In the early 2000s Chris Phinney posted a handful of songs from his band Viktimized Karcass (VK) to mp3.com (remember that?!!). These were random tracks rather than albums. But the samplings were so intriguing that I have been itching to hear full albums ever since. When I embarked on the journey with Hal McGee and Chris to document the history of his Harsh Reality label, as much as I enjoyed pouring through each tape, I was edgily waiting for HR019 when I knew we would reach the first Karcass cassette, and that they would come fast and furious throughout the remainder of the catalog.
I have long considered Alien Planetscapes, F/i, and ST 37 to represent the pantheon of 1980s American underground Space Rock bands. And while I’ve only heard four VK cassette albums so far, the music has been so unique and creatively OUT THERE that the band clearly deserve the same accolades I’ve been heaping on the others for so long.
I have always loved Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, in part because of the spaced out, Blanga rocking chaos. But the Hawks have got nothing on VK for cosmic insanity. VK usually defy analogies, but my reviews of the first four tapes include references to Hawkwind, Chrome, Captain Beefheart, and, get this… ZZ Top, demonstrating the twisted, inverted, and totally art damaged impressions the music made on me.
If these analogies raise your eyebrows, just check out ‘Moving To Georgia’ on the Atrocity Slaughter album (HR022). Imagine a ZZ Top meets Chrome, acid drenched, space rocking jam and you might get something like this tune. The guitars screech and scream like banshees wailing and the vocals have a cool Damon Edge/Billy Gibbons quality that are very much on a surreal Alien Soundtracks/Rio Grande Mud point on the rock ‘n’ roll axis.
VK easily out Hawkwind the Hawks on their A Matter Of Principle (HR019) debut. I love how Side A wraps up with ‘Prelude To (Crazy)’, a mapcap jam that sounds like a lo-fi, industrial, yet heavy rocking take on the more freeform moments of Space Ritual. The oscillators are cranking and the guitars are jamming for what is just a prelude to the anarchy that continues on Side B with ‘Crazy’, with its screaming synths, cosmically carnivalesque electronic melodies, and crazy as hell but riotously fun tape manipulated vocals.
VK was launched with an intentional air of mystery. Before any music had been released, Chris published a full page ad in issue #3 of his Malice Fanzine which simply read: “Beware of Viktimized Karcass”, and including info c/o Malice.
The band began as the quartet of Chris, Roger Moneymaker, Richard Martin, and Pete McLean on drums. McLean would prove to be unreliable and passed away some years later. (A side note is that McLean was Alex Chilton’s cousin.) Richard Martin would already be familiar to Harsh Reality followers, having recorded with Chris in Macroglossia and Eternal Concessions.
But Moneymaker’s guitar took me completely by surprise. Fire up Side B of the Madness & Mayhem tape (HR025) and you’ll hear what I mean. The guitar is absolutely OUT THERE, with killer swirling, serpentine, Beefheart bluesy, brain fried leads. Moneymaker is a monster freakout guitarist on this stretched out space rock and sound effects experimental jam for the ages.
A few other musicians would join VK, including Mike Jackson, Phinney’s partner in another prolific band, Cancerous Growth. But Phinney, Moneymaker and Martin would be mainstays throughout the band’s history, which lasted until the early 1990s when Chris brought Harsh Reality to a close.
Not only was VK Chris' favorite of all his Harsh Reality bands and collaborations throughout the 1980s, but he considers it to have been the Harsh Reality ‘house band’.
In addition to over 30 tapes released on Harsh Reality (including an Alien Karcasscapes collaboration with Alien Planetscapes – HR047), VK tapes appeared on numerous other labels including Big Body Parts, IRRE Tapes, Lord Litter’s Out Of The Blue, Sound Of Pig, Audiofile Tapes, Galactus Tapes, Xkurzhen Sound, Prion Tapes, Old Europa Café, Alternate Media Tapes, EE Tapes, The Rat Music Company, and SSS Productions.
At the time I published this article, Hal McGee is digitizing and uploading the four VK tapes we’ve covered so far, along with the other new catalog tapes we’ve covered through HR026.
While this article focuses on Viktimized Karcass, it is really a status report, insidiously intended to focus the world’s attention on developments with the Harsh Reality historical site and, hopefully, keep your interests fired up.
Every tape in the catalog is, to varying degrees, a gem. Not only was Harsh Reality an important label in cassette culture history, a significant portion of the catalog documents the creative activities of a sprung-from-the-punk era, no holds barred, experimental slice of the Memphis, Tennessee creative milieu, consisting of label honcho Chris Phinney and his cohorts in what they liked to term the ‘Memphis Mafia’.
The Harsh Reality historical site can be found HERE
Bookmark this link and check it REGULARLY for updates!!
MORE photos below...
Jerry Kranitz published Aural Innovations: The Global Source For Space Rock Exploration from 1998-2016. AI started as a printed zine (nine issues from 1998-2000) and then went online for the duration. The web site also included regularly broadcast editions of Aural Innovations Space Rock Radio.