Inspired by the likes of Neurosis, Swans, Jane’s Addiction and Soundgarden (as well as their labelmates Swervedriver), San Diego band God Machine traveled an extremely strange path – going all across US, then moving to UK, then to Holland and finally signing to Cure’s label Fiction. Unfortunately, their path was also marked by tragedy that prevented them from developing full potential.
Before God Machine, future band members (then in their teens) spent their time in another band called Society Line. SL were formed in high school in Chula Vista, California recorded a six-song demo, received a positive response and started touring, but the band came to an end when lead singer Robin decided to move to New York. The rest of the members decided to stay in California and look for another singer.
During his stay in New York, Robin practiced guitar playing and eventually he asked the remaining member of SL to move to New York and reform. All but Albert Amman agreed and thus the trio of Jimmy Fernandez, Robin Proper-Sheppard and Ron Austin all stayed in New York.
Eventually, they all decided to travel US, stopping in Texas, New York and Connecticut. It was in Connecticut where the band decided to move to UK, inspired by their more recent meeting with a manager of the English band Happy Mondays.
They stayed in London for a while, trying to get in touch with Happy Mondays manager, but couldn’t find him and ended up moving to Amsterdam, Holland. Eventually, they returned to UK and played their debut gig there, on January 23, 1991.
After recording their first EP – 1991 “Purity” – for Eve label, they signed a contract with another label – Fiction and produced their first LP – 1992 “Scenes From The Second Storey”.
While relatively tame by today’s standards, “Scenes…” is still one furious rock album exploring themes like isolation and anger, typical for many bands of the early 90s, but GM managed to avoid from some of the cliches of angry rock bands associated with the musical landscape of the time.
The album straddles between shorter/radio-friendly tracks like Home, She Said and longer, more drawn-out and atmospheric/spacey tracks like 15+ minutes long Seven, that features extended clarinet solo. The band also employs a lot of samples (Bulgarian choir used as an intro/outro on home and TV show speech from “The Desert Song” and a sample from Bernaldo Bertolluci movie “The Sheltering Sky”, which was also used in Neurosis song “Lost”).
Another characteristical feature of the album is the use of soft/loud dynamics, as heard on tracks “The Blind Man” and “Out”, both of which start out as mid-tempo/slow numbers, but by the end turn into what one of the reviewers called “a fireball of noise”, pummeling the listener into a submission.
BNR Metal website placed it first on the list of its Top Ten list of best albums from 1993, leaving behind the likes of Neurosis, Primus, Zeni Geva and Pitchshifter. AMG gave the album 3 stars out of 5 and concluded that Scenes From the Second Storey probably could have done without all of its CD-busting 80 minutes, but all things considered, there’s plenty of value for their money here.”
For the next two years, the band toured with the likes of Catherine Wheel, Radiohead, Nick Cave, Hair & Skin Trading Company, Papa Sprain and Jesus & Mary Chain and played Pukkelpop, Carpe Diem and Reading Festivals along with the likes of Breeders, Butthole Surfers, Iggy Pop, Rage Against The Machine, Cracker and Cop Shoot Cop, among many others.
At the end of 1993, the band went to Prague in order to record what would become their second album – “One Last Laugh In The Place Of Dying”. It was recorded in the basement of Obecni Dum, the main cultural building of Prague.
After the album was finished mixed in May of ’94, bassist Jimmy Fernandez was rushed to the hospital and died the same day due to inoperable brain tumor. The rest of the band decided that they can’t go on without him and broke up.
“Laugh…” was a considerably different affair than its predecessor – gone for the most part were the atmospherics and samples, but the band still sounded as aggressive as ever (albeit, it was also more polished and radio-friendly record than “Scenes…”). Its hard to tell what could’ve been, given that the band never got a chance to tour/promote “Laugh…”, but by all accounts it sounded like they were prepared to set their goals even higher with the album.
Currently, Robin Proper-Sheppard is still involved in the music business – he’s recording with his band Sophia and runs Flower Shop label that put out records by the likes Ligament and Swervedriver. He also recorded one album with the band May Queens which reportedly sounded closer to GM than to Sophia.
Jimmy Fernandez (1965-1994)
Robin Propper-Shepard (May Queens, Sophia)
Purity EP 12″ (Eve, 1991)
Ego CD / 12″ (Fiction, 1992)
The Desert Song EP CD / 12″ (Fiction, 1992)
Home CD / 7″ / 12″ (Fiction, 1993)
Scenes From The Second Storey CD (Fiction, 1993)
One Last Laugh In The Place Of Dying CD (Fiction, 1994)
“Home” on Another Kind Of Noise (Continental, 1992)
“Home” on Cassette Sampler (Polydor + Fiction + External, 1992)
“Home” on Independent 20 Vol. 14 (Beechwood Music, 1992)
“She Said” on Maximum Bliss (Select Magazine, 1992)
“Home” on Free At Last 3 (Polygram, 1993)
“She Said” on In A Field Of Their Own – Volume 2 – Glastonbury 93 (New Musical Express, 1993)
“Commitment” on Rock Furore CD6 (Rock Furore Magazine, 1993)
“Pictures Of A Bleeding Boy” on The Lost Weekend (Blast First, 1993)
“She Said” on The Most Underrated Bands Of The Nineties (Visions Magazine, 2000)
The Desert Song