Hailed as one of Sacramento, California's best and best-loved rock bands, H.A.G. has a history that reaches back more than 15 years, when guitarist Ned Hammad and vocalist Darin Wood formed '58 Fury. In early '87, only weeks after nabbing bassist Joe Johnston, the band signed to A&M Records, an ill-fated move that would leave the band recordless and on its own in a year and a half. "I don't think they knew what to do with us," says Hammad. "We wanted a bit of creative freedom and they wanted us to sound like the Georgia Satellites. Nothing against the Satellites, but there's much more to us than that."
By early '92 despite being one of Sacramento's biggest draws and receiving a SAMMIES (Sacramento Area Musicians) nomination for best rock band, Fury opted for a fresh start, procuring new drummer Ryan Smith and changing its name to Soul Motor. Meanwhile, Johnston was laying the groundwork for his own studio, a move which would play a major role in H.A.G.'s development. Soul Motor immediately began reestablishing itself as a Sacramento-area heavy hitter, garnering another SAMMIES nomination (Wood was nominated for best rock vocalist as well), supporting major-label acts such as White Zombie, Blind Melon, Monster Magnet and the Organization, appearing on the cable TV program Sacto-Active and releasing the self-produced five-song cassette-only EP E Pluribus Oozum. The EP received
rave reviews in the local press ("...A glorious shot of music that is perhaps the best rock'n'roll demo tape ... in many a month." -BAM) and received airplay on commercial radio stations KRXQ 93 Rock and KWOD 106.5.
The band re-entered the studio in the spring of '93 to record Oozum's follow up, only to have guitarist Chris Estes, a bandmember since the founding of '58 Fury, bow out before the project could be completed. Two cuts that did get finished are of particular note: "Soaking Through" was chosen for regular rotation on KRXQ 93 Rock, while "Baby, I'm a Man" made its way onto the station's local-music sampler CD Sacramento Rocks. The band, now stripped down to the four-piece of Hammad, Wood, Johnston and Smith, finished the remaining tracks and chose the new name H.A.G. so as not to be confused with several emerging acts named "Soul (fill in the blank)."
--Original H.A.G. Songs From the Pus Cavern bio, circa 1994
Which brings us to the present ...
As happens with so many bands, the key to taking the next step also holds the seeds to destruction. Having put everything into the making of Songs From the Pus Cavern and seeing relatively little come from it, H.A.G. suffered a slow crash and burn, beginning with the departure of Joe Johnston in late '94, and finally packed it in in '95. Since then, the various members have stayed busy in music, notably Darin Wood, who went on to form an updated version of Soulmotor (one word, in this incarnation) with Tesla's Brian Wheat, and released two major-label albums. Ned Hammad enjoyed a stint with Columbia recording artist Sweetvine, while Johnston, via his Pus Cavern studio, has recorded acts such as Cake and the Deftones.
What we have in Songs From the Pus Cavern is the legacy of one of Sacramento's finest musical lineages, one that never quite arrived where it intended to go, yet had every bit of the promise found in the area's more successful rock acts.
The proof is in the pudding.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Blind Pig
2. Soaking Through
3. Baby, I'm a Man
4. Time of the Season
5. Deepest Soul
6. Oozing Purple Funk
8. The King Awaits
9. Monster Doctor
10. Ain't Built for Speed