Artist Spotlight: Mind Bomb (or; Six Minute Singles Will Not Break a Band)

I woke up this morning (at least 2 weeks ago, by the time this posts), and I thought, Hey, I’m going to do an Artist Spotlight on Mind Bomb, that’ll be a quick hit. Of course, like everything else in my life, it got more complicated than I intended (it didn’t help that one of the members now shares a name with a 17-year old country singer, which makes research more complicated). I like to do some longer pieces by some artists that are closer to mainstream, but I also really like shining a light on the stuff that fell through cracks, stuff that I ended up having in my collection almost by chance, but has stayed with me all these years.

There is very, very little about this band out there, but I did find a picture of a newspaper clipping… an honest to God newspaper clipping that has this paragraph:

Mind Bomb has gotten strong support from people from other bands such as Rob Halford (Fight / Judas Priest), Gene Simmons (KISS) and Joe Elliott (Def Leppard). They have also gained support from the Swedish Bikini Team.

It goes on to say some other boring bullshit about a debut record and touring to promote, but absolutely zero follow up about that Swedish Bikini Team crack.

So here are the basics, and by that, I mean everything. Mind Bomb (sometimes Mindbomb) started out in Chicago as Daisy Chain in 1989. By 1991, the band was signed to Mercury records. The band’s singer / songwriter / guitarist / Atari 2600 switch clicker Scott Mercado is really the only one who ever did any press for the band, so everything is from his perspective. That press is incredibly hard to come by.

It’s like a rare Sasquatch photo

The band went into the studio with famed producer Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne’s early records, and lots of other 80s metal). In a 1993 interview, Mercado explains that he writes the songs and all the parts separately, so the band has no discussion about where the songs go. The other three tweak it with their playing style, and Mercado is happy with how Norman has made them tighter as a unit.

By 2004, however, Mercado states that he wrote and played everything. He complains about how Norman produced the record, then goes on to say that the other three members were off spending their “huge record company advance” while he worked tirelessly to produce the product. After the tour, he fired the entire band, hired a new band, but had writer’s block when they entered the studio. By then, Mercury had dropped them (him).

Cool, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the record.

Mind Bomb is, ostensibly, an alternative rock album. However, it has flourished or industrial, techno, metal, 70s glam and funk… and it’s pretty damn weird. It’s not weird like Mr. Bungle is weird or Ween is weird. Mr. Bungle throws 60 styles at you in a jigsaw puzzle fashion, and fuck you if you don’t get it. Mind Bomb is weird in the way that early Clutch was weird, or Funkadelic was weird. There’s that foundation of rock music there, and that’s pretty consistent throughout. Mind Bomb builds on those foundations with characters with odd voices, strange diversions into different genres, but always coming back to that foundation.

I’m not even sure how I ended up with this disc, I think I bought a promo copy from a used bargain bin (unequivocally the best way to find new music… in 1994). The first time I heard it, a high school friend had it on cassette, and I don’t know where he got it. He probably didn’t know how he got it, it’s like mono. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, because the vocals are often very glam-ish, and in 1993, that was a big no-no. But it really grew on me, and now this is one of my favorite discs that I still come back to again and again.

The album opens with “Prepare Yourself!”, which the vocals are distorted that one could mistake the lyrics for being “The Bridal Show!”, which is infinitely funnier. Whenever they had one at our local mall, we would see the signs and shout it out like the song. It starts with this programmed synth, and then punches you in the face with a guitar. The vocals on this are the most glam of the album (there’s this layered thing going on behind the main verse that is almost Queen inspired, not that there’s anything wrong with Queen, but leave that to Queen), so if you can get through this, you’re doing great!

“Segue” was the second single from the album, that like all of the singles, went pretty much nowhere (although you can find snippets of article claiming they got “heavy rotation”). It’s a pretty standard rock tune through most of the song, but after the first verse-chorus, it goes into some double bass kicks and some riffs that, if they were down-tuned, would’ve definitely bene too metal for radio (it appears they were too metal for radio anyway).

The third track, was the big single for this album… or at least it was supposed to be. “Do You Need Some?” was remixed to high heaven in an attempt, well, I don’t know what the label was trying to do. It appears they were trying to trade on Ministry’s name by having Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker do some remixes (mostly done by Barker, and they did the work because Jourgensen had just bought a ridiculously expensive sports car… as legend would have it), but other Chicago industrial luminaries such as Critter & Fluffy also did remixes. Apparently, Jourgensen was pissed that Mercury was using the Ministry name to move product. Anyway, the song starts with a spoken word about a “Cesspool of bodily secretions”, which is how every chart-topping single should begin. It then goes to a sample of woman shrieking the title (used throughout), there’s tons of layered vocals, drum breaks, and guitar solo after solo after solo, some in the background, some right up front. The whole thing goes on over 6 minutes, you know, like every chart topping single. Don’t get me wrong, the song is really great, but it’s just not a single (especially at the 4:30 mark where it goes to a weird drum breakdown and guitar noodling while the singer holds a note in a weird voice).

This leads into the fourth track, “Almost There”, which is the first of two ballads on the album. But it’s not like one of those hair metal “I’m-Sorry-I-Can’t-Love-You-I-Have-To-Tour-But-I’ll-Be-Sad-Thinking-Of-You-When-I-Have-My-Way-With-Groupies” ballads. And musically, it’s solid.

I swear, I’m not going to post the whole album, and I’m not going to fill this thing with links, it’s already gotten longer than I expected. “No Reason” has a little bass breakdown with whistling, finger-snapping, and a horn-sting like an imaginary Sharks vs Jets fight. “Violet Dream” has synth horns and double bass kicks, that shift into a breathy vocal pop music chorus. “40 Days” has some crazy screaming and a straight jazz portion, while “Daisy Chain” (the third single) is probably the most straight forward rock song of the entire bunch. “I Am” is a solid stomp, that’s actually very straight forward in the context of the album. “It’s What I Want” is nearly an everything but the kitchen sink number, and “Goodbye Everything” is the second ballad with some piano and sweeping strings, and some horns at the end that sound kind of like the old Imperial Butter commercials. But even as a straight forward(-ish) ballad, it’s plenty weird.

As far as singles, they’re loaded with remixes, which… meh. Except for a promo disc titled Cleaned, Disinfected, & Deodorized. It has “Violet Dream”, and two unreleased tracks titled “Barry White’s Hell” and “U Bleed (But Not For Me)”. I happened upon it in, guess what? A cheap used CD bin, where it was dumped by a radio station (I presume). The two unreleased songs are, of course, weird and pretty heavy and synthy. Like a fool, I sold it ages ago when I thought I was moving to live with a girlfriend several hours away. I ripped it to my hard drive, which was corrupted, so I lost the songs. It’s not like Mind Bomb is popular enough to ever get a remaster with these as bonus tracks. I’ve stumbled upon one since 2004, it came up on Discogs earlier this year, and I got an email notification. By the time I went to buy it, someone else had already gotten it. So, there are at least two of us.

After the band dissolved, the singer went on to do a bunch of stuff, but the other three guys, apparently, did not.

Scott Mercado runs a studio and does a lot of production work for other bands. In 2005, his new group Supermercado released Scary Baby, and Chupacabra in 2009. They are kind of like Mind Bomb filtered through Nu Metal, and they really aren’t as interesting. Chupacabra has a cover of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” on it, but Mercado isn’t singing on it, I don’t think. The only thing it does is replace the sample at the beginning with Bill Clinton denying the Lewinsky Affair. *Shrugs* Supermercado has 954 monthly listeners (Mind Bomb has 221), but they share those with another band of the same name that plays Latin Jazz.

Mercado also released two solo albums, 2008’s Kindasorta (as Matt Mercado and the Amazing Devils), and 2016’s Almost There. The first one is the kind of Acoustic blues rock + Hammond organ, with occasional violins, that only exists in movies about failed artists who have to go back home and then accidentally meet the love of their life. Almost There, with a new version of that song, is probably closest to Mind Bomb, even if the recording and production quality is all over the place.  Both albums are on Spotify, where he has 9 monthly listeners.

In 2013, Mercado reunited with Mind Bomb bass player Shakky Von Krause, with members of Roller and Zoetrope and started Cosmic Fury. They released an “album” (only 6 songs) called Cyber Dust. It’s on a label so insignificant that it’s not even listed on Discogs. I listened to it, and honestly, it’s not bad. It’s not as adventurous as Mind Bomb, but Mercado’s voice is really good here. It’s much more like indie-pop in its style, but more guitar oriented. It could almost be Superdrag meets James Gang. It’s on Spotify, and it has 2 monthly listeners, y’all. There are so few listeners, that when the album ends, Spotify can’t find anything else to continue playing its seamless radio feature

In 2016, Mercado released not one, but two albums with his project Pivot Man, Blood Monkey and The Hor-Ned One. This group allegedly started in 1997, yet took 9 years to finish and all these other things came out? C’mon, I wasn’t born yesterday.  Anyway, these albums have the cheapest and ugliest cover art I’ve ever seen. Remember how in the early 2000’s people were having a laugh at this self-released hip hop covers with bad Photoshop? These are worse in that there is no entertainment value in them at all. These albums are “industrial metal”, but they do have a severe pop edge to them. They kind of aren’t as weirdly cool as Mind Bomb’s self-titled, and the production seems a little flat, and they kind of sound like they are brick-walled to high heaven. Someone who makes their bones producing should know better (to be fair, The Hor-Ned One sounds better of the two). That being said, I’ve probably paid money for worse. The drummer, Gregg Potter, was previously in hair metal band Siren, he was very nearly in Damn Yankees, and he was cast in Uncle Buck, before Siren’s record label made him choose music or movies, so he dropped out to pursue music. He most recently played drums for the touring Buddy Rich Band, set up by Rich’s daughter Cathy Rich. Anyway, Pivot Man has a whopping 13 monthly listeners on Spotify!

Also, in 2016, Mercado started the Sonic Palace Band (named after the studio where he works, Sonic Palace). They’ve managed to release one single, “Sasquatch”, and have 2 monthly listeners on Spotify.

Most interesting to me, was that this year, he appeared on A Blue Girl by Chicago’s The Joy Thieves. This group has 40+ collaborators, so it’s taking that Pigface approach to music. As much as I like Pigface, The Joy Thieves are more listenable. There are no definitive credits, so I don’t know exactly what he did here, but the reason they are on my radar is that there are some songs featuring Ministry/RevCo alum Chris Connelly (whom I’d love to do an Artist Spotlight on, I’m just not sure how I would accomplish that).

There, now that I’ve talked more about Mercado’s other less worthy projects than I have Mind Bomb, I’ll wrap this up. I wouldn’t buy any of these other projects, except maybe Cosmic Fury. You can scoop up the Mind Bomb CD super cheap all the time. If you buy the digital version on Amazon (I don’t know if it’s on iTunes), the track listing is totally fucked, it starts with the closing ballad, which… no. So, if you decided to buy that, reorder the tracks like the CD. Spotify has the same order as the CD, if you plan to check it out that way.

But, credit where credit is due, Mercado does not give up, I really respect that he’s still doing what he loves. Even if those projects don’t connect with me, we’ll always have Mind Bomb.

Thanks for reading!