Proper Display and Storage of your National Treasure Buzzmuscle Assembler 7"
|Buzzmuscle "Assembler" b/w "33
Degrees" 7" Record. Design included in the National Design Museum /
Smithsonian Institution in New York City. The exhibit, entitled Mixing Messages will run
until February 18, 1997. This website is a comprehensive list of everything you could
possibly wish to know about this record, its designers, band history and its long and odd
journey into National Treasure status.
The record is composed of a 2-color picture disk image 7" vinyl/plastic disk packaged in an attractive, die-cut sleeve designed to invoke a package of Oscar Mayer brand bacon. The die-cut windows on the packages backside invite you to "shop for the good one" just like you would actual bacon.
|Buzzmuscle was a group of Chicago rock musicians whose career together spanned the years 1991-4. Its members were Rob Warmowski (bass, yelping) Greg Dunlap (guitar, leaping) Brian Gay (guitar, standing still) and Dave Schleitwiler (drums, flailing). They played numerous engagements in and around the midwest, and recorded a total of three records. The pictured 7" is their debut release. Like the vast majority of rock bands throughout the history of the genre, their original music is today generally unknown and their impact was not widely felt.|
|L to R: Brian Gay, Rob Warmowski, Greg Dunlap, Admiral David A. Schleitwiler. Photo: Liz Clayton|
What...what the hell is this thing? It won't fit in my CD player!
This thing is a vinyl record, seven inches in diameter. They are played on a device known as a turntable, which spins at either 33 1/3 or 45 rpm, depending on the vinyl being played. You can try to put it in your CD Player, but don't come crying to us afterwards.
Who designed this?
The "Assembler" single was conceived and designed by Rob Warmowski. Greg Dunlap did the photography and mechanical work. Mark Evans was responsible for letting us use his Mac to do the scans and type and helping us out with our pathetic Photoshop skills. Thanks, Mark. The logotype was done by hand courtesy of L. M. Owen, an illustrator of world-class skill and artistry.
What do you mean, "National Treasure?"
The Buzzmuscle "Assembler" single was chosen to be a part of the Mixing Messages exhibition, an overview of contemporary graphic design. This show was produced by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, which is the Smithsonian Institution 's National Design Museum in New York City. The record became a part of their permanent collection, joining other National Treasures such as the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the original copy of the Constitution, and the moon rocks. Its "National Treasure" status means that in 400 years, anthropology students with access to the Smithsonian archives may be inspired by it to devote a bunch of time exploring the Art of The Corporate Era, constructing rambling theses on the "juxtapositions of late 20th Century art and commerce" and the "cult of consumerism." Perhaps most importantly, as creators of National Treasure, the designers are completely exempt from Federal Income Tax for the duration of their lives.
How much did this cost to make?
Too much. In philosophy, we were a punk rock band, as we all had punk rock pedigrees. Not one of us batted an eye at the idea of putting our own money together to finance our records. The problem was, the production costs for the diecuts and the picture disc took the project way over what a normal 7" would cost and we felt we needed to get it out as quickly as we could. Not including recording or photo costs, the project ended up costing approximately $3,100, much of which was graciously loaned to us by our good friend and fantasy-bankroller Sean Campbell.
The manufacturing price led to the uncomfortable reality that we did not want at the time to go to record distributors as ask for any more than $3.00 for a 7" single from an unknown band. It just seemed like a dumb thing to do. So we sold them to distributors at a loss of a dime apiece. Punk rock.
How many of these were sold?
Of 1000 pressed, approximately 750 or so ended up getting into stores after the distributors reluctantly did their job and placed them. We had heard reports of the records being priced at as much as $9.00 retail on the East coast, which was very annoying to discover.
What kind of band was Buzzmuscle?
Rob: "We were an aggressive rock band who didn't sound like anybody in particular, but were compared to The Volcano Suns more than once. Other than the fact that I can't really sing, I don't see the comparison. We wrote our own music, and except for cover versions of "Eat Lead" by Breaking Circus, did not stray from that repertoire. We all came from a fairly punk rock background; Dave Schleitwiler's previous band was the Brookfield, IL hardcore band Bhopal Stiffs. Brian Gay was an original member of one of the original American hardcore bands, Government Issue, and was in later Chicago bands such as Savage Beliefs and The Watchmen. My previous band was the Chicago surf/hardcore Defoliants and Greg Dunlap, while not from a band previously, was directly responsible for the punk rock scene in DeKalb, IL during his tenure as a student at Northern Illinois University, putting on many shows. We pursued our music as an outlet for our creativity, and because playing tough, loud angry music is never a mistake."
What other recordings exist?
|One year after the release of the Assembler
7", another 7" record , "Comedian / 12 Step" was released on
Perishable Records, the Chicago house label of the Sub Pop band Red Red Meat. If you follow the
link, you will see the faces of Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella, the only two people in the
entire tenure of Buzzmuscle to extend support for and belief in our music by releasing the
Comedian 7". We still appreciate it.('96)
These days, the Perishable imprint is very active and devoted to the absurdist artwork of the nation's leading sad clowns. ('99)
How did you get recognition from the Smithsonian Institute?
Completely by accident. The curator of the exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt told us that in 1993, the staff began a search for pieces that were in alignment with the show's theme of "Mixing Messages." Apparently, whoever was conducting the search was using their noodle; instead of polling the art community in NYC, they picked up the phone and began calling printers across the country. One such printer was the North Carolina firm Barefoot Press, who did the printing and die-cut job for the project. I understand the conversation went something along the lines of "What have you done that's really cool lately?" "Well, there's this crazy bacon sleeve..."
What are your thoughts about the music being forgotten while the graphic design was honored?
Greg: "I feel its better than not being remembered at all. The aesthetics of making records has been largely forgotten in this day and age, but in a prefect world, the design and the music should go hand in hand. Its nice to have any part of your efforts recognized."
Rob: "Both the music and the design were purely creative efforts, pursued with equal attention. That the design is recognized while the music isn't is probably a function of volume; there's enough independent rock music to serve every excruciating niche and fetish on the planet ten times over, yet the vast majority of graphic design is commissioned by commercialists who have no intrinsic interest in the artwork, so most of it is a total bore that just mushes together and we stood out in context. Either that, or we sucked or something."
If I wanted you guys to design something for my company, what would I have to do?
Greg: "Come up with an idea actually worth doing and boatloads of money."
Rob: "We don't really know how to behave when placed in corporate design situations, so if you do come to us with a proposal, please make sure the end-client is incapable of locating and annoying us."
How do I properly display and store my National Treasure Buzzmuscle 7"?
The cardinal rule of displaying your Buzzmuscle single is that the bacon must be horizontal. When displayed horizontally, the bacon shows through the window properly as normal bacon would. You should also make sure none of the type present on the disc shows in the window, spoiling the effect. When your single has become worn or soiled, it should be framed and hung on the wall in a prominent location, as its National Treasure status accords. At no time is the record to touch the ground.
|This animation shows the proper
alignment of the picture disc. Note the radial rotation before insertion.
Display without proper alignment may be a violation of The National Treasure Preservation Act of 1921, a little known Federal statute that affords protections to items designated National Treasures similar to those extended the Flag of the United States.
What are the lyrics to the songs / what are they about?
Rob: "Assembler" was a series of lyrical images that connected to create a kind of diorama for the stuff on my mind at the time, mostly stuff about how age and experience carries with it automatic dismissal by a large segment of people. That segment is us classically known as "the kids", but I had in mind a broader segment, a segment characterized by do-nothing or know-nothing adults who never adopted any sense of responsibility or forethought in their lives. I was kind of drawing a line between those who do and those who watch, and musing over the baggage each side carries. Brian, our guitar player didn't like the "mighty white of you" refrain too much at first, and I kind of see why, but I recall he relented when he noticed that I was going more for a grizzled old grandfather approach with a euphemism rather than calling for a race war or whatever."
Destiny took Dan away from the pages of his Mad Magazine today
To streets lined with formaldehyde everything changes while its stays the same so
Dan got himself a nickel-plated ride and motored right over to the man with the mission
And for his trouble got a nice fat cuban cigar
Mighty white of you to tell me what I should do a wetnose punk like you's got all the answers
The man with the plan said thus to Dan / a gold and chrome Zippo appeared in his hand
He nodded his head / pretending to understand
"I got a wife in the coop, I got a flag on my lawn, I got a couple of kids and a case of gin
and that my friend, is everything you gotta know"
Mighty white of you etc...
Assembler eats power and sweats what we need
Eroder eats hours and doesn't do a goddamned thing
Rob: "33 Degrees was a poke through a real fetish of mine, the Freemasons. The title is a reference to that organization's supposedly highest order, that of 33rd Degree Mason. The idea that a clandestine group of decrepit, fez-prone caucasians run the planet in secret is fun to consider for a minute or two, and this was written during that minute. I heard much later from Jay Robbins of the very swell DC rock band Jawbox that he had also written a song about the Freemasons and had called it 33 Degrees as well, but had shelved it. My bass at the time also had a faux-chrome Masonic symbol on it. The only time I ever got any feedback on it was from a guy at a gig in Champain, IL, who asked me if I was a "brother of the craft." I felt like a dope when I told him I was just a dabbler."
Theory conspiracy and its a damn good thing these guys are friendly
All they want is what they've had for years
Anything you wanna hide
better stash it in plain sight and double-check the greenback in your pocket, Jackson
Brothers of the Craft have got your number
No, I never would have guessed that a bunch of fat old men
Pull the strings that jerk you under
Asked the man and he lied about what he had to know
Hustlers swing that smoky ball and wring their hands in holy terror
At every mention of the brotherhood
Chessmen for sale is ancient history / the ring of truth is doubleplusungood
Pull slack, watch your back
Open the forbidden Cliff Notes and try a little sympathy for things obscure
Know I never would have guessed nobody's watching the Watchmen
What happened to the bacon after you shot the photographs?
We ate the hell out of it. Enjoyed it, too. Made sandwiches, I think.
What are the guys from Buzzmuscle doing today?
Greg Dunlap is employed as a Game Systems Programmer for Williams Electronics and plays in a band called Municipal, which features former members of Chicago's fuzzily-remembered stalwart rock technicians Tar. They may or may not be recording sooner or later. Brian Gay is temporarily off our radar at the moment. Dave Schleitwiler is living in Denver, CO and plays in a punk band called St. James Gate. Rob Warmowski is one of the staff at Perishable Records in Chicago and is recording instrumental filmmusic with Scott Harris (Terminal Beach) and Jeff BBQ (Crown Royals) under the name Trifecta.
I bought one of these! What's it worth?
Hell, I dunno. Ask a collector. If you are a collector, tell us what you think they're worth, because we have a few dozen left. Don't forget: they're National Treasures.
What does Oscar Mayer have to say about all this?
It is unclear at this time if any representatives from the meatpacking giant have seen the record. Now that the Chicago Tribune has run a piece on its inclusion in the New York exhibit, it will probably make a company lunchroom bulletin board. Guys, if you're reading this, we don't have any money.
Where have I seen this before?
When the record was released in January of 1992, it was sent to approximately 60 press addresses. The only coverage we received that we are aware of was in a local zine called Speed Kills ("okay, I guess") Alternative Press ("good songwriting") and, amazingly, Madameoiselle ("like, wow".) It's entirely possible that it appeared or was reviewed in other publications, but none of us are aware of them, and what's more, we don't even have a copy of the Madamoiselle. If anybody does, tell us please.
Rob: "This record also inspired a clone of its design. In late '92, a teen suburban Chicago hardcore band called the Bollweevils released a 7" entitled "Disassembler", whose cover was a poor knockoff of our own high-quality Oscar Mayer bacon package knockoff and whose liner notes scolded "Thanks to Buzzmuscle for reminding us that a great package does not necessarily make a great record." Years later, I ran into a member of that band on the Internet and asked what exactly would cause one puny, unheard-of band to waste an entire cover art opportunity on insulting another puny, unheard-of band's work. The answer came back: I had insulted them for not being punk rock enough at a show we played. Kids crack me up."
Greg: I remember walking into Reckless Records one day, and Charlie (who ran the place at the time) sort of looked at me funny and said "Hey there." I was sorta confused and waved, and started walking back towards the singles. I notice he has his eye on me the whole time I'm walking back, like he thinks I'm going to rip something off. When I turned the corner to the bin where the new singles were, it was sitting up on display and I just about wet my pants. I wasn't pissed, I always thought imitation was the highest form of flattery. I laughed my ass off. I look up, and Charlie is just smiling at me, nodding his head. I bought one immediately and brought it to practice that very night. Everyone was amazed and got a big chuckle over it.
|Bollweevils "Disassembler" 7". Woe unto you who would anger The Youth.|
Thank you for you interest in this record and its historical context. If you'd like to contact us, feel free to send email. Thanks to David Rothschild for the Chicago Tribune Homefront column inclusion. This page was initially published January 2, 1997 and was last updated March 24, 1999.