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December 06, 2006

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Dum Dhimmi Dum Dum Dum

Rubin Fiberglass, Monoshock drummer/vocalist, has provided the following dossier on the group:

INFLUENCES (including, but not limited to): Flipper, Hawkwind, Electric Eels, Crime, Pere Ubu, Mirrors, Chrome, Stooges, Black Sabbath, Pink Fairies, Krautrock, Dub, Free Jazz, Noize…..

DISCOGRAPHY:

Singles:

-Primitive Zippo 7" (Womb, 1994, cat.no.?)

-Soledad 7" (Blackjack, 1994, jack-017)

-Model Citizen 7" (Bag Of Hammers, 1995, BOH 034) 1000 pressed

Albums:

-Welcome To My Meat Market CS (Selfreleased, 1989, cat.no.?)

-Walk To The Fire 2xLP/CD (Blackjack, 1996, jack-024)

-Runnin' Ape-like From The Backwards Superman: 1989-1995 CD (S-S Records, 2004, SS 011)

Compilations:

-Fuck That Weak Shit Vol 3 7" (Pit'sbull Records, 1995, PBR 013)

-Assassins Of Silence/Hundred-Watt Violence 2xLP (Ceres Records, 1995, CERES01)

PURCHASE INFORMATION:

“Walk to the Fire” can be purchased directly at: http://www.midheaven.com/artists/monoshock.html

“Running Ape-like from the Backwards Superman” can be purchased directly at: http://207.228.243.82/ss/cat.html

REVIEWS:

"Walk to the Fire": See Julian Cope's review on his headheritage.co.uk site, listed in the main post, above.

"Running Ape-like...":

http://www.blastitude.com/17/RECORDS.htm

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION (taken from the “Running…” liner notes [penned by The Captain; edited by GDR]):

As the boundary of the space-time continuum expands (plus a few more grey hairs appear), the cream rises and it seems that some of the more interesting sounds of the time originated in places like Kent, Port Chester, Tokyo, North Amherst, Harlem, Philadelphia, Miami, Christchurch, Dunedin, Houston, and crazily enough, Isla Vista and Oakland, California. The last two were where Monoshock formed, reformed and/or called home during the time period in question - roughly 1989-95.

Can we set something straight first off? Monoshock was/is a band, a brotherly unit of the highest mythological (dis)order, comprised of three writers, three players, and three lyricists: rock animals all. Surprisingly, only one of their singles (all 3 of which are compiled here, along with plenty other stuff) originally appeared on Blackjack Records, bassist Scott’s label whose slew of releases should keep future compilers of ‘90’s trash/noise comps busy for a while. Blackjack also unleashed on the world Monoshock’s debut DOUBLE album “Walk to the Fire”, praised at the time of its release as an “American Underground Rock Classic” (in circles smaller than your roommate’s nose ring, that is), and in a pointy beard way, I can see it neatly on the shelf next to such other freak-flag double-debuts as “Music To Eat,” “Freak Out,” and perhaps, from the 90’s, LAKE’s debut.

I view these guys as the spiritual heirs to the pre-punk era - yet influenced by and incorporating everything that had come since. Like “me decade” Cleveland (talkin’ Rocket, Mirrors, et. al.) Monoshock seemed primarily powered by the first-hand fumes of sixties underground rock, freakbeat, the Velvets/Stooges/MC5/Alice Cooper axis, ESP Records, surf music, British amphetamine space-rock, Takoma records, and various krautrock exponents. In other words, underground rock (“punk”) before the Ramones took over the world. Filter that through the influences of Greg Ginn, Chrome, Flipper, Crime (to name just a few) and you’re approaching Monoshock’s m.o. Are they a garage rock band or avant-garage experimentalists? Look, Von LMO used Monoshock as his backing band for a bunch of Bay Area shows around the time of these singles. Enuff said.

A little history for ya. Summer 1987: Rubin Fiberglass crawls down to Isla Vista (a decaying beach town several miles outside Santa Barbara) from Santa Cruz and soon meets Grady Runyan. Both playing guitar and songwriting, the duo begat a fine meld of 60’s/70’s garage punk called the Umbilical Chords, guided as much by their originals as by the then-current wave of Aussie Stooge-necrophilia. In attendance at the Umbilical Chords shows is bassist/guitarist Scott Derr, late of the unheralded Squid Patrol.

Fall ’88: Monoshock forms soon after the Umbilical Chords implode. The new band’s m.o. was different though - based around simpler riffs and louder volume – not to mention the emerging trademark “wall of wah” guitar that Grady was coaxing from his Harmony Rocket (kinda like a massive, amplified “whoosh” of static getting sucked in and out of the room). Rubin Fiberglass switches over to drums with the big bottom supplied by Scott on bass. Suffice to say the air was turned to cottage cheese wherever these guys played, which was mostly carports, house parties and occasionally downtown Santa Barbara. It was Socal beach grunge, but lumberjacks don’t play volleyball – in other words, no one was paying attention – but thankfully the band recorded itself for posterity. The tape was later circulated as a demo (“Welcome To My Meat Market”), but met with the same familiar indifference.

Summer ’89 and Monoshock is history. Grady moves to the Bay Area to co-found the ear-splitting Liquorball (check out “Hauls Ass” and a couple of great singles), and later, as drummer, joins Cardinal Sin, an SF group who would play their own twisted psych-pop along the Barrett-Spence-Erickson axis for an under-appreciated decade. Back in I.V., Scott and Rubin form the infamous Early Man Site with Tommy “Hon Lang” Kruger, while Scott and Tommy begin to issue records as Blackjack. By early ‘92, both Blackjack and EMS had likewise migrated northward. The band had incorporated fellow-I.V.-émigré “Shindig” along the way and was now beguiling SF audiences with its twin-guitar carpet-rock. Following the Cardinal Sin/EMS Northwest tour (on which Monoshock played an impromptu gig in a Seattle basement…no you weren’t there), Grady joins EMS as THIRD guitarist. How heavy is too heavy? EMS begins to unravel under its own weight.

But the triangle remains unbroken: In March ’93, Monoshock MK2 arises from the EMS aftermath. Rubin, Grady and Scott rekindle the Asheton Bros. instrumental oomph, but with a greater fondness for “out” sounds and ideas. Within days, they are onstage playing a set of I.V.-era material from memory (there was no rehearsal), closing the show with a special guest Jeff/Cardinal Sin riding free-form tone generator over the proceedings. From here on, band activities were centered in Oakland (where all three were now living), and the woodshedding truly began: by the end of the year, Monoshock had an entirely new repertoire, as reflected in this collection and WTTF.

‘Twas around this time the band hooked up with the Insane Cat, two expatriate east-coasters moonlighting as a recording studio in an SF basement. The duo’s artastic notions (part of the Trashart continuum - check out their Zappa-esque Ikagen LP from ’84), not to mention recreational habits, synched up with the band’s own, and trips to the “studio” were too numerous to count during ’94-’95: all of the band’s singles, as well as WTTF, were recorded here during that time. The sympathetic atmosphere was crucial…..let’s just say the band could really let its hair down at the ‘Cat, and that the resulting hair loss bleeds through all these recordings, despite the aggressive non-fidelity.

The bands’ pursuit of maximal sound was, among other things, a magnet for the musically unemployable. Both the troll-like Feast - who crashed shows on self-abusive tambourine - and Hawkman Doug Pearson (keys and electronics) became regularly random collaborators. But the void was ultimately filled by the enigmatic sound-slayer known as the Aluminum Queen (whose 8-track tapes of startling noise warrant their own reissue); initially commuting over an hour to play assault-sax on the closing numbers in the set, he eventually relocated to Oakland to become a functioning fourth member, adding Ping-style electrics and tapes to the bands’ intense clatter.

And lest you get the impression that Monoshock were some sort of “studio” band, rest assured that these guys played out regularly during ’94-’95, both in town and out (Chico, Santa Rosa, I.V.) - the band was very visible, though attendance was never what you’d call SRO. They even embarked on two major tours that saw their sound uncorked all the way to Memphis and back. But the madness took its toll: by Fall ’95, when WTTF was ultimately completed, Monoshock was rapidly closing in on burn out. The band was nearly kaput by the time of album’s release, and nowhere to be seen by the time it finally found receptive ears.

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