The reason I am choosing to write about Damon Edge is quite simple; Edge’s band Chrome were one of the most influential experimental bands ever who operated on the fringes of both the punk and Industrial scenes. Their collection ‘The Chrome Box’ is one of the most essential collections of music ever made.
Damon Edge was born as Thomas Wisse in 1949. He studied Environmental arts at the California Institute of Arts with an associate of John Cage called Alan Capra. Graduating at the age of 21, he then moved to San Francisco. During this time he worked as a musician for MGM studios with other musicians jamming soundtracks for different films. He began to use the performer name of Damon Edge in his band Chrome who he formed in the mid 70s after being inspired by sounds he heard on a previous visit to Morocco.
The first line-up of Chrome included Vocalist Mike Low, Violinist Gary Spain and guitarist John Lambdin; they recorded the album The Visitation in 1978. Edge performed the drums, synthesizer, effects, production, and backing vocals. Chrome took progressive raw elements and was far too forward-thinking for the punk movement of that time.
The later addition of guitarist Helios Creed (B. Johnson) was the catalyst for the band’s development. Edge and Creed combined made Chrome’s sound immediately rawer with a more damaged edge to the overall sound. Edge and Creed were a collaboration and the first fruit of this labor was Alien Soundtracks, which combined a Stooges-like rock sound, psychedelia, samples, keyboard drones and Industrial madness. Edge and Creed now shared the lead vocals. Alien Soundtracks had a simultaneously simple yet complex sound, still way too ahead of its time. Chrome’s new sound was a lot more aggressive and damaged with Creed, yet Edge’s experimentation would do things like sample and play a track backwards mid-song, while Creed would lay a guitar solo over it. This was perfectly demonstrated on tracks like ‘Chromosome Damage’. Within publications like Roni Sarig’s magnificent The Secret History of Rock, Chrome were termed Acid Punk.
Edge and Chrome went on to make several classic records together: Half Machine Lip Moves, Read Only Memory, Red Exposure, Blood on the Moon, 3rd from the Sun, and No Humans Allowed, all of which were combined in the Chrome Box and released through Subterranean Records. Most of Chrome’s albums were released on Edge’s own Siren Records label. Throughout the course of these albums, Chrome refined their sound further and further. Edge was a technically brilliant producer who along with Creed—through either low-tech or high-tech means—pushed the Chrome sound to its absolute limit.
In 1983 the Edge/Creed version of Chrome ended when Edge left America to live in France with his wife Fabiene Shine (of Shakin’ Street fame). Edge started and led a new version of Chrome with a reoccurring cast of musicians including Remy Divilla, Renaud Thorez, and Patrick Imbert. The new Chrome began with albums like Into the Eyes of the Zombie King and Another World, and demonstrated an impressive clean Euro sound. There was excellent songwriting on these albums with tracks like ‘Trip the Switch’ and ‘You Come Around’. Around the same time, Edge also released some excellent solo albums on New Rose Records including The Wind is Talking, Alliance, Grand Visions, and The Surreal Rock. These albums reveal high standards of songwriting, demonstrating an impressive pop sensibility that also found its way into parts of Chrome.
Chrome’s phase of underground pop had disintegrated by 1990 as Edge had broken up with Fabienne Shine after moving back to the United States. On releases such as Liquid Forest and Mission of the Entranced, Edge now sounded even more warped, distorted, and haunted. However, his brilliance shone through as he had also corroded Chrome again into a hybrid band fusing beats, samples, and instrumentation. These albums stood out through their experimentation and were also impressive for their absolute refusal to tie in with musical trends of the time; they showed no desire to cash in on Chrome’s influence on many popular emerging artists of the time.
Edge’s final Chrome album was The Claudient Syndrome in 1994. This album saw a return of some of the fractured pop clarity of former years combined with warped, murky experimentation. Edge and Creed had also patched up their differences around this time too and were talking of working together again. But this wasn’t to be, as Edge tragically died of heart failure in August 1995.
I see Edge as a simultaneously damaged pop star and an experimental genius who sacrificed commercialism and trod a maverick path that many bands follow to this day. Chrome went on to inspire bands like the Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Pavement, Prong, The Jesus Lizard, and most importantly they were the first band to cross Industrial electronics with a rock sound and effectively pave the way for now-famous industrial rock pioneers like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson, whether directly or indirectly.
After Edge’s death, Helios Creed resurrected Chrome with former Chrome rhythm section The Stench Brothers (John and Hilary Haines) and stayed true to the warped Chrome ethos with a series of new Chrome albums; Retro Transmission, Tidal Forces (No Humans Allowed Part 2), and Ghost Machine. However, in 2002 the return of the Edge and Creed happened with the 2002 Chrome release Angel of the Clouds; Creed incorporated recordings of Chrome music Edge had made before his death and used these extensively in the recording of the album. The results were amazing and served as a posthumous reunion to one of the most influential partnerships in Rock history.
Written by Lazrs3 2012
Photograph: Felix Flaucher
Andrew Mullen’sbiographyof Edge.
Roni Sarig – The Secret History of Rock – The most influential bands you’ve never heard (1998)
Alliance (1985) I’m a Gentleman (7″) (1985) The Wind Is Talking (1985) Grand Visions (1986) The Surreal Rock (1987)
Discography [with Chrome]:
Alien Soundtracks (1978)
Half Machine Lip Moves (1979)
Read Only Memory (1979) – Mini Album
New Age (1980) – 7″ Single
Red Exposure (1980)
Inworlds (1981) – 12″ Single
Blood on the Moon (1981)
Firebomb (1982) – 7″ Single
3rd from the Sun (1982)
Anorexic Sacrifice (1982) – 7″ Single
No Humans Allowed (1982)
Chrome Box (1982) – 6 Album Set
The Chronicles I (1982)
The Chronicles II (1982)
Raining Milk (1983)
Chrome / Bauhaus: Live in London (1984) – Various Artists VHS
Into the Eyes of the Zombie King (1984)
The Lyon Concert (1985)
Another World (1985)
Dossiers – Various Artists (1986)
Dreaming in Sequence (1986)
Live in Germany (1987)
Alien Soundtracks II (1988)
Mission of the Entranced (1990)
Liquid Forest (1990)
One Million Eyes (1991)
The Clairaudient Syndrome (1994)
Having a Wonderful Time in the Juice Dome – Compilation (1995)