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.

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