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Protones and Electrones: A Playlist for Earthquaker DevicesProtones and Electrones: A Playlist for Earthquaker Devices

(Note: this article and playlist originally appeared on the Earthquaker Devices site, Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends proudly use EQD pedals regularly.)

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends is a rock band featuring Conan Neutron, Tony Ash and Dale Crover of the Melvins, here is a list of guitar sounds/songs (and a few for bass!) that they find particularly evocative, interesting, or noteworthy.

Conan Neutron:

Stooges – TV Eye:

Lardo – Pedagogue:

Wire – Practice Makes Perfect

Wipers – Youth of America

Shellac – My Black Ass

Thin Lizzy – Emerald

Drive Like Jehu – Luau

The Birthday Party – The Friend Catcher

DEVO – Mongoloid

Chavez – The Guard Attacks

Tony Ash:

Rye Coalition – Snow Job:

Hellacopters – No Angel to Lay Me Away

Cheap Trick – Big Eyes

Davie Allan and the Arrows – Blues Theme

Flipper – Learn to Live

The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself).

The Birthday Party – Nick the Stripper

The Stooges – Gimme Danger

Jawbox – Motorist

AC/DC – What’s Next to the Moon?

Conan Neutron:

1. The Stooges – TV Eye 

Ron Asheton. Full stop. One of my very favorite guitar players. One of the best guitar riffs of all time. Marshall, fuzz face pedal. Nothing too crazy. He used a strat for fun house, so I love hearing about how strats are exclusively the terrain of blues lawyers. I love chiming open notes in riffs, that’s me paying homage to Ron Asheton, who was getting it from Mahavishnu Orchestra or whatever!

There is debate amongst rock nerds over whether Funhouse or Raw Power is better. Asheton Or Williamson on guitar. Both rule, we have a foot in either camp between Tony and I. I’m team Funhouse, and I vote. 

2. Lardo – Pedagogue

Bit commander! Brian Pennington makes his guitar sounds like a broken computer and all is right with the world. Put that crazy guitar over the insane rhythm section and concise and sharp song writing and you have a hell of a band I which more people Listened to. There aren’t many bands that have added anything new to this kind of genre, Lardo has done it. Respect.

3. Wire – Practice Makes Perfect

Rocks like hell but doesn’t roll at all. Kraftwerk style robotics melded with staccato and harsh guitars. Pink flag is swell and all, but chairs missing is the one for me. When I started listening to Wire it really broke down what the ideas of what a song could and should be. Colin Newman plays a Roland JC-120 I think. And unless I’m mistaken, at the time was a music man HD-130? One of my favorite amps ever. A thing I love about Wire is that they are not gear purists. They use Pods, they change gear all the time. Best or weirdest sound wins, and they still come up with super cool stuff. There’s a lesson there.

4. Wipers – Youth of America 

Greg Sage recorded the first classic three records on a 1965 Ampeg Gemini, Low Tremolo with heavy reverb. An MXR distortion plus and an Echoplex rounded it out. Especially on this one! Then again, Greg also built his own preamps. So, who knows? The Wipers are a band of mystery.

This is the first song that made me appreciate delay, echo and that punk rock could also be psych. A stellar composition, every song on those first three records is a classic, but this one… wow! It’s a journey. You can do this kind of stuff with an Avalanche Run or a Catalinbread Belle Epoch now. Which is amazing.

5. Shellac – My Black Ass

There’s a whole industry of gear people trying to reproduce Steve’s sound. Boxidizer, karma sutra, that pedal that does what an IVP does. Tons of people get really hung up on the harmonic percolator. It’s cool, but it isn’t a ticket to Albini town. He uses it sparingly. It’s basically a fender Bassman and an Intersound IVP and he plays through larger full range speakers when possible, I believe.

There is also a great video ( where he plays through a 15w Orange tiny terror and sounds just like himself. So… sorry, nerds. It’s how you play! Anyway, there are better shellac songs, but as far as pure riffs/sound/album intro. Hard to beat! I like Shellac, they are an excellent band.

6. Thin Lizzy – emerald 

What? Did you think I was going to exclusively have post-punk and noise rock? Nope! I feel genuinely bad for people that only know “the boys are back in town.”. That is a fine song but not even in my top 10 Thin Lizzy Numbers. I would probably pick Cowboy song for songcraft… but we’re talking about guitars here! And for my tastes nobody does dual guitars better than Thin Lizzy. This one is the perfect distillation of Irish traditional stuff and hard rock. The dual guitars snake and intertwine, it manages to be heavy as hell and still have soul to spare. 

I think Phil Lynott is easily one of rock’s most underrated front people too. As well as a hell of a bassist.

7. Drive Like Jehu – Luau

Holy moly did this album kick my head in. I spent years trying to steal stuff from John Reis off of it, failing and coming up with my own. There’s a reverb article all about Reis “maimed les Paul’s and endless pickup swaps” ( that is a must read. But cranked Marshall JCM800s with amp chassis reversed and exposed transformer makes some of the more unearthly bird tweeting crazy go nuts sounds here. Some beastly playing here, and the interplay between Froberg and Reis is almost as amazing as the near composted style tension movements this song takes you. Let’s all rock out in 3/4, SUIT UP!

8. The Birthday party -the Friend Catcher 

The Birthday Party changed my world when I discovered them. Raucous and unhinged but dark and scary as well. A total sense of humor, but the music itself taken totally seriously. Rowland S. Howard man! What a player. Most people gravitate towards the incalculably brutal and awesome Junkyard or the incredible Live 81-82 record, however I wanted to focus on the Friend Catcher, because the man makes his guitar sound very convincingly like a person screaming! Maybe not your bag if you are more into traditional sounds, but I adore it.

63′ Jaguar into a fender twin turned very loud, an MXR graphic EQ with bands up as a booster, treble and reverb dimed. I think he used a broken blue box for some stuff also… I also think somebody made a pedal to approximate his sound too. I’ve never tried it, but if anybody deserves one it’s Rowland S. Howard. Rest in power. 

9. DEVO – mongoloid 

People think of Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (rightly) when they think of Devo. Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale managed to innovate some seriously rude and awesome sounds that sound very un-classic rock while rocking very hard! I may make weird big rock, but the way things fit together, and the abrupt left turns, that’s all DEVO’s influence on me. They are rightly hailed as innovators of synths, but there is an incredible usage of guitar and monster riffs for those willing to look.

For the loud bits, believe it or not it’s a simple tube screamer Bob 1 uses, which we all know has been improved on by EQD with Plumes.

Of course Mark has the amazing guitar with a Ds-1 and an Electro Harmonic Frequency Analyzer taped to it ( You have to give it up for style there.

10. Chavez – the guard attacks 

I love songs that sort of hang on a root note and riff. There’s more than a little of that in our stuff. This riff slams hard! No idea what Sweeney is playing on, but Clay Tarver uses an MXR distortion plus from high school (!), Les Paul into a Marshall and off you go. Hell yeah! It’s what you play maaaaan. Weird drop tunings making new chords and such. Such a unique and cool band.

Now! Over to Tony.

Tony Ash

1. Rye Coalition “Snow Job.”

This is the song that got me excited about playing bass many years ago, and it’s still kind of my benchmark for awesome bass tone. Albini’s engineering skills, paired with a Fender Jazz Bass into a Traynor TS-50B. Perfection. 

2. The Hellacopters “No Angel to Lay Me Away.”

I’ve always been a huge fan of this band, especially their last proper album Rock and Roll Is Dead, from which this song hails. The guitars have a chiming quality and are relatively clean, but still manage to sound totally heavy.

3. Cheap Trick “Big Eyes.”

What else is there to say aside from the fact that Tom Petersson is arguably the coolest bassist of all time? That grinding bass break in the bridge is excellent. 

4. Davie Allan and the Arrows “Blues Theme.”

I have a major soft spot for the really harsh, gnarly fuzz tones of the 1960’s, and this instrumental track from the soundtrack to The Wild Angels might be the king of them all.

5. Flipper “Learn to Live.”

Krist Novoselic may be the most underrated bassist of all time. His basslines absolutely drove Nirvana’s music and yet his contributions seem to go largely unrecognized. But, despite my longtime love of them, I’m not going to list a Nirvana track here. Instead, I’m choosing this song from the album ‘Love’ by San Francisco’s own Flipper, which features Novoselic on bass. Listen to how up front and utterly pissed his bass sounds.

6. The Stranglers “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself).”

I’ve gotten way into these guys recently, in no small part due to the awesome sounding bass of JJ Burnel. He’s the biggest influence I never even knew I had.

7. The Birthday Party “Nick the Stripper”(from ‘Live 81-82’).

Ferocious. That’s the most accurate adjective I can muster to describe the sound of Tracy Pew on this entire album of live material, but particularly on this song.

8. The Stooges “Gimme Danger.”

The part immediately after the first verse at 0:44, when James Williamson’s Les Paul comes blasting through his AC30, is one of my favorite musical moments of all time.

9. Jawbox “Motorist” (from ‘For Your Own Special Sweetheart’).

Kim Coletta’s bass on this great track by this great band is insanely perfect. The first time I heard this song many years ago, it just floored me. The bass especially really struck me and, like the Rye Coalition song listed above, remains a personal benchmark of mine when trying to dial in my own sound.

10. AC/DC “What’s Next to the Moon.”

Best band of all time? Probably. The definitive rock and roll guitar sound. The gold standard, as it were. 

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends release the 2XLP, 2XCD, Protons and Electrons compilation on September 20th, 2019, a collection of 12 split singles released over the course of two years.
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Excellent review of Protons and Electrons by Grizzly ButtsExcellent review of Protons and Electrons by Grizzly Butts 

in fact this double LP compilation of twelve 7″ split singles, ‘Protons and Electrons’, is the bulletproof argument for this admirable feat. Consider ‘Protons’ the third full-length from the trio and ‘Electrons’ a compilation of associated acts, friends, and (as they’d put it) a celebration of community.

Conan Neutron (ReplicatorVictory and AssociatesMount Vicious) is a guy, er, the founder of Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends who’d had a wild spark up his brain around 2015 encased in the raw deal that is Oakland, California as he began to chip away at his own brand of antisocial rock records. That’d soon warrant power trio-ing up with Dale Crover (MelvinsShrinebuilder) and Tony Ash (ColiseumTrophy Wives). By the end of 2015 Neutron‘d pumped out two solid buzzers, fuzz’d n’ noisy intuitive alt rock that I’d have called ‘power pop’ to get my Pixies loving friend (Brandon) in high school to listen to it. Flipping over to the 2016 writing sessions for this series of ‘Protons’ split 7″ singles — The need to breathe, to push out more clank-and-wobbling rock air without all that sugary power-pop dripping from the walls, must’ve been somewhere in the highest registers of the brain as the sanity of the western world collapsed around them. It’d be their third session with producer Toshi Kasai and the finest, most inventive set of recordings from the project thus far.

Wit, grinning darkness, hummable jigs, and all matter of divergent focus slosh about within these personalized and inventive rock songs that’re surely the sort of mess we’d have a gaudy corporate rock umbrella term for back in the mid-90’s. The big point here is that each of these Neutronian tracks are singular events, tirades of sharply cut and intentionally faceted perspective each attempting to see light by way of precarious manipulated shadows, the full listen is inspired and ‘lost’ in its own head to great effect. I’d expect no less from the lyricist who’d brought you an alt rock record themed after the Hannibal Lecter series of novels but I suppose I wouldn’t expect as much. Infectious is the word as boppin’ post-punk bass lines swap for pained psychedelic rock janglers and a few post-‘Nothings Shocking’ swings before ‘Protons’ is spun. It sticks. Just reading the title for “Petulant Messiah”, “Parade of Deceit”, and “Hate Secretary” puts each chorus (or riff) right in my overstuffed frontal lobe. “Armies of the Mind” could whip on repeat for a week… The gist of it is that tonal variety and inspirational times have done a world of wondrous good for this third album from the trio. The depth is there if you’re one to suss out the minutiae of pop, punk, rock, and the adhesive that Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends provides.

The second LP is no less vital to the experience and in this form it serves as a worthy compilation featuring songs from bands featuring artists who’ve featured in Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends‘ touring line-ups, contributed to studio recordings, toured alongside the band or simply feature one of the three core members of the trio. It kicks off with a big rock stomp from Ash‘s stoney noise rock band Trophy Wives, a big and bulbous first hit. Chicago noise punk trio Nonagon are the next big highlight for my taste with “Saffir-Simpson” and their Ed Kemper Trio kinda art rock howling. Turbo Lightning‘s bubblegum poppin’ stadium rocker “Give a Man a Brain” would’ve instantly appealed to 14 year old me. When Mr. Bungle‘s ‘California’ came out a few friends brought a boom box to the rec center area at the University of Oregon and we played it out loud around 8:00pm while acting like idiots in the dark… Sorry; That memory socked me in the cerebellum as the intro to Dale Crover Band‘s “Sell Out” kicked off into a few vignettes that’ll have you whondering who whrote them. Twelve songs in total, all good stuff that compliment Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends‘ sound on split singles and make sense here all in a row as a compilation. The inclusion of these tracks is more or less unprecedented in my own experience and to give that additional platform to these other bands is an admirable feat and a pretty big ‘get’ for the completionist.

A lovably frantic and confrontational rock record with a slick ‘Bullhead’ reminiscent design on the gatefold that includes a full spread of 12 bands to check out once I’m done with the main even is exactly the sort of curio I’m apt to curl up with. Its dulcet ugliness pressed onto vinyl and made up all pretty somehow turned out to be my jam and I was thankful to spend a fair amount of time with it. I’d definitely picked up Trophy Wives and Cartographer records on the flipside but spent most of my time with ‘Protons’ after working up to these sessions from the start of Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends‘ discography. I’d recommend it highly to folks who want some post-punk and noise rock edge to their psych/alt rock intake.… Read the rest

The Bigtakeover digs Protons and ElectronsThe Bigtakeover digs Protons and Electrons

Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends – Protons and Electrons

Neutron and friends have released 12 7″ split singles over the last 18 months in a series called Protons and Electrons. This endeavor includes 12 other bands taking care of the b-sides, and it’s just been released as a two-disc set. Mr. Neutron wastes no time on the first disc, Protons. “Jilted Dragon” and “Armies of the Mind” attack with melodic earworms and deliberate urgency that recall Bob Mould from his Sugar days. Branding Electrons as a collection of b-sides would be unfair. Bands such as The God Eaters, Cartographer, and Quivers among many others offer top-notch songs from post-punk, metal and indie rock genres. P&E throws the sheer ferocity of its rock ‘n’ roll in your face without any fear. … Read the rest

All merch/downloads 20% off Dec. 1st-6thAll merch/downloads 20% off Dec. 1st-6th

All Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends items are a 20% off this week only (ends 12/06/2019). Physical and digital. 

Just use code “bargainissealed” at checkout!

This includes the brand new Protons and Electrons compilation 2XLP and 2XCD, as well as all remaining stock of Protons and Electrons 7”, Art Of Murder LP (while supplies last!) and CDs, Enemy of Everyone LPs and CDs and all t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts.

All orders shipping immediately!

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Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends – Protons and Electrons Compilations LP/CD/StreamConan Neutron and the Secret Friends – Protons and Electrons Compilations LP/CD/Stream

SW027 – Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends – Protons and Electrons compilation. Available for pre-order now. Atom 1-12 collected in a 2 LP and a 2 CD set. 3+ years of work comes to fruition! Artwork by the unstoppable Plastic Flame Press. Lovingly produced by Toshi Kasai, mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service

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hi everybody, long time no talk?
(in this format anyway)
Alright so in celebration of Bandcamp’s day of action for Trans Rights, we’d like to present you with “Conversion” a NeutronFriends song sung by our friend Ashley Altadonna from The Glacial Speed Conan Neutron-Guitar, Tony Ash-Bass, Dale Crover-Drums, Sean Kirkpatrick of Nervous Curtains-Piano, Moog, Synth.

A powerful song sung about the horrifying “conversion therapy” process.

This was released in conjunction with bandcamps day of action for trans rights, 100% of the proceeds for this song go to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable. Please enjoy, consider purchasing a copy and remember to support equal rights for all.

(Oh yeah, there are a couple of other tunes on there as well, and you can buy the whole Secret Friends digital discography for under $6 this weekend. Also going to the Transgender Law Center

Also, a bunch of new Secret Friends stuff coming up soon. )… Read the rest