Tag: Drag City Records

Throwback: Black History Month: Death

Today is February 21, 2021. It’s the 21at day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

etroit-based garage rock/punk rock act Death have one of the most interesting backstories I’ve come across in this site’s 10-plus year history, and it’s worth retelling: Formed by The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — in 1971, the band began as an R&B and funk band. But the sibling trio’s lives were transformed after they caught The Who and Alice Cooper in concert. As the story goes, David, the youngest of the sibling trio pushed for a hard rock-like song unbeknownst to them managed to presage punk and post-punk by several years, Of course, a change in sonic direction necessitated a change in band name — to Death, As Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, The Hackney Brothers recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti. According to The Hackney Family, Clive Davis funded those recording sessions — but while doing so, repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something much more commercially palatable. The Hackneys refused. Davis pulled his financial support and as a result, the band was left with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By the following year, the band released an extremely limited release of 500 copies of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, followed by their full-length debut to little fanfare.

By 1977, The Hackneys ended Death and relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two albums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1982, David returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming the reggae band Lambsbread. Sadly in 2000, David Hackney died of lung cancer. But reportedly before he died, David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their heyday, history would prove them and their work as Death as truly revolutionary and important — even if it was after his own death. In a serendipitous spin of fortune that seems too good to be true, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. Bobby’s sons were so impressed and innpisred bay what they had heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets — and that helped bring attention to their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release.The band’s sound which effortlessly meshed elements of reggae, garage rock, porto-punk and metal manages to presage the punk movement by three years — all while being an important musical bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and countless others.

Sine the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current Death lineup — surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) — have gone on a number of national tours, including making stops across the national festival circuit, winning over new fans with their groundbreaking sound, while further cementing their rightful place in music history.

Punk rock is Black y’all. And being Black is punk as fuck.

OctFest 2018 Preview

Last year, Pitchfork, one of the premier music websites; October, a beer culture-centric website that aims to capture the spirit, ambition, making and drinking of the precious and beloved stuff through essays, travelogues and events; and Bon Appetit, the award-winning food lifestyle brand teamed up for what may arguably be one of the most unique festivals I’ve come across in some time: OctFest, a beer, music and food festival.  2018’s edition of OctFest, which will take place on Governor’s Island on September 8, 2018 and September 9, 2018 will feature a food lineup curated by Bon Appetit , a music lineup curated by Pitchfork that will include Vince Staples, The Flaming Lips and dozens of other music acts, 90+ craft breweries from all around the world – and with arguably some of the most gorgeous views of Manhattan you’ll see in your life.

So let’s talk a bit about each aspect of the festival, huh?

Food

The food program is centered around a Food Village that will offer a number of New York-based quick-serve staples including the Mission Chinese Food, Roberta’s Pizza, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co, Sweet Chick, the STUF’D Truck, Cervo’s, Best Pizza, Oakland, CA-based KronnerBurger and many others preparing specialties to compliment the domestic and international craft beer being sampled.  (Check out the full lineup below.)

FOOD LINEUP

Curated by Bon Appétit

Best Pizza

Cervo’s

Hank’s Juicy Beef

Island Oyster

KronnerBurger

Los Viajeros Food Truck

Mission Chinese Food

Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.

Sweet Chick

STUF’D Truck

Roberta’s Pizza

 

Beer

 OctFest will be hosting 90 breweries from 20 different countries, pouring more than 250 varieties of award-winning craft beer. Several breweries will be making their New York City debut, including Wicked Weed Brewing, DC Brau, Wedge Brewing Co, Four Peaks Brewing Co, Wild Beer Co., and Karbach Brewing, Co. (Check out the full lineup below.)

BREWERY LINEUP

North America – West

10 Barrel Brewing Co. (Bend, OR)
Austin Eastciders (Austin, TX)
Breckenridge Brewery (Littleton, CO)
Elysian Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
FiftyFifty Brewing Company (Truckee, CA)
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Four Peaks Brewing Co. (Tempe, AZ)
Golden Road Brewing (Los Angeles, CA)
Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI)
Karbach Brewing Co. (Houston, TX)
Kona Brewing Company (Kailua-Kona, HI)
Live Oak (Austin, TX)
Monkless Belgian Ales (Bend, OR)
On Tour Brewing Company (Chicago, IL)
Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)
The Shop Beer Co. (Tempe, AZ)
Virtue Cider (Fennville, MI)
North America – East

Blue Point Brewing Company (Patchogue, NY)
Brasserie Archibald (Canada)
Braven Brewing Company (Brooklyn, NY)
Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Brickworks Cider (Canada)
Circa Brewing Co. (Brooklyn, NY)
Cisco Brewers (Nantucket, MA)
Collective Arts Brewing (Canada)
DC Brau (Washington, D.C.)
Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA)
Flying Dog Brewery (Frederick, MD)
Hanging Hills Brewing Company (Hartford, CT)
Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, MA)
Keegan Ales (Kingston, NY)
Lamplighter Brewing Co. (Cambridge, MA)
LIC Beer Project (Long Island City, NY)
Lord Hobo Brewing Company (Woburn, MA)
M.I.A. Beer Company (Doral, FL)
Microbrasserie Gainsbourg (Canada)
Mill Street Brewery (Canada)
Narragansett Brewing Company (Pawtucket, RI)
Sand City Brewing Co. (Northport, New York)

Springdale (Framingham, MA)
Stanley Park Brewing (Canada)

Sunday Beer Co. (Brooklyn, NY)
The Bronx Brewery (Bronx, NY)
Veza Sur Brewing Co. (Miami, FL)
Wicked Weed Brewing (Asheville, NC)
Zero Gravity Craft Brewery (Burlington, VT)
Europe
Aktien Brewery of Kaufbeuren (Germany)
Birra del Borgo (Italy)
Brasserie La Binchoise (Belgium)
Brouwerij Bosteels (Belgium)
Brouwerij DeKroon (Belgium)
Camden Town Brewery (UK)
Ginette (Belgium)
Hertog Jan (Netherlands)
Jopen (Netherlands)
La Virgen (Spain)
Laugar Brewery (Spain)
Radeberger (Germany)
Wild Beer Co (UK)
Latin America
Barfuss (Argentina)
Bocanegra (Mexico)
Bogota Beer Co (Colombia)
Cervecería Urbana (Mexico)
Cervecería Wendlandt (Mexico)
Cerveza Patagonia (Argentina)
Colorado (Brazil)
Cucapá (Mexico)
Lohn Bier (Brazil)
Melas Beer (Colombia)
Nicaragua Craft Beer Co. (Nicaragua)
Pratinha (Brazil)
Wals (Brazil)
Asia, Africa, Oceania
Bira 91 (India)
4 Pines Brewing Company (Australia)
Balter Brewing Co (Australia)
Boxing Cat Brewery (China)
Cape Brewing Co. (South Africa)
Good George (New Zealand)
Newlands Spring Brewing Company (South Africa)
Pirate Life Brewing (Australia)
Playground Brewery (South Korea)
Taihu Brewery (Taiwan)
The Hand & Malt Brewery (South Korea)

Music

 While I’ll definitely have interest in the food and beer, my primary interest is the music and I’m looking most forward to catching sets from the following:

Saturday, September 8

 Vince Staples: Staples is a 25 year-old, North Long Beach, CA-born and-based emcee and actor, who first rose to prominence as member of hip-hop collective Odd Future, which also featured Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler The Creator – and the collaborative Mac Miller-produced Stolen Youth mixtape. October 2014 saw the release of his solo debut EP, Hell Can Wait, which included attention grabbing singles “Hands Up” and “Blue Suede.”

Building upon a growing profile, Staples’ full-length debut 2015’s Summertime ’06 was released to critical applause – with Staples being featured as part of XXL’s 2015 Freshman Class. Staples’ critically acclaimed sophomore album, 2017’s Big Fish Theory found the acclaimed, young emcee expanding upon his sound as the album’s production incorporated avant-garde, dance and electronic influences. Additionally, Staples’ made a guest appearance on Gorillaz’s latest effort Humanz.

Staples is headlining Saturday night and I’m looking forward to hearing material off both Summertime ’06 and Big Fish Theory live.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Currently comprised of founding members Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with newest member Leland Whitty (saxophone), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada instrumental act BADBADNOTGOOD derive their name from an abandoned comedy TV project that Tavares was working on before the band formed – and whether as trio or a quartet, the band has developed a reputation for a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, prog rock; but they’re perhaps best known for their jazz-based interpretation of hip-hop tracks, which have allowed them to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others. Interestingly, the band can trace its origins to when the band’s founding trio bonding over a mutual love of hip-hop – in particular MF Doom and Odd Future.

As the story goes, the then-trio played a piece based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructors, who didn’t believe it had much musical value – but interestingly enough, after they released the track as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1,” the track caught the attention of Tyler The Creator, who helped the video go viral. The Canadian act followed that up with the 2011 release of their full-length debut BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and Odd Future. Building upon a growing profile, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the session amassing more than a million views each.

2012’s sophomore effort BBNG2 was recorded over the course of a ten-hour studio session and featured Leland Whitty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar) and featured their own original material, as well as renditions of sons by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.

2013 saw the release of III, which featured “Hedron,” a track that was also featured on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo; “CS60” and “Can’t Leave the Night,” which was released with the B-side “Sustain,” and they were involved on the soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists, assisting with the production and composition.

2015 saw the release of the band’s fourth, full-length album Sour Soul, and the album found them collaborating with Ghostface Killah – and interestingly, the album is more of a hip-hop album that nods at jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!

Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and followed that up with producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). By the middle of that year, BADBADNOTGOOD released their fifth full-length album IV, an album that featured guest spots from Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson, and was named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.

Live the act, which also includes keyboardist James Hill can easily shift between jazz, acid jazz, jazz fusion, hip-hop, prog rock, advant-garde jazz, funk and rock with an effortless and seamless fashion – and seemingly at will. I saw them earlier this summer at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at the Prospect Park Bandshell  and they are a must see.

Preoccupations: Now throughout the past handful of years of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Canadian post-punk act and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and as you may recall, the band which is comprised of Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar) initially formed under the highly controversial name Viet Cong – and as a result of their original name, the members of the band found themselves in the middle of a furious and frenzied debate around cultural appropriation and the usage of terms, names and symbols closely associated with historical groups and actions that evoke the horrors and brutality of despotism, fascism, war, genocide and so on. Ultimately, the band decided it was best to change their name before the release of their sophomore album, an effort that found each of the individual members of the band in unsteady and uncertain positions – at the time, each of the individual members of the band had relocated to different cities across North America, which forced the band to change their long-established creative process.

Unlike their previously recoded material, the band went into the writing sessions without having a central idea or theme to consider or help guide them along, essentially making the recording sessions a collective, blind leap of faith. Interestingly, the band’s sophomore, self-titled album wound up drawing from that mix of anxiety, despair and regret that creates sleepless nights. New Material, the band’s third full-length album was released earlier this year, and the album builds upon the Canadian post-punk act’s growing reputation for crafting dark and moody post-punk centered around themes of anxiety, uncertainty, futility, frustration, creation and destruction but as the band’s Matt Flegel says of the self-recorded album, the album is “an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.”  And while the material is dark, murky and deeply introspective, the members of Preoccupations have developed a reputation for having an intense and energetic live show, which reveals the material’s anthemic nature.

Sunday, September 9

 

The Flaming Lips: Currently comprised of founding members Wayne Coyne (guitar, vocals) and Michael Ivins (bass), with Steven Drozd, Derek Brown, Jake Ingalls, Matt Duckworth and Nicholas Ley, the Norman, OK-based psych rock/psych pop/indie rock act The Flaming Lips formed back in 1983 with Coyne (guitar), Coyne’s brother Mark (vocals), Ivins (bass) and Dave Kotska (drums). Interestingly, after Kotska joined the band, Richard English joined the band – and that year, they recorded the only full-length album with Mark Coyne, the band’s self-titled effort.

After Mark Coyne left the band, Wayne assumed vocal duties and the and released their 1986 full-length debut Hear It Is on Pink Dust Records, a psych rock imprint of Engima Records. With that initial lineup, the band released two more albums, 1987’s Oh My Gawd!!! and 1989’s Telepathic Surgery, which was originally planned to be a 30-minute sound collage. From that point on, the band has gone through a series of lineup changes – 1989’s Dave Fridmann-produced In a Priest Driven Ambulance featured Nathan Roberts (drums) and Mercury Rev’s Johnathan Donahue (guitar), and saw the band expanding upon their sound with further experimentation with tape loops and effects, as well as Coyne making a transition to vocal style inspired by Neil Young.

Back in 1990, the members of The Flaming Lips caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records and were promptly signed when an AR rep witnessed a show in which the band almost burned down the American Legion Hall in their hometown with the use of pyrotechnics. In 1991, the members of the band started recording their major label debut Hit to Death in the Future Head, which was delayed for nearly a year because of their use of a sample from Michael Kamen’s score from the major motion picture Brazil, which had a lengthy clearance process. After the recoding of the album, Donahue left the band to focus on his work with Mercury Rev and Roberts leaving the band, citing creative differences.

Ronald Jones and Steven Drozd joined the band and with that lineup they released Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, their only full-length album in which their longtime producer and collaborator Fridmann wasn’t involved; however, because of the success of album single “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the band was featured on Beverly Hills 90210, Late Show with David Letterman, Charmed and Beavis and Butthead. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on a lengthy stint of touring opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Candlebox.

1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic was released to critical fanfare in 1995 although it didn’t achieve the same commercial success of its predecessor. In 1996, the band went through another lineup chance with the depature of Ronald Jones. The three remaining members of the band felt a growing dissatisfaction with stand rock music, led to the extremely experimental Zaireeka, a four CD album intended to be heard by playing all four CDs in four separate CD players simultaneously. Sonically, the material incorporated traditional musical elements, found sounds often manipulated by contemporary recording studio techniques and electronics.

And while their experimental efforts received, the band received mainstream success with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, which meshed catchy melodies with synthetic strings, hypnotic and carefully manipulated beats, booming cymbals and weird but deeply philosophical lyrics. Critically, the album has been compared to The Beach Boys’ Pet Soundsas it featured the entire studio as an instrument to be manipulated. The Soft Bulletin’s critically applauded follow-up, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots featured guest musician Yoshimi P-We and found the band incorporating the increasing use of electronics and computer manipulation – and the album is generally considered their first critical and commercially successful album after 20 years as a band; in fact, “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)” won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and the album was certified Gold in 2006. Since then the band has been considered one of those must-see acts, thanks in part to a show that has largely been described as a pure spectacle.  

Nile Rodgers & Chic: Nile Rodgers is a New York-born and-based songwriter, guitarist, composer, arranger and producer, who is best known as a co-founding member of smash-hit disco act Chic and for his work as a producer and collaborator with the likes of Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Philip Bailey, Thompson Twins, Sheena Easton, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Madonna, INXS, Britney Spears, Spoons, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Max Pezzali, Nervo, Laura Mvula, Sigala, Keith Urban, Christina Aguilera and George Michael among a growing list of artists.

Rodgers is arguably one of the more influential and important figures of pop music and dance music of the past 40+ years, and he’s had a role on some of the most beloved albums and singles, and I gotta admit I’m looking forward to hearing all of those old Chic songs live.

 Yo La Tengo: Yo La Tengo is Spanish for “I have it” — referring to a female-gendered object or person, in which it would be “I’ve got her,” but the Hoboken, NJ-based indie rock band actually derive their name from an old baseball anecdote. During the New York Mets‘ inaugural season in 1962, centerfielder Richie Ashbury and Venezuelan-born shortstop Elio Chacon found themselves colliding in the outfield. As the story goes, whenever Ashbury went for a catch, he wold scream “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” but Chacon spoke Spanish and had a limited understanding of English. During a game later that year, Ashbury yelled “Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!” instead and saw Chacon backing off on the play, avoiding further collisions; however, left fielder Frank Thomas, who didn’t understand Spanish and missed the team meeting that proposed using “Yo la tengo!” to avoid outfield collisions, collided into Ashburn. After getting up from their collision Thomas reportedly asked Ashburn, “What the hell is a Yellow Tango?”

As far as the band, the New Jersey-based indie rock band, which is currently comprised of founding members Ira Kaplan (guitar, piano, vocals), and Georgia Hubley (drums, piano, vocals), along with James McNew (bass, vocals) can trace their origins back to 1984. When Kaplan and Hubley formed the band, they played an advertisement to recruit other musicians, who shared their mutual love of The Soft BoysMission of Burma and Arthur Lee and his band Love, and as a result, the band’s first lineup featured Kaplan, Hubley, Dave Schramm (lead guitar) and Dave Rick (bass) with whom they released their debut 7 inch “The River of Water,” which featured a cover of Arthur Lee’s “A House Is Not a Motel.” After the band recorded “Private Doberman” for the Coyote Records compilation Luxury Condos Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon, the band went through a number of lineup changes before settling on their current lineup in 1992 — although the band’s original guitarist Dave Schramm joined the band during the sessions for their 14th record, Stuff Like That There.

Despite achieving limited mainstream success, Yo La Tengo have developed a reputation for being a critically applauded act while maintaining a devoted cult following, thanks in part to their live shows, which reveal an almost encyclopedic repertoire of covers — their SummerStage set last year began with a cover of Ace Frehely‘s “Back in the New York Groove“– and for their annual Hanukkah residency at Maxwell’s that featured a shit ton of covers and special guests, including their parents. Live, they manage to walk a tightrope between power and lush beauty, irony and sincerity within the turn of a phrase.

 

No Age: Comprised of Randy Randall (guitar) and Dean Allen Spunt (vocals, drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based noise rock duo No Age can trace their origins to the breakup of their previous band Wives, in which Spunt played bass and sang while Randall played guitar. The duo’s first official release was an extremely limited release collection of 5 vinyl singles  and Eps that they released on 5 different labels on or around the same day – March 26, 2007. Designed by Brian Roettinger and the members of No Age, the back of each record’s sleeve was a different color and had a different letter that when put together spelled out the band’s name. Half of the songs on the singles and EPs wound up comprising their full-length debut Weirdo Rippers.

Since the release of Weirdo Rippers, Randall and Spunt have developed a reptaution for relentless touring, frequently playing shows at unusual locations – they once played a show at the Los Angeles River and they famously accompanied video artist Doug Aitken and Chloe Sevigny to Athens, Greece and Hydra Island, Greece to perform a multimedia piece “Black Mirror.” The performances took place on an old Greek barge at the Port of Piraeus, off the Island of Hydra and a final performance with the barge driven to the middle of the ocean. Additionally, they’ve found new and interesting ways to pair art around the release of their music – 2009’s Losing Feeling EP was released with a limited edition “Losing Feeling” companion zine; 2012’s “Collage Culture” 12 inch was a soundtrack to readings of excerpts of Aaron Rose, Mandy Kahn and Brian Roettinger’s Collage Culture, split in two channels – one side with readings from the book, the other side with No Age music written specifically for the release.

The acclaimed noise rock act is currently touring to support their latest effort Snares Like a Haircut, which was released earlier this year through Drag City Records.

 

Check out the full musical lineup below.

MUSICAL LINEUP

Saturday, September 8

Vince Staples

BADBADNOTGOOD

NAO

Saba

Preoccupations

Vagabon

Standing on the Corner

Hatchie

Flasher

Madison McFerrin

 

Sunday, September 9

The Flaming Lips

Nile Rodgers & CHIC

Yo La Tengo

Girlpool

Hop Along

No Age

Kamaiyah

Shopping

Julie Byrne

The Courtneys

Tickets are still available, please check out OctFest.co for information.

You can check out information and updates on the festival at Oct.co, and on Twitter by following @Pitchfork and @ReadOctober.

 

I’ll be covering the festival through my various social accounts, so feel free to check me out through the following:

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

 

Throughout the bulk of this site’s almost 8 year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Detroit, MI-based proto-punk/punk rock band Death, and as you may recall, the band which featured The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — formed back in 1971, and initially they were an R&B and funk-based act  — until The Hackneys caught The Who and Alice Cooper live. As the story goes, after those concerts, David, the youngest of the siblings pushed his two older brothers towards a more hard rock-leaning sound; a sound that interestingly managed to presage punk, post-punk and the Afropunk movement while necessitating a name change. And from that point forwards the band went by Death. As Bobby Hackney famously explained in a 2010 interview that David’s concept was to spin death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell,” Bobby Hackney recalled.

In 1975, the Hackneys went into Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti to record a handful of songs written by David and Bobby, and according to the Hackney family Clive Davis funded the recording sessions; but while doing so, he had repeatedly implored and cajoled the band into changing their name into something more commercially palatable.  David refused, and his brothers while initially okay with a name change went along with their brother’s vision. Davis pulled out his financial investment, leaving the band with seven of the twelve songs they had planned to record. 1976 saw the extremely limited release of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, which was recorded during the United Sound Studios sessions and their full-length, which was released to very little fanfare.

By 1977, the Hackney Brothers decided it was time to end Death, and then relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two gospel rock/Christian rock albums in the late 70s and very early 80s as The 4 Movement. However, by 1982 David Hackney had returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming a reggae band Lambsbread. From what I understand there was a point where The Hackney Brothers had discussed reforming Death but unfortunately, David Hackney died of lung cancer in 2000. However, as the two surviving Hackney Brothers claim, David told them shortly before his death that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their day, history would prove them and their work together as being truly revolutionary — but that it would mostly likely be after his own death. In a wild yet very true spin of serendipitous fortune that seems as though it were written by a screenwriter, Bobby’s sons had stumbled across the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic, several years after David’s death. Bobby’s sons were impressed by their father’s and their uncles’ work that they began covering Death as a loving homage that began to receive attention both nationally and internationally.

As a result of the growing buzz around the band, Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release, and from those recordings the material proved David Hackney correct, revealing that Death’s sound and aesthetic managed to be 3 years ahead of the punk revolutionary while simultaneously playing an important role in Black music history, as they managed to fill in the gaps between Parliament Funkadelic, Bad Brains and Fishbone, while presaging the likes of Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince,  Unlocking the Truth and a list of others. Since the re-issue of their early demos and their full-length, Death with its current line up featuring the surviving Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis Hackney (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar), have had a documentary about their incredible story, released new material and spent time touring and playing on the festival circuit, including an incredible Afropunk Festival set, which has introduced the trio, their story and their sound to eager and appreciative new audiences.

Death’s latest single “Give It Back” was originally written by the band’s Bobby Hackney in 1979 and re-recorded last year but interestingly enough, the song concerns itself with persistent and troubling social and environmental issues that he saw almost 40 years ago, from increasing political, racial and social animus and disarray, global warming and the pollution of our water and air, and a growing sense that dreams and hopes you once had have been lies created by larger powers to keep you involved in a sick and demented system that exploits and destroys human lives and the only home we’ll ever know. The overall theme of the song is as you’ll hear in the lyrics “We’ve taken from this world, now it’s time to give it back” suggesting that there’s only one time to get it right, before we fuck it all up royally — and they pair that with a classic, Detroit rock ‘n’ roll groove that immediately brings The Dirtbombs to mind.

 

 

The Detroit, MI-based proto-punk/punk rock band Death can trace their origins back to when The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) formed the band back in 1971. Initially, they started out as a R&B and funk-based band — that is until The Hackneys caught The Who and Alice Cooper live. After those concerts, David, the youngest of the siblings pushed his two older brothers towards a much more hard rock-leaning sound, which interestingly enough presaged punk and post-punk and a name change — Death. And as Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, the Hackney Brothers with engineer Jim Vitti recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios. And according to the Hackney family, Clive Davis funded the recording sessions but while doing so, had repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something more commercially palatable. When the Hackney’s refused, Davis pulled out, leaving the band with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By 1976, the band self released in an extremely limited run of just 500 copies, the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep Obn Knocking” single, recorded from those sessions, followed by their full-length debut with very little fanfare.

By 1977, the Hackneys ended the band, and then relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two alums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. However, by 1982 David had returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained and eventually formed the reggae band Lambsbread. In 2000, David Hackney tragically died of lung cancer but reportedly before he had died David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their day, history would prove them and their work as Death as being truly revolutionary — even if it was after his own death. In a wild spin of serendipitous fortune that seems written by a screenwriter, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons had stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. And Bobby’s sons were so impressed by what they heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets as a loving homage that began to receive attention both to them and their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release, and from those recordings the material managed to not just up hold up, but to reveal an important historical place both for American music history and for Black music history, as their sound, which effortlessly meshed reggae, proto-punk, metal and punk rock managed to presage the punk movement by 3 years while serving as a convincing bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and a growing list of contemporary acts that include Unlocking the Truth.

Since the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current lineup of Death featuring surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis Hackney (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) have had a documentary about their story, released some new material and spent a lot of time touring and playing some of the country’s largest festivals, including Afropunk Festival, introducing their sound and aesthetic to new audiences.

Death’s latest single “Cease Fire” will continue to cement the band’s growing reputations for pioneering sound that meshes punk, metal, funk and soul while being politically charged and urgent as the song features buzzing and crunching guitar chords and some impressive soloing, soaring synths and propulsive drumming and a sinuous bass line while being politically charged — and in particular, their sound and thematic concerns clearly presages the likes of Living Colour and Fishbone, some 10-15 years before they began playing. As the members of the band explain, their newest single “is a continuation of the social conscious voice that Rock ‘N’ Roll music states to all people. If John Lennon were alive in this world today, we are sure he would echo the same sentiments, because we first have to put the guns down and stop the senseless shooting so we can ‘Give Peace A Chance.'”