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John Dwyer

John Dwyer has been a driving force of the American rock underground for several decades, through the prolific output of his many bands, particularly Thee Oh Sees, as well as his renowned Castle Face label. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and connected to the city's storied noise-rock scene, he relocated to San Francisco during the late '90s and participated in several groups who earned cult followings, including the art-punk duo Pink & Brown and the garage-punk outfit Coachwhips. He launched the lo-fi experimental project Orinoka Crash Suite, which shortened its name to OCS in 2003. Briefly known as the OhSees, the project evolved from a psych-folk group to a full-fledged rock band. Dubbed Thee Oh Sees, they quickly earned a reputation for their intense, sweat-soaked live shows, as well as their restless release schedule, which averaged at least one full-length per year, in addition to singles, splits, and compilations. The band's sound constantly expanded, incorporating influences such as Krautrock, prog, and proto-metal. Dwyer explored electronic music with his Silver Apples-inspired solo project Damaged Bug, and some of these influences filtered their way into his main band, who shortened their name to Oh Sees, then finally Osees. Dwyer also began collaborating with a revolving cast of guest musicians on a series of freely improvised experimental albums, including 2020's Bent Arcana and 2021's Gong Splat. Dwyer started making lo-fi experimental music in the late '90s when he was still based in Providence, where he grew up. Solo material as Orinoka Crash Suite appeared on compilations, and he participated in noise rock groups like Landed and Burmese, who were affiliated with the city's notorious Load Records. After moving to San Francisco, Dwyer formed the Lightning Bolt-inspired duo Pink & Brown, with Jeff Rosenberg as drummer and Dwyer singing and playing guitar. Under the alias Hans Bunschlapen, Dwyer performed in the homoerotic electro-industrial dance group Zeigenbock Kopf. He also formed the noisy garage rock band Coachwhips, who achieved their lo-fi sound by using a telephone transducer as a microphone. Dwyer began releasing music under the shortened OCS name in 2003, with a self-titled double album consisting of a CD containing acoustic songs and a second disc of noise improvisations. OCS gradually became Dwyer's main project, as his other acts disbanded, although he also played in short-lived groups like the Hospitals and Yikes. Along with percussionist and musical saw player Patrick Mullins, OCS released 3 & 4 on Narnack Records in 2005. Brigid Dawson joined the band for 2006's The Cool Death of Island Raiders, billed to the OhSees. 2007's Sucks Blood, as the Oh Sees, marked the first release on Castle Face, the label co-founded by Dwyer. By 2008, the band amended their name to Thee Oh Sees and settled into a four-piece lineup featuring bassist Petey Dammit and drummer Mike Shoun, and their sound crystallized into a signature brand of psychedelic garage punk. The band earned much acclaim for their blistering live shows as well as their inventive albums and EPs, which appeared at a rapid pace on labels like In the Red, Captured Tracks, and Castle Face. While mainly busy playing in Thee Oh Sees and running his label, Dwyer occasionally participated in the free jazz trio Sword & Sandals. After relocating to Los Angeles, he launched his synth-based solo project, Damaged Bug, in 2014. Thee Oh Sees shifted their lineup but remained active, while Dwyer and Dawson revived OCS for 2017's Memory of a Cut Off Head. As Oh Sees, the band released some of their heaviest material yet, from 2017's Orc to 2019's Face Stabber. Shortening the name to Osees, the group issued several albums in 2020, including the motorik psych-punk release Protean Threat. In 2020, Dwyer started releasing a series of improvised group efforts recorded at his house, blending jazz fusion and Krautrock influences. Bent Arcana was the first, and it featured TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, Mr. Elevator's Tomas Dolas, percussionist Ryan Sawyer, and several others. Witch Egg followed in early 2021, featuring Dolas and saxophonist Brad Caulkins from the previous album, as well as drummer Nick Murray and bassist Greg Coates. Next up was the more challenging Endless Garbage, which featured the freewheeling, splattery percussion of Ted Byrnes. Moon-Drenched followed, featuring much of the cast of Bent Arcana as well as electric pianist Ben Boye and saxophonist Joce Soubrian. The year concluded with the release of Gong Splat, which included Coates and Sawyer as well as percussionist Andres Renteria and synth player Wilder Zoby.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo
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