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Daniel Higgs

With the appearance of a heavily bearded tattooed prophet, Daniel Higgs emerged from the early-'80s Baltimore/D.C. hardcore punk scene as an underground icon with a near-mythological status. He sharpened his teeth in the music scene as a wild-eyed vocalist in the legendary Baltimore hardcore group Reptile House. Brewing a dark psychedelic sound with early-'80s hardcore energy and aesthetics, they earned a solid following and a lasting reputation due to debauchery at their live shows. The group disbanded in 1986 and Higgs, who was raised on Yeats and Dylan Thomas, became involved with the Apathy Press poets and started doing open-mic poetry readings. He was introduced to former Null Set bassist John Chriest, who created tape loops for Higgs to play along with his spoken words. One night, the two decided to jam on a whim, and after discovering a strong chemistry, they teamed up with a drummer and guitarist and quickly evolved into a new band. As the lead singer of the definitive band Lungfish, Higgs' stage presence was part Jim Morrison stream-of-consciousness poetry and part G.G. Allin unbridled lunacy. In his shows, he evoked specters of Franz Kafka and Walt Whitman in his lyrics while performing outrageous shenanigans like rolling his eyes back like a madman and trying to pull his own tongue out, or stabbing himself in the forehead with a safety pin while spouting rants about the Antichrist. Some consider his unabashed freakouts nonsensical; others consider them an art form of the purest kind. After ten records with Dischord, Higgs dabbled in conceptual art, formed a side project with his brother called Cone of Light, and created several books of poetry. His first solo album was recorded in 2006 and released on Holy Mountain and combined minimal meditative hillbilly blues, Eastern mysticism, and lyrics about physical and ethereal demise at the hands of demons. The beautifully packaged Atomic Yggdasil Tarot was released by Thrill Jockey in June 2007, and combines a book of his art and poetry with a CD of abstract lo-fi instrumental drones, with the intention of conjuring a tarot-like force when experienced simultaneously. 2010 saw the release of Say God: Songs & Poems of Daniel Higgs, a two-volume set of Higgs' lunatic sermon poems, and in 2013 a Latitudes session surfaced featuring the 23-minute meditation on banjo and organ "The Godward Way."
© Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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