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Hit the Road, Jack. Permanently.

According to former Houstonians the Business Machines, that's the only way to get a career

Christoffel's barroom inferno guitar and the free-swinging yet precise rhythm section of bassist Harper and original Ties That Bind drummer Alex Arizpe constitute the rest of the Business Machines. The task of capturing this particular blend accurately was taken on by the increasingly ubiquitous yet still much-sought-after Steve Albini. The band spent a week in Chicago with the former Nirvana and Bush producer and Big Black band member last April recording and mixing the current disc. Potentially heady stuff for a band fresh off the boat from Houston…

"It was a big surprise for me," says Juarez, "because shit, you know, 'Steve Albini' just sounds like a name, like a baseball player. The only thing I knew about Big Black was the ads in the back of fucking Thrasher magazine trying to sell shirts, and then I started reading about him and was like 'Whoa!' But working with him was sooo easy. When we came to him all he'd heard was a shitty, shitty demo and he still knew what it was supposed to sound like: pretty raw."

Juarez confesses to a couple of tense days when they were first feeling each other out, but says that by the end they were trading recipes. Harper and Arizpe laud Albini's own surprisingly hands-on approach. Arizpe recounts that Albini went so far as to stoop to grunt work like tuning the drums.

Former Dig Duggers John Christoffel (left) and Lucas 
Juarez don't have tunnel vision anymore.
Former Dig Duggers John Christoffel (left) and Lucas Juarez don't have tunnel vision anymore.

Former drummer Juarez had to tune a different instrument in the studio: his voice. Juarez semi-coherently explains the advent of his career as a front man and his rock and roll evolution thusly:

"I think when I ran out of beer and ran out of money, when we moved out here, and I was singing, like, not totally fucking twisted, it was a lot better. Don't get me wrong, I didn't stop partying. I just sort of mellowed it out a little bit so I could get the fucking job done. Then, once I got the job done, it was fucking Adderall and alcohol all night, just walking around in this fucking town where I don't know where I'm at 'cause I'm so fucked up. But I made it home okay, and I'm still being a good boy."

The Business Machines have been hawking their beautifully unpolished wares at shows ever since, but so far have not seen the record officially released. Most of the indie labels are as broke as the bands, and the majors are so worried about recapturing their revenue streams that they've become more risk-averse than ever. If they can't find a label by the end of 2003, the Business Machines will simply release the record on their own.

In the meantime, a seven-week coast-to-coast tour looms. That epic jaunt will culminate in a showcase back home at the Viper Room in L.A. The band members are excited about the road for its own sake, but they also see it for exactly what it is: another facet of the game to be mastered on the way to running the table.

And it sure beats the hell out of the garage, both the literal one and the figurative one that is the city of Houston.

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