BY DAVID R. STAMPONE WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT Many folks here in the 215 have closely followed the career of one John Reis, even if said guy is as essentially San Diegan as voted-in-Tuesday Baseball Hall of Famer Tony “Mr. Padre” Gwynn. His groups have always been well-received in the Delaware Valley (as is his weekly free-form radio show “The Swami Sound System,” heard online at www.fm949sd.com starting 1 am every Sunday). And, actually, two of his biggest bands each had a Philadelphia story.
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Hot Snakes began as an SD/Philly two-dudes-in-two-cities project, with Reis rocking guitar/bass and former Delta 72/Burning Brides drummer Jason Kourkounis putting down beats. (Later, the now NYC-based Rick Farr — prior Reis cohort in the earlier 90s Drive Like Jehu and the late-80s vintage Pitchfork — was brought in for vocals and more guitar, and Beehive and the Barracudas broheim Gar Wood assumed bass duties.) Before Kourkounis departed after the second album, the most common HS press photo showed the quartet “backstage” (upstairs) at the Khyber.
Rocket From the Crypt (1990-2005) briefly had Philly area product and well-travelled trapsman Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Marah, etc.) before being replaced by final drummer Mario Rubalcaba (who also replaced Kourkounis in Hot Snakes). In November 2005, Wurster was at the Bigger Lovers finale at Indre Studios in South Philly five days after attending Rocket’s concluding gig in SD. “Two final shows from two bands in the same week, true,” he confirmed. “The Rocket show was a blast ? I wound up guesting on tambourine for a few songs, people there probably wondering who the hell I was and how I fit in …”
After that last Halloween RFTC gig, there was just one John Reis band left standing. The Hot Snakes had finished up in August 2005 following a strong three-studio-album run and successful international touring. That left the Sultans, the trio Reis started as a singer-bassist in the late 90s. (The line-up later shifted for their second album, with Reis on guitar and vocals, his little brother Dean on bass, and new drummer, yes, Mario Rubalcaba.) As the current Wikipedia entry puts it, “Of Reis’ many musical projects, the Sultans are the only band still considered active.”
That needs to change after the Sultans’ farewell set this past Wednesday night in a benefit for Fourth Project Entertainment, a film and graphic design concern run by longtime San Diego music scene fixture Marc Gariss, burnt out of his office by fire there in December. Reis fans worldwide groaned at word of the Sultans’ “last show ever!” and expressed concern over possible damage to footage Gariss was using to make commercial DVDs of Rocket’s last show and a Hot Snakes retrospective. Reis assured all on his Swami Records messageboard that the DVDs would be forthcoming, and as for the Sultans:
“[We’ve] been on permanent hiatus ever since the last time we played. Mario and his wife had a baby and … my wife and I had one too. ? I am no longer interested in playing in different bands and spreading my efforts thinly. … I came to the realization that I needed to slam the door shut with an intention of permanence so a new musical identity would have room to germinate.”
Shortly thereafter “Slasher” John himself checked in with this writer to e-volley from his end on some Q & A:
PHAWKER: First of all, timely priorities — Reis’s thoughts on the NFL playoff situation, including predictions that pit his Chargers against our Eagles in the Super Bowl (Terry Bradshaw recently on the Tonight Show) or a San Diego vs. New Orleans title game that would see former SD high schooler/Saints rookie back Reggie Bush and N.O. quarterback Drew Brees (runner-up as both 2006 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and MVP) line up against Brees’ old team featuring this season’s MVP LaDainian “LT” Tomlinson and first-year starting Charger QB Philip Rivers…
JOHN REIS: Eagles. Shit. When will you die? They look better than ever. If the D holds up, they are scary. Anything can happen and unfortunately for teams with great records and a history of underachievement (SD), it usually does. LaDainian Tomlinson is more than worthy of all the accolades. Violent ballet. Reggie has had a great rookie season. He needs to stop running backwards though. You can’t compare them until Bush gets more years under his belt BUT I do not see him ever running with the ball or receiving it or blocking or throwing the ball as well as LT. Although Reggie’s legs are there, I don’t see the power developing. Rivers is unraveling. He has got to get his shit together. The Chargers are better with Rivers but Brees plays a better head game. Rivers needs more time for that to come. Unfortunately, it kinda feels like now or never.
PHAWKER: More Sultans trackage?
JOHN REIS: There are no plans at this moment to record anything although there are about 7 or so songs that have yet to be captured on tape.
PHAWKER: More in the pipeline from Swami Records?
JOHN REIS: Yes, lots more to come in 2007: CPC Gangbangs, Shady Lady, RFTC All Systems Go 3, RFTC the “Drag Racist Sessions,” Hot Snakes live DVD and CD, The Night Marchers debut …
PHAWKER: Still gonna do your radio show?
JOHN REIS: Although it’s only a 3-hour commitment a week, it’s probably been the only thing keeping me musically sane this past year. Without a ‘band,’ so to speak, I have been flailing. This brief weekly love affair with my records has made me lots of new friends and is keeping me connected to the black oily underbelly of this Navy town.
PHAWKER: Musicianly designs?
JOHN REIS: I still wanna take over the world with my archaic rock n roll sounds, so I am gonna try and do that again. Right now I am stockpiling guitar noise. Hopefully I can get together something soon so I can return back to the stages of the lounges and niteclubs.”