Gray: electric bass
my assignment to fill this page with profound recollections and observations
of a band that I have tailed, harrassed, befriended and ultimately conquered,
In the three and a half years since Dazzling Killmen first played St. Louis (their hub) at a party I wasn't invited to, their live shows have become so anticipated and precisely compact that spaces have had to cleared of tables and random objects to hold the crowds. Drunken rowdies all crammed together, scream cathartically as the band explodes, the most masculine of men and women fainting, wobbling and bumping with passion and fear. Bassist Darin Gray, usually the center of attention with his cheeky smile, cartoon-like contorting and gymnastic leaps is a monster during these songs, constructing, along with drummer Blake Fleming, seamless rhythms so tight you could bounce a penny off of them. Guitarist / vocalist / muscle man Nick Sakes and guitarist Tim Garrigan create sheets of sound and ropes of melody that wrap around these rythms. The audience bellows, heads bang, and the few that can actually make space, dance, as the band jerks, stutters and flexes. As the songs progress, the band bends the music just short of the breaking point, creating a frenzy that is always on the verge. Dazzling Killmen's songs are constructed as huge open spaces that need to be crammed with energy-- any energy. Melodies and grooves appear to be stuffed next to others , all bouncing off the walls. They're not linear melodies that arrive predictably in their neat little spaces. Rather there is a center to each song and in this space the band attempts to reach it from different directions. A phrase appears for a moment then vanishes and orbits around the next phrase, hovering and waiting for it's next approach. Sometimes this center is the magnet that holds the whole sheebang together. At other times the center cannot hold and the space collapses. It's during these moments that Dazzling Killmen floor me. Their rapid fire jerks, so precise and measured occur in succession at tremendous velocity. The band, tightly wound and compressed like a brickwith phrases in and out from the hub like a roman candle.
The process that has brought the band to this point has included four singles (two on skin graft, two on other very important labels), a live cassette and one previous LP that Nick says he's embarrassed by, but I say it's certainly a decent enough debut. But it was on some French label and no one can find it anyway,so it's a moot point. "Face Of Collapse" was recorded in September of 1993 in Chicago by Steve Albini and comes closest to capturing the density of their lives shows. It is my lifelong dream that you will discard the unnecessary detritus in your life, including your geeky record collections, and grasp toward objects of TRUE VALUE, such as this, to carry down your path to fulfillment.
Randall Roberts / December 1993 (Written for the Face Of Collapse Presskit)
Dazzling Killmen were born of Nick Sake’s late-20's crisis. Sakes thought "If I want to start a band, I better do it soon". Nick bought a guitar and was only able to scrape away at the beginning. But as luck would have it, he managed to find the perfect complement in a pair of jazz students, bassist Darin Gray and drummer Blake Fleming. Within a few months of forming, the band wound up in the studio, punching out a 7" single of the tracks "Numb" and "Bottom Feeder" on Nick's own label Sawtooth records. Though done on a fairly low-cost basis, the single set the tone for what was to follow from the Killmen - an incredible amount of technical skill, sharp changes in time, combined with an all-out assault from the lyrics and an unschooled, but obviously impassioned Sakes on guitar.
The Torture / Ghost Limb 7" followed, released on St. Louis' Crime Life label. And then entered SKiN GRAFT Comix. Mark Fischer and Rob Syers were two kids also from the St. Louis area, St. Charles to be exact. Though hopelessly addicted to Mountain Dew- our generations cocaine- and mass media, the pair had long deviated from the path of their contemporaries. The catalyst? Punk Rock. Mark and Rob had been self-publishing comics since high-school. So blown away by Dazzling Killmen were the two, that Mark made an agreement to release a 7" and comic set by Dazzling Killmen. Lacking any experience in the record manufacturing department, the first Skin Graft Records release was actually a co-release between Skin Graft and the local St. Louis label, Sluggo. Sluggo, additionally chose to make the release a split band single and opted to have Minneapolis' Mother's Day fill the other side. Shortly after the first 7" single was released, a french noise label, Intellectual Convulsion asked the band to record a full length. The band originally planned to have Butch Vig record the session that would become Dig Out The Switch, but he quickly removed himself from the list after hitting it big with the success of Nirvana's Nevermind. Second choice, Steve Albini turned out to be the right choice all along. In May of 1992, Dazzling Killmen made it to Albini's house, where he had masterfully designed a studio in the basement and a control room in the attic. Steve's homey studio would later record the majority of Skin Graft's early full length releases, from Mount Shasta and Brise-Glace to Shorty and Melt-Banana.
Shortly after the recording of the LP, the band recruited guitarist Tim Garrigan into the ranks (another local jazz student) and with this the Dazzling Killmen sound was completely fulfilled. The Intellectual Convulsion record took some to time to be released, and was actually beat to the streets by SkiN Graft's second release from Dazzling Killmen, The Albini produced "Medicine Me" / "Poptones" 7' and comic set. As the band continued to gain notoriety, tour and maximize the addition of Tim to the band, the band enlisted David Wm. Sims to make a live recording of the new full band, playing many of the songs from the first LP. The live sessions were released as the Lounge Ax cassette, sold only at shows and via skin graft mailorder.
More touring and writing would follow and the result would be the band's crowning achievement. In February of 1994, skin graft released it's first full length LP/CD, DAZZLING KILLMEN "Face Of Collapse". The album proved without a shadow of a doubt that they were divisors of a sound all their own. Face Of collapse cruelly punishes the listener, by refusing to give him any reprieve, stuck on the edge of his or her seat, wondering what could possibly happen next. The inner dynamics of the songs defied logic - never still, never linear. These were songs that had been viciously hacked to pieces, then masterfully recombined and played with a surgeons precision. Additionally the band had become renowned for their fierce desire to make records the way they wanted to. CMJ had proclaimed that DAZZLING KILLMEN were neck and neck with Fugazi in the race never to sell out. "Face Of Collapse" was critically acclaimed from all corners. In it's wrap up of most important records of the 90's, the Loud Life department of Alternative Press declared the album the number one heavy record of the decade, edging out such heavy hitters as Helmet, Melvins, The Flying Luttenbachers, and Melt-Banana. DAZZLING KILLMEN toured the country in support of their record, and audiences were truly dazzled by the precision and energy of their lives shows. Succumbing to the pressures of playing such tightly wound music, the band broke up in the fall 1995, just prior to a planned tour of Japan with Jim O'Rourke.
In 1996, Skin Graft released Recuerda, a CD collection of the singles, the Lounge ax cassette unreleased tracks and various fun snippets. Particularly charming is a recording of a group of cub scouts from the bands on air performance at Chicago's WNUR. While still playing in Dazzling Killmen, Darin Gray co-founded Brise Glace with Jim O'Rourke and recorded the Yona-Kit album with Zeni Geva's K.K. Null and the Brise-Glace ensemble. Upon the break up of the Killman Darin and guitarist Tim Garrigan formed the anti-band You Fantastic!, with Darin's comarde in Brise-Glace, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Thymme Jones. Nick Sakes would move to Minneapolis and form another band. Colossamite initially followed the Dazzling Killmen formula of progressive math rock, but then evolved into a looser more intuitive band. Colossamite would end as well. Nick now plays in Sic Bay, with Ed from Colossamite. Drummer Blake Fleming would go on to form Laddio Bolocko, a Can meets Led Zeppelin quartet from New York, who have released records on their own label, Hungarian. Though the break up of Dazzling Killmen was ugly, with many of it's members splintered and harboring resentment toward each other, today the band's members have made amends and are all good friends. A nice ending to a great band.
Written by Mark Fischer with portions by Randy Roberts
(IN PRINT) RELEASES
"Face Of Collapse"