The Formative Years - Slap-a-Ham Records
There have been many labels within the realm of punk and hardcore that had a lasting impact on me with both their emissions and the way the protagonists behind them carried themselves. Being a fiend of fast hardcore, Slap a Ham Records was one of them.
Founded and operated by Chris Dodge in San Francisco, Slap A Ham not only massively shaped initially the Californian and the global hybrid of thrash- and grindcore phenomenon, but somehow managed to create a roster and portfolio of bands that found the fine balance between genre coining releases and hilarity.
After being exposed to Infest through their full-length on the Swiss label Off the Disk Records and subsequently falling in love with the band, I had to get the 8” split flexi with Pissed Happy Children, which marked Slap A Ham Records’ first release. I instantaneously was hooked on the label’s aesthetic and from then on made a concerted effort to collect their releases.
The next five releases on the label exposed me to a diverse array of unknown bands such as the mighty Melvins, Neanderthal, No Use for a Name, Stikky and Fu Manchu, all of which became instant classics.
Specifically Neanderthal’s Fighting music 7” changed the game for me, not only because the band’s line-up incorporated ex-members of Infest and Pissed Happy Children, but because it gave birth to what henceforth became labelled as “power violence”.
“Power violence” was exciting as at the time it came about – a time when punk and metal still operated in compartmentalised silos. Those new bands I discovered via Slap A Ham had a relatable DIY attitude, but sonically it was placed at a much heavier and extreme spectrum than was known for either genre – too dirty for metal, too heavy and fast for punk and always backed by a humorous attitude that did not seem to give two shits about its reception.
Spazz became one of the bigger bands of the genre and apart from their trademark hardly ever more than one-minute long stop’n go song outbursts, infused their artwork with obscure humour, unexpected Hong Kong movie / hip hop / skate references and samples in between their songs, which were worth the purchase alone. What could become monotone musically, was mixed up with entertaining bits to keep things fresh, fun and interesting despite the band seemingly trying to be dead set on releasing as many records as possible.
What I found intriguing about Spazz but also most of the other bands on Slap A Ham is that the despite all the sonic extremes they were dabbling in - be it speed, heaviness or artwork-wise - they avoided becoming a mere gimmick, which is quite a feat given the fact that the common denominator seemed to be the sole purpose of playing as fast and hard as possible.
Slap A Ham was a genuinely great and unique label that released new music at a time when the scene was running danger of becoming stagnant and whose band established formulae that have not only spawned and inspired a myriad of other new bands, but reverberate through the DNA of extreme music until the present day.