MonkeySpank and The Baltimore Sound

I will do my best to avoid rambling explanation, sidebars and sub-referencing but when it comes to the topic of Rock Music in Baltimore I find myself rolling experience after experience around my brain and out of my mouth(or in this case, fingers) that I manage to bore myself.

At the risk of sounding silly, I can honestly say that I was born of rock-n-roll.  My father played in a band called the Melody Heirs.  Their music sounded like an early 60’s stripper soundtrack, which in fact, it often was.  My Mom and Dad met while she was working as a waitress in a bar that  her relatives owned and my Father’s band was playing there.  My Dad’s band actually cut a .45 that got played on local radio and anyone who followed my blog on myspace a while back already knows much of that story.  I write this to illustrate that I might be a little more in tune with music in Baltimore than the average hon.

There I go…boring myself!  I have to stay on point.  My thesis is that there has been a Baltimore sound during different eras and I could go through a laundry list of bands to validate my point and to show off my acumen but that would be even more counter-productive.  The era that I am talking about would be the years of 1988 through 1992…maybe ’93.  There were some diabolically good bands during these years(warning: here comes a list)Liquor Bike, Cloaca, Womyn of Destruction, Lake Trout, The Almighty Senators and of course, the criminally talented, MonkeySpank. I was fortunate to meet and hang with members of the band before I ever heard them play a note, but once I saw them perform I was blown away by how heavy, funky, metally, punky they were.  Their music reflected everything musical they had grown up with and more.  It was as if Motown’s Funk Brothers found Black Sabbath in a field when they were babies and raised them as their own; occasionally allowing the Dead Kennedys and Junior Samples to babysit.

MonkeySpank’s line up consisted of Brian Rice on Vocals and guitar, Bill Corsello, Kendall King and Allison(Splendora) Futeral on drums/percussion with Kevin Keelty and my main man, Dave (Skree)Kahle on bass.  Look at the separation of labor-3 drummers and 2 dudes slappin’ the bass.  I offer this as evidence of the Baltimore Sound.  Hell there was only one guitar!  It was very tribal and a MonkeySpank show was off the charts.  Loud and sweaty!  The Almighty Senators, who are indeed still around, had a very heavy, funky vibe too and if you were lucky enough to see these bands play together at Hammerjacks, you probably still haven’t recovered.

I don’t know all the particulars of MonkeySpank’s breakup but they called it quits after 2 albums, “Daemons Flew Out of My Mouth” and “Blue Mud”.  There were rumors that some of the big record companies had courted ‘Spank but I’ve never gotten verification of that.  I do remember seeing Brian not too long after the breakup and I found myself delivering that bad news to my friends who, like me, felt that it was only a matter of time before the world saw Baltimore for the musical hotbed that it is…was..whatever.  I often think back to that time and imagine that the record companies’ A&R people were sitting around flipping a coin yelling, “Heads-Seattle/Tails-Baltimore.  They heard a noisy SubPop band called Nirvana and started writing checks to all the other bands in the Pacific Northwest to make sure that if there was another band up there half as good as Nirvana they would be ready to pounce.  No one was as good as Nirvana, but I think that MonkeySpank’s first record is better than “Bleach”.

So the Baltimore Sound was funky and fun, really bottom heavy and overall hard to describe.  You would have to hear it to get it but I feel that it could have been huge and MonkeySpank would have lead the charge.  They suffer, like so many artists of coming to power in the years after MTV became the primary source for “new” music and the rise of the internet.  The height of their notoriety came as incidental music for a scene in Baltimore’s beloved TV series on NBC, “Homicide, Life on the Streets”.  A search for MonkeySpank on the web doesn’t yield much but ‘Spanks, Brian Rice started a myspace page for the band a few years ago and he has uploaded their music onto that page.  I will try to attach a link to it but I was having trouble wrangling it earlier.  If you do go the myspace page, you gotta listen to “Dr Omar” and totally groove on the superpowered trumpets

MonkeySpank's "Daemons Flew Out of My Mouth

on that track laid down by the Slow Death Horns.

I’ve left too much out and I’ve said too much already,  but I will leave it here.

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About scottcarberry

I'm one nifty dude who is fascinated by his hometown; Baltimore, MD. It is persistently beautiful and ugly and I wish to live nowhere else ever again.
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15 Responses to MonkeySpank and The Baltimore Sound

  1. Lawrence Prigg says:

    So right about the massive, thunderous, visceral quality of Monkeyspank’s sound! Was also privileged to see them share a bill w/ the ‘Senators at Hammerjack’s on more than a few occasions. Last time I saw them was spring of ’93, and took my then-girlfriend (now wife) who’d lived in NYC during the first wave of punk to see them…she was blown away by their energy, and still from time to time agrees with me that it was somewhat criminal that they were not signed to a major label.

  2. Steve C says:

    After a class at Towson Brian handed me a flyer for one of their first dates . I should have moved heaven and earth to go to that show; I didn’t end up seeing them until a few months later. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. They need a reunion show, like, yesterday.

  3. Robert M. Steuart says:

    ‘Spank were on tour swinging through the southeast in the late 80s (?) when they came to Johnson City, TN for one show & played a long-since-closed bar called Quarterbacks. I’d heard about them from a friend who lived in Baltimore who knew some of the members.
    I saw them play in Johnson City that night and after the show struck up a conversation about the great music, the fun show and our mutual friend (Chris Whitlock). During our post-show conversations I found out they (6 or 7 of them all total?) were planning to sleep on the floor of the bar that night due to low funds and lack of other accomodations.
    Long story short I offered my home to the band for the night. The ‘Spanksters had a good night’s sleep and were able to wash off the road the next morning with many showers (until the hot water ran out!!).
    I felt great helping the band, making new friends and was given a signed vinyl copy of “Demons Flew Out Of My Mouth” that I still have & cherish.
    The band hit the road the next morning & I never saw them again, never to return to Johnson City. They were, however, spotted by one of my friend’s elderly mother the morning they left Johnson City because she told her son (who later told me) she’d seen these “weird looking kids” in town, including a girl with blue hair (Allison!!).
    Great band, one of a kind. never to be seen again!!
    Robert

  4. Tuk says:

    I saw Monkeyspank at a place called Barbeque Iguana in D.C., That was probably about ’88 or ’89. it was a tiny place in an alley, I think right behind where Dante’s used to be. What an amazing show. The place was tiny and they blew the windows out of the place. Just a heavy, heavy sound with a wall of rhythm, funk and pure energy. I thought then they would blow up, but alas, it wasn’t to be. And as good as the album was, it didn’t even come close to the live sound.

  5. Brian Rise says:

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone- just stumbled upon this blog and have to say that, though it was a shame we didn’t go further, I’m proud and more than a little humbled to have been able to provide so many people with so many good times and great memories. I had some of the best times of my life performing in that band.

    While we never were able to quite get the stampeding live energy down in the studio, there are a few good boots out there- I just heard one from the Inter-tribal Pow-wow in ’89 (I think). I also have one somewhere from DC Space.

    • Hey, Brian!
      Thanks for checking out the blog. I still see a ton of Baltimore bands and they are all great in their own ways. My fiancee, Anna’s band, Thrushes is very good and being her beau means that I hang around the scene a bit. With all the success being experienced by Baltimore bands I always want to tell these younger people about Monkeyspank…but these kids are in their 20’s and it makes me sound like the old Baltimore Punk Geezer. I hope that you are doing great!
      –scott

  6. Brian Rise says:

    and we were used in two episodes of Homicide.

  7. Russell Farmarco says:

    Amen, brother! That first e.p. was better than BLUE MUD but neither captured the raw power of their live shows. Still about the only time I was a huge fan of an essentially (criminally) local band. They weren’t folks I was just supporting to be a good friend (though I had a passing familiarity with their members) I was a genuine fan, and wold go see/hear them play live tomorrow if it were possible.

    Cheers!

  8. Mike Schuncke says:

    These guys were one of my favorite bands back in the day. I’ve managed to shake down a few live tapes and transfer them. The 4-30-89 PowWow show that Brian mentioned sounds pretty good and is available her to listen to here for a while

    If anyone has any good sounding live tapes, get in touch with me. I am more than happy to transfer and share them with everyone

  9. sharonlyn says:

    I saw them when they played in Morgantown (WVU) at the then-Nyabinghi. The sound: unbeatable. You had to be there to understand the intensity of the music. The experience: unequalled. I’ve seen a lot of live bands. By far they are still, in my mind, the best. I met them all after one of the shows and talked to them.
    Great post! I can’t believe I just now found it 🙂

    • Thanks, Sharonlyn!
      I was lucky enough to kind of run in their circle back in the day. They were diabolical live! Their two records, while awesome, did not to their shows justice. One show in particular at HammerJacks, here in Baltimore was a double bill with another great, and still around, band, The Almighty Senators. Full on horn section, lots of papier mache’ heads and full-on Punk Funk Metal Soul Glory!

      • Just found this site….great memories!! I was at that show at Hammerjacks with the papier mache’ heads. Still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen!! I remember seeing them at the Sanctuary (I think it was next door to Max’s on Broadway) they played for hours and hours and even threw in some All Mighty Senator songs!! Good times

      • Thanks, Manny! MonkeySpank were a force of nature. I love sharing memories of diabolical shows, past!

  10. philip says:

    Caught a show of theirs in Montreal Canada circa (forget which year, soundgarden had just exploded on the scene). Monkeyspank never attained commercial success because by definition it was overly artistic and simply rocked the house excessively hard. the line up sporting 2 basses and (i think i remember only 2 drums in that show) was too much “shock value” for record companies to handle. their sound was raw, their presence real, and the guitar work phenomenal. i recently found an old walkman i now use for my workouts at the gym and unearthed my old cassettes collection, i found the tape i bought from that show (daemons flew out of my mouth) and i relived my youth…”underground” music which simply kicks ass and will live on through the souls of those who were exposed to this band. thanks scottcarbarry for writing up this post !!

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