Savage Aural Hotbed

Article from the Twin Cities Reader - by Brett Anderson

Savage Aural Hotbed pounds and prospers

With the exception of a row of roto-tom drums and a few speaker cabinets strewn about, it's hard to spot anything resembling an instrument in the practice space used by Savage Aural Hotbed.

"It's just junk," says a smiling Stuart DeVaan, one of the band's three percussionists — and from the looks of the SAH working den, there's no sense in arguing with him.

Collected in piles and propped up against the walls of SAH bassist Bill Melton's weathered backyard shed are what appear to be the scarred remains of a deadly explosion: huge, heavy slabs of metal, some old, badly bruised beams, and a saw blade that looks like it was whittled out of a manhole.

Hanging with more care along one wall are the band's uniforms. Flirty neons glare from the first few layers of shocking costuming. The space-age look of the stage gear gives the impression that the apparent blast was caused by a flying saucer wreck, and the members of Savage Aural Hotbed are its survivors.

Savage Aural Hotbed is a four-piece rhythm section run amok. Melton, DeVann, and percussionists Mark Black and David Sarrazin bang, tap, and cut into their arsenal of "junk" and more traditional tools of beat to assemble rhythms that only get more boggling after discussing them.

"A regular songwriter on the radio will do a song about losing his girlfriend or something like that. We do songs about math," giggles Black after he and his cohorts try to demonstrate the almost unnavigable complexities of their time signatures with an impromptu banging session on the surface of a picnic table. Sometimes they have to draw out their rhythms on the practice room wall to fully comprehend them.

"I'm working on a song right now structured around the quadratic formula," adds DeVaan quite matter-of-factly. OK, not your run-of-the-mill dance band.

When people ask them, the members of SAH describe their music as industrial/taiko, a mix of computerized nightclub clamor and classic Japanese percussion. But their warp-driven music is an even more confounding beast.

Since they started sculpting beats four years ago as a would-be industrial band, the SAH guys ditched the electronics (though they still plug in the occasional power saw or grinder) and evolved into both an invigorating, albeit odd, club band and a staple in the art community. A number of dance companies, including Ballet of the Dolls and Nancy Hauser, have enlisted the band's rhythmic juice to create collaborative shows.