Music Showcase, Take Three

Nominated in Major Label Act

Like Seraphim Shock, Skull Flux is being called a goth band, much to guitarist Greg Stretton's confusion. "The hardcore gothers wouldn't call us goth by any means. We're generally dark, and there are definitely some gothic elements to it, but we're not like Sisters of Mercy or anything. We tend to be a little more loud and maybe on the more aggressive side as well. But if being called goth means that people will stop thinking we're a death-metal band, then I guess there are worse things." The goth tag will be further bolstered by the appearance of a Skull Flux song, "Three-Peat," on a soon-to-be-released goth compilation on Los Angeles's Triple X Records. According to Stretton, who joins singer Conrad Kehn, bassist Steve Millin and drummer David Hesker in the group, a representative of Triple X has been working hard to bring Skull Flux even more recognition. "He put us up in his house when we came out to do some shows in L.A. and Vegas, so that maybe some industry people could see us. He's shown us a lot of hospitality, and he's always been cool to us." In the four years since its formation, the band has managed to make only one CD, 1996's Ophelia, but Stretton would like to amend that situation soon. "We've got a lot of songs, and they've definitely got a different feel from the ones on Ophelia, which I think is great. I hate bands that put out an album, and then put out one that's exactly like the last one. We're not going to do that. We're evolving--and I hope we keep doing it."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial
10:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

At this time last year, the signing of Space Team Electra (guitarist Bill Kunkel, singer Myshel Prasad, drummer Kit Peltzel and bassist Greg Fowkes) seemed a sure bet. But in Kunkel's opinion, the turmoil in the record industry has changed all that. "They're experiencing the crash of the marketing scheme called grunge, and they're panicked to find something new to sell to people. Obviously, the buzz words are 'electronica' or 'one-hit wonders,' and with our long songs, we don't fit either one of those. But, hopefully, someone will be into the music instead of just the whole marketing end of things." In a more perfect world, the Team would not have to deal with such questions. After all, its sound--moody, passionate, free-flowing rock that doesn't conform to simple structures--is compelling, no matter the trends of the moment. Kunkel says a tour of California with Mollies Revenge, an Atlantic Records signee, reminded the players of that fact: "By the end, we were really in tune with our set and our songs. It felt great to see what it's like to play out of town, and to really get the ball rolling." Right now, Space Team's disc, co-produced by Chicago heavy-hitter Keith Cleversley, remains in limbo, and while Kunkel doesn't want to provide too many details about it, he concedes that "it's powerful. For once in my life, I'm actually pleased with something that's been recorded." This sense of satisfaction keeps him going through the rough patches. "The talk A&R people give you--'We love you and we're going to do this and that, blah, blah, blah'--is really distracting from what's going on between the four of us when we play. And that's what I want to embrace."

Nominated in Alternative
8:30 p.m. Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Since their recent departure from Island Records--which issued Mississippi, their strong debut CD, a couple of years back--the rockers in Spell have been casting about for other options. "We've been contacted by at least one indie that said, 'We'll put out your next album. Whatever you want to do is fine with us,'" says guitarist Tim Beckman, who shares band membership with bassist/ vocalist Chanin Floyd, drummer/ vocalist Garrett Shavlik and guitarist/new recruit Tony Harsh. "So we're definitely going to be getting something out there soon. We need to--it's been a long time." Before leaping at the first pact that comes their way, though, the Spellers plan to test the waters. They've completed a five-song demo they're circulating to a few insiders, and Beckman describes the songs on it as representative of a new direction for the band. The inspiration for this shift was Nick Launay, a producer who's done a lot of work with Killing Joke and the Birthday Party. "Chanin had been into that kind of stuff before--she was into everything before anyone else was--but we all kind of rediscovered it. We found that we had an affinity for it, and it all came out when we started writing and recording again." Harsh, who works as a sound engineer at the Naropa Institute, proved to be a valuable asset when it came time to set up the microphones, and Beckman says that his guitar playing has added more depth and variety to the Spell approach. "He's a good friend, too, which is definitely a big plus." Onetime MC5 member Wayne Kramer has recently gotten chummy with Spell as well, which strikes Beckman as the ultimate proof that the band is on the right track. "He's become a real supporter--and that's the kind of thing we all hope for and thrive on. Getting the approval of someone we respected as we grew up is just really cool."

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