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R.I.P. Seth Putnam (1968 – 2011)

I have no music of Seth I could post here and while I’m yet trying to pay some sort of tribute to the man, I will write more about myself than him, but that’s how it goes sometimes and I can’t change it.

(This photo is from Seth’s facebook)

In person, I met Seth only twice. The first time was in 1986, when we (the Megawimp guys) and he both stayed at the house of Kam Lee and Rick Rozz (both had just left DEATH and were active in MASSACRE). Seth was a friendly, timid guy, as was I. We had been trading records through the mail before and he was always generous and out of the blue, he sometimes would send me free copies of records he knew I was looking for. “Land of the Lost” by THE FREEZE was one I particularly remember, cause we both adored it immensely. In his letters, he often wrote about bands he wanted to form, bands that would be the “most extreme ever” and stuff like that, but until 1988, I didn’t actually hear any of these brainchildren of his. Then I received a big package full of 7″s by a band with the incredible name of ANAL CUNT.
88 tracks, if I remember correctly and without song titles. I didn’t get it, I really didn’t. AC was his take on bands like NAPALM DEATH or my own FEAR OF GOD, he told me, but to me, he seemed to totally miss the point. At that time, when I was high on moralism (which I thought of as “being political” – a lot of people from back then still mess up these two things, by the way), I couldn’t get into what Seth was doing. It wasn’t the band name that many found offensive – it was the lack of what seemed important to me. Bands like 7 MINUTES OF NAUSEA had already taken the game of making the shortest songs possible to an extreme and FEAR OF GOD responded to that with the track “No Harmonies, no Sense”, which consisted only of the counting in (you know, “1-2-3-4”) and then me making one step forward on stage. That was it and as much as people laughed when we did that stunt, it was my comment to that short-song mania. The way I understood it, there was nothing “brutal” in a sense-attacking sense in 7 MON or for that matter, in ANAL CUNT. It was just a puff out.
But that didn’t keep us apart on a personal level. We kept on trading records and tapes for the time being, until the whole AC thing started to really suck him up and we started losing touch.

In 1992, FEAR OF GOD decided to play one final gig. Officially, the band had been put to rest some years ago already, but you know, it wasn’t easy to let go of it. To my surprise and pleasure, I learned that ANAL CUNT were on the bill too, so I would get to meet Seth in person again. The show would take place in Leipzig, a city in the  northeastern part of Germany. The wall had come down not too long ago and the former east block countries had an enormous hunger for all kind of “western” culture. Bands like my own and AC got a lot of airplay in the decaying DDR, the German Democratic Republic, already. I don’t think bands like ours would have gone through censorship a few years earlier, but by 1988, the government structures of the GDR were so undermined, that the system had lost control or interest over certain segments. The response “extreme” bands got in Eastern Germany (and Poland etc., for that matter) was astounding, so by 1992, playing there  seemed only logical to me, and if it only were to say another goodbye.
The day before the show, the other guys in my band flaked out. I bought a train ticket and made my way to Leipzig alone. It was insane: The mass of people showing up, the enthusiasm. The legendary eastern german mullets and moustaches were legion, it was like traveling back in time. The atmosphere was hungry, so that it proved impossible for me to walk around the area, because I had swarms of people following me every step. Very uncomfortable that was. When backstage, I announced that my band wouldn’t play, Seth immediately said that he knew all the songs by heart and could play them on drums or guitar. Then he quickly disappeared only to come back with one or two guys from the band FEEDBACK RECYCLING (who pulled off some crazy, jazzy noise) and there we had an ad-hoc version of FEAR OF GOD ready, with Seth on drums and the guys from FEEDBACK RECYCLING on bass and guitar.
It was a horrible, horrible show (the worst, together with the 2003 gig in Zürich with the MELVINS and TOMAHAWK). Seth and the other guys did a fantastic job, but I fucked up big time, trying to turn the gig into some sort of spoken word performance, full of self righteous wannabe political prayer (bands like DROP DEAD have taken this to an  even absurder level). Preaching and preaching again – to the converted or those who wouldn’t give a shit anyway. How pathetic and shameful.
Seth didn’t care. He had a blast anyway and AC leveled the place. He was rolling around, screaming his lungs out, he jumped off stage and just gave it all. It was incredible. I rarely had seen anything like that before, and with the massive crowd and the chaotic response from it, things actually were rather dangerous and uncontrollable (no bouncers, no security, nothing).
He had changed a great deal between 1986 and 1992. Seth Putnam had invented the character Seth Putnam. You might wanna go as far as saying that he had transformed his life into art. In the years to come, he perfected his over the top provocation stunt and you may or may not see this as a reaction to the reactionary p.c. bullshit that was everywhere. A scene that was once happy to try out new things had turned into a never ending bible study and maybe Seth’s antics were a reaction to that. One that itself ran dry very, very quickly until the whole thing was, in my eyes, disposable. Where’s the provocation when your fans are just a bunch of idiotic rednecks that never were anything but – rednecks. Maybe, as you can read here, it was just provocation for the sake of provocation from the beginning on.

I met Seth again through Facebook this year. We exchanged some messages, had a chitchat or two. He seemed tired and dull. You could still talk to him about music and the “old days”, but you know …. I don’t want to idealize things. When he suggested that we could hang out together on a future AC tour through Europe, I showed little enthusiasm. I knew that he would be gentle and nice as he’s always been, given the opportunity to step out of this repressing role. But I also knew that in the end, there was so little we would have to talk about. It wouldn’t be possible to connect again.

Rest in peace, Seth.

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