In 2012, a Facebook reunion group that brought together a slew of local musicians and scenesters begat a night of nostalgia and rock and roll at Turner Hall. That, in turn, left a CD document of the gig for posterity.
We asked frontman Mark "GE" Eberhage to tell us the history of the band and the wheres and why-fors of the reunion.
OnMilwaukee.com: For those too young to know or too told to remember, give us the quick history of Xposed 4Heads in the old days.
Mark Eberhage: In 1982, I started writing songs for the Xposed 4Heads project. I recorded demos for the songs on a system I had devised which consisted of two cassette recorders with a four-track mixer. In that way, I was able to multitrack, recording all of the instruments myself. I brought these songs to Terry Tanger from Those XCleavers. He liked them and hooked me up with a friend of his who had an actual four-track recorder.
I had written a song called "Nice Guy" about being New Wave and living on the East Side of Milwaukee, wanting to fit in. It was a song about the music and fashion scene all of my friends and I are were a part of, but it made fun of posers and was about wanting to be accepted while still shunning society's regulations.
"Nice Guy" was recorded with Carter Hunnicutt, Terry Tanger and John Gaskell from Those XCleavers. In fact, the '11 second annoying noise' in the middle section is Carter's first recording credit. At that time, Xposed 4Heads was me and who ever I knew, who was willing to be on the recordings.
Terry suggested we bring the recordings down to his friend Paul Host, a DJ at WMSE. WMSE really gave "Nice Guy" a lot of airplay and it led to me releasing a seven-song cassette called "Annoying Sh*t in a Bag." It was a cassette release with a 16-page photocopied booklet packaged in a Ziploc baggy. We sold them at Ludwig von Ear. They were handmade; I personally recorded each one. I bought blanks from Radio Shack, that had screws and opened each tape and cut it to the correct length. We sold hundreds of that first cassette.
OMC: How did Bob Jorin come into the picture?
ME: During that time Those XCleavers introduced me to Bob Jorin at a $1.50 pitcher night at Century Hall. We hit it off right away and started working on songs together. Once Bob and I met, he became an in important collaborator in Xposed 4Heads. It turned out that Bob had devised a similar system for multitrack recording in his bedroom. In the early days, we had no money or equipment, so we recorded with drums made of a five-gallon bucket and used toy instruments. We embraced the DIY approach and were proudly lo-fi in our recordings.
In 1983 Bob and I had a number of new songs, some of which I thought were better than some of the older songs. But instead of putting out a new release, The Rah decided to change the current release of "Annoying Sh*t in a Bag" to an eight-song release, swapping out some songs for the new ones recorded with Bob. The Rah is a mysterious wacky figure who played a behind the scenes role in some of the decisions of the band.
By the summer of 1983, "Nice Guy" had become very popular and that would have been the time to put together a band to play out live. We never actually played out. However, some believe they saw us. We postered the East Side. The posters said a venue, but no date. Or a date, but no venue. We had tens of fans.
OMC: And how did it end?
ME: At the height of XposoMania, I moved to Kansas City to pursue graduate school to become a psychologist. I made occasional trips back to collaborate with Bob.
While in Kansas City, I met Jim Skeel, who later started Cyberchump with me. Cyberchump has put out 10 albums and are working on our next one right now. Jim and his band Short-term Memory worked on a number of Xposed 4Heads songs back in the '80s. When I returned to Milwaukee in 1987, the New Wave scene was gone. I continued to collaborate with Bob, but eventually got very busy creating the TV show Joy Farm.
Joy Farm was a nationally award-winning dark comedy program that was a cross between Monty Python and "The Twilight Zone." All the other guys went on to be in numerous local bands and hone their chops. I didn't.
OMC: Tell me how the band got back together.
ME: In 2012 we had the chance to be part of the Lest We Forget event, which was our scene's tribute to those musicians who had passed away. I called Bob and told him I was not going to do it without him. Bob and I had talked about getting the band back together for years. But LWF gave us a reason.
We called Carter Hunnicutt, who had played on the original recordings, even before Bob was involved. We then called Andy Pagel who had his own hit with St. Bernard's "My Baby Went to the Bahamas." People really embraced us at Lest We Forget and it was a very heady feeling to be back among our old friends from the early '80s scene.
After Lest We Forget, putting the band together for real. Bob, Carter and I got the hair-brained idea that we would resurrect, recreate Xposed 4Heads and turn it into what it should have originally become.
OMC: Who is in the band now?
ME: Bob, who has played with Kujo, Mark Shurilla projects, McTavish, 19 T-Shirts with Tom Tiedjens from Those XCleavers, Dr. Chow's Love Medicine and The Mighty Lumberhorn, which was based on a bass he had constructed from a long piece of wood and wooden sound horn. He is a regional player and called upon by many bands. Bob has always built instruments of retro-fitted old cheapo guitars. Most of his guitars in Xposed 4Heads tend to be $30 pieces of junk that he has rigged for some purpose.
Carter is a prolific song writer and incredible keyboard player who made the scene in Those XCleavers and then fronted his own band Flat Rabbits. He has done movie soundtracks and music production at this own Dead End Studios.
Kelp Chofs has an incredible ear for engineering, which played a large part on the sound of our new release. He is a Milwaukee native who lied about his age to get his first bar gig at Zak's. He's manned keyboards, bass, guitar and vocals for dozens of projects over the last three decades and has worked professionally in music engineering and production. He was a founding member The Soloman Grundy's and STaLL and most recently performed for seven years with The Gleasons.
Carter and Kelp comprise what we call The Identikeys. A two-headed keyboard entity that flanks Bob, Andy and myself, and usually wear matching outfits.
Andy Stilin the incredible drummer in Resist Her Transistor who recently put together a Blondie cover band called Debbie Scarey and was in the Mandates and Brain Dead and recently recorded the One Horse Towne release.
All of the Xposed 4Heads band members have their own recording studios. They (Bob, Carter, Kelp and Andy) are amazing musicians who are an essential part of what we have become. We've got brilliant keyboard players who can run off ELP riffs dumbing it down to play two notes on a toy keyboard.
OMC: Why get the band back together vs. just starting something new?
ME: After Lest We Forget, Carter challenged me to write new songs for Xposed 4Heads. It was like, "Those 30-year-old songs are great, but what have you done for me lately?"
Having to sing songs I wrote when I was 20 was very strange. I am sure everyone who played Lest We Forget had to confront the same issues. Not only were some of the old songs no longer relevant, for some of them the joke was so out of context, you wouldn't understand the song unless you had been there in the early '80s. Many Xposed 4Heads songs are poking fun at being a misogynist, sexist or macho. While all of those issues still exist, the humor of popular culture has changed. We are still willing to offend for a good cause.
To write new songs, my wife suggested I write them on the Casio VL Tone that I used when I wrote the original songs in the early '80s. The approach worked and that is where "People Are Stupid" came from. "People Are Stupid" extols the virtue of our ever increasingly dumbed-down society. You really can't fight it.
Kelp wrote the music to "Rewind Your Behind." My lyrics on that song are about the experience of growing up, having to deal with reminiscing fondly about your past while still embracing today. It is a love letter to the music scene my friends and I came from while still moving forward. I think that is something everyone can relate to.
OMC: Is the 45 itself a reference to the '80s?
ME: With "Dumb Music For Smart People," we created a special collectors item for our music scene. I wanted to make something that everyone who remembers those days fondly would want to have, and we hope to find new fans. We are dubbing the release's special vinyl XposoRed Transparent.
It includes a free download with a bonus song. We do not plan on having digital only downloads available until the limited edition vinyl is sold out. The songs evoke our shared past. We are in an age where no one wants to buy music. But our band had never had the chance to put out vinyl back in the day.
OMC: What is the band's future, if there is, indeed, a future?
ME: At this point, I think we are the only band that played Lest We Forget that is stupid enough to put out new material. At present, our plan is to release the new material and play it live. The live band is hot. We have a really tight and energetic set. We are prepared to play out. But there is no scheduled record release showat this time. If it annoys enough people, we threaten to play out. It's a silly vision, but someone has to do it. Well, maybe no one has to do it. But we are going to anyway!
We are a band that sort of was, but is now! Are we re-forming or are we forming for the first time? This is Xposed 4Heads' chance to re-live the past it never had. This is our ultimate chance at dumbness! Maybe we should let the old New Wave sink slowly into its grave, but we are determined to party like it is 1983. In an alternate reality this record came out in 1983 and is a classic you remember fondly. As we say, "30 years late, but right on time!"
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.