- Interview

Whatever: The '90s Pop and Culture Box
Allen Epley: The Life and Times and Shiner

by Zach Braden

If I'm anything like the Anthology/Retrospective/Re-issue/Backcatalog Music Industry Whores at Rhino Records, then a decade's too damn long to wait for an infomercial. Indeed, 6 years should be plenty of time to compile a definitive guide to music in the 1990s. So, my little haves and have-nots, I want you to relax on your respective Johns, wince briefly and waaaait.

 Waaait for iiiit. Waaaaaaiiit forrr iiiiiiit. . Annnnnd. release.

The cultural beer turd I'm referencing is Whatever: The '90s Pop and Culture Box - a scattershot compilation no less contrived than the equivalent '70s and '80s box sets that sucked before it. The uniquely disturbing aspect of this set, though, is Rhino's attempt to capture alternative rock's underculture with bands like Stereo MCs, Tad, Queensrÿche and Chumbawamba. Which is bullshit. To me, these goofballs don't belong anywhere 1. I mean, when was the last time you heard relatively big label rock musicians say they are "generally influenced by EMF and the Gin Blossoms 2"? My guess is never. And if they did, would you weep? Whatever. I digress because I'm forced to.

Last month, I caught up with former-Shiner/current-Life and Times lead singer/guitarist, Allen Epley. His first national band, Shiner - who broke up in 2003 after less than a decade together - never quite fell into mainstream rock; predictably, they're not on The '90s Pop and Culture Box . But their mathy combination of big, loud southern rock riffs, imaginative songwriting, and intricately heavy percussion established them as rock pioneers for record store managers (like me), indie dorks (like you), and just about no one else.

Allen Epley is, in my opinion, someone to whom you should drop to your knees; he is someone for whom you should beg.

Here's what he said first:

"When Shiner began in '93, the biggest stuff in our world was Slint, Smashing Pumpkins, Bitch Magnet, Don Cabellero, and Swervedriver. Our influences morphed and evolved over time, but that was the genesis."

Here's what Deek said:

Alright, well why isn't more credit given to Shiner, and bands like Hum, Chavez and Failure for influencing music today? Did this play any part in your return with The Life and Times? Was there an inkling that today's music scene might've shifted in your favor?

I think that, simply put, we weren't big enough in the whole scheme of things to have a claim staked on our behalf with most folks. Yes, there are a lot of musicians and record store employees who know that we did influence a certain ethos for a lot of smaller bands (some that are now selling quite well; much more than I ever have). But Shiner was never cool. Maybe for a little while after Lula Divinia came out. But that calling card is useless if people don't know who you are. We were always too rock for the indie kids, and too indie for the rockers.

In no way did it affect my decision to continue making music. I didn't go away before 2000. The Egg came out late '01 and we toured until almost '03. So I don't feel like I've been away from some scene and now I'm reemerging to examine where I fit or whatever. I'm just writing songs and doing my thing. We get shit for not being Shinerish enough, and we also get shit for being too Shinery. So, I can't win with that school of thought and I'm not trying to win [anyone's] love (back).

Where would you like to see music headed in the future? What don't you like about it today?

I tend to enjoy a lot of music these days and the stuff I don't like, I ignore. I've always been that way because there always has and always will be terrible music and amazing music floating around at the same time.

I think a lot of what teenagers listen to today is hilarious. But then I think about the hilarious shit I listened to as a highschooler and I can't blame anyone for listening to ICP or Mudvayne or Slipknot or thugged out hip hop. Not really that much different from the hair metal I listened to as a child of the 70s and 80s and all the Public Enemy and Fat Boys and Beasties ingested back then too.

What'say we destroy Rhino Records?


The Life and Times' debut album, Suburban Hymns, is available from DeSoto Records.

See www.desotorecords.com for more details. Whatever: The '90s Pop and Culture Box is available at www.rhinorecords.com.

1 To be fair, some of these bands may be on this collection only because Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, the Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, DJ Shadow and Deadbaby Cuddlefest are absent from the list. My guess is that these arguably "worthy" bands wouldn't agree to license their music to such a ridiculous, money-gobbling concept. But one can only surmise. Especially when one doesn't really give a shit.

2 I know I'm generalizing here, but you're going to have to deal with it.

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