'Head of the Class
Drummer Dan Haugh and bassist Mike Kunka, collectively known as godheadSilo, would like to join Motsrhead and the Who on a roster of the loudest acts in the history of rock and roll. But one thing stands in their way: space.
"We'd like to take twice as much equipment on tour with us if we could," Haugh explains. "But right now, we don't have a vehicle that will hold it all. We've only got one van--and we have to ride in there, too.
"Who knows, though," he adds, a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "Maybe all that will change when we get that big radio hit."
Of course, Haugh and Kunka, a couple of former North Dakotans now based in Olympia, Washington, aren't holding their breath waiting for a popular breakthrough. After all, the molten wall of thunder they spawn is about as subtle as a maul to the groin. The sound--a cross between the Melvins' first record and a killer hurricane--doesn't exactly have commercial potential written all over it.
Which is not to say that godheadSilo's apocalyptic punk isn't entertaining. On the contrary, the group's new Sub Pop LP, Skyward in Triumph, sports more groovy metal riffs than Ozzy Osbourne's last three records combined. Even Skyward's song titles--"Guardians of the Threshold," "Buttress of Solitude" and the existential "Dan vs. Time"--suggest that the combo has been ingesting far more than its recommended daily allowance of Sixties and Seventies hard-rock tunes.
Haugh stresses that the act's grandiose metal-punk aesthetic is primarily tongue-in-cheek. "A lot of what we do is meant to be funny," he admits. "But at the same time, we really are influenced by a lot of, I guess, classic rock. I mean, the only reason classic rock is considered so boring is because you hear it so much that you get totally sick of it. But a lot of that old classic stuff--like Uriah Heep--is way more fucked up than most of the punk rock you hear today.
"To tell you the truth, I don't even listen to that much punk rock anymore," he continues. "It doesn't really interest me. After going out on tour and hearing it every night for however long, I just want to listen to something more mellow--like Isaac Hayes. I've been listening to him a lot lately."
This hankering for peace and quiet is understandable given the bombastic nature of godheadSilo's live gigs. Using nothing more than a stack of battered bass cabinets, a battle-scarred bass, a drum set and a rat's nest of special-effects pedals, Haugh and Kunka put on one of the most punishing--and amusing--rock-and-roll spectacles this side of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The boys inject so much physical and mental energy into their performances that shows usually last only 25 minutes, after which both players stumble from the stage in a state of near exhaustion. Their equipment takes just as much punishment: Haugh used to go through snares faster than most drummers go through sticks until he switched to Kevlar drumheads. ("It's the same stuff they use to make bulletproof vests," he boasts.) Still, the dynamic duo wouldn't have it any other way. According to Haugh, "It's a real test of my endurance. For me, it's like when you're out riding your mountain bike and you're trying to take a hill, and you're pushing and pushing, and then just when you don't think you can make it, you push some more. You just keep hammering away until you're over the top."
That Haugh would equate his musical approach with riding his two-wheeler somehow seems fitting, since it was biking that brought the pair together in the first place; a Black Flag review in Freestyle, a publication dedicated to BMX enthusiasts, served as their introduction to punk. Biking themes have since become a staple of Silo's work. For example, The Scientific Supercake L.P., the band's first disc (on Olympia's Kill Rock Stars imprint), sports BMXer graphics, including a diagram of a BMX race course. Dirt bikes also make an appearance in the lyrics of Skyward in Triumph's title tune. But Haugh, who has since lost interest in competitive biking, insists, "That song is just sort of joke. It's based on a rap that I wrote in the sixth grade. I was mowing the lawn at this bank, and I just started coming up with this rap song about riding because I was bored."
Still, the track shouldn't be dismissed: Thanks to a guest appearance by Calvin Johnson, the man behind Beat Happening and the Halo Benders, "Skyward" is probably the most accessible number on the disc. Johnson's patented sing-speak rendition of Haugh's words ("Got sissy bar/Trying to strip my gears/I've been jumping curbs here for fifteen years/Don't need your puffy Huffy your mom got you at Sears") adds a new, more refined dimension to the combo's indie-funk parody. Strange as it might seem, the ditty would almost sound at home on (gasp!) alternative radio.
Will modern-rock stations will take the bait? Haugh, for one, is doubtful. But he's crossing his fingers that the act's new deal with Sub Pop will help attract at least a handful of converts.
"I hope we get a few new fans out of this record," he says. "Then again, I'm sure we'll lose a few, too."
godheadSilo. 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, Club 156, CU-Boulder, 492-8619.
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