Green Ice – “Green Ice” (1986)

greeniceMrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane took a Saturday class a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d use that time to do some deep digging up at Silver Platters in Lynnwood.  Travis from Guerilla Candy popped on by and we spent a couple of hours flipping through the vinyl together and catching up.  For whatever reason my eyes kept landing on somewhat obscure Seattle-area bands like Childzplay, The Hitmen, and Correna.  I also came across this nugget from my side of the lake, Bellevue’s own Green Ice.  All of them went into my stack because I’m all about the little-known local stuff.

I spet some time online last weekend trying to track down something, ANYTHING, about Green Ice, but basically came up blank.  There’s a Bellevue mailing address on the back of the album and a look at Google Maps revealed it to be a house just off of 156th Avenue.  Without exaggerating I’ve driven by this house at least 200 times in my life.  Sometimes it feels like a small world.  But other than that address (♣) I came up blank, mostly finding references to Green River or a Seattle-based funk band that also goes by Green Ice.  Strikes one and two.

But it seems like we’re all connected digitally these days, and pulling a few threads got me to what I thought might be Green Ice bassist Pat Nipert.  And sure enough, it was.  And Pat was nice enough to indulge me in a few questions about his former band.  So without further ado, I give you the Patrick Nipert interview!

Patrick, tell us a bit about how Green Ice formed and how the band members knew one another.

Rick Sinclair Mangan put an ad in The Rocket (the equivalent of The Stranger back then). I answered it and we went through a couple drummers and guitar players before we found lead guitarist Mark O’Brien from Boston and drummer Randy Sangder from the Aberdeen area. The four of us all became fast friends quite quickly, but Rick and I in particular remain close to this day. Basically we found everyone through Rocket ads.

How did the four-song self-titled Green Ice record come to be? Was this the only thing the band recorded?

We were writing prolifically being primarily an original act, though we did a handful of covers. I think we settled on “Breakdown at Geneva” as the EP opener because it was our most popular/requested song at shows. The other three went over well at shows as well, but I think we pretty much selected them because we personally liked them. If memory serves, we had “Shattered Eyes”, “Color Blue” and “Talking in Tongues”. Rick and I both sang lead on the various songs. We recorded at Reciprocal Recording in Ballard (had previously been Triangle Studio). The engineer, Chris (I can’t recall the spelling of his last name, but I believe we credited him on the sleeve) (♠) seemed quite excited about us and was playing us for quite a few of the other bands coming in to record. He said the pop bands said we were too heavy and the heavy bands said we were too pop, so I suspect we were in some Netherland. The band mates always had a great deal of autonomy with their parts, so we’d let Mark O’Brien build his own ideas into the music. He played everything on a paisley Telecaster. Sangder was a very clever drummer and from a bass player’s perspective… very easy to sync with. We pressed the EP at Imperial Records in Vancouver, Canada. Our engineer up there was a Vietnamese guy who talked like John Wayne. Doesn’t get any cooler than that. We recorded yet another EP at Imperial Records as well, but never quite clearly completed it. It’s still in the cans somewhere. We were just finishing up that EP when the band played a show in Philadelphia, where we opened for the Psychedelic Furs. That quite a moment for us, but life was twisting us in different directions right then. And it turned out to be our last show.

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Green Ice (left to right):  Mark O’Brien, Pat Nipert, Randy Sangder, and
Rick Sinclair (Mangan)

To my ears Green Ice has a very college radio/indie vibe from that time period. At the same time you recorded it, though, grunge was starting to bubble under through bands like Green River. We’re you guys aware of what was going on on the other side of the lake in Seattle?

We were aware of some of the grunge stuff developing though I don’t think it was being called that at the time. I think we thought of it as being more garage band stuff at the time or just heavier edged stuff. We were playing showcases with three bands in a show, so we were playing with a wide range of Seattle area bands down in Seattle clubs like Astor Park, the Central, the Hall of Fame and others, so we were aware of the scene around us.

What eventually came of Green Ice? Were you involved in any other bands after Green Ice’s demise?

As I mentioned we ended up splitting up after opening for the Psychedelic Furs in Philadelphia. Rick wanted to head to England with me to try and push our music over in that area of the world, but my life was simply not going in that direction at that point in time. So, things split up and that was kind of rough because we were tight. We ended up back together in the 90’s playing original music again. We created a CD or two. Then Rick and I got together again in the last five years now where we’ve been playing together In an Irish folk rock band. So that’s been our most recent project. A combination of Irish originals and standards. It’s allowed us to keep playing out and most importantly to keep writing new stuff, though Irish flavored. 

What are you listening to these days? Are you still playing the bass?

My musical tastes have always been pretty focused. The Church, Beatles, Badfinger, Al Stewart, and a range of others. And as mentioned above, still playing bass, guitar, and singing… though with a flare that harkens to me Irish roots.

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Within a couple of hours of hearing from Pat, I got a note from guitarist Rick Sinclair (Mangan) who actually doesn’t live too far away from me.  I asked Pat about that desire to take Green Ice to the UK.  “We never got that serious about the idea, we were broke 20-somethings,” Rick told me.  “But we did often talk about how much better it would be, or so we thought, in that demographic.  We were really growing into our sound, just when we broke up.  I think we would have gotten more attention if we’d just stuck it out for a few more years.”  And after listening to Green Ice, i agree with Rick.  The overall sound reminds me a lot of the indie/college radio stuff I was hearing on KNDD in the early 1990s.  They were a bit ahead of their time, and not hard enough to have been swept up in the grunge thing when it came to pass and every Seattle-area band with an electric guitar was getting signed to a major label deal.

If you have fond memories of the early alt/indie scene, you’ll definitely enjoy Green Ice.  And who knows… maybe those lost recordings will surface someday?  I know I’d love to hear them if they do.

(♣)  I later learned that the Bellevue address was a house that Rick Sinclair was renting at the time.  “Kind of a temporary address to put on an album, now thinking about it,” Rick said when I asked him about it.  That’s true… but it’s also true that in the pre-internet era if you were an indie band putting out your own record as an audio calling card, you wanted to help people track you down.  That’s how it was back in the day, kids.  You had to send people letters, and hopefully they’d be forwarded if the person moved.

(♠)  This was none other than Chris Hanzsek, co-founder of C/Z Records and a guy who recorded and/or produced a lot of Seattle’s grunge bands before the scene broke.  The compilation Deep Six is one of the most important landmarks in grunge. 

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