EDITOR NOTE: So sometime late last year, I became friendly with Volcano Suns’ Jeff Weigand who was telling me that the band would not be doing press for the fantastic reissues that Merge put out. However, due to his and the band’s love of Chunklet, they were going to make an exception and grant us an interview. Also, seeing as how Chunklet has its fair share of Volcano Suns die hard fans, I thought it best to allow Mr. Curt Wells to do the interview. Now, I love Curt, but he’s also a very busy guy. He’s the front of house soundman for the EARL here in Atlanta and that puts a severe cramp on his schedule. All of these months later, Curt has finally finished the piece I’ve been hounding him for. Thank Jesus!
Anyway, the Volcano Suns are deciding whether Chunklet will be offering an exclusive live show of the band as a premium with orders (the Suns live at the Electric Banana in the 80’s. Choice!). However, in the meantime, I offer up Mr. Wells’ feature about one of the most criminally underrated bands from the last 30 years – The Volcano Suns!
I was someone who had never heard the Mission of Burma when I first heard the Volcano Suns. There probably was a small window in time for that to happen, and I was in it- an un-hip late ‘80s college DJ with more concern for listening to records in the back corner of the radio station than actually studying. Popular music was going through a real bullshit phase, with MIDI making it possible for one man to precisely play soul-less myopic riffs born of electric devices with no natural musical foundation. A drum machine or synthesizer doesn’t naturally radiate with melody- it spits out its sounds from tiny chips dealing with electrons. Although the waveforms could be proven to be perfect in a sense, the sounds didn’t give you the impression that someone had put them there with purpose or emotion. It was all created by some “maximized placement” algorithm.
That wasn’t what I got from “White Elephant”, the Suns contribution to the essential Homestead Records Compilation CD “The Wailing Ultimate”. I didn’t even have a CD player in 1987, but WSBF did, and I was dying to try it out. That purchase is one of those magical times where you plunk down a measly seven bucks on something without expectation, but it ends up smacking you in the face like a frying pan and changes your life. I picked it up for the Big Dipper, Naked Raygun, and Big Black cuts but fell much harder for Dinosaur, Death of Samantha, and the greatest surprise of them all, The Volcano Suns. “White Elephant” opens with a wail, a shriek, a squeal, and then a sputtering eighth-note riff that demands attention. The song chugs about for a few minutes, a rollicking beer-hall sing-along with some great hoots and hollers. It wasn’t precise, it wasn’t measured, but it sure was powerful. They were so sure of what they were doing, and that blew me away.
The radio station had the two existing Volcano Suns records, and I loved them so much I actually bought my own copies, instead of just taping them. I loved the clanging, open chords- I loved the relentless drive of the bass and then drums, but it was the scream that tied it all together. Peter Prescott has one of the great Rock n’ Roll screams. It’s a real guttural Howitzer-blast of a yell that I’ll bet really tested the electronics of a studio. It has the kind of force that you expect from the meanest drill sergeant as he’s making you do another forty push-ups in the mud and rain. Somehow, he managed to find the perfect setting for his voice: a three-piece power trio. Chunklet needing a glorification piece is a nice excuse to bug the early members and ask about the formative period.