Coucou, les chaton.ne.s! We're back with another short yet wholesome entry (Ay, qué ricoooo. Papiiii) Ehemm, ok...This time we'll feature Naked City and Painkiller, two amazing experimental hardcore punk projects of John Zorn, a renowned american composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist (most of the time as a saxophonist) that is known by his extensive and prolific musical carrer creating, mixing and arranging music mixed with different styles, notably jazz, ambient, hard rock, both improvised and classical music, among other musical genres and subgenres. He has described his music as avant-garde or experimental.
This is not the first time that different personalities outside of the hardcore punk community have had interest in the most important punk rock subgenre. As you may remember, BBC journalist John Peel compiled different live sessions in his radio program, known as Peel Sessions, with early grindcore outfits like Heresy, Extreme Noise Terror, Carcass and Napalm Death. We've already posted these sessions, as well as compilations featuring these collaborations with these and other UK hardcore punk acts. You can refresh your memory here, however, the entry is in spanish. Even though grindcore had its "fifteen minutes of fame and glory" in both public radio and TV broadcasts (remember Extreme Noise Terror's infamous appearance with The KLF at the 1992 Brit Awards), it has luckily remained underground.
Now, John Zorn's first, and probably his most well-known, hardcore-inspired sideproject is Naked City. It was active between 1988 and 1993 and featured other outstanding New York City-based avant-garde and experimental musicians such as Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Wayne Horvitz, Joey Baron, Yamatsuka Eye and even Mike Patton, vocalist of Faith No More, contributed to this project. While most of their material was released through non-hardcore punk related record labels, Earache Records (influential british grindcore and death metal record label) did release some of them, though.
At first, Naked City was meant to test improvisation limits in a traditional rock band line-up. Thus, they mixed different musical genres such as hardcore punk, notably grindcore and sludge, progressive rock, noise, surf, jazz, heavy metal, country, drone and other avant-garde elements, for creating an unique and complex musical style with an unorthodox and improvised structure featuring screamed vocals (in some tracks because it was instrumental most of the time), fast tempos and abstract ambient.
Along with this bold and innovative musical approach, Naked City's albums featured suicide, torture, BDSM and surrealistic artworks, which was controversial for mainstream rock standards of their time. During their short yet productive lifetime, they released 5 full-length albums self-titled, 1990; Grand Guignol and Heretic (Jeux Des Dames Cruelles film soundtrack), 1992; Radio and Absinthe, 1993; singles like Leng T'che (Japan-only release, 1992) and different collections containing all of their complete works.
Finally, Naked City disbanded after the release of their last full-length album because Zorn considered that it was time to move on and explore other musical ideas and contexts. There was a brief reunion in 2003 where the band participated to different european jazz festivals. For this entry, I'll feature you Torture Garden (Shimmy Disc, 1990), which is a compilation of "hardcore miniatures" featuring nine tracks taken from self-titled and thirty-three tracks that would later reappear on Grand Guignol, as well as Leng T'Che single, which has more grindcore, drone and sludge influences. Due to the controversy behind the marvelous BDSM original artwork, Torture Garden was re-released along with Leng T'Che single as Black Box (Tzadil Records, 1996), featuring a black front cover with yellow letters. Both records are also included in Naked City's discography named The Complete Studio Recordings (Tzadik Records, 2005). Click on each record image for downloading them with their respective original artworks, layouts and inserts.
Last but not least, we've got John Zorn's second and last experimental hardcore punk sideproject named Painkiller. It was formed in 1991 and disbanded four years later. There were also some brief and occasional reunions in 1997, 2003 (for celebrating Zorn's 50th birthday), 2004, 2005 and 2008. If you already noticed, Painkiller was born two years later than Naked City but lasted two more years. Cool, huh? The band members were: John Zorn (saxophone), Bill Laswell (bass) and Mick Harris of Napalm Death (drums). There were also some collaborations with Naked City's vocalists Yamatsuka Eye and Mike Patton, Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green of Godflesh, among other musicians.
During their short yet prolific lifetime, Painkiller released Guts Of Virgin EP (Earache Records, 1991), Buried Secrets EP (Earache Records, 1992), Rituals: Live In Japan EP (Toy's Factory, 1993), Execution Ground (Subharmonic, 1994), Talisman: Live In Nagoya EP (Tzadik Records, 2002), 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12 EP (Tzadik Records, 2005), The Prophecy: Live In Europe EP (Tzadik Records, 2013). After the release of Execution Ground, Harris left the band for creating his own computer music sideprojects. Many people thought that Harris' departure would make disband the musical group. Nonetheless, both Zorn and Laswell decided to continue without him and recruited Yoshida Tatsuya of Ruins, a japanese progressive rock band. They only played a few shows and finally disbanded next year. Following Painkiller's disolution, the band briefly reunited for playing a few shows with different line-up. Even the posthumous live EPs don't include Harris and were recorded without him (except the first two). And, finally, the band's last performance ever was in 2008 in France with the original line-up (Zorn, Laswell and Harris) and Fred Firth and Mike Patton of Naked City as special guests.
Regarding the sound, Painkiller followed Naked City's frantic and eclectic musical path. Therefore, they had hardcore punk, notably grindcore and some sludge, jazz, ambient, dub, and progressive rock influences, among others. I dare to say that in some moments Painkiller's sound is really close to Naked City's. Also, both bands shared the same dark and brutal iconographic touch, featuring a morbid and gory aesthetic, however, Painkiller didn't receive any complaint about it.
Lastly, I'll feature you Completed Works (Tzadik Records, 1997) containing everything that Painkiller's original line-up recorded (except Rituals: Live In Japan and Talisman: Live In Nagoya EPs). There are 4 CDs (named zero, one, two, three): the first one contains the first two EP (with Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green of Godflesh as special guests on Buried Secrets and The Toll tracks); the second one contains Execution Ground and the third one contains the same record's ambient version; and, finally, the fourth one contains a live performance in Osaka, Japan with Yamatsuka Eye of Naked City as vocalist on Bodkyithangga, Black Bile, Yellow Bile, Blue Bile, Crimson Bile, and Ivory Bile tracks. Click on the record image for downloading it with its respective original artwork, layouts and inserts. A friend of mine, who took them from his own physical copies, passed me the image files. So, you'll notice some of the band members' signatures in some of them. Consider it a really special edition haha. I hope you really enjoyed these superb experimental hardcore punk bands. Will we ever see another reunion show or even much better, other bands following this trend? We certainly hope so. In the near future we'll feature more experimental hardcore and grindcore bands like these ones. Highly recommended. Stay tuned for tomorrow because we'll start with the first part of our special post of this month. Kisses and hugs!