|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Years active||1982 — 1990|
What Goes On
|Associated acts||Thalia Zedek
|Past members||Mark C (1982-90)
Tom Paine (1982-90)
Marnie Greenholz (1982-88)
Richard Hutchins (1987-90)
Thalia Zedek (1987-90)
James Lo (1982-87)
Sonda Andersson (1988-90)
Dan Braun (1982)
Julie Hair (1982)
Live Skull created abrasive no wave-influenced music not unlike their 1980s contemporaries Sonic Youth, Swans, Rat at Rat R and Band of Susans, but with a hauntingly rhythmic, melancholic and melodic quality that was uniquely theirs. Their music featured angular guitar parts interspersed with bleak, quieter passages, for a haunting overall effect. The lyrical subject matter of their songs could be as pessimistic and harsh as their instrumentals. At the same time the lyrics could be heard as embodying a human voice amidst urban dystopia. Live Skull never achieved mainstream recognition but retain underground notoriety and share a family tree with other noteworthy groups of that era.
Live Skull formed in downtown New York City in 1982, founded by the guitar/bandleader tandem of Mark C. and Tom Paine. The earliest lineup included Julie Hair on vocals and Dan Braun on drums. They were soon joined by drummer James Lo and bassist Marnie Greenholz. In 1984, a self-titled debut 12" EP saw release on the tiny Massive label. They soon signed with indie label Homestead Records, which released their 1985 debut full-length Bringing Home the Bait. On this LP, vocal duties were shared by Greenholz, Paine, and C. 1986 album Cloud One featured slightly more accessible song structures. A live album called Don't Get Any on You was recorded at CBGB later that year, followed by the Pusherman EP.
Thalia Zedek joined the band as lead singer in 1987, taking over most of the vocal duties so that the other members could concentrate on their instruments. Zedek had previously played in the Boston-area post-punk outfits White Women, Dangerous Birds, and Uzi. The band also replaced Lo with ex-Ruin drummer Rich Hutchins (). Zedek and Hutchins debuted on 1987's Dusted, which spawned a black-and-white music video for the song "5-D," likely filmed in the same abandoned warehouse featured in the album's cover art. This video later appeared on the Twelve O'Clock High video compilation.
The group signed to the larger Caroline Records label, debuting with 1988's six-song Snuffer 12" EP. By then, Hutchins was also playing with the band Of Cabbages and Kings. Greenholz subsequently left and was replaced by Sonda Andersson, a former member of Rat at Rat R and cousin of avant-garde composer Glenn Branca. Released in 1989, Positraction was a more accessible, song-oriented effort that maintained the generally positive critical reaction. Live Skull disbanded in 1990 due to sustained lack of commercial success, with Paine deciding to focus on an alternate career.
Lo would go on to drum for Wider and then for Chavez in the mid-1990s.
Hutchins performed for a few years in Of Cabbages and Kings and Digitalis, which featured John Meyers (another former Rat at Rat R member) and Reverb Motherfuckers guitarist Skinny John, as well as Julie Hair, an early Live Skull member who later played with 3 Teens Kill 4 and Bite Like a Kitty. Digitalis split up around 1998. Hair and Hutchins married in 2000. Hutchins and Hair both were members of Hungry March Band for many years. Hutchins currently performs in Lubricated Goat and Phideaux, and various other projects.
Paine (Lance Goldenberg) received an MFA in film at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He is a writer and expert in world cinema.
Greenholz and Mark C. briefly reunited in the band Fuse, which released a double 7" EP, Dana's Room, in 1992 on the PCP Entertainment label. Greenholz, under the name Marnie Jaffe, then went on to co-found Fairmount Girls in Cincinnati, Ohio, and played on their debut album, Eleven Minutes to Anywhere, released on Deary Me Records in 1999.
Mark C. was involved in various other NYC projects through the years, such as Spoiler and Int'l Shades (with ex-Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert). The latter band released the Hash Wednesday album in 2005 on Cass Records. His most recent project, Outpost 13, also includes Kent Heine (The Holy Ghost) and Stuart Argabright (Ike Yard).
- Bringing Home the Bait - LP (1985, Homestead)
- Cloud One - LP/Cassette (1986, Homestead)
- Don't Get Any on You (live at CBGB, NYC, November 8, 1986) - LP/Cassette (1987, Homestead)
- Dusted - LP/CD/Cassette (1987, Homestead)
- Positraction - LP/CD/Cassette (1989, Caroline / What Goes On)
- Live Skull 12" (1984, Massive)
- Pusherman 12" (1986, Homestead)
- Snuffer 12"/Cassette (1988, Caroline/What Goes On)
- Tellus No. 1 - "Corpse" - Cassette (1983, Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine)
- Speed Trials - "I Was Wrong" - LP (1984, Homestead)
- Terminal! - "Common Cruelty" - 8" Flexi (1984, Philadelphia fanzine Terminal, issue No. 18)
- Tellus No. 8: USA/Germany - "Pulverized By Gratitude" - Cassette (1985, Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine)
- Tellus No. 10: All Guitars! - "Bad Hospital" - Cassette (1985, Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine)
- Plow! - "Flake Out" - LP (1985, Organik)
- The Wailing Ultimate: The Homestead Records Compilation - "Fort Belvedere" - LP/CD (1986, Homestead)
- Human Music - "Alive Again" - 2LP/CD (1988, Homestead)
- Sounds And Shigaku Limited Present: Beautiful Happiness - "Paul Revere's Bush (Tree Girl)" - LP (1988, What Goes On)
- Like A Girl I Want You To Keep Coming - "Tri-Power" - LP/CD (1989, Giorno Poetry Systems)
- Skull Fuck - VHS (live in Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1986) (Atavistic - ATV6)
- Live Skull Live - VHS (live in Fort Worth, Texas, April 22, 1989) (1989, Videophile)
- George-Warren, H: "The Next Chapter in Thalia Zedek's Indie Saga", Option Magazine 48: January/February 1993
- Richard Hutchins website
- Live Skull: Smart Band in a Hard Place by Caroline Ely
- TrouserPress overview
- Live Skull / Zedek album reviews
- Live Skull trading page listing some rarities, lyrics, live setlists, etc.
- Website of drummer Rich Hutchins
- Show flyer (drawing by Jimi Hendrix) from concert w/ Sonic Youth on May 24, 1985
- Live Skull Discogs page
- Live Skull "Corpse" (3:56) published at Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine