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Originally published Friday, February 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Night Watch

Tad Doyle looks back at his wild ride

Tad is alive, but TAD is dead ... and Tad has no plans to resurrect TAD. If you're confused, you either weren't around when TAD ...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tad is alive, but TAD is dead ... and Tad has no plans to resurrect TAD.

If you're confused, you either weren't around when TAD — led by burly, flannel-clad ex-butcher Thomas "Tad" Doyle — was the big thing on the Seattle scene. Or maybe you've forgotten. It's been a while.

A new DVD educates those who missed it and refreshes the memories of those who witnessed the crazy musical ride of TAD. "Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears," a documentary on TAD, has a screening at the U District's Varsity Theater on Wednesday (7 p.m., $7). Folks like Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Soundgarden's Kim Thayil, journalist-author Charles Cross and Doyle himself reminisce about the good old days, and some bad old nights.

Back in the late-'80s Seattle music scene, TAD was about the biggest thing going — in several ways. With the 300-pounder Doyle snarling vocals, TAD had a massively loud, heavy, menacing sound. The dark noise was set off by the clowning, quick-witted Doyle.

In the fall of 1989, Sub Pop sent TAD and a very green Nirvana out on a European tour. The two bands shared headlining, traveling around in a van.

In a phone interview, Doyle remembered the young Kurt Cobain he came to know on tour: "He was a real sweet guy. We got along really well — laughed a lot. We were always looking for what we knew as American cuisine — we were new to traveling and didn't know what to eat. ... He was real fun to talk to. When I knew him, he wasn't really depressed — he was real fun-loving. We laughed our butts off together."

Years later, Cobain had killed himself — and Tad Doyle was heading that way. After TAD was dropped from three labels, the singer was a mess, having spent all his money on drugs and spiraling downhill.

In the disturbing 2004 movie "The Machinist," Christian Bale's tortured character sees two signs, one pointing to salvation, the other to hell. For Doyle, it was just about that clear.

"I got to a point where I'd done enough and done more than my share. [Doing drugs] just wasn't working the way it used to. I'd get depressed and even became suicidal ... I decided I didn't want to die — I just wanted the pain and suffering to go away."

Doyle got himself together, quit drugs and drinking. After being out of music for a few years, and out of Seattle, he has moved back here from San Diego and started a new band: Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. He says he's done with TAD for good, despite requests for a reunion.

The new documentary makes the case for a luckless band that kept stumbling into trouble. There were legal hassles over unauthorized usages of a Pepsi logo and a private photo during its Sub Pop days, and then TAD was repeatedly dropped from major labels due to a string of bad timing.

Yet the former Boise butcher says he's happy to have had a great musical run in late-'80s/early-'90s Seattle.

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"I was definitely in the right place and the right time with the right stuff," Doyle philosophized from his Beacon Hill home.

"I always wanted to do music — that was my passion in life. ... We got a lot of good breaks. I'd say we were in the upper 10 percent of whatever happens in music. We never really planned on writing hits. In fact, I was surprised when we did make it on MTV."

With all the substance abuse discussed in the documentary, one wonders: What were good drugs — and bad — for the band?

"At the time, when we were experimenting, they were all good TAD drugs," Doyle said, with a throaty chuckle. "In retrospect, there was not a whole lot of them that were good — because of what happens with prolonged usage. ...

"When we went on to a major label, they wanted us to do physicals — for insurance, because if you OD, they can collect. Kurt Danielson [the TAD bass player] and I compared our listings of foreign substances in our systems; they were a couple pages long.

"I'm definitely lucky to be alive."

Doyle, 47, now works as a bookkeeper and takes accounting courses at South Seattle Community College. His new Brothers of the Sonic Cloth plays El Corazon on March 22 (info: www.myspace.com/brothersofthesoniccloth).

"Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears" comes out on DVD Feb. 19. Find a trailer for the TAD documentary on YouTube, and music/info at myspace.com/taddvd. Elsewhere in Seattle music this week:

• The mesmerizing Tacoma band Mono in VCF plays from its new, self-produced CD at the Triple Door on Saturday (9 p.m., $10). Kim Miller's voice ... in a word, "wow."

Experience Music Project's "Sound Off!" competition for young bands is back for its seventh year.

The Batteries, the Dead are Judged, New Faces and SouthGate — the first batch of 12 semifinalists — face off at EMP on Saturday (8 p.m., $7). Semifinals continue the following two Saturdays, with the finalists doing battle on March 1.

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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