The Rust & Smuts were a Missoula Montana band caught between the prog and punk eras of music. Their story began in 1972 when Darrell Harvey, Brad Walseth and Mark Gish met through DeMolay (“The Order” of the junior Masons) while at Sentinel High School. Born in the late 50s, they were immersed in everything from the Beatles through Zep and Yes, swapping albums and turning each other on to new bands.
They first jammed as The DeMolay Quintet – and were shamelessly awful. Darrell learned flute, played guitar in the school jazz band, arranged Yes’ “Roundabout” for the marching band, and began writing songs with singer & lyricist Steve Johnson. Brad joined Black Lace with future Smuts drummer Bill Hoffman.
Darrell, Brad, Mark and Bill lived together in various configurations after high school. They included jams that often caused trouble with the neighbors and police. Originally “The 10th Street Hot Club”, they became “The Rust & Smuts” when Brad discovered the nomenclature in a microbiology book.
As one of the original “jam bands,” they invited any musician who could play. The first official Rust & Smuts recordings began as jams on the empty Wilma theater stage in 1980. Saxophonist Dave Meyer worked there and had stage privileges, and invited his roommate Brad and friends Mark, Darrell and Bill. These improvisations, recorded on cheap cassettes (along with some 4-track originals) became their first (cassette only) release, “The Rust &
Smuts” (October 1980) in glorious mono.
TO PLACES UNKNOWN
The following year, influenced by Byrne & Eno’s “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” and the Talking Head’s “Remain in Light”, they recorded “Rust & Smuts ’81” (April 1981) which featured tape loops, ‘found’ voices, analog synthesizers (recorded at the U of M courtesy of Brad & Mark) and percussion tracks performed with friends. Darrell also started the cover band “The Fez” with Bill Hoffman, guitarist Jim Chilcote, bassist Joe Crepeau, and (eventually) singer Steve Pickel.
In October 1981, Darrell, Brad, Bill and Steve Pickel moved into a large house on Wolf St. on the north side of Missoula which was dubbed The Wolf House. With Darrell leading Fez rehearsals during the days and recording the Smuts at night on his Tascam Series 70 4-Track recorder (and NO effects processors), much music was documented. The Smuts were exploring polyrhythms and flirting with polytonality.
The Rust & Smuts recorded on weekday evenings, after Mark (vocal major) and Brad were done with school. Group improvisations were overdubbed on. Melodies and lyrics were often added. The results were heard on “Toxic Smut” (Dec 1981), the first coherent recording from the band. It was quickly followed by the double length “Unstable” (Feb 1982) a kaleidoscopic epic that runs the gamut from free form jams, to experimental interludes, to fully-produced originals – and a few songs from Darrell and Steve Johnson. Unfortunately, the title proved prophetic.
SECRET SOCIETY DANCE
The productive five month Wolf House era came to a close. A goodbye gig was recorded at Lukes on March 10 1982 (the day the planets aligned), setting a bar record for band beers consumed. Richard “Digital Dick” McIntosh of The Bop A Dips played second keyboard, and his brother Dave of ESP recorded it for posterity.
Bill Hoffman (under family pressure) joined the Air Force. Darrell returned to his San Diego hometown to engineer in the studio for jingles, library music, the film “The Usual Suspects” and Blink 182’s “Enema Of The State.”
Brad & Mark continued the Rust & Smuts with Richard McIntosh and drummer Terry Carter, and recorded the EP “Entertainment Tonight” (June 1982). They also recorded several tracks the following year that were not released, including the epic “Eye of Asia”. Brad also went on to play in Violation, The Rebates, Anorexia, The Wheeler Creek Band, in the notorious Ernst Ernst and with Greek guitarist John Gamuranes. A gig in downtown with Gamuranes was billed as Orchestra of Fear, but became live Smuts when he backed out. The set was well-received and made front page of the Missoulian.
EYE OF ASIA
Brad and Mark’s progress inspired Darrell to visit Missoula for a week and track “Screaming” (May 1984) on Richard McIntoshes’ 8-track with drummer Terry Vermillion. The band improvisations had vanished in favor of structured songs. Darrell transferred the tapes in San Diego to 24-track with Rex Baca to overdub and mix. Darrell also subsequently assembled the Rust & Smuts archival compilations “1980-1983” (1985) and “Raritage” (1986).
SCREAMING UNDER MY SKIN
THE CLICKING STONES
The idea of yet another Rust & Smuts project was floated between Brad, Mark and Darrell. With lengthy long distance songwriting collaborations starting in 1988, two trips for Brad & Mark to San Diego, and even more overdubbing, eventually the Smuts created the song oriented “Turn Off The Sun” (1992). Featuring guitar from Rex Baca and session drummer Brad Kaiser, it was to be the Smuts’ swan song, going out with the most sophisticated production, and the most nuanced of Brad Walseth’s lyrics.
I DON’T SAY I’M SORRY ANYMORE
THIS REIGN WILL FALL
Despondent over the lack of success of “Turn Off The Sun” and horrified by the rise of the post Reagan Youth, the Smuts fragmented. Darrell joined the instrumental “Night Orchestra”, continued writing with Steve Johnson, working with Rex Baca, and sporadically collaborated with Brad. Mark moved to Arkansas and joined the space jam band “Cydonia Region.” Brad moved to Chicago, discovered House Music, worked with John Gamuranes, and singer Sherry Lee Kline. Brad became a music writer/photographer, noted jazz critic (publisher of Jazzchicago.net) and authored two published novels.
TO PLACES UNKNOWN (CODA)
You can take the Rust & Smuts out of Missoula. But you can never take Missoula Montana out of the Rust & Smuts.