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CLEVELAND CONFIDENTIAL (A RETROSPECTIVE INTERVIEW WITH MIKE HUDSON)

“Cleveland Confidential” was made in 1982, a year before I was born. This recording has always been shrouded in mystery for me, letting my imagination run wild. A few months ago, I decided to write about “Cleveland Confidential” for Rust Belt Hammer. As a follow up, I recently interviewed Mike Hudson of the Pagans about the classic releases and Cleveland punk rock life from that time period.

Mike, when did you start Terminal Records? What was your first release?

Mick Metoff and I started Terminal in 1980. The first release was the Clocks “Confidentially Renee” single and the seven-inch “Cleveland Confidential” EP with the Pagans, AK-47s, Impalers etc. By the time we called it quits in 1983, we’d released five seven inchers and two full length LPs.

Seeing that it is a much mythologized time, what was it like to be involved with rock and roll in Cleveland during the late 70s and early 80s?

It was a lot of fun. I started playing out in Cleveland in 1973, and released my first record, “Six and Change,” with the Pagans in 1977. I left Cleveland in 1984. There were a lot of interesting characters and I made a lot of friends I have to this day.

Why do you think the music of Northeast Ohio is so unique?

We were rather isolated, and nobody thought there was any chance of commercial success. You could do whatever you wanted to do. And everybody did. The Pagans, Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, the Cramps, Devo, Tin Huey, the Rubber City Rebels all just did their own thing, which accounted for the wide range of styles. Nobody was telling you that punks dressed or sounded a certain way, there was a great deal of freedom.

You did the “Cleveland Confidential” 7 inch in 1980 And the Cleveland Confidential LP in 1982. Where did you get the idea to do these comps? Did you record and produce the songs on these releases?

I sing on the Pagans tracks of course, played guitar and sang on the Womanhaters cut, produced the Defnics, Impalers, Dark, AK-47s and maybe one or two others and served as executive producer for both discs, picking the bands and tracks, mixing & mastering and paying for it. The labels that had been around in the 70s — Hearthan, Mustard & Drome — had all gone out of business and there were still lotsa great musicians churning out great music. “Cleveland Confidential” as a title just seemed like a natural.

I have so many questions about the different bands on these comps. Lets start with Womanhaters. From what I can gather, this was a project you did with your brother and you guys only did the one song for the LP?

Brian was home for Christmas in 1981 and I had this riff and lyric in my head so we went into Mike Crossen’s studio on 185th Street and laid it down. It was the last thing we ever recorded together.

Let’s talk about Keith Matic. The song “Her Name Was Jane” by Severe has a playing credit attributed to him and then “I Really Want To Stay (Lost In Rome)” is by a band called Keith Matic. Was this an alias of Tim Allee of the Pagans? I have been trying to figure it out.

No. Keith Matic was the name Larry Lewis was playing under at the time. In the 70s, he published the Cleveland fanzine Mongoloid. He had a band called the Broncs with Tim and is all over both of the CleCon releases. He did the cover for the LP and was pretty much like a co-producer. He later went on to play in Death of Samantha and the New Salem Witch Hunters and sadly died a few years ago.

Two of my favorite tracks on the compilation are by The Defnics and The Dark. What was your relationship with these bands?

The Defnics were Bill DeGidio’s (Robert Conn’s) band after he sang on “Six and Change.” His parents lived across the street from Brian and my parents and I’ve known and been friends with him now for more than 50 years! The Dark — Tommy Dark, Robert Griffith, David Arcara and Scott Aiken — were a bunch of 14 year old kids who dug the Pagans and showed up at my house one afternoon. I managed them for a bit, and Tommy & Robert remain great friends. Sadly, David and Scott passed away.

Invisibles appear on both “Cleveland Confidential” releases. What happened to this band?

It was really just Bernie Joelson with different drummers and bass players, or sometimes just by himself which is where he came up with the Bernie and the Invisibles name. He toured a lot with the Pagans during the 70s. The CleCon releases were his only ones until Cheese Borger put him on one of those Pie n Ears comps a few years ago. That’s a shame, because there are great tapes of him, recorded at SUMA and with a band headed up by Pere Ubu’s Tony Maimone, that have never been released.

What made you want to do a cd re-release in 1997?

Money. They paid me a lot of money.

Not a bad reason at all. Gotta pay the bills! Do you think another re-release is possible in the future?

I did a licensing deal with Superior Viaduct in San Francisco last year for both the LP and EP, which they said they were going to rerelease as a double album, gatefold vinyl 12-inch, with some added tracks by the Dead Boys and others. The check cleared but I haven’t heard from them since.

Thanks Mike. Any final thoughts?

The “Cleveland Confidential” records are among my proudest professional achievements. So many great musicians, so many great tracks. When the LP came out, it got an awful review from Mark Holan in Scene magazine, and David Thomas called to say he’d sue me if I used his name in connection with the release. He sings backup on the Pagans’ “Boy Can I Dance Good” and produced it. But no matter. It came out 32 years ago and people are still digging it so I won. It’s funny, Mick Shelbourn, the drummer in the current Pagans lineup, was born the year after this came out!

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INTERVIEW BY MATT GREENFIELD