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By Amanda Savage
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godheadSilo is a highly subversive experimental noise-punk duo whose base of operations is Olympia, Washington. Known audio terrorist activities include use of unnaturally low bass frequencies rendered at brutal volume. S.O.S. field operative reports indicate this group is a clear and present danger to high-fidelity stereophonic equipment (or lo-fi, for that matter).
For self-proclaimed experimental artists, Mike Kunka, 25 (bass/vocals), and Dan Haugh, 23 (drums), appear suspiciously technophobic, shunning the use of digital recording techniques, including overdubs. Additionally, the two employ primitive tape-loop technology, using packaging tape to splice together various cassettes "liberated" from thrift stores across the country.
Furthermore, Kunka consistently demonstrates signs of paranoia. Claiming that club sound men conspire to turn him down, he insists the four amps he patches his bass through be controlled from the stage only.
Both Kunka and Haugh claim frequently to experience severe physical discomfort while performing, because of extremely low and loud bass rumblings. Says Haugh: "At our last show in Seattle, during the final song, which is only Mike on bass for the first few minutes, I had to leave the stool and go kneel behind Mike's amps and dry heave until I had to go play again."
Kunka and Haugh met in the mid-'80s in Fargo, North Dakota (so that explains it), when both were on BMX trick teams. godheadSilo was launched in 1991 in Fargo and quickly relocated to Olympia because of severe lack of a local fan base. The Kill Rock Stars label took a quick interest in the band and put out the first ghS recording, an EP titled Thee Friendship Village, in 1992. That release contained a trilogy of distorted melodies struggling to break through a force field of mega-low-range fuzz. Picture the Melvins abducted by aliens and tickled for several hours. Two other KRS collections of murky noise followed before ghS switched affiliations to Sub Pop Records after Sub Pop superstar Sebadoh asked the band out on a five-week tour. This past April, Sub Pop issued skyward in triumph, a 30-minute detonation including "Guardians of the Threshold," which features a punishing six-minute bass solo, and the title track, a rap ode to BMX riding and tripping on Mountain Dew that brings in guest MC Calvin Johnson (of the Halo Benders and Dub Narcotic Sound System).
Live, the godheadSilo experience is suitable only for masochists, voyeurs of the extreme or those who wish to witness the outer edge of experimental rock defined in action. Distorted vocals scream over static, bass feedback and freight-train drumming. Haugh's drum set looks like it was custom-built for Andre the Giant. His rock-style kit includes a retro-fitted marching-band bass drum and a polka-band bass drum. With a normal kit, he says, he would be all but drowned out by Kunka's bass and sound effects. For example, the ghS song "Battle of the Planets" features Kunka jamming over a tape-loop recording of a rolling boulder that registers just below 50 hertz, a frequency that will blow most stereo speakers with ease and that he says can even rupture human stomach lining at sufficient volume and duration. Haugh attempts to downplay the health risk: "If anyone's hearing is really in danger, it's ours. Really loud bass doesn't fuck with your hearing as much as really loud treble, anyway."
Nevertheless, godheadSilo limits its sets to five or six songs, and rarely exceeds 30 minutes onstage. Impervious to pain, Kunka is known for his hyperactive sprinting in place and other manic behavior in performance. "When I'm onstage, I'm just drunk with love," he says. "I'm kind of shy. Stage fright makes me freak out and get all weird, so I just get silly on the mike."
godheadSilo has targeted Mesa eardrums for obliteration on Friday, July 19, at Hollywood Alley, where the band is scheduled to open for Tucson washboard kings Doo Rag. Showtime is 8 p.m. Earplugs are recommended, but not by Haugh. "Ah, what's the point of wearing earplugs?" he asks. "It just makes the sound quality suck.