Sniffing Dirty Laundry – The Supergroup of the Asylum

The supergroup.

Ahhh, remember those heady days of MTV, somewhere in the teased neon-pink wilderness of the synthetic mid-eighties, lost in a dishevelled history of Contra-Coke and high class Wall Street hookers in business exec’s hotel rooms dancing to Huey Lewis and the News. Remember?

Remember when you’d wake up late, the room pungent with sweaty rubber and misused bondage equipment, you’d snort a line, sell some stock, boot the hooker out of the hotel -but not before she manages to smuggle a mini-bottle of Carrington Blush up her miniskirt as extra payment for a wholly disappointing lay. It’s not your fault. It was the coke. I know, buddy. I know. Those were the days.

You go back to bed, too depressed to lift Nautilus, and you switch on some MTV.     

What’s this? Another supergroup special? Oh look, Phil Collins is on drums again. Well that makes sense, he is the best drummer in existence after all. Oh and look. There’s Eric Clapton again. Great. I hear he’s just had a baby boy. Conor I believe. (Too Soon?) Oh and who’s that… ah it’s Mark Knopfler, and there’s Midge Ure, and Steve Winwood and… arrrrgh, it’s the same damn people every single MTV supergroup special!
Meanwhile, in inner city Sydney, a prominent recording studio is burning down, and the band -Sharron Weatherill, Renestair EJ, Jim Selene and Martin Bland- and producer -Tony Cohen- are fleeing the area altogether, in the hope that they will never cross paths with a furious studio manager again. Seems the fire started in an ashtray in the studio. Seems it was a prank gone wrong. Five fleeing drug-addled maniacs only adds to the suspicion. But here’s the thing; this band are a fully fledged supergroup. They are Bloodloss.

Formed in Sydney in 1981 by four ex-Adeladians, Bloodloss’ original incarnation placented a notorious afterbirth that led to their wild, messy and often violent act being banned in every single venue in the city. Remember, that Sydney is a city that possesses the infamous King’s Cross red light, drug and whatever the hell else you want strip, plus was very happy to allow nightly biker brawls to continue at these very venues that had Bloodloss banned. Rose Tattoo were fine. Bloodless were not.

In a nutshell, this band were completely bonkers.

Briefly changing their name to Zulu Rattle and employing an additional band member Stu Spasm, Bloodloss attempted to cloak and dagger beneath the watchful eyes of their bannishers to continue to play previously unexplored music and eke out some form of symbiotic existence. Sadly however, such an existence was never meant to be and by 1983, the band had gone kaputnik. Splitsville. Bloodloss part one had bled out.

In the aftermath of the failed hostile takeover, Martin Bland (drums) and Stu Spasm (guitar) went on to form avant-noisesters Salamander Jim with Tex Perkins (Beasts Of Bourbon, Cruel Sea, Thug and countless other side-projects), while the others disbanded to different parts of the world to pursue their own projects. Including Salamander Jim, this crucial period between 1983 and 1985 -particularly in Sydney’s artsy-fartsy inner city suburbs- saw an influx of original, revolutionary and highly innovative bands emerge, with the likes of feedtime, King Snake Roost, Thug, The Butcher Shop and more, taking control of that city’s underground music scene. It seemed that Sydney had grown a small amount of tolerance for this type of extroverted music perversion, and when word got back to Sharon Weatherill (vocals, guitar) and Renestair EJ (guitar), they immediately returned from the London apartment floor they’d been sleeping on -a floor belonging to the Scientists’ Kim Salmon at the time- to kickstart a new and improved Bloodloss 2.0.

This time however, the band would reform in the members’ original hometown of Adelaide where they could more peacefully and without abrasive influence work on their material. The new lineup included Sharron and Renestair, Fear and Loathing’s Chris Wiley on bass, the already legendary Charlie Tolnay (Grong Grong, King Snake Roost) on guitar and a new drummer, Andrew Stosch from killer local rockers The Twenty Second Sect. Soon after, Martin Bland returned to the mix and having already decided to keep Stosch, Bloodloss now had the added noise advantage of being able to pummel a crowd with two drummers.

Finally, in 1988, Bloodloss released their debut full length LP entitled ‘Human Skin Suit’ -released on the now historically influential local label Greasy Pop Records and limited to 500 copies. 

The album is layered with the most thumping, primal and straight up your ass avant-jazz/noise that one is ever likely to hear.

Two pummelling drum kits, sexually molested horns, Sharron’s manic, almost desperate yelping and screaming, screeching but not overstated guitars and a rhythm section that appears loose and sloppy on the surface, but is actually Beefheart-esque in its drummed-in precision. If one were to melt a copy of Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ over the flaming corpse of Don Van Vliet and then attempt to play it backwards on 45rpm, then perhaps that person would be somewhat halfway to experiencing the sonic bludgeoning that is a virgin ears listen to ‘Human Skin Suit’. It wreaks of everything that is wrong with the world, and systematically sets it all right again.

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Sadly though, the Bloodloss curse continued, and not long after the release of ‘Human Skin Suit’, singer, and heart and soul of the band Sharon Weatherill left to opt for a more domestic lifestyle. This called for an immediate reshuffle which saw Martin Bland switch to guitar and vocals leaving Bloodloss with the convention of just one drummer yet again. This lineup recorded the influential ‘The Truth is Marching In’ LP on the utterly fascinating anti-label, Sydney’s Aberrant Records. This is an album which provides the listener a more stripped back sound, leaning slightly in the direction of sister band King Snake Roost’s abrasive, ear slicing assault on contentment. Spill some acetone on your genitals. You’ll get what I mean.

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Shortly after the release of Truth, in swooped Stu Spasm to recapture Martin Bland along with Renestair EJ to join him on a tour of the U.S. for his new project Lubricated Goat, featuring a young Guy Maddison on bass. Bloodloss were once again left skeletal and rudderless and with momentum lost, Bloodloss 2.0 was put on hiatus.

By 1991, Martin Bland and Renestair EJ had completely fallen in love with the emerging Seattle grunge scene and were coerced into staying at the behest of Bloodloss’ newest fan, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. The result of this cross-Pacific union was possibly Mark Arm’s greatest side project Monkeywrench, a band which allowed the current ethos of Mudhoney to breathe outside the restricted confines of record company fingering and puppet-control via the anus. This newly founded project is how the name Bloodloss lived on and made its way into the consciousness of Seattle scenesters.

In 1994, Bloodless reformed, this time joined by Guy Maddison and on occasion, Mark Arm himself. The dream lineup went a little something like this: Martin Bland (vocals, guitar) Renestair EJ (vocals, guitar) Mark Arm (vocals, guitar) Guy Maddison (bass) and Andrew Stosch (drums).

Hey MTV! How’s your supergroup looking now?!

This lineup went on to release the brilliant ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Change’ on the incredible Sympathy For The Record Industry label.

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This was an entirely different sound for the band; more polished, more melodic and perhaps… gasp… more conventional. With plenty of steady 4/4 rock as the backbone, ‘In-A-Gadda-Da -Change’ grunts and rumbles through a clutch of songs that sees not only Arm’s dirty little fingerprints, but elements of Lubricated Goat all over it. The whole conception works though and many argue that this is Bloodloss’ finest hour.

With the same lineup, 1995/96 saw the release of yet another LP ‘Live My Way’ plus a selection of great EP’s all in a similar vein to ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Change’. Bloodloss had found their sound, and amid the ruins of a desolate, chewed up and spit out Seattle grunge scene, their home.

After a long hiatus which saw Mark Arm elevated into the stratosphere of Grandpa Superstar, Guy Maddison take over the departed Matt Lukin role as Mudhoney’s bass player, plus a stack o’ side projects for other members of the band, Bloodloss, in 2011, finally released the long-awaited ‘Lost My Head For Drink’ LP on Seattle’s Dirty Knobby records. This is the band’s compromise to their own split personality. Whilst the album is perhaps Bloodloss’ biggest hark back to the halcyon days of Sydney and Adelaide, it also remains true to their more evolved sound of the nineties, as well as showing off the sharp skills and further wit that all of the musicians had honed over more recent years. Whilst compromise may be a dirty word in underground music circles, what this album does show is that from day one, until current day and hopefully beyond, is that Bloodloss has demonstrated that they possess their own unique version of the King Midas touch where not everything may turn to gold -that would be too conventional- but perhaps a sludgy molten metal. That seems more fitting anyway.

So Phil, Eric, Midge… with elements of Mudhoney, Lubricated Goat, King Snake Roost, Twenty Second Sect and more, buddies, Bloodloss has got ya covered.

Back in yer box.

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Benny Two-Shoes

Filling the void between grouchy dinosaurism and current day hipster snobbery, Benny Two-Shoes is the type of guy who kidnaps control of the stereo at sweet sixteen parties and does not relinquish until every last teenybopper leaves a fully-fledged Stooges fan.   

You can listen to the latest episodes, hosted by Benny Two-Shoes, on Roadkill Radio!

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