One of the several definitions for the word antithesis, is “the direct opposite,” and in mid 1990’s, “flying the flannel” Seattle if there was any band in opposition to it’s much hyped musical scene it was the group Hovercraft.
Often cited as one of the most abrasive, non-commercial sounding bands ever to receive major-label distribution for its albums
the instrumental experimental rock group Hovercraft was co-founded in 1993 by guitarist/samplist/tape looper Ryan Shinn (“Campbell 2000”), and bassist Beth Liebling (“Sadie 7”) and was
founded as a direct reaction to the dominance of the area grunge scene
their lengthy, moody avant compositions” were influenced by the music of Einstürzende Neubauten, Amon Düül and Genesis P-Orridge.
Unlike a number of Seattle bands who didn’t always actively discourage audience participation at a Hovercraft show upon making their entrance they never uttered a word or made eye contact with their audience. Their shows also borrowed freely from the psychedelic 60’s with
the stage shrouded in darkness as a projector played black & white scientific films and space-themed documentary clips from the reel-to-reel era (1940s-1970s), and free-use stock footage, somewhat synchronized to the music.
A Hovercraft show often featured fragments of album tracks but
was played as a single forty to forty-five minute long semi-improvised piece with no breaks.
While often overlooked Hovercraft was well respected and well received by the critics and developed a cult following, but was roundly criticized because of it’s association with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who at that time was married to Beth Liebling.
On the band released single “Zero Zero Zero One” Vedder is featured as
“Paul 4” on drums and on “box of nails.”
For the band’s first tour opening for Foo Fighters and Mike Watt Vedder would don a long wig in order to conceal his face, but once his true identity become widely known
subsequent Hovercraft tours would often be flooded with fans of the Pearl Jam frontman.
Eventually former Pearl Jam drummer, Dave Krusen (“Karl 3-30” ) replaced Vedder; and the fact that he was a more technically proficient drummer allowed the band to move from lo-fidelity noise experiments to music with structured improvisation and avant experimentalism.
The group signed with Blast First Records in 1977 and their debut album, Akathisia, (double-LP or single CD) was distributed in North America by Mute Records America.
In April 1997 that line-up of the band played at the first Terrastock festival in Providence, Rhode Island. 1997 also found the group opening for the likes of Japan’s Kirihito, Caustic Resin, Fugazi, Helmet and The Melvins.
In 1998 Ric Peterson (“Dash 11”) replaced Dave Krusen (“Karl 3-30”) on drums and it was his harder-hitting style that
was the apparent catalyst in the band’s shift from ethereal 15-minute songs to more concise, angular arrangements.
One year in the making the group’s final album, Experiment Below, was released in September 1998. 1998 and 1999 also found the group touring Europe with Add N to (X) and the United States with the Boredoms, The Melvins, and Mr. Bungle. Scattered in between tours were a number of one-off shows with Wire, Sleater-Kinney, Hater, Mudhoney, and IQU.
The group collaborated with Stereolab guitarist/backing vocalist Mary Hansen and formed the band Schema. Unlike the wholly instrumental Hovercraft Schema featured vocals and instrumentals in approximately equal measure. Plans for a tour and a second album were shelved when the 36 year-old Hansen was struck and killed by a truck while riding her bike in London on December 12, 2002.
Hovercraft’s last live performance was on February 16, 2001, at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle.
Been Brained (EP) (Noiseland Records)1994
Zero Zero Zero One (7″) (Repellent) 1995
Hovercraft (10″) (Repellent) 1996
Akathisia (CD, Promo) (Mute) 1996
Akathisia (CD) (Mute USA) 1997
Akathisia (CD) (Blast First) 1997
Akathisia (2xLP) (Blast First) 1997
“Vagus Nerve”/ “De-Orbit Burn” Scanner Remixes (CD Single) (Mute USA) 1997
“Vagus Nerve”/ “De-Orbit Burn” Scanner Remixes (12″ Single) (Blast First) 1997
Experiment Below (CD) (Blast First) 1998
Experiment Below (LP) (Blast First) 1998
Experiment Below (CD) (Mute USA)1998
Tracks Appear On:
[hidden track] “Shutdown Reprise” A Small Circle of Friends: A Germs Tribute (CD, Cass) (Grass Records) 1996
“Angular Momentum”, “De-Orbit Burn (Remix)” Newman Passage: Souvenir Complication (CD) (Blast First) 1997
“Hymn (with Eddie Vedder)” Kerouac – Kicks, Joy, Darkness (CD) (Rykodisc Records) 1997
“Haloparidol” Certain Damage Volume 79 (CMJ) 1997
“Haloparidol” Music From Chicago Cab (CD) (Loosegroove Records) 1998
“Haloparidol” Music From Chicago Cab (CD) ( Play It Again Sam Records) 1998
“Vagus Nerve (Scanner Remix)” Musique Facile Pour Gens Difficiles Volume 1 (CD) (Labels) 1998
“Anthropod” In Transit (CD) (Mute Records Ltd.) 1999
Hovercraft – Akathisia
Playing Time: 1 hour 4 minutes 47 seconds
1. quiet room (44) (15:35)
2. angular momentum (11:03)
3. haloparidol (12:31)
4. vagus nerve (12:29)
5. de-orbit burn (13:09)
Buy Akathisia from Amazon.com
Experiment Below (1998)
Playing Time: 45 minutes 32 seconds
1. Anthropod (6:06)
2. Phantom Limb (9:58)
3. Transmitter Down (10:07)
4. Endoradiosonde (6:52)
5. Benzedrine (1:50)
6. Wire Trace (5:37)
7. Epoxy (5:02)
Download Experiment Below Here
Buy Experiment Below from Amazon.com
A 1999 performance by the group at Seattle’s OK Hotel is available here.