As far as Midwest first wave punk bands go, not many people immediately recognize Louisville, KY's The Endtables as one of the genre's finest, but after the reality sets in with this Drag City reissue LP/CD hitting the shelves this month, their incredibly visceral punk savagery will undoubtedly be turning heads. If you've never had the pleasure of hearing their signature song, "Circumcision" on the Bloodstains compilation series, it's an inhuman punk masterpiece that bridges the gap between garbage and gold like few other specimens of the 70s era can. The original 7" EP now rarely ever surfaces, and luckily the Drag City crew have planted those four EP cuts along with two extras from the same session in 1979 that are not to be missed. The guitars are tuned to outer space levels, the bass and drums churn and burn with that special something no one can ever seem to replicate, and the vocals are derivative of nothing that came before them either. Pick up a copy of the super low-priced LP for maximum effect, or CD with extra video bonus features, right HERE, and catch up with Alex and Albert Durig as well..
Being into punk music in late 1970s Kentucky must have been a tough road for you guys to endure. What were the earliest punk bands to come through Kentucky that you got to see, and which ones left the best impression on you?
Albert: Nothing tough about it at all. Most of the people in the scene had grown up listening to The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, and the like prior to the existence of Punk. A few people had direct connections to New York and London, and that meant that the scene was always up to speed with what the NY and London scenes where listening to. We listened to The NY Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Ramones, Patti Smith all very early on. Keep in mind that Louisville and particularly the Highlands area where most of the scene was centered was part and parcel of the local University scene and Art School scene. Many of us were the children of professors from around the world. We had people from New York and London in our scene in the mid '70s prior to the full on explosion of Punk in Louisville.
As for early Punk bands that came through town, there weren't any famous ones that I remember, other than The Ramones, who I was fortunate enough to meet quite early on. And because there weren't many bands coming through is probably why we made so much of our own music. However, when the next big scene came about, Hard Core, Louisville had a name and reputation due to its previous Punk scene and then lots of early bands came through including Soul Asylum, Husker Du, Agnostic Front, The Cro-Mags, Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, The Descendents, and many others. But that was all around 1982 through '86, so a bit post-punk era.
Alex: Are you kidding? Louisville was always three years behind every trend and we knew it. Nobody came to Louisville, that’s why we had to make up our own fun. The first punk band in Louisville was No Fun and they were terrific, absolutely the bomb, as good as anybody else.
Prior to starting The Endtables, were there any glam or Alice Cooper/NY Dolls/Slade/Sweet-style pre-punk bands active anywhere in your area that you can recall?
Albert: Not that I recall. However, many of us were into those bands. Being the youngest on the scene it was a bit different for me. I was 13, 14, then 15 and 16 with the Endtables, while the rest of the scene were college age students. So they were quite a bit older and had more history with music than I did. I learned about music from them.
Alex: Nope, all of them were pretty boy glam pussies playing Top 40 in bars and I had thankfully forgotten about them all until you asked the question.
Tell us how the band found each other, and were there any previous bands the member came from? And if so, are there any recordings of these pre-Endtables bands?
Albert: The Endtables was not the first band of its kind in Louisville. The scene began with an amazing band called No Fun which had members that would go on to form Circle X and the Babylon Dance Band another great band of the scene. No Fun did not last long, but The Babylon Dance Band would be essential in giving rise to the scene, and The Endtables first gigs were with Babylon Dance Band and The Blinders. There is a great website with lots of pics and information on the scene and all those great bands, Check it out here.
My memory is that The Endtables was the first real band for each of us. I think that's another reason why it was so special for all of us. My brother had met Steve Rigot via friends like Joe Frey on the very early scene. Steve Rigot then heard about Steven Jan Humphries and the three of us went to his house one late night to check him out. That was a cool and mysterious night. The connection was immediate, as was the music.
Alex: Joe Frey started the Endtables. One day in Karma Records we met up and he said “Hey why don’t we start a band - you’ll have to teach me how to play bass ha ha”. I said “sure”. Then Joe found Steve Rigot across the river in Indiana from an ad he had left on a telephone pole. So we played summer '78 and practiced all summer with like eight friends in the band to play one twenty minute gig. Joe went away to school and we stopped playing. Joe came back on Christmas vacation and told me I had to keep the band together. After searching and searching for a bass player, I finally broke down and “let” my little 15 year old brother play. It turned out to be the icing on the cake.
What possessed you to write a punk song about genital surgery, and how many of you are actually circumcised?
Albert: You'll have to ask Steve Rigot, our singer, who wrote the most amazing and iconic lyrics. Some of are, some of us aren't. That's all I can say. The rest is just the truth of the lyrics. The topic was one people wondered about when engaging in sex, but wouldn't dare talk about, but Steve did, and there you have it. I remember sitting with Steve as he had a bass guitar on his lap like a steel guitar usually sits, and he would play the notes with the thumb of his left hand and pick with his right. And that's how he showed me the notes to the song.
Alex: Rigot wrote all the words, always, to everything. Wrote lots of chord progressions, too but I can’t answer that question as I can only speak for myself. And I thankfully was spared the knife.
Your guitar sound on these recordings is incredible. What were you trying to sound like, and who were your rock'n roll heroes?
Albert: Probably best answered by my brother, Alex Durig who was our guitarist. But I'll tell you what I know from having grown up with and next to him. Alex played a Univox Les Paul copy through a Fender Twin Reverb with four ten inch speakers and turned all the way up. That gave it it's bright over driven sound. Alex also played and recorded all of the songs in the studio with only five strings. His sixth, high E string broke very early on and he never bothered to change it. It became a signature of sorts for him. His favorite guitarists are Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Steve Hillage and Ted Nugent. But as you can hear, Alex created a sound signature all his own. He played with so much rhythm and rock.
Alex: Very kind. Simply put, I was trying to be a combination of Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent from Michigan that did not care about being commercial, how’d I do?
Albert: The Endtables had a wonderful and close friend who was behind getting us into the studio. He helped arrange things. Actually several great friends were involved. We did self distribute and they were gone immediately. I have one original copy today and it's framed in my home. I have a friend that boasts having the only copy with all four autographs from each band member. That was a big deal, because our drummer Steven Jan Humphries refused to sign copies. I don't remember specific reactions per se, other than it was very popular and made itself known all the way up and through the NY and London scenes. We were invited to NY and had disbanded before being able to play there.
Alex: Steve Rigot and Endtables friend Robert Wordell funded the recording and self-distribution amounted to hanging a copy in Karma Records, selling a few at a time, and Steve Jan the drummer zipping by to pick up the money whenever he felt like it. It ultimately led to the break up of the band. I had a love/hate relationship with Steve Jan. He was the only drummer for me, but he stole money from me and disrespected me, that fucking asshole.
Did Endtables ever tour outside of your hometown, and if so, how well did you go over? Did you ever play Chicago?
Albert: We played often in Lexington, Ky and in Cincinatti, Ohio, also in Indianapolis, Indiana. Some of the biggest reactions we ever received were at Lexington gigs. Much of the Louisville scene would go and you had a great Lexington scene and the two combined made for a great big scene and tons of fans and fun. One time we played at a huge open farm where they had tons of kegs of beer. The stage was a flat bed 18 wheel truck, so it was high up from the ground and quite large. We headlined that night and there was a lot of excitement to see us. We opened with what was then our newest song, "White Glove Test" which has a great and dramatic intro. After that the police came out from everywhere, and made a big show of force. Lights, lots of officers and told the promoters the show had to stop. We had just started our set. My brother went over to my amp and turned it up as loud as it would go, as he did with his, as he did with the P.A. system and we then broke into "Break the Bank, Break the Figurine" and the crowd went nuts. That's all we got to play. We immediately had to step down, where a car was waiting for us someone from our local scene had brought around. We got into the car with our guitars, and were escorted out of there, while people were yelling and running all over the place. One of our best shows and it was only two songs long!
Alex: No, we played Lexington KY several times, had too much fun, big college town with a helluva punk scene. Once we played an all-day outdoor festival, we're the last band to go on stage. We had only played a few songs, it’s midnight and the cops arrive, line up 5 cars on the side of the stage, and announce we have to stop the outdoor festival and stop playing, right now. My reaction was to look at Rigot, Steve Jan, and my bro, and yell out “White Glove Test ” and I went right into it. Let me tell you, when you listen to "White Glove Test" and it has that chant building up opening, the crowd went absolutely rushing-the-stage nuts. For one brief shining moment, we all flipped the bird to the man and we got away with it, it was probably the greatest moment of my life.
Check out a rare live video (included on the CD reissue) of The Endtables performing "Break The Bank, Break The Figurine" live at Louisville School of Art, Oct. 20 1979. And be sure to grab The Endtables reissue for a face-frying punk experience you cannot live without