By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
When Virgin gave Loudhouse $10,000 to compose a track for the Patrick Swayze/ Keanu Reeves film Point Break, Kenny and the band had just heard Nine Inch Nails for the first time. "We wanted to get into that and work with some machinery," he says. Loudhouse's punishing industrial remake of the Deep Purple classic "Smoke on the Water" sounded like a winner to Virgin, which pushed the song onto the radio.
"Unfortunately, it started to get some airplay," Kenny says. "We did it as a joke, but it became a hard thing to live down."
Though successful, Kenny was never comfortable as lead singer. So in 1988, he abandoned Loudhouse. Drummer Vinnie Dombrowski became the new vocalist, and the band changed its name to Sponge. The new iteration has forged a respectable career as a post-grunge act. Sponge is "all of Loudhouse but without me," Kenny says without a hint of regret.
Kenny returned to the Detroit underground scene and his first love, moviemaking. With college pal John Quigley, he began Chrome Bumper Films, creating videos for then-unknown up-and-comers from the Motor City like Kid Rock, White Stripes, and Eminem. Until Chrome Bumper turned a profit, Kenny worked at Record Collector, a Livonia record store, earning about $7 an hour. There, he met fellow employee Davin Brainerd. The duo discovered a true calling together on Halloween of 1992, when they volunteered at a Jaycee's haunted house in suburban Livonia.
"It's a power trip to be in the haunted house," Brainerd remembers with the enthusiasm of a sixth-grader granted permanent recess. "It's so much fun. We wanted to do our own Halloween show, and Kenny said, 'We should make a haunted tube!' So Kenny would make this tube that you'd crawl through. His dad worked at a Livonia appliance store, so he had access to all these refrigerator boxes. Then Kenny brought a megaphone -- and we found that volume in a haunted-house setting really scares people."
Through Brainerd, Kenny met Livonia's most famous music export, Warren Defever. By the early 1990s, Defever's band, His Name Is Alive, had released two albums for England's ultratrendy 4AD Records, joining a cadre of European etherealists like Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and Pale Saints. His Name Is Alive's music mirrored the orchestral/experimental bent of those acts, but beneath the surface were signs Defever was a real weirdo. For starters, he also played bass in a rockabilly band called Elvis Hitler. When Defever got together with Brainerd and Kenny, the three decided to devote their time and energy to producing nothing but noise.
Noisy, noisy noise.
The trio began using the store as an after-hours rehearsal space. "The Record Collector was where all the magic happened," Kenny elucidates. "That's the first place I ever made noise. Working there was like going to college, like a crazy noise school. The Record Collector was a neat proving ground for a lot of our projects." Defever gave Kenny a nickname, MOG, and during the early '90s, the trio became enamored of Japanese experimental/noise band the Boredoms, which had been introduced to the United States the year before on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour. Using his connections, Kenny convinced promoters to let his new project open for the Boredoms when they visited Detroit in 1992.
"Warren played drums," Kenny explains. "And Warren's not a drummer. Davin played guitar. Davin doesn't know one note on the guitar. I played a huge flywheel from a car and a metal table." During the show, Kenny hit his head on the flywheel. "I was bleeding all over the place," he recalls, "which the Boredoms loved. We knew we were onto something."
Before Kenny lost himself in the anticommercial playing field of noise music, however, he took one last stab at the mainstream. With Detroit drummer Scott Goldstein and guitarist Matt Ruffino, he formed Mog Stunt Team. Each member adopted the new surname of 5. In fact, in contrast to similar groups using skulls, crossbones, and Satan, Mog Stunt Team was eager to prove it was several digits shy of 666. Still, the music was aggressive, explosive.
"Oh my God, it was so wild," remembers the band's engineer/producer, Steve King. "They had this whole rehearsal studio that had scientific gauges and weird doors and equipment. They used to shoot videos, make movies, and rehearse these great songs there. They'd get the whole room vibrating with their sound. They were so good." In 1996, Mog Stunt Team's debut, 555, led off with a manifesto that described the band thusly: "Boredoms Versus Black Sabbath." A video featuring George Clinton followed. Legendary punk label Amphetamine Reptile picked up Mog Stunt Team and issued its next two albums.
When Kenny learned that easy-listening superstar John Tesh was coming to Detroit for a concert in June 1996, his friend John Quigley suggested they protest the show to generate attention. They brainstormed, enlisted a local writer-friend, David Livingstone, and concocted an organization known as NATAS -- the National Anti-Tesh Action Society. Kenny's imagination ran wild. "We made our own uniforms," he says. "We always called 'em uniforms, never costumes. It was very bare-bones -- I'm president of the junk patrol. If I can't garbage-pick it, I don't want it. Kay hand-sewed these red arm bands. It looked so cool.