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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sharkbait


Sharkbait is an Industrial/Funk groove rock band from San Francisco. Their live performances are incredibly fun because of all the extra benefits that their self proclaimed Carnival of Steel can provide. It really comes down to performance art mixed with homemade metal and electronic or acoustic percussion sets, raging guitar, and tape manipulations done on the spot. Sharkbait is perhaps one of the most unusual bands I've ever seen live. I got a hefty dose of what Sharkbait is all about April '90 when I attended their first annual Carnival of Steel at Gilman Street in Berkeley, Ca. It was an industrial extravaganza completely organized by Sharkbait. Essentially a "Carnival of Steel" is a live performance people go to and participate in activities like; arm wrestling competitions, games of skill, and the "Crush Cage," where you go to work on your favorite household appliance with a steel pipe. You also get to watch caged women dancers, avant garde film, belly dancing troops, Japanese Taiko drumming, and of course the evening is finished off with an ear-shattering performance by Sharkbait. The group has performed live all over the bay area and since last April has put on a second Carnival of Steel at the Kennel Club in San Francisco. Chris Sea Tea, lead guitarist for Sharkbait, told me stuff about Sharkbait that everyone should know.

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AC- How and when did Sharkbait begin it's demented rise to fame and fortune?
CST- Sharkbait began about five years ago out of frustration. It was started by myself and my partner Charlie Beer. We've been through several incarnations and we began immediately using found sounds and found objects. Chicken of the Sea began playing cassette tapes right away and so immediately our rock and roll was mixed with a sort of new music background. Charlie Beer and I both have backgrounds in 20th century composition, and electronic music which I think one will always find to be an influence over what we are doing.

AC- Have the various members of Sharkbait worked in other groups before this current project? If so, which ones?
CST- We have all been in different bands. Nothing you have ever heard of before, except for our drummer who played with the Swans for a while.

AC- Was the changing of each band member's name necessary' to keep up with the humorous image that Sharkbait presents?
CST- As far as the changing of names, we're not sure why we did it. I think we just like the idea of having different names and it allows us to act outside of our normal personalities. That's the main deal. Our singer Pat (Charlie Beer) is a pretty mellow guy, but in order to be a demented animal on stage he felt like he needed to be called somebody else. We're into humor, although it is something that you will see less and less of as we become more serious.


AC- What exactly is a "Whitey Ho"?
CST- Whitey Ho is the M. C. Whitey Ho and he is a crushing mother fucker. MC Whitey Ho had never been in a band before, actually he's never even played an instrument before. His real name is John White, and he was a photographer shooting Sharkbait. We needed percussionists and he came to an audition. He destroyed everything in the room that was made out of metal. We signed him up and he's been with the band ever since. MC Whitey Ho is his fantasy name for the crushing DJ that he thought he'd never get a chance to be. His brother is now our damage and fire control officer, Bobby Ho. so that's what an MC Whitey Ho is. MC is metal crusher by the way, not master of ceremonies. We use hammer handles to play 55 gallon drums. You gotta use those 16 inch hammer handles. They have to be just right. MC Whitey Ho likes the 14 inch ones though because they're faster.



AC- How were the various percussion instruments created?
CST- We began recording on a four track deck in a shack behind Pat's apartment in Oakland and there was some junk left behind by the previous tenant, namely a large ventilator shaft. During a session we banged on it, placed a microphone on it, and things have expanded from there. "The Tree" essentially is found objects with contact microphones processed through digital effects. Whitey Ho's gear is also made up of found objects. They include brake drums, springs, 55 gallon drums, and parts we've just found around our industrial warehouse practice space. He's basically an artist. He has an artists' sensibility, and if you're familiar with art music at all, found objects are a major part of it. Plus Whitey Ho just likes to be loud and obnoxious and those are some of the loudest things you can find.



AC- What are some of Sharkbait's inspirations?
CST- I'd say our number one inspiration is talk of the town, and politics or events of the day. Over the past few years our shows have always been highlighted by current events. Right now we are performing a piece called "War Crush-We Must Demonstrate," and it's about the heinous effects and uses of chemical warfare related directly to Iraq. We're also influenced by Einsturzende Neubauten, Test Dept., Led Zepplin, Heavy Metal, Rap, and our top percussion influence is Japanese Taiko drumming. Namely the troop run by Seiichi Tanaka, our mentor and generally God-like kinda guy. Our new show is based upon this Industrial/Taiko deal.

AC- What are some of Sharkbait's goals for the near future?
CST- We are currently working on our second album, Blow Torch Face Lift. There's a new tape out called, "E-vil Mind Crush: The Carnival of Steel." Our new album will be recorded here in San Francisco and feature Seiichi Tanaka. We plan to release it during the second week of January under the Primitech label/Gladys Pearce Records. We're going on tour in the fall, hopefully the whole country in spring, and maybe over to Europe next summer.

AC- Is Sharkbait solely responsible for the creation of the "Carnival of Steel" live shows?
CST- Sharkbait started the Carnival of Steel because we were just bored, trying to find bands to play with and having clubs not want to put us on bills with other groups, so we thought that if we had control over the entire environment then there's no worries. That's what it's all about. Where else would you have Taiko music and crushing rock brought together in the same room with belly dancers and arm wrestling, films, and martial arts? It's because we have this thing that we always say to each other, "If you want something done right then you have to do it yourself." Actually, more than that, if you want it done at all you've got to do it yourself. Not even if you want it done right and this town is full of flaky people, so if we're going to have a good time it'll be on our own. Sharkbait is a live group. We have found that in recording we tend to break everything down too small and get too involved in details and not capture the excitement and spontaneity of our live shows. We're a live band and our new record should capture and improve on our sound and make it a little more listenable.

AC- Has performing live been difficult for Sharkbait?
CST- Performing live is definitely not difficult for Sharkbait. In fact our other group Sharkmeat is an improvisational band that changes everything from all percussion to a mix of everything. Most of it is improvised right at the show on stage. We come up with the words beforehand and just go for it. We love to play, and we like to put on a big show.

AC- Would you tell us a little about Charlie Beer's live tape manipulations?
CST- Charlie Beer takes a quarter inch reel to reel tapedeck and drags the tape across the heads for a "scratching-like" thing. We're into fucking with anything that's normal like taking a piece of metal, putting a mic on it and beating on it. Beating on things, lighting things on fire, processing our voices. We are the most crushing band in the world. Everywhere we go, we search around for scrap metal to beat on and the thing that really gets us off is a nice, fresh piece of sheet metal that is virgin.

AC- During some of your live performances, video footage is used. How do you go about selecting video material for live shows?
CST- We don't use too much video footage actually. We do use film. An auxiliary member to Sharkbait... he calls himself "Captain of the B Team" and he's killer. The original trash groove slut. He's a percussionist and all around cool musician. He uses found and home shot film. He also does live film "scratching." He's got a special projector that makes the film walk backwards and forwards.

AC- Does Sharkbait have any videos?
CST- We made a video of our song "Feel Steel" which is going to be released on a compilation album in October called "From the Machine" on Index Records.

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This interview originally appeared in Antocularis issue #1, August 1992.

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