By David Rolland
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When all the ex-principals of Fort Lauderdale's long-gone Collapsing Lungsagreed to get back together again, the holiday season just seemed like perfect timing. All seven members of the industrial-rap band have family in the area, the last time they played together as a complete unit was the summer of 1994, and it seemed Santa would approve. Keyboardist Chris Nicholas had already planned to come back for the standard seasonal festivities, but he contacted his old chums to pitch the idea of a reunion show the day after Christmas.
"I called everybody, and everybody was, like, 'Yeah!'" explains Nicholas, from his Los Angeles home. "I've been out here four years now. I've written three screenplays, just trying to live the Hollywood dream."
Nicholas also produces documentaries. In 2000, he created Marilyn Manson: Demystifying the Devil and appeared on the Howard Stern Showto promote it. Nowadays, he keeps busy working on other people's albums, most recently for nu-metal outfit Trapt. "It's a cool project," Nicholas says.
Fort Lauderdale music maven Jim Hayward, whose Slammie Awards basically operated as the barometer of local hard rock during the '90s, remembers the excitement generated by Collapsing Lungs. When he hosted the 1993 Slammie Awards at the Plus Five Lounge in Davie (a now-defunct venue once visited by the Offspring and Green Day, and one of Marilyn Manson's favorite stomping grounds), the headlining band, Collapsing Lungs, was mere months away from national exposure.
"They were pretty much the second banana to Marilyn Manson back in those days," Hayward recalls. Manson's affiliation with Nine Inch Nails was just beginning, and the shock-tactic outfit was South Florida's biggest draw, so "second banana was a pretty good place to be," Hayward says. "They were definitely ahead of the rap-metal curve."
Collapsing Lungs were far more industrial than their serial killer/supermodel-monikered counterparts. When it performed live, the band looked quite ferocious, and its double-drummer/duo-vocalist attack won legions of local devotees. Original singer Brian Tutunick, using the alias Olivia Newton Bundy, had been Manson's first bassist. Major labels, enjoying the success of industrial-metal outfits like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails during the early '90s, took notice of the samples-'n'-loops-laden Collapsing Lungs.
The year after ruling the Slammie Awards, Collapsing Lungs won the label lottery and got picked up by Atlantic Records, which put out a 20-minute EP called Colorblind. At the time, rap-metal releases were dime-a-dozen plentiful, and Colorblind failed to produce results or revenues. As quickly as the gravy train had sped into the band's life, it screeched to a halt; Atlantic dropped the band. Nicholas shares his thoughts on the group's short-but-bright burn.
"It's crazy," Nicholas says. "I think we were too ahead of our time, almost. There were seven guys in the band. Seven personalities got kind of hard to control. And we were young. It was a little frustrating. There was a lot of conflicts with the band and the management too. Half the band was like, 'We should do this,' and half the band was like, 'We should do that. '"
Hayward agrees. "They had a daunting task, really," he says. "It was an entire ensemble, not just a front man with hired guns like Manson. They all shared in the core."
Poor decisions about the most mundane facets of promoting the record didn't help, Nicholas explains.
"When we toured, our manager thought it would be good to buy a Winnebago as opposed to renting a van or a bus, so we spent, like, all this money. And the thing broke down every day. We were in New York City, rush hour in the pouring rain, and we're pushing a Winnebago down the street. We'd pull up to a toll booth to pay, and it'd just die.
"Dumb," Nicholas laughs. "We did a lot of things that were just dumb."
For those reasons, Colorblind hasn't aged well. It's not easy to reheat a cup of rap-metal industrial soup these days without it sounding stale. "All rattle and no venom, Collapsing Lungs' main problem is their amazing lack of anything intelligent to say," reads one scathing online review. "The corny lyrics are about as biting as baby formula. The 'rapping' (ill-syncopated yelling) is worse than fellow Floridian Vanilla Ice, who we all know can't rap his way out of a wet paper bag. Thank God Colorblind lasts but a mere 20 minutes."
In the middle of the band's first and only national tour, Tutunick bailed on Collapsing Lungs. That was around the same time Atlantic, disappointed with the record's lack of performance, pulled its support. Undaunted, the band's remnants soldiered on as L.U.N.G.S., even releasing an album, A Better Class of Loser, in 1995. Not exactly considered a high point in the alt-metal timeline, the album made little or no impact, and the Collapsing Lungs/L.U.N.G.S. legacy ended up as not much more than a local footnote.
That doesn't mean its ex-members have been idle, however. Relocating to Tampa, Tutunick resurfaced with a project called Nation of Fear. Guitarist Eddie Rendini is now with Miami band Darwin's Waiting Room, currently signed to MCA Records. Singer/percussionist/wild man Crime Cassara is, of course, lead singer for local homewreckers the Mary Tyler Whores. Drummer Chris Goldbach ended up first in Radiobaghdad with bassist Pete Gross; he now pounds for Irish Car Bomb.