Since 2009 the surviving Hackney Brothers along with guitarist Bobbie Duncan who was already playing with them in the Vermont Reggae band Lambsbread have been bringing to Life the Legend of DEATH. A band imagined by Eldest Bother, David Hackney whose Prophetic and specific Vision of the group in name, sound and approach made for a difficult fit in the mid '70's when producers and taste makers in the music industry were working to split up Rock 'n' Roll from what was popular with the People into separate "playlists" and "genres". Becoming just a shade away from the "race records" of old unless you were willing to go Disco.
Regional stations like W4 and CKLW out of Windsor where you could hear Alice Cooper, The Temptations, James Gang and Funkadelic all elbowing past each other were getting beat back by remote programmers, "In Iowa or somewhere in the Mid-West..." as bassist Bobby Hackney was told straight out by the Big Eight's Tom Shannon at the time. This stripped DJ's of the power to play little or almost anything that they happened to like. Gone were the days when you took your acetate to the station and made the case for your record to get broadcast. Payola had gotten sniffed out and in true American fashion became Gift-ola. Still, even when they had a sympathetic ear to the records merit, as you know most could not get past the name. DEATH.
Some may not think of it much these days but before the music industries deliberate separation of cultural and stylistic collaborations, many "Pop"-ular songs of the day had themes of spiritual experience and social justice set to a Beat. It wasn't until the late '70's when that brand of content again found a place in the hit parade. Much of which had it's genesis in the chugging, grinding factories of the auto industry here in the former Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit City. Drummer Dannis Hackney recalls as he worked the assembly lines, handing off hoods and floor boards in rhythm with the machine and you'd be as he put it, "Dancing inside the repetition."
As everything started to go Disco, it was Patti Smith and her '75 album HORSES that Dannis sites as being the first Punk record to get through to him. He used to walk around his neighborhood chanting, "HORSE! HORSES! HORSES!" Rocking his shoulders as he repeated the phrase. Smith who at one point spoke on how bands from the '60's like her late husband's group MC5 were taking on and trying to change a disparate World and she saw Punk as a means to re-imagine our Earthly domain and literally create a New World. Their opener tonight "Relief" is an anthem about the Power of Rock 'n' Roll. Where "Black" and "White" have found common ground beyond the institutional divisions we inherited. It's the antidote and the answer.
Not that the band doesn't dip into some Soul, as with their cover of Marvin Gaye's "God is My Friend" in tribute to their fallen sibling and their Faith. Songs from their period as ROCKFIRE FUNK EXPRESS prior to david's ecstatic inspiration for DEATH fit well with the fresh material from the recently released N.E.W. and conjure the psychic infrastructure of that New World Patti spoke of. DEATH doesn't disappoint with what brought them to attention though. Their brunt social commentary mixed with internal spiritual analysis is even more relevant today in "You're a Prisoner", "Let The World Turn" and "Politicians in My Eyes".
This was the bands first show in Ann Arbor and the crowd that gathered on this Sunday Night
at the Blind Pig crowded in close to the stage, head banging and even moshing throughout the entire set. Though the band lives in Burlington, Vermont and travels more days than not they still deeply identify with the Motor City. This night was special too in the fact that DAS opened the show. AKA Donald Angelo Schwenk who you may remember from the movie A BAND CALLED DEATH was who took the fateful box of 45's to Car City Records that he received as payment for doing the artwork for what would become the album " III " years later.
Last time it was the Getz/Gilberto album that sparked the conversation. This time it's a vinyl copy of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys that Bobbie immediately spies and the guys started talking about the Wrecking Crew documentary and the Brian Wilson movie Love & Mercy which led us back to Motown and the Funk Brothers. Eric Kacir of Will Sessions happened to be over and I mentioned he and the band had toured and recorded with Detroit's First Psychedelic Son, Dennis Coffey. McKinley Jackson's band The Politicians also came up when the Brothers noted they played their first gig with him way back when. We got deep into their upbringing trying to play R & B and Blues showcases as kids at places like Masonic Temple and being of the luckier "Rock" bands that didn't get their instruments and themselves thrown into the street.
Before we knew it their downtime was up and it was time to get on the road. DEATH were thankful for having a Rock 'n' Roll Embassy of sorts to hang tight in after a crazy weekend at RIOT FEST and before the show tonight. We continued our chat, laughing and hand shaking into the driveway. Tank and the guys made sure I was coming to Ann Arbor and invited Eric along as well. At the venue Tank pulled me aside and I don't want to say told me but definitely insisted I introduce the band back on stage for their encore. Beating back my nervousness especially as the crowd needed really no hyping up from the first chord struck, I summoned my best Stanley Madhatter and took to the mic once the band cleared the stage.
"All right let's keep it going for DEATH! I know the guys want to give you a little more but they just need to know that you want it! On the count of three. Say DEATH with me...
1 - 2 - 3 DEATH ! 1 - 2 - 3 DEATH ! 1 - 2 - 3 DEATH !
CHECK OUT DEATH'S INDUCTION INTO THE SMITHSONIAN : http://bandwidth.wamu.org/video-death-has-been-called-the-first-punk-band-now-theyre-in- the-smithsonian/
KEEP UP WITH THE BAND AT : http://www.deathfromdetroit.com