Slow Gherkin was a Santa Cruz ska-rock band (1993-2000) that enjoyed tremendous popularity and released many records, three on Asian Man Records. It was formed in June 1993 by AJ Marquez (guitar), Zack "ZK" Kent (bass), Phil Boutelle (sax), James Rickman (drums). Their farewell show was on August 17, 2002 at the Santa Cruz Vets Hall. Sharing the bill that night were The Velvet Teen, The Huxtables, The Plus Ones and Dan Potthast.
Slow Gherkin began in the summer of 1993 when AJ Marquez, Zack "ZK" Kent, Phil Boutelle and James Rickman, all Santa Cruz High students, decided to try out a fresh and exciting style of music played by Skankin' Pickle, Bad Manners and a few other ska bands that had played in our hometown of Santa Cruz. Zack dreamed up our nonsensical name during one of his three ceramics classes. We practiced all summer in AJ's dad's garage and hosted our own debut performance at Phil's house that August. Our set consisted of "Skankin' Weasel", "Phil Bluetelle (Working for the Man)", "Drunken Sailor", and about four other songs through which we haltingly ground to the amusement of our friends.
During the '93-'94 school year, we added Brigham Housman on trombone and pre-med UCSC student Josh "Monty" Montgomery on trumpet and began to play bar shows at the Red Room about every six weeks. These shows and the occasional party kept us pretty busy considering our inexperience, and by the summer of '94 our chops were solid enough to warrant a recording. We recorded a 4-song EP, "Death of a Salesman", in two days and produced and released it ourselves. The Fall of '94 also marked the induction of two other Santa Cruz High kids: Matt Porter on trumpet, who AJ and James had been playing music with since 7th grade, Peter "Polka Pete" Cowan (initially on accordian, then keyboard), and Rob Pratt, member of local ska bands the Square Roots and the URJ, on tenor sax. Our line-up almost complete we began opening up for bands at venues like Palookaville, and the Phoenix Theater (in Petaluma), and headlining shows at Live Soup. To finish the year we celebrated the release of our 7" EP at a Palookaville show on December 23--all of a sudden our audience had changed from our friends and a scattering of old drunks to six hundred kids, many of whom we didn't know.
We started taking "Weekends with Gherkin", two day trips to Southern California, Reno and Arcata. An upstart label run by members of a Davis, CA ska band called Punch the Clown asked us to contribute to it's first release, a Northern California ska compilation, so we recorded "Thumbs Down to Generation X", "Este Torro", and "Meatdance" at a fancy studio in San Francisco. This is Raj... and This is Ska sold an impressive amount (though nowhere near as much as a well-produced comp sells these days), inspiring Raj Records to put out our first full length album.
We spent most of Summer '95 polishing our eleven newest songs at AJ's mom's house in Bonny Doon, and then recorded them slo-o-o-o-wly, section by section, over the next six months. We came up with the title, Double Happiness, while eating at a Chinese restaurant in San Jose called BoTown.
In the Fall James moved to Berkeley to attend school, and we decided to have me stop playing drums and just focus on vocals and lead guitar. That led to the addition of Zack "Ollie" Olsen, a music student from Cabrillo Community College, on drums. He played his first show December 1995 at Palookaville opening for Let's Go Bowling. With Ollie acting as our automotive expert, we bought an orange and white van, dubbed it "The Creamsicle", and on January 3, 1996 embarked on our first tour. Accompanied by the Janitors Against Apartheid, we made our way through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and up through California, landing back in Santa Cruz two weeks later, dazed but exhilarated. That May, Double Happiness came out and we spent the rest of the year supporting it around the Bay Area, plus a short, passionate summer tour with Punch the Clown that took us as far as Vancouver, B.C. By January '97 we were ready to go again, and did another two weeks of Western states with the Janitors.
By that time, we felt ready for a long, coast-to-coast tour. We united with the Siren 6! from Minneapolis, and collectively booked 6 weeks (July to mid-August) of shows spanning roughly 22 states. This tour helped us to promote the re-issue of Double Happiness, which we had transferred to Asian Man Records, a new label from Los Gatos which was run by our friend Mike Park, formerly of Skankin' Pickle. The tour went well, so we decided to try playing full-time, unhindered by work and school. We finished the year playing around California, including a two week mini-tour supporting the release of Bay Area Ska, a compilation put out by Tomato Head Records. During the Fall we were also nominated for a Bay Area Music Award (Bammie) as an "Outstanding Ska Band". In November, Rob left the band and we took on nineteen-year old Ross Peard, of Monkey, who played a mean tenor sax.
Our last gig of 1997 took place beneath the Town Clock at the Santa Cruz First Night Celebration. Then, after a two-week hiatus, we hit the road once again, playing across the Southern United States in a six-week endeavor. We came home on March 1, took five days off to rest up and then left again, spending four more weeks on the road, with this tour covering lots of new (icy) ground through the Mid-West and New England.
With three coast-to-coast tours under our belts, the time seeemed right for a new album. We rented a rehearsal studio and practiced six hours a day, five days a week for the next two months. It was hard work, and the pressures to be creative day after day sometimes seemed too much. But we pulled through, and in June recorded 14 songs, and picked the best twelve to go on the album.
In the Fall of '98 we toured the US twice, once with the Toasters, the rest by ourselves, adding 17,000 miles to our odometer. 1999 was a transitional year, ZK left the band late that Winter due to growing pains, and was soon replaced by Rick Godnick (also a former Santa Cruz High student) of the Cold Cuts on bass. A Summer tour was scheduled, but Ollie missed part of it because he was preparing to get married, and Peter missed part of the tour, flying home from New Orleans, due to intense pain caused by a back injury (Steve Choi now with the RX Bandits filled in for both of them). The year 2000 was another transitional time which saw Peter leave the band to move to New Orleans, and Rick leave the band to pursue a career in Mexico City. Brendan "Dino" Thompson of the recently disbanded What-Nots filled in for Rick on bass, but Peter was not replaced (no one could ever hear the keyboard anyway). Over the next few years the band toured to Europe, went on another US tour, recorded their third full-length album Run Screaming, played a farewell show in 2002, and went on two post-break up tours to Japan and England.
Rob Pratt (sax), Josh "Monty" Montgomery (trumpet) and Brigham Houseman (trombone) were or had been UCSC students. They joined the band in its first year. Peter Cowan, who started out on accordion but switched to keyboards, is a Scotts Valley native. Matt Porter (trumpet) is also from Santa Cruz.
In 1995, James tried to phase himself out of the band so he could go to college. They found drummer Zack "Ollie" Olsen, who had grown up all over the country but had been in Santa Cruz since high school. When the band met Zack, he was studying jazz at Cabrillo College. Achilles Poloynis (trombone) two-timed between Slow Gherkin and Santa Rosa's Blind Spot starting in 1996. San Jose native Ross Peard joined in 1998. Rick Godnick (also from SC) replaced ZK in 1999. Brendan "Dino" Thompson of Santa Rosa (and of The What-Nots) replaced Rick in 2000.
Band name originsEdit
- Cleanly Shaven CS: board tape from Catalyst show 1994
- Death of a Salesman7": Join or Die 1994
- This is raj...and This is Ska! comp CD: raj records 1995
- Double Happiness CD/LP: raj records, then Asian Man Records 1996
- Santa Cruz Sucks! comp CD: Bad Monkey Records 1997
- Puro Eskañol comp CD: _______ Records 1997
- Santa Cruz Still Sucks! comp CD: Bad Monkey 1998
- Shed Some Skin CD/LP: Asian Man 1998
- Another In Your Life b/w Michael Jackson & ZKIII 7": Bad Monkey 1998
- Invisible Tank CD (split w/ Jeffries Fan Club): Random Order Records 1998
- Split CDEP w/ Rx Bandits: Random Order/DriveThru Records 1999
- Roman Holiday collection CD: Plastic Head Records (UK) 2000
- Run Screaming CD: Asian Man 2002
- Hatchet Job split CDEP w/ Caeser Soze: Ska in the World (Japan) 2003
a ska-rock band on the Asian Man Records label
(Other Santa Cruz Bands Members of Slow Gherkin have been in)