A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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Shadowy Men: Mirror (July 12, 1990)

Demented surf geniuses Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet dream in technicolor

By Andrew Jones

Industry legend has it that Stan Ridgeway and the Wall of Voodoo didn't want to be a new wave band, but a collective hip film composers for hire. Have cult, will score.

"They didn't want to be a band at all, they just wanted to do scary soundtrack stuff, and they never did because they found there was no money in it," says Reid Diamond. "We sort of ended up falling into the sort of trap, too. We always wanted to do soundtrack stuff, and we got to do Comic Book Confidential and Kids in the Hall."

"And found out they were half-right," Don Pyle jumps in. "There's no money in it."

Bassist Diamond and drummer Pyle are two-thirds of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, perhaps Canada's most unlikely film composers and definitely Canada's coolest surf guitar-playing cult heroes.

The Shadowy motto is "Instrumental since 1985," and the Toronto-based trio has been churning out gritty little nuggets of surf magic-sans vocals-in the most unusual packages. Their initial 8-track release featured wobbly massacres of Simon & Garfunkel songs. Schlagers! was a 7" 45 that included a board game with lunar bingo chips, while the Explosion of Taste EP remained true to its name-it came glued to a package of Jiffy Pop popcorn.

Once you've gotten past the golden topping, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet offer an atmospheric, trashy, and noirish surf party that's fueled by the four-colour energy and humor of cartoons and comic books as well as the usual teenage dementia.

"The stuff that influences us the moist is stuff we all listened to as teenagers, like Alice Cooper's School's Out," says Pyle. "I bought Beatles records, I bought Stones records, I bought Who records, I bought Sex Pistols records, I bought George Jones records, there's so much stuff we've listened to over the years, but I think we're more influenced by movies we saw when we were kids," says Diamond. "We grew up with James Bond, Clint Eastwood, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone."

In 1986 documentary film maker Ron Mann was intrigued by The Shadowy Men's visual edge, and invited them to tackle the score for Comic Book Confidential, a celluloid tribite to the vibrant, pioneering work of graphic artists like Sue Coe, Los Bros Hernandez, Lynda Barry, Robert Crumb, and Charles Burns. "Despite what you way [sic] think, we're not big comic book fans," says Diamond. "Ron Mann isn't either. Ron documents pop culture, and makes films about what interests him. The only comic we all read religiously was Mad magazine. The Superhero as a cultural icon never really interested us. However, we revere Bugs Bunny a lot. And Saturday morning cartoons."

"Pre-Josie and the Pussycats," Pyle puts in.

One of the segments of Comic Book Confidential features artist Charles Burns narrating a beastly tale entitled The Baby, The Shadowy Men liked it so much, they borrowed it for a bonus CD track on their upcoming album, Savvy Show Stoppers.

CD? As in compact disc? "The fact that it's in album, cassette and CD is gimmick enough for us," says Pyle. "We've put out everything on seven-inchers before."

"It's pretty much impossible to press seven-inch singles in Canada anymore," laments Diamond. "We've done some shows where we've make singles o give away for special occasions, and we had to give out coupons and mail them six months later."

"It's becoming a sort of exclusive for diehard collectors to buy 45s," adds Pyle. "The only way to sell them is by mail order or at shows, because no stores carry them anymore." Diehard collectors need not worry, for Shadowy Men are partipating [sic] in a four single project for Washington's Estrus Records, where they will be one of eight bands sharing four 45s wrapped--wait for it--in a lunchpail.

"Ours is going to be music for pets," enthuses Diamond. "It'll be a whole record not for people, but for their pets. We're interested in songs about pets and for pets, 'cause nobody's addressing pets in music and how they feel."

"It's thematic, if you haven't guessed," deadpans Pyle.



 Trista Lycosky

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