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After Dark, 2004, photo by Martin Cimek

After Dark: Patrick Buchanan Talks About Life After Mousetrap

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: March 3, 2004



After Dark (featuring Patrick Buchanan of Mousetrap)
w/The Lepers
Saturday, March 6
The 49'r
49th & Dodge St.


"To this day, I can't listen to our records because they bring up too many memories, most of them bad."

The person with the bad memories is Patrick Buchanan, former lead singer/guitarist of seminal '90s Omaha punk act Mousetrap, a band that helped lay the foundation for today's nationally known Omaha music scene.

An audacious statement? Not when you consider that almost every local band that I've interviewed over the past five years -- whether they play punk, hard rock or even singer-songwriter fare -- has name-checked Mousetrap as an influence. So it's disheartening to hear that the band's leader can no longer listen to the music that touched a generation.

"I think about too much when I hear it," Buchanan said from his new hometown of Chicago. "I don't even own copies of any of the Mousetrap records. I gave them away. It's another reason why Mousetrap broke up -- the psychic weight of events just got too much to deal with."

 

Turn back the clock to the early '90s. Punk bands were flourishing in the Omaha/Lincoln music scene, touring the country and recording for national indie labels. Among the highest profile bands were Ritual Device, Mercy Rule, Frontier Trust, and a trio of Omaha kids who cited influences as diverse as Mission of Burma, Gang of Four, Joni Mitchell and Prince, though they sounded nothing like any of them. They were called Mousetrap.

Consisting of Buchanan, drummer Scott Miller and bassist Craig Crawford, Mousetrap recorded a couple 7-inch singles released by local label One Hour Records before cutting a deal with fledgling indie label Grass Records, who released their debut full-length, Cerebral Revolver, in 1993.

The CD was a collection of blistering, dissonant, brutal punk songs that bordered on experimental, with lyrics that painted violent portraits of relationships gone wrong. "Have Fun in Hell," for instance, opened with the catchy line "Hey baby, well guess what? / Last night you died in my dreams / And even when you kicked off / Your mouth was still wide open." It was the sort of music that could be embraced by your average disassociated punk rock kid. Live, Mousetrap's style was sneering and abrasive, angry and over-the-top. A typical show at The Capitol Bar or Howard Street Tavern featured Buchanan flailing over a loosely slung guitar, spitting into the audience between broken-voice screeches, sweat spraying off his mop of jet-black hair.

Cerebral Revolver would be followed in '94 by Lover, another collection of dark though slightly more tuneful noise-punk -- some tracks even featured Buchanan singing in falsetto. The Dead Air Sound System, released in '95, would be the band's last record.

Through its four years, Mousetrap would go on numerous Midwest and East Cost tours trying to break into a burgeoning national post-grunge scene. At the same time, they continued to play at local halls, all-ages clubs and bars, playing to the impressionable young ears of what would become today's generation of Omaha indie bands. But despite their constant efforts, the band's sound never caught on and by 1996, Mousetrap disappeared.

The beginning of their vanishing act was a move to Chicago. By then, Scott Miller already had left the band, replaced by drummer Mike Hogan, who would eventually be replaced by drummer Duncan Black before the band broke up for good.

"It didn't break up because we didn't want to play our music," Buchanan said. "I can't speak for the other guys, but I was in a bad space at that point. There's a whole emotional commitment you have to make, almost like a marriage. It was too much to handle after awhile, especially with the things that had already happened to us as a band."

Buchanan said there was a sense of frustration at their inability to break into the next level. "I feel like we never really got any of the success that we should have had while we were together," he said. "I feel a little -- not really bitter -- I just wish it wasn't so hard to be successful. I know that we never really had the greatest work ethic in terms of dealing with people in the business."

Buchanan's move to Chicago also impacted his priorities. "A lot of things became tougher," he said. "I was just trying to make a living. I wasn't thinking about anything but paying the rent. I would have felt defeated if I would have had to move back to Omaha."


 

 

 

 

 

 


Mousetrap on the cover of The Note, August 1994


"The psychic weight of events just got too much to deal with."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mousetrap band photo from Cerebral Revolver.

 
"You might think you made some good records, but you never know if you're creating anything important. I guess we did."

 

 

After Mousetrap, Buchanan played in a series of bands beginning with The Hot Serpents in 1997. That was followed by a stint as drummer in The Reports, then as bassist in a '70s punk revival band called Grand Theft Auto that played local gigs in the Chicago area through the last two years of the '90s. The band eventually evolved into Hustler, featuring Buchanan on guitar and lead vocals. Hustler survived for three years while Buchanan formed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile -- or ICBM -- with former Mousetrap drummer Duncan Black.

"ICBM played weird music, electronic but still very noisy," Buchanan said. "I played guitar and we had two keyboard players. It was a keyboard freakout, like Gary Numan gone psychotic."

ICBM went on tour in 2000 with the relatively unknown Omaha band The Faint, playing a series of house shows and small venues that Buchanan called "the funnest tour I've been on." Regardless, ICBM broke up shortly afterward when Black moved back to Dallas. Next was The Lust, a band with two bass players (including Buchanan), keyboards, drums and no guitar. "That band is still together right now, but we haven't played in a long time."

Which brings us to After Dark, the new four-piece featuring Buchanan on guitar and vocals, Jamie Ayukawa on keyboards, Keith Styles on guitar and Mick Romeo on drums -- all veterans of other Buchanan bands.

"It's a more sensual kind of band," Buchanan said. "I think the music is sexy in a twisted sort of way. It's almost soul music and I'm actually singing (versus screaming), which is a first. I'm almost crooning like Frank Sinatra."

Buchanan said After Dark's sound is influenced by German cabaret, soul and classical music. "It's kind of a natural evolution," he said. "I wanted to explore the darker side of life in a way that wasn't so obvious. It's dark music with film noir elements. We've got a death vibe going. There's a lot of Birthday Party in it and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds."

And though the band has only been together for a month, Buchanan said After Dark is "without a doubt the best music that I've made since Mousetrap. It just feels like there's magic when we play together, the same way it did when Mousetrap was really on."

Saturday night's show at The 49'r will be the first time After Dark has played in front of an audience. "I'm really happy that our first show will be in Omaha," Buchanan said. "It's where it all began for me."

It won't, however, be the first time Buchanan's been back in town since his Mousetrap days. The Hot Serpents, ICBM and The Lust all played gigs in Omaha, and he's returned numerous times to visit his father, artist Sidney Buchanan.

So is there a chance that Mousetrap will ever get back together? Not likely. Buchanan said he heard Crawford still lived in Chicago, while Miller had moved to California, then returned to Omaha. He's not sure where either is now; he hasn't talked to them in years. "I'd love to get in touch with them again," he said. "I feel bad because we don't talk anymore. Everything got a little too heavy."

He's surprised and flattered, he said, whenever he hears that the current crop of Omaha indie bands remember his old band. "Other than the music, the thing that I'm most proud of is that we sort of led by example," he said. "We helped show that you can go on tour and put out records and still be from Omaha.

"You never really realize that you're making history until a lot of time has passed," he added. "You might think you made some good records, but you never know if you're creating anything important. I guess we did. Maybe in 10 or 15 years I'll be able to listen to them again."


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Published in The Omaha Reader March 3, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. After Dark photo by Martin Cimek, used by permission. All rights reserved.