Tag Archives: Doo-Wop

As Cut Worms, Max Clarke Makes ’50s Doo-Wop & Country Sound Radical


Photos by Joyce Lee

Max Clarke knew he needed to stand out.

Living in Chicago during his college and immediate post-grad years, Clarke gigged regularly around the city, playing both in brash local punk outfit The Sueves as well as his own project, Cut Worms. He would also attend countless noise shows, a steady offering in a city known for its experimentalism. At one of those shows, Clarke saw an artist take avant-garde to new heights: an artist got on stage, and proceeded to shoot a BB gun at a piece of sheet metal laced with contact mics.

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Suicide’s Martin Rev on Making Music Out of History

Martin Rev

Photo by Divine Enfant.

It’s not easy to summarize the vast musical history of 69-year-old groundbreaker Martin Rev, but his new album Demolition 9 does a pretty good job. Across 34 tracks—most of them less than two minutes long—Rev skates through jazz, classical, doo-wop, R&B, punk, industrial, and the many uncategorizable styles he coined as founding member of pioneering post-punk duo Suicide.

Demolition 9 feels like a concept album—perhaps a score to a musical about Rev’s life—but, for him, there was no concept beyond making new music. “I was just following my ear, which is what I do in everything I work on,” he says, speaking over the phone from his home in New York City. “It’s all about playing around. I’m like a kid playing with toys, assembling his own little arrangement out of stuff that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but him.”

That playfulness is clear on Demolition 9. Rev will jump from a swelling symphonic piece to a swinging pop ditty, then cut to a jarring blast of noise or a pounding storm of electronics. There are serious moods throughout the record, but there’s also lots of fun to be had. Take “Tuba,” a bouncy piece that could soundtrack a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “The sounds of certain instruments—horns, tubas, bassoon—always have an angelic or innocent humor for me,” admits Rev.

The many modes of Demolition 9 reflect Rev’s lifelong devotion to music. Born in New York in 1947, Rev first fell in love with the doo-wop and R&B songs he heard kids his age playing and singing in the streets. In his teen years he turned to jazz, watching legends like Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in Manhattan nightclubs, and taking piano lessons from bebop innovator Lennie Tristano.

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