Monday, February 19, 2018

Chicago band Razorhouse releases new album, will perform CD release party at Martyrs'


Over the years, Mark Panick's name has become synonymous with edgy music, whether it was with his post-punk band Bonemen of Barumba or his current project, Razorhouse.

On Feb. 6, Razorhouse released its latest album, "Codex Tres Lingua." To celebrate the release of the album, the band will perform Feb. 23 at Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Jay O'Rourke and Plastic Crimewave Syndicate also are on the bill. The music starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to the Chicago musician about the new CD.

Q – Great talking to you. Of course, "Codex Tres Lingua" was recently released. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

Sometimes the goals you start out with aren’t always the same ones you land with. It did take us just over a year to get this EP done the way we wanted.

Sometimes it just takes longer. I was producing the EP by myself this time which meant a good chunk of the baling and chicken wire assembly was up to me instead of Howie Beno. 

But we took our time; self-releasing allows you that comfort zone. We’re delighted with the combo platter that is "Codex Tres Lingua."

Q – On the album, you cover a song from your band Bonemen of Barumba. What made you want to re-record the song and how do you think it compares with the original version?

We loved [legendary UK DJ] Jon Peel so much and to have him pay attention to that Bonemen record just had us swooning. And, It’s a fun song!

I think we re-tracked it like three times before we were happy; not like its a complicated song, it’s just all about the vibe. I think it’s an honest rendition of the original.

I enjoy listening to the dub mix that producers Peabody & Sherman did, as well. 

Q – I understand the band attacked pigs' heads with axes on stage. What were you trying to convey with your live show?

That was a cabaret-style show up in JoZ, which is now the Metro Chicago offices. We were projecting 16mm soft core from the 1950s over the band while we performed.

And caught up in the spirit of honoring what Q (my partner and keyboard player) called “The Pig of Japan,” he laid into a real pig head with a double edged axe and, in the flickering light, he pulled back the axe but could not see that the pig head was impaled onto the axe blade.

As he swung it again, it flew straight into the audience (the pig head, not the axe (this would be an entirely different conversation had it been the axe)). And, of all places, it ended up in the lap of a young Gregory Curvey from the band Luck of Eden Hall.

That was a fun show! Skinny Puppy played their very first Chicago show there a week later.

Q – You reformed Razorhouse in 2011. What made you want to reform the band and what do you think of the current lineup?

Well, an old friend, Danny McGuinness, who was starting up an indie label called Heatshield Records, asked if I had any current demos. I gave him a few things I was working on and he encouraged me beyond words.

He was the one who insisted I rehydrate Razorhouse mostly based on these long, rambling conversations we had at shows regarding my obsession with Mesoamerican culture. But without Nan Warshaw and Danny’s encouragement, I can’t see how I could have pushed this cardboard fort up the hill this far. 

I love the current lineup and we’ve been through our [share of] changes, that’s for sure. I’ve played with some great players in Razorhouse to date.

But currently it’s David Suycott on drums and Curtis Ruptash on bass and vocals; Tommi Zender on guitar and vocals and me on vocals and guitar.

Q – Razorhouse played in support of Revolting Cocks and Killing Joke at the Vic Theater on New Year’s Eve, 1991. I understand that night you were backed by members of Slammin’ Watusis, Stabbing Westward, Liquid Soul, Spies Who Surf and Evil Clowns. That sounds like it was quite a night. Would you say that was one of the highlights of your career at the time?

It was classic Spinal Tap rock and roll. Against all of the Vic Theater’s rules, we carried out a pig head that my brother Jason rigged with rags soaked in diesel and then lit it on fire for the song “March of the Easter Pig.”

Well, it melted through the wires that held it to the branch it was impaled on and it fell and slowly rolled around and lit some of the set lists on fire. It never got bad, but the fallout was extreme. Al Jourgensen and the cats in Killing Joke laughed their asses off.

Q – Your partner, Nan Warshaw, is co-founder of Bloodshot Records, which has carved out its own musical history. What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I am extremely proud of Nan and her coworkers’ accomplishments. I think they represent one of the few points of light left out there in label land.

Beside that, Nan’s been involved with music since I met her when she was 18. She is name-checked in Kurt Cobain’s diary; how cool is that?

I never knew where or how I fit into the Chicago scene. Outside of new hip hop, I don’t really see too much of anything I’d consider an actual scene.

But with Razorhouse, some see what they want to see.

Q – Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Well, a few years back I tried hammering some projects together in order to work with two of my favorite drummers on some recordings. Both cats are my friends but timing, being what it is, sometimes conspires against opportunities.

I wanted to work with my friend Hunt Sales [of Tin Machine and Iggy Pop fame] on something and that has yet to gel. I was lucky enough to get Michael Blair (Tom Waits, Lou Reed) to work on a song of mine for my Black Friars Social Club project.

Both of these drummers are heavy hitters in more ways than the obvious.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Aurora's Paramount Theatre scores again with riveting version of "Cabaret"

Photo by Liz Lauren

The Paramount Theatre could play it safe and only stage musicals that leave crowds smiling and humming the songs from the production.

But the Paramount chose not to go that route when it launched its Broadway series in 2011. Time and time again, the theater has shown that it not only wants to entertain audiences, it also wants them to think as well.

That most certainly is the case with its latest production, "Cabaret," which runs through March 18. "Cabaret" is set in 1930s Berlin as the Nazis begin their rise to power. What starts out as a night of decadent fun at the Kit Kat Club quickly becomes a commentary on what can happen when you ignore the dangers around you.

Making her Paramount directing debut is Katie Spelman, who has already proven her chops through being nominated for a Jeff award for choreography in the Paramount's production of "Oklahoma!" Through her direction, Spelman immerses the audience in a world that at first seems enchanting until the storm clouds start rolling in.

Strong performances abound throughout the production, including Joseph Anthony Byrd's devilishly humorous take as the Emcee. And it is a feather in the Paramount's hat that the theater is able to attract cast members of such high caliber. Byrd recently was in Broadway production of "Kinky Boots" as well as national productions of "The Lion King" and "Mamma Mia!"

With 12 Jeff awards already under her belt, Hollis Resnik  delivered yet another stellar performance as Fräulein Schneider. She fully embodied the character and her scenes with love interest Herr Schultz were touching.

Kelly Felthous also turns in an enchanting performance as Sally Bowles, who was nominated for a Jeff award for playing Roxie Hart in Drury Lane's production of "Chicago." We watch with interest as the blinders that she has put on to shield herself from the reality outside of the Kit Kat Club slowly come off.

The Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets, go to or call 630-896-6666.