Monday, February 18, 2013

Einstein's Riceboys - Milk Of Amnesia

A1. In Your Yard

A3. The Taung Child

A4. Water Me Down

B1. Soda Jerk

B2. Elevator Ride

Black Fag (From the Civil Rice LP)

Milk Of Amnesia
Pluto (ER 1633), 1981

Steve Wahlen grew up in Beaver Dam, WI during the golden age of the British Invasion. He got his musical start in a high school cover band that jammed Savoy Brown tunes and “Smoke On The Water” before absorbing the sounds of the Stooges, Velvet Underground, Joy Division, and Throbbing Gristle. He began school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1977 when punk was first making its way to the state. He got to see the Ramones and the Jam and knew that’s what he wanted to do.

Sheldon and Todd Rusch grew up in Wauwatosa, the children of a sports coach. A neighbor turned them onto jazz at an early age. Todd would lock himself in the basement after school for hours on end practicing playing. The brothers ended up moving to Madison to attend school at UW where Todd shared a dorm with Steve Wahlen. During his second semester, Todd answered an ad placed by a funk band that was moving to Florida and needing players. He hooked up with them and relocated to the Keys where he was given a salary and housing for playing top 40 hits six nights a week.

Meanwhile, Steve introduced Sheldon to groups like the Clash and Joy Division. Before long they were writing songs of their own. They started sending tapes of the music they were creating to Todd and tried to get him to move back. After over a year of stable employment he finally returned to Wisconsin.

With Todd in the mix, Sheldon switched from guitar to keyboards and the three became known as Einstein’s Riceboys. Todd brought experience to the band and played both guitar and bass. Sheldon had a knack for lyrics and songwriting and Steve hammered the drums and sang. They spent a year endlessly rehearsing and by the time they emerged to play their first basement show they had developed their own unique sound.

The band moved to neighboring Milwaukee to join its vibrantly growing scene after Sheldon finished school. They played 6-10 gigs a month alongside bands like the Prosecutors and Oil Tasters. Todd did the legwork of designing posters and plastering them on telephone poles. They were able to save up enough money to record and self release an album, a feat that none of the other local groups had managed at that point. Even the most popular bands like the Shivvers and Haskels only released 7”s, not full length LPs.

The Riceboys spent a few hours on consecutives days in Breezeway Studios recording the nine songs that comprised Milk Of Amnesia. They were well rehearsed and able to do everything in one take, layering all the instruments and not doing too many overdubs. The 1,000 copies of the album that were pressed sold out quickly and they started seeing larger crowds at their shows.

It was decided they needed another member to help fill out their sound so they asked a high school senior named KT Rusch to join the band. KT had a wide variety of musical influences. She started playing guitar in middle school but moved over to bass to play in a punky power pop group called the Elevators with her brother. When the Riceboys gave her a copy of Milk Of Amnesia to check out, she loved what she heard and promptly joined the band.

Todd had made connections in South Florida with a couple of wealthy brothers who were looking for a band to test out a new direct-to-digital method of recording using the JVC DAS-90. The brothers expressed interest in doing the next Riceboys album so the band packed up and drove the van down to Miami to do a quick recording session with no overdubs in a practice space. They recorded three live takes of each song and then chose the best versions to assemble the Civil Rice LP. After a standard pressing was made, their record label, QL, did a special Japanese virgin vinyl pressing. They also offered it on chrome and metal cassette as well as compact disc.

The band stayed in Florida for a while to showcase their music to a new audience. Clubs wanted them to play three sets a night so they mixed a wide variety of cover material with their originals including songs by Gang Of Four, the English Beat, and Devo. They even worked up a ska version of “Get Off My Cloud” and threw in some Bowie to keep it interesting. The band made their own fanzine called Camp Six and each member had a column. They’d do reviews and advertise the band. There was a copy machine at the house they were staying at, so they stapled them together and would drop them at record stores.

Civil Rice charted on college stations in the summer of 1983, right around the time the Violent Femmes were breaking into the mainstream. Einstein's Riceboys moved back to Milwaukee to see how things were shaping up there. Soon after, Steve broke his arm in an accident and they had to get another drummer. He continued to sing but the band's progress was derailed. Soon after, the Riceboys ceased to be.


  1. I went to high school with Todd and mixed their sound for a few years. Good times!

  2. I worked at the same place Sheldon did at the time. I was still in highschool, and loved every opportunity to see them play, especially at the Stone Toad. Great times with great people....MORE RICE! MORE RICE! MORE RICE!!!!