The Brits Love Them Some "Blastbeats"
Leave it to the British music press to read more into something than it merits. Any new fad they see pop up they immediately have to make a celebratory month for, or start spending thousands of pounds on to trace its source. It's a dirty habit. They can't leave well enough alone.
That's how you get an article in the Guardian speculating on the origins of blastbeats. Come on, blastbeats? Alexis Petridis, who looks like Mr. Bean's stoned kid, also writes a weekly fashion column for the Guardian when he's not dissecting thrash-metal technique. This past week's dispatch on blastbeats name-checked local legends D.R.I. and Insect Warfare in its valiant search for the true spirit of the blastbeat. All of this is to commemorate International Blastbeat Celebration Day.
D.R.I. at Austin's Club Foot/ Photo by Dixon Coulbourn (R.I.P.)
It's something special that two of Houston's most internationally known bands are party to blastbeats' dark and punishing art. D.R.I.'s blastbeats in the early days were of the more organic variety, directly borrowing from the thrash-metal of Celtic Frost and Venom. Insect Warfare's thuds, though, were exponentially varied, swiping influences from noise and doom artists, and used electronic means that added to the ominous and chaotic soundscapes that had even kids in Japan freaking out.
The article hypothesizes that blastbeats originated a number of ways. Jesse Malin's teenage hardcore band Heart Attack and one of its obscure singles from way back in 1983 is fingered as a likely culprit, as are J Mascis and Lou Barlow's pre-Cambrian days in Deep Wound, their hardcore project before Dinosaur Jr.
The two strangest theories involve Billy Joel's pre-fame band, Attila, and its proggish ways. Interestingly, free-jazz drummer Sunny Murray is also bandied about. This also seems to be the most logical of theories, considering all jazz's innovations in time signature and tone.
But at the end of the day, arguing over who invented or pioneered the blastbeat is as fruitless and vain as the argument over who was the original punk rocker or punk-rock band. At the end of the day, it's all just rock and roll.
And we all know it was Johnny Cash and The Stooges. Duh.