The underground scene at the end of the 80’s was a time of detachment. The once-scruffy metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth were now riding private jets, and the major labels were now appropriating the ratty, ripped-cloth underground stylings of bands like Hüsker Dü, Soundgarden and (eventually) Nirvana. And while these capital-hungry majors were off plucking the ripest kernels of independent rock, those un-chosen bands, who should have been despondent at their community being stripped from them like repossessed belongings, only made their line in the sand clearer.
Craw started around the creative bloom of independent rock. They never set out to make the majors swoon. Their kicks were an unusual stew of metal, jazz, noise and post-hardcore – a concoction that was eventually shelved in the burgeoning ‘math rock’ term the underground press so loved. That they named their band after seeing it wedged amidst the dense and tortuous prose of James Joyce’s Ulysses seems rather fitting (in fact the band’s logo was an enlarged and slightly squashed version of the word as it appeared on page 288). A stone’s throw to the east was Dazzling Killmen in St Louis, equally provocative and also not enthused about pandering to the tropes of mainstream music. The two bands were like kindred spirits, both in substance and vision.
Perhaps then it is no surprise that Dave McClelland of Craw and Tim Garrigan of Dazzling Killmen chose to form Skryptor. And perhaps it is no surprise that they are joined by slightly younger drummer Hank Shteamer, who has been an avid Craw devotee since a teenager. Hank, who posed as a ‘roadie’ at a 1995 Craw show in Kansas City and helped carry equipment into the venue so he could enter as a minor. Hank, who stood with his buddies in the cold outside a Craw show in 1997 at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kansas because he was (still) underage and was denied entry. The band, playing to no one in the actual club and privy to the teenagers’ watching through the window from outside, turned their instruments around to face them for almost the entire show.
What is surprising, however, is that this is twenty years later. Two musicians of math rock’s formative years, no strangers to empty venues and minimal ticket sales, are releasing an album with the underage kid who couldn’t see them play. These are the sorts of stories that can only happen in the underground scene, where the majors and the well-heeled buying public don’t want to their shoes dirty. Where the majority gloss over.
Skryptor’s upcoming album is ‘Luminous Volumes’, to be released on March 29th by Skin Graft, Aqualamb, and Sleeping Giant Glossolalia. You can pre-order the album here, and keep up to date with Skryptor here.