Seth Putnam Remembered
Were he somehow able to observe the aftermath of his own recent passing from on high amidst the ether, it is easy to imagine Seth Putnam’s glee at the kids clambering atop digital platforms to ostentatiously proclaim righteous ambivalence over his death or the Village Voice’s lengthy tut-tutting. You do not do or say the things Seth Putnam did and said for as long as he did and said them without a real appetite for disapproval, condemnation, marginalization.
And, lord, did Decibel ever see the mark of a truly tireless provocateur when we set out to solicit a few words on Putnam’s life and legacy from select extreme music luminaries and former AC collaborators. Many a scoff across a burned bridge was delivered and, truth be told, if not for Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer/Agoraphobic Nosebleed this post would likely not exist at all. (Hull is apparently not only the greatest extreme metal composer of his generation, but also a uniter, not a divider.) In the end, we were able to pull together the following surprisingly touching, thoughtful remembrances from Philip Anselmo, Steve Austin, Mike Williams, Tim Morse, Hull, and Dan Harrington, who suggested we top it with the above Sex Pistols video.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute and now without further delay…
Tim Morse, first and last drummer of Anal Cunt
March 1988 I got a phone call from Seth.
Hey you wanna start a band?
Sure! What we gonna do?
Nothing but pure noise. No songs at all!
Cool! What we gonna call it?
Yeah we’re just gonna play one show. That’s it.
I really miss my friend.
Philip H. Anselmo, Down, Pantera, etcetera, living legend, etcetera:
I knew Seth pretty fucking well back in ’90′s… He was hilarious, and an extremist. My favorite Anal Cunt record was, and is, Morbid Florist. I still consider it as an underrated, original-sounding classic, even today. And that’s truthful. Seth had a bizarre, absurd sense of humor that pissed a lot of people off, but the way Seth saw it, that’s what they were, just “a lot of pissed-off people.” I got his humor like the back of my fist. And truthfully, the dude was unbelievably creative and thrived within his little realm. What I mean by that “little realm” is, that aside from a handful of bands, Seth didn’t give a shit about the majority, and that included all of my bands!
But our friendship wasn’t based on pure music; it was the hilarious, drunken times of yore. Sure, we did some partying back in the day, but the thing is, that process of misery ran its course in my life. Obviously it was different in Seth’s. But if I can offer anything here, it’s that Seth would not want us pissing and moaning over his death, and that’s fucking true. He had worldwide success doing what he loved to do, period. It’s just sad the way it happened. If you were a fan, celebrate the guy’s life — he’d want you to. And if you weren’t, mind your own business…
RIP Putnam…The fight is over, so sleep well brother.
Mike IX Williams, EyeHateGod:
Seth Putnam: A man of questionable values and ideas but a great sense of humor, to be taken with a grain of salt, and tragedy. He was a good friend and supporter of Eyehategod from the beginning. The stories I can tell from hanging out and touring with him are numerous and crazy. Controversy was normal for Seth, but his heart was golden. His cocaine and love for The Village People will be missed.
Scott Hull, Pig Destroyer/Agoraphobic Nosebleed:
There are a lot of things about Seth Putnam that can be debated and argued. There are quite a lot of things he has written and/or done that, depending on your standpoint, are indefensible. I also know he’s done a pretty good job of destroying a lot of close relationships with people over the years. I am not going to address any of that, because I want to focus on what Seth did offer the underground extreme music scene. I don’t pretend that I was one of his best friends, but we did keep in touch over the years. However, I don’t want the things that were good to get buried under all the acrimony and venom.
I joined AC for a brief period of time in 1995 because of a mutual relationship with AC’s manager, Greg Heiman. I was going to grad school at Boston College, and AC was just starting to get “big.” Their first Earache release came out about a year or so after I discovered them via random 7-inches in various Boston record stores. By the time Morbid Florist was released, however, I was already convinced AC was the greatest thing ever. I had a tough time explaining this to most of my friends. I did manage to catch them once in Richmond opening for, I believe, Amorphis, and then again in Providence opening for Vital Remains. Both shows confirmed to me that AC was an incredible force. One singer, one guitar, one drummer. As people will attest, a pre-stroke AC show was always on fire. That fact could rarely be disputed.
Seth also brought some much-needed irreverence and danger to metal, punk, whatever. The stories from the live shows (and from life occurrences) were usually recounted unexaggerated. A large part of the shows I played with them were cut short. Seth was for real and kept pushing and pushing, finding where boundaries were and jumping over them. Boundaries in his lyrics. Boundaries in his relationships with people.
So, here we are: 2011. One doesn’t have to look too deep to trace the lines of influence back though bands like Assück, Discordance Axis, Brutal Truth; the former two even modeling their personnel similarly to AC, the later going so far as to mimic, or cover, a couple of AC-like noise pieces. When I moved down to the DC area, after having left AC, J.R. and I were attracted to the streamlined effectiveness of that arrangement—thus Pig Destroyer was born. Nowadays, it’s fairly commonplace to see a grindcore band without a bass player. Hell, there are even a couple of doom bands that have similar set-ups. Honestly, like it or not, we can really thank Seth for that.
Someone else might have done it had he not, but they didn’t.
For any culture or subculture to survive, it needs to have a robust mythology. Seth Putnam and AC stories contributed a lot to the underground mythology. It gave the scene someone that was true to all those stories, both good and bad. People like Seth lend some depth and definition to this subculture. Deep down, all of us metalheads, grind freaks and punk rockers want to believe that the scene, all the bands and fans, are more than just “normal” people plucking away at instruments, going back to their day jobs. People like Seth — again, like it or not — give us that.
The flip side to this is you had a person where with whom you really didn’t know where you stood. There’s a picture of Seth holding up a sign that says “Scott Hull is a faggot nerd” from the AC 10th anniversary that I didn’t attend. I didn’t really care about that; I totally expected it. Everyone knows that to know Seth is to invariably take some hard shots from him. Other people that were very close to him early on (some notable people I won’t mention, but you don’t have to think too hard about it) took a lot of lumps. Some have remained his friends, some have not. And the longer you knew him, the harder the shots were. He was an extreme person, but he could also be smart, friendly and creative. With Seth, you took the good with the bad. And we still can thank him for a lot, even if it is categorically difficult to defend much of his ideas or actions.
Steve Austin, Today is the Day:
Seth Putnam and I recorded one album and several seven-inches together at my studio. He was honest, super-intelligent and a true free spirit. I have never known anyone like him in my life.
Below are the actual posts I wrote on Facebook the day Seth died and after. I think how I feel was summed up accordingly in these:
I am sitting here crying my brain out. My good friend Seth Putnam died yesterday of a heart attack. Seth was a real person. We worked together on Anal Cunt records and played shows together. He was a true musical genius and fearless in his art. This shit makes me terribly sad as I feel I lost a good, good friend today. Seth, I will miss you man. We had a lot of good times. I am feeling more calm, but it still really hurts to see him go. He was the Spirit of Real Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal and I loved the way he was. He was a tortured soul like most of us that play music and I really identified with that about him. Forty-three years old and still fighting the good fight to make art that pushed the boundaries, that made you think. He will be missed dearly by me and I seriously doubt there will be another guy like him. He dared to create things that he knew weren’t going to be accepted by others. Seth Putnam, if you’re out there, you made your mark. You won’t be topped and you were one of my best friends. Love ya’ brother and hopefully we’ll get to hang again in another world, time or place.
Seth’s Funeral is tomorrow. I gotta say that every time I think about this it really tears me up. I think about all the fucked up bad people who deserve the worst and in the middle of this crazy world the very few like Seth, who winds up passing at forty-three years old. It just ain’t right. Seth, I miss ya’ man, and I can certainly say, you are the most extreme dude I have ever known.
Fearless is the word.
It has been really hard not to break down over the last week every time I think of him dying and not around anymore. Many may not agree with what he said lyrically, but he was a Lenny Bruce of Metal and his relevance will last forever. He made you think, he made you angry, he made you feel his emotion. He knew what pushed people’s buttons and all of the social bullshit that goes on in this world through Political Correctness. Seth was out to make you think, to promote freedom of thought. I don’t think hardly anyone has the balls to do that these days.
Dan Harrington, toured with Putnam, contributed vocals to Wearing Out Our Welcome:
I’m still in shock. I didn’t want to believe the news when Tim Morse called me. One of the best people I have ever met is no longer with us. Seth Putnam and I had only become close a couple years ago, but it seems like I’ve known him for decades.
I’ll always remember the good times, driving around blaring Death (Detroit), Slaughter, Motley Crue and Motorhead screaming at the top of our lungs and destroying inanimate objects. Pounding scorpion bowls and cracking each other up until we thought our ribs would shatter. Whether people enjoyed your music or got your sense of humor, it didn’t matter. You were a man who was one hundred percent passionate about his music, loved life and loved his friends even more.
I’m not going to say goodbye, just thanks. Thanks for all the good times, knowing you has made me a better person. Till we meet again pal, save me a stool at the bar. I’m gonna buy a few rounds of kamikazes and i’ll have a few stories to tell you.