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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Die Kreuzen’s 'Cows and Beer' EP Gets a Proper Reissue

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All too often, reissues of classic releases seem like little more than a sales ploy, cashing in on collectors and completists by scraping together a few superfluous bonus tracks and dressing them up in some shiny new packaging. Die Kreuzen, however, has never been a band known to do anything half way, or without a good reason, and that’s abundantly clear when it comes to the deluxe new reissue of their 1982 debut EP, Cows and Beer, every aspect of which shows a loving attention to detail, making it a godsend to fans who’ve long dealt with subpar unofficial copies.

“Mike Beer over at Beer City Records had been after us to do something for a while,” says lead singer Dan Kubinski, explaining the motivation behind the long overdue re-release. “There’s a whole series of old Die Kreuzen demos, live stuff and various other bootlegs that people had been putting out, and Mike wanted to take some of that away from the illegal bootleggers and put it back in our hands, so when we saw that there were even more bootlegs of Cows and Beer being pressed up yet again, we decided that would be a good place to start.”

Beyond ripping off the band, the unlicensed copies add insult to injury by giving listeners degraded, nth generation sound quality. “It’s not so much the money,” says bassist Keith Brammer. “I just don’t want people paying for this thing, thinking that it’s genuine, and going, ‘Well, this is garbage.’” What’s even worse, they’re just plain ugly. “The bootlegs look crappy too; they don’t do justice to Richard Kohl’s artwork, with the letters all bleeding together,” says Kubinski, “whereas Mike and his staff did a wonderful job. When he blew it up, there were details that I had never even noticed.”

The cover is just the start of how slick-looking the release really is, pressed as both the classic 7-inch and a new 12-inch, on five different colors of vinyl, and packaged with a plethora of extras. “Dan, Eric [Tunison, drummer] and I did new liner notes for it, kind of looking back at the history of the whole thing,” says Brammer. “And they both have different photos, some that even Dan and I had never seen before.” The 12-inch even comes with a gorgeous original comic by musician/cartoonist Brian Walsby. “I always wanted our own comic book,” says Kubinski, smiling.

As much care went into the sound as the sleeve. “We didn’t have the multi-track master, but we had the original quarter-inch tape and took it to Billy Ciccarelli from WMSE,” explains Brammer. “He looked at it and was very cautious, like ‘I don’t know if this is just going to disintegrate when I put on the machine, so cross your fingers.’” It survived, but that was just step one. “He sent it on to Dave Eck at Lucky Lacquers in Middleton, who re-mastered it again twice, once for the digital download and once for the 12-inch,” adds Kubinski.

At long last, fans will be able to own a legitimate, high-quality vinyl version of one of the band’s seminal works (sans bonus tracks since, as Kubinski puts it, “It should just be Cows and Beer”) without spending a small fortune, and, even better, the whole thing’s more or less local from start to finish, making it a Record Store Day release well-worth hunting down. “We like to keep it in the family, so to speak,” say Brammer, “because your friends are the people who are really going to care, who are going to make the effort to do it properly.”

Kubinski and Brammer will sign copies of Cows and Beer from noon to 3 p.m. at Rushmor Records on Record Store Day, Saturday, April 19.