The beast from ‘66
The Trouble Makers celebrate 10 years of garage-rock fun, noise and mayhem
Before “rock star” became a valid career option, the act of picking up a guitar and rounding up a bunch of like-minded blokes was a pretty decent way for a misfit to create something of redeeming social value. Or, at the very least, it was a method for non-jock males to attract a few girls. The banner year for such misfits was 1966, when the popularity of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other British Invasion bands combined with relatively cheap guitars and amplifiers to fuel an explosion of garage-rock bands across America—a glorious din that can be relived by listening to such period compilations as Nuggets and the Australian Pebbles series.
Tim Foster, unfortunately, missed out on that particular bonanza. He and future bandmate Stan Tindall were born that year. Eventually, the two Foothill High grads hooked up with Rodney Cornelius, who had a few years on them. Cornelius was playing bass in a Southern California surf-rock band called the Undercurrents in 1963, three years before Foster and Tindall were even born.
It was a fortuitous meeting. “Me and Stan had been trying to learn to play but were absolutely incapable of playing a single instrument or even tuning,” Foster recalled between bits of a sandwich on a recent afternoon, while sunning at a sidewalk table on J Street outside a Midtown Italian delicatessen. “I worked with Rodney”—at a Tower Records—“and he came in and showed us how to play. He was just supposed to be showing us how to do stuff, but eventually, we kinda talked him into being in the band.”
That was 10 years ago. Foster, a guitarist when he plays with other bands, took the role of singer and harmonica player. Tindall picked up the bass; Cornelius switched to guitar. After a few false starts—with such prospective drummers as Dean Seavers and Mike Farrell not panning out—Brian Machado, another high-school pal who’s a year older than Foster and Tindall, signed on. Thus were the Trouble Makers born.
By kicking off with such notable covers as “1-2-5” by the Haunted, a Quebecois instrumental combo from 1966 featured on the first volume of Pebbles, or gems from the oeuvres of Northwest proto-punk outfits like the Sonics and Wailers, and by penning their own like-minded originals, the Trouble Makers established a well-deserved reputation as one of the area’s coolest live acts. “The only reason we wanted to be in a band,” Foster admitted, “was because Stan and I were such obsessive ’60s garage Nazis, and we wanted to play all these great songs that no one ever gave a shit about.”
Of course, the pitfall of a performer becoming obsessed with music from a certain period is when he or she adopts a concomitant rigorous orthodoxy, which can dictate everything from what make and model of vintage guitar and amp are used to how a singer delivers a song. That pitfall was especially relevant given that both Foster and Tindall are detail-oriented visual artists (Foster draws comics, and Tindall designs Web pages). But the Trouble Makers had observed a few other bands, like the Primates, the Barracudas and the Mummies, which had grafted 1960s garage-rock aesthetic trappings onto a more contemporary punk-rock presentation—the Mummies in particular. “After I saw them, I told Stan that there was no way that we were not going to be in a band,” Foster said. “It was so different than all of the anal-retentive stuff that you’d see here, all those bands that practiced six hours a week and played the same set every time you saw ’em,” which is to say that the Trouble Makers aren’t afraid to wing it.
They’re the kind of band whose reputation precedes it; when caught up in the moment, amps get knocked over, guitars come flailing apart, or even weirder things happen—like the time Foster opened a bag of flour into a whirling fan from the stage of the Press Club. It was pure Dada.
“The big secret,” Foster confessed, “is that the Trouble Makers are a performance-art project.”