Before he became the infamous shock-rock giant Marilyn Manson, Brian Warner
was an aspiring journalist writing for a South Florida music and culture mag. He was someone to watch out for — quiet, but with an anger and hostility under the surface. He had an interest in dark and aggressive music, and with his pick of whom to interview, sought out industrial artists like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who later produced Marilyn Manson's first album, and Groovie Mann of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.
Warner's transformation into the persona of Marilyn Manson was no doubt inspired by the musicians he covered, but his initial reaction to meeting the Thrill Kill Kult frontman was, according to a later documentary on Warner, more horror than admiration. He was weirded out by the encounter, saying he had never met anyone so bizarre or satanic.
Knowing what Warner was to become, it's hard to imagine that anyone could scare him, but Frank Nardiello, better known by his stage name Groovie Mann, is known to be an off character. He bonded with his soon-to-be bandmate Marston Daley (aka Buzz McCoy) over a shared love of exploitation films and tabloid tales of sex and Satan. The duo originally set out to make a trashy B-movie,
à la John Waters, with the title My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, taken from a British newspaper headline. Though the project was scrapped due to lack of funds, the music they recorded for it caught the attention of the legendary Wax Trax! Records, which released it as a three-song EP.
Since then, the band has had a revolving door of musicians and dancers known as the Bomb Gang Girlz. Their sound combines horror movie clips, throbbing industrial beats, disco baselines, funk, electronic, New Wave, and whatever else they feel like throwing into the mix, with lyrics that are often dark and sexual, but done with tongue firmly in cheek, which offsets the satanic and occultist imagery. Their unique style landed them a cameo appearance in the 1994 cult classic
The Crow, followed by a spot on the soundtrack of 1995's love-to-hate notoriously bad camp-classic Showgirls.
Though they helped to popularize the industrial genre, other acts soon dominated the field, and Thrill Kill Kult's somewhat mainstream success in the early-to-mid-'90s would prove to be the height of their career. They've continued to put out great records despite the lack of attention, and five years after their last release, the band this year issued Spooky Tricks, a synth-heavy industrial disco record that would do well on a dance floor — if you wanted to kill somebody while dancing.
The tour to coincide with the album release makes its stop in Jacksonville at Underbelly on June 10. Expect a vaudeville-style cabaret show, with half-naked go-go dancers in cages, chicks on roller skates and large stage props. The supporting cast is always high energy, but some fans have been known to complain about Groovie's stage presence. Sometimes he's totally on, getting the crowd involved, and sometimes it feels like he's phoning it in. Regardless, it's sure to be a spectacle, if nothing else.