1995 - 1996: the genesis of grand mal
Mal began in the summer of 1995 not long after Geffen Records
severed their ties with St.
Johnny, a Hartford band that formed in 1990 and quickly
released a few 7”s on indie labels before Sonic Youth signed
us to Geffen. Though the label offered advantages like tour support
and great opening slots for cool
bands, the advances were peanuts. They were so small
that Jerry Jaffe, who was managing Jesus and Mary Chain at the
time, told me:
In August 1995 I broke
up St. Johnny and began playing with Jeff Mercel (the drummer/pianist
for Mercury Rev). Only a couple of months later we found ourselves
making the seven-plus hour drive from Manhattan to SUNY Fredonia
to record with Dave
Fridmann, who had previously produced Let
it Come Down, St. Johnny’s final album.
The recording, which also features Carmen Quinones, came out on
Terry Tolkin’s label No.
I picked (while drunk)
Grand Mal as the name for the band. I took it from the title of
a St. Johnny song.
The easiest way to describe
my initial concept for Grand Mal was to take inspiration from
a certain strain of classic rock/proto-punk but not fall into
the trap of bar-band impersonation…I figured this would
be possible due to my limitations as a player and a singer and
my, ahem, unique point of view as a young mal-content on the loose
in the streets of NYC.
Early Grand Mal promo shot
One thing I learned from
touring with St. Johnny was that people responded the most to
the harder, faster songs…It seemed to me that brute force
won out in a live setting (and also, My Bloody Valentine sounds
terrible on a car radio, whereas “Roadhouse Blues”
does not). So I figured I ought to ‘rawk’ out in a
more effective fashion…Thus the lower pleasures once again
held sway in my life...
I was a Millesian hedonist:
Houston Street and the furies are after me/It’s the type
of night where I don’t give a damn if the rent is paid,
this life ain’t so bad"
Who the fuck knows what
I was thinking?
I was listening to Lou
Can’t Dance, John Cale’s Fear,
Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ LAMF,
and Spacemen 3’s Perfect
Music to destroy your
life to, in other words.
toGrand Mal Mythology Part 2 (1996 - 1997)
The skinny on Grand Mal’s debut
EP, MP3s, and more