One gets the sense that John Toohill doesn’t like to stand still very long. The Buffalo, NY based musician plays in two bands (Radiation Risks; Alpha Hopper), runs a label (Swimming Faith) and slings drinks on the side. He also found time to record as his alter ego Science Man.
Recorded mostly in the Radiation Risks’ tour van, Science Man’s debut is a rabid mongrel of a record. Channeling Ministry, Dead Kennedys, and Big Black with a foundation of straight ahead rock and roll and garage punk, it comes across as a drum machine mutation of Marked Men. Think Pailhead in 2019.
Clocking in at just over 28 minutes it’s a pretty relentless listen with the first four tracks a veritable battery. There’s barely a breath to be had between “Dark Matter,” “Love Potent,” “Layouts” and “Jesus Clip“. Only with the fourth track “Victor,” a menacing IDLES-like stomper, does Science Man take his foot off your throat.
It’s all out war from here on in with the driving “Beat of Your Heart” and the noisecore “Weaponizer” with its spidery East Bay Ray riff. “Hawkins” and “Pain Altar” together are barely 3 minutes of manic time changes and frenzied oodeling. “Virus” is a Stooges grinder with a dirty riff, and the record closes out with the machine gun spray of “Before You Know You’re Dead“. When it ends you may just need a quiet moment or two. Or maybe John will mix you a drink.
The brand new label Swimming Faith is releasing Science Man and you can buy it HERE!
We hooked up with John aka Science Man to get the low down.
You play in a few bands. Alpha Hopper is experimental/arty while Radiation Risks is weird, but a little more straight forward punk. Where does Science Man fit in?
Ideally Science Man should be what I think are the best parts of all my bands stitched together and then souped up. Frankenstein’s monster. Some kind of bioengineered man. Like in Blade Runner. A skin job. Powerful but flawed. It’s an excuse to become my own Mr. Hyde. Wear a mask and be the wicked thing within without consequence. Something like that… Ideally. I don’t actually give myself credit for pulling off something THAT cool but ya know. Haha.
Are both Alpha Hopper and Radiation Risks still a thing?
Alpha Hopper actually has a new album titled “Aloha Hopper” and it is in press right now! Very excited to get that out into the world. For such a spastic, high energy band we don’t exactly work with the same urgency the music revels in. And with Radiation Risks on extended hiatus that’s how Science Man got his hands on the steering wheel. The devil finds work for idle hands, right?
Was the Science Man sound something that just didn’t fit with either band?
I don’t know. I think some of the riffs could have fit in either band for sure. But that wasn’t why the Sci-Man was created. I wanted to be able to do things completely on my own time and dime. I thought it would be fun to see how far I could take it without anyone one else helping. A proper solo album, ya know? Made by an egomaniac lead singer who doesn’t need his band mates anymore. Just a pile of drugs on a mirror pointed at my good side. I’m the real star! Haha. I hated the way that all sounded. So I made Science Man do it for me. Er… Us. He’s unreasonable enough to do something like that. Not me. I like being in a band with other people. I fucking suck at drums.
“No drums or amplifiers were even used. I used one shitty SM58 style ripoff microphone to track vocals. That’s it. Used free recording software too”
Tell us about the recording of the album.
Well parts of it were recorded in the van while Radiation Risks was on tour driving from city to city. I have a USB powered interface for my laptop. So I would just sit in the way back, map out the song on my drum machine, then record the guitar and bass tracks direct. I think the bumpy roads gave perfect character to the madness of it all. The rest I did mostly at my house the exact same way. No drums or amplifiers were even used. I used one shitty SM58 style ripoff microphone to track vocals. That’s it. Used free recording software too.
Tell us about the label – Swimming Faith.
I started it for, I think, the same reason any other small punk label gets started. Nobody else really wanted to put out the music I was making. A bunch of my bands over the years have self released albums so I’ve learned A LOT of wrong ways to go about it. Which is good cuz now I know most of the right ways and I trust myself to work hard for the money I’m putting up. For now SF will be the umbrella over a bunch of my projects. The Science Man LP will be the first thing out on the label. That ALPHA HOPPER LP I mentioned before will be the second. Actually I’m split releasing that with another Buffalo based label Radical Empathy. Then the next NIGHT SLAVES release we’re recording currently be 3rd. Once I get a few things out I’d love to take on other bands. Just gotta sell some stuff first. Go to swimmingfaithrecords.com and buy something. Thanks in advance.
What’s the scene in Buffalo like?
I think I’m dangerously close to getting old. Gotta fix that. I’m growing more and more concerned with only the things I’m doing and how I spend what little free time I have. So I’m probably ill-equipped to answer that question properly. For me I feel like there is kinda a whole bunch of smaller scenes that don’t often interact with each other. Which is cool cuz it means there is a lot of people doing different interesting things. It’s awesome when a certain show draws a “uniting of the clans” feeling but it’s seldom… Ok here. Buffalo is like beyond the wall in start of Game of Thrones. Totally wild, incredible shit is going on here but nobody outside is watching and none of us can seem to unite it all together.
What are your plans for Science Man? Will you be playing any shows?
Oh yea. March 8th is the LP release party here in Buffalo. Then I’m on tour. 12 days in March on the east coast. 19 days Midwest/South in April. Even got a few shows lined up in Berlin come May. Looking like some Canadian dates in the summer. Anything I can juggle and still hold down a job slinging drinks. Bartending is actually the only real science I know and it’s a messy one.