What is neither unusual nor remarkable is that she was given a nickname by her older sister, who discovered the little girl would cry prodigious amounts when locked in a dark closet. Flash forward to Ann Arbor, Mich. - circa 1973. Hanging out at "Gods Oasis" was a group of future museum artists... Niagara just returning from art schoolin Banff, took up residence with Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Cary Loren and a revolving group of hangers-on that would form the art-noise group DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. The name taken from the Japanese sci-fi film by the same name. This group practiced in the basement with either homemade instruments or ones they found in the trash. They also made art films. Their single live "performance" was at a Halloween party were DAM unwisely set up and began "to jam" for all of ten minutes before they were quickly dispatched by a group of jocks. No one would know of this embarrassing episode had Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth fame, not dug up those practice tapes and declare them the "worlds first noise band " deadpans Niagara. Says Mike Kelley of the same era, "We knew how to look like a band, we just couldn't play music, and we certainly didn't have any 'fans'." Niagara adds, "the band would play along with the record, but when the record came off the turntable, the music would veer into a strange place. That became our 'signature sound'. In a classic case of "ya better watch out for what you wish for," Cary started petitioning Ron Asheton, the world famous STOOGES guitarist, to join the "band." So Ron came down to one of our practices sessions. After hearing that he said, of course, "What band?" He thought Niagara looked hot, but as far as any other possible assets, the 'band' looked grim. Ron remembers, "but the Miller brothers on sax and guitar had possibilities... this Cary was a non-starter. And my friend Mike Davis of the MC5 was getting out of prison soon, we needed some strong bottom... hey, his bass would be perfect." This sent Cary to a mental institution and DAM into full-blown Punk Rock overdrive. Niagara became Punk Magazine's first centerfold. "The Band toured England and the states for about a decade, have about four 'hit singles'... and it's what people think of when, in the rare event, the subject Destroy All Monsters comes up." Niagara quips.
DAM is sandwiched between friends and seminal punks, Dead Boys and The Ramones for tonight's set. Niagara is crawling on all fours, writhing and clutching herself... and has the whole audience on its feet. She crawls overto Ron Asheton's Marshall amp and unplugs it. Ron, furious, plugs it back in and blows the circuit... show's over. Later that morning, half way across Ohio, the band is stopping at every bar and pool hall. The T-Bird they are driving is filled up with empties. It's February and Mike Davis insists, "the window stays down." Tensions... tempers... egos... drugs and booze. Blue flashers appear "out of nowhere." "Get out of the car," the state trooper demands. "Can't," says George -- the driver/road manager. "Get out now," the cop screams, pistol drawn. All the doors open. The sound of bottles and cans falling seems to go on forever. The cop steps back to collect his thoughts. "I'm due to get off in one hour, this looks like about two hours of paperwork... get off my fucking highway... and don't ever come back!" Not all DAM stories end this nice, not by a long shot.
Started in 1984 by Colonel Galaxy after a night of drinking and watching local heroes What Jane Shared. The Colonel thought the punk music landscape was getting a bit too austere. The Mutants, the Stooges, The Boners, the Reruns, the Ramrods were all self-destructed. That night he awoke for a horrendous nightmare... one of those roadside carnivals had set up across the street. When he walked in after midnight, the gates clanged shut. In the darkness he could see all the rides going full tilt... were all empty... and all the vendors were gone. Nothing was around except the freaks... cage after cage of screaming freaks. No way out, no exits. The colonel awoke in a sweat and wrote down this dream. The next day Dark Carnival began in earnest -- members were "hired" -- one from each band. Mark Norton from the Ramrods, Jerry Vile (Boners), Bootsey X (the Lovemasters), Mike McFeaters (What Jane Shared), Art Lyzak (Mutants). Then as the time went on, the big guns -- Niagara (Destroy All Monsters), Ron and Scott Asheton (the Stooges), Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys). Jim Carroll did a guest appearance. Always a changing lineup -- like a Vaudeville punk review. This went down for a couple years until a hardened down unit evolved for touring across the U.S., Canada and then Australia. The group released at least four albums and countless bootleg recordings: The Greatest Show in Detroit, Welcome to Show Business, Dark Carnival... Live Bait. The Last Great Ride was on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label and Dark Carnival... Live and Dead was recorded in New York on Halloween '97 by the label, but not issued until Niagara... Beyond the Pale on Amphetamine Reptile in 2003. Included in the box set on Easy Action -- Niagara... Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival and Other Grisly Tales. Due out on April 15, 2005.
I discovered her in an article in Punk Magazine about her band of Detroit art/music terrorists, Destroy All Monsters and black and white photos had never ever been as seductive before. She was everything that I liked about Bridgit Bardot but was of course much more menacing and therefore appealing. She was catlike, mysterious and deliberately dangerous: equal parts Ronnie Spector and Lizzie Borden with a barbarella twist. What was her story? What fuckin' planet did she come from? Where'd she get that name? What would it take to con her into having my illegitimate children? Within that article was a pin up of Niagara. It was signed, 'too bad you're gonna die' which pleased me greatly. I ripped it out and hung it in my room, but you know what? It just wasn't big enough to satisfy my uncontrollable lust. I took it to a photo lab and had a copy made twice it's size and there from my wall she peered/leered/sneered down at me for a decade or so. I finally met her many years later at a gallery in San Diego where I had just bought one of her paintings. Shortly after we became professional drug fiends, insatiable lovers and inseparable comrades (in that order) (well, a guy can dream can't he?). We have since shared many adventures together and I am guilty of releasing records with Destroy All Monsters as well as her other band, Dark Carnival. In the art world where there are far too few visable female artists. Niagara's paintings of ironic babes with guns, switchblades and cocktails continually bring a much needed sardonic wit and a firm swift kick in the proverbial pants. We are very fortunate to have her. -- long gone john / xx / dec 1, 2004
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