Between 1985-1986 the members of SCW finished their studies at the University of Waterloo and headed to the big city. PnrH and dWM were the first to leave, followed later by Roba and Jeff-o. PhrH and dWM embarked on a series of side projects, and SCW played a few one-off gigs, but no new SCW material was recorded during this time. Jeff-o, PnrH and dWM ended up living in a house together in a seedy part of downtown Toronto, but practice/recording space was limited to a tiny section of the slug-infested basement. By this time SCW had sold off all their analog synths and drum machines and were starting to use ‘real’ instruments (drums, guitar, bass, sax etc.) but were also experimenting with some of the new digital technology that was becoming affordable.
In 1984 SCW managed to gain access to the video production facilities at the local cable station, courtesy of our friend and collaborator Michelle Geister (aka DJ Force MG). This resulted in a series of experimental videos created by PhrH and dWM. For more info on these videos check out the Sucking Chest Wound YouTube channel…
Sucking Chest Wound produced this video in 1985 to promote their first two cassette releases: Arbeit Macht Frei and Model 152 Blowgun. Unfortunately the video didn’t do much to boost sales, probably because it received zero airplay…
SCW’s second release on cassette came out in mid-1985 and was a mixture of new material and live recordings from the Sweet Children of the West show in April that year. The new material continued in the same techno-industrial post-punk style of the first cassette, with added horns in some tunes. This release marked the end of SCW’s use of analogue synths, and drum machines – all future work was done using either ‘real’ instruments played live or digital samplers, drum machines and effects.
“Model 152 Blow Gun” cassette tape cover – folded out – by PnrH
In the First Days…
Bass, tapes and drum machine…
On April 17 1985 SCW returned to the Mayfair Hotel in Kitchener, Canada for another performance. This time they performed upstairs at a club called Level 21. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear they performed as Sweet Children of the West; the name would be resurrected later on when they were banned from performing as Sucking Chest Wound. The focus of the show was on videos prepared beforehand and played back on video monitors located throughout the performance space, along with slides projected onto the stage. SCW performed largely behind screens, occasionally venturing out onto the stage to tweak knobs etc.
Here’s an edit of the performance
The first proper SCW performance occurred on November 30, 1984 at the Chandelier Room of the Mayfair Hotel in Kitchener, Canada. The show came about through a Fine Arts course that PnrH was taking at the University of Waterloo. The show was actually marked by his professor and applied towards his credit for the course!
Ticket for the show – by PnrH
The performers included all four members of SCW plus an additional four performers recruited for the show. SCW played in the background while the other four were up front using various mic-ed up domestic and industrial tools: Charles on vacuum cleaner/balloon, Jim on sewing machine, Claudio on power tools and John on heavy metal. Film projections and video were also part of the staging. All the performers wore masks cast from their faces with plaster bandages, similar to the ‘death masks’ dating back to the middle ages. The workers rose up against their slave masters but the power tools of the workers were no match for the media tools of their slave masters… Continue reading
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:
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…
SCW salutes their punk roots…
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.
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…
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, PiL 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.