Whether on his own Whizeagle or Tombstone record labels, Cole has mostly self-released music since 1975, but he’s been approached by New York label Vice for the rights to distribute this latest record. If it happens (Christopher Roberts, Vice’s creative content director, refused comment when contacted), Pierced Arrows will join a roster of far more “hip” bands like Black Lips, the Raveonettes, and the Streets. Bands with style, endorsements, and fancy haircuts. Lucrative bands. It’s an odd but deserving fit, and maybe the only real sign that Cole’s age might be softening his rigid DIY stance. “You don’t make as much money,” he explains, “but the advantage is we don’t have to deal with the promo and all the work of just putting something out. It’s a nightmare trying to do all that stuff between tours.”
Money isn’t a big concern for Cole. He and Toody have no health or life insurance, and they’re hoping that rents from the convenience store and sandwich shop currently residing in the small block of western-themed buildings nicknamed “Tombstone” that Cole built in Clackamas will be enough to fund their retirement. It helps that they own everything around them. Cole constructed the home himself on 21.5 acres, beginning in the late 1970s. He and Toody raised all three of their children here, living in tents, peeing in bushes, and cooking over an open fire for months at a time during construction. At one point, the county threatened to tear down the house. Cole stood at the top of his driveway with a shotgun and waited; the authorities never showed. But for a brief sojourn to Canada’s Yukon Territory—spurred by a fit of frustration with the music business, the family left with just an ax, a broken chain saw, and a tent—the Coles have lived here ever since.
Lacquered in moss and mostly unpainted, the house is not a thing of beauty—it’s surrounded by the rusting hulls of cars and a pool-house-turned-mosquito-Valhalla—but it’s functional. Besides, it’s what lies behind the door that’s amazing: there, past the hand-laid tiles and mismatched pieces of wood (the sign from Captain Whizeagle’s forms the entryway ceiling), is a one-man shrine to rock ’n’ roll. Old 45s line the walls; concert posters and flyers from almost all of Cole’s bands—the Rats, Zipper, King Bee, the Weeds, Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows—stand in for wallpaper; band and family photographs hang in every nook and cranny; world maps with a constellation of pushpins mark the places he and Toody have played. A dusty but functional Galaga arcade video game stands waiting in the living room for a quarter to bring it to life.
Cole invites me to give myself a tour of the upstairs, where he keeps the record-cutting lathe. Naturally, when given the chance to see a mythical relic of rock like the machine that created “Louie, Louie,” you go. But Cole is over it. He is history. So he and Toody stay out on the porch, relaxing while they can. Cigarettes, beer, sweet Yukon Jack whiskey by the shot glass. It’s been a busy week, what with the rushing to get the CD ready for Vice, packing for a 20-day vacation that will eventually end in Vegas, and attending their granddaughter’s ballet recital at St. Mary’s Academy, Oregon’s lone remaining single-gender school.
“We get funny looks when we go to a place like that, but whatever,” Cole says. “Actually, one of the women who works at the ballet school came up to us after the dance. She’d been at our show the night before. It’s virtually impossible to go out and not see somebody we know.”