Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Monoshock - Walk To The Fire

Walk To The Fire

AOTM #33, February 2003ce
Released 1995 on BlackJack Records
Side One
  1. Crypto-Zoological Disaster (8.20)
  2. I Took You to it Baby (3.57)
  3. Hong Kong (3.23)
  4. Astral Plane (5.07)
Side Two
  1. Tom Guido Philosophically Stoogely (3.10)
  2. Leesa (7.49)
  3. Separate Beds (9.09)
Side Three
  1. Molten Goldfinger 965 (4.27)
  2. Walk to the Fire (5.06)
  3. Chicken Lover (3.10)
  4. Sea Monkeys (5.34)
Side Four
  1. International Hello (8.09)
  2. I Want It All (8.48)

Note: In my quest for the grail of rock’n’roll (which will, at this rate, mostly likely turn out to be a roughly hewn late-Bronze Age Scando-Zarathustran(!) mead jug currently lying unrecognised somewhere and doubling as piss-pot), I’ve been doing my best to do-as-you-would-be-done-by and grant each artist their metaphor in order to inhale their best intentions. Therefore, for this Monoshock review and in the face of massive evidence that their mainman Grady Runyan vastly prefers the vinyl medium, I have chosen to observe rock’n’roll protocols and the breaks created by said vinyl medium. As a huge fan of Mr. Runyan’s other band Liquorball (who also subscribe to what Mr. Runyan himself would term the “lowbrow avant-garde aesthetic a la VINCEBUS ERUPTUM”), that approach seems to me to be the most honest and true to Mr Runyan’s trip, specifically because his three Liquorball LPs ain’t yet even had CD release, and because I myself tend to play the double vinyl version of WALK TO THE FIRE most of all.

Tree Dwellers of the Future

Primitive Zippo 7"

When the developed world staggers to a close in 100 or so years time, it’s gonna be the children of Monoshock and their ilk who return to the trees first. Sure, they ain’t gonna be any happier about the situation than anyone else, but at least the acts of their recent ancestors will have somewhat prepared them for that dire situation. The evidence I have that they’ll be safe and out of reach several branches above everyone else can be found within the icky grooves of this music of their great-great-grandfathers, who were led by the ur-ancestor himself (the rock’n’roll writer, guitar hoodlum and all-purpose snotgobbler) Mr. Grady Runyan.
Monoshock’s 1995 album WALK TO THE FIRE not only talked it with a shaman title to die for, it walked it with such consummate ease that even FUNHOUSE sax player Steven Mackay would later come a-knocking on Grady Runyan’s door. And though amp spill, a dogged refusal to let the drums be heard, and sleeping with your record collection are all admirable, you need vocal and guitar riffs as timelessly a-mature as those on this Monoshock record in order to simultaneously heighten AND lower the consciousness of the listener.

Soledad 7"

That Grady Runyan is a writer, and a poetic writer at that, only reinforces my belief that rock’n’roll has long since passed the days when incoherence and spiritual autism were enough to qualify you as one of the greats (Ian Curtis, for example). Rock’n’roll is now old enough to have snatched the spiritual mantle from both jazz and the avant garde, AND to have subsumed both of those artforms into its gasping greedy needy veins.

Monoshock was to rock’n’roll what those Miles Davis 1975 wa-everything Japan-release-only double-vinyl monsters (GET UP WITH IT, AGARTHA, PANGAEA, DARK MAGUS) were to jazz. That is, superfluous to the fucking intellectuals but spiritual carbohydrates for the ones who knew. Carbohydrates? Yesssss! Because they give us the staying power. And the staying power is the transcendental otherness that the merely intellectual can never come close to grasping. Any whooping wannabe can come on all I’m-gonna-write-the-epic-poem-which-sums-up-the-neuroses-of-the-world, but that’s just the Woodstock Moment talking. However, tell that idealist their poem will take 3 long years and see the burning in their eyes fade in an instant. No no no, sustaining through fires, floods, and the sheer outrageous boredom of everyday dish-doing crust-earning bill-paying child-rearing is what I’m talking about.

Corney Weekend 7"

And for that you need fuel and lots of it.
Which is where Monoshock comes in.
Says Mr Runyan:

“The key to being a real punk; I'm talking about not caring about what anyone thinks or even what you think [my underline] because it's all subordinate to what you gotta do.”

What you gotta do. What you GOTTA do. Exact-a-fucking-mundo.

Tear the Fart Apart

Model Citizen (Nitroglycerine) 7"

They may have only done this one huge double-LP, but Monoshock got to WALK TO THE FIRE via four horrendous rackets of 7” singles. And, through it all, Grady Runyan simultaneously ran the ‘sad free wail’ of Liquorball’s errant muse from 1988 through to 2001. As this band Liquorball is not for the faint hearted, we’ll come back to them later. And as this is a Monoshock review anyway, we’ll have a quick look first at those noxious badly-pressed singles1 to see how they got there.

First off, 1994’s “Primitive Zippo” is just wonderfuel. It opens like the Barrett Floyd playing “I wanna be your dog” then hurtles along like the Neon Boys’ “That’s All I Know Right Now” meets the Buzzcock’s SPIRAL SCRATCH EP with soloing guitars over a Lemmy-bass which does what the guitar would normally do. The two tracks on the other side are pure paint-by-numbers re-writes of the A-side - excellent.

Next up came “Soledad”, which is just like something off WALK TO THE FIRE. Hawkwind doing the 13th Floor Elevator’s version of “You Really Got Me” with an MC5-type James Brown “I wanna see a sea of hands” beginning. A blueprint for perfection. “Yeah, damn… I said NOW!!!” screams Grady, before it all drops down into the familiar time-change quagmire and wallows like a pig in shit. The b-side “Lighting a Match in the Year 4007” is more of the same bile: Electric Eels chords, dual vocals, insane rhythm changes AND a certain craftsmanship in the songwriting that predates that shown on the most recent Comets on Fire album.

“Corney Weekend” is the weakest of these four 7” singles but it’s still excellent. It sounds like a No Wave band playing The Mystic Tide, and is far more controlled than the other singles. With the different label art and sound, I was even tempted to think it may be by a different Monoshock. But the b-side “Grandpa” exhibits the same varispeed rhythms and the vinyl is a dead ringer for a Liquorball 45 in my collection. Maybe Grady was on sick leave from his day job as the World’s Most Intuitive Non-Career Mover.

“Model Citizen (Nitroglycerine)” is the Stones’ “Rocks Off” played by the Spiders from Mars as produced and recorded direct to C90 by the Electric Eels’ John Morton. The b-sides are lesser but one sounds like Van Halen’s version of “You Really Got Me” and the other is called “Hawkwind Show”. Nuff Said.

WALK TO THE FIRE or “Lessons of electric primitivism that were obviously not so much learned as lived” (Grady Runyan)

Grady Runyan (Axe wielder and loco vocal)

WALK TO THE FIRE is a barbarian classic (what an oxymoron, ya moron!) that brings a smile to your face and sway to your hips and a lump to your dong from the moment you put it on. This record is as life-affirming as a noisy early morning fart on London’s rush hour Tube; rasping, stinky and utterly impossible to ignore – indeed, WALK TO THE FIRE is “enhanced by a very poor and unclean production job”, as its main protagonist once wrote of someone else.
My daughters have almost become immune to such vibrant aural passive smoking as Taj Mahal Travellers and Group Ongaku and Stockhausen and Father Moo & the Black Sheep. To them it’s just Novelty Compost you close the door to escape from. But open the door when Monoshock is playing and I get an earful from them. Like Comets on Fire, Chrome, Electric Eels, Rocket from the Tomb, Monoshock is more incendiary because it takes the traditional and fucks with it, in what Mr Runyan himself has described as an “engaging display of cave-fuzz”. That is, it takes the familiar and rummages about until an unholy alchemy has been achieved.

WALK TO THE FIRE opens with a kind of “Non Alignment Pact” mess of feedback, stops-start drums, and worried shake appeal howling, before “Crypto-Zoological Disaster” kicks in a “Silver Machine” boogie that ain’t no boogie at all. Twin vocals start complain-complaining about something inaudible and we’re off on the voyage. Mr Runyan is joined by BlackJack Records label boss Scott Derr on hogsgrunt Lemmy-type (Gibson?) bass and the rentaslob Rubin Fiberglass on drums. Monoshock’s Hawkwind-inspired roots2 show through with the sax-playing-through-an-oscillator of the magnificently named Aluminium Queen. Mr Queen does for Monoshock what Tommy Hall did into his jug for the Elevators, and what Nick Turner needed Dik Mik and Del Dettmar’s help for in Hawkwind. However, Monoshock get round this problem by making Aluminium Queen’s space warbling louder than anything else in the mix. It’s a device that Noel Harmonson of Comets on Fire would pick up on a coupla years later with his Echoplex.

Scott Derr (bass/brass) also ran BlackJack Records and was responsible for the Liquorball releases

“I Took you to it, Baby” is huge, fast and a riff to kill for: the Pistols “Liar” reduced to no chords and twice as fast. Dual snotbag vocals complain-complain over schplutter mutter drums and you don’t have a clue what they’z abaht. Like the Electric Eels “Accident”, they conjure up something you don’t quite wish to address.
“Hong Kong” is the early Buzzcocks’ “Time’s Up” with HIGH RISE LIVE guitar tone and fabulous lyrics, only one of which I can make out: “Got another strange idea… cut off my head so I can’t hear.” Punk twin vocals always clear my custard and this is the best example in years.
Then they end side one with “Astral Plane” by sinking even lower than the Electric Eels did on “Spin Age Blasters.” However, Monoshock’s song is even better than the aforesaid because of its scabies-catchy slug-slow riff and tortured cowboy vocals. Guest violinist Doug Pearson swerves this sucker right off the road, and Scott Derr picks up his bass bugle and single-handedly demolishes the atonal ugly-pathetic-ness of the entire Laughing Clowns’ oeuvre with several of the sweatiest tromboniest horn solos yet put on tape.
“I saw you baby on the astral plane,
You read my dreams just like a magazine.”

Side two responds to this achingly-awful genius by opening with the almost acoustic Stones space rock of “Tom Guido Philosophically Stoogely”. More dual vocals over an amphetamine “Street Fighting Man”, and hey, even some production ideas from extra guitars and overdubbed tambourine from Liquorball bassist Feast. Whoa! And those couple more references to “You Really Got Me” cain’t really fail neither, now can they?

“Leesa” opens with the whole band singing this girl’s name over and over and over, high and falsetto and half-asleep, while the Aluminium Queen oscillates in an Alan Ravenstine EMS manner and out of the gloaming rises your ultimate utility Instant Hawkwind riff. “Leeeeeeeeeeee-sahhhhh! Leeeeeeeeeee-sahhhhhhhh!” coo the half wits, like the Montague gang singing up to Juliet in an effort to blow Romeo’s cool and have her drop him. And boy do they succeed. Seven minutes into this blitz, she’s packed up and settled for an arranged marriage.

The song which closes side two is a huge revelation of the Runyan psyche, and it’s a tortured damned masterpiece. Beginning incongruously with the bass playing the riff to “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, “Separate Beds” is also the trickster in the pack; the Lokian spirit moving unexpected, unwatched and surely as uncalled for as The Stooges’ “Anne”. A beautiful and massively dark tragedy; an end-of-the-affair song straight out of the Armand Schaubroeck songbook, this is an epic minor-key masterpiece of true devastation. Here, Grady Runyan reveals himself as a real songwriter who could probably stand up in the ‘real’ world, if he could even muster up one iota of respect for that place for long enough. A cover version of this would be a huge C&W hit. In my dreams, baybee.

Rubin Fiberglass (drums and male model)

Side three opens like “Iron Man” meets “TV Eye” meets the Batman theme. It’s called “Molten Goldfinger 965” and it wipes my shitty ass. Hardly any vocals and all of them submerged in the Aluminium Queen’s Own Fug. Again, Mr Runyan has rifled through the Bodleian Library of Rock Riffs, and checked out every one of them AND he ain’t about to take these suckers back NOR pay the fines.
The deeply brilliant and highly melodic title track is a Stacy Sutherland-type sub-aqua ballad straight out of BULL OF THE WOODS. Imagine “Rose & the Thorn” with “Living On” production and you’re somewhere close to the mystery of this track. Again, it’s got that easy melody that makes you think Grady’s been piling ‘em up for this very rainy day. And Ethan Miller musta copped a thang or three for his Comets on Fire vocal technique. Imagine a reverb’d dead-man-walking blues riff with other-sarcophagus vocals and splatter drums. Excellent.
Then we come to the furiously inbred “Chicken Lover”. “This is a song about people making love with animals”, declares Grady. Cue all instruments copping a few barnyard sounds. Abrupt stop. “I shot you in the back when I caught you with my chicken lover,” says Mr. Runyan. And off they stomp into a blues-fuelled space tirade. “I suspect one man's natural tendencies are another man's dementia,” says Mr Runyan.
Side three’s closer, “Sea Monkeys”, is right off side two of THE MODERN DANCE. Think “Chinese Radiation” or even “Laughing”. This is a rhythmless complain-o-thon with a wonderful bass riff and drums that only relieve us halfway through.

And so we come to the final side of this behemoth. And it is here, on the two eight-minute technicolour yawns “International; Hello” and “I Want It All” that Monoshock most nearly approach their sibling band Liquorball. However, I say nearly. And it must be very carefully noted that whilst both of these side four epics are an unrestrained headrush, they in no real way approach the ELECTRONIC MEDITATION-period T. Dream low church Mithraic blood-letting that Liquorball so deeply represents.

Aluminium Queen (treated sax)

“International Hello” fades slowly out of the murk, a slow blues 6/8 thunderstorm of drums, then suddenly accelerates into the kind of relentless caterwauling guitar destruction you need to physically experience. The whole album was recorded at The Insane Cat in San Francisco, except for this one overflowing canister of fresh garbage, which owes its dubious birth to a place called The Practise Pad. Never book this place, they have one broken compressor mike and no toilets. Hey, I could listen to a whole 60 minutes of this stuff and still want more. Scott Derr’s untamed bass rears up and tries to throw him out the saddle, but he ain’t having none of it. These guys may be influenced by Hawkwind but this stuff make Lemmy and Dave Brock look like stuffed owls in an antique boutique. Rubin is close to a heart attack and who the fuck knows what Aluminium Queen is doing here: it all suffuses together in one incandescent glow. Margaret Niffisent, but you can call me Mag. All those Japrock Mainliner Heino snobs should suck at these guys’ Priapic Altar!
“I Want It All” completes the circle with an intro of Pere Ubu atmosphere, “Chinese Radiation” again, more farts, more bubbles until, at 1.55, we’re back in 1975, grooving on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously with the proto-No Wave of the Cleveland sound meets the Hawkwind-plays-Neu! of “Opa-Loka”. It’s a call-and-answer song with semi-yodelled vocals and yelps:
“I want it all (I want it all),
I want it all (I want it all),
I want it all.”

Again, this could have done with being the whole of an album side, but I’m greedy for Grady’n’Co and sad to see the back of them. What an album, what a sound, what a moment captured. Truth is, Monoshock was gone forever after this one long glimpse of genius, as Grady Runyan returned to his stupor-dooper day job in Liquorball…

Spray-painted home-made sleeves w/ ripped pornographic inserts

Liquorball Fucks The Sky

Yeah Liquorball. How to review them. What can you say of a trio that calls an album LIVE AT HITLER’S BUNKER but features the word ‘Bullshit’ so prominently on the sleeve that it’s reviewed everywhere as just that? How do you respond to a band who’s LIQUORBALL FUCKS THE SKY LP has no song titles and instead features the legend ‘Get Well Soon’ on its labels? And if even the 7” release has no titles and only a handwritten sticker announcing the luminous vinyl within, U-Know there’s something afoot. Especially when those records truly explore the kind of atonal low trauma music that hung around only briefly even in scenes like turn-of-the-70s Germany (ELECTRONIC MEDITATION specifically). Conrad Schnitzler in your bass player incarnation, we neeeeed you. Until then, we got Feast on bass for Liquorball and he’s a total genius with nere a nod of respect for 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 or even 1/2. If Chuggz’ home decorating is redolent of the way he plays the drums, then he’s right now hammering in screws and painting lounge walls without moving the sofas or easy chairs.

Liquorball's (Untitled) 7"

A bunch of Q Magazine journalists got mad at me over my KRAUTROCKSAMPLER stance, in which I declared that all T. Dream after ATEM was blandorama synth-fizzle. Hell, you bourgoise things that creep, gimme T. Dream with the trouser tracks or gimme death! Yup, one listen to that first Liquorball LP LIQUORBALL FUCKS THE SKY will confirm that my T. Dream assertion was not only fair but was possibly a little too compassionate. For, Liquorball is one free-rock travesty you just gotta get a hold of and ingest with abandon.

Except for one single on which they sounded like Monoshock and he sounds like a refusenik David Lee Roth, Grady Runyan the poet is here reduced/elevated to the kind of shamanic E.T. Gollum figure which competes admirably with early Yoko3. So, while LIQUORBALL FUCKS THE SKY is deffo my fave, LIVE IN HITLER’S BUNKER takes them into even newer territory because it features the superb low church organ playing of Steve Watson. What a keyboard star this guy is, loud and proud and totally without peers.

Liquorball Live In Hitler's Bunker

Liquorball is obvious, funny, pathetic, shitty, wanton, dedicated, unbothered, unsophisticated, unyielding, un-necessary, anyone-could-do-it-and-no-fucker-does-so-they-obviously-can’t beyond-a-joke genius that everyone should buy at least one copy of in their lifetime. In my brief emailing with Grady Runyan, I asked him why these LPs weren’t out on CD yet. His answer was about as perfect a reply as there could be:

“I thought about reissuing FUCKS THE SKY and HAULS ASS on a single CD simultaneously, one right channel the other left… I wonder how that would SOUND.”

Do it to it, Mr Runyan. We neeeeed!

  1. “The fidelity on the original singles is so incredibly poor it makes WALK TO THE FIRE sound like bona fide audiophile material.” (By email from Grady Runyan)
  2. Monoshock and Liquorball also appeared on the ASSASSINS OF SILENCE HUNDRED WATT VIOLENCE Hawkwind tribute LP released on Ceres Records. Whilst Monoshock’s version of “Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)” is just all right, Liquorball’s go at “You Shouldn’t Do That” is sub-dude and almost instrumental. Far more interesting than either of these is the astonishing version of “Born to Go” by free-rock singing drummer/genius Ed Wilcox and his mighty Temple of Bon Matin in its most embryonic stage. This version takes the proto-punk original and raises it into something worthy of Comets on Fire. Hell, it even shits on a lot of their own CABIN IN THE SKY LP.
  3. That Grady Runyan finishes side one of LIQUORBALL FUCKS THE SKY screaming ‘Why?’ over and over unaccompanied does not (to me at least) suggest his being even influenced by Yoko’s own ‘Why?’ which finishes in the same manner. Rather, it suggests to me that screaming ‘Why?’ over and over is instead the ur-holler, a summum bonum of every shaman, and that the word ‘why’ became the ultimate question simply because of its instant and ultimate sound. However, only a proper Battle of the Shamans could prove this one way or another – though it’s a damned good idea, whatever. For the experiment, I’d propose Kan Mikami (Japan), Cotton Casino (Japan), Grady Runyan (US), Alan Dubin (US), Ed Wilcox (US), Christian Vander (France), Mani Neumaier (Germany), Freya Aswynn (Netherlands), John Balance (Britain), and myself, natch.

Monoshock Discography

“Primitive Zippo” b/w “Change that Riff” and “Nobody Recovery” (Womb 1994)
“Soledad” b/w “Striking a Match in the year 4007” (BlackJack 1994)
Corney Weekend b/w Grandpa (Dolores 1995)
Model Citizen b/w “Hawkwind Show” and “Everything Near Me” (Bag of Hammers 1995)

Walk to the Fire (Blackjack double-vinyl/CD 1996)

Liquorball Discography

“Willie the Worm” b/w “The Slug Brothers” (BlackJack 1991)

Liquorball Fucks the Sky (BlackJack 010)
Liquorball Hauls Ass (BlackJack 014)
Live in Hitler’s Bunker (BlackJack 022)


Note: After this review, Grady Runyan emailed me with news that I’d gotta few things wrong. When I asked him if I could temporarily add these messages in place of a total re-edit, he was charming and agreed. So here ya go…

Whoa Julian, you really know how to heap it on.......I for one consider our horn majorly blown.....which is to say thanks for the coverage......but now that I've wiped the juice off my leg, I'd like to straighten out a few things........don't worry, it needn't fuck with any mythology-raising (yours or ours)........it's just that I don't want someone/something else's credit, especially considering the potential durability of your slather.....

OK....the main thing is, Monoshock was first and foremost a group, a gang, a party, a tribe, a UNIT......there was no appointed leader, nor would one have been tolerated. Band processes were collaborative: We were most defiantly NOT a one-(sha)man show and no one was a rent-a-anything, especially Rubin Fiberglass........he is fact the author of almost every lyric that you quoted, and the singer thereof t'boot! Find his lead incantations on “I Took You To It”, “Hong Kong”, “Tom Guido…”, “Walk To The Fire”, “Chicken Lover”, “Astral Plane”, “Separate Beds”, “Sea Monkeys” ......in other words, he's ALL OVER the bleepin' record!.......... Me, I only scram lead on two songs the whole album.........assorted yelps, roars, gurgles and coos notwithstanding, they're just part of the landscape........

Feast did NOT provide extra guitar or production ideas (?) to Tom Guido, or any of our tracks for that matter......tambourine yes........and speaking of Feast, the true Loki of this scenario if there ever was one, that is in fact his "Why" that so fittingly closes side one of Fucks The Sky.......not mine......those are also his lungs you're hearing on both L-Ball 7-inchers, not mine.......perhaps Feast is the ur-gollom you seek (though if you still choose me as your cosmic rock'n'roll shaman, I can promise urine-stained carpeting in every basement and a swedish flying saucer on every amp)........

“Corney Weekend” ain't us. You may have noticed I did NOT include it in the 7-inch discography you asked for........this was not an oversight. The part about it sounding like Liquorball is perhaps the most cosmic of all........

Let it be known that your enthusiasm is most welcome (being compared to a fart AND Miles Davis is indeed one for the grandkids), but your blatant fact-lack and lopsided delivery is kinda shafting my fellow tribesmen. Clueing your readers to the credit-where-credit's due-ness of it all might help........


PS - You need to hear the Sternklang album-- 3/4 of Monoshock + 4,
no-holds-barred from '94......

To which I replied:

Hey there Grady,

Sorry I wronged a few rights and disserviced the others - I figured you'd be so deepinaheart of the solo LP, you might not give two hoots for me surfacing da 'shock at this moment. I added up 4 and four and made one! Your being a poet-ruffian also helped delude me.

No, that's not actually it at all. It was difficult to keep emailing you with what-I-thought-you'd-see-as petty queries so I perused the album sleeves and that's what I came up with. I only credit Feast with tambourine, if you read it one way (though it can be read the other way now you alert me to it).

If you wanna give me those guys addresses, I'll do a 'sorry gentlemen' to all of them. And I will - of course - do a re-edit in the best rolling-publishing traditions of the Int'net.

"Corney Weekend" was THEE cosmic curveball. I've had that record since it came out and didn't give it the time of day. Consequently, I dissed the WALK TO THE FIRE album for years and was about to heap in on the pile of slush on its way to Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange, when the BlackJack label caught my attention, and the WALK TO THE FIRE title kind of put me in the mind of Comets on Fire (who owe a debt to you, bigtime, I would think). Anyway, having a Yank missus and knowing the name Monoshock has a place in teen jock culture, I was initially wary, listened over and over, but figured - eh, it's the same band having temporary delusions. Believe me, it was the mottled vinyl what finally swayed me, guv!

Send me the addresses - I'll do the right thing.

Back at ya!


This was Grady Runyan’s final message, before NASA pulled the plugs on us:

If you are really serious about a re-edit, you may want to include the Sternklang LP.....it's kinda like an extended Monoshock session, "International Hello "-style. There is a unique Monoshock track on "Fuck That Weak Shit, Vol. 3" too.

I had secretly hoped for the day Corney Weekend be attributed to us (I believe Scott owns a copy)......

More trivia: Ed Wilcox played drums for Liquorball once, and the results were issued on CDR: "Tora Tora Tora" (Radon, 2000; rec. '96)......"You Shouldn't..." on the Hawk/trib comes from a primordial 50-minute rendition, CD & LP have completely different excerpts.......and don't forget the first Liquorball single.........you want a copy of my one and only solo show?

Thanks for making right.........and for the coverage in the first place,