By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
If your heart is with Captain Captain's, you were probably shoving them around in the pit at Motörhead a few Fridays ago. Maybe you were even the bouncer who was paid 5 bucks to not beat the hell out of Captain Captain guitarist Ray Johnson after he got kicked out for the third time. This means you are a nice guy. After all, Ray was more of a threat to himself, right? Sure, all those double vodka tonics may have made him a little "enthusiastic," but 5 bucks for mercy and more Motörhead is a bargain.
As audience members, Captain Captain were four little rock & roll batteries that night, charging up and wearing down. And -- to paraphrase Motörhead -- that's the way they like it, baby, they don't want to live forever.
There are a couple of other places you may have caught new local rock deconstructors Captain Captain: at Cummel's Cafe in August, for their first official live public run-through (which means you were one of a dozen or so who now suffer at least some permanent hearing loss, due in part to vocalist Bob Galloway's aggressive, ever-enthusiastic demon-exorcising); at the Side Door a few weeks back, where they shared a phenomenally well-booked triple bill with fellow rock-evolvers Phut and Chicago schizo-heroin anti-rockers U.S. Maple.
Captain Captain was loosely formed about seven months ago by Johnson and bass player Jeremy "Jethro" Melsha, who had made guest live appearances on trombone with Johnson's previous loud rock band, Shiva. Upon Shiva's demise, the rock, it had to continue, so Jethro strapped on a bass and set forth on that herculean task of "finding a drummer in St. Louis." Johnson's journeys ended in the halls of Webster University when Shawn O'Conner, who was drumming (and still is) in local avant-garde atonal-rock outfit the Non-Prophets (not to be confused with the jam band of the same name that has played around town for several years), was uncovered.
The trio started writing without a vocalist, but Galloway, O'Conner's bandmate in the Non-Prophets (as well as two previous bands, Generica and Anything but That), heard some Captain Captain tapes at practice one day and insisted on getting in on it. They accepted him. Even if they hadn't, he seems like the kind of guy who, on hearing a "no," would ignore it.
Fifty practices later, it works.
Your average St. Louis band Captain Captain is not, and this is no accident. For the last 10 years, something besides bad funk-metal and Uncle Tupelo alt-country has been springing up from this part of the Mississip, something more subversive. The sound started with Dazzling Killmen; then others joined: Man Igno, Chalk22, Shiva, Phut and now Captain Captain. It's liberated, chaotic, aggressive (and sometimes invasive) "rock" that challenges your ears. And, of course, most people aren't up to that challenge. "So far, I just do what I feel appropriate for the music. I have no intentions of confining anything to the relative rule book of rock," comments "singer" Galloway. "We will be largely ignored by most -- and, hopefully, appreciated by a few who have scruples to go outside of conventional boundaries."
Galloway strays outside your average lead vocalist boundaries in Captain Captain, screaming out in countless voices that are then processed through various effects boxes. Think Napalm Death, Harry Pussy, Caroliner. Think G.G. Allin, Ozzy Osbourne, Melt-Banana, Mike Patton. Think "escalators and plumbing systems throughout the greater metro area." He writes lyrics (and has the notebook to prove it) although onstage the words are virtually indecipherable. He assures us they are "esoteric." O'Conner sums it up: "Why even listen to the words? The way they sound is what is interesting to me."
Melsha submitted to his rock desires after a few years of playing around the free-jazz/improvising circles with Darin Gray and company, performing in the You Fantastic! Marching Band and manipulating shortwave radios, turntables and other devices with Panicsville -- basically, noise. Melsha is also part of "computer" band Brain Transplant's live incarnation, and he released BT's CD Live Halloween on his Rendered High label last year.
Johnson, who has experimented with noise in various projects for years, says it plays an integral role in Captain Captain: "Noise is there all the time, hissing, all-encompassing white noise. We filter it through our brains and our junk. When we're close to the prime, it's noise. We filter more, it's rock."
The bass and drums drive Captain Captain's songs through said noise and melody (loose term), in the end becoming those things, and the vocals assault you, or mock you, or mock themselves, or all three at once. They also have a secret songwriting method, as Melsha reveals, "Ray comes up with something, then I make him play it backwards, then add one note, then throw darts, then roll dice, then slap him. Fives and sevens are my favorite numbers."
The Cap'n boys have their own studio in their practice space; recordings started earlier this month for "the perfect demo," and they plan a full-length CD by the end of the year. New songs are being written, old ones rewritten, with the goal of constant evolution. A few rough tapes have been sent to clubs to solicit gigs, and Captain Captain's next confirmed date is Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Way Out Club with Brain Transplant. All the Captains agree that the Side Door show with Phut and U.S. Maple was a blast, as well as a dream line-up for them, being that they're fans of both bands.