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.
"OK OK OK OK OK OK OK OK..."
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
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."