Eyes to the Skies
In 1996, NSA vocalist William Companyman was shooting for high-concept nerd rock; he needed a sonic platform to yowl about alienation, mall culture, and the surveillance society. Drawing from his music-geek record collection, he found a programmer, and began trying to graft the tunefulness of his rock heroes (Bowie, the Who, The Jam, the Clash) onto the atmospheric soundscapes of Warp Records (Aphex Twin). By Spring of 1999, this had so traumatized said programmer that he swore off music, and moved away. The rock was turning on it's techno host. This trend was further aggravated by the arrival of Grant West aka 'The Max Factor', an old friend and proper guitar slinger. Caught lounging on a beach in S.C., he was summarily drafted by the NSA. Or perhaps he infiltrated them; his dirty blues solos and stadium rock crunch forever altered the NSA sound. The rhythm section rammed the final stake into the sequencer's bleeping heart. It couldn't compete with Animal's thunderous drumming, locked in with Stimey's basic, foundational bass lines. This bare bones, hard-and-heavy rhythm section gave the NSA both a way to create a sound all their own, and a powerful live show. Inevitably, Tsar Jackson drifted in, with an approach to organ and synth reminiscent of the Kinks and the Cars respectively. The British Invasion never had a bigger proponent, and punctuating this sound with periodic spots of new wave cool brought new high-end sanity to the sound. William Companyman understood that circumstances had changed; he was an agent with a new cover story. Studio tricks, synthesizers and sequencers are good, and the NSA founding edict, 'all songs must have the potential to be singles, or they are self indulgent toss' remained. But a new NSA doctrine was issued, 'The NSA must at all times and places rock like weasels on crack.' This doctrine was made official in their new slogan: 'Our rock will destroy you.' The NSA took this slogan to heart, establishing a live show marked by stadium rock guitar wailing, the bassist playing much of the show on his back, the possessed singer driving out devil, and a drummer who spins, throws, and periodically breaks important parts of his kit. And then there's the Tsar... In the studio they were determined not to compromise the rock, but at the same time give a wide spectrum of sounds, and make damn sure every song was worth singing along to; the result, recorded by John Chinn at the near-legendary Columbus indie studio Workbook, is a 70 minute debut album replete with blues, rock-n-roll, the spirit of '77, and even hidden dance remixes (true!). Turn it up. Feel the love. Our rock will destroy you.