Known for their volatile personalities, Seattle band Swallow came together in 1987. The group consisted of Rod Moody (aka Rod Ho) on guitar and vocals, Andy Scheen (aka Andy Springsheen) on bass, Chris…
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Swallow Biography

by Stephen Howell

Known for their volatile personalities, Seattle band Swallow came together in 1987. The group consisted of Rod Moody (aka Rod Ho) on guitar and vocals, Andy Scheen (aka Andy Springsheen) on bass, Chris Pugh on guitar, and Scott Schickler (aka Guitar) on drums. From the beginning, they experienced a variety of problems, including breaking down three times on their first tour in 1989, causing them to miss shows in New Mexico, Texas, and California. Then there were other moments of misadventure, such as the time Moody drank a large quantity of tequila in the middle of a hot summer's day in Dallas while on tour. He wound up unplugging his guitar in the middle of a song, unable to plug it back into his amplifier. The majority of their trouble was with their label, Sub Pop, which released one single and two full-length albums by the band between 1988 and 1990.

The group began when Moody met Scheen at a practice space in Seattle. At the time, Scheen was hanging around watching Moody's band, Deranged Diction, rehearse, which included Mother Love Bone/Green River guitarist Bruce Fairweather and a pre-Pearl Jam Jeff Ament on bass. One of the things Moody remembered about first meeting Scheen was that he was wearing a leather jacket with the phrase "life is cool" scratched across the back. Scheen was a regular in the punk scene during the mid-'80s, and was performing with the hardcore group Isolation. One of Scheen's friends in the scene was guitarist Chris Pugh, a member of Olympia, WA, pop legends Young Pioneers. The two decided to team up and start a new group. Schickler, the drummer for the goofy hardcore band Limp Richerds, was brought on board to complete the rhythm section. Michael Anderson, who would go on to join Blood Circus, was also recruited to sing and fill the second guitar slot. It was soon realized that Anderson wasn't a good fit for the group, though, and the band found themselves responding to an ad for a guitarist in the Seattle paper The Rocket. The ad, which read "Singer/guitarist looking for a cross between Black Flag and Black Sabbath. Will straighten hair for the right band," turned out to have been placed by Scheen's old friend Moody. Scheen and Moody were into heavy music at the time, Pugh preferred anything with melody, and Schickler drew his inspiration from a combination of cheesy '70s hits, heavy metal and hardcore. All of their tastes overlapped though, which created a flexible atmosphere and a definite chemistry.

On June 1, 1988, after playing various shows, Swallow released their first single, "Trapped"/"Guts." The A-side was a semi-atmospheric pop song, while the B-side leaned toward hardcore thrash, resulting in the band being labeled "motorcycle pop." The 7" appeared on the Sub Pop record label, as well as a song called "Zoo" on the imprint's Sub-Pop-200 compilation that same year. Interestingly enough, the band didn't sign any contract with the label. The verbal agreement stemmed from Pugh and Sub Pop co-owner Bruce Pavitt's friendship. They had known each other from their college days in Olympia, WA, and from the countless nights they spent in smoky Seattle clubs listening to local bands. Sub Pop wasn't really interested in Swallow, but since Pavitt was a friend of Pugh's, Pavitt figured that he would do Pugh and the band a favor. On May 1, 1989, Sub Pop released Swallow's first full-length record. The band toured the Southwest and got generally good reception, however, Sub Pop decided to release their next full-length album only in Europe, meaning that fans in the United States could only buy it on import, seriously crippling its commercial prospects.

After recording that album, Schickler was asked to leave the group and was replaced by Craig Bradford. The group set out for yet another tour of the Southwest, where they experienced anonymity and general indifference from audiences. To top it off, Sub Pop scheduled the band to record their third record immediately following the tour with producer Butch Vig in Wisconsin. The only problem was that it was the dead of winter. On the tour, tensions grew within the band and their performances began to suffer. After writing new material, the band decided that it was time to step back into the studio. They finished what was to be their third album, but Sub Pop rejected it. The label's decision proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back and the group broke up in 1992.

Following Swallow's demise, Moody played in Spike while Pugh formed Creep before the two singer/guitarists reunited for the short-lived Crime Family in 1999. They played a number of shows before they called it quits. Moody also co-owned the Y Records label, before moving to Rhode Island in 2001. After Crime Family dissolved, Pugh returned to the studio, making ambient/trip-hop recordings under the name Saba and later joined the Deborah Bartley Band. Scheen left music altogether after Swallow's breakup, and Schickler continued to play drums with a number of Seattle bands.

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