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Driver 13

by John Noyd
September 2001

When Shawn Anthony Brown returned to Wisconsin last fall, he had a long drive to contemplate his future.  His first time to Wisconsin was nearly ten years ago when Last Crack recruited him as their new lead singer. That road led to a European record deal, playing before tens of thousands of people and munching on sandwiches back stage with Ozzy and Sepultura. Splitting from Last Crack to form Spiritus, Shawn eventually grew tired of low wages and indifferent response from local radio. Returning to his native North Carolina, he dabbled in bands and jams that honed his awesome voice and brought him in contact with the woman who eventually became his wife. Still, something was missing. So, encouraged by his Madison friends who spun tales of Spiritus getting airplay and a renewed interest from radio for the local scene, Shawn packed his bags, kissed his wife goodbye and came back to seek his musical destiny. Thirteen hours later he got out of the car with his dreams intact and a name for his new band Driver (now Driver 13).

Hooking up with some of his old bandmates, Shawn actually came back to form two bands, Grip and Driver. While Grip fell to the wayside, Driver flourished, fronted by Shawn and piloted by Kerry Koppen, Mike Hagen and John Stone (Smolak). Pooling their experience in countless local bands and a profound love for Tool and Led Zeppelin, Driver creates a swampy, low end mix of industrial strength rock and spooked-out metal with traces of Middle Eastern warbling and iron-fisted rap. Shawn describes it as a chunkier, more evolved Spiritus .

Settled into the area with his wife, dog Tyler and steady employment, Shawn sees Driver’s future not as a breakout act to be courted by the industry, but rather a solid live band looking for local notoriety.  While they are cutting a single at Sleepless Nights later this year, there are no plans for CDs and national exposure. It doesn’t matter, Shawn says, how talented you are, the music industry is only interested in a look, a gimmick, the latest trend. Following their own muse, Driver shows samurai grace under extreme pressure, screaming when the spirit moves them, and shaking out the demons at the drop of a hat. Appearing at Bomblastica 2001 on September 22nd, they are sure to seize the night with their particular brand of feverish metal.


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Les Percussions De Guinee on cover of Maximum Ink in January 2001

Les Percussions De Guinee

by John Noyd
January 2001

A heavenly outpouring of throbbing jubilation, forceful uplifting beats and pounding enthusiasm, Les Percussions de Guinee’s djembe drumming is vibrant and hypnotic, a tumbling tapestry of blustery resonance and driving rhythms. International cultural ambassadors, this government sponsored ensemble takes the most talented players from their Les Ballet Africains and competing regional companies to showcase this rhythm nation’s complete complement of percussion instruments, including log drums, water drums, five headed drums and a xylophone predecessor called a balafon.  Playing with celebrities as diverse as Harry Belafonte, Elvin Jones, and the Police, this dancing, drumming storytelling troupe represented their country in the worldwide touring company of Africa Oye as well as Imax’s new production of global rhythms hosted by British performance artists Stomp.

Thunderous and uproarious, the fifteen-member troupe presents thousands of years of tradition with decades of experience. Their groundbreaking use of female drummers reinforces Mickey Hart’s belief that before man took over the drum for their military communications, the women were the principal performers, linked to various fertility rituals. Historical speculation aside, the current version of the Ensemble is one of the best. With three new members, bringing one of Guinee’s chief folklorist out of retirement, the addition of flute and the twenty-two stringed kora, Les Percussions de Guinee 2001 blends youth, wisdom and perspective, moving the group from a remarkable drum circle to a phenomenal panorama of a rich musical culture.


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Chicago's Rebels Without Applause on the cover of Maximum Ink in September 2000 - photo by Craig Gieck

Rebels Without Applause

by John Noyd
September 2000

“It doesn’t matter, we just do what we do.” Day after day, year after year, this has become the motto of guitarist Greg Fulton, singer and songwriter for the explosive metal outfit Rebels Without Applause.  Weathering a rotating line-up of musicians that made up the speed and thrash metal projects Znowhite and Cyclone Temple, Greg, along with bassist Scott Schafer, has seen metal firsthand since 1986.  From opening up for Vanilla Ice to experiencing record label runarounds, the Chicago natives have withstood the trials of regular commutes to play New York clubs and confronting the black man playing white music complex.  From holding down multiple part-time jobs to pretending to be the band’s manager only to hear how that guitarist has got a real attitude, Greg has seen more than his fair share of music’s peculiar brand of justice.

“A lot of people think when they join a band it’s a short trip from their day jobs to the tour bus.”  Having already gone through a string of lead singers Greg was not eager to deal with teaching someone else how he wanted them to sing his songs.  Greg would sing his songs into a tape machine to show how he wanted his songs to be sung, but he never thought his voice was up to snuff.  With friend and former Cyclone Temple guitar tech, Mark Alano, working alongside Greg’s blast furnace fretwork, RWA’s two-guitar assault allows Greg plenty of space to play front man.  A soul-inspired delivery smothered in machine tooled rhythms, Greg’s evangelical vocals are thunderbolts in a raging storm.


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 - photo by Rökker

Plastic

by John Noyd
March 2000

Plastic - sturdy, modern, and ubiquitous.  When referring to the musical group Plastic, the same qualities come up - plus adaptable, durable and multi-faceted. With current influences ranging from Radiohead, Bowie and the Cure, the eight-year-old band has dabbled in everything from greaser rock to British pop soul without softening a thing.  The axis on which Plastic turns are original members Joe Price and Joe Williams, the bass and drums, the backbone to any great sound.  Besides sharing first names, Joe and Joe share a telepathic intuition that cut through the rainbow of musical rosaries to move the beast along.  They do so with swift Swiss movements, like a funky Missing Persons meets son of Primus; intricate and propulsive, precise and explosive.


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Muzzy Luctin's Paul Schluter - photo by Craig Gieck

Muzzy Luctin

by John Noyd
October 1999

Even though they have only been together a short time, Muzzy Luctin already has enough history for a VH-1, “Behind the Music.” It’s been ten years since Muzzy Luctin’s guitar Paul Schluter kicked out the jams with Last Crack’s, Sinister Funkhouse #17, a wild rampage of hard rock boogie that brought the band legions of fans and a promising future. Promises being what they are, Last Crack disintegrated before national fame came calling, but the future arrived regardless and brought with it post-Crack bands White Chain , Spiritus, Mind Ox and ultimately Magic 7 a three quarters reforming of Last Crack halfway through the nineties. This new group took the original’s sonic squalor and added an element of eloquence, becoming steel plated shamans who moved beyond the thundering riffs into mature melodies and progressive six string slinging. Along with its members, Magic 7 brought Last Crack’s devoted following and again the future looked bright. Perhaps too bright, for before too long Schluter and vocalist and principal lyricist Buddo found themselves with a new rhythm section and the same old strains that brought Last Crack to its knees.


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Rockford's Fluid Oz. on the cover of Maximum Ink in March 1999

Fluid Oz.

by John Noyd
March 1999

There is something downright slippery about the Rockford band, Fluid Oz.  Something this sharp shouldn’t bounce so hard. These restless roustabouts dance around the stage like disco maniacs but lay down a heavy groove that smashes the competition.  Their romp, stomp and release shoots past standard labels to combine punk, funk, jazz and jump for a free for all monster mojo that sets fire to the volcano and cooks up a killer beat delivered with an iron fist. Out with a CD that showcases their dual talents for electrifying showmanship and original songwriting, Fluid Oz.‘s Show Boatin’ Muthas is an accurate depiction of their earth shaking, roof rattling, booty shaking live shows. The current eight man line-up reaches deep into the pockets of James Brown, Sly Stone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to come up with their own unique brand of sass and pizzazz. Think of the Beastie Boys with a brass section or P-Funk married to Oingo Boingo.


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the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart and Planet Drum on the cover of Maximum Ink in October 1998

Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum

by John Noyd
October 1998

To say world percussionist Mickey Hart is embarking on a new adventure is like saying the Pope is going to church this Sunday. Author, student, artist, composer, Mickey’s musical curiosity in all things cosmic has produced seventeen discs for Rykodisc’s “World” series, two books on the history and mythology of rhythm and countless shows and solos. His latest disc, “Supralingua,” continues to explore new worlds with a strong bent on digital technology and sampling. While best known for his association with the Grateful Dead, it soon became evident that the only past he was interested in conjuring happened long before there was any Haight-Asbury scene.


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The Dirty Three in Maximum Ink in June 1998

The Dirty Three

an interview with Warren Ellis
by John Noyd
June 1998

The fluid ease with which Dirty Three create the romance of tidal pulls and the despair of lonesome oceans in their new CD, Ocean Songs, is both tranquilizing and electric. Drums, guitar and violin serve a common purpose, swirling with deliberate ingenuity that lulls and soothes while cutting against the grain. Billowing sails and creaking timbers have room to stretch out. Gurgling mysteries lay simmering beneath the trio’s simple nuances and subtle twists.

Formed in a bar on the rough side of Melbourne, Australia, Dirty Three sound both weathered and full of life, deliberate, yet lazy. Warren Ellis’ winding gypsy fiddle skims and plummets while the cavernous drums of Jim White sound like sharp splashes and plodding depth charges. Their spacious longing can turn romantic and does so several times, stunningly in, “Sea Above, Sky Below,” while the sullen, barren slogging of “Authentic Celestial Music” forms a musical mechanical contraption that starts out of breath then steps up the pace. The ambling ambiance is both hypnotic and ambient, gracefully stumbling in slow motion then turning dangerously monomaniacal. No better example of this appears than Mick Turner’s breezy guitar playing on the whispery “Distant Shores,” a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn from his crashing, savage churning in “Deep Waters.”


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