Sunday, April 27, 2008

Scott Hull: A Personal Revolution in Soundtracks

Scott Hull’s first stab at a movie score, dropped by the filmmakers, will see the late of day courtesy of the Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Pig Destroyer banger’s backers at Relapse.
Requiem, written in 2006 as the soundtrack to an independent film but never used, shows Hull flexing his musical muscles and thinking outside of the grind sandbox for a more relaxing, emotional and ambient experience. It’s no secret the guy’s a film buff, hanging out with artiste Matthew Barney and name dropping ’60s psyche filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, There’s certainly no denying the cinematic quality his brings to his own projects, especially Pig Destroyer’s stalker diary narrative screeds, especially with the addition of noisemeiser Blake Harrison.
But if you’re looking for 90 minutes of Nosebleed blipcore soundtracks for the greatest action film never made, you’re gonna be disappointed. Take a look at Hull’s friend list on his new solo MySpace page: famed composed Ennio Morricone claims the number one spot while experimental musicians Robert Rich, Steve Moore and Zombi also score front page shout outs. The samples he posted are ambient, meandering bits of surprising melodicism from grind’s foremost spokesman for shock and awe guitarmageddon. Sorry, grinders, but despite the promising title “Shootout,” the track is actually a really relaxing bit of southern twanged Floyd worship that could have been a deleted track from Meddle or Obscured by Clouds.
“This wouldn't really have been my FIRST choice as a solo artist to release, because it was music written for a specific purpose, so I don't REALLY consider this a solo record.” Hull wrote on his MySpace blog. “But I hope some of you out there can get into it.”
Requiem drops June 10 via Relapse.

In more grinding Relapse news, the Pennsylvania label survived that state’s tumultuous – but ultimately pointless – primary voting last week to confirm a slew of new album release dates:

The sameday Hull’s solo debut drops, Relapse will finally let Agenda of Swine’s debut, Waves of Human Suffering, see the light of day. This is the first album from the Bay area band featuring Pete Pontikoff and John Gotelli of Benumb fame.

Next month will also see the release of Coldworker’s second full length, Rotting Paradise. While I was not thrilled with Anders Jakobson’s decision to put out Doombringer, Nasum’s live album, I gotta admit I’m stoked to hear what he has to offer with his latest outfit. The Contaminated Void was a little rough around the edges as Jakobson assembled a supporting cast of extremely young musicians for the latest outing, but the effort showed promise. With a couple extra years to mature and gel the ensemble could be on the verge of unleashing great things. We’ll find out May 13.

Relapse will also be reissuing albums from Cephalic Carnage, Coalesce and Bloodduster with all new artwork in the coming weeks as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: April 23, 2008

Cooking and cannibalism – two great tastes that taste great together. Around G&P HQ we enjoy a good cooking show, especially peripatetic curmudgeon Anthony Bourdain who has not met a hog ass he didn’t enjoy or a situation he couldn’t bitch about. But somehow Bourdain has so far drawn the line at sampling the other other white meat. So scratch him for your fantasy Cannibal Holocaust remake. But Carcass set their sardonic pens to the topic on “Pedigree Butchery,” a standout track from 1992 touchstone Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious, a tune that features some exemplary medical dictionary abuse and a few of Jeff Walker’s trademark neologisms.

In caustic butchery I parent my dominion
In the food chain I forge the missing link
Cold temerity confects this splintered forage
Infantile corruption taken to the brink

Making hash of the spumous erubescent
All natural compassion removed
The newly fully developed boiled as sprouted fodder
Matrilineal murder – cordon bleu

A salubrious pet food
Human midden is consumed

Not one to mince my words
But how I love to see these siblings churned
In tins they are reared

Ghastly, I slake
Bestial appetites to sate
As flesh and steel I mate
To fill the lower species’ plate

Desparental, primparal goods oozing
The bawling, squabbling denied the suckling teat
Sentient bloodletting sprains the sporulate
Makes a choice chimerical treat

Rheological, twisted nursery chymes
The fluxing of the defleshed
Paedophilosophical, carnage knowledge
As the illigitimeat to the domesticated is fed

So as you breed
They will bleed

Contumely calorie count
Ebullient death toll mounts
Higher and higher

Despumating the midden, the desipient I segment
Pertaining vitality, their dispatch I cement
Serve out for minion in their feeding trough

Caustic – adj. Capable of burning or corroding flesh.
Temerity – n. Recklessness, boldness.
Spumous – adj. Frothy as though spewed out.
Erubescent – adj. Becoming reddish in color.
Matrilineal – adj. Descended from the female line.
Salubrious – adj. Healthful.
Midden – n. A trash heap.
Desparental – adj. Presumably, from the parents. A Walker original.
Primparal – adj. Related to a woman who has had a child.
Sporulate – v. To produce spores.
Chimerical – adj. Imaginary, unrealistic. Also hybrid.
Rheological – adj. Of the study of decomposition of matter.
Chymes – n. Liquid, semi-digested food.
Paedophilosophical – n. The philosophy of young children, one presumes. Another Walker entry in the custom Carcass dictionary.
Illigitimeat – n. Fake meat, yet another Walker neologism.
Contumely -- n. An insult.
Desipient – adj. Foolish.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 2: Napalm Death

Napalm Death
Notice one name that keeps popping up in this list? Napalm Death’s influence is unmistakable, and this quizzical album laid the groundwork for everything that came after. It’s a simple formula, but one that has been copied and built upon for 20 years now: Siege married to Discharge, cranked to 11.
While Napalm Death built and coeval bashers Doom, Unseen Terror and Heresy were strip mining a similar blitzkrieg hardcore approach, it was Scum were the sound, style and overall attack congealed and found a voice and a name.
These young Brummies were still punk as fuck – so punk they couldn’t even keep one line up together long enough to record a proper full length debut. Scum is a curious chimera of an album cobbled together from various incarnations and musical approaches that somehow creates a listenable whole.
Though the Bill Steer/Lee Dorian/Mick Harris lineup – augmented by ultimate grind scenester Shane Embury on follow up From Enslavement to Obliteration – has somehow developed a reputation as the band’s “true” incarnation, don’t overlook the contributions of founder Nik Bullen and a pre-Godflesh Justin Broaderick who penned some of the band’s most enduring anthems, including “Instinct of Survival,” “The Kill,” "Siege of Power" and ultimate punk piss take “You Suffer.”
That’s not to discredit the contributions of the B-side crew (rounded out by bassist Jim Whitely) which tightened the band’s sound, jettisoning the punk sloppiness for a slightly more streamlined metal attack, courtesy of Steer who was (re)animating Liverpuddlian zombies Carcass around the same period.
What really ties this album together and cements its place in the metal Acropolis is Harris’ drumming, a blurring blast of BPMs unheard of to that point. So fast, the band was known to fall out in giggles during rehearsals at the absurdity of it all.
Though Scum represented a subtle advancement over ’80s Britcore, Napalm Death’s true genius was in marketing – not a term typically found in metal’s anti-establishment playbook.. The terms grindcore and blastbeat were both succored at the infamous Mermaid club where a nascent Napalm Death kicked out the jams of what would be their trademark sound and spark a musical revolution that resonates today wherever young disaffected punks look to vent high speed frustration.
The grindcore machine first cobbled together in a Birmingham basement more than two decades ago, still rolls on to this day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I am Ironman: The Life and Grind of Dave Witte

Dave Witte’s fleet feet have powered just about every significant fast band of the last 15 years, but now he wants to put his mettle to the pedal at Hawaii’s Ironman triathlon.
With one triathlon under his belt already, the tattooed triathlete dreams of descending on King Kamehameha’s old stomping grounds for one of the most grueling running/biking/swimming endurance tests on the planet.
And for a chaser? Maybe celebrating from atop Mt. Midoriyama in Japan.
“That would be great. Some of that stuff is really hard,” said Witte, a fan of G4’s Ninja Warrior and Unbeatable Banzuke.
But until he gets his chance to party with Makoto Nagano, he’s content to keep the beat for Municipal Waste and about a bazillion other outings, each equally awesome.
While sitting at home waiting for a new bass drum to arrive – look for it on Muncipal Waste’s upcoming tour with a reunited At the Gates – Witte graciously took time to reminisce over a career that has seen him pound the skins for some of the defining metal bands of the last decade. Turns out the guy has trouble sitting still, which goes a long way to explaining his restless feet.
“At one point I was in six different things, and I said, ‘I must be crazy,’” the part time catering worker said. “I get fidgety. I like to keep busy. I love working. Hard work is something I appreciate.”
The career of one of metal’s most prolific drummers was almost derailed before he blasted out his first beat.
At 10 Witte contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a central nervous system disorder that can cause paralysis. During his lengthy rehabilitation, Witte’s uncle, a blues drummer, handed him a set of drum stick and a 20 year career was born.
“It was the perfect gift at the time,” Witte said.
After two years beating on wooden blocks, the self taught drummer graduated to a “shit kicker” kit where he pounded along with AC/DC albums until he found a new instructor – Dave Lombardo.
“I heard Reign in Blood and that was it,” Witte said. “My mom wanted to kill me. I was in my room playing Reign in Blood over and over. … When I heard that double bass solo [in ‘Angel of Death’] I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Turns out, the guy’s pretty fricken good at it. From his first foray with Human Remains up through his upcoming powerviolence band with Anodyne/Versoma/Tombs’ Mike Hill, Witte has consistently pushed himself and his skills. Not simply content to play fast, musical polygamist Witte’s playing, from the restraint of his tenure with Anodyne through blastbeatery with Discordance Axis, has always emphasized the whole song rather than individual BPM glory.
“The guy has cultivated a level of musicianship that is near impossible to match,” experimental musician and Phantomsmasher bandmate James Plotkin – no technical slouch himself – said. “Technical precision and creativity are in absolute abundance, but one of his strongest attributes is his incredible attitude and personality. In my opinion there are very few people out there that deserve to be in a band with Dave, or even in the same room with him for that matter.”
Witte’s drumming nurtured with a steady diet of Phil Rudd, Nicko McBrain, Neil Peart, Pete Sandoval and New Jersey death thrashers Ripping Corpse’s Brandon Thomas, who played big brother to Witte’s first serious band, Human Remains. And it was that underappreciated-in-its-time collective of Jersey tape traders, soured on the cookie cutter direction of death, who crafted one of the enduring trademarks of Witte’s career: a determination to be original regardless of the cost.
“That was the first band that played more than one show. That was the first band that traveled out of town, the first band I recorded with,” Witte said. “We knew we didn’t want to sound like everybody else. We were like, ‘Man, all the shit sounds the same.’”
It’s the non-metal influences – Rudd, Peart and others—that challenged the burgeoning talent to stretch his musical repertoire.
“I stepped over the metal line and discovered some other things. The drumming was good but it wasn’t metal. … I never wanted to be sloppy.”
And sloppy he ain’t. But while his tight fills and greyhound speed have made his fame, Witte doesn’t always get the proper credit for just how musical his playing can be.
“Everybody wants to do as many notes as possible, but I got over that pretty quick. I approached it as the whole song,” he said.
While his favorite album in his prodigious back catalogue is the jaw dropping Tokyo on crack grindfest The Inalienable Dreamless, Witte claims his favorite personal performance is actually a one off outing on Andoyne’s Red Was Her Favorite Color EP.
“That was my favorite drumming. It was so barren and stripped down. I learned it the day before and recorded it the next,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites.”
His detour through noise rock bliss also score Witte his first – and to date – only guitar solo credit on the song “Persuasion.”
“I played guitar like I just ran my fingers all over the thing. That was my guitar solo. I don’t have the desire to play guitar. I’m comfortable with drums.”
In fact, the professional musician’s girlfriend is his home’s reigning Guitar Hero champ.
“It was like seeing a fish out of water,” said Escape Artist Records’ Scott Kinkade, how also had a cameo on “Persuasion.” “… It was a very nervous experience that went very quickly. It was a euphoric state that to this day, I wonder if it really happened.”
Witte and Hill have reunited for the power violence band King Generator, whose new 12” is do out this summer.
Though he would be hard pressed to name all of his musical collaborators over the past 20 years, don’t think you can talk Witte into playing on your band’s 7-inch over a lunch break. The reason there’s a distinctive lack of suck on his C.V. is because he’s selective. When you juggle five or six bands at once, you can’t leap into new projects willy nilly, ya know.
And he’s already got a fairly impressive list of musical sidekicks on his wish list, including Louisville’s Patterson brothers, the musical masterminds behind The National Acrobat and a host of others, and New Jersey hip hop explorer Dalek.
“I send him a text message now and then. ‘I’m your drummer this year right?’ He tells me I’m first on the list,” he said.
He’ll have to pencil those in between the Waste, an upcoming Burnt by the Sun Album (finally!), Alec Empire, his math rock band (“to keep my chops up”) and the inevitable solo project.
“I have an electric kit and real kit I want to combine and make songs. … I want to do a lot of improve stuff. I’ll do some fast stuff again, sure. I’m not signing up to win the race for the fastest. I’m over that now. I did that in the ’90s. There’s more to drumming to me.”
But don’t take that to mean the man has sworn off blast beats. He’s sure he’ll get the itch to rattle a snare again before he hangs up his sticks.
“I’m pretty fortunate. That’s what I love. That’s what I was born to do. I can always find something to keep my going,” he said. “My whole life I was always in a few bands at once because I wanted to do everything at once.”

Sunday, April 13, 2008

From Blastbeats to Breakdowns and Beyond: A Partial Dave Witte Discography

There’s a very short list of artists whose copious body of work I will follow religiously, picking up new projects sight unseen (sound unheard?). I will fanatically hunt down albums featuring Scott Hull, Jon Chang, Justin Broadrick, Mike Hill or Stephen O’Malley. But the only drummer to hold that honor is Mr. Witte, the Takashi Miike of metal. Unfortunately for fans, the guy’s got a musical rap sheet that would make John Gotti blush. Here’s some selected highlights from Witte’s back catalogue.

Human Remains
Using Sickness as a Hero
1996 (Reissued in 2002 on Where Were You When)
Where were any of us when Human Remains were rewriting the death metal/grind template with off kilter songs and truly bizarre movie samples? Coming up on the band’s 20th anniversary, the New Jersey collective’s deliberately original blend of death, grind and out of nowhere guitar scrapes and skronks has yet to be matched.
Swapping tapes with bands around the world, Human Remains quickly became bored with the cookie cutter, Cookie Monster vocalled death that was quickly ossifying into the strictures we know today. So they gave metal a much needed colon cleansing with an enema of carnivalesque guitar work, redonkulous speed and throaty vocal assaults that steered clear of the typical death metal lyrics in favor of horrors more cerebral.
As seems to be a pattern with Witte’s early work, Human Remains never seemed to capture the popular imagination during their brief lifespan, but the band has earned a place as forward looking visionaries in the decades since and Relapse’s rerelease of their discography guarantees them a shot at metal immortality.

Black Army Jacket
Reservoir/ Chainsaw Safety
All apologies to Man is the Bastard, but powerviolence was not strictly a West Coast phenomenon. New Jersey’s Black Army Jacket admirably flew the flag of up tempo, gnarled hardcore for those of us living on the right hand side of the country during the ’90s.
Black Army Jacket was the hardcore outlet for a guy who was already sending metal and grind ass over tea kettle with Human Remains and Discordance Axis, respectively. 222’s songs swarm like a pack of feral pitbulls running down a kitten, just a relentless assault of gruff vocalled punk that hit and ran at near-Discordance speeds.
And for those of you curious as to what’s on Mr. Witte’s mind, grok “When I Can’t See You are You There?” featuring a rare lyrical and vocal cameo by the drummer.

Red Was Her Favorite Color
Happy Couples Never Last
Second generation noise rock misanthrope Mike Hill tapped Witte to man the throne for this EP when the band was between the drummers. A Charles Manson cover and three Hill originals gave Witte a chance to back off the BPMs and remind the world he can really drum. As in, the guy knows how to employ restrain and understatement if that’s what a song calls for.
Red Was Her Favorite Color was re-released on the Anodyne compilation The First Four Years, including Witte’s only known guitar credit to date, playing a “solo” on the song “Persuasion.”
Hill tapped Witte again for the first lineup of what would later become Versoma, and though the two never recorded together in that project, they are reuniting this year in the powerviolence band King Generator.

East-West Blast Test
East-West Blast Test

Slap-a-Ham (Reissued by Relapse)
East-West Blast Test is almost more famous for how it was recorded – Witte recording drum tracks in Jersey and then mailing them off to the West Coast where Spazz-oid Chris Dodge recorded guitar lines, perfecting the songs via tape trading – than the actual music itself. But don’t be mistaken; their chattering update on the powerviolence sound contained 45 second bursts of creative insanity wrapped in breathless acceleration. This album shows that not only could powerviolence rupture your tympanum, but it could you challenge you intellectually as well.
When the duo reunited in 2006 on Popular Music for Unpopular People, that’s when things got really weird.

Discordance Axis
The Inalienable Dreamless
Hyra Head
If this doesn’t have a privileged position in your collection, you’re reading the wrong fucking blog. Witte, Jon Chang and Rob Marton dragged grind across the Pacific and gave it a glittering neon Tokyo sheen. Sleek the is the first word that comes to mind when trying to described the bassless trio’s rapid, slashing assault on conventional songwriting. And for their, sadly, final album they pushed grind to its limits, marrying blastbeats to some of the most intense, emotional and deeply honest lyrics in metal, all wrapped up in the metaphors of anime, manga and video games. Though the band never got the attention it deserved during its on again, off again existence, time has been kind to Discordance Axis, who now rank as one of the most revered and seminal bands in grind’s second wave.


Yes, Witte can ratta tat tat the high BPMS like nobody’s fricken business, but lost amid the guy’s blinding speed and hectic fills is the fact that dude knows how to contribute to songs as a whole. Handpicked by Old Lady Drivers’ James Plotkin for this experimental instrumental ensemble, rounded out by DJ Speedranch, Witte only sacrifices a fraction of his speed to complement Plotkin’s left field songwriting and Speedranch’s shuddering electronic freakouts. Songs lurch along with slantwise rhythms and sputtering time signatures on an album that slots nicely next to the truly bizarre second East-West Blast Test album.

Burnt by the Sun
The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
Finally shedding their early Coalesce-isms, a slimmed down four piece Burnt by the Sun perfected metalcore on their second full length. The Jersey quartet, reuniting Witte his song writing partners from Human Remains, not only melded hardcore bark with metal arrangements and progression, but also managed to be political without the mere recitations of “This sucks” that have plagued punk and metal for nigh on thirty years. Instead, frontman Mike Olender casts his keen eye on the intersection of the political and financial sectors to trace the paths of power that covertly influence all of our lives. The band has already written five songs on its much delayed third album after Olender and Witte took a hiatus from the group, so with a little luck, the new platter could be in our hot little hands by the end of the year.

Hope Collapse
Year of the Leper
Inkblot Records
After Black Army Jacket hung up their coats, three-fourths of the band staged a mini reunion, blasting out this rampaging thrash/metal/grind amalgam.
You know exactly what you’re getting just reading the band’s list of influences: Terrorizer, Assuck, Repulsion, Siege, S.O.B (Hey it reads like our countdown of the greatest grind albums of all time!).
We all know Witte is a master blaster, but Hope Collapse lets him show off his impressive double bass work, a side of his playing he shows off all too infrequently. His blasts, rolls and fills anchor a head snapping, horn throwing collection of thrashed out jams. And rumor has it the band actually plans a sequel though Witte calls that “news to me.”
More infectious than a flesh eating virus, once Year of the Leper’s cold steel pierces your flesh you’ll be pleasantly scarred for life.

Birds of Prey
Weight of the Wound
Someone at Relapse must have realized that counting on Cretin to hold down the retard-core front (15 years to record a debut? Sheesh) may not be the strongest bet, so they hedged their meathead music portfolio with this collection of Southern metal all stars.
Witte anchors an ensemble of some of Virginia’s most talented musicians through an exercise in Southern fried death metal topped with heaping helpings of lonely chef’s special sauce. A combination of the Troma Films catalogue and Faulkner’s Southern grotesquerie, Birds of Prey is inbred, cretinous fun.

Municipal Waste
The Art of Partying
For the last few years, thrashin’ has been Witte’s business. And business has been good.
It’s a match made in skater heaven, Witte holding down the fort for a pack of retro goofballs for whom thrash means Corrosion of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies and DRI rather that Metallica, Megadeth or any of the other major label that dragged the sound down into the hell of platinum album sales, rampant addiction and questionable therapy sessions caught on film.
Instead Municipal Waste hold down thrash for the heshers who have patched up denim vests in their closets and a lasting affection for headbands. With songs about partying, zombies and partying zombies, Waste deflate today’s overly serious metal scene while still remembering to invest the time to write well crafted songs guaranteed to get a pit started, even if it’s just you moshing around your bedroom alone.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recyle: Southern Crust

Serves me right. If I'd been a little more patient I would have had a better story. Master producer Billy Anderson, who guided Damad through the recording of their masterpiece, Burning Cold, graciously took some time out to reminisce about the recording of that album for the piece I did on Southern crust last week. So even if you've read it already, take another gander and see what one of the underground's sonic maestros has to say about one of punk's most unappreciated albums.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

G&P review: 5ive

Ben Carr must have found a 96 count Crayola pack in his backpack in the seven years since 5ive’s last full length, The Telestic Disfracture, because the guitarist’s sonic palette has broadened appreciatively.
The David Gilmour of modern sludge (suck it, Syd apologists) augments his accustomed somnambulant blacks and prickly oranges with streaks of lush lush greens and soothing blues that marked Carr’s more abstract and contemplative solo work in The Theory of Abstract Light.
The duo, completed by skin pounder Charles Harrold, has not been completely dormant the last year, putting out a handful of splits and the masterful 5ive’s Continuum Research Project EP as well as the obligatory remixes by Justin Broadrick and James Plotkin, but the intense focus that goes into a 5ive full length is a rare treat.
Setting thematic sail to Longfellow's poem, "The Wreck of the Hesperus," the tale of a ship run aground in Massachussets, 5ive set the turbulance of a hurricane battered ship to pyschedelically sludgy music.
Hesperus kicks out its jams with an unexpected jolt, opener “Gulls” sounding like Matt Pike should be doing a guest spot. But what sets 5ive apart is its impressive flow; songs surge and wane, perfect for an album that takes cues from a nautical poem. While the sea as a metaphor has been beaten to death in recent years, 5ive’s tightly focused jams conjure the sounds of raging surf and placid aquatic sunsets effortlessly, and the duo manage to successfully navigate the treacherous shoals of stoner rock without crashing into the Norman’s Woe of bad ‘70s retread

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kick in the South: A Look Back at Prank Records and the Southern Crust Scene

Some of us spent the early 90s making questionable fashion choices involving flannel and debating the cultural importance of mopey rockstars with penchant for fellating shotguns. But way down south in the land of cotton, a loosely connected network of crust punks were about to set hardcore on its ass by soldering metal crunch to raging punk immediacy.
Southern crust was a musically and geographically diverse collection of musicians who lived the DIY credo out of necessity.
While Southern sludge – led by Kylesa and Baroness – is enjoying a current cache, that cultural currency escaped the scene’s crusty forefathers and –mothers, many of whom never grew beyond hometown hero status.
The enigmatic luddites in His Hero is Gone are one of Southern crust’s few bands to transcend Southern crust’s limitations, but back home in Dixie bands as varied as Damad, Antischism and Guyana Punch Line were keeping the punk rock home fires burning.
“The southern bands, besides the real heavy touring bands like Antischism, HHIG, Damad and Kylesa, have always been a really tough to sell,” Prank Records honcho Ken Sanderson said. “Scrotum Grinder [featuring Assuck bassist Steve Kosiba], Bury the Living and Guyana Punch Line would’ve been huge bands if they were from California, New York or Chicago where there was a scene and media to support them. But instead they spent most of their time as a band playing for the same small dedicated crowd in their hometowns.”
Curiously, the epicenter for the scene’s recorded output was 3,000 miles to the west in San Francisco where Alabama refugee and punk rock renaissance man Sanderson started Prank at a time when punk’s influence was on the wane.
“Hardcore was seen as largely cut out bin material by the late ’80s, early ’90s and few mainstream distros wanted to touch it since it wasn’t selling, but by having Mordam carry Prank (and later Six Weeks and Sound Pollution), extreme hardcore was again reaching places it hadn’t since the 1980s,” Sanderson said.
The same scattered geography that made the music hard for Sanderson to market also incubated each band’s signature sound, giving them time to experiment and grow without the pressure of conforming to a given scene’s bylaws.
“(By) virtue of isolation, there’s always interesting bands from there that come up with their own twist on things,” Sanderson said. “ Since they’re already so far out on a limb making that kind of music in their isolated town anyway, it might come closer to direct personal expression than playing to a pre-existing scene and sound.”
In small town South Carolina In/Humanity and Guyana Punch Line mastermind Chris Bickel was looking for “an outlet to relieve boredom” when he started his first band and laid the cornerstone for one of the scene’s forerunners.
“At the time I was living in a very small town in South Carolina and was one of the only people there into any kind of punk or hardcore,” Bickel said. “A guy named Paul Swanson moved down from New York sometime around ‘88 or ‘89 and had been involved with the hardcore scene there. It was kind of inevitable that we'd meet and want to play music together. Right about that same time I moved to Columbia, S.C., to go to school. That made it easier for us to make contacts with people as far as getting shows and doing recordings.”
As in all early DIY scenes, word of mouth predated today’s word of mouse.
“It was a really friends of friends kind of outgrowth that started from Dead and Gone, who knew Copout, who were a Memphis hardcore band that was supposed to be Prank’s second release. They broke up while finishing their LP, but the guitarist had a new band, His Hero is Gone that I ended up working with,” Sanderson said. “ Damad were friends of HHIG (and actually in terms of the ‘Southern crust’ sound, Damad were really the originators existing for a while before HHIG, though you could argue Buzzoven predates both and Initial State also has a lot of elements of the sound).”
One set of friends of friends was the Columbia, S.C., based In/Humanity who blended ferocious hardcore with Dead Kennedys irony to bring some much needed humor to a scene not known for bands with smiling faces. Just trying to imagine His Hero is Gone cracking jokes from the stage.
“In/Humanity was always a highly disorganized unit and we kind of just threw everything into the pot,” Bickel said. “Paul and I both had/have a healthy sense of humor and I had always been a fan of the Dead Kennedys and their use of humor and sarcasm to get across ‘heavy’ ideas. I don't think it would have been possible for us to take ourselves too seriously, though it's a fine line you tread when you don't want to be considered a ‘joke band.’ We took the issues we wrote about very seriously.”
The aforementioned Memphis sourpusses remain Prank’s most enduring signature bands.
“The His Hero is Gone groundswell was evident from their first single,” Sanderson said. “They were a band that worked super hard, toured constantly and had broad-based appeal—metalheads liked them, people who liked hardcore liked them, and emo kids liked their lyrics and political impact. Monuments was an important record from the outset, highly anticipated and recorded and released less than a year after their Fifteen Counts of Arson LP. I think at the time, the band didn’t understand a lot of the things I was doing as a label at the time: sending out heaps of promos, doing all this promotion, working towards the situation we have now where it’s a record people still tell friends to check out. This pushing of the records and band was part of the reason the band split with the label, but now I think they understand what I was trying to do and we remain good friends, and I’m stoked those guys have remained active with bands, doing their own and other people’s records, bringing foreign bands on tour here and broadening the culture.”
Sanderson also had the Midas touch for finding criminally underrated bands, some of which, like Damad, have not received the level of recognition their watershed sound – presaging the modern Southern revival – is truly due.
Burning Cold probably would’ve been a more landmark record if it was released closer to when it was recorded,” Sanderson said. “We had to wait a year for Pushead to do the artwork. It’s part of what makes the record great, but took its toll on the band as they sat around forever waiting to tour on their new LP. "
Never mind frontwoman Victoria Scalisi was visibly pregnant during the recording sessions, recalled sonic guru Billy Anderson, who flew out to Savannah to produce the album with a limited budget and even less time.
“We weren’t blessed with a whole lot of time, so there wasn’t a ton of room to experiment. But what time we did have was spent with everybody contributing their best ideas and performances,” Anderson said. “… At the time, I dont think anybody was thinking ‘this is gonna be a legendary album’ or anything like that. We were all just happy to be getting it done and in to the label on time! But it is a great record considering what the limitations were. I’m personally very proud of it as I think they are too.”
While the music may have been vital, all of the off stage crap that swirled around Damad, including a nearly yearlong delay before Burning Cold was released, crushed the band in their prime.
"Both Damad and Kylesa, sadly, were always hit with unbelievable strokes of bad luck and set backs, and Damad were eventually basically unable to really tour on Burning Cold aggressively and broke up not too long after it was released," Sanderson said. "Damad (and Kylesa) were/are great live bands but always a bit more of an acquired taste. Ultimately I think at the time they were perhaps ‘too metal’ for the punk crowd, which especially this decade has grown more conservative and coloring between the lines.”

Look Back and Laugh: A Prank Records Crust Primer

Still Life

Southern crust’s Fort Sumter. These gay positive, feminist bunny huggers fired the scene’s first shots and set the tone for what was to follow on their first, and only, full length album, later reissued by Prank.
Antischism set the blueprint for much of what was to come: metal technique welded to punk ferocity, the male and female mic passing and the urgent, jaundiced lyrics that catalogued the time’s ills. Updating the sounds of Dishcarge and Amebix for a death metal and hardcore generation, Antischism’s buzzing attack set the tone for the southern bands that followed and helped keep the crust sound vital more than a decade after its emergence.
Though they flamed out early, members kept the spark burning with stints in Initial State, dotfuckingcom and Guyana Punch Line. Guitarist Kevin Byrd is currently active with a new band, Thank God.

His Hero is Gone
Monuments to Thieves

His Hero is Gone were Southern crust’s darkly melodic lords and their middle child, Monuments to Thieves, saw them surveying their domain in triumph.
The apocalyptic worldview and scalding political diatribes, ringing lead guitar work and scraping riffs transcended the southern crust scene, making HHIG worldwide icons. Staunchly luddite – eschewing the rising internet (though electric instruments and recording studios were somehow kosher?) – and fiercely DIY, the Memphis misanthropes carved a path through punk that generations of lesser lights would continue to tread.
Like weeds they did grow and even after their demise, the band’s seeds took root in the fertile Northwest, pollinating a new generation of punk, including From Ashes Arise and the mighty Tragedy.

Burning Cold
After the Antischism Jr. outing of Rise and Fall, Damad roared back a few years later, crossing Neurosis with Antischism and presaging much of today’s Southern sludge revival with stark songs about alienation, dejection, death and environmental destruction on their second and, sadly, final disc.
Album art by Pushead and production by Billy Anderson, Burning Cold was a buzzing, chugging, churning mess of frustration and anger cemented by guitarist Phillip Cope’s alternately spiraling and excoriating fretwork.
Victoria Scalisi was also one of the most intense and versatile frontwomen to ever hoist a mic. From pint sized pitbull to rabid Donald Duck, Scalisi changed up her vocal style on nearly every one of the album’s eight tracks.
Cope rode the Southern wave with his new band, Kylesa, while Scalisi briefly found a place for her formidable pipes in Karst, but it was Burning Cold that easily cemented the duo’s punk and metal legacy.

Violent Resignation: The Great American Teenage Suicide Rebellion
While it’s hard to imagine the stone faces in His Hero is Gone so much as cracking a smile, Columbia, S.C., merry pranksters In/Humanity never forgot that getting together with your friends to play hardcore is s’posed to be, ya know, fun.
Inspired by Jello Biafra’s savage satire, I/H headman Chris Bickel heaped his sarcasm on whatever target traversed his transit, but his keenest cuts were saved for the harder core than thou punk scene itself. Under the guise of emoviolence, a not so subtle elbow in the ribs to the powerviolence scene on the opposite coast, and occultonomy, a laughable brew of magick and anarchy, Bickel laced his band’s sloppy, spazzy punk with a deadly satiric core.
But emoviolence and occultonomy eventually gave way to a new tongue in cheek movement…

Guyana Punch Line
…Smashism! Bolstered by faux punk sloganeering (“Home Fucking is Killing Prostitution,” “Reality is Elitist”), Chris Bickel, with Antischism’s Kevin Byrd in tow on guitar, realized occasional rehearsals were not anathema and updated and tightened the spastic In/Humanity sound for a new century.
Subtitled Songs to Disturb the Comfortable, Songs to Comfort the Disturbed, Irritainment buzzes, thrashes, stumbles and slithers through 21 tracks of speedy, crusty punk, tongue embedded in cheek, that spends more time excoriating the self righteous punk scene (“Skinz and Punks,” “Old Guy in the Pit,” “Punk Rock Sloganeering”) than it does ripping on corporate greed, political apathy and douchebaggery in general.
At a time when punk when seemed comfortable with formula, rules and that 2X4 rammed up its collective ass, Bickel and Co. philosophized with a hammer and were a refreshing middle finger to the scene itself, which is about as punk as fuck as you can get.

Scrotum Grinder
The Greatest Sonic Abomination Ever

Hailing from Tampa, where sweatpantsed, white sneakered death metal reigned, at first glance, the band’s moniker and choice of album title scream tired Carcass clone retread.
Instead, The Greatest Sonic Abomination Ever, southern crust’s rear guard, was one of the burliest albums to grace Prank’s roster to that point. This Florida enclave’s sole album was a late entry to the Southern crust scene, but it makes up for its tardiness with sheer sonic heft.
Sure they devote a good chunk of the album to beating up on Ronald Reagan, a man who had been out of office for 12 years and was sliding into senility, but with every red tied Republican falling over themselves to name drop #40 during the presidential primary, it comes off less late than prescient in retrospect.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 3: Carcass

Reek of Putrefaction
Like Lovecraft’s Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat with a Thousand Young, Carcass sired a plague of bastard young who endlessly ape every phase of the band’s existence, from the gore soaked roots straight through their melodic death second act and even their death ‘n’ roll denouement.
Goregrind as you know it today got its start here. Carcass took Repulsion’s horror film fixation and slowly dissected it on the operating table, and grinders have been scouring medical dictionaries and the Physicians Desk Reference in the two decades since trying to keep up with the masters.
From their first album, Carcass set the standard for guttural grunts, blown out, bass heavy production and medical atrocity lyrics. Until Reek, grind had never sounded so huge and menacing. Where Repulsion were really just a very fast thrash band and Brummy punks Napalm Death simply accelerated Siege’s hardcore template, Carcass heaved up gargantuan sounding riffs and beats all over metal’s shoes.
From meat collage masterpieces to pen and ink work for other bands, Jeff Walker was also instrumental in crafting grindcore and death metal’s look as well, designing the iconic Earache logo and providing the artwork for Napalm Death’s Scum.
Since the Carcass’ demise, Bill Steer has laid aside his bone saw for a stack of 70s riff rockers and Liverpudlian loudmouth Walker has become the reigning smartass of metal. Like one time label mates At the Gates, Carcass has risen from the undead, sans Ken Owen who is physically unable to handle the rigors or playing a live set following a horrific accident, to hit the stage once again this summer. Here’s hoping metal’s premiere grave robbers do more than rummage through their own mausoleum in the name of a quick buck.