The Unlikely Return of The Blood Farmers

Either we weren’t alive then, couldn’t get a ride to the gig, or didn’t appreciate what a band was doing until we got older, but we all have bands we wish we could have seen. When a particularly acrimonious band like The Eagles or (most of) Van Halen can put aside their differences, or at least stay separated from each other when they’re not onstage and get back on the road, they can practically write their own check.

But you don’t have to be the biggest band from yesteryear to have someone willing to financially back a reunion. In recent years, promoters overseas have been bringing smaller bands back together, many who couldn’t afford to tour the first time they were around. Witness this very thing happening to The Blood Farmers, the obscure but beloved doom band who first formed in 1989, and are now enjoying a nice little comeback.

The Blood Farmers were already disbanded for five years or so when there was first interest in them reuniting. “One of the first people who contacted us was a guy from Japan named Toreno Koayashi, who started a label so he could release our early recordings,” Blood Farmers guitarist Dave Szulkin explains. “He reissued our ’91 demo Permanent Brain Damage on his label Leaf Hound, and later put out our self-titled album that had originally come out on Germany’s Hellhound Records in ’95. We also heard from guys in bands who were fans of our music, including Jus from Electric Wizard, Tatsu from Church of Misery, and Mike from VoodooShock/Lord of the Grave. So we knew there was some interest, and finally after a 12-year hiatus, we reunited the band in 2007 at the Doom or Be Doomed Festival in Baltimore, organized by John Brenner and Josh Hart from Revelation. Toreno flew in from Tokyo to see us at that show, and then he invited us to tour Japan with Church of Misery, which we did in 2008.”

The Blood Farmers have also been invited to tour Europe through a German booking agent, and they’ll be touring with Black Pyramid playing gigs in Germany, Holland, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Finland, where they’ll also share the stage with doom legends Pentagram.

“It’s a nostalgic experience playing the old songs again, and it’s still amazing to me that even one person knows them,” Szulkin says. “The two doom festivals in Baltimore were especially magical in that way, to see friends who play in some of the heaviest bands on the planet getting into those songs. We’re also writing/recording new material for the first time in many years, which is great."

As for the renewed interest in his band, Szulkin can only speculate. "I know we influenced some of these younger bands, so maybe the increased ‘following’ is a result of that. Also the cult following for the band probably has something to do with how rare our album was. The label went out of business right after the disc was released, so it became a collector’s item. We didn’t play a lot of shows in the first place, there were no photos of us, so we were somewhat mysterious.”

Or it could be an "ahead of their time" situation. When St. Vitus, one of the pioneers of doom metal, were playing around L.A. in the mid-eighties, punk and speed metal was all the rage and it took a long time for anyone to appreciate what they were doing. “When we started in 1989, it wasn’t cool to like St. Vitus, etc.,” Szulkin says. “The style wasn’t really mapped out or done to death so much, and you quickly got to know the like-minded musicians through zines and tape trading through the mail. In general, we were the musical equivalent of litter, just a forgettable nuisance. We played at CBGB opening for Hole and Courtney Love’s fans didn’t like it much! We were loud as fuck, I saw girls holding their ears in pain. They were pissed at us, and we loved that.”

“Another time at CBGB we opened for Big Chief who sneered at us," Szulkin continues, "and one guy called after me, ‘Hey look, it’s the punk rocker with the St. Vitus shirt.’ At a club called Bunratty’s in Boston, we were sawing the necks of our guitars together in emulation of Blue Oyster Cult, and someone yelled, ‘GET A FUCKIN’ PERMIT!’ That pretty much sums it up. There are a lot more bands playing this style of music now compared to when we started doing it.”

With metal’s big comeback in recent years, the doom scene has also come back with a vengeance...or did it ever really go away? “It never went away, but it definitely has become a more well-known and imitated style,” Szulkin says. “I was really happy to see St. Vitus get a big crowd in L.A. the last time they played. When we opened for them in ‘93, very few people showed up. They were THE big influence for us - Vitus and Black Sabbath, of course - along with Blue Cheer. Vitus are heroes of ours, and I’m glad they are getting the attention they deserve.”

In addition to his guitar duties in The Blood Farmers, Szulkin also runs the theatrical division of Grindhouse Releasing, booking classic exploitation films around the country for midnight shows as well as releasing them on DVD. Last year alone they brought Evil Dead, Maniac, and Gone With the Pope back to theaters, complete with silk screened tour shirts listing the show dates on the back. Szulkin also produced the DVD for the Wes Craven horror classic Last House on the Left, and wrote the behind the scenes book on the film.

A lot of fans of heavy, extreme music are also big fans of grindhouse films. As Szulkin says, “They naturally go together. The genre’s greatest band, Black Sabbath, was named after a Mario Bava movie. Morbid, heavy music appeals to the same tastes as morbid movies.” The name of his band was taken from a 1972 grindhouse film, Invasion of the Blood Farmers.

With the offers coming in for The Blood Farmers to re-release their music and tour, Szulkin is very surprised and grateful the band is still remembered. “I’m surprised we have a following anywhere!,” Szulkin says. “I’ve seen copies of our debut sell for hundreds of dollars. Crazy! I am totally flattered and blown away that were are remembered at all. It’s a nostalgic experience playing the old songs again, and it’s still amazing to me that even one person knows them. I consider it a success that we get to tour at all. We never set out to be pros or make money anyways. It’s not about that, never will be.”

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