Born in Columbus, OH; married; children: two. Addresses: Record company--In The Red Records, 2627 E. Strong Pl., Anaheim, CA 92806, Phone: (818)-841-2473 Fax: : (818)-841-2713, Mr. ; Don Howland.
Don Howland became a major force on the independent musical scene. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, it was here in the city of his birth that Howland began learning the guitar and dreaming dreams of rock and roll greatness. He grew up during the era of mid-seventies punk. But he knew that it might take quite a long time for his rock and roll dreams of success became reality, so in order to pay the bills, he decided on getting a degree in education. All the while, though, he kept writing and perfecting his original songwriting abilities and performing talents. After graduation from college, Howland began a dual life of alter-egos. In the daytime, he worked as a teacher in an inner-city Columbus junior high school. It was a place where he was a person in position of authority and was regularly called "Mr. Howland." But at night, Howland continued in his musical pursuit. Skillfully managing a precarious schedule, he eventually arranged a situation where he could work as a teacher in the day and play club dates at night with his band.
The first group he joined was The Great Plains. This was a local Columbus, band which attracted some favorable criticism as well as attracting a good share of the nightclub audiences. Howland didn't use his real name but played bass with this group under the peculiar pseudonym of Frank O' Hare. In the mid-1980's, Howland was ready to explore working with a different group. Even so, he had to maintain his day job as school teacher. He was married with two small children to support. Nevertheless, he perservered in his dream. And along with his hard-edged New Wave upbringings, Howland was heavily influenced by country blues. This was how he met up with a local band, The Gibson Brothers. They were playing a kind of punk-rockabilly subgenre that is labelled "psychobilly." Personalities clicked as did their musical synchronicity. What followed was months of touring and gaining national recognition as they continued to develop their unique style. They released their debut album, Build A Raft in 1986. Other albums included, Big Pine Boogie , 1988, Dedicated Fool, 1989, Punk Rock Drivin' Song of a Gun, 1990, The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing and On the Riviera , 1991, and Memphis Sol Today! in 1993.
Howland needed some time to muse over his musical alternatives. This meant finding a new record label as well. While he was doing that, he decided to fill in and help out each of his former bandmates as he pursued his own music. For a brief period, he went to work for Jeff Evans then Doug Edwards. Still though, Howland wanted to make his own unique mark on the indie rock scene, but he couldn't find just the right vehicle to make the specific statements he wanted to make.He also realized that the only way to really do what he wanted was to start his own group. Naming the new band poved to be controversial, but fitting, in a punky sort of way. The name was found on the wall in a restroom at a local bar. Someone had taken a profane phrase and wrote over the first letter "a" making it a "b" instead. "I just thought, if I ever got another band, that's what I'm going to call it," Howland told Greg Baise of the Detroit Metro Times .
Such were the nihilistic beginnings of The Bassholes. In another unusual move, Howland found himself with only a drummer and decided the two would work as a duo. The next item on his agenda was to find the right record label. Howland found In The Red Records from Anaheim, California, whose founder, Larry Hardy, is a unique mogul. He has a self-professed love for vinyl instead of cds. He's alos one of a small but growing number of independent record labels that release single seven inch EPs and other vinyl creations along with the more commercial profitable cd versions. Howland's work impressed Hardy and he particularly liked the material Howland wrote for The Bassholes. Negotiations were made and a contract was signed. Hardy's In The Red released the Bassholes debut album Haunted Hill in 1995. Other releases for the label included, Deaf Mix, Vol. 3 and Blue Roots in 1997, and When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again , and Long Way Blues 1996-98 in 1998.
Abandoning some of the cheesier, self-conscious psychobilly satire, Howland came up with a sound that is stripped down garage-recorded hard rock with lyrics frequently harsh and heavy on dark themes. "To me the Germs song off of the Cruising soundtrack, which we covered, and a Blind Willie McTell song have pretty much the same vibe--very dark, sexually maladjusted and pretty in a very ugly way" he told Baise. Howland's unique style involves adopting old blues lyrical motifs to quirky rock progressions, taking Bob Dylan songs and making them unrecognizable and creating what many music critics have called a "dark surrealism."
Throughout the last half decade, The Bassholes began making a niche for themselves in the indie alternative rock market. While doing this, Howland decided to start creating more branches in his ever expanding musical repretoire.However, Howland has to maintain his day job as a teacher. This is a situation which causes him a lot of tension, grief, and upset. "I don't think the Bassholes' records would sound the way they do if I didn't have a really frustrating job," Howland told Baise. His job became even more frustrating in 1998 when two of his students committed several high-profile murders which gained a lot of sensational press and further depressed Howland. When asked about the crimes of his ex-students, he simply gave a one sentence deadpan reply to Baise; "It was a bad year for Columbus, Ohio."
Howland is not only works his teaching job during the day and his music at night, he also has the energy to involve himself with outside musical projects for up and coming independent rock bands. Besides working with Gaunt and Ross Johnson, he with the infamous band Southern Culture On The Skids, appeared on "Los Falanas" and has recently recorded four seven-inch singles for the Sympathy For The Record Industry opus. However, his most recent sidework is a new band called Ego Summit. This latest Howland effort has teamed him up with old Gibson Brothers alumni, Ron House and Tommy Jay. The group's debut album, The Room's Not Big Enough , was released in 1997. It features Howland at his musical best with songs like "Ego's Bridge." "We Got it All," and "Black Hole," It appears that Howland is doing the impossible on many fronts, but is increasingly commercially successful. He also appears to be doing well in his day job but one dy, he hopes to be able to support himself solely from his musical work.
by Timothy Kevin Perry
Don Howland's Career
First group was The Great Plains; his second group was The Gibson Brothers; group signed with Old Age Records, released debut album Build A Raft, 1986; group signed with Homestead Records; released Big Pine Boogie, 1988; Dedicated Fool, 1989; released Punk Rock Drivin' Song of a Gunn, 1990; released The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing, Positive Records, 1991; released On The Riviera, Mango Records, 1991; released Memphis Sol Today!, Sympathy For the Record Industry Records, 1993; left The Gibson Brothers and formed The Bassholes; signed with In The Red Records; released Bassholes debut album Haunted Hill, 1995; along with his Bassholes work also spent time working with group Gaunt, and Ross Johnson; released Deaf Mix Vol. 3, In The Red, 1997; released Blue Roots, Matador label, 1997; started another band, Ego Summit; signed with Old Age/No Age Records, released Ego Summit's debut album The Room's Not Big Enough, 1977; released When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again and Long Way Blues 1996-1998, released EP "Lion's Share/Jesus Book," In The Red Records, 1998; released EP "Problem/Change Had to Come," In The Red Records, 1998.
- Selected discography
- Best of Gibson Brothers , Unidisc, 1993.
- Deaf Mix, Vol. 3 , In the Red, 1997.
- Haunted Hill , In the Red, 1995.
- Long Way Blues 1996-98 , Matador, 1998.
- Punk Rock Drivin' Song of a Gun , Homestead, 1990.
- The Room's Not Big Enough , Ego Summit, Old Age/No Age Records, 1997.
- Metro Times , (Detroit), July 15-21, 1998.
- All-Music Guide website , http://www.allmusic.com