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October 01, 1982 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-10-01
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D ESTROY All Monsters, the most
infamous of Ann Arbor's long
lost bands, resurfaced recently at the
Second Chance. Felled by a freak ac-
cident, the Monsters had been in hiber-
nation for four months before they
finally took the stage last Monday. And
now that they're back together, the
Monsters-or at least their guitarist
and leader, Ron Asheton-are talking
about big things like touring and recor-
ding and maybe even leading an Ann
Arbor-Detroit music revival.
The Monsters are by no means
newcomers to the scene. In fact, a
couple of them have already smelled
the sweet fumes of success: Asheton,
who hit the big time as a member of
Iggy Pop's fabled Stooges, and bassist
Mike Davis, who was a founder of
equally immortalized '60s thrash band
the MC5. And the band has been
together in one form or another since
1975, when University of Michigan art
students Cary Loren, Jimmy Shaw,
Mike Kelly and Niagra decided to get
together and make music. Loren, a past
winner at the Ann Arbor Film Festival,
immersed the original Monsters in all
sorts of unique artisitc endeavors until
he left a while later. Since then, all but
the foreboding lead singer Niagra-
once described as "a delicate girl who
seems perpetually on the verge of a
coma"-have long since gone their
separate ways.
Asheton's entrance was fairly ac-
cidential. After spending a few years in
Los Angeles with two bands that both
dissolved within a couple of years-the
Stooges and The New Order-he
decided to come back to the Midwest.
"At that point I'd been so tired of all
the crap in Los Angeles and I just had a
band that broke up-I put three or four
years into it; it was gone. I came back,
thought I'd just rest and see what was
happening-look around. I never expec-
ted to join, it just turned out that way. I
saw something there I liked and we
honed it down.
"This guy kept calling me up asking
me if I wanted to jam. He was so per-

By Sarah Bassett
IN ANN ARBOR, theater companies
come and go. Some start strong only
to fizzle after a few productions. Others
build up followings over time. Just this
summer, two well-known groups-The
Black Sheep Theater and the Stage
Company at Canterbury Loft-closed
their doors for good.
But new talent springs up, new
groups form, and struggling thespians
keep on trying. This fall one brand new
company, W5 Productions, has decided
to give it a shot.
Formed just a few months ago, W5 is
the collective endeavor of fifteen in-
dividuals. They range in age from 19 to
24, and' they vary in theatrical ex-
perience. What they all have in com-
mon, however, is enthusiasm and high
"We started talking about forming a
company in July," said Ann Stoll, co-
director of the group's upcoming
production of Bent, "because we saw a
void in Ann Arbor theater. There's a lot
of good entertainment here, but not
much being produced in the way of
serious, socially-conscious plays.
"I'm in this for two reasons," she
continued. "First, to write and produce
plays with strong parts for women.
There's a lack of good female roles and
what ones there are, are often from a
male point of view. Second, I'm fed up

with hearing that people are stupid,
that they can't catch the poetry in
theater. It's not true. More than
anything else, we intend to present the
kind of theater that gives people a
chance to think."
Stoll, along with Bent producer
Christopher Case and co-director Mat-
thew Tomlanovich, is one of the group's
founders. Her background includes a
degree in theater from William James
College in Grand Rapids, a stint in
broadcast journalism, and experience
as a playwright. In 1980, her Cataracts
and Front Yard Madonnas was cited by
the Grand Rapids Press as one of the
best original plays of the year.
Tomlanovich has worked in theater
and mime at Michigan State and
Oakland University, and is considered
to be the group's "piston, the man with
the idea,"'said Stoll. Case, the youngest
member, has worked for the past two
years in local productions, in particular
those produced by Tom Simons.
They emphasize that W5 is an
apolitical collective, a repertory com
pany whose members rotate positions
while still maintaining an open
auditions policy. Registered as a non-
profit organization, the group is-
"paraprofessional," they say, or non-
union semi-professional. They envision
paid positions within the company
sometime in the future.
"We provide an alternative to most
local theater," said Case. "The dif-
ference between W5 performances and
the ones that currently dominate Ann
Arbor is the difference between The
Sound of Music and quality theater with
socially significant themes. There's a
need and a place for both kinds, of cour-


Destroy All Monsters: Wild times
sistent I finally said one day, 'what the
hell.' He gave me the address of the
place they were playing at and I came
over with my guitar and a little am-
plifier to a basement on Fell street. I
said, 'I like what went down in prac-
tice; I'll stick it out for a while and at
least play and see what I think of it.' "
He stuck it out, playing with essentially
the people who were in the group when
he soon "officially" joined.
Within the next couple of years the
band became local favorites. The
lineup of Davis, Asheton, Niagra, the.
brothers Ben and Larry Miller on sax
and "space guitar" respectively, and
drummer Rob King electrified the
crowds with an all-out attack directly
descended from the '60s Detroit sound
as defined by the Stooges and the MC5.
It was this ensemble, for the most
part, that produced the band's three
singles. First came the caustic package
of "I'm Bored," on which Niagra com-
plains incessantly about how bored she
is when she wakes up in the afternoon,
and "You're Gonna Die." Of the latter,
Niagra once explained: "I heard birth
was really hard, but death is really
Later came "November 22," a song
which dwells on what most would con-
sider the more gruesome aspects of
John Kennedy's death, .backed with the
jovial "Meet the Creeper." Their last
single, "What do I Get" and "Nobody
Knows," came out over three years
The last three years have seen the
departure of the Miller brothers, a suc-
cession of drummers, and not a whole
lot of success for the group-certainly
nothing approaching the celebrity of
their ancestral bands. They have main-
tained a good local following, and their
occasional tours haven't done poorly.
They have even had some success in
England, where Asheton says they sold
around 15,000 singles despite touring
just as the first wave of punk was dying
out and the ska revival taking off. And:
Asheton says that he's never given up.
hope that the band might catch on

"I still have hopes, but as far as
national.. . our music isn't exactly the
commercial kind of stuff that's gonna
be popular today," says Asheton, citing
the success of some 'cult' bands like the
Dead Kennedys as a bit reassuring.
Of course the first thing a band has to
do to get famous is play, something the
Monsters haven't done for a while.
"The last time we played was May 10
(at the Second Chance)," says Asheton.
"Then Mike Davis busted his foot the
next day. He jumped out of a swing set
and shattered his heel. He hasn't been
able to walk or do anything."
The first step back is practicing,
made even more important by the
presence of new drummer Rob Stemera
(who's back with the band for a second
stint), followed by playing, which
began a couple weeks ago. "Basically,
what we're gonna do is just get our
chops back," says Asheton. ."I'll.
probably want to do the .Cit Club in
Detroit and do just a little area
runaround until we're.really back in
shape. And then it's time to go back to
New York and Boston ... that probably
won't be until December or something
like that, because we have a long way to
go just to get back into the swing of
And then there's recording,
something they havent done since 1979.
"Basically we haven't done anything
since because it's so expensive," ex-
plains Asheton. "You need at least 3,500
to 5,000 dollars-that's not even coun-
ting-packaging and printing."
They were able to do it the first time.
because of support of D.B. Keeps, now
an editor of the New York Rocker, but
formerly the Monsters' "backer-
manager" of sorts according to
Asheton. "He decided, 'Hey, you guys
are ready to do a record.' He put up the
money; he actually started his own lit-
tle record company (IDBI records)."
Unfortunately, Keeps also kept most
of the money that came out of his in-
vestment, although he did recycle it
twice for new 45s after the first. His
departure essentially paralyzed the
Monsters as a recording unit. Until

now, that is: Asheton says that friend
Ben Grosse is willing to let them use the
new studio he's building to record their
first album.
"I've got a couple of record com-
panies, Slash Records in Los Angeles
and somebody in New York, in-
terested," he says, also mentioning an
Australian label he encountered when
on tour there last year in a band called
the New Race with former Stooge Den-
nis Thompson. "If no one picks it up and
we decide to put it out ourselves," ex-
plains Asheton, "he'll give up the studio
time for a good percent of the royalties
of the sale of the record."
The Monsters are looking to have
their album out around Christmas time.
That, coincidentally, is the same time
the Ann Arbor Music Project plans to
have its compilation record of the Sep-
tember 15-18 Joe's Star Lounge shows
out, and is also the same time the Cult
Heroes plan to release a six-song E.P.
It'll be interesting to see just what, if
anything, becomes of the minor Ann
Arbor assault on the nation's ears.
Asheton talks about the possibility of
the Monsters leading a Detroit-area
revival. "It's kind of a low time right
now," he confirms, "but I still feel
something's gonna break 'cause there's
just so many talented people trying to
do something. If someone just puts
their cards together right. Once one
person, does-hopefully we'll be the
one-that's the way it was back in the
Stooges days. Once the Five started we
followed right on their tail and
everyone else got a chance."
But it's been a long time since then.
Why does Asheton stick it out despite
the frustration of not hitting it big?
"There's a lot of times I've thought,
'hell, whatam I doing? This is crazy-
playing for a few bucks.' But it's what I
like to do and it's what I do best. Now
I'm branching out a little and producing
things (for Ragnar Kvaran and other
area bands). I just gotta stick to it. It's
one thing I've learned: If you just stick
to it long enough, something's gotta
Hopefully, something good.


'Bent': Rehearsal time

See BENT, Page 12


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