Alternative Press Magazine
Open The Doors Of Perception: Enter The Miracle Room
Steve Marsh, lead man for Miracle Room, leans over toward his amplifier and shouts into the CB radio microphone which he holds in his hand.
Metallic chases and soft electric whirls are layered over this monotonous echo in "These Are My Friends", one of the four songs on the band's sel-titled debut EP for Bar/None Records.
The group, originally from Austin Texas, is now based at New York's Knitting Factory (a kind of artists' guild for various new and experimental bands).
Today, Miracle Room is one of the most exciting bands around. They have been getting more widespread attention since the 1989 release of A & M Record's compilation album "Live At The Knitting Factory, Vol.I", which includes a song by the band. Miracle Room also recently returned from a Knitting Factory tour of Eastern Europe.
Run up and down the neck of an electric guitar, a power drill can either create a twisting whisper or a threatening rev. Around the stage, there are enough electrical tools and wood planks to build a doghouse - circular saw blades on wires, half a barn door with electrified springs. The three members of Miracle Room rap spray-painted cattle jaw bones on a crimped plastic tube with a microphone on one end, creating a cavernous reverb pitter-patter. Marsh shakes a spray paint can (empty from the jaw bones) near the microphone. A few more metallic cadences are electrified into the speakers.
The audio hobgoblin conjoured out of the simple mixture of two or three elements rampages the eardrums and slams hammers and anvils. It rages down neural channels and over axon hillocks to arrive directly at a synapse which has not been visited since the fall of Babylon, and may be closed to impulse for another 2000 years.
Marsh - tall, hair pulled tight from his forehead in a ponytail, minimal goatee, round rimmed glasses - has the air of a psychologist or an orchestra conductor. He understands the method of his madness. "The whole thing is very much an onslaught," Marsh says. And, like the most effective onslaughts, Miracle Room's is strategically planned to succeed. But, "it's not intellectual, emotional, or aesthetic," he contends. "It's just primal cave person stuff."
The cyberpunk caveman he suggests could well be the band's self-taught percussionist Rock Savage, who seems blissful when bare-chested among the neon junkpile which is his instrument. His tangled blond hair hangs to his sternum as he crouches over a 10 gallon plastic water bottle (again equipped with a microphone) and turns it into a cosmic bongo.
Meanwhile, Marsh and bassist Ed Greer are playing an array of "found instruments", such as the barn door and the electric drill. Marsh's multicolored shadow looms monstrous on the ceiling, while he holds up a sheet of plastic which magnifies and distorts fis face. For a moment, he is that little man in the TV - a childhood worry gone berserk. Perhaps this craziness is just an echo from this world. "I'm as influenced by the construction work going on outside my place right now on the streets as I am by whatever happens to be on the boom-box," Marsh says.
While many up-and-coming bands go to great pains to disinherit the influences and ideologies which are so glaring in their work, Miracle Room doesn't have to. No one has found any similarity between their sound and that of any other band, and if they are reminiscent of anyone, it could be seminal American bands like Big Black, Sonic Youth, and the Butthole Surfers. And then, the only similarity is a shared desire to produce sounds which have never before trounced the tympanum.
How is it that something so new can sound oddly familiar? "It's subliminal processing, basically," Marsh says. "It's made to be something that's accessible without you knowing it," he adds, laughing briefly. "You know, you'd think that the music we're throwing at people would be really difficult to figure out, but it's not, and people thrive on that.It goes into their brain in places that don't get moved around that much."
"It's primal fear that we're tapping into," he says, but no one seemed scared at the show. Instead, the crowd became entranced by the rhythm and originality of Miracle Room, which is too fascinating to ignore. After the show, the audience converged to talk to the band as they sifted toward the bar.
Marsh seems shy, almost embarrassed when he admits," God, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I would say it's real spiritual music," and this coming from the son of a Baptist minister. Marsh was born in Texas and got his start in Austin where he played in the punk band Terminal Mind for several years, and experimented with performance art a la Brian Eno. Marsh met Savage, twice voted Best Drummer in Austin on an Austin Chronicle readers' poll, and the two decided to start a band. Ed Greer, an Irishman, joined Miracle Room five days before their first performance in 1985.
Greer, who hasn't lost his lilting accent, was born and raised near the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Throughout high school and early college, he played bass professionally (or rather," for money," Greer says) with rock bands - and with one drunken ballad singer who was always a half beat behind the band. How he got to Texas remains a mystery, but Greer did explain how the band ended up in New York in 1989. "We decided we would go on tour and play for strangers, and wherever they clapped the loudest, we'd move there." A bass bobber lure dangles from his earlobe as he turns and smiles.
Much of what happens with Miracle Room is accidental. One night Marsh was leaving his favorite Lebanese restaurant when he stumbled on a 20 gallon olive oil drum, which now hangs from chains on stage. In the middle of one of their live shows on a recent tour in the East, Savage inadvertently knocked a propane tank to the floor.
Even the band's name was born of happenstance. "I was working in a print shop with this guy," Marsh explains," and he's really into a bunch of underground noise bands. The print machines were going and my hearing's suffering as it is and he was yelling,'Have you heard of this band?' And it sounded like he said Miracle Room but he had said "Nurse With Wound'." Marsh smirks and says finally. "It stuck."

Tom Celebrezze