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we have a date with the underground, chapter 20
by Turtle Jones
Welcome to the first day of the new FTTW online magazine! This will all hit you about four or five times a day with new stories from our writers coming out all day long. And prolly more as we get more writers on. I think we were at about 20 so far and trust us, for the editors of FTTW, we are glad it is Monday.
So let's start this fucking thing and not look back.
All of the past Underground stories and many other archieved stories are in the sidebar.
Get a late pass and get up to speed cause here we go!
This one had to come out because of personal reasons. To promote yourself, your website, your band, your "World's Best Chili", sometimes it means you have to bust people who tell you they can do them when they say they can help but really haven't done these things in 20 years. But fuck, some things just have to keep going. If you can't do it, I can. I'll get this done. Just tell me. Fetch me a soda and a cigar and we can get this started. Sleep stops meaning much to you anymore. You know things need to be done. All you can do is say "Thanks. But I can do it." I don't really care if you can do something or not. Like a band, if you can't do it, just fucking tell me and I can do it. We can work around this.
I was pretty much being taught at that early age that if something needed to be done, it was always going to be up to me to do it. Sure, I'll take help, but if I don't even know how to do this, don't ask me to teach you how to. Sure, now I know how to do this stuff. I can put in new pickups, boil strings, burn screens and cook methamphetamine, but back then, I couldn't do shit.
I had to learn. We all did.
It sucks. But really, at fucking four in the morning, you want to get this done. I'm no teacher. And if you think I am, you should see how I learned how to do this. Something that will keep you fed on the road. Something you can pay 300 bucks for or 30 for. Something for promotion and something to keep you occupied in "off time".
Realize you can pay a pro place for this and add money on your tab, or do it yourself and be able to eat that night.
What am I talking about?
Silk Screening Shirts
When you get signed to a label, you automatically think that you will get all this stuff done for you. Stickers, hats, CD's shirts and money. No. You don't. You don't get shit. They pay for production on the CD's but not really. That's all money that you have to pay back to them. Music industry is a really cutthroat thing when you are just getting started. It's called "Wow. Thanks for signing us. We owe you how much money?"
So you have to get creative. You have to do somethings yourself.
Yeah it is a bitch. Well, it was a bitch to learn it. It takes an hour or more just to get the screen right. You have to realize that this is the money you will have on the road. Selling your own shirts equals Del Taco for the night. Getting label credit card means nothing except for more paybacks. But, if you do this yourself? The cash is yours. Money on your CD? Meh. Label payback. They don’t mean shit. Every taco you eat from that CD money is the same amount you have to pay the label back for. With interest. Fuck them. Do it yourself. We can do this. Light a cigar and decide how we can get this done cheap. One friend has a hook up on cheap shirts. One friend can get the light bulbs. We can do this. We didn't need the labels "help". This is ours.
You have to do it. If every other band has shirts, why don't you? Someone would have to take care of it. Sure, it's easy to say that you will do it, but after the first few fuck ups on your first few screens, you can kinda see where you need help. Burning your first three screens beyond recognition is frustrating as hell. Cause you don't know if they are supposed to look like that. Is emulsion supposed to turn black? Are these things supposed to look like little burned pieces of toast? Trust me. It took me a few years to learn to do this streamlined, but, back in those days, with my first set up, it was pure hell. Overpriced, no instructions and no refunds. Burned screens and long nights. Too many showers. Too many fucked up wasted chemicals.
You fucked that screen up? Burn it too much? Can't clean it off?
That first learning process was hard. Don't bother looking on line for instruction. They are confusing as hell. All I can say is that you have to do it wrong about three times before you actually get it right. And those first three times are so frustrating, you almost wanna quit and pay for someone to do it for you. But, in the back of your head, you knew you had to learn this. Cause really, it was kinda fun to do. Slamming beer in a someone's garage at four in the morning wondering if you did it right this time is a wonderful feeling. It's kinda like feeling that you did all you could. Now all you could was just wait to see if it worked. Those were interesting times. It really showed me who would end up being with you in the long haul. At the end of all this. People who went to bed and people who stayed with me to learn. It was a telling process on people. Who would stick and who would leave. And really?
It got simple once I got it down.
Don't get me wrong. I loved seeing the sun come up while I washed the screen and set it out to dry. Go to bed and wake up with hard emulsion. And what's funny is I just got better at it. Day by day. Buy me the screen and the emulsion and I would rip your idea out in a few minutes. Well, more like an hour, but you know what I mean. I'll draw up your idea and take your pic and make it clear. You buy the materials and I'll screen it for you if you give me a few beers and wanna hang out for a night and try, try to learn this yourself. It got to be like turning on the stereo in the morning for me. Wake up and take a shower with a piece of wood in your hands. The feeling of going into the shower with the screen at six in the morning with a toothbrush to get the light ink off it. It's coming off. It's working. It's coming off. I did another one. Now let's wash this green shit of my body and get out of here.
The feeling of making a spinner. Multi colors got to be a bitch. Everything had to be exactly the same. The same proportions and the same size. But, that's another story for another day.
When we started making too many designs, the overhead of them cost too much. I had to make my own screens. I was tweaking at the time and really had nothing else to do, so I built my own. The feeling of making your own screens with a table saw and a hammer. The full end project. Looking at the screen and feeling that you have won. Sure, hammering in, or taping later in life, the screen was a bitch, but if you could make a screen for three dollars? That was the way to go. Many times I almost lost my fingers on that saw. See, when I was hammering silk, you had to cut the four panels of wood, then put a cut in the middle of each about halfway thru the length of the wood to get the silk nailed down into the slots.
Hey. I was just learning. I didn't know. Gimmie a break.
Problem was...everyone had an idea. Everyone had something new. Someone would go and get an idea. Then there was another night gone. I was running five screens a day, building three new ones and screening about 50 a day. Covered in ink. Myself. The screens were still clean. We had to move the system to our practice studio. It just got to big and really, face it, no ones parents want four kids in their garages all night playing punk rock using stinky ass chemicals to get thru the night. Someone talking on the PA saying they were bored. Someone playing bass. Someone cutting up lines and someone bringing in more beer. No parents want that in their garage
But, you know what? It didn't matter. We were fully self-contained on shirts. We could do this ourselves now. And that is all what mattered.
So we moved the system over to the studio. More screens piled up. I would do tons of them for other bands cause, well, it was kinda fun. Chances are that if you are wearing some old punk rock tour shirt, I had something to do with it. And "something to do with it" really means I might have seen it at a show before. I am not a silk screening god here.
Just a demi-god.
Trust me, mien readers, my three month break from touring was never a break. Lines of speed and late nights. Getting these screens right. Always something wrong. Something that had to be fixed. 24 hour Kinko’s. Late night arguing cause they fucked my transparency up. Another design. Cut the colors and kill it. Another screen is done. Sit it in the sun to dry and then you just wait for the next step.
That's when you actually ink the shirt. This was the easy part. Run a squeegee down it and pull it off. Let it dry and you got it. A new shirt. Or...maybe you didn't.
Ink has oils in it that have to be removed or it washed of. The ink that is. It would looked washed out and faded after one wash. OK. What the hell was going on here. A phone call and a new lesson. I had to burn the oil out. How to do that? A 1000 dollar machine would do it in two seconds. Just a heat lamp and a roller.
Well, that's not gonna work for me. What else can I do?
Iron them for about 30 seconds each.
But you know what? It worked. I washed all the shirts about three times to make sure the ink would stay in and it did. Trial by fire right there, folks.
So, I ended up about 30 screens, a spinner, a single panel board, and a ton of chemicals.
To this day, I have no idea where they all went. All that stuff. I must have left them all at someones house, a studio, given them away to the bands or just forgot about them one day. They are somewhere. But, just not here.
The good news is we won our ebay auction for 14 screens with all of the set ups so I don't have to go out and buy all this crap again or build my own screens for the FTTW shirts. In fact, I am going to have a few empty screens sitting around, so if I get an idea for a new shirt, hell, I prolly make it one night then put it on here the next day.
It's what I do. I get bored easily. And what's funny is the only thing that entertains me is Little House. Weird isn't it? So you might see new shirts come up here every once in awhile. When you see that, just keep in mind that Turtle was watching a Little House episode he saw way too many times the night before.
So we are waiting on the screens from ebay. Hence, why you have to wait for a few days before the FTTW shirts come out. Just give me some time. I've never seen this episode of Little House.
Memories of punk rock and cigarettes and some kind of time frame. Someone walking in and asking me why I can't move faster when all I could say is "I try to only take three showers a day." I was clean, but covered in this ink. Always.
This won't make sense to a lot of you, but there is a specific process that goes into this. You have to learn it by fucking up. It's like sex or riding a bike. The first time your tire blows too fast till you get the process down. Figure it out by fucking it up. It just happens. You buy some overpriced crap, fuck it up and get screwed. Years later, you understand that you could do this whole thing for a few bucks cheaper, and, I god damn promise you, you will remember the names of the companies that sold you that overpriced crap and go out of your way to insult them every time you can.
And for people who don't know how to screen?
Should watch me do it.
Shirts on the road are your money. Sure, you have cash from CD's but really, you have to pay that back. So if you are in a hole, spend that money. You have to eat at least once a day, I guess. But the shirts.
The shirts. The cash. That was up to you
Watch it being done and leave me alone.
Kinda like sex or riding a bike.
You never forget how to do it. - T