music pictures by Pat Blashill

Poison 13 were Mike Carroll, Bill Anderson, Tim Kerr, Chris Gates and Jim Kanan.

In the mid-eighties, Poison 13 were Austin’s answer to The Cramps, a howling, psycho-billy voice from the grave. Guitarist Tim Kerr and bassist Chris Gates had previously been half of the legendary Texas punk-funk band, the Big Boys. Some witnesses have identified P-13 as a pre-cursor to grunge because they fused sick, bloozy riffs with lots of screaming. (Their music was re-released on CD by Sub Pop in 1994.) But back then, they were just a shit-hot local favourite. I photographed them as they were rehearsing in a garage behind a funeral home - they later admitted they were “tripping balls.”

"I was a roadie for the Big Boys in the spring of 1984 when Chris Gates drafted me to play guitar in Poison 13, the new band he and Tim Kerr had started with Chris's roommate, Mike Carroll. Mike was an ex-Big Boys roadie, and he stood out for having a crazy black pompadour and tons of tattoos, rare in mid-80s Austin. Jim Kanan was the smiling drummer with Buddy Holly glasses and deceptively simple chops who made the whole cacophonous thing swing somehow. Tim and Chris were already a big deal in Austin for their band the Big Boys, but I would say they got tired of having to be "responsible" for "the scene" and really I think they just wanted to play loud rock songs about drinking, fucking, and killing.

We had a pretty raw and unadorned approach to blues and rock and roll, either by design or maybe that was just the natural way it came out. Mike was one of those guys that wouldn't say too much, but when he did talk, everyone listened, because he was smart, had great taste, and somehow knew about all this at-the-time obscure shit way before anyone had ever come up with the Internet. He wrote most of the lyrics and picked a lot of the covers and when we played, he somehow transformed from the silent introvert in the corner to a screaming, wild singer.

We practiced in the crumbling, detached garage in the backyard of the somewhat dank place where Mike and Chris lived. It was a stone's throw from Weed-Corley Funeral Home. Rent was really low, there was cheap food close by, and if you were in a band you could usually drink for free. Now when I look back at it, we were really young, but at the time we did not feel like kids. Our band was not really that popular at the time. We were way too punk rock for any kind of "blues crowd" and too bluesy for the hardcore scene. It was pretty much a garage band in a scene where there were no other garage bands, but because of Chris and Tim's fame from the Big Boys, we got to play shows with so many great bands from that period--the Minutemen, 45 Grave, the Replacements, Dead Kennedys, Tex and the Horseheads, etc., not to mention all the best bands from our hometown--the Butthole Surfers, the Hickoids, Scratch Acid, the True Believers. It was a good time to be in Austin...."
Bill Anderson, guitarist, Poison 13