Monday, October 24, 2011

Killing Cycle

Williamsburg, Virginia - late winter, 1991.  Every year, my High School would have a talent show.  It was called "Stockwood" - apparently some sort of anagram for another popular (though somewhat larger) music festival that happened some 20 years earlier.  Anyway, in the beginning of February, bands would audition for this talent show in our auditorium.  I went with my friend Chris to watch the bands.  We were both fledgling musicians - he played drumbeats not unlike what one would hear on Eazy E's solo album, while I thought I was a badass because I could play Zeppelin's Heartbreaker solo.
From the school's parking lot, I heard a band absolutely DESTROYING the song "From Out of Nowhere" by Faith No More.  We walked in a little faster to see who it was.  The drummer was a Mexican-looking guy who twirled his drumsticks at every opportunity in time with the twin cannons in front of either of his feet.  The bassist had long hair in the back and short hair in the front and banged on his Aria Pro II (THE bass to have at that time) with ferocity and precision.  The singer had long, blonde "I'm in a band" hair and a scalene triangle leg stance, and the guitarist was Mark Morton.
Chris and I found our seats, and the band finished their song to the sound of no applause - it was an audition, and we were two of maybe 12 dorks in the "audience."  The bassist starts playing this weird, sliding bass line that I immediately recognized as "Sun King" by the Cult.  It all sounds kind of cheesy now, but remember - this is early 1991, and I was a sophomore in High School.
I still remember Morton's first guitar solo in the song, clear as day.  For a good 45 seconds, this stocky kid with weird bangs and a $200 Kramer (?) turned my High School auditorium into the Hampton Coliseum.  Granted, years later he would go on to actually play coliseums, but that's another story.  From that point on, I vowed to practice until I got to be as good as that kid (this still hasn't happened).
A month later, Killing Cycle played at Stockwood.  I seem to remember them going on last, and absolutely blowing every other band off the stage.  Along with covers, they played several originals that were just as good as the songs they were covering.  Oddly, some band called Transit ended up winning the contest - but everyone knew who the best band of the night was.
That was the point that I decided that I was going to start playing in a band also, to give Killing Cycle a run for their money at the next years' Stockwood.  This actually kind of ended up happening.  I started teaching this kid named John Swart how to play bass so he could be in my band.  Now, John was actually already in a band called Joyful Stress, but no one would stand in the way of my ruthless ambition!  Chris was later replaced by Sean Sutphin, my other friend Chris sang, and the Jolly Mortals were born.  This is not their story.
Jolly Mortals managed to pass our audition the next February.  Really, there wasn't a lot of competition in pre-Nirvana Williamsburg - aside from some kids with long hair in the front stumbling through REM and Violent Femmes covers, and Killing Cycle of course did the same.  My friend Erik's band Koro was robbed - they didn't make the audition, but they did get a sweet demo out of the deal.  The date was set: March 2, 1992.
Killing Cycle went on early in the evening, but as always, they completely (true to their name) killed.  My band went on last, but despite the enthusiastic crowd response (we were, after all, the hometown heroes - KC was from a rival High School) which included a small mosh pit and police intervention, we lost to Killing Cycle.  I didn't feel disappointed though, because they totally earned it.
Later that year, Killing Cycle broke up.  The drummer formed a band called One Tribe that started mixing in Alice in Chains covers in with the obligatory Cult songs.  I heard the singer joined the military.  The bassist - whose name was John Peters - and guitarist moved to Richmond to be in a band called Hgual.  This was a big deal.  They played concerts in Richmond.  At clubs!  People get stabbed in Richmond!
In the fall of 1992, I saw Hgual at the upstairs Metro in Richmond.  I just knew they were going to be huge.  Instead, they broke up.  John Peters went on to be in probably the best punk rock band to ever come out of Richmond (Hose Got Cable) and Mark went to Chicago for school or something.  After brief stints in the hard-rockin' Fatty Love, Hose Got Cable, and an emo band (?) called Nascar Drag, he disappeared for a while and came back as the guitarist of Lamb of God.  Then, well... yeah.
Years later, on a trip to North Carolina, my good friend Erik Sugg gave me a copy of Killing Cycle's demo.  Okay.  Remember when you were in High School and there was some bad-ass band of bad-asses, then you'd listen to their demo tape 20 years later and think to yourself, "Hey, this really wasn't that bad-ass?"
That is not the case with this band.
Before playing this song live, I vaguely remember the singer said something like, "This song is about running over your neighbor's dog - it's called 'Apology Not Accepted.'"
The next song seems to be about the dark underbelly of York County.  In an interview for Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, I remember Mark talking about growing up in Richmond, but I remember his parent's house being pretty nice.  Anyway, listen to his leads in the song Underneath Reality.  There's a reason this guy won a Grammy (or was nominated for one, whatever).
Some Jake E. Lee era Ozzy influence on the next song, Landslide Suicide.
Eye of the Storm was maybe my favorite song by Killing Cycle.
Sleeping on Debris - an epic Megadeth-esque thrasher.


  1. Duuuude. Not to get distracted by a tiny detail, but I saw Nascar Drag once, in spring 1994, opening for Alice Donut at the Metro. They were AWESOME, or at least I thought so at the time. I remember them sounding sorta like Quicksand or something. Anyway, they were supposed to play with Avail and Iconoclast a few weeks later, but got replaced on that bill by Bad Guy Reaction, and I never heard from them again. I'm kind of blown away to finally find out who that band was.

    Anyway, I'd never heard of Killing Cycle, but I'll check this stuff out for sure.