Savage Aural Hotbed

Article from Pulse (May 6-12 1998) - by Julie Hill

By the roots - Savage Aural Hotbed revisits Gomi Daiko

"It's a quiet release," states Bill Melton — an unusual way to describe any effort by Savage Aural Hotbed. For over nine years, SAH has gained a reputation for creating an onslaught of industrial sound that make their live sows required reading for any music aficianado. Dryer drums, plastic pails, springs, cables, drive shafts, electric drills and scores of other devices all become instruments under the guidance of Melton, Mark Black, David Sarrazin and Stuart DeVaan. Mix this with occasional vocals a nd various traditional instruments, and it produces a barrage of rhythm and noise that overtakes the eardrum. For many listeners, you not only hear their efforts, you feel through the vibrations, making flesh and bone a sounding board for an outside element.

The majority of the works on Gomi Daiko (which means "garbage drums" in Japanese) were recorded in 1992. According to Melton, "There's actually only one unreleased thing on the album ('Drowning Attitude'). We were thinking about the people who had it on cassette and wanted to upgrade to CD." Thus, a quiet release of older material and show favorites. But according to Sarrazin, "We still play a lot of the tracks on Gomi Daiko, but there were a couple of things that I had forgotten like some of the fun things we did during production."

In itself, Gomi Daiko provides a unique slice of the band's roots and its basis in Taiko, a Japanese form of drumming, and industrial music. The earlier tracks represent the pre-power tool days of SAH, a kind of starter recipe for the band's stylistic ap proach. Melton says that over the years, "Our style of composition has changed. We were mixing numbers togeter for awhile and now we're working more into an ambient style."

Still, their composition approach remains a collaborative effort. "Anything's fair game to add together," says Sarrazin. "It's knd of a big stew pot. Sometimes we compose a song with a rhythm in mind first andthen find a good sound for it, or find a so und we like and them work in a rhythm."

"We argue a lot," adds Black, "but we each bring something, an idea or rhythm, and then work on it from there."

These compositions, their style, and the release of two previous albums (95's Cold is the Absence of Heat, and 97's Pressure of Silence,) have earned SAH respect and a devout following. The band agrees that part of their success comes from a changing att itude towards percussion. "I think percussion in general, from industrial to the folky international stuff, certainly there's a lot more recordings out now than there was before. Record labels are capitalizing on it a lot more," says Sarrazin. But don' t compare their work to the Broadway musical Stomp because SAH sees little resemblance.

Melton says, "People [compare us to Stomp] all the time but the only similarity is the plastic barrels. They're a theater dance troupe, they're not really working with sound that much. It's not edgy."

While SAH is definitely in a class by itself, the band is a bit perplexed by the seemingly little amount of percussive exploration among other bands. "I think a lot of drummers feel like they need to be sidemen to guitarists," comments Black thoughtfully. "I know a lot of drummers who are so into drumming, but the music they play and listen to hardly reflects that at all. I've always thought that was kind of strange."

"Or, there are a lot of drummers who really want to be guitarists," adds Melton. Luckily for the members of SAH, that's a conundrum that they'll never encounter.