Death Warmed Over
Since the beginning of time (roughly the spring of 2000 for yours truly), the easiest band to write about from our peninsula tip has been Death Becomes You. The band's grim grindcore was built on the guitar, bass, drums, and screaming, over-the-top stage props, boasts and Tourette's-like exhortations to "Release the Bats," and constant battles with club owners, fire marshals, rival bands, and law enforcement. These Tamarac lads have long made their own gravy. And now, they may write their own story. While most if not all of the tales told in these pages centered on the acute lack of respect Death Becomes You has battled, this installment promises a light at the end of the tunnel.
The fickle winds of fortune shifted this winter when the band not only inked a recording contract with a local label boasting big connections but was invited to back up a nationally recognized outfit on a tour of England. That's the sort of celestial conjunction that's made Christopher Lee, DBY's drummer and breathless mouthpiece, while not quite happy, less morose than usual.
"This is too perfect," he says. "I was so flattered."
Fate began to crack a faint smile around 10 p.m. on December 13 as Lee was about to embark on an evening of dark festivities. That's when he received an e-mail from Wednesday 13, the singer for the horror-core band the Murderdolls. Wednesday had discovered DBY's blood-dipped website and, intrigued, asked whether Lee would consider filling in for his recently departed bandmates.
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Just five days later, the band signed (alas, not in blood) a deal with JMB Records, a Coral Springs label overseen by Jarett and Nevin Grushka, older brothers of Ian Grushka, bass player for million-selling MTV darlings (and recent Geffen Records signee) New Found Glory. So far, DBY is the first and only act on the label, with a new album released last week -- Make It Bleed.
However, in typical DBY form, the contract signing wasn't without problems. While driving through the gate of the Coral Springs complex where the Grushkas have their office, bassist Nicodemous failed to follow guard-shack protocol. Attempting to follow another car through the gate, the arm came down on his vehicle and broke off. Cops were called, an outstanding traffic warrant was discovered, and the bassist (who hates to tell people his real name) was arrested. Pictures from the debacle can be found on the JMB website, jmbrecords.com.
"It wasn't so funny at the time, but it's sort of funny now," Jarett Grushka says. Now that the incident is behind them, JMB is ready to promote the record. The cheery platter oozes with coagulated little items like "Cadaverized," "And Crows Will Dig Your Grave," plus, of course, "Bats in Your Belfry." Ian Grushka adds bass to the track "Cobwebs."
"They have an amazing look and an amazing sound," Jarett Grushka raves. "And they're very, very serious."
Those compliments are echoed by Joe Poole, a.k.a Wednesday 13, calling from Charlotte, North Carolina. "Those guys are great!" he says. "They reminded me of my old band -- the Frankenstein Drag Queens from the Planet 13!"
Wednesday, who led the Frankenstein Drag Queens from 1996 until last year, is also the front man for the Murderdolls, a project started by drummer Joey Jordinson (from masked metalheads Slipknot) and guitarist Tripp Eisen (from Static X). With those two tied up by their other bands, Wednesday was looking for substitutes to take on the road. He began scouring the websites of various horror-rock bands, searching for candidates.
"I came across this guy's website that I didn't like," Wednesday says, "and he [criticized] Death Becomes You. I thought, 'Well, if this guy hates 'em, I'll like 'em.' So I went to their site [www.deathbecomesyou.com], played some of their videos, and listened to their songs."
He was impressed. In fact, "these guys look exactly how I needed them to look," he explains.
Not the same Skull and Bones club favored by Yale-ies, DBY and Murderdolls are bound by a love of monsters, fake blood, and the macabre. They share a fondness for black clothes and white face paint. It seemed like a perfect match, except that the talents of John Janos, DBY's, er, vokillist, weren't required in the Murderdolls.
"I thank him for being cool enough to let those guys come help me out," Wednesday relates.
Last week, Lee, Nicodemous, and guitarist Gory set sail for North Carolina, braving freezing temperatures, icy roads, and snow. When they met up with Wednesday, they weren't disappointed. .
"He's like the missing member of DBY," states a nasally Lee, still recovering from a cold acquired on the trip. "I mean, imagine getting an e-mail from a band of your ilk, one of the bigger, more established bands doing this kind of thing. I wouldn't be surprised if, in a year, he, his wife, and his kid move down here and join our band." He pauses momentarily, as if recognizing the slimness of that possibility. Then he adds: "Or he stays up there and we do gigs with him, you know. Whatever."
After two days of rehearsals, boning up on the Murderdolls' material, the foursome tested the lineup at small clubs in Myrtle Beach, Winston-Salem, and Rock Hill. The shows were, of course, ignored by the local music press.
"I'm used to it," Wednesday says. "There's a total lack of respect here." During the Frankenstein Drag Queens' heyday, "I was kicked out of all the major clubs, banned for the way we played shows. It was all-out war for us. We didn't want any friends."
Foreign audiences have been far more receptive to the Murderdolls' shock rock. "Murderdolls have toured the U.K. four times now," Wednesday says. "We've been to Japan three times. The only place I haven't toured is the U.S. I've still never been to Florida or Texas!"
In early March, Lee, Nicodemous, and Gory will return to North Carolina before embarking on a ten-date U.K. tour beginning March 13. After that, Wednesday says, he may invite the boys to tear up Tokyo with him.
"If they're up for it," he says. "If these guys want to back me up, these are the guys I want."
For Lee, locked in a constant struggle to find even a minimum-wage job down here, his $400-a-week tour guarantee is like a gift from below. And the hard work he's dedicated to a band often derided as a cheesy costume charade has finally paid dividends.
"Chris is a great drummer," Wednesday says. "I was blown away. He's absolutely one of the best drummers I've played with. Once people around the world can hear the way he plays, they'll think he's awesome, 'cause he really, really is."
Understandably, these accolades fuel Lee's self-confidence -- not exactly an area he was lacking in, anyway.
"Obviously, I have something," he concludes. "I did something right. Obviously, we have our shtick down."
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