The Rodent That Roared

The third and perhaps most important principle is Rat's insistence that women can outrock men because, as puts it, "they can withstand more pain than guys. They can rock all night, man, and it won't even faze them."

To assemble the Laundry Room Squelchers, Rat randomly recruited four women who were regular audience members during weekly Monday night shows at Churchill's. Those four (Lucrecia Diaz, Ivy Guillen, Mindy Hertzon, and Julie Miller) form the heart of the Squelchers, whose regular lineup has since been rounded out by Ari Schantz, the drummer of the now-disbanded Brothers of Different Mothers; Dan Hosker, who also plays guitar with the Holy Terrors; and Steven Toth, a.k.a. Mr. Entertainment, formerly of the One-Eyed Kings. And, of course, Rat Bastard.

"They just liked music, and they didn't know anything about noise music," Rat notes of his female recruits. "So I approached them in my normal drunkenness, and the girls, were like, 'Let's rock!'

"So here are these girls who have never touched an electric guitar, and I would put this guitar over 'em with this incredible tuning on it and full-volume feedback, as loud as it could go. When you have four girls on that stage playing and they're hearing the amp and the power, they've never experienced anything like that. And they're breaking strings and going and going, and I just sat up there and it was like, woof!"

Needless to say, Rat was pleased with the Squelchers' debut. "I'm hearing all these obscure tones and things, and it's all making sense to me. That's why the Squelchers are a cut above Scraping Teeth."

Ah, Scraping Teeth. If there had been an annual yearbook for the South Florida music scene while Teeth was a going concern, the abrasive combo would have been a lock for Band Most Likely to Clear a Room, because that's exactly what they did every time they played.

Aside from taking his detuning public, Rat admits a big part of Scraping Teeth's raison d Which provokes the question: Scraping Teeth was a joke, right? "No, it wasn't a joke," Rat replies. "Scraping Teeth was authentic. They [audiences] didn't understand the music. That was the whole point." Rat is equally serious with the Laundry Room Squelchers.

The unique Squelcher sound has been set down on tape only once, a work recorded live at Churchill's in 1994 that includes the numbers "Speed Queen" and "Do a Load by Hand" (Rat's unplanned-song principle wasn't compromised; sound segments were randomly named after the recording was finished). And don't look for the work at your local record store. As with many of his other projects, Rat made just 30 or so copies and sent them to like-minded music lovers and 'zine contacts around the country.

The Squelchers are hardly the main focus of Rat's attention and energies. He also plays bass in To Live and Shave in L.A., a three-piece that's gained favorable writeups in various 'zines; they recently completed an 8000-mile tour that took them as far as Vancouver. Then there's Esync, the label Rat founded in 1985, which has released 36 albums, seven-inch discs, and compilations covering such acts as Quit, Harry Pussy, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Drive Choir, and King Felix. As a producer and engineer, he's worked on recordings as diverse as the Holy Terrors' power-punk Lolitaville and Brian Franklin's largely acoustic Suburban Hallucinations.

Above all, Rat will tell you, music is his life; a full-time job at Delta Airlines allows him to pursue his passion. "I go out and see bands, mostly," he says. "Sometimes I might not like the music, but I certainly like to hang out with the musicians."

As Rat waxes somewhat rhapsodically about music, the gorgeously melodic flow of the Red House Painters' Ocean Beach CD wafts through his one-bedroom South Beach condominium, where 2000 vinyl records line one wall and more than 600 CDs take up a good chunk of another wall. Rat quiets down momentarily as the lush strains of the Red House Painters' somber "San Geronimo" fills the air. "Real melodic stuff. People are like, 'I thought you were into noise music.' I don't listen to noise music, though I have some great relations [with some of the bands], but there's only a couple. The rest are boring, like everything else."

The Squelchers, Rat asserts, are not a noise band. "I consider them a rock band," he declares. "Noise is just a copout. People say, 'That's noisy,' because they don't want to understand it, they just want to classify everything. It's rock, man."

"When it comes down to it, you sit in front of a Squelchers set, you're going to be extremely affected. [We] do the most nauseating, nastiest, stupidest shit, or we just lock into something amazing. But never mediocrity. Generally, it's like, 'You guys were amazing,' or 'That was the worst shit I ever heard in my life.' And I'll be, 'Yeah, you're right, it was terrible.' But at least I can go home and sleep. I know we made an attempt to do something amazing.

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