We Got Our PMA: Bad Brains Back in Rotation

Shirt with "listen to Bad Brains" written on it
I saw the above shirt while shopping with my kids in clothes store here in Trento. While I was surprised for a moment, it quickly turned to endorsing this message. One should listen to the legendary DC punk/reggae outfit the Bad Brains early and often.* So when we needed to setup another shared hosting server as we prepare for the fall, I saw this shirt as a sign it was high time to bring back this pioneering band that while defying genres, brought a whole lot of musical class to the punk rock scene. In fact, along with Black Flag you can argue the Bad Brains helped define the course of hardcore punk over the next decade.

One of our very first institutional servers for the University of Oklahoma was named after this band, but we discovered naming school servers after bands quickly became impractical, especially when schools have multiple servers. So, when we migrated much of our infrastructure to Digital Ocean a bunch of servers with hardcore band names got retired, minutemen, huskerdu, joydivision, ramones, and many more. We’ve been bringing them back into rotation, and given the state of the Union in the USA and a general ban on logic in DC right now, it seemed like an ideal time to honor a band that itself was banned from DC as a result of their raucous positivity.

In fact, the ban on the Bad Brains forced them up to New York City in the early 80s where they infused that scene with a powerful shot in the arm: influencing bands like the Beastie Boys, the Cro-Mags, Reagan Youth, and many more. Being a kid on Long Island in the early 80s and going into Manhattan to see the Bad Brains was formative. The energy on stage was electric, the live show was not unlike the iconic thunderbolt hitting the cupola on their eponymous album Bad Brains.

So, I guess this is as much a PSA to listen to the Bad Brains, as it is an attempt to spread some PMA as we put the Bad Brains back in rotation at Reclaim Hosting.


*I do hope the skateboard company that created the shirt, Element, is giving the band a piece of the action.

Thank God for Mental Illness

While I could talk at length about long travel stints away from home and mental illness, I’ll spare you those details. Rather, the misleading title of this post refers to Reclaim Hosting’s latest shared hosting server named after the 1990s musical collective The Brian Jonestown Massacre.* Ever since watching the 2004 documentary Dig! last year I have been binging on their music, particularly the their early Bloody Valentine-inspired shoe gaze during the early 90s (the album Methodrone is amazing) into their psychedelic 60s exploration in the mid-90s. In fact, in 1996 they self-produced 3 albums that year, all of which I have been listening to non-stop for over a month. And beyond that there is still a ton of music I have yet to hear given they are still recording music with 18 albums and counting. One thing that has struck me listening to their music so far is not just how prolific they are, but also how amazing their musical range is—traversing and experimenting with instruments and genres like few other bands I’ve heard.

Brian Jonestown Massacre (often abbreviated to BJM) is my new obsession, and if naming a Reclaim server after them can get just one other person to explore them than my job is done here. Below are a few excerpts from their Wikipedia article focusing on the 3 albums they recorded in 1996, the third of which (Thank God for Mental Illness) was reportedly recorded for $17.36.† 

Over the next couple of years the band shifted its sound from their more shoegaze, goth, and dream pop influences of the 80’s and 90’s into a 60’s retro-futurist aesthetic. As lineup changes persisted, the band continued to record and in 1996 released three full-length studio albums. The first of these, Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request reflects a pastiche of 1960s psychedelia. The album also includes vast experimentation with a variety of different instrumentation including Indian drones, sitarsMellotronsfarfisasdidgeridoostablascongas, and glockenspiels.[10] The title of the album is a play on words of the Rolling Stones’ 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request.[11]

The band’s second album released in 1996, Take It from the Man!, is rooted heavily in the maximum rhythm and blues aesthetic of the 1960s British Invasion.[12] The album includes the song “Straight Up and Down”, which was later used as theme music for the HBO television drama series Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014), and was engineered by Larry Thrasher of the influential group Psychic TV.

The third and final album released that year was Thank God for Mental Illness, a more stripped-down effort. Since the band did not have a drummer at the time, Newcombe took the opportunity to showcase more of his acoustic songwriting. The album explores more in-depth genres such as country and folk.[13] At the end of the album Newcombe included an entire EP called “Sound of Confusion”, compiled largely from earlier BJM recordings. “Sound of Confusion” features both regular songs and more abstract sound collages.

The cool thing is that this collective (it’s more than a band ? ) has been going strong for almost 30 years, and while the documentary Dig! focuses on the erratic, drug-addled misadventures of the band, in particular the leading man Anton Newcombe (which admittedly makes for fun viewing), there is something to be said for sticking around long enough and continuing to do the work, or make the music as it were. So, our latest server, bjm.recaimhosting.com, is dedicated to all those folks in education who have stuck around and continue to try and make the music despite all the noise, noise, noise. 

*I know there are some who have taken issue with our server names suggesting that when taken out of context they could be considered offensive. All I can say to that is taken out of context most things can be. What’s more, we refuse to give up self-expression in the various cultural touchstones that ground the work we do in exchange for some soulless pursuit of a homogenized business identity.

†See, not all independent music acts are caught up in the music industry game as some (who have left our game) have argued when trying to poke holes in the Indie EdTech analogy floated several years back.

Reclaim’s In on the Kill Taker

In on the Kill Taker Thing

As chance would have it I stumbled across Joe Gross’s book in the 333sound series on Fugazi’s 1993 album In on the Kill Taker. I even got a note from one of the Dischord Records folks, namely Aaron, thanking me for the purchase, which is always nice. Thank you, Aaron!

Dischord Notes

The book is both a look at Fugazi’s remarkable career as the defining independent punk band of the 1990s, especially against the backdrop of these being the years that punk broke. There were many things I enjoyed about the book, Joe Gross is obviously a fan and the book is book a love letter and a chronicling of just how impressive Fugazi’s 15 year run was. I also loved that much of his recent source material is taken from Tumblr blogs, it was kind of like reading a book-length blog post, and I mean that with all due respect. It seems the most appropriate way to capture the DIY spirit that Fugazi, and their broader distribution network of Dischord Records have represented for over 30+ years—talk about a punk rock institution with an ethos. One of the best quotes from the book comes from Steve Albini, who produced the first, abandoned pass at In on the Kill Taker,  from a GQ interview in which he reflects on the impact of  Sonic Youth’s signing with Geffen Records in 1990:

Sonic Youth chose to abandon it [the independent music scene] in order to become a modestly successful mainstream band– as opposed to being a quite successful independent band that could have used their resources and influence to extend that end of the culture. They chose to join the mainstream culture and become a foot soldier for that culture’s encroachment into my neck of the woods by acting as scouts. I thought it was crass and I thought it reflected poorly on them. I still consider them friends and their music has its own integrity, but that kind of behavior– I can’t say that I think it’s not embarrassing for them. I think they should be embarrassed about it.

As Joe Gross points out, Sonic Youth would broker the deal between Geffen and Nirvana, and the rest is kind of 90s music history, the currency around the punk/post-punk scene is at its peak for much of the decade and Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker comes in 1993, what might arguably be a high water mark year for the grunge craze with the release of In Utero and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, both produced, interestingly enough, by Albini. Fugazi’s previous album, Steady Diet of Nothing, received lukewarm reviews being criticized for not capturing the legendary energy of their live performances—in many ways the album for many seemed like an afterthought (though I personally love it). So, in shot, the pressure was on with Kill Taker, and Fugazi did not disappoint—it is a masterpiece of the punk ethos—the band is branching out into new territory, the avant garde elements of their music (which defines their later albums) shines through, and they are even homaging titans of independent art like John Cassavettes and Gena Rowlands—in arguably the best song on an album filled with gems. But read Joe Gross’s take, he van actually talk about music intelligently, unlike me. But for many it is a turning point, a moment where Fugazi doubles down on who they are and what their music is all about, and you gotta love that. In 1993 they play two shows in NYC at Roseland Ballroom that Gross refers to (I think I saw them on the same tour at the Palladium in LA) and they were particularly amazing for an already stellar live act),  but as the story goes after one of these shows Atlantic Records music mogul Ahmet Ertegün met with the band backstage in an attempt to sign them offering as much as $10 million. Joe Gross talks about the episode, but does not mention a dollar figure. The figure comes from album’s Wikipedia page. It’s a big number, and I am not sure if it’s real, but you have to believe they offered them something significant, and Fugazi said no. And with that, the turning point in their career, the showdown with Satan in the desert, a high point for those of us who want to believe that not everyone will sellout when enough cash is put on the table.

They kept control of their music, they controlled the vertical and horizontal of their distribution and press, and they kept a sense of the integrity of “that end of culture” Albini refers to in the above quote. So, Fugazi has the distinct honor of being the first band to have its second Reclaim Hosting server named after them (they already had another we named after them which housed several virtual machines for Domain of One’s Own schools) because 2018 is our double down year on independence in educational technology! Cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-champions!

“If you ask me now what punk is, I would say it’s the free space. It’s a spot where new ideas can be presented without the requirement of profit, which is what largely steers most sorts of creative offerings in our culture.” — Ian MacKaye

Wowee Zowee! A Pavement Server?

The migration email went out yesterday, so it’s official. We are retiring the Unwound shared hosting server after 2 and a half years of faithful service and will be migrating all accounts over to our newest server: Pavement. Sticking with the post-punk music scene of the 1990s, Pavement getting the nod was just a matter of time. Pavement is interesting to me because while they had a modicum of success with the song “Cut Your Hair” off their 1994 Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain album in the early 90s and could have easily signed to a major label, but they remained committed to small, independent record labels and their next album, Wowee Zowee, is considered their most bizarre and experimental. I love this bit from the Wikipedia article about the album framing why that might be:

Rolling Stone speculated that the relative success of their previous album [Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain] (having sold 169,000 copies by this time[citation needed]) was a reason for this album’s eclectic nature; the magazine’s review claimed Pavement were afraid of success. Stephen Malkmus refuted this, saying that while his judgment may have been clouded by excessive marijuana usage, the songs “sounded like hits” to him.[citation needed

As you can tell from the pull-quote above, citations are still needed—so be sure to fact-check this—but I love the idea of Malkmus saying they sounded like hits to him. It’s a brilliant retort, and frames beautifully the ridiculousness of chasing hits for success. That said, Pavement’s performance on The Tonight Show in 94 might be used to counter this argument given they don’t even seem to be trying, but honestly that has always been my experience when seeing them live 🙂

Pavement gets cited as one of the most influential bands of the 90s, and are probably the least popular band to have two albums highlighted in the top 25 of Rolling Stone‘s “100 Best Albums of the 90s.” Chances are most folks have heard of just about every other band on that list save Pavement, and their influence on the alternative music scene of the 21st century is everywhere apparent. But, if you ask were to ask the late Mark E. Smith of The Fall he would say: “it’s just The Fall in 1985, isn’t it? They haven’t got an original idea in their heads.”* But it’s hard agree with Smith given how many awesome songs Pavement laid down, and below are just a few. Previously I would have implored you listen to them in a Pumpkin-free environment, but nothing gold can stay 🙂

And there are many more where those came from should you care to take the leap.

*After reading tone of Mark E. Smith’s final interviews before his death, it is nice to see he lost none of his spunk.

Stay Glued to Your Reclaim Hosting

We setup our second shared hosting server in Europe last week in Digital Ocean’s London-based data center. Originally it was in response to the poor performance we were having with our Kraftwerk server in Frankfurt. As fate would have it, Kraftwerk is running better than ever since we set this new server up, but we are still ready and willing to take any request to be moved off Kraftwerk onto, wait for it …. the Wire server.
Our own correspondent is sorry to tell Of an uneasy time that all is not well On the borders there’s movement In the hills there is trouble From “Reuters”
Named after London’s punk pioneers that were eluded by mainstream success of bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, and The Ramones, but had arguably as great an influence on everything from hardcore to post-punk to alternative music of the 80s, 90s and beyond. Their debut album Pink Flag has become a classic, and to steal a quote from the Wikipedia article:
Steve Huey of AllMusic opined that Pink Flag was “perhaps the most original debut album to come out of the first wave of British punk”
That’s something. It’s worth listening to all 22 songs, the shape and form of the album displays obvious influence on The Minutemen‘s Double Nickels on the Dime. It defies an simple definition of punk, hence its wide influence, and in many ways captures the spirit of musical exploration around the idea of punk before that word morphs into a genre-defining set of characteristics that come to dictate the form in the 1980s. My first exposure to Wire was through Minor Threat’s cover of their song “12XU:” I remember listening to them based on the cover and thinking they’re not punk. That might provide a small, solipsistic sense of how alien they could seem only 8 or 9 years after releasing their debut album. But listening to them 30 years later they’re fresher than ever. So, in honor of timeless British punk, Europe’ second shared hosting server, and the UK’s first,* is named in their honor. Special thanks to Anne-Marie Scott who was willing to help us make sure this one worked by allowing us to migrate her sites before the announcement, and we can confirm no blog posts were lost during the transfer ?
*Might be worth noting this is not our first server in Digital Ocean’s London data center, we also host Coventry University’s instance of Domain of One’s Own through this data center, but given that is not a shared hosting server it is fair to say Wire is the UK’s first shared hosting server.

Sebadoh: Smash Your Head on the Reclaim Rock

In addition to our first shared hosting server in Canada, we are also thrilled to announce a new shared hosting server in Digital Ocean’s San Francisco-based data center called Sebadoh, in honor of the band formed thanks to Lou Barlow’s frustration with J. Mascis‘s creative control over Dinosaur Jr. We already have a server named in honor of Dino, so Lou Barlow may very well be the first musician that is part of two bands Reclaim has named servers after—though I may need to be fact-checked on that one.

Sebadoh is associated with the 1990s lo-fi scene, often associated with Pavement and Guided by Voices, amongst others. I was first exposed to Sebadoh as an undergraduate in Los Angeles in the early 90s with their compilation album Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. Songs like “Brand New Love” and “Vampire” highlight the best of post-punks EMO roots:

But the album I remember most fondly is their 1994 release Bakesale. It seemed to play endlessly on the portable, battery-driven CD player in my girlfriend’s insurance-less, beat-up Toyota (or was it a Honda?) while driving the endless boulevards of Los Angeles. It’s definitely my favorite, I mean how can you beat lyrics like “I need the Dramamine To be as crazy as your scene” 

So, here’s to the spirit of 90s lo-fi at Reclaim Hosting as we gear up for 2018.

Reclaim’s D.O.A. in Canada

Reclaim Hosting is happy to announce a new shared hosting server in a Digital Ocean’s Toronto-based data center. And while the Toronto data center has been around since 2015, it just got block storage in September.We named this server after the pioneer political Canadian hardcore punk band D.O.A. With their first two albums Something Better Change (1980) and Hardcore ’81 (1981) you have arguably the earliest examples of the new punk style that would dominate the 1980s. Political anthems like “Smash the State” provide a good example of this:

Or “F**cked Up Ronnie” as an early instance of 1980s punks sonic war on Reagan:

In fact, the song has been updated for the times:

It’s pretty telling to hear both Henry Rollins and Keith Morris talk about the impact D.O.A. had on the emerging hardcore scene.

I love Morris’s description of seeing D.O.A. open up for X in LA.

So, it seems only fitting to christen Canada’s first Reclaim Hosting server as D.O.A. If any one would like us to move their sites to this new server for whatever reason just submit a support request and we’ll be sure to make it so.

Reclaiming Europe with Kraftwerk Server

Concert in Zürich, 1976. The photo comes from the collection of Kraftwerk photos made by Ueli Frey.

Last week our newest server went live in Frankfurt, Germany. This is our first shared hosting server in Europe, and we were able to do it thanks to the fact that Digital Ocean has block storage available in their Frankfurt datacenter. We named the server after Germany’s electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk. And if you are new to this band, the song “Computer Love” off their 1981 album Computer World could double as the soundtrack to the story of how computers have re-defined our society over the last 3 decades since its release.

The Kraftwerk server was spun up on the heels of the Devo server  last month given how quickly the spudboy server was filling up. What’s more, we have been pushing to move our older shared hosting infrastructure to Digital Ocean, which means we needed to spread the now retired Hotrods server across both Devo and Kraftwerk. The Hotrods migration was finished up last week, and Kraftwerk is fully operational with over 300 accounts.

We figured this might also be a good time to offer anyone living in Europe (or elsewhere outside the U.S.) the option to be transferred to this server. If this is something that interests you just fill out the migration form and be sure to specify you want to move your existing account on Reclaim to the Kraftwerk server.

And for more Kraftwerk goodness, check on this BBC interview with the robots themselves:

We’re All Devo

The name Devo comes “from their concept of ‘de-evolution‘ — the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society.”[9] Devo’s Wikipedia article

Devo’s theories of evolution have never seemed more relevant, so the latest Reclaim Hosting server is named in honor of the early 70s video/music pioneers who brought an entrenched, surreal social satire to their work. One of their unique contributions was their elaborate and trippy music videos with recurring characters such as Booji Boy and General Boy, music video narratives that prefigured MTV. Interestingly, Devo was formed in response to the Kent State shootings in 1970-where several of the band members went to school-and were conceptualized as a satirical attack on the militaristic, consumer-driven logic of contemporary U.S. culture. With their mainstream success with “Whip It” (1980), they also became representative of pop New Wave for a entire generation of kids heading into the 80s (myself included).

Yet, despite their early critiques of consumer culture, Devo was not beyond shilling for Pioneer’s Laserdisc technology in the early 80s. Their craziest work shows up in the 1984 video compilation We’re All Devo, featuring their music videos from 1976 – 1983, much of which is re-released ten years later in another compilation of their videos from 1976-1990: The Complete Truth about De-Evolution (1993). Both came out on VHS and Laserdisc, the latter work using their Pioneer promotional clips as an organizing principal. While effectively goofing on their own willingness to shill, the blurry line between a sustained critique on pop culture and indulging it always made their later work oddly uncomfortable.*

That said, Devo’s concept art-as-entertainment approach to their music and videos (I own the Laserdiscs and they are a prized possession) puts them in that interesting category of musicians who are just as much performance/concept artists. Sharing as much with bands like The Residents as  Flock of Seagulls ? But unlike most of the New Wave decadents, the Akron, Ohio spud boys introduced a brave new philosophy of a changing world order premised on de-evolution. A theory we might do well to consider in some depth presently.

*I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it was hard to stomach the hypocrisy of a band constantly complaining about corporate music shilling for Disney during the mid oughts. But sadly it seems if just about any band stays around long enough they will eventually cannibalize their catalog for profit—it’s Devo in action ?


We’re Just a Minor Threat

The semester is well under way now, and the deluge of support over the last two days has been ample evidence of that. But we added a bit to our plates this months when we decided to decommission two shared hosting servers, namely Ramones (which has been going strong for over 3 years!) and Saints. We’ve been slowly migrating our infrastructure from Reliable Site over to Digital Ocean, and this month saw our first two shared hosting servers on Digital Ocean.* Once they were up and running smoothly, we decided to migrate all remaining accounts on Ramones and Saints over. That’s now done, and while these moves always require some clean-up post facto, everything’s over cleanly and all of our servers are now less than 3 years old.

The two new shared hosting servers we’re running on Digital Ocean have been named in honor of two ground breaking punk bands from the 80s: Minor Threat and L7. We were a bit hesitant to name a web server “minorthreat” given it might be immediately flagged as….well, a threat, so we opted to name it after their groundbreaking 1983 Straight Edge hardcore album Out of Step. This server is also dedicated to Peter Rowan who has been regularly hounding Reclaim about out glaring oversight of memorializing Minor Threat’s contributions to hardcore punk in the form of a shared hosting server. I couldn’t agree with him more. In fact, Ian MacKaye’s career between Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Dischord Records may be the most impressive of just about any punk rock figure. And all the while he embodied a vocal insistence on DIY, affordable shows, all ages access, experimentation, and a socially responsible ethos. He has walked the walk his entire career, and this short-lived band galvanized an entire sub-genre of punk that I grew up with in NYC. Straight Edge hardcore bands like Youth of Today, Judge, Uniform Choice, Gorilla Biscuits, Slapshot and many more all owe some debt to Minor Threat. And while MacKaye has always been ambivalent about the idea of straight edge as a doctrine or a movement, there is no question Minor Threat articulated the vision quite early with songs like “Out of Step,” “Straight Edge,” and “Bottled Violence.”  So, if you find yourself on the Outofstep server, draw a big black X on your hand and refrain from all sex, drugs, and rock and roll ?

Image Credit: Click link for Sober Revolution article where this image was found

The second new shared hosting server is another ground breaking 80s punk band L7. Their in-your-face punk rock coupled with an aggressive attack on patriarchy made them a pre-cursor and influence for riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Huggy Bear to name a few. L7 songs like Shitlist, Shove, Wargasm, and Andres epitomize their hard, grinding style that helped define grunge rock in the early 90s. At the same time their songs were irreverent and their shows often filled with controversial surprises. The band formed Rock for Choice in 1991 to help support the Pro-Choice movement. Their songs are as fun and raucous as they are serious and political, a hard balance to master. That said, L7 is not for squares…get it? L7, squares….

So, that’s our two latest servers, and they are filling up fast, so we have a third in the works. It’s good to be a Reclaimer, just don’t make our shit list!

*We have finally been able to setup shared hosting on Digital Ocean thanks to the relatively recent addition of block storage.