ESKIMO History


David Cooper, Greg Walker and John Shiurba meet in the dorms at UC Berkeley, and contemplate forming a band.

Walker meets Mark Landsman and introduces him to Cooper and Shiurba. Before long, plans of forming a band are in the works. Shiurba brings in high school friend Howard Parr and STRESS ENSEMBLE is born.

Stress Ensemble plays its two shows in the Spring of '85. One at a party and the other at the Vis Club. The band splinters over the summer as Walker leaves for a year in France. Landsman, Shiurba and Cooper continue on, eventually forming ICE NINE in the fall with Davey Somebody on drums. Landsman moves into a house with high school friend, Eric Bonerz.

Ice Nine plays a few parties and (when Davey quits) change the name to POST MAN and play a few more parties. Cooper buys a marimba (replacing his glockenspiel). When Landsman leaves for the summer (and then for a year abroad) Cooper and Shiurba decide to team up with Eric Bonerz and take the music to the streets...

Official History

June: Shiurba, Cooper and Bonerz meet one summer day over at Eric's house and rehearse together for the first time, learning ten songs (mostly covers with a few Ice Nine tunes thrown in). That same afternoon they play their first show on UC Berkeley campus, under the name LARGE MEAL. The group is all acoustic (guitar, marimba, and a drumkit consisting of a snare drum and ride cymbal with a sheet over the top to keep it from drowning out the other instruments). A passerby informs them that they'll be changing the name soon. At the same time Bonerz and Shiurba develop an experimental/electronic duo called PAIN & DISCOMFORT which mostly meets for private recordings.

July: After a few shows Large Meal officially changes its name, but no one can decide on exactly what the name will be, although the 3 members all agree that it will have the word ESKIMO in it. The band continues to perform on Berkeley sidewalks changing its name daily (First Eskimo On The Moon, Eskimo Dentist Chair, Eskimohammed Ali, Eskimo Clearwater Revival, etc.)

September: Greg Walker returns and the band becomes a quartet. The band continues its street performances and plays a few parties, sometimes using minimal amplification.

December: The band somehow manages to get a show at the DNA Lounge and makes its first on stage appearance on Dec 18. This was the set list: Sesame Street/ Thin Shoulders Shaking/ Outdoor Miner/ Be My Valentine/ Sea Of Love/ Pocketful Of Gold/ Perfect/ Mary Tyler Moore/ Magic Carpet Ride/ Born To Be Wild/ Rock Me Amadeus/ Chicken/ Coffee Table Blues.

January-June: The band continues to play on the streets, and puts together a few more club gigs, including two infamous gigs at Club 181 with satirist/comedian Stoney Burke. Bands like The Muskrats, Blue Movie, Bardo and The Furies help out giving Eskimo opening slots and lots of encouragement. The band develops its semi-amplified sound and Walker begins to play more trombone (as much as guitar).

July-December: Mark Landsman returns and joins the band, allowing the introduction of electric guitar, and the band takes on a whole new more powerful sound. The cover songs are mostly phased out and replaced with original tunes. The band records with Klaus Fluoride, and goes on a tour of the Pacific Northwest in two Japanese compact cars, during which they make the acquaintence of bassist Steve Lew, who will join the band, just 8 short years later.

This was the big developmental year for the "Early" line-up. The material was honed, crappy songs were discarded, lots of shows, touring, etc. By September plans were in the works for an album, and in September the band recorded a new demo, which would be the first half of the first album Jack.

When the demo turned up little or no label interest, Eskimo decided to go for it alone. The remaining tracks were recorded at Dancing Dog and the first album was put together. Money was raised to help fund the pressing in an ingenius fundraiser concert thought up by Bruce Brugmann (publisher of the Bay Guardian) where the price of admission included a voucher for the record, redeemable months later. The group was facing a major trauma however, as Greg Walker had announced that he would leave the band to pursue a career in the film industry. By some incredible stroke of luck Eskimo crossed paths with one of the few people on the planet who could have and would have been able to replace Walker, former Wrestling Worms trombonist, Tom Yoder. So began what is usually referred to as the "Classic" line-up.

The fruits of Eskimo's years of labor had ripened long enough, and finally plopped off in the form of Jack. The band hit the road playing lots of shows all over the west coast and generating a greater following than it had known. In between shaking the distributors down for money, the band developed a strange collection of short pieces to contribute to a mostly spoken word CD, We Magazine: Issue 14, which was recorded over the summer. During this era, the band experimented with all improvisational sets, and decided quickly thereafter to devote its energy toward something more productive, namely writing new songs, a lot of really short new songs.

It was during 1991 that the material that would comprise the second Eskimo album, Der Shrimpkin was brought into being. Yoder had become an integral part of the group by this time, and the music began to take on a more relaxed, less serious feel than was prevalent on Jack. The live shows from this era were looser, more energetic and the music that was being written reflects this. When the group songwriting process was distilled into the anthemic "Electric Acid Pancake House" it was clear that the second album was complete and in the fall Eskimo began recording with no idea as to how it would ever be put out.

No sooner had the band put the finishing touches on Der Shrimpkin than Mark Landsman announced that he would leave the band to pursue graduate studies in history in New York. The band members were shocked, yes, shocked and stunned. The idea of replacing Landsman was tossed around but eventually dropped when Bonerz announced that he too would be leaving the band to pursue a career as a clothing industry magnate in Los Angeles. To the dismay of its fans, the relief of its detractors and the general indifference of the population at large, Eskimo called it quits in the back room of the El Rio one night in April. David threw himself into his painting and John and Tom began planning a new project with bassist Steve Lew, eventually this would become Ebola Soup.

In January the "Classic" line-up reformed for the first in a shamelessly extended series of reunions. The excuse for this first one was fairly legitimate, however, namely the (cassette only) release of the 2nd album The Further Adventures Of Der Shrimpkin. This was the only Eskimo activity for the year, a bright spot in what most fans refer to as the "Dark Ages".

In January the "Classic" line-up reformed again for another pair of Bay Area shows, for no reason other than the fun of it. Another rather less bright spot in the "Dark Ages" followed. In the fall of 1994, however, something quite unusual happened. Shiurba noticed an interview with Primus bassist Les Claypool in BAM in which he stated that he would love to put out an Eskimo record on his new label, Prawn Song. After a few phone calls, Eskimo was on their way to a record deal that would finally unearth their nearly forgotten 2nd album.

After much litigation, it really came together, Prawn Song had farted out a little cloud of manna from heaven, and in March 1995, Der Shrimpkin got delayed again, but the band got back together anyway to play a few shows including one at the Fillmore opening for Primus. In April the record did actually come out and the band reformed for a West Coast tour with bassist Steve Lew filling in for Mark Landsman. When a national tour opening for Primus fell through (they went with Helmet instead), Eskimo set up its own tour. Unfortunately, Eric Bonerz had to back out and the band turned to drummer Andrew Borger (who just happened to be willing to commit, at the last minute, to a month on the road for virtually no money) to fill his shoes for the tour. Well they say being on the road does things to you, screws with your head. Maybe that's true. By the time the "tag-team" Eskimo lineup returned from this trip, they had sworn vows anew, made commitments, signed charters: a new Eskimo was born. This Eskimo may come to be known as the "Late" lineup or perhaps the "New" lineup, only time will tell. The past will be the past but this group will go on, meeting in stinky garages and weird insulated rooms to practice and perfect their bizarre language of music. 1995 ended with a short jaunt to the Pacific Northwest.

For the first half of the year, the new incarnation of Eskimo went forth into the world and did not much. The big things to talk about were the facts that one, an East Bay Express critic named Sam Hurwitt chose "Der Shrimpkin" as one of the best CDs of '95, and two, Eskimo's version of "Happy Home" was included on a compilation CD of Residents covers, put together by Vaccination Records. There was a record release party for the CD in which Eric Bonerz (re)joined the band for a set of all Residents/Snakefinger covers. By the time summer rolled around the boys were feeling a bit nostalgic, harking back to their glory days, and realizing that TEN YEARS had gone by since they launched the Eskimo ark onto the unsteady seas, they decided to celebrate. On September 10, The Eskimo Ten Year Reunion Show took place at, you guessed it, El Rio. The band recreated it's evolution right on stage, with each of the incarnations (original members, of course) recreating the big hits and long forgotten ditties of yesteryear. They also insisted that Blue Movie do a reunion show, in between sets, and that Idiot Flesh create a new puppet show for the occasion. Again the year was rounded out by a short jaunt to the Northwest.

On paper, 1997 looks like a rather slow year for the feather-haired five, but in spite of the fact that they played live only five times, they were quite busy lads. The year started with a bang, a new project in uncharted territory -- Jeannie Kahaney and Heidi Arnesen asked the band to score their feature length film, "Some Prefer Cake". The band got busy and by February were in the studio recording the music with Myles Boisen behind the controls. The film premiered in June, and the band assembled the music for a CD to be released by Vaccination Records. In spite of this and the other wonderful things about 1997, the present line-up would not see the year's end. In august, Steve Lew shocked the world when he announced he would leave the band to pursue his studies in entomology (having long ago mastered etymology). The band was shocked, yes shocked, and stunned. They began the painful process of auditioning new bass players, and ended up with too many qualified, personable possibilities. Alas, they had to choose, and choose they did. In October, a chap by the name of Matt Small became the third bassist for Eskimo. His prodigious talents were unleashed on the world in December when he made his debut with the band. As the year wound to a close the boys were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new soundtrack CD, and planning the details of their next recording project, a new full-length CD of the songs they had toiled over for the past two years.

1998 to 2001
The band made a valliant attempt to record its recent material. This effort ran afoul of limited resources and crappy home-recording technology. The project was ultimately aborted. A reunion retreat took place in the summer of 2001, at Camp Peter Bonerz, to mark the fifteenth anniversary of Eskimo's first show. Three new songs were recorded. Would you like to hear them? Please visit the MP3 page.


2002 to 2014
But wait! The abandoned recording project was found in a closet and revived and COMPLETED! It's called Utica and it is what it is!

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