An exciting new column brought to you by writer/publicist, Pat "Riot" Whitaker
that will be covering bands from "back in the day"...
OLDSCHOOL SUNDAY: LUDICHRIST
For our first OLDSCHOOL SUNDAY spotlight at ANIMATED INSANITY RECORDS, we find ourselves in Long Island, NY. circa 1984, where drummer Al Batross (aka Al Bazin) and guitarist Mark Durnex (aka Mark Kanabrocki) have formed a band. Named LUDICHRIST, the quartet is completed by bassist Chuck Valle and vocalist Chud (real name unknown) but this would turn out to be a short-lived version of the group. Within a matter of months, a new singer, Tommy Franco (aka Tommy Christ), was brought in to replace Chud and a demo recorded. Simply titled "Ludichrist", it was used as a leverage to book performances at regional venues hosting punk rock shows. Second guitarist Glen Cummings soon joined the group and with just a few rehearsals, a decision to re-record the demo and highlight their new, denser sound was made. Recorded as "Ludichrist, The Demo", it was released on cassette with a graphic cover and a 16-page illustrated booklet designed by Christ and Cummings. LUDICHRIST purchased a half-page space in the popular Maximum Rock 'N Roll fanzine to advertise the cassette.
Though LUDICHRIST's beginnings originated in the NYHC and punk rock scene, their musical style was unconventional in comparison to their peers. Adding aspects of rock, heavy metal, and jazz, along with musical interludes and extended guitar solos, they eventually garnered a designation to reflect their hard-to-nail-down sound: Crossover. Alongside contemporaries like Corrosion Of Conformity, D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles), and Crumbsuckers, LUDICHRIST ventured into varied musical territories without ever staking a claim in any single one. With something fresh at their disposal, the band gigged primarily in the New York City area and fans were becoming more and more plentiful.
After a series of energized performances at the famed CBGBs, club owner Hilly Kristal asked the group to release a cassette-only live recording through CBGBs' reviving record label. One of their next appearances at CBGBs was then recorded through the venue's mixing console... but ultimately, LUDICHRIST had other plans. Later that same day, after waiting until the venue was closed, they performed a more seriously precise version of the same set from earlier that day. With the help of an engineer known only as Steve, this live recording was expertly combined with crowd sounds from the earlier matinee gig and eventually released as "CBGBs "Off The Board" Live: Ludichrist".
Before long, another member departure occurred with founder Mark Durnex being the next to exit the band. It was bad timing to say the least, the band's popularity was growing and they were preparing to record a debut album for Combat Records. Enter LUDICHRIST fan, Long Island native and sensible song writer, Joe Butcher, as the band's second guitarist. In early 1986, the quintet entered Platinum Island Sounds studio in Manhattan with producer Randy Burns (Megadeth, Excel, Dark Angel) where they recorded the nineteen tracks that became their first full-length album, "Immaculate Deception". Released in July of 1986, with a total running time of 31:12, these manic songs were quite ballistic and possessed sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Of interesting note, album track "You Can't Have Fun" contains a literal Who's Who of New York Hardcore legends contributing guest vocals. Appearing on it are Roger Miret (Agnostic Front), Chris Notaro (Crumbsuckers), Eddie Sutton (Leeway), and John Connelly (Nuclear Assault). Also, the track-list includes a cover of The Monkees' "Last Train To Clarksville".
Another interesting item related to the debut album is the story that no one in LUDICHRIST cared for the "Immaculate Deception" front cover artwork. It was adapted from a painting that Combat Records / Relativity had commissioned and paid the famed Ed Repka (Sanctuary, Toxik, Massacre) for, and the label adamantly insisted upon its use.
Not long after the debut album was released, founding drummer Al Batross was the next to defect from the band. This began a chain reaction of member departures and before long, only Tommy Christ and Glen Cummings remained. The pair soon recruited new guitarist Paul Nieder and bassist Mike Walters, and with the help of Whiplash drummer Tony Scaglione, recorded and independently issued the 3-song "1987 Basement Demo".
With the new guys now broke in and a new drummer, Dave Miranda, having joined the fold, the band began work on their sophomore album. Recorded at the world famous Morrisound Recording studio in Tampa, FL with producer Tom Morris (Iced Earth, Obituary, Coroner), "Powertrip" arrived via Combat Records in 1988. It was immediately clear this incarnation of LUDICHRIST had abandoned much of their hardcore roots and were taking the band in a more metal-oriented musical direction. They still retained a wide range of musical influences but had become much more overtly humorous in their lyrical content as well. Another well known artist, Robert Williams (ZAP Comix), best known for the controversial original art used on the first pressing of Guns 'N Roses' "Appetite For Destruction", created the "Powertrip" cover image.
Though LUDICHRIST planned to record a third studio album, within a year of the "Powertrip" arrival they disbanded as pressure from religious opposition to the band grew. It is often mistakenly claimed the band merely changed their name to Scatterbrain but this is incorrect. Tommy Christ and Glen Cummings did indeed found Scatterbrain, which had similar musical traits to LUDICHRIST, but it was an altogether different band. One that would find moderate success in the MTV age with popular video singles "Don't Call Me Dude" and "Down With The Ship (Slight Return)".
In 2007, a version of LUDICHRIST with vocalist Tommy Christ, guitarist Paul Nieder, and drummer Dave Miranda, joined by Scatterbrain bassist Guy Brogna, reactivated. The quartet played a handful of Ludichrist / Scatterbrain reunion shows before packing it in briefly thereafter. The band remained inactive until a 2014 live appearance at the annual Black And Blue Bowl in Brooklyn, NY (video below).
In the years since his time in LUDICHRIST, Al Bazin (Al Batross) formed the band Big Sniff and played a stint in MDC (Millions Of Dead Cops). In recent years, he has been the sole American member in three all-Japanese bands - The Plungers, The Spunks and Gelatine - as well as a film and video editor. Former LUDICHRIST bassist Chuck Valle, who joined Murphy's Law in 1989 before becoming an audio engineer, was stabbed to death in an argument in 1994.