And now some comments about the Insect Surfers, from Insect Dave as recorded in Capital Rock by Mark Opsasnick, a book about current and former bands active in the Washington D.C. area.
I was born in Manhattan Sept 17th 1958, same bday as Hank Williams, Ken Kesey, Roddy McDowall!!
Lived briefly in Nashville and New Haven, moved to Bethesda in 1964 for 1st grade. Tommy Keene and I were in the same 2nd grade class at Ashburton Elementary School!
Moved to Chevy Chase in 1967, went to Kensington Jr. High School (now gone) and to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, graduated class of 1976. That summer I saw the Slickee Boys first show at 'My Friends Place' in Takoma Park, which helped spur me and my BCC buddy Robert Fass and I to put together a one-shot band at Fort Reno Park called 'Feedback Forever'. We played Ramones 'Blitzkreig Bop', Bowie's 'Jean Genie', Patti Smith's versions of 'Gloria' and 'My Generation', Blue Oyster Cult's 'Red And The Black' (years before the Minutemen!) and 'Stairway To The Stars', along with a few original tunes. We woulda been great if we were remotely in tune with each other!! That October I saw all of the Ramones shows at the Childe Harolde Club. I remember Cerphe from WHFS was out front interviewing people about this new 'punk rock' phenomenon and I started raving to him about the Stooges...
I attended University of Delaware and University of Maryland for a couple years, I was studying for a Marine Biology (my major) exam in spring 1979 and I drew a picture of an insect surfing. I thought that the picture summed up what I wanted to do with a band, which was to do a surf sound with a modern or insect-y edge to it...
Meanwhile another BCC buddy, David Petersen, had been wanting to start up a band with me, we started writing songs and instrumentals in his room. I used to go see 'Razz' play, scores of times in fact, we got Bill Craig from 'Razz' and his friend Michael (later from 'Nightman') to come over and help us with a 4-track demo, our first instrumental titled 'Insect Surfer' had Danny Frankel from the Urban Verbs on bongos!! (Danny had grown up up 2 doors away from David's Silver Spring home).
We got another BCC buddy, Robert Fass, to play bass and we found drummer Dan Buccino by putting an ad in the 'Unicorn Times' paper. Dan was from Bethesda and had just graduated from Walt Whitman High School. He passed the audtion as he could play the particular galloping beats we used in our songs.
.. while in line to see the premire of the movie 'Alien', our friend Dan Collins introduced us to his pal Michael Duke, who played synthesizer. "let's get this guy!" Petersen said, "where the hell are we going to find something as cool as a synth player!!" Michael was from Bethesda too, he had just graduated from St. John's Military School, which he loathed. He was probably the only guy there who was listening to Eno, Stranglers, and the Velvet Underground!! He went by the name 'Mike Strider' for the band.
Dan Collins was graduating BCC High School May 1979, he had us Insect Surfers back him up as a group called 'Rinse n'Vac' for his english class project!!. Dan was as big as a fan as we were of the english artpunk band 'Wire'. We did a wire cover, 'Ex-Lion Tamer', one of his songs, and a bunch of Insect Surfer songs, so our unofficial debut was at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School!
Our next two gigs were playing Fort Reno Park (with Danny Frankel on percussion!) and then with Bad Brains, at Madam's Organ in Adams Morgan, which was basically a yippie commune house that ended up being the spawning ground for a whole scene of punk rock! This would be June/July 1979 at this point. Some of the bands playing the scene at this time included Bad Brains, Slickee Boys, Urban Verbs, Tru Fax and the Insaniacs, Trenchmouth, Nurses, Teen Idles (became Minor Threat), Enzymes, DCeats (Martha Hull went on to several bands, Keith went to Black Market Baby), Penetrators, Richmond's Beex, there was a new band almost every week that summer. The scene began to polarize a bit when bands like us and Tru Fax could get gigs at some of the bar clubs and punkier bands like Bad Brains could or would not. Also integral to the local scene was the now defunct 'DC Space' where every band at that time played.
So anyway!! Bill Asp who ran an indie record store in Arlington, saw us at DC Space and Madams Organ and really liked us, he became our manager. .he put out our records, using his initials William Asp to form 'wasp'(get it?) records. we played a cool gig at the Wilson Theatre in Arlington that summer,opening up for NYC's Model Citizens and Ann Arbor's 'Destroy All Monsters', who featured the Stooge's Ron Asheton and MC5's bassist. Oct 17th we opened up a show at the Ontario Theatre for the B-52's. We were pretty much the first DC punk/new wave band to really tour out of town, we did gigs all over the eastern seaboard and midwest from feb'80 to fall '84...September '81 was the last lineup for the first insect band.
Punk, New Wave Music Promoter Bill Asp, 53, Dies
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2004; Page B06
Bill Asp, 53, who managed several prominent bands and owned an independent record label during the heyday of Washington's new wave music movement of the late 1970s and early '80s, died Aug. 5 at his daughter's home in Phoenix. According to the Maricopa County medical examiner's office, he committed suicide by stabbing.
Three weeks earlier, his depression and bipolar disorder had been diagnosed. He had moved to Phoenix in May, after living in Arlington for 30 years.
Bill Asp learned three weeks before his suicide that he suffered from depression and bipolar disorder.
A talented and tireless promoter, Mr. Asp helped engineer the regional, and sometimes national, success of such bands as the Insect Surfers, Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, Tiny Desk Unit, Beex, the Young Caucasians and the Beatnik Flies. They recorded for his label, Wasp (named after his name, William Asp), played at clubs locally and across the country and developed a fervent following. Washington was one of the leading cities of what became known as the alternative music movement, and Mr. Asp, though not a musician himself, was one of its chief proponents.
"He was the first one who said this music scene should be bigger than it is," said David Arnson, a founding member of the Insect Surfers, who keeps the band alive in Los Angeles. "He had us playing all over the United States."
"Bill was kind of a visionary," said David Petersen, who was a teenage guitarist and singer for the Insect Surfers when Mr. Asp began to manage the band in 1979. "He believed in the music we were doing. He provided an inspiration for us."
From 1976 to 1985, Mr. Asp and his wife, Debbie, ran an independent record store in Fairfax and later in Arlington called the Record and Tape Exchange of Virginia. Known as RTX, it became a meeting place for young people captivated by the burgeoning punk and new wave music scene. At the Arlington location, Mr. Asp and his family lived above the store, which was decorated with record covers from underground bands and, for a while, with a Russian flag.
"He was fascinated by communism," Arnson said. "He was very idealistic. He really did believe in true equality among people."
He kept few of the profits of his record label and energetically promoted his bands to college radio stations and nightclubs. He made posters for his bands and drew the artwork for the album covers. In 1981, he helped propel the Insect Surfers' first album, "Wavelength," to No. 25 on the college radio charts.
"He was a brilliant promoter," Arnson said. "He had us opening for the B-52s, the Psychedelic Furs, the Stranglers and Iggy Pop."
Petersen, who lives in New York and is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, added: "He was sort of a father figure who said, 'Follow your independent voice.' It was really like someone saying, 'You can be an artist' -- but he wasn't that pretentious."
William Robert Asp was born in Washington and grew up in Falls Church. He graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax County and attended George Mason University, leaving after two years, he said, because he knew more than his professors.
He was a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service from the early 1970s until 1977. While operating his record store, he also had a music management firm, Endless Weekend, as well as his record label. In 1985, after the early bloom of the new wave movement had faded, Mr. Asp closed his shop and withdrew from the music business.
In 1987, he went to work as a fundraiser for Environmental Action Inc., a now-defunct advocacy group in Washington.
From 1993 to 1997, and again from 1999 until March of this year, he was a strategic analyst for Craver, Mathews, Smith and Co., an Arlington direct-mail consultant for nonprofit organizations. He analyzed demographic data for fundraising efforts for such groups as Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity and the American Civil Liberties Union. From 1997 to 1999, he worked for O'Brien, McConnell, Pearson, a fundraising consulting firm in Washington.
In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of modern music, Mr. Asp was widely read on many subjects and was known as a superior cook, particularly of desserts. His family said he could re-create a restaurant meal from scratch in his kitchen at home.
Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Debbie Asp of Phoenix; two daughters, Melanie Asp Alvarez and Mercedes Odessa Asp, both of Phoenix; his mother, Mary Elizabeth Asp of Alexandria; and two sisters, Judith Bowman of Stanardsville, Va., and Marcia Ober of Vernon Hills, Ill.
my own testimonial below...
My friend Bill Asp will always remain as one of the most cherished people I have ever known. He was a beautifully multifaceted soul with an astounding intellect. He could be at once sweet, hilarious, stubborn yet innovative, always egalitarian, and he dared you to bring out the best in yourself. He had a real incisive bullshit detector, too, and didn't suffer fools lightly. Bill had a very highly developed sense of ethics and honor, and it just drove him crazy sometimes when other people failed to live up to his humanitarian standards. He really did embrace the original utopian communist ideal of all people living as and treated as equals, although he had no illusions about the current state of things.
Bill goes down in history as someone who totally kick-started the Washington DC punk and new wave independent music scene. He got me and my buddies' band 'Insect Surfers' off the ground as DC's first nationally touring band and placed us and other bands on the road and on the national college radio charts .Nobody else in town seemed to have a clue as to where to start Bill was an absolutely brilliant grassroots organizer and tireless promoter, and set an example that was soon copied by the later and much-lauded hardcore punk scene. Bill planned tours and promotions with the accuracy and intensity of military campaigns, and with his amazing wife Debbie, pulled out miracles on a shoestring budget. I totally credit him with giving me the inspiration to continue playing music to this day. He encouraged me and my mates to always have an ear out for something new and creative, and not to become mentally and artistically complacent.
I have a long list of great moments and memories with Bill. Here's just a few of them-
How he drove with us up to Dover, New Jersey, for our first ever out-of town show. The ride back in 'The Penetrators'' van was so cold that ice formed on the inside walls!
I have memories of setting off endless barrages of fireworks that we all would amass on the road- Bill had found some Chinese Temple Balls that shot a hundred feet in the air through mortar-like tubes, and we all whooped like maniacs.
.Discussing and playing with Eno's 'Oblique Strategies' deck , and especially being amused at the card saying 'Repetition is change'.!.
.Coming home delirious after an all-night drive from New York. Bill.in the van had come up with the fictitious band names ' Dog Hammer', and 'The Spandex Parakeets' which cracked us up for hours! ! His band names 'Davey Con Carne' and 'The Golden Bats' even turned into real bands!
.Dim sum dinners at 4 AM at' The Ruby Restaurant' in Chinatown.
Once at a gig in Chapel Hill, NC we found our band van uncaringly and completely boxed in by two cars. Bill had a gleeful time rocking and slamming the van out from between the offending vehicles, both of which quickly became a little bit worse for the wear!
Bill and I were both ardent fans of Albania's then-head-of-state 'Enver Hoxha', who kept his little Communist dictatorship independent of both Russia and China . We loved to swap tales of facts about Albania, such as how for years it pathetically only had 26 motor vehicles and all of them state-owned! And he loved the word 'utilitarian'.
Bill could really have fun teasing me, too. He once had me convinced for several months that one of my favorite bands, "Pylon ', somehow hated me !
Bill's passing is a tough one for all of us. Where do you start with these remembrances? Words don't do justice. He was an innovator. He was a true friend who could summon up seemingly super-human abilities to better situations with. He challenged us to realize our potential. I feel proud and honored to have known him and to have had him be a part of my life. What a unique and pioneering individual he was. Again, a beautifully multifaceted soul. He strove to leave the world a better place for us.
Hey, Rock On, Bill! I thrust my fist skyward in solidarity!
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