Savage Aural Hotbed

Article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune - by Jim Meyer

Savage Aural Hotbed


Mark Black
drums, plastic and metal percussion
Stuart DeVaan
drums, percussion
William Melton
bass guitar, vocals
David Sarrazin
roto-toms, dryerdrum
Valts Treibergs
dryerdrum, percussion


When Savage Aural Hotbed (SAH) formed in 1986, it played rather dark, electronic dance rock. Then the group became heavily influenced by the Japanese Taiko drum group Kodo and composed some rock songs incorporating those sounds. To the group's surprise, audiences responded more strongly to the new percussion pieces than to the groups "popular" music.

SAH tried to follow both directions, but the drum volume made it too difficult to work with electronic keyboards on stage. Now the group focuses on experimental percussion.


Savage Aural Hotbed has been associated with the "industrial rock" trend toward noisy high-tech rhythms. Although their sound is based on acoustic percussion, the musicians are truly industrial in that they play instruments they've concocted from old machine parts, scrap metal and discarded appliances - a xylophone made from hubcaps or the "propanophone," a hollow tube that produces a tone when a propane torch is blown over one end of it. The instruments' raw edge and the visual oddity heighten the group's dramatic power on stage.

Says Black: "We're very visual with our movements. People often tell us it's like choreography and dance. We try to have an ominous but at the same time there's a playfulness to it that people like."

"I was talking to a woman and her boyfriend who thought we played 'guy music' - like we're a bunch of kids who snuck out to dad's garage and played with the power tools, without knowing exactly what you're supposed to do with them. That quality is not really intentional, but it's part of our personalities."


Two SAH selections are featured on a recent CD titled "Big Game Hunter" featuring eight local techno and industrial bands. The group also released a cassette, "Gomi Daiko" (Garbage Drums).


There's no substitute for a live show to experience Savage Aural Hotbed's startling visuals, or to hear the density of its tightly unified rhythm and uncommon drum timbre. Because the group changed musical course so drastically, its focus to date has been on power and precision over musical complexity. But with the musicians' musical curiosity, and their thirst for making inventions and breaking conventions, Savage Aural Hotbed's weird process is interesting and may prove limitless.