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The X-tal Story

X-Tal, 03/05/00 [no relation]
She was a great friend!!!!!!!! X-Tal ( crystal ) She was given to myself and my year old Dalmatian Chelsea on Christmas morning in “90”. From the moment my husband gave her to us she was a huge part of our family. She brought love and friendship to all of us. Later down the road I had 3 great little boys who loved her very much. She was as gentle with the new baby as we were and as much a part of their every day life. X-Tal died of kidney failure, her body started to give out and her energy was gone but the love in her heart never left. When we made the decision not to make her fight anymore and to let her rest, she seemed to know. The little bit of energy left in her frail body was spent on letting myself and my husband know that she was O.K. with our decision and was ready to be at peace. In her last few minutes she was very generous with her love and her kisses to anyone who entered the room to say good bye. She will be missed by my entire family and most of all her life long friend Chelsea. Please keep Chelsea in your prayers.
The DeCredico Family 
(Found while idly doing a web search under “X-tal”)


1982: J Neo (Marvin), Alan Korn, and Annie Hesse (Santa Cruz expatriates all) move into a flat on Landers St. Both Neo and Alan are furiously writing songs, recording lo-fi demos, and playing together, sometimes with Annie or with Neo’s girlfriend Maati Stojanovich. A lot of band names get thrown about; PDR sticks for a while until it’s decided that the whole three-initial thing is getting REAL tired. Some drummers pass through, but none stay long.

1983: Still no agreement on a band name until Maati sees a graffiti on a sidewalk in the Tenderloin reading “XTAL”. No one hates it; it grows on you. Somewhere along the line a hyphen is added to make it easier to pronounce, but for the next 13 years, confusion ensues as to whether the letter “t” is capitalized. (It’s not.) Neo moves out of Landers St. and in with Maati. Major breakthrough: Alan meets a young, enthusiastic English lad at the radio station at San Francisco State who’s keen to do some drumming. He likes the Velvet Underground, can already knock out a decent reggae beat, and gives the thumbs-up to Neo’s songs. Michael Freeman (soon to be nicknamed “Mick” by Maati, who insists that “Mike” is not a fit name for an Englishman) completes the first lineup of X-tal. The trio closes out the year with two gigs at the On Broadway.

1984: X-tal play constantly, building up a rough repertoire and a tiny following. A couple attempts to shoehorn in fourth members fail, feelings get bruised, communication suffers. None of this is worth going into detail about at this late date. A demo is recorded by Greg Freeman and Dave Spaulding which, though less than perfect, will have to function as the definitive record of this period.

1985: Original lineup of band limps to a halt. Alan joins the Catheads. Neo says “What now?” Mick says, “What happened?”

1986: New band, God And His Dog, begins rehearsing and playing the odd party. Lineup is Mick, Neo, Maati, Jeremy O’Doughaill (from Honor Role) and Patty Stirling (journalist, cartoonist and occasional guest Cannane). Band is immediately hampered by the impossible ambition to be a cross between the Pogues and Sonic Youth. Many good ideas exchanged and fine songs written, most of which find their way into later versions of X-tal, as well as Jeremy’s future band, the Bedlam Rovers. Patty Stirling’s song “Bisho” is eventually covered by the Catheads.

1987: God And His Dog break up. Jeremy and friends start the Bedlam Rovers. Maati and Patty find other interests. Neo and Mick find themselves starting over again. Catheads singer/guitarist Mark Zanandrea releases the classic SF Unscene compilation which features two songs from the 1984 X-tal demo which receive some compliments in the press. Mick and Neo decide to ride this wave of mild enthusiasm for all it’s worth and form a new band called “X-tal”. Sel J. Hwahng answers ad placed at Rough Trade store and proves to have an emphatic approach to attacking bass strings which bodes well for the future. Barbara Manning briefly joins as second guitarist. This does not last. Nevertheless, we stay in touch. The new X-tal ends the year as a trio again. Mick becomes booker of the SF Music Works. Coincidentally, X-tal begin playing there a lot.

1988: Sel lobbies hard to get close friend Jimmy (Demetrius) Broustis into X-tal. Everyone hits it off, so X-tal becomes a quartet. Mick becomes bartender and booker at the Albion. Coincidentally, X-tal begin playing there a lot. X-tal also begin traveling a bit, playing small towns in northern California. Soul Politics cassette is recorded at Lowdown studio by Greg Freeman. Around the same time Mick, Alan and Neo reform to play on Barbara Manning’s song, “Someone Wants You Dead”. Sel leaves X-tal to start Raging Adolescent Girl and, later, The Lucy Stoners. Greg Freeman is drafted as temp-bassist for a couple of gigs. Mitzi Waltz, who shops at health food store where Neo works, is asked to join the band.

1989: Work begins on debut album, which everyone believes will be released on Pat Thomas’s Heyday label. Songs are recorded as time and money permit (some sessions are financed by Jimmy selling off choice items from his vintage baseball card collection), and as Mitzi learns them. Many shows played at Albion and band learns to thrive at lower volume. Albion as a music venue is at its peak roughly from 1989 to 1991, leading to charming German myth of thriving San Francisco folk-rock scene. X-tal take small west coast tour in fall, playing memorable show in Olympia, WA with Calamity Jane and early Kathleen Hanna-fronted band Amy Carter. X-tal never play Olympia again, much to Neo’s disappointment. Album is eventually completed, but Heyday seems less certain.

1990: X-tal decide not to go with Heyday. Happily, Lorry Fleming convinces Delight Jenkins to sign X-tal to her LA-based label Alias. Alias wants X-tal to drop some songs and record some more, and pays for the band to finish the album again at Olde West. Album cover photo is shot, based on “industrial Renaissance fair” joke-concept that nobody gets. Reason Is 6/7 Of Treason is released. Mitzi marries Steve Schultz. On returning from difficult Southwest mini-tour, Mitzi announces she is 1) pregnant, 2) moving to Portland, and 3) leaving the band. Three songs are recorded at Soma Sync the day before Mitzi leaves town. Allison Moseley answers ad for bassist, learns songs fast, and band takes a huge step forward as a result. “Old Colonial” single released. Die Monster Die finished at Olde West. First US tour. Mick marries Andrea Rice, several times.

1991: Die Monster Die released. Second US tour. Neo finally starts writing some good songs again. “Humboldt Desert” EP recorded and released. Everything Crash recorded.

1992: Everything Crash released. Alias closes San Francisco office, which changes everything. Jimmy leaves X-tal. Third US tour, as a trio. X-tal break up, reform a week later after hearing that Everything Crash is getting good press in Germany. Alias agrees to put out one more X-tal release so the band can have something new out when they tour Europe next year. Alias wants X-tal to record in LA with Joe Chiccarelli. The band agrees and drives down, with Mark Zanandrea as guest guitarist, to record Good Luck EP.

1993: Good Luck finished and released, the first CD-only X-tal record and the first to feature cover art by Allison. Mark joins X-tal as official member. Jackson Haring starts managing the band. Neo and Mick go to Germany for a week to meet the press and do some acoustic shows. Rough Trade Deutschland is very interested. Back home, X-tal opens for the Fall at Slim’s and Cracker at the Fillmore. New songs are written, many inspired by Allison and Neo’s experiences working for union representation drive at Green Apple Books. First European tour. X-tal sign to Rough Trade, but have no US label.

1994: Mayday recorded in Oakland and released in Germany. Second European tour, including opening shows for Beck and the Counting Crows. Things seem to be going well.

1995: Entropy sets in. Band disagrees on musical direction and career plans. Jackson fails to make X-tal MTV stars. Allison, Mick and Mark start side band. After long period of uncertainty, X-tal regroup to make another album. Work begins on what will ultimately be called The Conqueror Worm because it’s the only title everyone can agree on.

1996: The Conqueror Worm is completed. Members of X-tal can no longer stand each other. Allison plans to marry Nils Plath and move to Muenster. Mick has second child on the way. Will the band tour? Who will play? Sudden death of Maati Stojanovich in May inspires X-tal to put differences aside and go out with dignity by playing a final European tour. Biting The Ugly Biscuit, a collection of outtakes, is compiled and released on the German label Normal’s “Return To Sender” series. The cover is a 1984 photo by Annie Hesse. The Conqueror Worm is released. Mick bows out of tour because of family responsibilities. Drummer Theo Denaxas and violinist/accordionist Morgan Fichter (both from the Bedlam Rovers) join the final lineup of X-tal. Allison marries Nils. Third European tour, with ex-Rover Marko (in tandem with Morgan) as opening act. After tour, band members scatter to the four winds. But that’s another story.