10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 10, 1994
SE Michiganders Big Chief sets their own course with 'Platinum Jive'
By MATT CARLSON
In the late '60s, two wild young
bands from Ann Arbor were creating
quite a stir in the music industry with
their raw sounds drenched with guitar
distortion and angry shouts of admo-
lar music emanating from Michigan
(unless, of course, we want to con-
sider The Romantics a rock jugger-
naut). Big Chief is bringing their rum-
bling roar of rock and heavy metal
and funk and hip-hop to you, the
people of this great global village,
and brothers and sisters - you better
O.K. Enough with the John
Sinclair bit. Big Chief is perhaps the
most unique band in the nation at the
moment, and, with a few bands from
southeastern Michigan starting to cre-
ate astir in the music biz, the Chiefsters
stand the biggest chance of breaking
the whole scene wide open.
We're talking the whole
shamoozle here folks, the grand prize
- MTV coverage, corporate suits
shacked up at the Bell Tower Inn, talk
of the next Seattle, a new Cameron
Crowe film. Is this what we really
want? Hell no! But could it happen?
Probably not, but anything is pos-
The Ann Arbor music scene may
be a bit too eccentric for the nation at
large. Disregarding Sponge, one band
that would even make the most avid
Stone Temple Pilots' fan snore, bands
from the area, the better ones anyway,
are a bit too off-the-wall for the weak
ears of the masses.
Wig, whose major label release
hit the stores last week, stand about a
20 percent chance of reaching star-
dom. In their favor, they sound like
Jane's Addiction without the smack
and a better singer. But, their psyche-
delic undertones and distorted vocals
may scare off the average unsuspect-
The other faves of the area -
Laughing Hyenas, Ten High, Mule
- are simply too raw for MTV heavy
rotation: But, couldn't the same thing
have been said about Green Day three
years ago? Stranger things have hap-
pened then Ten High getting snatched
up by DGC and Wendy Case becom-
ing the new Janis Joplin.
But, for the moment, Big Chief
takes the title for Michigan Rock Ti-
tans. On paper, their blend of metal,
funk and hip-hop sounds disastrous
- like one of the many
Chilitallicanomore bands. But, on
their recordings, and especially live,
Big Chief has separated themselves
from the rest of that jive.
"Platinum Jive," in fact, doesn't
exactly blend metal and hip-hop. In-
stead, Big Chief has released a mag-
nificent example of what happens
when different musical influences
converge. There are rockin' rock
songs and hoppin' hip-hop tunes. Big
Chief makes what the Beastie Boys
are doing look like an episode of
musical Romper Room.
Guitarists Phil Durr and Mark
Dancey (who contributes enough to
Big Chief's overall package with some
of the best cover art ever placed on a
record) are mostly responsible for the
band's sizzling sound with their raw
power of intricate Hendrixian twists
and turns. On "Lion's Mouth" and
"John's Scared," Durr and Dancey
have written some of the best guitar
lines on a Big Chief record.
Bassist Matt O'Brien plays some
of the smoothest bass licks, which
particularly stand out on the "Plati-
num Jive" hip-hop tracks "M.D. 20-
20" and "Bona Fide" (which features
gangsta rapper Schooly D!). Drum-
mer Mike Danner anchors the whole
wing-ding with a furious and steady
pounding of the skins.
What can be said about singer
Barry Henssler other than he doesn't
make a very convincing hip-hopper
and he's been the subject of one of the
longest running jokes in the punk
nition at authority. The Stooges and
the MC5 wrote the book on Ann Ar-
bor and midwestern rock 'n' roll, and
became the rulers to which all other
Ann Arbor and Detroit rock bands
would be measured up to.
Now, almost 30 years later, an
equally aggressive band of five rock
'n' roll pimps has come along hoping
to break a long, dry drought on popu-
you get your own office
and set your own hours.
rock world. The joke is a whole other
story ,hu: Henssler, on "Patinum Jive"
is a man possessed. He sounds more
polished than on previous Chief al-
bums, which almost makes the album
sound over-produced, but his vocal
power and prowess is still inherently
what makes Big Chief so much fun to
listen to and watch.
Fame and fortune may come to
Big Chief, but the band hasn't waited
for their star to shine on them. In-
stead, they have made "Platinum Jive"
a "greatest hits" album from 1969-
1999. Like Spinal Tap before them,
Big Chief has written completely new
songs and called them old efforts from
previously released albums.
For example, the track "Map of
Your Failure" comes supposedly from
the 1973 Big Chief record "We Gotta
Impeach Nixon." And the humorous
disco-lounge tune "Simply Barry"
comes from the 1983 Barry Henssler
solo album "The Sexual Intellectual."
These liner-notes are just an added
bonus from a great album that gets
better with every listen.
The comparison to the Stooges
and MC5, however, is unfair and mis-
leading. Big Chief and their '60s coun-
terparts are both from the local scenes
in the different decades that spawned
them. Comparisons should stop there.
Big Chief borrows nothing musical
from the other two except pure en-
ergy and raw power. Big Chief has set
their own course with "Platinum Jive,"
a record that is nothing short of a
Continued from page 9
The Meat Puppets mangling of
rock, country and punk give them a
wild and unexpected twist. From the
lead track, the metal edged "Violet
Eyes" to the 'down on the farm' style
of "Comin' Down," the Pupps syn-
thesize a blend of new and old rock on
"We were just one of the more
natural bands that started taking rock
'n' roll music and refiltering it, rather
than just being anti-in-the-past. In-
stead of being reactionary, we were
more progressive," Bostrom said.
Although they claim to be "the
most influential of all punk bands;"
the Meat Puppets have definitely in-
spired some of the best. When Nir-
vana was rehearsing for MTV's Un-
plugged last fall, Cobain pulled the
Pupp brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood
in to play two of their older songs for
"We were on tour with them, and
they wanted to do some of our songs,
and it was easier for us to just come 0
along. It was just a fun idea," Bostrom
said. "Rather than having to bear the
burden of the whole show on them-
selves, they got us to come on and do
some of it for them."
Among other celebrity fans is
shock jock/guitar virtuoso Howard
Stern, who jumped up on stage with
the group during a New York show,
and then played with them on his own
radio show the next morning.
"Howard came to our show in
New York, and we invited him up on
stage to jam," Bostrom said. "He was
bored, so he came up and did it. He
wasn't plugged in, but he pretended
After 14 years of recording, tour-
ing and partying hard, the Meat Pup-
pets still haven't worked their way
into their own sweet oblivion.
"I don't think we've paid our dues
yet," Bostrom said. "As soon as ev-
eryone is off our backs, and do what
we want, then we'll have paid our
dues. I don't think humans ever pay
their dues. We're all part of the hu-
man race, and we all have to endure
together. Life doesn't get easier just
because you get beamed into people's
The MEAT PUPPETSYwill be at St.
Andrew's Hall on Thursday,
October 13. Tickets are only $10 in
advance, doors open at 8 p.m., and
the show is 18 and over. Call 961-
"Thl you get to prove
you'r Wworth it."
-TOWi11l""1"1"1, a "ftwanengneer, oed QUALCOMAI
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