City Paper | Inquirer
by Frank Blank,
Philadelphia City Paper
Three boneheads and an autistic drummer. Make
that three members of The Boneheads and one member of The
Autistics, both early entries in Philadelphia's fledgling
punk rock scene of the late Seventies. When singer David Goerk called drummer Joe Ankenbrand about the possibility
of his providing the propulsion for a new band, it set the
stage for the birth of one of the more progressive,
interesting, and odd creations of the 1980s.
Bunnydrums sound first began to emerge and evolve on
January 20, 1980, when Goerk, Ankenbrand, bassist Greg
Davis and guitarist Frank Marr first rehearsed. Over the
next seven years Bunnydrums mutated through several
configurations and voyaged through numerous musical phases
- but consistently created astounding music that even
today sounds uniquely like nothing else.
The band's first public appearance was a July 1980
opening slot on a Pere Ubu bill at Philadelphia's
notorious Starlite Ballroom, a decaying hulk of an
auditorium located squarely in the center of an area where
arriving and departing in one piece was something of a
But the stage performances that Bunnydrums began to
present were only the public face of a private
|"The coagulation of aggressive punk, fragmented
funk circa early A Certain Ration and an obvious
admiration of PIL and Killing Joke have given the
Drums quite a unique sound. Still wholeheartedly accessible, the pumping dance
music that spirals from 'PKD' is essential listening
and bodes well for the future." —
Ankenbrand brought more to the band than formidable
percussion talents - he also brought a ravenous appetite
for the works of science fiction master Philip K. Dick.
The Dick outlook merged with assorted natural and
artificial stimulants, with the experimentation being
conducted at the psychedelic/psychotic warehouse
playground known as Funk Dungeon. As more people became
drawn into the Funk Dungeon vortex, something of an odd
society began following an erratic and artistic orbit —
with Bunnydrums at its core.
The band tried to do things differently both in
creating a forward-and-outward looking scene and in its
music, which generally took form after hours and hours of
intense daily jamming. With Davis and Ankenbrand forming a
bedrock foundation, Marr's impenetrable guitar work spun
warped layers of sonic exploration that matched Goerk's
visionary lyrics and man-possessed vocals.
It was a sound that had much in common with Dick's
work, for the best description of Bunnydrums' music is a
two-word phrase - science fiction.
|"...avant pop danceability... a slowly unfolding
phase shifting trip through a psychedelic death
clock...Highly Recommended." —
By 1981 the sound of Bunnydrums began to expand beyond
the Philadelphia region with shows in New York and
Washington, D.C. Local promoter Lee Paris, an early
supporter of the band, released the first Bunnydrums vinyl
on his Meta Meta label and the single reached the Rockpool
trade paper charts as well as garnering rave reviews in an
assortment of publications.
The relationship with Paris soured as a business
venture and, after a year of sporadic shows and
frustration with waiting to release new material, the band
itself unleashed Feathers Web upon the world in early
1983. The four-song EP's fierce visions got the band a
strong review in Billboard Magazine and is still the
favorite recording of the majority of the band.
Later that year, Bunnydrums entered into an agreement
with Richard Jordan's Red Records, and most importantly
established a relationship with the highly-respected
studio owners Phil and Joe Nicolo of Philadelphia's Studio
4. The result was the release of the first Bunnydrums
album PKD, which contained much of Feather Web with some
Despite being selected to appear in the book "Trouser
Press Best of the American Underground," Bunnydrums still
wasn't touring or even gigging with any regularity.
Instead, the creative process swept onward in the confines
of Funk Dungeon.
|"New York does not have a monopoly on no-wave
funk: they can play that music in Philly too, and
Bunnydrums does it as well as anybody...they know its
not enough just to make artsy dissonant sounds. You
also have to be musical as well. And they are." —
The next vinyl appearance was the five-track On The
Surface which, like its predecessor, was pressed in
Holland and sold in the US as an import due to Richard
Jordans' European connections. More positive press greeted
the release of the latest EP and, after a show with noted
artist Howard Finster at Philadelphia Art Alliance,
Bunnydrums embarked on its first tour - a lengthy trek
across the U.S. with actual shows being few and far
Back home at last, with finances at an all-time low,
Bunnydrums immediately retreated to the studio to begin
sessions for the Holy Moly album. Trying out new studio
techniques while recording under a tight deadline due to
Jordan's finances and his demands for material with
greater chart potential, Bunnydrums suffered through a
hectic, disconnected studio experience that still yielded
a strong album when it was released in 1984.
Coinciding with Holy Moly's release was the first
international Bunnydrums sojourn, a six-week aural
adventure that included shows in Belgium, France, and
|"The quartet has managed a difficult feat: dark -
toned, moody music that is none the less exhilarating,
— Philadelphia Inquirer/Ken Tucker
Upon returning to America, the strain of keeping
full-time jobs and creative differences between the band
members and Richard Jordan led to the first Bunnydrums
rift. Ankenbrand, who had done recording stints with Alex
Chilton and the Sic Kidz while still in Bunnydrums, left
the band following on last home-town show at Filly's in
November of 1984.
Coincidentally, Frank Blank - guitarist with hardcore
band Informed Sources, future member of Bunnydrums, and
author of these very words - joined the band for the
encore of that show, a raucous version of Link Wray's
Bobby Williams was selected as Joe's replacement, and
his more aggressive style changed the band's energy as
Bunnydrums kicked off a three-week US tour in the spring
In June of 1985 a large-format Bunnydrums, augmented by
Blank and two female singers, performed at Philadelphia
haunt The Kennel Club and New York's Peppermint Lounge.
The band's lineup stabilized once again as the girls were
shed and Blank was brought into the fold.
With Goerk now adding solid guitar melody and Blank's
punk heritage anchoring Marr's forays into the unknown,
Bunnydrums' live shows became a three-guitar juggernaut of
massive aural proportions.
The final trip to the studio for Bunnydrums was a 1985
re-vamping of Holy Moly's title track for a compilation
released by the UK's Food Records.
Several forceful warm-up gigs in Philadelphia readied
he band for an anticipated year-end European tour, but the
ambitious 30-show trip was canceled when Goerk had a final
blow-up with Jordan, who promptly turned the Bunnydrums
tour into a Butthole Surfers tour.
Disillusioned with the entire messy business, Goerk's
feelings spread through the band and Bunnydrums officially
dissolved after a New Year's Eve show rang in 1986 at The
Twice more Bunnydrums has taken the stage in the
intervening time - a memorial concert for the late Lee
Paris in May of 1986 (with drummer Richie Wrench of Ruin
and Live Skull) and again with Williams on drums at a
benefit for University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN
on April Fool's Day of 1987.
The list of bands Bunnydrums played with during its
brief history - including Pere Ubu, REM, Bauhaus, Colin
Newman, Tuxedomoon, Gang of Four, The Cult, Alan Vega,
Pylon - reads like a who's who of modern rock. But the
Bunnydrums sound differed from all of them, still existing
in its own unique space.
The sounds collected here come from the 1984 Holy Moly
European tour, and present the original Bunnydrums lineup
at their most intense and obtuse - sounds so strange,
entrancing, and powerful that they made me want to join
the band in their creation of this glorious noise.
Enjoy the ride.