More than a decade into the DIY game making his name with rock acts like JOHNS, the Hotlights and Alpha Hopper, Buffalo punk artist John Toohill continues to veer left-of-the-dial for his latest project, the industrial electronic outfit Night Slaves. Teaming up with longtime composer/musician David Kane, the pair will be sharing its six-track debut cassette on Friday in Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.).
And even with the musical shift floating around the surface of his latest release, the apparent sonic change of gears didn’t hit Toohill until, well, now.
“Man, until you said that, I didn’t even think of it as a conscious decision that was made,” Toohill said. “It’s just what happened when David and I got in a room together. I guess it is different in regards to the instruments used in the approach, but it feels very natural and, for me, not really that far from any of those other projects. Same head, just dialed in differently. Except for maybe Hotlights. People don’t seem to want to fight me after Night Slaves get off stage.”
Toohill’s Night Slaves partner Kane has been a member of the Buffalo music scene for three decades running, fronting his gypsy jazz unit Them Jazzbeards since the late 1980s in addition to his more decent project, DKQ. The musician also is one of the leading forces behind the industrial scene, a résumé detail that seems to be the root of the two musicians’ future friendship and now collaborations.
“David is the best,” Toohill said. “Turns out we’ve been friends for years and just didn’t know it yet. You know what I mean? We both take a really similar sort of pleasure from playing ‘dark’ music. Oh, and drinking and smoking in his basement. That too.
“So I knew about him from various projects and thought he was of a different league of musician. You know, the ones that can actually play their instruments. Anyway, at a (Mark) Freeland tribute, he was doing a solo set of dark, rhythmically hypnotic, noisy electronic jams. I had a few sodas in me, asked what that was all about and suggested we ruin them by having me sing over top. A few months later, I got the call.”
While not quite the nostalgic revolution that vinyl has recently turned into, for many local DIY acts, the cassette continues to be an affordable choice for physical releases. Set to be released on multimedia artist Bobby Griffith’s Bad Drone Media (“I don’t think there was even a choice to be made there,” Toohill adds), the incentive-laden “Night Slaves” finds the duo embracing and having fun with the once-again on-the-rise format.
“You can have a tangible format for your music to actually put into someone’s hands that looks good for a reasonable price, and people think it’s cool right now ... again,” Toohill said. “I have a ton of cassettes. So why not? All ours will have a digital download link printed on them so even if you don’t have a player at home and you don’t wanna steal the car I drove 12 years ago, you can hit download then listen to the music while you inspect the art/packaging.
“We’re trying to make it even more appealing by selling all 100 in a special package deal. The tape comes inside a little box containing a patch, a pin, a sticker, lyric insert and a thing we’re calling an ‘unfortunate cookie.’ Open it before you eat it.”
The special edition of “Night Slaves,” cookie and all, can be picked up at the show beginning at 8 p.m. Friday. Griffiths’ drone project VWLS, the “avant-garde/post-noise/experimental neo-folk” act CAGES, Kevin Cane’s Malaria Control and the audio/visual head trip of FLATSITTER (producer of NS’s “No Blinding Light” video) will all be on hand for support. As for what’s next, a tour seems to at least be in the conversation, provided transportation is locked down.
“Sure. Why not?! Honestly, I think we aren’t really in a rush to do anything besides keep on making this music,” Toohill explains. “It seems to keep getting darker, faster and weirder as of late. We want to keep pushing it. Speaking of a tour, recently, someone crashed into my van while it was safely parked in front of my house and totaled it. Who wants to be the next big philanthropist to the arts and help us out here? The better the van works, the more we will leave. Promise!”