The history of “The Very Best of Spaz Rock” is a long and rich one, extending as far back, by some accounts, as the pre-Christian era, when musician-priests performed elaborate, improvised musical fugues known as “spaz” for mobs of revelers during wine soaked bacchanals in tribute to the nameless god thought by many scholars to have been the forerunner of the Greek god Dionysus.
The Very Best of Spaz Rock, Vol. 1, Monsters of Spaz, has just been released . The tracks include “Killer Squid,” which I hereby claim in the name of Ambergris. But there’s more to delight collectors of the weird, including tracks like “Cerberus,” “Frankenspaz,” “Troll Under the Bridge,” “Baby Bigfoot,” and “Demon Clown”.
The rough geniuses behind The Monsters of Spaz are: Ben Armstrong, Michael Gunter, Mike Stephens, Steev Taylor, Dave Wasson, Will Woodberry. I have to admit to meeting most of them (worked with most of them, too).
What is Spaz? I’ll let their strange multi-dimensional messiah Gunter explain:
Those of you that have known me for awhile will undoubtedly recognize the term spaz rock. Originally started as a joke between a good friend and myself, spaz rock became one of the most enlightening musical experiences of my life, equal in every way to having picked up my first guitar or entering music school. The idea was simple, and consists of a single rule: DONâ€™T STOP! While it certainly has many things in common with other forms of â€œjam bandsâ€ or acid jazz movements that have come and gone, spaz rock took this one step further by encouraging its members to freely experiment with timings, keys, chords, melodies, textures and every other component of music without any other form of communication â€“ no agreeing on tempo, key or even which instruments we got to play. Call it an experiment in stimulus and response, it was also an opportunity for its participants to explore instruments outside their range of expertise, and it was how I learned to play the drums, trumpet, sitar and a number of other instruments. By the time I left Florida, my home had turned into a serious musical nexus, with some 15 or so local musicians cycling in and out of the Spaz Haus in various configurations. To this day, it is a serious driving factor in my return trips to Florida, where the movement is alive and well today.
(Artist’s representation of Gunter. Taken from here.)
When one of our core members suggested that we enter the RPM Challenge â€“ a yearly event in which the participants are asked to fully record and produce an album in February, the shortest month of the year â€“ I was a little wary. Spaz rock is more about the process than the outcome, after all, and although we have always enjoyed recording and listening back to our â€œcreationâ€ (I quote this because it is a hotly debated topic â€“ did we create spaz, or did spaz create us?), I wasnâ€™t sure it was ready for prime time. But all that being said, the outcome of this particular effort has far exceeded my expectations. I am proud to present to you the first produced recordings out of the hundreds of hours we have on tape. All these tracks were a product of a single 4-hour live session with 6 people on Feb 13, 2009.