Although they recieved plenty of glowing reviews and good press, St. Louis-based Dazzling Killmen didn’t get a lot of commercial success, which owed something to the sheer abrasivness of their sound. Musically, They combined disjointed/discordant noise/hardcore rhythms with Sun Ra/jazz arrangements (its also worthy to note that few band members were studying jazz in college).
The band was born when guitarist Nick Sakes (then in his mid 20s) decided to start a band and eventually he added bassist Darin Gray and drummer Blake Fleming to the line-up. Within a couple of months of their formation they recorded “Numb / Bottom Feeder” single, which came out Nick’s own label Sawtooth Records. Their next single was “The Torture / Ghost Limb”, which came out on St. Louis label Crime Life.
In the early 90s, the band met with Mark Fischer and Rob Syers, owners of Skin Graft, a publishing house which eventually turned into a record label. Fischer and Syers were blown away by the band’s music and decided to put out a 7″. It came out in 1991 as a co-release with Sluggo Records and also included a track by Minneapolis band Mother’s Day.
French label Intellectual Convulsion approached them with an offer to record their debut full-length. Initially, the band planned to work with Butch Vig, fresh from his sucess with Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, but Vig eventually refused the offer. Their second choice was Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman, Shellac) and he turned to be a final choice for the band. They recorded/released “Dig Out The Switch” in 1992 and Steve went on to produce a number of other records for Skin Graft artists such as Mount Shasta and Shorty.
After recording “Dig Out…”, they added yet another jazz student to the line-up – Tim Garrigan and the line-up of Gray/Sakes/Fleming/Garrigan remained unchanged until the end of their career. In 1993 they recorded “Medicine Me / Poptones” 7″ (again, produced by Albini) and enlisted David Wm. Sims (Jesus Lizard, Rapeman, Scratch Acid) help for the release of cassette-only live album “Lounge Ax”.
Their first full-length for Skin Graft was 1994 “Face Of Collapse”, which led CMJ to proclaim that “Dazzling Killmen were neck and neck with Fugazi in the race never to sell out. Alternative Press magazine declared the album the number one heavy record of the decade, while the other prizes went to bands like Melvins, Helmet and Melt-Banana.
However, despite the praise and increasing size of crowds, the band broke up in 1995, prior to planned Japanese tour with Jim O’Rourke. In 1996 Skin Graft released a post-humous compilation called “Recuerda”, which included material “Lounge Ax” cassette and various single that the band recorded throughout their existence.
In the years following their break-up, band members went on to form countless bands – Gray was in Brise-Glace with O’Rourke and recorded with Zeni Geva’s K.K. Null as Yona-Kit. Sakes would go on to play with Colossamite and Sicbay (both currently defunct). Blake Fleming formed Laddio Bolocko (described as Can meets Led Zeppelin quartet from New York) and Electric Turn To Me, while Garrigan formed You Fantastic! with Thymme Jones from Cheer-Accident / Brise-Glace. Fleming was also an early member of Mars Volta, but left the band after recording few demos with them (but rejoined them briefly for 2006 tour) and he also played on Oma Rodriguez-Lopez solo album “A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume 1”.
Nick Sakes (Colossamite, Sicbay)
Darin Gray (Dazzling Killmen, Grand Ulena, On Fillmore, Yona-Kit, You Fantastic!)
Blake Fleming (Electric Turn To Me, Laddio Bolocko, Mars Volta)
Tim Garrigan (Phut, You Fantastic!)
Numb / Bottom Feeder 7″ (Sawtooth, 1990)
Ghost Limb / Torture 7″ (Crime Life, 1991)
Dazzling Killmen / Mother’s Day Split 7″ (Skin Graft, 1991)
Dig Out The Switch LP / CD (Intellectual Convulsion, 1992)
Lounge Ax Cass (Skin Graft, 1993)
Medicine Me / Poptones 7″ (Skin Graft, 1993)
Face Of Collapse LP / CD (Skin Graft, 1994)
Recuerda CD (Skin Graft, 1996)
“Windshear” on Camp Skin Graft: Now Wave (!) Compilation (Skin Graft, 1997)