Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Red Transistor—
Not Bite/We're Not Crazy


Released 1990 on Ecstatic Peace
The Seth Man, April 2004ce
The assaultive New York trio Red Transistor were comprised of guitarist Rudolph Grey, drummer Mark Edmands and VON LMO (in his pre-Strazar days) on guitar, vocals, shortwave and organ. In existence from September 1977 until the following August, they performed at CBGB’s and then spent a period performing Sunday nights at Max’s Kansas City. They were an original blast of shattering, repetitive guitar with unswerving drumming that drove down the centre as the whole shebang was forced over the wall by LMO’s second guitar and/or various electronic accompaniments. The whole effect was angry, pummeling and the sort of thing you’d hear in the background on the early 80’s TV show “Quincy” when its namesake investigates a murder at a hardcore punk show behind the onstage mohawk’n’leather singer’s appropriate barkings out along the lines of: “I hate you!/I hate me!!!/I wanna die!!!/So please kill me!!!” against an atonal guitar and a stiff, jerky beat TOO overdone in its attempt to shock that it was nothing less than a purposefully ugly racket operating on only the shallowest of levels as a prop constructed for the benefit of signifying the inherent evils of 1982-era L.A. punk rock.

However, when you have a threesome of inspired Brooklyn delinquents pounding out terrifying repetitive mantras over and over and over on a Sunday night to a distinctly non-packed club four or five years prior (and not just for the benefit of fame or television cameras, either) then you are talking about something entirely different altogether...And Red Transistor most definitely WERE.

Red Transistor’s debut single never saw release during their period of active operation. Languishing in the vaults, it was finally issued in 1990 with Rudolph Grey’s “Not Bite” on the A-side and VON LMO’s “We’re Not Crazy” on the flipside. Both sides are as screamingly hyperactive as they are torturously repetitive and they are both so ahead of their time that even today they rage and thrust with qualities of true abandon and mental-ness. It’s appropriate that both sides of this power surge have the word “not” in it -- not only because they were a band of outsiders in a scene of outsiders (and they were) but also their music zeros out everything in its way so energetically with a ceaseless flow and an infinite row of negative integers.

The greatly-titled “Not Bite” drives itself up the wall again and again and then some more for good measure. Repetitive, sharply angular and stopping for nothing in its way, Rudolph Grey states on the sleeve that it could and did run anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes in length when performed live onstage, and one only can image the effect it must have had on audiences (on a bad night it probably made the audience fling projectiles at the band, and on a GOOD night must have caused an outbreak of fisticuffs within the audience.) Rudolph’s cranked-up buzzsaw guitar is shored up by LMO’s nightmarish organ stabbings running alongside like a nagging little brat in the sidecar of a motorcycle poking his older brother’s ribs while they take turns at speeds highly unrecommended for those who wish to live another day. They almost derail in the middle of Grey’s detuned guitar solo, but deftly and quickly reassemble because they are so truly going for it it’s an exhilarating mishap all the same. And Edmands’ constant supply of driven rolls and fills keep the whole thing muscularly driven like 1972-era Simon King. Threading throughout this exhaustive display, Rudolph’s deliriously spazzed out vocals flatly repeat: “A nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, NAH!” with occasional LMO backing screams and vox that make for a brilliant, straightjacketed display.

The B-sides packs as equal a spazzerino punch, maybe more so: seeing as its VON LMO’s deranged “We’re Not Crazy.” And it is. Crazy. Period. LMO is lying his face off as he howls then shrieks the title over and over (which of course doubles as the lyrics for the song) because this track is such twisted insanity. The delivery of this powerdrive is smeared with LMO’s skittering shortwave manipulations and launched upon two-ply buzzsawing guitars and drummer Edmands’ simple but propulsive beats of most heart stopping speed. They got it burningly in the pocket and they are truly plugged into the universal electric socket, and there is no other way to end the monomaniacal drive that is this thing but to spin out in the ditch with a free for all/free fall freak out racket where it all collapses in the very last frenzy of many against the humming of their overwrought amps...but then again, the whole single is sheer frenzy from beginning to end.

Damn, I wish they this piece of inspired mayhem would get re-issued. Especially since it took thirteen years from the time was first recorded to see release (and THAT was fourteen years ago) so methinks it’s high time for another re-launch.