Willard Is Saying `Rats!' To Seattle's Grunge Profusion

Willard, named after the 1971 movie about bloodthirsty rats, is the latest Seattle band to challenge our grunge-rock image. Its new album on RoadRunner Records, "Steel Mill," is tough, sludgy metal with attitude, played well and produced by the mighty Jack Endino, known for his work with Soundgarden, Nirvana and his own Skin Yard. RoadRunner is promoting the disc as an antidote to grunge overdose. "Wish someone would just chop the whole state of Washington off the map and let it sail into the Pacific?" asks a flack sheet accompanying the release. It goes on to say Willard "will be having bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains for breakfast - then vomit the undigested chunks all over Nirvana's nice new house!" That remains to be seen, although the record has already received favorable publicity from metalhead mags, including Rip, and is getting played on Z-Rock and other stations. Willard is made up of Mark Spiders, Otis P. Otis, Johnny Clint, Darren Peters and Steve Wied. Several of these guys have been associated with Tad Doyle, in the bands Ditch Witch and Tad, and have lots of tales to tell about the Idaho wood goblin and former butcher. But you'll have to ask them, because the horror stories are too lurid even for WORD.

-- Nirvana has roused from its self-induced sabbatical. After being inactive for most of this year, the band is not only doing concerts again - its show at the Coliseum on Aug. 23 is almost sold out, and it will play live at the "MTV Video Music Awards" Sept. 9 - but Kurt Cobain is even talking. Melody Maker recently ran a two-part interview with him, conducted in June when he and wife Courtney Love were still living in Los Angeles (they have since moved to a ranch outside Seattle). Photos accompanying the articles show a healthy Cobain - he's been plagued with illnesses, which have led to rumors of drug problems - with his bleached blond hair cut very short. Cobain confesses "I never got along with very many people in the Sub Pop world," because, he says, the label is sexist, one reason he left it to go to DGC Records. He talks about his running feud with Pearl Jam (he thinks the band is fake grunge), saying, "There are so many people who hate my guts because I put down Pearl Jam." He says he's eager to get to work on a new album, for which he has written a bunch of new songs. The group, he said, hasn't decided yet where to record the new disc, but the album should be out next spring. Grunge overdose notwithstanding, it's good to have Nirvana back.

-- You can't turn on MTV these days without encountering a Seattle band. Just added exclusively to the playlist is Pearl Jam's latest, "Jeremy," which looks like another hit for the sizzling group. MTV has been key to the band's ascendancy, and this new clip, and the Lollapalooza tour it will be doing through the first week in September, should keep it on top through the summer. Alice in Chains' primal, intense "Would?," from the soundtrack of the film "Singles," is one of the most powerful videos on the channel and is making AIC the latest Seattle success story. The soundtrack is a hit - it's the biggest-selling disc at many local record stores, including Tower. Another popular clip, Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike," a great song featuring the dueling vocals of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, has pushed the album into the Top 20 in Billboard. Although not a great video - it's too cluttered and fast-moving - Nirvana's "Lithium" remains on the playlist because it's one of the band's best songs. Meanwhile, even though Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" is Billboard's No. 1 single for the fifth week in a row and has sold more than 2 million copies, it has almost disappeared from MTV, except for some late-night showings.

-- If you have sensitive ears, don't go near the Off Ramp on Sunday. Louder than the roar of hydros on Lake Washington, louder than a 747 taking off from Boeing, it's "Seattle's Best Drummer Contest." It starts at 3 p.m., with the finals at 9:45 p.m. It costs $5 to enter and all entries must be received at the club by today. The entry fees will be doled out to the winners, who will be selected by a couple of seasoned stick men, Michael Shrieve, formerly of Santana and a sought-after session man who has recorded with the Rolling Stones among many others, and Steve Smith, formerly of Journey and now leading his own jazz group. In addition to the Off Ramp, sponsors include Sabian cymbals, Seattle Drum School and Seattle Drum Shop.