Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Performing live in 2003
Performing live in 2003
Background information
OriginOakland, California, United States
GenresExperimental rock, avant-garde metal, progressive rock, progressive metal[1]
Years active1999–2011
LabelsThe End Records
MembersMatthias Bossi
Nils Frykdahl
Carla Kihlstedt
Michael Iago Mellender
Dan Rathbun
Past membersFrank Grau
David Shamrock
Moe! Staiano
WebsiteOfficial website

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (often abbreviated to SGM) was an American experimental rock band, formed in 1999 in Oakland, California. The band fused classical, industrial, and art-rock themes throughout their music. They were known to perform elaborate routines on stage[2] and discuss possibly fictitious stories of dada artists and mathematicians.[3]


After the disbanding of Idiot Flesh, Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun joined with Carla Kihlstedt (with whom Frykdahl and Rathbun had played in the band Charming Hostess) to form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, along with percussionists Moe! Staiano and David Shamrock. Their first performance, on June 22, 1999, was given to a single banana slug (Ariolimax dolichophallus).[4] The following night's performance was their first to a human audience.

Some time during the recording of Grand Opening and Closing (2001), drummer David Shamrock left the band and was replaced by Frank Grau. Grau also co-released the album, instigated their first tour and managed the band.

During the recording of the follow-up, Of Natural History (2004), Grau left the band and was replaced by new drummer Matthias Bossi, formerly of Skeleton Key. The Of Natural History tour saw Moe! Staiano's exit, and new multi-instrumentalist Michael Iago Mellender's entrance. In January 2006 Sleepytime Gorilla Museum signed to The End Records who re-released their début Grand Opening and Closing with three bonus tracks.

During early 2007, the title and track list for their third studio album, In Glorious Times was announced with the release date set for May 29, 2007.[5] Prior to the release, an mp3 and music video of the song "Helpless Corpses Enactment" were made available online.[5]

In February 2011, the band announced that they would play three final shows in California. It was also their intention to release a final album, a short film, and a live DVD.[6]

In 2013, Matthias Bossi and Mike Patton, Scott Amendola and William Winant performed a live score for the 1924 silent film Waxworks,[7] with the performance said to be filmed.[8]

Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun, Michael Iago Mellender, and David Shamrock, along with Drew Wheeler, formed a new band called Free Salamander Exhibit in 2013.[9]

In a July 2014 press release for Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Carla Kihlstedt announced that a new track featuring almost all members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, including Michael Mellender who "penned the architecture of this one," was to be released in August 2014.[10] The track, titled "The Perfect Abomination" was released on YouTube on July 31, 2014, and featured Kihlstedt and Bossi (of Rabbit Rabbit Radio, to whom the song is credited) with Michael Mellender and Dan Rathbun performing guitar and bass, respectively.[11]

Announcing a 2016 re-issue of the band's catalogue, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum wrote "And so it shall come to pass that the SGM back catalogue will see the light of Vinyl."[12] Official announcements for Of Natural History, In Glorious Times and Grand Opening and Closing vinyl re-issues were made by distributor "Blood Music" in September and October 2015.[13][14][15]


According to the extensive liner notes for Grand Opening and Closing, the name "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" comes from a small group of Dadaists, Futurists, and artists named the Sleepytime Gorilla Press. The group owned and operated what they called a "museum of the future" which was "anti-artifact, non-historical and closed."[16]

The "museum" opened on June 22, 1916 (the same day as the band's first concert, 83 years later). The exhibit consisted of a fire which caused widespread chaos and confusion. The following day, the museum was closed (hence the name of the first album). The name itself apparently comes from a poem called "Of the Future Hides the Past," written by Museum members Lala Rolo and Ikk Ygg.[16][17]

The band's interviews are the only source of information regarding the Sleepytime Gorilla Press, Lala Rolo, or Ikk Ygg.



Their live performances have featured puppet shows, pseudo-scientific scholarly presentations, and performances by members of the Butoh group inkBoat.

The band uses many homemade devices as instruments, such as the Viking Rowboat.[4] Dan Rathbun — who created most of the band's idiosyncratic instruments — plays, among other custom-made instruments (though he uses a common bass guitar most of the time), a custom-stringed bass instrument referred to as the Sledgehammer Dulcimer (or, alternately, the Slide Piano Log), which uses piano strings and is possibly more than 7 feet long; it is played with two sticks: one in the left hand generally used as a fret, and another in the right hand to strike the strings.

Percussionist Michael Iago Mellender's instruments consist of restaurant kitchen equipment, trash can lids, and other "found" metal objects, in addition to traditional percussion instruments. One of the more infamous instruments used by the band was Moe! Staiano's Popping Turtle (now residing in Brooklyn, NY[18]). It can be heard about 1:21 into the song "Sleep is Wrong".


SGM's music can be likened to experimental rock or avant-garde metal; however, as inherent to the music, the band attempts to escape any categorization. Some influences include Henry Cow, Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten, King Crimson, Mayhem, Bauhaus, The Art Bears, Igor Stravinsky, Thinking Plague, and Univers Zéro.[19] In a review for SGM's second album Of Natural History, David Moore of Pitchfork Media states that SGM's debut album Grand Opening and Closing was an amalgam of Meshuggah and Secret Chiefs 3, resulting in "some truly cracked prog-metal anthems."[20]


Tony Levin, known for his work with progressive rock pioneers King Crimson and also with Peter Gabriel, stated that he is a "huge fan of" Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and chose the track "Sleep is Wrong", which he calls "very, very powerful" as one of the pieces which most influenced his collaborative project, Stick Men. Levin also credited Sleepytime Gorilla Museum as doing "things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," specifically their "radical" and "organic" shifts in tempo.[21]

At least 3 members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum went on to form the band Free Salamander Exhibit.[22]


Some of the instruments are custom instruments built by the band.

Former members[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum > Biography". Allmusic. Macrovision. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  2. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (December 8, 2001). "Reviews & Previews: Albums - Pop". Billboard. Vol. 113, no. 49. p. 53.
  3. ^ Willcoma (December 14, 2006). "Music Review: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Archived 2006-11-04 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b "SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM: 'Helpless Corpses Enactment' Video Posted Online". May 22, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  6. ^ The Future Imperfect announcement on Facebook, February 14, 2011.
  7. ^ Waxworks with Mike Patton, Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi and William Winant. Retrieved March 29, 2013
  8. ^ Loyal followers of the Museum, the following will stop your bloody and beating heart. Mike Patton, Matthias Bossi, Scott Amendola, and William Winant will perform a live score to the 1924 film "Waxworks" on May 7th at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum on Facebook. Posted March 9, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  9. ^[user-generated source]
  10. ^ Kihlstedt, Carla (30 July 2014). "Back East from Out West" (Press release). Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  11. ^ Rabbit Rabbit Radio - The Perfect Abomination - feat. Michael Mellender & Dan Rathbun on YouTube
  12. ^ "And so it shall come to pass that the SGM back catalogue will see the light of Vinyl." Sleepytime Gorilla Museum on Facebook. Posted 16 October 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  13. ^ "...After three long years of discussion, we've finally come to an agreement to release the band's wonderful final album - “In Glorious Times” - on vinyl for the first time in history..." Blood Music on Facebook. Posted September 1, 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  14. ^ "...In addition to the previously announced "In Glorious Times," Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's ultra-classic sophomore masterwork "Of Natural History" will also be making its way to a first-time-ever vinyl pressing..." Blood Music on Facebook. Posted 16 October 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  15. ^ "... and hey, why not finish out the triumvirate? Sleepytime Gorilla Museum "Grand Opening and Closing" is also coming to vinyl next year." Blood Music on Facebook. Posted 30 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  16. ^ a b Album notes for Grand Opening And Closing, CD 2001. The End Records.
  17. ^ La Briola, John (May 23, 2002). "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum". Houston Press. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  18. ^ Moe! Staiano - title
  19. ^ "Grand Opening and Closing". Ground and Sky. Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  20. ^ Of Natural History | Pitchfork
  21. ^ Tony Levin: Piece 2: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Sleep is Wrong on YouTube
  22. ^ "Free Salamander Exhibit: Discourse on the Exhibit". 30 November 2013.

External links[edit]