The secret delights of Tim Nelson's 'sub-underground' 550 Million Society (ONLINE EXCLUSIVE)
First there was the Apollo Rockers. Then the Defective Infants. And who can forget Gild? Or how about Boy Girl Boy Girl, 4321 and trYke? Yes, Tim Nelson's been in a lot of bands -- and still is -- but today we're going to concentrate on one of hi...
First there was the Apollo Rockers. Then the Defective Infants. And who can forget Gild? Or how about Boy Girl Boy Girl, 4321 and trYke?
Yes, Tim Nelson's been in a lot of bands -- and still is -- but today we're going to concentrate on one of his most underappreciated ones: 550 Million Society.
The group, which also features former Gild members Jim Hagstrom and Dicky Brooks (also a member of trYke), recently recorded a podcast for LocalM.com at Subterranean Productions in Superior. With the soul of a '70s hard rock outfit, they shook down that basement studio like it was the last time they would ever get to pick up their instruments.
Later, I sat in on the group's interview with Local M's Craig Rhode Jr. to gather some intel about this decidedly "sub-underground" band. Some highlights:
- Tim Nelson doesn't sleep. Consider the following: In addition to all the above bands -- and I'm sure I forgot at least 12... -- Nelson is a key player in Spinout Records, the Fitger's Brewhouse family of establishments, Sacred Heart Recording Studio and the ain't-dead-yet Greenman Festival (see below). You probably know all that, but, really, it's quite amazing, no?
- Cool name, but I don't quite follow. According to some conspiracy show Nelson saw on late-night TV, the world can only sustain 550 million people. Considering that Earth's population now sits at nearly 7 billion, sounds like "Gonzo Science" to me.... Regardless, to paraphrase Rhode, these guys rock; you won't be thinking about their name (much) when you're rocking out to "If You're Hungry."
- Not enough shows, not enough/any albums. If you've never seen 550 Million Society live, it's probably because they're "bad at booking" -- Nelson's words. (But that's about to change. Rhode is setting up an expansive series of Halloween shows in the Twin Ports, one of which will feature 550 Million Society at R.T. Quinlan's and, just maybe, at Superior's roller rink earlier in the day for an all-ages show. Keep your eyes on www.myspace.com/550millionsociety for that one.) And, as Brooks explained, you haven't been able to buy a 550 Million Society album because they need to write more songs -- though their site has a few demos recorded in Hagstrom's basement.
- On that, if you want 550 Million Society to play Chicago, they might do it for $500. "We're not looking to make money, we just don't want to go broke," Nelson reasoned.
- The return of Greenman? While chances are slim, Nelson said if the festival were to be resurrected, he'd like to go back to basics -- maybe do it in a farmfield and keep it low-key, eschewing national acts in favor of his friends' bands. "It could happen," he offered. "Greenman's alive ... he's just in hiding."
- Like Neko Case, Hagstrom was into the Monkees as a child. It's OK, though; he quickly got into prog rock, and he was drumming by the age of 12. "I'll always be playing," said the Duluth native.
- Famous last words/let's get political. "I watch a lot of news," Nelson said about the inspiration for most of his songs. "I'm a news guy." He's not kidding: The 550 Million Society song "Gwen" isn't about a long-lost love or anything, it's about PBS news correspondent Gwen Ifill.
For more pictures from the 550 Million Society recording session, click on the accompanying photo gallery.