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|Origin||Portland, Oregon, U.S.|
|Genres||Punk rock, post-punk, alternative rock|
|Years active||1977–1989, 1993–1999|
|Labels||Trap Records, Park Avenue Records, Enigma Records, Restless Records, Tim/Kerr, Zeno Records, Jackpot Records|
|Associated acts||Napalm Beach, Stiphnoyds, Rancid Vat, The S.L.A., the Beggars, Better Than Ezra, Sugarland, Don't|
|Past members||Greg Sage|
Moses Gershbein (aka Bob Schermerhorn)
Wipers was a punk rock band formed in Portland, Oregon, in 1977 by guitarist and vocalist Greg Sage, along with drummer Sam Henry and bassist Dave Koupal. The group's tight song structure and use of heavy distortion were hailed as extremely influential by numerous critics and musicians. They are also considered to be the first Pacific Northwest punk band.
Sage's intense interest in music began with cutting records at home as an adolescent.
"I was very lucky to have my own professional record cutting lathe when I was in 7th grade due to my father being involved in the broadcast industry. I would cut records for friends at school of songs off the radio and learned the art of record making long before learning to play music. I would spend countless hours studying the grooves I would cut under the microscope that was attached to the lathe and loved the way music looked, moved and modulated within the thin walls. I might have spent too much time studying music through a microscope because it gave me a completely different outlook on what music is and a totally opposite understanding of it as well. There was something very magical and private when I zoomed into the magnified and secret world of sound in motion. I got to the point that I needed to create and paint my own sounds and colors into the walls of these grooves."
Foundation, early years
Sage founded Wipers in Portland in 1977 along with drummer Henry and bassist Koupal, originally just as a recording project. The plan was to record 15 albums in 10 years without touring or promotion. Sage thought that the mystique built from the lack of playing traditional rock 'n' roll would make people listen to their recordings much deeper with only their imagination to go by. He thought it would be easy to avoid press, shows, pictures and interviews. He looked at music as art rather than entertainment; he thought music was personal to the listener rather than a commodity.
Wipers' first single, "Better Off Dead", was released in 1978 on Sage's own Trap Records.
Sage wanted to make his own recordings and manufacture and run his own label without outside financing. In 1979, Sage approached several Portland punk bands (including Neo Boys, Sado-Nation and Stiphnoyds) and asked them to record singles for his new Trap label.
The Wipers first album, Is This Real?, was issued in January 1980 on Park Avenue Records, a label that the band hoped would gain them wider distribution. It was originally recorded on a 4-track in the band's rehearsal studio, but the label insisted that the band use a professional studio. Once released, the album gained a cult following, although the band was best known for their live shows around the Portland area.
Later in 1980, Park Avenue released the Alien Boy EP, consisting of the title track and three demo outtakes.
With the new rhythm section of bassist Brad Davidson and drummer Brad Naish (ex-Stiphnoyds), Wipers recorded a second album for Park Avenue, the last for that label. Youth of America, released in 1981, contrasted with the short/fast punk songs of the time. According to Sage, this change of pace was a reaction against the punk trend of releasing short songs. The album was, according to Sage, not well received in the United States at the time of its release, though it did fare better in Europe. Along with other Wipers records, Youth of America came to be acknowledged as an important album in the development of American underground and independent rock movements of the early 80s.
The next album, Over the Edge, issued in 1983 by Trap via Brain Eater Records, was the first Wipers record to gain significant modern rock airplay. It was led by the song, "Romeo", which had already been released the previous year as a 7" single by Trap. The band then embarked on their first extensive tour, documented on the Wipers Tour 84 cassette-only live album, which was reissued by Enigma Records in 1985 as Wipers.
In 1985, Naish was replaced by Steve Plouf, and Enigma issued Sage's first solo album, Straight Ahead.
Signing to Enigma's Restless Records division, Wipers released 1986's Land of the Lost, featuring the song "Let Me Know", used in the film River's Edge. It was followed by Follow Blind (1987) and The Circle (1988).
In 1989, drummer Travis McNabb joined Wipers for a tour, during which Sage announced that the band was ending due to music business frustrations and the loss of their studio space. Sage then relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and Davidson left to move to London. After building a new recording studio in Arizona, Sage released a second solo album, 1991's Sacrifice (For Love).
Two compilations were released in this era: The Best of Wipers and Greg Sage in 1990 by Restless, and Complete Rarities '78–'90 in 1993 by Germany's True Believer Records. The latter included the first Wipers 7", the B-side of the "Romeo" 7", sampler contributions, and live material from 1986 and 1989.
Sage restarted Wipers in 1993, rejoined by Plouf, releasing three additional albums as a duo: Silver Sail (1993) and The Herd (1996), both on the Tim/Kerr label, and Power in One (1999) on Sage's new Zeno Records. The band became inactive after 1999.
In 2001, Zeno released Wipers Box Set, which included the first three Wipers albums, which by that time had been long out-of-print, along with the songs from the Alien Boy EP and additional previously unreleased material. Jackpot Records and Sage later reissued Is This Real?, Youth of America and Over the Edge on vinyl.
Henry formed Napalm Beach with Chris Newman in 1982. He remains an active musician in Portland, Oregon, and continues to play with Napalm Beach and current band Don't as well as popular Pacific Northwest songwriters like Pete Krebs, Morgan Grace and Jimmy Boyer.
Plouf operated a vintage goods/Zeno Records store in Portland, appropriately named Zeno Oddities, which closed sometime between 2009 and 2010.
McNabb formed the Beggars, and went on to work as a session and tour drummer for artists including Vigilantes of Love, Billy Pilgrim, Shawn Mullins, Indigo Girls, Brendan Benson, Howie Day, Dar Williams, Mandi Perkins, Big & Rich and Gavin DeGraw. McNabb was a member of Better Than Ezra from 1996 to 2009. In 2007, he joined bluegrass/country music act Sugarland.
Influence and legacy
Sage later remarked on their initial reception: "We weren't even really a punk band. See, we were even farther out in left field than the punk movement because we didn't even wish to be classified, and that was kind of a new territory. ... When we put out Is This Real? ... it definitely did not fit in; none of our records did. Then nine, ten years later people are saying: 'Yeah, it's the punk classic of the '80s'".
In 1992, tribute album Eight Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers was released by Tim/Kerr as a box set of four colored 7" records, featuring Wipers songs performed by Nirvana, Hole, Napalm Beach, M99, Dharma Bums, Crackerbash, Poison Idea and the Whirlees. The expanded CD release, retitled Fourteen Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers, also included covers by Hazel, Calamity Jane, Saliva Tree, Honey, Nation of Ulysses, and Thurston Moore and Keith Nealy.
The Wipers had an influence on Nirvana. Wipers gained significant exposure as a result of Nirvana's 1992 covers of two songs from Is This Real? ("D-7" on the EP Hormoaning, and "Return of the Rat" on the Eight Songs compilation), and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's mention of Wipers as a major influence. The Wipers were influential for the grunge music scene in general, also being cited by the Melvins, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr..
- Is This Real? (1980, Park Avenue Records)
- Youth of America (1981, Park Avenue Records)
- Over the Edge (1983, Trap Records/Brain Eater Records)
- Land of the Lost (1986, Restless Records)
- Follow Blind (1987, Restless Records)
- The Circle (1988, Restless Records)
- Silver Sail (1993, Tim/Kerr)
- The Herd (1996, Tim/Kerr)
- Power in One (1999, Zeno Records)
- Alien Boy (1980, Park Avenue Records)
- "Better Off Dead" (1978, Trap Records)
- "Romeo" (1981, Trap Records)
- "Silver Sail" (1993, Tim/Kerr)
- "The Herd" (1996, Tim/Kerr)
- "Insane" (1996, Tim/Kerr)
- The Best of Wipers and Greg Sage (1990, Restless Records)
- Complete Rarities '78–'90 (1993, True Believer Records)
- Wipers Box Set (2001, Zeno Records)
- Out Takes (2010, Jackpot Records)
- "Same Old Thing" on 10-29-79 (1980, Trap Records)
- "My Vengance" and "The Story" on Trap Sampler (1981, Trap Records)
- "Nothin' to Prove" on Sub Pop 9 (1983, Sub Pop)
- "Let Me Know" on River's Edge (1987, Enigma Records)
- "Nothin' to Prove (Live)" on Sub Pop 100 (1986, Sub Pop)
- "Return of the Rat" on Hype! The Motion Picture Soundtrack (1996, Sub Pop)
- Hann, Michael (January 22, 2015). "Cult heroes: Wipers – the sound of emptiness and dread". Theguardian.com.
- Greg Sage. "The Wipers' history". Zenorecords.com. Archived from the original on 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2008-06-11.[self-published source]
- "Wipers Bio | Wipers Career | MTV". Web.archive.org. 15 February 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
- "Youth of America". ZenoRecords.com. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28.
... at the time of this recording, it was the trend that most songs by bands were very fast and short, to the point that some were doing songs as short as 13 seconds or so. I did just the opposite to make some songs reach 10 minutes long. This did not make us popular in the USA, but overseas was a different story.[self-published source]
- Kellman, Andy. Wipers Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- "Wipers Interview Page 3". Web.archive.org. 14 December 2004. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
- Nirenberg, Michael (December 30, 2014). "Discussion with Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt". The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
- Official website of Greg Sage
- Official website of Sam Henry
- Biography and Info about The Wipers at Trouser Press