Their music touched on elements of punk rock, psychedelic, heavy metal music and noise rock with a heavy dose of performance art. Their name is sometimes thought to have come from a Godzilla movie, but it could also have come from a comic book with the same title. They described their music as “anti-rock.”
Destroy All Monsters never found mainstream success, but earned some notoriety due to members of notable rock groups The Stooges and MC5 who joined the group.
Although Destroy All Monsters never recorded a proper album, Sonic Youth singer/guitarist Thurston Moore released a three compact disc compilation of the group’s music in 1994.
Formed in 1973, the first edition of Destroy All Monsters was formed by University of Michigan art students Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Niagara and filmmaker Cary Loren. They performed in the Ann Arbor area from 1973-1976, and their only release was a one-hour cassette of their recordings available only through Lightworks magazine. Their early music was Influenced by Sun Ra, Velvet Underground, ESP-Disk, monster movies, beat culture and futurism’ their sound was experimental, psychedelic, darkly humorous and droning.
On New Year’s Eve of 1973, the first Destroy All Monsters concert was held at a comic book convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time the instruments were a violin, a sax, a vacuum cleaner and a coffee can. They performed a demented version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and were asked to leave after ten minutes. The group performed “Guerilla Style” setting up for free at parties, playing for food along Ann Arbor’s frat row. They used modified instruments, a drum box, tape loops, hot-wired toys, cheap keyboards and broken electronic devices. The only formal gig they had (beside the comic convention) was at the Halloween Ball at the University of Michigan art school in 1976.
Kelley and Shaw left the band during the summer of 1976 to attend graduate school at CAL Arts in Los Angeles, California. Both have gone on to lead successful solo careers in the art world. Their work is held in major collections around the world.
In 1976, Niagara and Loren recruited guitarist Laurence B. (Larry) Miller and saxophonist Benjamin (Ben) Miller; both had been in the short-lived Sproton Layer with their brother Roger Miller (who later went on to found Mission of Burma). They invited Mike (Jett) Powers on bass but he soon left for Harvard University. Not long after, members of two important Detroit-based groups signed on: guitarist Ron Asheton, earlier of The Stooges, and bass guitarist Michael Davis of the MC5. Their presence garnered the group more attention than ever before.
In 1978, Destroy All Monsters were preparing to release “Bored”, their first official recording, when the group began to fall apart. Niagara ended her romance with Loren in favor of a new relationship with Asheton; Loren quit the group, and the Miller brothers left soon afterwards. The “Bored”/”You’re Gonna Die” single earned some attention in the UK music press, but the band was able to capitalize on the notoriety, and spent many years riding the punk/new wave era. They formed an alliance with the Ramones, the Dead Boys, and Peru Ubu, all seminal punk bands. They would tour together and open for each other in their respective home towns. This punk version of DAM disbanded in 1985.
In 1978, Loren issued a live DAM EP known as “Days of Diamonds” on his Black Hole label. Another EP followed in 1979, “Blackout in the City” under the name XANADU with the Miller Brothers, Loren and Rob King. Niagara and Ron Asheton carried on with various personnel releasing a total of three 7” singles on the IDBI label before ending the group in 1985. The Asheton singles were released by Cherry Red Records on CD.
In 1994, Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Byron Coley and Thurston Moore compiled a three-CD boxed set of music, artwork and extensive liner notes as Destroy All Monsters: 1974-1976 on Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label.
The original lineup (Kelley, Loren, Niagara and Shaw) reformed for reunion shows in 1995. Loren republished the six issues of the Destroy All Monsters Magazine (1976-1979) with added DAM student artwork, flexi disc and history in the book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS:GEISHA THIS — four VHS tapes of DAM films were also issued. An exhibition of their artwork followed at the Book Beat Gallery as well as live performances in Detroit, Los Angeles and San Diego. A live “CD, Silver Wedding Anniversary” resulted from these concerts and was released in 1996 on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label.
In 1996, the group (sans Niagara) performed in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. A display of DAM artwork was held at the Deep Gallery in Tokyo. At the invitation of Ben Schot and Ronald Corneilson for the “I Rip You, You Rip Me” festival and seminar at the Boijman’s Museum in Rotterdam, DAM began work on the installation and film known as Strange Früt: Rock Apochrypha an investigation of Detroit culture. This exhibition was shown and completed in 2000 at COCA (Center on Contemporary Art) in Seattle, WA., and in 2001 at the DAM Collective: Artists Take On Detroit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This work was also selected for inclusion in the 2002 Whitney Biennial of Art in NYC.
In 2006, the “Strange Früt” exhibition and the bands archives traveled to the Magasin Center for Contemporary Art in Grenoble, France. DAM performed at the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” festivals in Los Angeles as guest artists of Sonic Youth, and in London, UK as guest artists selected by Dino and Jake Chapman. A selection of the band’s archives is on exhibition as part of the “Theater Without Theater” show at MACBA in Barcelona, Spain opening May 25th 2007. The exhibit will travel to Lisbon, Spain in the fall.
Since 1995, the band has released five full length CDs on their own label(s) [The End is Here]: Radio Teardrop 1996, Backyard Monster Tube and Pig 1998, Swamp Gas 2001, and on [Compound Annex]: Detroit Oratorio 2003, DAM: Live in Tokyo 2003.
Edited by SufferingAstrid on 23 Jun 2013, 13:51
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