Chicago's Rebels Without Applause on the cover of Maximum Ink in September 2000
photo by Craig Gieck
“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.
Formed in January of 1996, RWA concentrate on performance rather than peddling product. Their five song EP from 1997, “Rip-Hop Soulcore Crush,” is in its second pressing, but three years later and they are only now finishing a full length disc. Here then, is a hard-working band who win fans by live exposure to their sonic rumble rather than boiling something up in the studio. Like a serrated freight train running on polished rails, RWA’s sound is refined thrash pummeled into a thing of beauty. When drummer Tony Heath lays tracks under Greg and Mark’s sledgehammer riffs they wrap around Steve’s bass so tightly, a blood boiling pulse sticks to the thick, churning groove. Layer on Greg’s telegraphic low-end vocals and the RWA achieve a smooth blend of slick grace and ponderous gravity.
When discussing the band’s various hardships the race card rears its ugly head. “I haven’t found so much hatred as ignorance,” Greg confesses. Touring as constantly as they do, Rebels Without Applause find themselves in Lansing and Peoria as much as Chicago or Milwaukee. “A lot of these people have never talked to a black man,” Greg says, “and when they see one playing metal they start to realize that there might be some common ground.” Greg also sites the rise of bands such as King’s X and Sevendust as hope for a changing attitude in a style of music that has weathered Nazis, racism, disco and FM radio programmers. That doesn’t stop Greg from recalling any number of concerts that had the audience shouting, “Hootie,” (as in Hootie and the Blowfish) when the RWA stepped up to the stage. The heavy set man with a set of iron lungs takes it all in stride. “It doesn’t matter,” he laughs, “we just do what we do.” Whether opening up for Jimmie’s Chicken Shack or playing to a crowd of mud wrestling fans, RWA stand by their motto and never leave a stage beaten. “By the time we’re finished,” he says, “the crowd is down with us.”
Courted by collapsing labels, shown on MTV, RWA’s collective experience makes them both wise and cautious. Their forthcoming release, “Low End Head Stomp,” is a independent affair that is lined up to be licensed this fall by an old friend of Greg’s currently working for a hip hop label in New York City. Distributed through Island/Def Jam, RWA hope to reach a national audience with the disc, but again RWA’s motto holds firm. “We get to do what we love to do and that’s why we do it,” Greg says, “that should be enough for anyone.”(4250) Page Views Rebels Without Applause Online:
Rebels Without Applause
CD: Low End Head Stomp Record Label: Rhythm & Dues
• Purchase Low End Head Stomp on Amazon