Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Article: Grunge vs. Stoner Rock

Obviously there has been a lot of controversy between the validity of these 2 genres. Although i can't say i enjoy the label grunge or the label stoner rock, i can say that i enjoy music from both groupings. Even so i never really related the 2 until I found this article i found by Jack Endino (legendary producer and musician) and it really got me thinking more about the connection.

"A few months ago I got a call from a writer for GQ magazine (!). Mark from Mudhoney sent him to me, since I had once recorded a Blue Cheer album (an unsatisfactory experience, but that's another story). We had an animated conversation about obscure 70's heavy rock bands, about which I have some expertise, being one of the few people with a working memory who actually sought out much of said music during the seventies (pre-punk) when it was as underground as indy rock is today. (Fave: The Groundhogs, UK, '69-'74.) This gentleman told me he was doing an article on the new "STONER ROCK", by which he meant bands like Fu, Nebula, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Sleep, Monster Magnet, etc. I ribbed him for doing the cliche press thing of pigeonholing a new genre under a CUTE NAME, but he was unrepentant. Guess it's his job. Now other people are using the term... witness Loosegroove in their press kit for Queens O.T.S.A., describing Josh Homme's previous band:
"...Hailing from Palm Desert, CA, Kyuss released four albums that continue to influence bands who have fallen under the categorization of 'stoner rock' (Fu Manchu, Sleep, Monster Magnet) before disbanding in 1995..."

So... behold the "birth" of a new genre.
Funny; what all these bands are, is "grunge" bands, in what was our original 1987 descriptive sense of the word, rather than the media's 1991 usage. (And no, Pearl Jam is no more a "grunge" band than Nirvana was a "punk" band... gimme a break!) One thing these bands all have in common is some degree of influence from late-sixties/early-seventies "heavy" bands, most obviously Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, with maybe a touch of Zep. Most of them, of course, weren't born then and would probably deny it. Sleep is pretty obviously influenced by the Melvins, notably the drummer. I have heard Buzz from the Melvins deny being influenced by Black Sabbath... but at the Deep Six record release show in 1986, they played an amazing version of "Into the Void".

Why "stoner rock"? You'll know it when you hear it. We're talking massive, slow to mid-tempo riffs, huge guitars, long solos, antique effects pedals, and lots and lots of distortion; and no trace of 80's metal posing or formula (or overproduction). It's an earlier formula, perhaps. You might call it "proto-metal"... but I'm afraid we are all going to end up calling it "stoner rock", like it or not.

I was amused to note that at least one of the Nebula songs I just recorded appeared to be about pot. The Sleep record actually has a picture of a pot leaf nailed to a cross! Ponder the name "Queens of the Stone Age." So, OK, something's going on here, there's a little scene going, though it does not appear to be geographically localized. Rock music reinventing itself once again? "Grunge" was an idiotic media name for one brand of recycled 70's rock. "Stoner Rock" will be an idiotic media name for yet another, marginally different brand of recycled 70's rock.
What must not be forgotten here is that the best of these bands are not just rehashing; they are picking up threads that were DROPPED back then and EXTENDING them further with modern influences. They are taking up where others left off. I actually like this -- there are lots of branches of the rock tree that led nowhere in their time, and when someone comes along years later and extends these the results are often interesting. (Notwithstanding the Kraftwerk comment in my last newsletter.) Rock refuses to go away."

You can find the complete article here: http://endino.com/archive/arch3-4.html


  1. Who will argue with Endino..Whether it's grunge/Stonerrock/proto metal..blah blah, i like it and thats all that matters. Labelling a genre of music helps to define it , but just like labels in society, they get misinterpreted by the masses, and just cause unwanted conflict! Anyway cool little blog u got goin here!\m/ Psymin \m/_


  3. Oh, I've got that Groundhogs record - really, really good. I also highly recommend the band Jerusalem - incredible proto- THRASH metal from '74. Wild vocalist!

  4. Haha Pearl Jam always get ripped on lol.