BY LESLIE LYONS
I came late to the Lexington music scene. Not that I was among the many tourists or tardy hangers-on, I just didn’t come of age until my first Vale of Tears show at Cafe LMNOP in 1985. But the Cafe was already Bradley Pickleseimer’s second club, Bradley being the infamous redhead-in-heels and one of Lexington’s most colorful characters — ever. Men in drag and the best bands in town could be found at LMNOP. It was shut down four months after my introduction.
But years before, Bradley, Vale of Tears, the Chinese, The Users, the Resisters, and the Thrusters, some band called The Plastic Fangs was stirring around Club A Go Go and PrallTown Cafe.
I’ve only heard about the stalactites hanging in Prall Town Cafe, and only questioned others about the Lexington cabaret act known as the Thrusters. My good ole days, which came years later, were spent frequenting Great Scotts, listening to the Johnsons churn out songs from their Lap of Luxury tape.
Paul K of the Johnsons, who used to be in a band called the Plastic Fangs, has since fathered Spy vs Spy and the Paul K Conspiracy. His group now is called Paul K. and the Weathermen.
Seemingly the only constants in K’s career have been the endless abyss of creativity which has produced some 500 songs and the staying power of drummer Tim Welch.
Together, K and Welch have sustained their growth while juggling 11 different bass players along the way.
“Sometimes I feel like my work will be done after I’ve taught every bass player in the world ‘Landfill Blues.’” K said. Possibly the band’s signature piece, “Landfill Blues” first appeared on a 90 minute cassette entitled Patriots, and then later on an LP with the same name.
But the work continues. Since January of this year (1989), K has produced five 90-minute cassette tapes. In addition, this past year has been the band’s busiest, and one that has brought them the most recognition.
Since May of 1988, K, Welch, and various bassists have played in clubs all along the East Coast, from Washington to New York and in Chicago, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Cincinnatti. Their song, “My Knife,” off the Patriots LP appeared on RCA’s “Ten Best Unsigned Bands in America” list, and the independent label, 50 Skidillion Watts of Power in the Hands of Babes, has promised to release their LP this fall. So, after four years, Paul K and the Weathermen are finally repeating some benefits from $50-a-night-gigs.
Singer-guitarist K, standing six-foot-six, and usually sporting a gray fedora, tends to listen to music produced only by himself. “Good stuff trickles by now and then, only when I look for it, he says. “But I don’t normally look for it. I like to play, but listening isn’t worth it. It’s like collecting butterflies — trying to find the most obscure one.”
But despite his contempt for the present musical climate, K tries to steer clear of dark clouds. If he wasn’t a musician, he’d probably be a jewel thief,” K said. “It’s the most exciting thing I can think of with the highest potential reward.” Such is the stuff from which musicians are made, and they cite Lucky Luciano as their favorite historical character and read Alister Crowley.
“Crowley’s been known to be a trickster,” said drummer Tim Welch, who believes in astral projection. “He’ll set you up to align yourself with negative posers as a joke.”
Unlike K, Welch says he listens to funk, Kyoto music and Mozart. As a DJ on UK’s college radio station WRFL, Welch spins some of the best tunes found on the airwaves on Friday nights, 2 am to 6 am, where members of his second band, Red Fly Nation, usually disguise themselves with strange exotic names.
Paul K and the Weathermen will play this month at the Wrocklage, on the 19th, and the 28th with Flaming Lips. (July 1989)
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Kakie Urch Reflects on WRFL at the 20th Anniversary, April 24, 2008