||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (May 2011)|
|Genres||Instrumental rock, punk rock, jazz fusion, heavy metal, post punk, hard rock|
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, computer programmer|
|Instruments||Guitar, piano, keyboard, vocals|
|Labels||Ringent, SST, Restless, Fundamental|
|Associated acts||SWA, To Damascus, The Leaving Trains, The Unclaimed, The Nymphs, Clay Allison|
|Gibson SG series guitars|
Sylvia Juncosa is an American punk and metal guitarist, singer, songwriter and keyboardist from Los Angeles. Noted primarily for her guitar work, during the 1980s she was among relatively few women with established aggressive rock guitar credibility. She released four solo albums and three album with her band To Damascus after starting her career as a keyboard player in The Leaving Trains. She was also a member of the band SWA with ex-Black Flag bass player Chuck Dukowski. She was active from 1980 to 1995 before taking a hiatus, then started playing guitar again in 2009.
Sylvia was born and raised in Los Angeles. She started playing piano and composing instrumental pieces when she was six years old. The Leaving Trains was the first band Sylvia joined, as keyboard player, when she was 16 years old. They released the "Bringing Down the House" / "Going Down to Town" 7" single and appeared on the Keats Rides a Harley compilation. She left that band in 1982, citing a preference for guitar over keyboards. However she did accept an opportunity to tour with Clay Allison, playing keyboards and acoustic rhythm guitar.
She then started the band To Damascus, named after a play by August Strindberg. The band experienced numerous personnel changes over the next three years. They recorded a single at Radio Tokyo studio with producer Ethan James, where the majority of Sylvia's releases would later be recorded. For a very brief period in 1985 she was the guitar player in The Healing Dream, which soon afterward became The Nymphs. When David Winogrond and Tyra von Pagenhardt joined in 1985, To Damascus finally had a more stable line-up  and began a busy, productive period that would exemplify Sylvia's high-activity work style during those years. The band completed and released its first album, "Succumb", which Sylvia had started earlier with former Leaving Trains members filling in on drums and bass. Shortly afterward they recorded a second album, "Come to Your Senses", distributed by Restless Records, and embarked on a shoestring-budget US tour.
In 1986 Sylvia also joined the SST Records band SWA, which featured bassist Chuck Dukowski, former Black Flag member and co-founder of the SST record label. In interviews Sylvia asserted that joining SWA came about by happenstance when she called SST on behalf of her band To Damascus, got in a long conversation with Dukowski, and auditioned for his band the same night. SWA soon recorded the album "XCIII", which spawned the single "Arroyo" and its accompanying video. Sylvia was gigging constantly with both SWA and To Damascus during this time, and 1987 quit SWA to focus solely on one band. . To Damascus broke up on friendly terms in 1988 when David and Tyra weren't able to commit to the touring musician life that Sylvia was determined to embark upon.
Sylvia abandoned the band name to go "solo", for more flexibility and options with the inevitably changing band lineups. Her music was also moving toward a more hard rock sound. With the 1988 release of "Nature" (SST Records), Sylvia was now attaining some notoriety as a guitarist and for being one of a relative minority of female players with an aggressive hard rock style during that time period.
In 1988, the band made a mini-tour in New York, then the first European tour, which was very well received, defying expectations. Following that was a US tour as opening act for Soundgarden, who were SST label-mates before moving to major-label status.
The album "One Thing" (Fundamental Records) was recorded in 1989 with Barney Firks on bass and Chris Frye on drums, on loan from the San Diego band Wormdrive. Then came the second European tour. This was the peak, career-wise with the biggest recording budget and biggest gigs. Europe had appealed to Sylvia from the start, and when she got an offer to stay there awhile she took it. As well as the band tours and solo shows, she explored Europe, wandered alone, learned German, indulged a brief obsession with chess and went to India.
The "Is" album was recorded in Holland with engineer Gertjan ("Joe"). Barney and Chris had come out from the States and they lived at the studio for a couple weeks in semi-rural seclusion. Chris had to leave unexpectedly mid-project but things were continued. Then came another tour, but things were starting to fall apart.
Hiatus and comeback
In 1995 started a long period of musical inactivity when Sylvia worked in Europe as a computer programmer and had personal problems before eventually coming back to the US. In 2009, Sylvia decided that she wanted to play guitar again and formed a new band with Legal Weapon member Steve Reed. She also played in the Cooling System project along with multi-instrumentist Azalia Snail. Sylvia is currently working on an upcoming album.
- Nature (SST Records, 1988)
- One Thing (Fundamental Records, 1989)
- Is (Glitterhouse Records, 1991)
- Live in Rome (Helter Skelter Records, 1991)
With To Damascus
- Another Place, Another Time/On a Pier (Ringent Records, 1984)
- Succumb (Ringent Records, 1986)
- Come to Your Senses (Restless Records, 1987)
With The Leaving Trains
- Bringing Down the House/Going Down to Town 7" (Happy Squid Records, 1981)
- Virginia City (by The Leaving Trains) on Keats Rides a Harley - (Happy Squid Records, 1982)
- Strange Fruit on Mondostereo - (Tinnitus Label, 1988)
- Lick my pussy, Eddie Van Halen and Tower of Ashes on Program: Annihilator II - (SST Records, 1989)
- One in Three on Radio Tokyo Tapes, vol. IV - (Chameleon Records, 1990)
- The Desert Song (live) on VERA Groningen - Beauty in the Underworld - (Vera Records/Semaphore Records, 1990)
- (Lost in) Love Hell on Love is My Only Crime - (Veracity Musik / Intercord Records, 1994)
- Night Surfing and And Leave And Leave Me by To Damascus on Warfrat Tales Unabridged (Warfrat Records, 2007)
- O'Dair, Barbara (1997). Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. USA: Random House. p. 575. ISBN 0-679-76874-2.
- "Discography page on Sylvia Juncosa's site".
- "Discography page on discogs.com".
- "Flipside magazine, number 56, Summer 1988".
- "Back with a vengeance, the one, the only Sylvia Juncosa, PunkGlobe, interview by Ginger Coyote".
- Everett, Todd (27 January 1989), "The Nature of Sylvia Juncosa", Los Angeles Herald Examiner, "... found the guitar much more satisfying."
- Coley, Byron (December 1987), "Underground", SPIN Magazine, "Sylvia has a hard time keeping a band together; she's played with hordes of fellow Angelinos since she first popped up as keyboardist for the Leaving Trains."
- "Ink Disease Issue #13".
- "Disaster Amnesiac Blog - David Winogrond Interview". "Back then, she was on fire!"
- "History section of Sylvia Juncosa page".
- Hochman, Steve (3 April 1988), "Born to be Solo", Los Angeles Times
- Millard, A.J. (2004). The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon. USA: JHU Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-8018-7862-4. "Sylvia Juncosa earned credibility with technique fanatics with her 1988 album Nature"
- Coley, Byron (Jan 1990), "Underground", SPIN Magazine, "The emergence of a new female warrior archetype"
- "SparkPlug Magazine, October 2010".
- "LA Weekly, April 15, 2010".
- "Sylvia Juncosa page".
- "Keats Rides a Harley".
- "Various - Mondo Stereo".
- "Various - Program: Annihilator".
- Schwann spectrum, Volume 2, Issues 3-4.
- "Vera Groningen: Beauty in the Underworld".
- "Various, Love is My Only Crime".
- "WarfRat Tales (Unabridged)".