BLARING BY THE BAY MacDougall, Jackson, and Ulmschneider. [Photo by Charles Morrison]
Through 10 years, nine albums, and a few medical procedures, there’s no stopping 75orLess Records flagship trio Six Star General, who expertly drudge up more quality rock sludge on their latest record, Hair Supply ($8/CD at 75orlessrecords.com). The album was originally was released in September, then a string of untimely health issues twice delayed a proper album release show. But Mark “Slick” MacDougall (bass/vocals), Kyle Jackson (guitar), and Dan Ulmschneider (drums) are cleared for action and ready to rock, just in time for a 10-year anniversary show (to the date) on February 21 opening for longtime Ohio friends and rock brethren Two Cow Garage.
About those medical woes: drummer Dan Ulmschneider (also of Coma Coma) needed shoulder surgery, then MacDougall was struck with an intestinal illness, and Kyle Jackson followed that up with a hernia diagnosis and subsequent operation, forcing the band to cancel for a second time. MacDougall is well-rested and back on his feet, so we can leave the “Six Star General Hospital” jokes behind (guilty as charged), for the show will go on (fingers crossed).
75orLess label founder MacDougall has kept his eclectic stable of acts (ranging from Mark Cutler to Coma Coma to Allysen Callery) prominently featured on the live circuit over the years, including countless SSG shows at just about every live dive in the state (from Jake’s to the Common Pub).
“Allysen Callery and I joked last year that she was jealous because we can move around while we play, and I was jealous of her because she gets to sit when she plays,” he cracked when we caught up earlier this week.
In the studio, Six Star General continue to keep it fresh on each successive album. MacDougall said he had two goals for the new record: no yelling of vocals (cf. the vicious album opener “Half Flat” from 2009’s Take Your Teeth Out) and no instrumentals (previous albums Six and 2012’s Splinter included a number of stoned-in-outer space jams). The band re-teamed with producer Kraig Jordan, who has worked on the past four SSG releases as well as Kyle Jackson’s 15er solo project.
“This album was a blast to work on,” commended Jordan. “We really took the time to explore what could be done with the songs in terms of textures, recording techniques, and attention spent to vocal sounds.
“I think each Six Star record seems like a musical progression to me, and this one is my favorite that I’ve worked on so far,” he said.
Over the years SSG have incorporated elements of influences Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen (they’re diehard Watt fans), Local H, Hum, and Silkworm (the trio may have also been spinning Galaxie 500’s On Fire in Jordan’s garage prior to recording this one). Hair Supply subtly opens with “Christopher Walken” before Jackson’s guitar detonates the track, then eventually floats away with an all-star choir (including Cutler and Jodie Treolar, who is also working on a solo album) accompanied by Tom Chace on piano. MacDougall said the song “captures the kind of sound we have grown into perfectly.” The mid-air collision of “I Don’t Know Where We’re Going (But I Know That It’s Not Good)” arrives with a big hook in tow, and MacDougall deemed it “perhaps the catchiest song we have recorded.” It’s hard to compete with the one-two blast of “Something Ripped” into “Time Away” from 2008’s Spaceship to Planet Cookie, but Hair Supply hits the ground running with “Trans Am Hands” and “Shaking Fists.”