The Band

The Music

The Rest

History

The following was originally found at http://www.waltmink.com/bio.html. I thought it only polite to quote from the source.


Walt Mink was formed in February, 1989 at Macalester college, a small, liberal arts school in St. Paul, Minnesota. John Kimbrough and Joey Waronker reconvened there after briefly attending high school together in Massachussetts, and at once they began playing music and looking for a bass player to fill out a trio. They were introduced to Candice Belanoff, who at the time had only been playing bass for a few months, and the line-up was set.

The band started out by playing at college house parties on the weekends, always with an eye to the next potential basement venue. In December of 1989 a fellow student offered to record them for a 7” single he was releasing on his own independent label. With that the band made their first trip into the studio, recording versions of the songs “Fragile” and “Croton-Harmon (local)”, both of which would later appear in newer versions on the albums Miss Happiness (1992) and Bareback Ride (1993).

In March of 1990 the trio began recording what was to become Listen Little Man!, an album-length cassette demo of original songs, recorded during free time and on weekends on a four-track machine in the basement of the house John and Joey were living in at the time. Distributed to friends and sold on consignment in local record stores, the tape gained modest noteriety and furthered the name of the band in the small community of students on and around campus.

By the end of the spring the members of Walt Mink had decided that they were on to something, and pledged to pursue the goal of getting more club gigs in Minneapolis after going their separate ways over the summer. When they returned to the Twin Cities in september they found a large house in the uptown section of Minneapolis that had been owned at one time by a music production company and had been renovated in order to accommmadate loud rock bands, complete with a large, soundproofed rehearsal room on the main floor. It was here that they began recording their second full-length demo cassette, The Poll Riders Win Again!!, in February of 1991.

At the same time the band began to play in the clubs of Minneapolis, first at open-mic- style new band nights, then, as the reputation of their live show grew, in opening slots for more established local bands and as headliners. After opening for Babes in Toyland in december of 1990, Babes drummer Lori Barbero became a fan, and tipped off a friend who worked at the New Music Seminar in N.Y.C. This led to a spot at the seminar for the band, and in June of 1991 they travelled to N.Y. for their first out-of-state show. It was here that they were introduced to Matt Quigley, a former member of the band Skunk, who became a fan and, armed with copies of the band’s demos, quickly alerted N.Y. friends to their existence. One of those friends was Janet Billig, the label manager of the N.Y. independent record label Caroline, who liked the tapes and contacted the band about playing another N.Y. show.

Walt Mink continued to play in Minneapolis throughout the summer of ‘91, garnering lots of local press and building a respectable fan-base. In October they returned to N.Y. to play at the CMJ music conference, and it was here that Janet Billig finally saw them live. After the show, she offered to sign them to Caroline.

The band began recording their first album at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin in March of 1992. Produced by Mr. Colson, protege of producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins), and released in June of ‘92, Miss Happiness provided the impetus for a hefty amount touring, both in the U.S. and the U.K., in support of the Lemonheads, Firehose, Pavement, Mudhoney and others. (It was also in the spring of this year that the band made their first video. Directed by Kevin Kerslake, [Nirvana, Faith No More] the video for the song, “Chowdertown” aired on MTV’s “120 Minutes” on July 9th, 1992.) By the end of the year it was time to begin thinking about the next record.

After touring their way out to L.A., recording of the second record began there in February of 1993. Recorded by Brian Foxworthy, (Hole, Tone Loc) and Mixed by John Agnello, (Dinosaur jr., Buffalo Tom, Breeders) Bareback Ride was released in June of that year and paved the way for continued touring, both as headliners and as support for bands such as Hole, Urge Overkill, Paul Westerberg and Cracker, among others. (It was also in the spring of ‘93 that the band made their second video, for the song “Fragile”. Directed by Miguel Arteta [”Star Maps”, “Chuck and Buck”] the video was rejected by MTV but recieved airplay on a variety of other video programs.)

While touring to support the new record, the band began to address the question of where to go after their two record contract with Caroline was fulfilled. Janet Billig had since left the label to manage bands at Gold Mountain, a company whose clients included Nirvana and the Beastie Boys, and as Walt Mink’s new manager, she began the process of shopping them to major labels.

By mid-summer of 1993, the band had decided that of the major labels interested in signing them, Columbia records seemed to be the most enthusiastic, and so while on tour in Memphis, Tennessee, the three members signed a six record contract with Columbia under a statue of the great blues songwriter W.C. Handy.

Touring continued throughout that summer and into the fall, pausing only briefly to shoot the band’s third video, for the song “Shine”. Directed by Sofia Coppola, [”The Virgin Suicides”] and shot by Spike Jonze [”Being John Malkovich”] the video was filmed at the Coppola vinyard in Napa, California, in and around the family swimming pool.

Having signed with a big label, it seemed possible by the end of ‘93 for the band members to live where they wanted, regrouping to tour and record, and in October of that year Joey moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles. Soon John and Candice relocated to their hometown as well, arriving in N.Y.C. in February of 1994.

While John worked on songs for the forthcoming Columbia album, Joey began playing in L.A. with the as-yet-unknown singer Beck. By the late spring of that year, with the success of the album Mellow Gold keeping him busy as Beck’s drummer, Joey decided to leave Walt Mink.

The summer of 1994 was devoted to finding a new drummer for the band, and after auditioning dozens of prospects, John and Candice finally found one in the person of Orestes Morfin, formerly of the band Bitch Magnet. They quickly began rehearsing in preparation for a small fall tour, to be followed by the recording of their long-awaited Columbia debut.

On the last night of that tour the band arrived home to find that the plug had been pulled on their record, and they promptly asked to be released from their contract. The label obliged, and the band immediately began working to find another record deal. Janet Billig, who had left their management company that fall to become an executive at Atlantic records, expressed interest, and in February of ‘95 the band signed a one record deal with Atlantic.

Recording of what was now to be their Atlantic debut began in April of that year at Dreamland in Woodstock, N.Y., with John Agnello producing. The process continued through that spring and into the summer, and after mixing once in Chicago it was determined that the record needed to be mixed again, which it was, in N.Y. in September.

El Producto was released in January of 1996, and from the beginning there were ominous signs. On the first day of their first tour supporting the record, the band called the label in N.Y. to discover that their A&R; person had just been fired. In spite of an uplifting piece about the band in Billboard that day, in which it cheerfully asserted that after so many disappoinments it seemed that Walt Mink was finally going to get a chance to be heard, the mood of the moment was one of deep uncertainty.

The spring of ‘96 was to be the last signifigant period of touring for Walt Mink. The months of February to May of that year were spent both headlining and opening for bands like Tripping Daisy and Tracy Bonham. In June Atlantic records dropped the band, part of the great “purge” which saw the label drop nearly half its’ artist roster. Walt Mink was once again without a record deal.

That summer John began writing a batch of songs, and by the end of the summer it was decided by a new manager that some sort of release was needed to reaquaint people with the band. It was thought that an e.p. might be a good idea, but without a label and without funding of any kind some creativity was in order. John called his old friend Mr. Colson in Madison, who agreed to come out and engineer/produce a few songs for the release. Using a hodgepodge of borrowed equipment, the band began recording in a friend’s Brooklyn garage. The new manager stopped returning phone calls and disappeared, but the band kept working, and soon it was determined that there was enough material for an album. With Mr. Colson sleeping on John’s couch, he and the three musicians finished it in two weeks.

The album was mixed at Smart Studios in November of ‘96. It was at about this time that Orestes decided to leave the band in order to pursue a degree at the University of Arizona in his chosen field, geology.

By early 1997 several independent labels had expressed interest in the record, but it was finally Deep Elm who John and Candice decided was the right fit. The record, Colossus, was released in June of that year, but the two remaining members had given up on the idea of finding a replacement drummer for touring, planning instead to perform as an acoustic duo, and then only on rare occassions (The band’s fourth and last video, for the song “Brave Beyond the Call” was filmed during this period. Directed by Adam Rothlein, [”The Mitzvah Four”] the video was shown briefly on the MTV show, “Indie Outing”).

Into this climate stepped Will Tanous, a friend who had wanted to sign Colossus to his label, and who also worked for the HBO live music show “Reverb”. He asked if John and Candice would be interested in appearing on the show, and they were, but there was just one catch - they would need a drummer. Fortunately Will had that covered. It just so happened that his friend from high school was a drummer, and would be willing to play with the band for the taping of the show.

Zach Danziger first appeared with Walt Mink on the June 20th 1997 broadcast of “Reverb”. He had learned the band’s entire set in three days. Armed with a ferocious new drummer, the reinvigorated members of Walt Mink began to contemplate a tour supporting Colossus.

Meanwhile, the band’s buisness infrastucture was eroding badly. Within a matter of weeks in mid-‘97, the group, who had been dropped by their management the previous year, was dropped by their booking agent and accountant, and with no money coming in there was virtually no way to pay for a tour, no matter how badly they needed one. John Szuch, the label head of Deep Elm, got them a new booking agent and gave them a small amount of tour support, but his label’s modest financial resources were no match for the demands of a band on an extensive tour.

A two week tour through the upper midwest and parts of New England was booked for mid summer, and the band hit the road in a cautiously optimistic frame of mind. It soon became clear, however, that their work was cut out for them. The few crowded, raucous shows in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan contrasted sharply with the virtually empty venues elsewhere in the country, and as the tour ended there was a prevailing feeling that the writing was on the wall.

The band members tried vainly to keep it together over the next several months, doing weekend tours here and there and playing the occassional N.Y. show. The expense, however, was staggering, and after a particularly empty show in Albany, N.Y., it was decided that it was time to end the band. Deep Elm promoted one last N.Y. show for Walt Mink at the Mercury Lounge on November 1st, 1997. The show was recorded for posterity, and was later released as Goodnite, a live album, on Deep Elm.

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