Why a Web site featuring an obscure band that hasn't been active in
If not for the success of their brief ReUnIoN in '96/'97, I wouldn't have
bothered. This activity consisted of three shows with packed houses in
Philadelphia and a cd re-issue of their vinyl recordings. The ReUnIoN
confirmed that their old fans remain steadfast in their support. More
importantly, it confirms that Ruin is able to excite new listeners and that
the band's efforts are still worthy of attention. Why else would WKDU still
give them airplay?
Consider also that Superchunk (indie rock band) covered one of Ruin's
songs,"Hero", back in '96 for an ep cd. A song 9 years old by this time.
A fan (thanks, Puffy) recently emailed that the Ruin symbol has a cameo
role ;-) in the hollywood movie, SLC punk (don't think I wanna see that tho').
I suppose it's nods of recognition like these over the years that compel
me to do some documentation about the band.
Ruin was more than music, or at least aspired to be more. Initially, it
was a propaganda project . Students of the arts, philosophy and religion,
doing lab work with music. Experimenting with a way to be activists for
social and individual evolution.
Founded in 1980 by Dr. Glenn Wallis, (then a religious studies'
undergrad), Ruin was ostensibly a model "old school" hardcore "punk" rock
musical group. This model was characterized by hyper speed rhythms, banshee
lead guitar, raging vocals and ideological lyrics. A dillion dime a dozen
bands exemplified this style but few were distinguished masters such as Dead
Kennedys, Bad Brains or Minor Threat.
During the time this style was in its infancy, Glenn heard the call and
joined the mutual evolution. He began scrawling poems to be roared with
thrash tempo rhythms; songs that wanted to transcend entertainment.
Glenn was nurtured on artists such as the STOOGES, LEONARD COHEN, the
Ramones, Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, SHAM69, and the CLASH. While he
was shaping his vision, he was listening to Crass, (anarchist art punk
band), and Motorhead, (seminal speed metal band). Glenn became convinced
that rock could be a vehicle to help stimulate the transformation of one's
being to a higher stage of development, resulting in positive social
While he was forming a band to meet that aim, he began his missionary
work and pasted the city with posters.
(here's an example of one posted in the
They started a buzz in the scene because of their striking images of real
life horror accompanied by words that appeared to be scrawled by a mad
mystic on the lam. Juxtaposed by another band poster, the lack of gig
listing made one wonder, "What is this Ruin?...Is this a poem? ...
What is this symbol ?"...
The Rest is Mistory
Ruin achieved headliner status locally in Philadelphia's mid sized music
halls. Live, they experimented with noise, genre bending, pamphleteering,
theatrics, and audience participation. They toured across the States a
couple of times, and in their small way, helped to promote Buddhism as a
means to enrich one's life.
Their last recording featured their flirting with mainstream rock.
Theoretically, they were hoping to reach a wider audience to spread Buddhist
ideas further, but basically they were becoming serious about pursuing a
career as a rock band. This was frustrating as Ruin eventually found that
rock as a business was overwhelming their creative efforts.
During their last year as a group, the band members re-evaluated their vocation and decided to
pursue other courses, assuming they had done as much as they could as punk
rockers on a mission.
Over a thousand dollars in debt, they disbanded before punk got pop, and
missed capitalizing on the growing market for old-school punk in new boots.
Still, I hear Ruin played on WKDU 91.7 FM. Just last week I was tuned in to
a DJ (I didn't catch her name, but she was) telling us about one of her
favorite Philadelphia bands,
"..Violent Society, who I think probably is the best punk band in Philly,
definitely now ...definitely over the past several years, I don't know,
they're up there with [pause] Ruin . . ."
Yesterday's Now Music Today
Glenn is currently a
college professor teaching courses in Buddhism. He used to have a mission.
The Sign of Ruin . . .
During a religious study class, student Glenn Wallis had a flash of
cosmic consciousness while doodling in his notebook.
Upon returning to his ordinary state of consciousness, he discovered that
he had been a medium for a transmission from another realm.
A whole page had been filled with the "automatic" doodling of a cryptic
glyph, repeated many times over.
Glenn later adopted this glyph as the insignia for his hardcore rock
band, Ruin... from there, this symbol, sign, insignia, (whatever), found its
way to be graffiti, fingered in cement, painted on jackets and tatooed on
It was rendered on canvas by Mike Stevens for the cover of Ruin's "Fiat
Lux" lp, and later used for the "Songs of Reverie and Ruin..." disc label
Is it the secret sign of a benevolent occult organization?
Prof. Glenn has no comment.