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Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

When one fan saw Scott Jernigan's drum kit at the June 14 memorial in Olympia, Wash. for the former Karp drummer, she started to cry. "I was warned from a few friends not to go see the wall of photos and stories unless I was really prepared, but that was why I needed to go," wrote "Car Bomb" on the K Records message board. "I had to see Scott one last time and remember why I loved him. The photo wall was very touching, but I didn't cry until I saw his empty drum kit, alone."

Jernigan, who died in a Lake Washington boating accident on June 10 at the age of 28, was an underground legend for his manic and heavier-than-thou drumming and outrageous yet lovable personality. He leaves behind a grieving family, as well as his friends and thousands of fans.

"My heart hurts... I didn't even know him. but... ow," wrote "Al::Lean," another of many who recently posted tribute messages on K Records' bulletin board.

Jernigan, a native of Tumwater, Wash., was part of Olympia, Wash.'s tightly-knit music community. Karp, which broke up in 1999, recorded a number of CDs for Olympia-based K Records.

Justin Trosper, former leader of the legendary Olympia punk combo, Unwound, viewed Jernigan as a little brother of sorts. "I didn't really get to know him until after I was out of high school, when Karp started playing around Olympia," wrote Trosper, also a Tumwater native, in a recent email. "That must have been 1991. They actually started around the same time Unwound did, they were sort of our evil little brothers.

"It was that time period when he earned the name 'Maniac,' due to his crazed laughter and personality," he continued. "I imagined him to become known like Animal from The Muppets or Rob "Wacko" Hunter, the drummer from [heavy metal Brit-rockers] Raven. I guess the name didn't stick except for a few of us who knew him then.

"I enjoyed watching him evolve over the years from the high school marching band nerd to the monster drummer that he became," Trosper wrote. "I could see people's jealousy of his prowess and power. Whether or not they liked whatever band he played with, you could always tell that people were blown away by Scott's drumming. It was a rare occasion that someone didn't comment on it, he really was a show-stealer!

"I really hope he is remembered as a drum legend, he belongs in there with the best. I'll never forget his Tony Robbins impersonation. It was impeccably creepy because, well, they looked alike. Or his unmistakable laughter. Rock on MANIAC."

Scene Creamers bassist Michelle Mae (formerly of The Make-Up and Weird War) has fond memories of Jernigan. "Does anyone remember how he got the name 'Maniac'?" she asked in a message posted at the K Records site. "A bunch of people were hanging out at the Red House one day, while Nation of Ulysses was in town (one of Scott's favorite bands at that time). He was being his usual fun-loving, crazed-out self, and those guys started calling him 'Maniac.' Apparently they weren't used to someone who had such a spirited openness! It was funny to all of us who knew him and knew that he was just being Scott. He loved that they had called him that, and the name stuck."

Mae wrote that she spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Jernigan and his bandmates. She described her time with them as "really fun and carefree... The way I remember it is as if we didn't have any responsibilities. We just ran around from morning until night, like we were 8-year-old kids.

"I feel like I hung out with Karp for their whole existence as a band, as if I were one of them," Mae, also a former member of The Frumpies, continued. "I'm sure a lot of people who were in that tight circle, that family, at that time, feel the same way. Scott had that eternal-child personality... a constant brightness. I can only picture him with a huge smile on his face. He was such a laughter freak, always searching for the humor in every situation."

To honor her friend, Mae wrote that she was going to put on a Melvins CD. "I'm going to listen to the Melvins' 'Nightgoat' as a goodbye to Scott," she wrote. "It's the song I think most of when I think of him, as he once had some sort of epiphany after having listened to it on repeat for several nights of sleep in a row. I remember him recounting what it had done to him to have listened to it so many times while he was dreaming. He was freaked out by it, positively so."

Jernigan had most recently reunited with childhood friend and former Karp singer/guitarist Jared Warren — who currently fronts Tight Bros From Way Back When — to form another heavy rock act, The Whip, which also featured former Melvins bassist Joe Preston (also of The Thrones).

The Whip were scheduled to play Graceland — a Seattle music venue — June 14, the same night as Jernigan's memorial in Olympia, Wash. Proceeds from the show went toward providing transportation from Seattle to Olympia for those wanting to attend the "celebration of life" party.

"People spoke about him, Rye Coalition wrote an incredible letter, Maggie [Vail, Kill Rock Stars General Manager] was so sweet," "Car Bomb" wrote. "Jared [Warren] was funny and poignant and sweet and touching, like always, and Scott's mom made the entire crowd of 300 cry and smile at the same time.

"I saw everyone, and everyone was there," continued "Car Bomb." "Someone made a poster of Scotty that said 'Everyone Knows I'm Awesome' and I think that summed him up. I'll miss him."

Formed in Tumwater in 1993, Karp were known for creating metal-inspired rock 'n' roll equal parts dark and impending, cynical and crazed — a little like Black Sabbath had they been fueled by a sarcastic sense of the ridiculous and inane.

Karp released their debut album Mustache Wild on K Records in 1994, following it the next year with Suplex, and then their final longplayer, Self Titled, in 1997. Karp — made up of Jernigan, Warren and bassist Chris Smith — also released many singles throughout their time together, including a split with New Jersey hard-rockers Rye Coalition. Karp's contribution was a 12-minute unrelenting track called "Keep Your Hands Off My Cake."

Karp appeared on the compilation Project: Echo and put out a 45 called We Tear Apart. Last year, a collection of singles by Karp called Action Chemistry was released on Punk In My Vitamins Records. The group disbanded in 1999 because members opted to focus on other projects.

"Close friendships may end, but they never die," Mae also wrote. "It doesn't matter if there are good times, bad times or changes that end them. People of whom you share important memories with will always be in your life. Even when long amounts of time pass between meetings, the way you feel about someone is instantly conjured up the minute you see them or are reminded of them. People like that are the only thing that really matter. What else is there? Nothing." — Jenny Tatone [Wednesday, July 2, 2003]

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