Rock 'n Rollers Don't Bathe


Dashan Coram, 1981-2012, NYC
(The following text was taken from Bandcamp Scrobbler liner notes from the album Beebles by Secret Salamander)

"dashan > is also a capricorn > enjoys being alone as much as he likes being around others > hates using or hearing the word awesome > used to read comic books > almost never reads the end of novels > likes riding the train and hates airports > knows the difference between friends and aquaintences > can't spell very well > hates to use spell check > has never eaten flesh of any kind > has eaten hufu(human flavored tofu)as well as many other meat wanna be products > used to obsess over radiohead but can't listen to them anymore > used to listen to tevin campbell a lot and wishes that he had some of his music now > watches too much tv when he has cable > likes rooms that don't have a tv set but do have record players > can play other instruments than guitar better than it seams but is slow at learning songs on them > loves berlin but doesn't really like being in germany > is sick of seth rogan and that little dude from mac adverts > likes to talk shit about england and france > has never lived in a place that wasn't in the big city > doesn't trust the internet > may very well be a manic depressant > has at least four personality's > has way too many siblings > is the oldest of them all > went to art high school > never went to college > only drinks coffee socially >doesn't like to shower every day > is unemployed >"

I was in Des Moines, Iowa the morning I got the news that Dashan had passed away. My band Schwervon! had just played a show the night before for about 10 people. After the show, the door person speechlessly handed us a five dollar bill (our cut for the evening's performance). We managed to sell a couple of CD's and a T-shirt so the night wasn't a total, financial, loss. Nan and I were feeling good about the show itself. Later that night we shared a vegan taco pizza with our host Christopher (Christopher the Conquered) and his girlfriend Avalan. We felt like we had made some new good friends in Iowa. The next morning, there was a text on my phone from two separate people, in NYC, saying that they had some bad news. When you get a message like that a lot things run through your head. The first thing is: Someone died. The second is a flurry of people and accompanied scenarios. Was it an accident? An overdose? A fire? Was someone murdered? Was it more than one person? When I got the news the next morning that it was Dasahn who had died in his sleep the night before I'm sad to say that his name was one that rolled through my head when I first got that text.

I honestly can't remember how I first met Dashan Coram. It was like he just appeared one day. Which is fitting because he seemed to have that air about him in general. I remember one time walking on the street in Brooklyn somewhere and I turned my head around and he was just there walking next to me. I don't know how long he'd been there, just observing me and waiting for me to turn around. It was a very Dashan thing. I feel like in some ways it was just meant to be that we would meet. We were both lofi songwriters living in NYC. We were both interested in bedroom recording. We were both liked being a part of music communities. We both liked Pavement and Guided by Voices. And we both ran DIY labels.

When I got my hands on the self titled Huggabroomstik album my first thought was: "This sounds like the Moldy Peaches but with cooler music." The performances are amateurish but the recordings and arrangements are really interesting. The melodies and lyrics possess a twisted nursery rhyme quality that are totally original. There's a big heart on the cover. For some reason I'm really attracted to heart shapes. They're easy to draw. I associate hearts with youth. Hearts are like something you'd put at the end of love letter or after signing someone's yearbook. Hearts can be incredibly cliche and even evoke great sadness as well. They're not really the shape of a real heart. They might make us think of the fake commercialism of love through the exploitation of things like Valentines Day, candy, fake flowers, or even the over-done I "Heart" NY T-shirt. They also kind of look like boobs. I used a heart on the cover of my first solo album as well: Me Me Me

Dashan's music always seems to possess equal parts sweet and disturbing. When I discovered Huggabroomstik I hadn't been as intrigued with a band since I first heard the Butthole Surfers. Unlike the Butthole's there is more of an inclusive, almost cultish, vibe to Hugga's wall of sound freak-out live performances. Their irreverent song lyrics and subject matter evoke what the essence of alternative music or rock n' roll is all about. Their inclusiveness is almost comical, at times seeming to have more people playing with the band on stage than in the audience. I was fortunate enough to record a Huggabroomstik album and the better part of a Secret Salamander album (One of Dashan's solo projects). There were also short periods of time where I played bass with Secret Salamander and shared the stage with him performing with Prewar Yardsale. My relationship with Dashan as friend and as artistic collaborator were perhaps as mixed as his musical style appeared to be. There were times when his sweetness and giving nature were very comforting and fun. His "anything goes" style of performance and recording were a great influence upon me as a sound engineer and producer as well. Dashan was very much about the process. He liked pushing limits when it came to recording, making music, and in life. I used to have arguments with him about how much he would overload and distort a lot of his recordings. "I like that sound," he would say. He lived very much in the moment, often showing up hours late for an appointment or session, while other times spontaneously dropping by my place unannounced to see if I wanted to grab a beer or play guitar on the roof.

There are few people in this world who were as unapologetically good at being themselves as Dashan Coram. I don't know the literal circumstances around his death. I have no idea if they were related to drugs or alcohol or depression or if it was just an unfortunate coincidence. All that I can say is that for the past several years we grew more distant and that makes me sad. Anytime someone dies I feel a great deal of sadness for the close friends and family who are left behind to mourn and speculate for the rest of their lives. I suppose in some way the distance we had the past few years spares me a bit of that. But my heart goes out to all of his closer friends and relatives. To love and support an artist of his intensity is not an easy thing to do. I think Dashan's work speaks for itself. You can hear some of it here: and here:

The outpouring of fond memories and tributes from all the people that were touched by him are an appropriate epitaph: I miss him. The things that make me feel better are the lessons I have learned from him about living freely within my art and being open to others. I have a tendency in my work to overjudge during the process. I never got the feeling that Dashan got hung up on this. This is the sign of a great artist. He probably never got the validation he deserved and he appears to have just turned it into more work. He did his thing and then moved on to the next thing. He allowed the process to happen. And quite often the results were truly remarkable.

(In 2007 I interviewed Neil, Dashan, and Dibs of Huggabroomstik for the Issue #1 of the zine Elephant Shoe. Here's the interview.)


There is a feeling of enchantment that any kid who ever decides to start a band can relate to. Like breaking out of a cage or taking the first steps towards a far off planet, playing music can be a an empowering experience. It’s also potentially a little scary. Time stops. Troubles disappear. The brutal hypocritical world outside melts away with each fiery strum of a guitar or bone-crushing beat of a drumstick. Life is in the moment and it’s questions float away on a cloud of sound (and occasionally clouds of other substances).

To quote the great Willie Nelson: “I find love is making music with my friends.” But, and there usually is a “but” when it comes to anything this cool, once the decision is made to actually get off the couch, the dragons breath of legitimacy threatens to incinerate the pure doctrine of making merry with ones brothers and sisters. Discount chain music stores filled with warehouses of cheaply made electronic accessories, manned by armies of frizzy haired, guitar shredding, store clerks, wait in the wings to pray upon the tender sonic dreams of the amateur musician. Egos carry great potential to collide in endless over amplified, self-indulgent tirades and late night drunken band naming sessions. Ideas may culminate and fester for months; even years over the virtues of practice or “selling out” before a band may manage to produce a recorded document of their vision. Fortunately, in the case of Neil Kelly and Dashan Coram (the founding members of Huggabroomstick) it took a single night: January 7th, 2001 after a Nada Surf show at the, now closed, legendary East Village Indie music club Brownies.

NK- We were like, if Nada Surf could be a band we could be a band.

The fact that an improvisational, folk, noise band, who’s musical landscape ranges from the musings of Jerry Garcia to the sound of a trash can being thrown into a mountain of kazoos and slide whistles, was originally inspired by a late 90’s “buzz clip” one hit wonder with a song entitled “Popular” is not a rare irony surrounding this band.

NK- We first had an idea to learn all these Nada Surf songs. And then we were gonna try to open up for Nada Surf and just play their songs.
DC- For some reason we were like: “Hey let’s start a band!” And then a bunch of friends came with us to my house on 110 street later that night. Neil had a guitar.
NK- We went to High School together. I was in a band for High School Battle of the bands in 1998. I played a Red Hot Chilly Pepper’s song. I played a Neil Young Song. “Rockin’ In The Free World” was my closer.
Me- What was the name of your band?
NK- 2154
DC- I’d never been in a band. I never played music. I just put a bunch of shit in a shopping cart that I had…like pots and shit and we actually recorded it that night.
NK- We called our friend Benny and he freestyled some lyrics over the phone while we were playing. We called ourselves: Toenail Fungus Clippings Up Your Asshole…Bitch. And our first song was called: You Ask For Peanuts, You Get Popcorn…Bitch.

The endearing Beavis and Butthead tone to his voice combined with the permanent shit-eating grin plastered on his face makes it difficult to take these graphic titles too seriously. Neil and Dashan are not the kinds of artists to let things like political correctness or musical correctness for that matter govern their actions. Strangely, there is an undeniable sweetness and lack of pretense to the way they account their beginnings.

NK- We were constantly just making up songs and recording them on the spot.
DC- We just decided to get together almost every weekend and we’d just smoke a bunch of weed and pretty much every time we played we recorded it.
Me- So, the original idea really was just sort of an opportunity for friends to hang out and party and have fun on the weekends?
NK- Totally, it was kind of like the Boys and Girls Club. We need something to keep us off the streets.

I sense sarcasm in his voice but I think there is a hint of truth to the statement. It is at this point where I manage to bring an otherwise light- hearted interview to a grinding halt with my next question.

Me- How much does Huggabroomstick have to do with drugs?

Cue the crickets and whistling wind. Is this crossing the line? I don’t know. Are we mature enough to discuss this without fear of judgement?

NK- Drugs?
DC- We don’t have much to do with drugs.

I sense apprehension. I sense the fear of being pigeon holed a “Drug Band” or the difficulties that could arise if certain employers, family members, or others caught wind, so to speak of the topics we were touching on. But, why? These guys aren’t out sacrificing virgins. They pay their taxes. They even have jobs. Dashan works at a health food store and Neil works with developmentally disabled adults.

Me- I mean, the basis of your music comes from chilling out with friends…partying whatever you wanna call it. Often when people do this alcohol or recreational drug usage occurs. That’s cool. But it’s very much parallel to the music itself which is pretty psychedelic or what one might typically associate as “Drug” influences sonically and thematically. But your music also has a sort of popiness or sweetness in it that I think is a special aspect that keeps it from being in any way scary even though the sounds are pretty intense sometimes.
NK- Yeah, well I mean music is cool for when you’re on drugs or whatever and I listen to a lot of psychedelic bands. But like last week I went to see the Pink Floyd laser show and whenever I’m trying to write a song I’m try to make it like a cool song that would be good to go with a laser show.
DC- I’m not gonna say that we don’t hang out and do that stuff but…we’re nice guys.

It’s true. I think that Dashan and Neil are some of the sweetest fellows I know. And there lies the rub. Why do people often assume that if music is loud and abrasive and crass and involves stuff like smoking pot or jumping around like a monkey that it is somehow cold or not nice?

Me- That’s the strange thing about you guys. I think that upon first listening to your music the general public might view it as a little bit hostile. And maybe the sort of openness surrounding you guys…just partying and making music may be considered by many as an environment that is not so healthy. But somehow you guys manage to avoid this scary sexist “Rock” vibe while somehow maintaining certain intensity.
NK- We try to keep it friendly because we want people to like us. You don’t wanna scare people away with a band that’s already kind of weird.
DC- That’s why we're called “Hugga” broomstick. We wanna be a positive force.
Me- You guys could have just as easily become some kind of metal band. The music at times has a sort of childish, nursery rhyme quality juxtaposed with some more visceral violent sounds. Where do you guy’s think that comes from?
NK- I don’t really know. I think it’s just part of our life. It’s just like the way it goes. The main thing was we were like listening to music around 2001 and we weren’t really impressed by a lot of stuff. We thought we could do something different. I kind of wanted to make my own favorite band. It’s like you know: “The most rockin’ band is the one that I’m in. You gotta hear it. It’s totally out of this world.

At this point Neil steps out to go let Dibson T. Hoffweiler (lead guitarist for Huggabroomstick for the past few years) in from downstairs. This gives Dashan and I the chance to talk a little bit about the new double album “Ultimate.”

Me- The new album sounds different to me.
DC- We’re a different band. We always do that. We were playing with the same bunch of guys as we were for the last album. We did a little tour of Germany and The Netherlands. It was only about 12 shows in a row but I think after having to play shows in front of strangers and wanting to make them think that we’re good. We just got back from that tour and we wanted to keep playing together.
Me- So these songs were written more with the band?
DC- Well not really. Every time we record we always have a bunch of new songs and whoever we record with maybe played it like once or twice but this time it was a little more… We recorded a bunch of stuff at Mark’s (Mark Ospivot, Emandee Studios) and we did a bunch of stuff at my house too so we just kept adding too many instruments on a lot of things so there’s way too much shit going on…
Me- There’s a lot more sound on this one…
DC- I like the sound of a lot of shit going on. I like the idea that if there is so much stuff going on that it doesn’t really matter if some of it’s bad. You don’t really notice it because there’s just so much shit going.
Me- This sort of idea of excessive instrumentation… This is sort of like your production style?
DC-I just think we don’t know when to stop. We’ll just be recording sporadically and we’ll say, “Oh, that instrument’s really cool. Let’s just play that over that. Or we’ll ask some other friend if they wanna play something.

Neil returns with Dibs and girlfriend Liv. Dibs, a solo performer in his own right as well as member of the bands Cheese on Bread and Urban Barnyard, resembles the guru geek Harris from Freaks and Geeks a little.

NK- I guess we are always experimenting so we tend to go overboard. Because it’s fun to experiment.
DH- I think it’s just that we love music way too much. We are trying to record and we have to play more and more and more because we love it so much. If we don’t put more on, it’s not clear how much we like it.
Me- I hear a lot more electronic stuff, at least on the first CD of the new release.
DC- My new roommate has a synthesizer and drum machine. I play with those. It’s probably just because I have to use the drum machine in my room so it won’t be too loud when we wanna record something at 12 o’clock at night.
Me- The recordings have progressively gotten more complex. How do you go about it? Is somebody in charge?
DC- We just hang out. Whoever’s the most sober is in charge. We just do what we do and if someone likes it… cool.
Me- It feels like you guys are getting better?
DC- Well, we just keep doing it. It’s fun to hang out and play and practicing is okay but we like to play live shows and record more.
NK- We always have a very open door policy. Anybody that’s around at the time can play. There was a show at the Bowery Poetry club and there were like 12 people on stage. I think there were more people on stage than there were in the audience.
DC- Odds are if there are 7 or 8 of us there are more people in the band than there are in the audience.
Me- Are you guys taking things more seriously these days?
DC- Yeah. That’s why we named out last album: Sloppy Kisses and Serious Guitars. We were like, “Hey Johnny (Johnny Dido, of the Wowz) you wanna be our drummer?” And he said, “Yeah.” So we practiced once and then he came in the next day and we were like hung over and then I think we drank a beer and then we played 8 songs in a row. And this time we just practiced a little bit more.
Me- You guys don’t really spend a lot of time analyzing what you are doing.
NK- We’re pretty free-form.
Me- But listening to specifically the most recent 2 albums. There’s a lot of work in there or at least time.
DC- If there’s any work in there it’s probably Mark or just me putting delay on stuff.

He’s being modest; it’s true, the last 2 albums have a much more listenable analogue smoothness and a fresh drum sound that could be credited to Mark Ospovot (head engineer at Emandee Studios) and newly added drummer/percussionist Johnny Dido. But I am familiar with Dashan’s style through working with him and listening to other artists he has produced including Nan Turner, The Wave Pictures, as well as his solo project Secret Salamander. His tools have expanded. The old standby Hugga instruments like the Omnichord, the slide whistle and the prepared guitar are morphing with more electronic Moog type sounds and oscillators and studio and found sounds like reverb and running water.

Me- It’s strange because you guys have a somewhat slacker vibe or reputation…
NC- We put out records all the time. We’re a hard working band.
Me- It’s true. It’s an odd dichotomy because you guys play a lot and you’re pretty prolific but you guys have such a nonchalant vibe.
NK- I think it’s good because we love doing it.
DC- I think that if you think our name isn’t that stupid you probably will like out music.
Me- Are you guys taking it a little more seriously these days? I feel like part of the secret that is so good about you guys is that you sort of let things happen naturally. You are not necessarily the biggest self hype machines that we tend to see a lot of in our little community.
NK- Well in a way I thought it might be kind of funny to put out an ad in Urban Folk.
DC- Well, it’s the most kind of lofi publication. It’s really local. It doesn’t really get that far. It’s right here in the community. It’s like a community paper.
Me- You guys are community minded guys.
DC- Yeah, it’s all about the community.

Again I sense that hint of sarcasm that I don’t find a hundred percent believable. It’s almost as if they are aware of the pitfalls of waving that freak flag too high though not being afraid to show a little proactive behavior.

NK- I don’t know why I decided to put an ad in Urban Folk? I guess I just thought it would be funny. It’s pretty lofi. Just black and white and then I say you can buy it at Olive Juice, whatever, whenever they’re made…

The three members proceed to discuss the actual physical production of their next CD like they are preparing a meal.

NK- Did Johnny get those CDs’?
DH- Yeah I got those seven inch sleeves…we just need to make the artwork and just drop them in. We’re almost done.
DC- Yeah.
DH- Johnny (drummer)… I have to say has been a big addition to the band.
DC- I think we are more serious because Johnny Dido is in the band.
Me- That’s strange because he seems kind of out of it sometimes.
DH- No, no he’s the most in it. He calls me every week and says, “Hey Dibs, can you come to practice.” And sometime I say, ‘No.” But sometimes I say, “Yes” and then I go to practice.
Me- You guys practice every week?
DC- Now we do. We didn’t practice before the really long album. Now we’re practicing after we made the really long album. If we would have it would have been a much more listenable, normal album.
DH- I don’t think so, well maybe more listenable but a lot more boring too.
DC- Yeah, you’re right. That’s why we don’t practice.
DH- It’s also a good way for me to work on stuff too because the more I work on stuff the more boring it gets. But then all of a sudden it’s like, “You’ve never heard this song before but you have to play a guitar part for it right now!” And then I do it and then I sit back and I’m like, “That was pretty cool. I can’t believe I made that up. It’s a good thing we recorded it.”
DC- That’s what music is supposed to be. It’s like; “You wanna be in our band? No problem. You can just play flute the whole time. You never heard the song? It doesn’t matter. Or hey you wanna play banjo or piano. Sure!”
DH- This band taught me how to play instruments.
DC- Yeah, I started playing on buckets and shit. Most of the time I was just passed out. Then I switched to the recorder, which I played really badly. Then I played the slide whistle a lot. Then I played keyboards really badly for a while. Then I played guitar really badly for a while but then I learned that if you add distortion, a guitar being played badly sounds a little better. Then you get some delay going and mess up your strings a little bit it’ll sound cool.
NK- I’m actually moving up. I’m getting an electric guitar on Monday.

This is big news. For the past 4 years of my witnessing Huggabroomstick, one or the only consistent factors has been the happy go lucky strumming of Neil’s acoustic nylon string guitar

Me- I don’t know about this? Prepare for the riots and the “Judas” calls.
NK- I should make a big show out of it right? I should smash my acoustic guitar and set it on fire. And then swing it around my head and catch the curtains on fire at Sidewalk (Sidewalk Café) and get banned for life.
Me- I guess aside from the initial influences like Daniel Johnston or Half Japanese, you guys have managed to keep evolving on each record. I feel like in the past you may have fallen into this category of Outsider Music.
DC- That would be cool. I like that stuff.
Me- Yeah but I think with this new record. If it were, for lack of a better term, marketed properly you would find quite an audience in the more hip avant noise circles as well. You could maybe play some festivals or something like that?
NK- Yeah, we kind of started to try and model ourselves after The Strokes.

Perhaps I pushed the ambition button with that last statement.

DH- Yeah and you know The Strokes always said, “If you market yourself the right way you can play festivals and then you can get famous.”
NK- Yeah like when The Strokes said, “If you tell the hipsters that you’re hip. The hipsters will say that you’re hip. And then you’ll be hip.”
Me- So, on the record, are you saying you guys are hip.
DC- That’s what The Strokes would say.
DH- We always try to look at what The Strokes say.
NK- I’ve never really listened to any of their albums but more like their philosophy…

The sarcasm is real here, though the philosophy makes a certain sense and could be just what this bands needs to even out those audience to band attendance ratios. Or maybe it would just ruin everything?

DH- They’re much more like Plato or Socrates than The Strokes to us… Remember how we were all reading their autobiography and they said that sometimes you have to slow it down for the record? And then we did that on the new record. And now it’s really good.

With the interview at this point running the risk of turning into one big sarcastic rant about NYC’s most popular indie rock band since the Sonic Youth, I steer towards a close with a specific question about one of the more anthemic tunes on the new album: Sounds of Time.

Me- What are the “Sounds of Time?”
DC- I think it’s whatever you think it is.
NK- I think it’s a place. Maybe like Long Island Sounds? You wanna know exactly where it is?
Me- Could you give me directions to the Sounds Of Time?
NK- It sounds like a pretty weird place.
Me- I have a theory. It’s very romantic. It’s a place where you can visit a loved one or anyone by listening to a song that you both appreciate. So, like if you have a husband or wife stationed in Iraq or if someone you care about is dead you can span the sounds of time and be with him or her by listening to a song you both liked. It’s a beautiful song.
NK- Wow. That’s beautiful. Yeah I think you got it…
Me- Where did the phrase come from.
NK- I must have been drunk or something because Dashan said, “Girl, I’ll meet you in the sands of time.” But I wrote it down in my book: Girl, I’ll meet you in the sounds of time. So, it was like a typo.
Me- What a beautiful process metaphor for the entire band. Happy accidents that lead to more profound statements…
DC- Yeah, Firebreath of Dragons…
Me- What?
NK- Our first show we tried to book at Acme Underground but they wouldn’t let us play there because we were under 21. So, we called back again and said we were a band called The Firebreath of Dragons and that we were over 21. So, they booked us and we played.
DC- Our friend Flossie acted like she was a booking agent and she said that we were this band from out of town.
NK- So we played a show as Firebreath of Dragons.
DC- We’ve made like 10 albums that we’ve only had like 10 copies of.
NK- Then we came out with a CD that was called Sir Arthur Joseph and the Knights of Huggabroomstick VS. The Firebreath of Dragons.

The interview portion of the night was winding down but I was still not quite sure I’d captured what it is I find so fascinating about this band. My final question returns to the creative process.

Me- Does recording the practices factor into how you guys create?
NK- We did a lot of demos before we actually went into the studio this time. So, then we had the demos. We could listen to them. Then we’d just go over to Mark’s and record them but they’d be uhh better…because…
DC- They weren’t a demo anymore.
NK- Exactly.
DC- I guess we always kind of demo-ed because we’d just always record the same song over and over again for no reason. Sometimes we’d listen to it, sometimes we wouldn’t. That’s how we started the band.
DH- I feel like it’s because you recorded the practices all the time. So at first the practices were the albums. Then the practices were kind of the albums and now they’re the demos. I don’t know what they’re gonna be next. Maybe we can just have people come to our practices and those can be our shows. They can come watch us play a song we’ve never played before. Sometimes that’s what the shows like already.
DC- Yeah, we should take the clubs out of the whole bit. Do you really wanna spend your life in bars…just hanging out in bars? Play in a bar one night and then another bar… I mean, I guess it sounds kind of cool at first but after a while… I’m like all I do is hang out in bars. Hanging out in someone’s living room sounds a lot better. I wish that was like all shows. I feel like some of the best shows we’ve done have been at someone’s house. It can be awkward but I think it’s cool.

Thus concludes my quest for the magic that is Huggabroomstick. Contrary to the thousands of kids occupying suburban basements across America, with lofty dreams of some day getting out and playing their angst filled music in big cultural Mecca’s like New York City, Huggabroomstick are a New York band fantasizing about jamming in rec-rooms and living rooms where they are able to spew their unrefined psyche-folk tunes to friendly audiences in peace.

-The Very Best Of The Tapes
-Early Years (2001-2001)
-King Arthur Joseph and the Knights of Huggabroomstik VS. The Firebreath of Dragons
-West 11th Street
-The Covers Album
-Birds and Bees
-Extinction Event
-Nice Dreams
-Enter The Broomstik
-Split 7inch w/ Wooden Ghost
-Sloppy Kisses and Serious Guitars
-Soundz Of Thyme EP



Steve E.'s picture

really sweet. thank you, Matt.