Last Crack

by Rökker
November 2002

Last Crack is back! on cover of Maximum Ink for Rokker's Birthday, November 2002 - photo by Rökker

Last Crack is back! on cover of Maximum Ink for Rokker's Birthday, November 2002
photo by Rökker

It started just like any other local hard-rock band. A couple of guys from an unheard-of band hooked up with some other guys in another unheard-of band through a billboard at a local music store. They had a practice space, a PA, a following (well, plenty of friends), two guitar wiz’s, a dynamite rhythm section… what they needed was a singer. So back to the billboard they went, in search of a vocalist that could compliment their intricate rhythms, blend with their mysterious melodies and cut in through the intense guitar solos of a metal band.

And there it was, a poster for an available singer. It was Buddo, of the Snotrockets. They ripped all of the tags from the poster and went home to call him. It was the summer of 1987.

Buddo showed up to the storage facility in McFarland that was the band’s rehearsal space. “I’m Paul” proclaims guitarist Paul Schluter. “ahh… Pablo” replied Buddo. “I’m Todd,” says bassist Todd Winger. “Toddereno,” remarked Buddo. “Phil ,” mutters original drummer Phil Buerstatte. “Philo,” again replied Buddo. Somehow, guitarist Don Bakken remained “Don,” but together they would become Last Crack.

From the beginning, Last Crack practices were like mini-concerts. Friends would show up to party while the band honed their sound and crafted their songs. For Buddo , the writing was on the wall. Literally. He wrote all kinds of poetry and quotes all over the walls of the storage unit, which would become known as the “Sinister Funkhouse #17,” with a Sharpee marker.

Like any band, a demo recording was next. Remember, in 1988, there was no such thing as a CD, just demo tapes. The band went to the local studio, Randy’s Recording, and hired studio owner Randy Green to produce the tape that would contain the songs “The Last Crack,” “Concrete Slaughterdogs,” “Shelter,” and “Saraboyscage.” The tape was a hit at local parties and bars.

One day, at a party, Pablo popped in the tape. A party-goer complimented his band and told him that he knew “a seventeen year old kid who ran a fanzine in Minneapolis, and spoke to record labels all the time,” and if he gave him a tape, he’d pass it on. Unbelievably, the guy was serious. That seventeen year-old kid was Jake Wisely, who would eventually create the hip indie record label, Red Decibel. Jake loved the band and sent the tapes to Roadracer/Roadrunner records. Roadracer/Roadrunner listened to the tapes and were impressed by the songs and the sound. The company ordered the band back into the studio to record a few more songs, “Terse” and “Octopus,” the latter an instrumental that was never released. Upon hearing the new songs, Roadracer’s A&R rep flew out to Madison to see the band play live at Bunky’s, a now-defunct Madison nightclub. The next thing the group new, they were signed to a record deal every band’s dream.

By 1989, a little over a year after the band was created, Last Crack released their first album, Sinister Funkhouse #17. They had since moved to Minneapolis to be in the “big city” scene and recorded the album with Randy Green at Prince’s Paisley Park studios. The album was recorded, but what would be the cover? At the end of a scheduled photo shoot, Buddo convinced the photographer to hang around for another shoot. He had an idea that he thought “might get used for something,” but if not, he’d have explored his mind’s imagery. In front of a canvas spattered with red paint to represent blood, Buddo posed nude in a variety of poses that were borderline vaudeville.

It was late fall, 1988 and Buddo was at home with his family for Thanksgiving. The record label had a deadline and tracked down his parent’s phone number. Monte, Roadrunner’s label rep, was on the line and excited, “you know, that archery position shot, I love it, it’s the cover. Let’s run with it, we have a deadline, it looks great!” Buddo thought a minute and said, “Well, if it’s meant to be, so be it, okay.”

So there it was, Buddo, completely naked on the front cover of Last Crack’s first album, striking an archer-like pose, a very bold image. The rest of the guys were speechless at the time. They had heard a few things regarding the cover art, but really had no idea what it would be. It put the band on the map. The controversial cover, band pictures and interviews were in scores of magazines. Last Crack was all the buzz. The label didn’t offer any tour support, so the band roughed it out, remained based in Minneapolis and still sold thousands of units.

To prepare for a trip to Los Angeles to record their sophomore album, Last Crack relocated back to Madison. The record label hired a top-notch recording studio and a recent Rolling Stone Producer Of The Year producer named Dave Jerden. Jerden was fresh off working with Alice In Chains on their “Facelift” album and was already credited with Jane’s Addiction, Rolling Stones, Kiss, Anthrax and a laundry list of other artists. Along on the project would be newcomer Bryan Carlstrom, who also has a laundry list of artists he’s worked with since. But Last Crack would be one of their first projects together.

Burning Time took six weeks to record at LA’s Eldorado Studios and was released in the summer of 1991. It took critics by storm. Every music magazine around was reviewing their album or interviewing Buddo. The label sent the band out on a stint of smaller U.S. tours mixed with a European tour, even playing a show along with an up-and-coming group called Nirvana. After Europe they returned to the U.S. for more tours through the east coast, Texas and Florida, where glam-rocker Marilyn Manson opened a show.

But all was not well in Camelot. A concoction of circumstances would deal a new hand to the rising stars. Tension between the band members was fueled by the actions of their bi-lateral management team, who pitted band against singer. One manager began touting Buddo’s solo career while the other manager encouraged the band to move on. Furthermore, the record contract had no options and the record label paired the band on tours with metal acts like Amored Saint and Wrathchild America rather than the rising bands of the time like Alice In Chains , Nirvana and Soundgarden.

The rock ‘n’ roll dream had come to an end. Four weeks into a six-week U.S. tour, three months after the release of the critically acclaimed Burning Time, the band broke up. They finished up their tour, had a farewell show at the R&R Station in Madison, and that was it. Fans from Sweden to Madison had more questions than answers.

Buddo would go on to sing with White Fear Chain and Mind Ox while Philo teamed up with White Zombie for a brief stint. Pablo, Reno and Don teamed up to form Last Crack 2.0 with singer Shawn Anthony Brown. With the services of a few drummers, they put out the band’s third CD, Runheadstartscreaming. None of those ventures ever panned out and eventually Don, Pablo, Buddo and Reno teamed up with local drummer Jeff Grieshammer to form the popular Magic 7. Even Magic 7 was doomed to fate as members shuffled in and out until the band drifted into other units such as Muzzy Luctin, Donny Bakken Band (Bliss), She Might Have A Gun (in which Buddo played Drums), and probably a few other spinoffs long forgotten.

Much was said about Last Crack. They had found the Holy Grail, yet gave it up. They had everything, yet in the end had nothing, boasting integrity and honor before becoming slaves to the machine.

Enter the year 2002. Last Crack 2.0 did a reunion show at the Atwood Summerfest and attracted a huge audience of Crackheads, the Black Bear was alive and well! At that time, Buddo was just getting back from a year of teaching English in Japan. Japan was a way to get some space between himself and the holes in his life. It was an opportunity to be away from Madison, to be away from the Last Crack legacy he’d created more than a decade previous. Prior to his departure from Japan, he wondered if Madison would be where he would settle. He was hungry to jam. Other markets might have more to offer him as a musician. The day Buddo came back, he saw a copy of Maximum Ink hanging around with the words ” Last Crack” on the cover, referring to the LC 2.0 coverage. Knowing nothing of the Atwood Summerfest, he wondered how old the paper was. Upon locating the date, he realized it’s immediate relevance. Soon after, Buddo was contacted by the band, who had heard he was back. Not long after, a “Buddo” reunion tour of Last Crack was in the planning stages.

When asked about his reunion with the band, Buddo was very candid. He spoke of the past wrongs he’d committed. He spoke on the breaking up of the band, and that this was an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. He said he couldn’t run from it, he had to go through it.

Currently, Last Crack is in the rehearsal studio for their upcoming shows in Madison and Milwaukee in November (see ad). They’ll be performing songs from their two albums, “Sinister Funkhouse #17” and “Burning Time.” Longtime Last Crack friend, Ski, will be doing his best Philo impersonation, and it is quite impressive in Philo ‘s absence. If we’re lucky, we’ll get one of the new songs they’re working on. So let’s celebrate with the faithful… and agitate the non-believers…Last Crack is back!

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Last Crack
CD: Burning Funkhouse Live Record Label: Rökker
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