The Lost Years

Dead for almost a decade, Culturcide comes festering back to life

Workman contends the reason is simple: Culturcide's is a history devoid of closure. "We had this huge volume of all this original stuff that we'd been playing."

Adds Webb, "We disintegrated before we could even record our best songs."
That disintegration began with Culturcide's thieving 1986 epic, Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America. A blatantly illegal work of manic-dub genius, the album (now unavailable) ransacked 14 of the 1980s' most vapid radio hits -- everything from "We Are the World" to "Ebony and Ivory." In keeping with its lo-fi, anti-technology stance, Culturcide simply rerecorded the tracks, changing the titles (for example, "We Aren't the World") and superimposing nasty, disparaging vocals, jarring cut-and-paste clatter and dizzying loop effects over the original versions -- all, of course, without authorization.

Despite the band's haphazard distribution methods, Tacky Souvenirs managed to find its way to a number of critics, several of whom commended the band for brazenly going where no other indie outfit had gone before. (Some of those same writers commented on the album's one-off feel -- funny, considering the album took the band five years to complete.)

Though Tacky Souvenirs wasn't always easy for the layman to track down, it did earn Culturcide a kind of cult celebrity. But the costs far outweighed the benefits: Representatives for three artists whose work was desecrated on Tacky Souvenirs threatened legal action, and subsequent settlements emptied the band's already piddling coffers. The ensuing lull in Culturcide's spirits, combined with various creative conflicts and substance abuse issues, eventually led to the group's calling it quits in 1990. Naturally, Tacky Souvenirs is now a collector's item.

"We knew that it was going to happen, but we didn't know how far it would go," Workman says.

Adds Webb, "That record sounds more outrageous now than it did then. But it just fucked the band up to make that record. Then, it was successful, and we had this huge burst of energy. But creatively, we were already fucked."

From the start, Culturcide was never meant to be a full-time gig for its membership. Assembled in 1980 by Webb and record-store clerk Jim Craine out of a mutual admiration for punk rock and preindustrial noise auteurs Throbbing Gristle, the group released its first single, "Consider Museums as Concentration Camps/Another Miracle," with no intention of playing to support it. Workman, a longtime jazz freak and recent convert to new wave, was brought in to play guitar on the track. Soon enough, local demand dictated that the trio perform live. They ditched the beat box for a human drummer and began playing around town, their sound evolving into something resembling rock and roll, albeit a dissonant variation.

"We were not a punk-rock band at all," says Workman. "We were doing something that was more influenced by British and European noise bands."

"Mixed in with rock," says Webb. "But God, I hate to go back to the early period; it sounds so bad to describe it."

Culturcide's debut LP, Year One, was released in 1982 and composed solely of live performances. The band's draconian sampling techniques involved mounds of portable tape recorders playing prerecorded cassettes. The results were often startling -- perhaps too startling for Craine, who left soon after the album was released. "We've destroyed a lot of lives -- I mean, we've had a lot of band members," Webb quips.

Despite the band's internal turmoil, Culturcide's popularity continued to snowball in underground circles as the decade wore on, a streak capped by a brief West Coast tour in 1985. Though the band did record on the tiny punk imprint CIA, labels with any aboveground connections wouldn't go near Culturcide. The release of Tacky Souvenirs only sealed the band's unsavory commercial status. Yet, the group continued to perform into the late 1980s -- even touring Europe -- before eventually packing it in.

Attempts to resurrect Culturcide were all for naught until 1993, when Workman and Webb began work on the material that would fill Home-Made Authority "We decided it was time to start documenting this music," Workman says.

In some sense, Authority is an album 18 years in the making, and much like the band that recorded it, it's still very much a work in progress. More and more, it's apparent that Culturcide is a project best left perpetually unfinished.

"People with time tables, I think are stupid," says Webb. "It's like, well, we're going to make an album a year -- like a well-regulated digestive system. And the albums all suck. I feel like I have a maximum of six albums in me, so I figure I'm about halfway done."

Culturcide performs on Friday, July 17, at Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue. Doors open at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. Rusted Shut and 23 open. For info, call 869-

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