On Soul Jazz Records’ new compilation No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-1997 (featured in this week’s Stranger), no group sounds odder or more out of step with that time’s prevalent sound than Portland’s Hitting Birth. On “Same 18,” they deviate from the collection’s hard-rock status quo with some lunging, white-knuckled, industrial funk rock. Hitting Birth recorded three albums in the first half of the ’90s, and then leader Daniel John Riddle formed King Black Acid and the Womb Star Orchestra, a band that specializes in epic, opiated psych-rock jams. They're still going and Riddle also keeps busy as owner and sound engineer at Portland's Mazinga Studio.
I interviewed Riddle for the No Seattle feature, but couldn’t fit in his quotes. As Hitting Birth’s track stands as the album’s highlight for me and their music still deserves to be reaching more ears, I’d like to share the exchange on Slog.
Were you surprised when Soul Jazz inquired about using Hitting Birth’s “Same 18”?
Daniel John Riddle: Yes, very surprised.
Since No Seattle came out, has there been a renewed interest in Hitting Birth’s music?
Yes, our online sites have been receiving much more interest.
Hitting Birth’s track stands out from the bulk of No Seattle’s content. Were Hitting Birth an outlier in the Northwest back then, or were there kindred sonic spirits? ¡Tchkung! maybe?
Hitting Birth were sonically and visually very unique, but at that time (pre-Nirvana's Nevermind and the fatal injections of cash into the subterranean underground culture) many bands/artists were trying to carve out a unique niche and if you had an authentic vibe, you were embraced by all the other bands, artists, and music fans. The punk and hardcore movements died out in the mid ’80s and "alternative" music was fracturing into a million pieces. It was totally legit to be "outside" or totally fucking sideways because we were all doing it with passion and conviction. We found kindred spirits everywhere we went, pretty much. Unless motherfuckers were too busy posing and fronting, in which case you knew those people were filled with plastic shit anyway and you couldn't be real with them until they had a near death experience or found gay Jesus.
Were Hitting Birth rebelling against that era’s grunge-rock orthodoxy?
No, Hitting Birth did not rebel against grunge. We rebelled against ourselves to insure that we would never be accepted into the grunge scene—or any scene, for that matter. We were all straight-up outsiders. Smaller in numbers than the than 1%ers. We were like nerds, weirdos, freaks, fags, and geeks. We knew we could never impress anyone with trying to fit in with a grunge scene or goth scene or metal scene.
What’s up with King Black Acid? I remember loving those KBA ’90s albums.
I still write, record and produce music under the name King Black Acid. I have a home studio and I produce my own projects as well working with other artists like these cats Queen Chief. I still do film-score, soundtrack, and commercial work as well as releasing the strange and beautiful songs of King Black Acid. Like this short film and song that was released this year.