Temple of Bon Matin - A Band Biography
Temple of Bon Matin was begun around 1991 by drummer/singer Ed Wilcox and keyboardist John Mulvaney, after the collapse of Wilcox' first band The Tomahawk Kids (named in tribute to his hero, the sensational Alex Harvey - although, being 1990, they sounded more like Guadacanal Diary). Hoping to build a vehicle to contain their diverse loves of psychadelia, swing, punk and free jazz, and a welcoming opportunity for guest musicians to contribute anything from a single performance to staying a decade. Temple of Bon Matin began playing a Victor Borge, Daevid Allen, Canterbury colored mix of originals and swing covers at beatnik coffee houses, hardcore punk clubs and streetcorners in the Philadelphia area.
With John Mulvaney taking the first of several Syd Barrett like hiatus' from the band, Ed Wilcox continued with thunderous bassist Mark Lux and a string of eccentric, Beefheart influenced guitarists before glam metal genius Trevor Dixon answered the call. This group, with other musicians ( including Mulvaney and Cecil Taylor's saxophonist Elliot Levin) coming and going and coming back again, lasted almost 2 years, playing 5 or 6 shows a month of deafening, Hawkwind like, space metal in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, and attracting the attention of the Siltbreeze label, for whom they recorded "Thunder, Feedback and Confusion" in 1993.
Tension built within the band, and with Siltbreeze, as the need to record a followup album and tour began. Wilcox and Dixon determined not to make another record that sounded like a record collector's record collection. They had an unironic, unhip, unabashed love of covering The Scorpions and Van Halen, and wanted to take the band into a glammed out, looks like Hanoi Rocks/ sounds like P.I.L. + turntables direction, to the distaste of Lux and Siltbreeze who wanted to go deeper into a Black Sabbath / Guru Guru sound.
The band fell apart , but quickly reassembled with Wilcox and bassist Rich Lamb, whose powerful roots rock playing took Wilcox' drumming more into a Levon Helm direction than his previous Keith Moonish approach. As a rhythm section their constant practicing, and obsession with Fleetwood and McVie, worried many hipsters. Propelled by guitarist Frank Bradley's Steve Jones-ish, Billy Duffy-ish riffing, and frequently adding friends including Marc Denardo on bass, Angelo Madrigale on drums and turntablist Rick Brackbill, the band was louder than before ( a frequent performer at CBGBs, their soundman deemed them the loudest band that had ever played the club), with a live sound reminiscent of The Germs, a Buck Owens, Bakersfield honky tonk "if a fight don't break out in the first five minutes you ain't playing right" attitude, and shows that often ended - or began - with drunken brawls. They began the tradition of grueling touring that Bon Matin continues today, and with Bulb records to the rescue, hastily recorded 1995's "Enduro - America's Most Loudness".
Again, Temple of Bon Matin evaporated when most of the band moved to Los Angeles to become surfers. Its new version was assembled around guitarist Linda Searnock, not a surfer, but a surf rock visionary, another in the lengthening line of Bon Matin players more interested in the groove than the solo, and who shared Wilcox' fondness for world dance music. Helped by electronic sound pioneer Charles Cohen, saxophonist Elliot Levin, synthesist Greg Chapman (the brains behind "Ugly American" magazine and Joe Zimmerman (occasional bassist for The Mentors) , they toured the South and Midwest frequently, broadcast a concert on Philadelphia television, recorded the rambling, Lee Perry remixes "The Faust Tapes" CD "Bullet In2 Mesmer's Brain" (released by Bulb in 1997 and the start of their long association with recording engineer Jeff Kohlmeyer, the Geoff Emerick/George Martin of Runnemede, New Jersey) and at the invitation of Rochester, New York peers Coffee, teamed up to become a backup group for old friend, free jazz (or free blues ) pioneer, saxophonist Arthur Doyle - before of course, breaking up.
Always too dumb to know when they were not wanted, Temple of Bon Matin resurrected with Wilcox and old friends Vinnie Paternostro (a super thrash metal front man - now playing bass and Archie Shepp inspired saxophone ), Merzbau noise freak Jay Reeve on percussion and electronics, psychadelic folk wizard Jim Flagg on violin and the Sonny Sharrock / Phil Manzanera fireworks and slinky grooves of guitarist John Price.In one form or other, and with much help, this band has continued, pushing its own imaginative limits, and each other's tempermental buttons, for a decade. Their first outing, "We've Got The Biggest Engine", was a dozen member electric take on John Coltrane's "Ascension", including a multi-tracked choir of vocals on "Eyes in Space" contributed by Wilcox and legendary punk rocker and friend, Mikey Wild, and released by Little Army in 1999.
The story of the "Starchild" skeleton, found in an abandoned Andean silver mine, was a space opera waiting to be written, when it was heard by Wilcox during his obsessive listening to Art Bell's late night, paranormal radio program, and inspired the "Cabin in the Sky" lp, released by Bulb in 2000. With a lot of inspiration, (and outright theft), from Paul Kantner's "Blows Against the Empire", it mixed old timey lullabies and hymns with blasts of static and feedback. Around this time, Flagg and Wilcox befriended and occasionally backed Steve Weber of The Holy Modal Rounders.
Through mutual friends To Live and Shave in LA, and on a West Coast tour in 2000, Ed Wilcox met future wife Leslie Q. ( As well as Stooges/ Snakefinger saxophonist Steve Mackay - now a frequent collaborator). Leslie was already an established and respected performer, with a spontaneous, folk/punk edge (much like Steve Weber).She moved to the East Coast and joined Bon Matin. During the couple's sojourn in Baltimore they began playing with guitarist Mike Bell, whose garage rock roots brought a Black Sabbath/Black Oak/ Blackfoot ferocity to the band, which was often augmented by trumpeter and singer John Stocks, plus the "Stacia" like dancing of Virginia Purdy and the Gilli Smyth like space poetry of chanteuse Lora Bloom., This band recorded the "Infidel" album in 2003. Shelved and ignored by Bulb, it was rescued and released by Spirit of Orr.
A veteran of many solo shows, Wilcox had turned from the stereotypical overblown rudiments and massive kit of arena rock, and from the clattering cliches of free improv, towards using a couple drums slung around his shoulder like a revolutionary war drummer boy running through heavy, high volume distortion, in an act that relied as much on force and on his singing, as on instrumental prowess. Returning to his home state of Florida, in the wake of divorce, and reconnecting to his Southern roots (especially the hill country marching band of Otha Turner and the voodoo of Exuma), he expanded this Mardi Gras metal approach to the full band, adding Daniel Melomedman as a third percussionist, plus Cory Neale on upright bass and old friend, and fellow Pete Way fanatic, Eric Baylies on electric bass (fulfilling his long held dream of a rambling, rumbling 2 bassist sound emulating Ornette Coleman's Prime Time). This band, aided and inspired by singers Rebecca Gaffney and Ramesh Srinivasan, recorded the 2006 Spirit of Orr release "Monkey's Straw Raincoat".
Wilcox returned to playing something vaguely like a traditional drumkit - still pumped through flangers and ring modulators - and took advantage of some rare band stability to delve deeper into Southern Soul and Miami jungle trances on 2007's "Flower Footed Ghost" released by Portugal's Ruby Red label.
At time of writing (Summer 2007), Wilcox, Paternostro, Reeve, Flagg, Price and Baylies, plus many old and new friends, have begun recording the tentatively titled "Wet Sky Over Florida Green Fire", a further plunge into psychadelic tropicalia, (although retaining their "put name of favorite free jazz artist here" meets "put name of favorite Los Angeles hair metal band here" attitude), touring the U.S., Europe and South America, and are honored to be working with Arthur Doyle, Steve Mackay, Daniel Carter and Marshall Allen.
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