Malcolm Tent, OG Miami Punk, on Churchill's Sale: "Amazed It Lasted as Long as It Did"
Former Broken Talent bassist Malcom Tent has come a long way since escaping South Florida in 1986 for the cold climes of Danbury, Connecticut.
For 20 years, he ran Trash American Style, an amazing record shop which was perhaps the only place on Earth where one could purchase Mexican wrestling masks alongside Venom and Ohio Players LPs. Despite being one of the few record stores to survive the great music industry implosion at the turn of the 21st century, Trash was forced out of business in 2007 when Tent's landlord evicted him in favor of a print shop that offered to pay marginally higher rent. This struggle is chronicled in the documentary I Need That Record.
Since then, Tent has continued to sell records at conventions, record shows, and flea markets all over the Northeast. He also recently sold his house so he could afford to tour his solo punk rock act anywhere that would have him -- and with his noise-punk band Ultrabunny whenever the other members' schedules allow them to join him.
Tonight, Tent plays the Monterey Club. And then on Sunday, he hits Churchill's Pub -- which he and fellow Miami OG punk rocker Todd "God" Jenkins discovered in 1986, eventually convincing owner Dave Daniels to let them make a racket.
While awaiting his flight to Fort Lauderdale,Tent chatted with County Grind via text message. The topics of conversation include being a doc star and the possible sale of everyone's favorite Miami punk landmark.
How has being in I Need That Record affected your live shows?
I Need That Record has been invaluable to my public profile. I've gotten a fair number of shows because of it. Many times, I'll get recognized late in the evening and people are amazed that I'm "that guy in the movie."
Most people tour in the hopes that one day they will be able to buy a house with the proceeds. You sold your house, so you could tour with the proceeds. Why was that a good idea?
It was a good idea because it freed me to live the life of an artist. I slimmed down my possessions and simplified my existence so that I could rock out as much as possible. Fewer encumbrances = more rock! Rock 'n' roll is the end, not the means.
You moved away 28 years ago, and yet you are still closely associated with the Miami scene. As one of the people who "discovered" Churchill's, are you sad that Dave is selling? Or is it just an inevitable passing of the torch?
Change is inevitable. I'm amazed that it lasted as long as it did.
You owned a record store for an eon. Now you sell vinyl at record shows and flea markets. Describe the difference and why is this bad or good for music?
The only difference is in the fixedness of the delivery. We record peddlers cater to the needs of a rabid clientele and it doesn't really matter how we deliver the goods so long as we deliver. There are hungry people everywhere and so long as they get the music, all is well.
Who were some of the more Notable folks who shopped at Trash?
Ace Frehley was a trip! The first tome was awkward because I was starstruck and he was uptight. The second time he was well lit and we had a good ol' time.
Sonic Youth were regulars at the shop. And many, many touring bands would browse the stacks while in town. Stereolab was my favorite. We had a listening/ shopping party after their first gig in Danbury.Very nice people.
Is it more fun to tour solo, than with Ultrabunny? Is it just responsibilities and financial strains that keep your band mates at home?
Touring is fun and a half whether I'm out solo or with Ultrabunny. Solo is fun because I have complete control and total flexibility. The band is fun because I love the dudes in Ultrabunny and we do fun band stuff together. Truck stops, restaurants, and rest stops are very amusing when you're on tbe road with like-minded weirdos.
My goal is to play at least 60 shows a year, about 10 of which are with Ultrabunny. They are adults with real world responsibilities and that tends to limit the amount of travel they can indulge in.
Tell us about your recent shows in Mexico.
I played 2 gigs in Nogales and they were a hoot! The language barier was a great source of entertainment for everyone. I'm relearning mi Espanol so we can really amuse each other when I go back. The kids were very enthusiastic. I loved the energy
What, besides your parents, do you love about South Florida?
I love the natural beauty of South Florida and I have many friends there. If it had been easier to get gigs there in 1986 I might have stayed. But I was at a personal dead end anyway and starting over elsewhere was the right thing to do for me. Ironically, when I tour SoFla now, the gigs are great!
Malcolm Tent. With Lone Wolf, Lou Shields, and Allison Self. Friday, February 21. Monterey Club, 2608 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. The show starts at 8:05 p.m. Visit malcolmtent.net.
Malcolm Tent. With Kenny Millions, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers, and Laundry Room Squelchers. Sunday, February 23. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 6 p.m. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.