Skullflower - Biography

This band's profile is 'invisible', meaning that it's much less prominent on the site - either because it's incomplete, or maybe doesn't entirely fit MS format.


For the uninitiated, Skullflower is one of the better-known bands that originated in the early 1980s power-electronics / noise scene, and one of the few to achieve any real recognition outside their homeland, especially in the United States (all the more remarkable in light of the fact that they have never toured outside of the UK). Unlike most of their contemporaries (such as Whitehouse, Con-Dom, Grey Wolves, etc.), they were an actual band (as opposed to one or two musicians employing a mix of instruments, synths, and tapes), and retained just enough of rock's basic structure to attract the attention of people beyond the power-electronics genre. (The one other major exception at the time was Ramleh, who had a similar format and origins and occasionally shared personnel with Skullflower.)

Evolving out of Pure and then Total, Skullflower coalesced in 1987 and debuted in 1988 with the self-titled ep on Broken Flag (aka BIRTHDEATH). Over the next decade, a large assortment of characters (including guitarist Matthew Bower and drummer Stuart Dennison, the only members to appear on all their releases during the band's original run) would generate a truly amazing amount of loud noise masquerading as music (or vice versa) before going on indefinite hiatus after the 1996 release THIS IS SKULLFLOWER. The band returned as a solo vehicle for Matthew Bower in 2003 with the release of EXQUISITE FUCKING BOREDOM on tUMULt, and continues to release new material even now.

Skullflower's roots are in the European power-electronics / noise scene taking place in the early 1980s. A number of experimental musicians and bands who had grown bored with punk began experimenting with a more confrontational brand of volume-dependent artistic expression. Bands like Whitehouse, Final, Napalm Death, Con-Dom, Throbbing Gristle, The Grey Wolves, and the like were pushing the boundaries of sonic assault, employing damaged synths, guitar noise, unsettling tapes, and extreme volume to confront audiences. Swiping a page from punk's DIY manual, most of them were also releasing their own material (and in some cases, the material of a great many others) on cassette and (when they could afford it) vinyl, to be sold at shows or by mail order. (Some of these bands also borrowed a more unsavory page from the punk manual in their morbid fascination for fascist and neo-Nazi imagery; early Ramleh releases, along with most of Broken Flag's cassette catalog, were notorious examples.)

One of the more notable individuals in this scene was a young (as in 14!) lad by the name of Philip Best, who was producing cassettes on his own Iphar label under the name Consumer Electronics. At the same time, legendary noise perverts Whitehouse (notorious and often attacked for sexist themes and their adultation of serial killers) were performing regularly, sometimes sharing the stage with another power-electronics band by the name of Ramleh, led by guitarist Gary Mundy. About the same time Consumer Electronics came to an end, Philip Best joined Whitehouse for approximately 18 months, during which time Ramleh became defunct. Upon his departure from Whitehouse, he joined forces with Gary Mundy in the short-lived Male Rape Project, then together they reactivated Ramleh, moving away from its original power-electronics focus and more into realms of jagged, dissonant rock. At the same time, Gary Mundy was releasing cassettes on his own Broken Flag label, including material by the mysterious JFK (in reality bassist Anthony diFranco) and guesting as a guitarist on occasion in Matthew Bower's noisy guitar project Total, an outgrowth (or offshoot of) Pure. Through a chain of evolution that remains mysterious to this day, Total eventually evolved into Skullflower. For the next eight to ten years, all of these players -- plus one member of Coil (Stephen Thrower, briefly appearing on an early Skullflower album), and a loud guitarist by the name of Stefan Jaworyzn (now in Ascension) -- worked in tandem (well, loosely) to create an amazing heap of truly loud music. Skullflower called it quits in 1996 (apparently out of ennui and growing physical distanct between the members, who all lived in separate cities), but Ramleh and Ascension still continue to release albums periodically. Total has since been shut down as Matthew Bower began to concentrate on Sunroof! releases.