocals, Garcia on bass and Spiders along with Martin Chandler (ex-Hog Molly) on guitars.