Cassette Culture #1 – Arbeit Macht Frei

By mid-1984 SCW had established a living, rehearsal and recording space at Willow St. in Waterloo, Ontario, and had access to the electronic music labs at the University of Waterloo. In August of that year they released their first cassette, entitled Arbeit Macht Frei.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” tape cover – folded out – by PnrH

The cassette was 90 minutes in length, with about 32 individual tunes. Here’s some highlights:

Kill Pigs

All you wanna do is kill yourself

All you wanna do is kill yourself

Why’re you trying to kill yourself?

Why aren’t you trying to…

Kill Pigs!

Kill Pigs!

Kill Pigs!

SCW salutes their punk roots…

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In 1984 the four members of SCW were all students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Jeff-o and dWM had enrolled in David Huron‘s computer music course, thereby gaining access to the electronic music studio in  the basement of Conrad Grebel College.  The studio was equipped with recording facilities, a grand piano, a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer, an E-mu Drumulator, and a huge Moog modular synthesizer (either a model 55 or 3C). SCW had absolutely no idea what they were doing when they were using most of the gear, especially the Moog.  However large portions of the first SCW tape release were created and recorded in this studio.

Here is a raw recording of experimentation using the Moog  modular and Juno-60 (with the Moog sequencer triggering the Juno arpeggiator). Some of this material was used on the first SCW cassette tape release.

The Early Years II – The Classic Quartet

In the summer of 1984 PnrH, Jeff-o and Roba all moved into a house beside the railroad tracks on Willow St. in Waterloo, Ontario. Chemical tankers would pass within a few feet of the house during the day. The damp basement of the house was designated as a sound experimentation laboratory, and various musicians and weirdos would come by to participate in jam sessions with the trio. One of these was dWM, who SCW had seen performing in a multimedia show, and who quickly joined as an official member, thus forming the first stable incarnation of SCW. Roba purchased a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder and a Roland TR-606 drum machine. Jeff-o purchased a Yamaha CS01 synthesizer, then sold it and bought a Roland SH-101 synth (later supplementing it with an MC-202) that could sync to the drum machine. dWM brought in a variety of musical junk including a trashed string machine of unknown make, and an empty oil drum. Electrical shocks were common and served to further inspire the four members.

At this point SCW started recording seriously, and began a series of live performances and happenings. More on this to follow…

The Early Years I – The Beginnings of SCW

Sucking Chest Wound was hatched out of the acid-drenched brains of PnrH and Jeff-o in the winter of 1982-83 in Waterloo, Canada. After many all-night listening sessions absorbing the likes of Throbbing Gristle, The Residents, Caberet Voltaire, 23 Skidoo etc., the two decided to form a band. The logical first step was to come up with a righteous name. PnrH – having served in the cadet corps of the Canadian Armed Forces – happened to have a military first-aid manual describing a particularly nasty form of bayonet injury: the Sucking Chest Wound.

The next step was to produce some music. Having no instruments or musical abilities presented a challenge. After some initial experiments with a 3-head cassette deck in a feedback loop,  Jeff-o purchased a Mattel Synsonic drum machine, and Pnrh dug up a guitar named Pokey and purchased a Mysto Dysto fuzz pedal. They then set out to recruit some additional members. The first incarnation of SCW consisted of Synsonic drum machine, Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer, guitar, bass and vocals. No recordings exist of this proto-version of SCW and only one live gig was ever performed, in the summer of 1983.

By this time Roba had joined the group, and would remain as a member of SCW until 1991.