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The Carsinogents
on fire

by tim mcmahan


April 29
The Carsinogents
Bill Hoover and the Short Timers
Grasshopper Takeover
The Music Box
7777 Cass St.


Lazy-i: April 25, 2001












The four guys in The Carsinogents, Omaha's most incendiary, obnoxious, noisy, angry, and overall entertaining rock and roll band, have only one meager wish: to get out on the road and play their music.

They don't want to become another dreadfully schlocky MTV glamband or be slotted on a playlist next to the latest moronic Korn Bizkit hatesong in heavy rotation on your run-of-the-mill, brain-dead FM "rawk" station. Nope. They just want to get on stage -- any stage, anywhere -- and pound out some of their patented knee-busting, horror-movie trash rock.

And maybe light some shit on fire in the process.

Unfortunately, The Carsinogents don't know how they're gonna do it. The band has never booked a tour outside of Omaha and has rarely played beyond the city limits other than a couple dates in Des Moines. Their future outer-Omaha show schedule includes one upcoming Minneapolis gig set up by a fluke meeting with visiting Minneapolan Sean Tillmann of Sean Na Na / Har Mar Superstar fame, who promptly asked them to play at an instore with him this summer in his home town.

Their inability to tour is a bitter irony because there ain't another band in Omaha that puts on a show like these four purveyors of renegade American trash. Don't bother arguing with me unless you've been to a Carsinogents show. Sure, there's bands out there that play louder or longer or have more fans. None of them hold a candle -- or in this case, a torch -- to what The Carsinogents do on stage.




Just start with the props -- flaming Tiki skulls, a keyboard cover shaped like the butt-end of a Chevy complete with smoking exhaust pipe, spinning flaming garbage cans, '60s-era B&W skank movies projected behind the stage and the occasional cloud of flame billowing from drummer Eldon Vampola's mouth. Each show includes an element of danger, especially when they're rocking a full house at a cramped club like The 49'r, where a bouncing onlooker could get slammed in the head with a microphone stand or doused in high-octane alcohol. The props, however, are nothing compared to the band's organ-driven, guitar-chomping trash rock that takes edgy punkabilly and drags it through a mire of porn, sweat, filth and flame. Combine the music and special effects, and you've got yourself an unbeatable -- if not unhealthy -- night of smoke-filled, alcohol-drenched entertainment that does the band's name proud.

Formed in September 1999 out of the wreckage of a number of busted-up local bands, The Carsinogents features Vig Brooks (ex-Glance to the Sequel) on guitar, Handsome Marc (ex-Row 8 Plot 30) on bass, Arizona transplant Eldon Vampola (ex-too many bands to mention) on drums and guitar, and Dave Electro (ex-Full Blown) on organ and lead vocals. No, those are not the band members' real names, but they insisted on using them in spite of the fact that they confusingly went back and forth between their real and made-up "rock and roll" names throughout the interview, often catching themselves in mid-sentence.

"Our first bass player (stand-up bassist Mike Ivers) approached me about playing in a rockabilly band," said Brooks, surrounded by his bandmates kicked back on the porch of Electro's home located in one of the city's seedier neighborhoods renowned for its bustling crack business. "We played a few times with another drummer, then Full Blown ended and Mike said, 'let's add some organ.' Dave came along and practiced. Then we booted out our drummer, and then Troy… I mean Eldon, came to town and that's how it started."

It wasn't long, however, before Ivers' vision of a traditional 1-4-5-chord-progression rockabilly band clashed with everyone else's vision of a punk-fueled, flaming dynamo. "I could tell that Mike didn't like the way the music was going," Brooks said.

"We weren't interested in being in another rockabilly band," Electro said. "Our songs were moving in the direction of trashy rock and roll."


"I never was a big fan of indie rock as a genre. When it came time to record this album, we wanted it to have a '60s flair, to have soul."


"We weren't interested in being in another rockabilly band. Our songs were moving in the direction of trashy rock and roll."


Enter Handsome Marc, who replaced Ivers last summer shortly after Marc's powerhouse hardcore band, Row 8 Plot 30, called it quits. Instead of Ivers' bouncy, stand-up bass licks, Marc brought a new hardcore intensity on standard electric bass.

Unfortunately, the line-up change came in the middle of recording the band's first CD, their self-released 5-song EP that came out just last month and features Ivers on most of the tracks. As a result, the band says the EP doesn't represent their current sound.

"It was difficult recording the CD," Vampola said. "There was a lot of friction, and we don't think the final product really represents us."

Regardless, the band spent eight months scrimping together enough from shows to pay for the CD's pressing. And though the final product doesn't capture the Carsinogents' blistering live vibe, it still has more energy than anything released locally this year and does a fine job of chronicling five of the band's most recognizable songs. As with their live performances, keys to the CD's success are the tight-as-a-tic rhythm section, Brooks' glistening rockabilly/surf guitar, Electro's yell-vocals and his driving, 1969-era Yamaha Electone organ that swaddles everything in a Bee-hived, horror-movie sheen. Engineer Dan Brennan, behind the knobs at Rainbow Recording Studios, did an exemplary job capturing it all on tape.

But the CD still pales compared to the live show. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two formats -- live vs. Memorex, so to speak -- because the band is wholly a different animal when it takes the stage. And like other bands known for their live performances, it may not be possible to capture that unbridled energy in a studio.


Certainly you can't capture the oddball weirdness that comes from the stage itself. "Like us or not, you can't help but watch us," Vampola said of their live show. "Some of the things we do are gimmicks, but people get wrapped up in it and in the emotion of the music."

"The stage show is crazy to watch," Marc said, "but this is the most widely accessible band I've been involved with. I've seen parent-type people right next to young punks getting into it when we're on stage."

Brooks, who came up with the flaming skulls prop, said everyone comes up with ideas for the show, but that it's Electro who ultimately brings them to life. "I'm a pyromaniac," Electro said. "I like the element of danger. It keeps people on their toes."

It keeps the band on its toes, as well. Brooks remembers one show when Electro's pants caught on fire. "Marc had to throw a pitcher or water on Dave to put him out," he said. Venue owners also have been known to be queasy about the fire stunts. For instance, when the band first played at The Ranch Bowl, the management pulled the plug immediately after Vampola began spewing flames at the bowling alley's flammable ceiling. "They shut off the PA, but we kept on playing," Marc said. "I remember hearing this voice in the monitor telling me to stop."

"It's all an act," Electro said. "It's quite timid, really. The Ranch Bowl incident happened on the last song and there wasn't anyone there that night anyway."

"They shut off the PA, but we kept on playing. I remember hearing this voice in the monitor telling me to stop."

"I want to live from hotel to hotel and play as many places as possible. That's my goal, anyway."


On one hand, the band seems to know that they are blessed with special rock and roll powers and the promise to either achieve greatness or long-term incarceration. But try to tag them on when they're actually going to get their show on the road, and they seem skittish, pointing either to a lack of knowledge about setting up tours or the inability to find a booking agent. Regardless, they know that while they might generate a following in Omaha, they'll never realize their goals until they play out of town.

"I would gladly set aside some cash for a booking agent," Marc said. "When you send out e-mails to agents, no one wants to hear you. It sucks. Right now, I'm relying on friends in bands and people coming through the Cog Factory for venue phone numbers."

"Our problem is organizational," Brooks said. "We need someone to say 'Here's where you're playing tonight.'"

"The first chance we get, we're going on tour," Electro said. "I want to live from hotel to hotel and play as many places as possible. That's my goal, anyway."

Check out the band live as part of the April 29 Omaha Weekly Subscription Drive showcase at The Music Box, 7777 Cass St. Joining the Carsinogents will be Bill Hoover and the Short Timers, Oil and Grasshopper Takeover. The $10 admission includes a year's subscription to The Omaha Weekly. Current subscribers get in for $6.

The Carsinogents also will be performing with The Vibrators at The Cog Factory May 1, and with Neva Dinova at The 49'r June 2.

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Published in The Omaha Weekly April 25, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.