Jud Ehrbar of Space Needle & Reservoir

For the first time in more than 15 years, Jud Ehrbar’s collective commercial musical output will be available digitally. We emailed regularly about getting the details correct. Along the way, my memory was refreshed. These projects are of huge musical significance to me.

Ehrbar answered questions as Space Needle‘s two albums Voyager and The Moray Eels Eat The Space Needle; as well as the two solo albums (under the name Reservoir) Reservoir and Pink Machine finally became properly available to the public via streaming and download services. Here’s how it played out.

How would you describe the coming together of Space Needle? And if you will, its mission? Was any of SN a reaction to your role in Scarce?

Jeff and I started making music in Providence while I was still playing drums with Scarce. We knew next to nothing about home recording at the time, so our goal was basically to get anything down on tape whatsoever. The early stuff came out of Jeff’s guitar instrumentals, primitive DJing, and accidental field recordings.

I suppose what Jeff and I were doing was more satisfying creatively than just being a drummer, but the sounds were what excited me the most about the first Space Needle tapes. I had a busted Realistic two-track mixer that made a hellacious sound when you clipped the mic input, which we of course exploited every chance we could.

Included are song commentaries originally broadcast on The Bedazzled Radio Hour with Spike Priggen on WGXC 90.7 FM.

Did you have something specific in mind when you were putting together the initial and then later recordings?

We were probably just trying to make music we would actually want to listen to. We didn’t consider any of the recordings to be demos, and we certainly didn’t have any concerns about playing any of our early songs live. Most of the Voyager tracks were written as they were recorded.The Moray Eels Eat The Space Needle was the opposite: trying to document songs that took shape on the road months ago.

How did you meet Jeff Gatland and Anders Parker, your cohorts for the Space Needle project?

Jeff and I went to the same high school on Long Island, but two years apart. We weren’t friends until after I graduated, and mainly got to know each other working at a record store (Tracks on Wax in Northport, NY).

When did Anders become involved?

I knew Anders from Poughkeepsie in the late 80s. I went to Vassar and ended up playing music with several guys that Anders went to high school with. While Jeff and I were recording Voyager in late 1994, he was in Portland, OR working on what would become (Varnaline’s) Man of Sin.

When Anders came back east soon after, he was exactly what we needed to make Space Needle work as a live band. The three of us had a lot in common musically, and Anders filled all the spaces on guitar and drums. Since we already knew we got along, it was an easy decision.

What was it like touring as Space Needle?

We did two tours. One in summer ’95 and one Oct/Nov ’95. The first tour was great… We were just starting to play off each other, and it was still fun to piss off crowds at bad shows. When we headed out to the west coast a month later, we were already getting sick of our next album’s material with no new songs in sight.

When did you know Space Needle was over? What was your thinking of starting Reservoir?

After we finished recordingThe Moray Eels Eat The Space Needle in early ’96, it seemed like a good time to take a break. We didn’t have any new Space Needle material to play live (despite having a double album in the can!), and we were a bit burned out anyway. Anders, John, and I had been playing out as Varnaline for months, and tours in support of Man of Sin were already being booked.

Meanwhile, I had recorded over a dozen instrumental keyboard tracks at home that seemed too mellow to be Space Needle songs (although two that had vocals ended up on Moray Eels…). Eight of the tracks were released as Reservoir in June of 1996. I suppose I figured that any pop songs I was writing at that point would become Space Needle songs, and the instrumental home recordings would be Reservoir songs.

By the time Moray Eels… was finally released in early 1997, it felt like Space Needle was out of gas and out of time. Last show: January 19, 1997 at The Knitting Factory with Silver Apples, Alan Vega and Bardo Pond.

How were all of the records recorded?

Voyager: 4-track cassette in my parents’ basement in Northport, LI, plus two tracks at Studio Red II in Philly
Moray Eels: 8-track reel at Studio Red II w/Adam Lasus & Jason Cox
Reservoir: 4-track cassette at 1st Ave & 18th St
Pink Machine: 4-track cassette at 454 RSD
Max Buckholtz played violin on Moray Eels…

Did you stop making music completely? Why haven’t we heard from you in awhile?

I stopped playing music full-time and started teaching in 1999. I did more recordings as Reservoir with Adam Lasus in 2001, and I still occasionally make music at home.

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