history

ALL WE WANT IS FOR YOU TO BE OUTTA HERE

If THIS HEAT were the successors to the FAUST thing, then DEAD C are that to THIS HEAT. I can only hope you know what that means. - Tom Lax

Throughout their near-30-year history, New Zealand's Dead C. have confounded all expectations of what a "rock" band could and should sound like. The trio of Bruce Russell, Michael Morley and Robbie Yeats have produced a small mountain of music which sets a new standard for blurred psychedelic excess, low-budget garage improv transcendence, and generally messed up "rock." These three gentlemen had been shadowy figures in the Kiwi musical scene for some time. Michael Morley had his Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos project going with Richard Ram, which produced several cassettes and one tremendous 12" EP of primitive synthesizer mulch (since reissued on Ajax Records); the sound of this record would later surface in the Dead C.'s first "proper" LP, DR503. He also had a hand in Peter and Graeme Jefferies' This Kind Of Punishment, contributing vocals to the track "Holding" on their 1987 LP In the Same Room. Robbie Yeats played the tubs for the Verlaines, and Bruce (and Michael) were two of many participants in the Weeds, who released a 7" in 1985. Terribly primitive recordings are the rule, yes, but even through a wall of (self-imposed) mud 'n' murk, the Dead C. can play two chords and make it sound like a symphony. On their first release, 1987's absurdly limited Perform Max Harris cassette (twenty copies released), the three men from Port Chalmers pieced together an eleven-minute soundscape so utterly fragmented, disorienting and beautiful that no one could possibly have predicted the route that the Dead C. would follow in the decade to come. Upon a listen to this particular release, folks might have made mention of unorthodox innovators such as The Fall or Pere Ubu, whose own musical vocabularies were equally whacked and uncatagorizable, but over the next few years, the Dead C.'s prolific output would rival anything ever exported from the wastelands of Manchester or Cleveland.

The following text is by Mike Rowell, taken from San Francisco's S.F. Weekly newspaper. It does a swell job of describing the Dead C.'s modus operandi (hit the stands the week before the Dead C.'s first ever show on American soil Memorial Day Weekend, 1995), so I'm going to be a lazy man - instead of completing the above passage, I'm going to hand it over to Mike....

Some 6,000 miles southeast of Osaka is the small burg of Port Chalmers, New Zealand, home of Dead C. Formed in 1987, members Michael Morley, Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats are often pegged as forerunners of an entire guitar-based noise genre. Anointing the trio the sole godfathers of lo-fi seems excessive, but it's probably safe to say that Sebadoh's Lou Barlow cued up Dead C a few times. By challenging just about every commonly held notion of what a band "should" sound like, they've certainly influenced a large sector of indieland conceptually. And Dead C has amassed a voluminous catalog of enigmatic noise to date, especially if you consider side projects like Russell's A Handful of Dust and Morley's Gate. The core configuration is Morley and Russell on guitar and Yeats on drums, but these guys are not averse to instrument-swapping, and tapes, keyboards, electronics and whatnot often enter the fray. Even with the guitars, anything goes: a five-string guitar with 2 year-old strings played with a screwdriver through a cheap amp, for example. The Dead C do perform "songs" on occasion, with discernible rhythms, chord patterns - even vocals - but just as often they don't. It takes a bit of getting used to, though the payoff is there. Onstage, the band has been described as "a beautiful mass of swirling contradictions ... lurching from aggressive subhardcore to introspective noodling of the most sublime variety." If Angel'in Heavy Syrup are the sort of thing nine-outta-10 casual listeners might find appealing, Dead C is one of those groups likely to send them all screaming from the room. Still, Dead C's inscrutable squalls of plink and scuzz can be every bit as transcendentally mesmerizing, albeit in a far more disorienting, nontraditional manner. On the 1992 double-LP Harsh 70's Reality, there's a sidelong, 22-and-a-half-minute alien opus titled "Driver U.F.O." It's an awesome specimen of Dead C at its free-form freakiest, an opaquely beautiful sound swamp that one Pennsylvania band found compelling enough to name itself after. Transversely, the trio can be almost maddeningly aimless on occasion; even die-hard fans slag the occasional disc. But truly unhinged aesthetic erraticism -- along with the ingestion of sundry mind-altering substances -- is all just part of the Dead C equation when it comes to creating a beautiful blort. Simultaneously high art, anti-art and artless, there's committing nature that's coursed through damn near everything the band has done since its debut, the Performs Max Harris cassette which was released in a ridiculously limited edition of about 20 tapes. Much of Dead C's output documents either live shows or practice sessions; this is one group unafraid to press something recorded on a Walkman or boombox. "Never use two chords where one will do" is Dead C's self-proclaimed motto, and there's a liberal amount of pranksterism involved. The song "Children" on 1990's Eusa Kills is a de facto deconstruction of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," which emerged in part because drummer Yeats was the only one who had any idea how to play it. Incidentally, according to a Bananafish interview, "Eusa" is both a folk hero of the post-apocalyptic future and the personification of the U.S.A., a symbol allegedly inspired by the book Ridley Walker by Russell Hoban. Eusa Kills, like much of Dead C's output, criticizes the U.S. Scathing indictment doesn't get any more cryptic. Despite the predominantly moody and ominous tenor of Dead C's work, the threesome approach it with a sizable sense of humor and parody. "We were laughing hysterically at our first practice, when we realized the three of us could make this particular 'noise' which epitomized everything we'd ever loved about 'music,' and in a sense we haven't stopped laughing yet," the New Zealand zine Alley Oop once quoted Russell as saying. "We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at our peers, we laugh at America." Let's see what happens when the trio play their first-ever U.S. show in S.F. this week.

When comparing Tusk with any AMM album all the C can offer is stoned, undisciplined, thoughtless jamming. But when comparing DR503 with any Godz album they offer beautiful heartfelt songs with a sense of creativity and home-made experimentalism. - Hamish Noonan

To be all things to all people in these days of self-satisfaction, based on one's enjoyment of one's own "obscure" taste in the form of a passive, escapist, maybe pot laced record collection -- these guys are onto something. - George Gosset