I formed MELT in September 1991 in Toronto, Canada when I met drummer Joel Walsh while attending Humber music college. Walsh was also playing in An April March and brought in his friend Chris Bell on guitar. I asked my girlfriend Jennifer Playford to play synth. She wasn't really a musician, but I taught her how to play it. We played all the clubs in Toronto, but no one liked us. I was really into this noise thing at the time and we would bring in a saxophonist friend to blow squealing noise over the closer, which was The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog".
In October 1992 we released a self-titled cassette. This received some indie airplay for my deconstruction of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". I had this idea of taking that song and completely re-writing it into something new. We made a video for it and it was played on MuchMusic ... just one time ... and so late at night that it is best referred to as early in the morning when decent people are already sleeping. Jenn did the artwork for the cassette, as she would do for all subsequent MELT releases.
In early 1994, I asked guitarist Kurtis Hannas to join the band. I knew him from Edmonton, where we had formed our first bands together. He was living in Vancouver at the time and we asked him to come to Toronto to record and move to the U.K. with Jennifer and I.
Kurtis was playing a completely different style of music at the time. I would mail him a 4-track demo and he would add his guitar parts. Everything he sent back sounded all wrong and Jenn was concerned that we had made a mistake with him. So I would send him mixed tapes of cool new bands that were doing similar sounding stuff and he started to clue in after a while.
In April of 1994, all five of us went into the studio to record a follow up cassette called "Shape Shifter". This release consisted of five original songs combined with five experimental sound collages (which were taken from my Transmogrify 4-track recordings). We played one last show in Toronto with the five of us, then Jennifer, Kurt and I all left for England.
We had only been in London for a month and our "Shape Shifter" tape caught the interest of a few club promoters who passed it on to record company A&R guys. All of a sudden we had record companies calling me up and wanting to see us live. We didn't even have a drummer yet, so we quickly placed an ad in the Loot newspaper and found Louis Pavlou to play showcase gigs. We only had one rehearsal with Louis since he lived in Kent (which was over an hour outside of London) and there was a train strike happening at the time. We had booked a six hour rehearsal and he never showed up. So we could only rehearse with him on the day of our first industry gig. He pulled it together and we played well.
There was a real industry buzz about MELT in London, we'd met with quite a few labels and they'd made us offers. We had also taken on the services of an entertainment lawyer and he advised us to wait and not accept anything yet, that some bigger offer would play out. This tactic resulted in some cooling interest for the band. One by one these record company guys stopped coming to gigs and we were so clueless as to what was happening. We were unaware that things in England happen a lot faster than in North America. We managed to get a few more record companies interested, and we got an established manager who managed The Pogues and Siouxsie & The Banshees, but these didn't materialize into anything so we fired the lawyer and manager. One of the record labels who made us an offer was Fiction Records, The Cure's label. From playing with MELT, Louis Pavlou was invited to record drums for The Cure. He drums on one song on The Cure's album "Wild Mood Swings".
By this time MELT had found a new drummer in Willie Cortes who was originally from the south of France. It was quite funny that we had three Canadians and one Frenchmen all living illegally in London working crap day jobs for cash. We didn't have any amps or drums, so to actually play gigs I would have to phone up all the other bands on the bill and see if anyone would let us use their gear. We decided that we could save money by getting a Tube (subway) train day card and rehearsing the afternoon of the gig, then we'd all take the tube to the gig with all our guitars, keyboards, and a few drums. It was always during rush hour and we'd taken up loads of seats, so everyone on the subway car was glaring at us.
In September 1995, Boogle Wonderland Records released MELT's 7" single. The single "Elastic Gargle" along with the B-side "Let's Get It All Wrong" both received airplay on BBC Radio One, London FM, and XFM, and renewed interest in the band. We performed at the Leeds Heineken Festival, Manchester ‘In The City’ music festival, then went on the supporting bill with such bands as Supergrass, My Life Story, Dream City Film Club, Telestar Ponies, and Hefner at various London venues.
We played a gig in Wales opening for this band Telestar Ponies, who were more well known then us. They had the original drummer from Teenage Fanclub playing with them. The Telestar singer was a real arse saying stupid things to us before we went on. We played our set and the crowd loved us and wanted an encore. This just doesn't happen to an opening band in the U.K. So the promoter pushed us back onstage to play another song. After we got off stage Telestar singer was mocking us saying how we "pulled shapes" (meaning rocked out and jumped around the stage). Telestar Ponies were so boring that after four songs the crowd booed them off the stage ! Karma, yes.... maybe they should have "pulled some shapes" ?
Our single had gotten A-listed on the radio (meaning it would be played at least twice a day, every day for a week) and we got Single Of The Week in Melody Maker newspaper, but the distribution company never got the singles in the shops. Even though the record company was trying to solve this problem it was too little, too late. So we barely sold any records at all and this was a real pissing drag !
In December 1995 we left London and went back to Canada. We were friends with this band in London who were also there illegally and one day they were deported back to Israel. We did not want that to happen to us and never again be able to enter the U.K., so we decided to flee. Willie followed, and joined up with us in Vancouver shortly after.
In the two years after the move we continued to perform, opening for Modest Mouse, Eels, Julianna Hatfield, New Bad Things, and Zeni Gava. Vancouver was a drag. It's a pretty city, but it isn't a music city. My relationship with Jennifer ended, though she continued to play with the band off and on. We went into the recording studio in January and again in March of 1997, but we just weren't getting good results. That summer, we found drummer Jason Lajeunesse who had been vocalist/guitarist for Closed Caption Radio. We had played quite a few gigs in Vancouver with Jason's band and one day we were talking to him about having a hard time finding a new drummer when he surprised us by saying he was also a drummer.
By January, 1998 Kurtis and I had had enough of Vancouver and decided to leave Canada once again and headed off to New York City.
MELT - Elastic Gargle (Boogle Wonderland)
As "Elastic Gargle" proves, Melt couldn't be straight if they tried. It starts with a riff so hoary, so unremittingly rock 'n' roll, that you're grinning before you realise it's a joke. The creepy keyboards get under your skin, Joel sings the beautiful Marc Bolan-isms down his nose with his tongue in his cheek, gets to the chorus and it's gone. Great is too small a word. Go get it.
Melt - Live at The Monarch, London
What's going on here? Why does that bass sound like a tube? And why does the keyboard sound like a guitar? After all, Melt have a guitar anyway - what's that doing? And where's the tune they were just playing? It was there a minute ago, but it seems to have vanished. Melt are like soap in the bath, the harder you grip it, the more it slips from your grasp.
There may not be much music at a Melt gig, but there are plenty of brilliant songs. The power pop of "Tear It Down", the nonsense-pop of "Elastic Gargle", the anthemic pop of "Let's Get It All Wrong" - there's not one of those Melting moments I couldn't whistle all the way back to the Tube.
And therein lies the secret to Melt's success. THEY WRITE BRILLIANT POP SONGS. It's only from this position of strength that they begin to experiment. They can strip the song down to basics or pull it apart. And in doing that, we rediscover some of the innocence that pop is in danger of losing.
Melt - Live at The Dublin Castle, London
Tonight The Dublin Castle is full, everyone is in the bar waiting for Melt and watching football on the TV. Anyway, what's so good about Melt? It's a fizzing sound, I could be lazy and say it's Pavement meets Stereolab with a Neu element ... there's some factor X of course and I'm already in love with those noises the keyboard player makes when she attacks that joystick. Singer/Bassist shares center stage with the keyboard player. They make all these great sounds but there's more than that, the fizzing angular sounds are actually sunk deep into some rather fine songs that are just far too infectious for their own good... give it a try and you'll be singing them too... Infectious is the key word here .... I think that's where the Sterolab angle comes in. And yes, those edgy Wire/Gang Of Four bits stick out at awkward angles.... there's a buzz building, I got a feeling Melt could become one of those special bands that you very occasionally find whilst stumbling around Camden's collection of motley venues... I've been to four Melt gigs in the last couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to the next one. Melt even manage to stop most of the crowd watching the Villa/Millan penalty shot out on the TV ... yep, so good they can get in the way of football!
Melt - Manchester 'In The City' Live Unsigned
Fresh in from Canada, MELT were a post-Pixies dynamic pop rush, all raw edges and punchy melodies. They also deconstructed Iggy's classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" in such an inventive manner that no one could guess what it was.
Melt - Shape Shifter tape
Melt have come to London from Toronto and are receiving serious interest from English labels. A guitar band, experimenting with sounds like Sonic Youth, with conversational vocals like Thurston Moore (or Lou Reed) with a bit of Frank Black thrown in. Five strong originals and some very interesting mini-pieces of sounds and noises. A spectrum of colours. Well worth checking out.
Melt - Live at Splash Club, London
It's all true: some months back, someone ran off with the zeitgeist and injected it with a benign virus that last infected these islands in 1979. Melt are an art school band who force Wire, early Talking Heads and (this is true, I swear) Gary Numan into the same angular, spiky receptacle. There is a tendency to wander up their own bums, but Melt end up delivering a sufficiently skewed take on the spirit of Noo Wave to save them.
New Musical Express
Melt - Live at The Starfish Room, Vancouver
Looking like Superchunk and sounding like Archers Of Loaf with swirly New Wave synthesizer, Melt put on a spirited performance that was the highlight of the evening. The four-year-old quartet, has a collection of strong, post-Pavement tunes with uniquely phrased vocal lines and shronking guitar. The band managed to drag a few people onto the dance floor, and delivered a strong, pleasantly surprising set.
The Georgia Straight
Malleable Melt serves up Eno for the '90s
Melt would like their music to have that effect on you. Guiding light Joel Bourret also pleads guilty to melting genres into each other and taking runs at melting away preconceptions. The original songs are the work of a group forging a malleable link between a strong rock sensibility and the windswept terrain of neo-psychedelia. It's what has become of Brian Eno in the '90s.
Scratch the surface of their sound and the usual drops of Pixies, Sonic Youth, Cocteau Twins spurt out. Beneath that is another stream of music-consciousness that's just about all their own and which could carry Melt a long way to the dark heart of rock 'n' roll.
The Toronto Star
Melt - Live at The Starfish Room, Vancouver
The openers for The Eels were originally from Toronto, then London, but now hail from Vancouver. Melt were a rather interesting four-piece: a singer/fretless bassist with a cool, and familiar voice and a blue vinyl coat; a very young looking woman playing an amazingly and completely painted-over synth (a JX3P?); a guitarist with a string of Star Trek figurines around his neck; and Gene Simmons' crazy-looking brother on drums. They played dark and odd alternative rock, with lots of squawks, warbles and drones out of the synth. Hard to describe beyond that on first listen, though definitely intriguing enough to look forward to seeing and hearing them again.
released May 11, 1994
Joël Bourret - Vocal, Bass, Synthesizer, Guitar
Kurtis Hannas - Guitar
Jennifer Playford - Synthesizer, Artwork
Chris Bell - Guitar
Joel Walsh - Drums
Louis Pavlou - Drums
Willie Cortes - Drums
Jason Lajeunesse - Drums
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