Friday, July 19

Industrial music pioneer Skrew still not a household name


Friday, April 5, 1996

Band leader Grossman insists performance, not popularity is main
concern success not a major concern for group By John Sabatini

Daily Bruin Contributor

While Ministry and Nine Inch Nails have made industrial music a
household phrase over the past few years, Skrew, one of
industrial’s founding fathers, has gone largely unnoticed. Tonight,
Skrew will bring its darkly innovative sound to the Showcase
Theatre in Corona where they will open for German metal band
Kreator.

During the late 1980s, the pair of Texas youths who formed Skrew
first started experimenting with a new sound, defying basic
conventions in music. At a time when the use of high-tech
instrumentation was taboo, particularly in the harder musical
genres, Skrew began incorporating the forbidden instruments into
its heavy style.

"We were some of the first people to really combine the
electronics and technology with heavy, guitar-oriented music,"
vocalist, guitarist, and founding member Adam Grossman says. "The
first album was written in ’88 and ’89. I don’t think anybody else
­ at least nobody that I’m aware of ­ was doing it at
that time."

But Skrew has not been among the handful of bands which have
achieved tremendous success and popularity on the basis of this
sound. Nevertheless, Skrew has few regrets. Even though Skrew is
still limited to the small club circuit, Grossman insists the band
cherishes every opportunity to perform.

"Let’s put it this way: if you gave us a corner to work on with
a couple acoustic guitars, you’d find a Skrew show going on. That’s
what Skrew is all about, is playing live," says Grossman. "Any
opportunity for us to do our thing, we take it and have a good time
with it."

Although Skrew continues to pay its dues, the band has finally
started to garner some attention. Skrew’s last album, "Dusted,"
earned widespread critical acclaim, including praise as one of the
best extreme albums of 1994. And "Shadow of a Doubt," which is due
out later this month, has already created quite a buzz in the
industry.

In addition, the band recently played Holland’s Dynamo festival,
an event which attracted approximately 100,000 people. Skrew’s set
was such a success, the band is now scheduled for an appearance at
the next Dynamo festival. But for a band that was more familiar
with biker bars than rock festivals, the first experience was a bit
overwhelming.

"You’re on this stage that’s about 25 feet high, and people are
kept so far away from the stage," says keyboardist Jim Vollentine.
"It’s so cool having that much room to run around. The guitar
players didn’t even have cords long enough to make it up to the
front of the stage when we played."

As much as the band enjoyed the experience, Skrew is still
strongly attached to the club scene. Grossman and Vollentine argue
that because of the huge separation between the band and the crowd
at events like the Dynamo, 100,000 people frequently can’t match
the frenzied energy of a small club crowd.

"There’s definitely something to be said about playing in a
200-seater and having it packed to the walls," Vollentine says.
"(There are) people totally going balls to the wall, and they’re a
foot and half away from you, pulling cords out of your keyboards
and stuff."

One other indicator of Skrew’s potential for success is the fact
that the band’s 1991 debut "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame,"
still ranks as the highest-selling debut album by any artist on
Metal Blade Records. Grossman, however, doesn’t place too much
stock in such a statistic.

"That tells me one of two things," he says laughingly. "Either
it was a good record that people really dug or Metal Blade is
signing a bunch of bands that no one is really interested in. One
of the two, I don’t know which."

Grossman stresses that Skrew appreciates the fan interest that
has fueled the band’s success so far, but he also insists that
financial and popular success are not what motivate the band
members.

"It would be great to be able to afford nice things and buy
presents for my family," says Grossman. "But that’s not the reason
that I’m doing this. If I wanted to do that, I would have gone to
law school or something."

Instead of concentrating on achieving success, Skrew has focused
on creating music that maintains its integrity and pushes artistic
limits. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been easy to achieve
consistency, given the band’s tumultuous history.

At the time of Skrew’s "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame"
debut, the band consisted of only Grossman and one other musician.
But shortly thereafter, this other musician decided to return to
college. Since then, the band has been besieged by a revolving door
of musicians.

"It’s been my hope from day one to have a real band.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to weed out a lot of people," says
Grossman. "I’ve ended up dealing with a lot of people who weren’t
really capable of being responsible for their own shit, let alone
being in a situation where there was work to be done."

Although the pattern of musician movement seems to persist
­ former Overkill guitarist Bobby Gustafson joined Skrew
recently ­ Grossman feels that the band finally consists of
talented and committed musicians.

"I feel really comfortable with the fact that everybody who’s in
the band right now is willing to voice an opinion," he says. "And
everybody’s opinion is definitely taken into consideration."

Throughout most of Skrew’s existence, this has not been the
case. As the only original member and a self-professed workaholic,
Grossman actively dominated all aspects of Skrew. But as Grossman
found better and more responsible musicians, Skrew’s creative
processes changed significantly.

"It used to be that it was mostly Adam making the decisions
because it was his band from the start," says Vollentine. "Now it’s
changed around. We’ve got guys in the band who are real hard
workers who are really into making things happen."

Grossman feels that the problem with many of Skrew’s ex-members
was that they carried the stereotype of Southerners as laid-back to
an intolerable extreme. Inactivity or laziness of such band members
was simply unacceptable, especially given the personal importance
of the band to Grossman.

As a youth, Grossman led a troubled life. A drug addict and
petty criminal by the age of 20, he suddenly found himself looking
at the prospect of spending his life behind bars, or worse. Thanks
largely to Skrew, he was able to permanently break out of the
self-destructive lifestyle.

"I feel really lucky to be alive and kicking today, because
there’s plenty of guys that I ran with when I was younger who are
either doing serious time or they’re 6 feet under," Grossman
says.

"The one way I deal with my inner turmoil is by creating music.
It definitely makes me a happier person. I’m not having to deal
with cops looking for me, like I did at one time in my life. I’m
pretty responsible these days, and (Skrew) is a big part of
it."

CONCERT: Skrew at the Showcase Theatre tonight. Starts at 8 p.m.
TIX: $12. For more info, call (909) 276-7770.

Although Skrew continues to pay its dues, the band has finally
started to garner some attention.

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