THE CONVULSIONS have developed a repertoire comprising 1960’s British RnB with 1990’s punk rock energy and incendiary inventiveness.
Originally based in Chicago by ex-pat Benjamin Ruth but now firmly enscounced in the NW of Englad with a band that has evolved from high energy punk British RnB mixed with 60's US garage to high energy funk and mod leading us to term the genre Mod Punk Boogaloo.
For videos see the website or the Hole in the Head video at:
The band comprises a core of bass, drums, guitar, and harmonica with forays into B3 Hammond funk. An explosive stage presence and a complete celebration of booty shaking mayhem.
The band founded a US/UK musical exchange in 2001 now known as CME Artist Services who signed its first partnership deal with Sonicbids in 2005 to go completely international. As a group we believe artist collaboration is the key to an enjoyable and rewarding musical future.
The Convulsions have finally produced a new studio EP with the UK lineup. The recording is produced by Mo Whittam of Suzi Quatro fame and is to be used as a demo to attract greater attention for the band. Those songs are the first three audio clips on this EPK.
The Convulsions have played throughout Chicago and the Midwest, Costa Rica, Sweden, Ukraine and throughout the UK.
Benjamin Ruth - Vocals, organ, Harmonica
Jo Cutler - Bass
Jonny Huck - Drums
Jason Wilkinson - Guitar
Get Your Groove On (EP) - 2011
Shaken and Disturbed (LP) - 2001
There are other live and studio outings but the above are our favourites.
Cuts from most of these albums and more are available at www.convulsions.com/sounds
The Convulsions at the Old Duke, Bristol
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This is just a quickie as I went to see these lads last pm over in Bristol. I gave them a mention in...This is just a quickie as I went to see these lads last pm over in Bristol. I gave them a mention in the festival edition after they played Colne in August. I think they deserve another mention as they work so hard at their particular brand of Blues.
Unconventional in their approach to their music? - yes - for sure. Unusual in their presentation? Again - yes. Unpredictable in the execution of their work?
- Yes. Uncontrollable once on stage - encore un fois!!
They are all of these things They are wild, manic, anarchic, amusing and take R&B and a few other genres of music - fill to the brim a cocktail shaker of the afore mentioned adjectives along with blues tunes and songs and music mix well, remove lid and pour over your audience in copious amounts all evening. Those who don't like the elixir can spit it out and leave. Those who like it lap it up all night long and cry for more at the end!
I didn't notice any one leave other than the few who did a quick exit to catch the last
bus home from the city centre as eleven of the clock approached.
Ben Ruth on sharp harp / vocals and amazing gymnastics is no ordinary front man - far
from it - he's your archetypical head banger straight from Satan’s brood. Then again he's impish, playful and precocious and just does not stop until he drops literally off the stage into the gasping audience!
A rather dark handsome young fellow by name of Jim Swinerton thumps and whacks chunks of stonkin' bass lines from the upright bass and as yet I see no plasters on his fingers! Amazing! What I do see are clouds of resin from the strings jettisoned over
the bare planking of the small stage they are all on.
Phil Gibson also of great fifties rocker good looks gives the ol' skins a bashing in keeping with the bass giving the band its' momentum.
Mike Howard lead guitars and vocals has the unenviable task of trying to get to grips with the dynamic Ben Ruth. They battle out many harp Vs guitar duels during the night
with no one player ever getting the better of the other but the audience getting the best from them both and ending up the winners of this instrumental jousting tournament!
Set one consists of (according to the list I picked up off stage at the end of the
performance was somewhere along the lines of)"Three Hundred Pounds", "Killing Floor", "Walk with Me", "Outta my Life" "My Baby left Me" ?"Smoking in Germany"? ? "Bir Mir Alst Di."? and "MemphisTrain". In the short interval Ben tells me he's back off
to Chicago soon but hopes to be back in the autumn and if he can afford the trip will poke his nose in the UK for Burnley Blues Festival. Then he's back on stage to finish off with "One Way Out", a great version of "King Creole", "CC Rider", "Watch Your Step"
Playing, singing gyrating on and off the stage across beer laden tables (without knocking a glass) and eventually leaping up onto the bar with the stealth and agility of a seasoned alley cat. - Ben makes his presence felt. He leaves the stage after the encore to talk to audience and sell CDs in a lather of sweat - his black shirt 'n'trousers (and one shoe)
clinging to his slim athletic- fit body contours.
So much for this being a quickie!...........Diane -
Top Five Music: Dec. 21st 2003
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Sprightly Anglo-US outfit inventively blend classic Windy City blues with Sixties soul, British R&B ...Sprightly Anglo-US outfit inventively blend classic Windy City blues with Sixties soul, British R&B and a Nineties punk energy.
The Convulsions : Shaky, rattled and rolled
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If you've ever seen one, a convulsion is an involuntary muscle contraction unable to be controlled b...If you've ever seen one, a convulsion is an involuntary muscle contraction unable to be controlled by the unfortunate soul experiencing it. If you've ever seen The Convulsions, you know why the Chicago band is aptly named: frontman Ben "Shaky" Ruth blows harp in the throws of uncontrollable full-body spasms.
The Convulsions - the band - has been Ruth's outfit since its inception in 1993. He's an Englishman who came to Chicago (by way of Penn State) in search of the blues and R&B sounds that first excited him as a teenager in the late '70s. "I was expected to take a career in science," Ruth explains. "I got pretty much through with my master's at Penn State and was itching to come out here. My parents came over for a teaching exchange, [and] they heard me sitting in with this guy playing acoustic guitar and whatnot - it was the first time they'd heard me play harmonica for a couple of years. They were just like 'We understand if that's what you want to do now.' It was the final blessing. I probably would've done it anyway, but with the parental blessing, I wrapped up my degree at Penn State and came out here to ostensibly get into a blues band." (He frequently played with Lefty Dizz once he arrived in Chicago,)
"I didn't really get turned onto rock 'n' roll - and when I say rock 'n' roll, I mean the English interpretation of rock 'n' roll, which is the American Invasion in the late-'50s. Rock 'n' roll in Britain means Chuck Berry, Bill Haley And The Comets, Little Richard. I was probably about 11, and I saw Blackboard Jungle, the movie which was the launching of rock 'n' roll in Europe. The radio stations in the mid-'70s were just pouring out ABBA and crap. Nothing that makes you want to, like, rip up some upholstery and burn holes in your shoes. I started finding some of the speciality radio shows - that turned me onto a lot of music.
"We love the blues over in Britain," continues Ruth, "but when we grab hold of it, we grab it a little enthusiastically and run with it like an express train. So you get things like The Animals, and The Troggs and The Yardbirds - that kind of thing. It still goes on."
Which is why a four-piece band fronted by a harmonica-playing singer would seem closer to a blues band than a rock 'n' roll outfit, but as Ruth's description of the British filtering of blues so appropriately depicts, The Convulsions are a twisted amalgam of both styles. The band's recently-released first proper CD Shaken & Disturbed is a superb snapshot of what this band does best live in a club. Which is where one should experience The Convulsions. Transferring that energy to record is a tough sell, but the band pulled it off with aplomb, mixing both live and studio tracks. Three of the four strictly instrumental cuts (two of those recorded live at the Lyons Den) are some of the best selections on the disc: the country and western jaunt "No Idea," the dark, stomping "50 Pounds," and a fantastic cover of The Fabulous Counts’ "Jan Jan."
The vocal tracks share a much more punk edge, mostly because Ruth's delivery has the sneer of "Street Fighting Man" Jagger and the pugnacious bite of Joe Strummer. On "Swear It's Not You," "Take A Walk," and the hoedown romp "Don't Know What To Tell You," Ruth's raspy voice is frayed even when working close to the melody, and on volatile numbers like the spastic "Kow Tow" and the borderline belligerent "Smoking In Germany," he barks and shrieks and bullies like a semi-lucid pub lout. But what distinguishes The Convulsions' sound most is Ruth's harmonica, played with voracious energy, surprisingly lithe melodicism, and old-style R&B grit. And this from a guy who "never thought he could play anything."
"Tried the piano - that didn't really work. Tried the guitar - that was hopeless," he recalls. Inspired by a hashish-fueled harp-playing college friend, Ruth bought a harmonica and started playing along to Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. "I kept bashing away at it and like three days later I got the second position, single notes, the bends. I was playing along to all these songs and learning riffs. I'd say about 10 days after picking it up, I was on the street busking."
But that Anglicizing filter wouldn't allow Ruth to play strict blues. Besides, "there's nothing more tedious in my mind than one slow, plodding blues after another," says Ruth, "the sort of stereotype that blues falls into here in Chicago. Everyone plays a handful of standards; the musicianship might be phenomenal, but . . . "
Thus The Convulsions . . . convulse. Though he learned to play harp by listening to some of the blues masters of the instrument ("When I first heard Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues, I played that over and over again"), Ruth and the band have been compared (surprisingly so) by some to Blues Traveler - specifically John Popper.
"[That's] because most folks are used to hearing harmonica in a blues setting or in Blues Traveler - and that's it," he offers. "Our band would never play a Blues Traveler tune, but [Popper]'s a musical genius. I think anyone who suggests otherwise is just sour grapes. Some folks say he overplays and this that and the other. I don't try and ape him, I just try and learn the high note bits, cause it's another technique. There's a lot of puritanism that goes on in the blues scene. Not so much from the black practitioners, but from the white purists. Folks who are still playing real blues are much more open."
The release of Shaken & Disturbed is quite a milestone for Ruth, who has seen a half dozen versions of The Convulsions in the past eight years with more than a dozen different players (one guitarist, Mike O'Cull, has been in the band twice!). Why so transient?
"We never got good gigs or many gigs," says Ruth. "For one thing, we never had a really good recording at all. And I think some of the musicians got involved with this band because it was a sound they'd never heard before, and then they got bored with it. Maybe I just wasn't that good. I don't know."
Though the album credits detail the various players on each track, the current Convulsions are the same musicians Ruth performs with as The Almighty Rogers, which is more of a noodling, jazzy, experimental R&B outfit. It's the lineup that will make the trek to England for three weeks in August as part of a five local band "exchange" that includes Gertrude, Kate Brunner, Soulfix, and Pete Special. (Ruth is booking the whole excursion himself, including a benefit show on July 28 to raise funds for the trip.)
Despite the ever-evolving lineup, Ruth says he's "never, ever been as happy with a group of musicians as I am with the current lineup. It's taken this long to find people who really enjoy this kind of stuff. I really enjoy everything they're bringing to the table."
Ben Ruth found a musical home here in Chicago; let's hope he's found a stable Convulsions lineup at last. t
Appearing: July 7 at Lyon's Den (1934 W. Irving Park); 28 at Coyle's Tippling House (2843 N. Halsted); and every Sunday night in July at Waterloo Tavern (2270 N. Lincoln) in Chicago.
Convulsions: Shaken and Disturbed
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It’s dark, raining in solid sheets and despite your attempts to clothe yourself appropriately before...It’s dark, raining in solid sheets and despite your attempts to clothe yourself appropriately before you set out you’re soaked to the skin. Each time a vehicle passes by you catch a sidewalk tsunami and you think to yourself, “shoulda’ got a cab”. Had you gotten a cab however, the smalltime jingle in your pocket reminds you that you would not then be able to afford any liquid refreshment upon reaching your destination. Can’t be much further now, SPLASH, wow that was a big one must have been a truck. You quicken your step as you draw level with the menacing mouth of an alley, you do this by habit, subconsciously and just in case. Then you begin to hear music, faintly at first and well off in the distance but it tells you that you’re nearing journey’s end. Each soggy pace forward brings the sound sharper into focus. A few yards further and the bass frequencies begin to register, felt rather than heard. Turning the next corner brings you face on to the driving rain but you don’t care because by now you can see the neon-lit entrance, the solid musical pulse has you in it’s grasp and is penetrating you to the pith even as you hand over your admission and stretch out a dripping hand to be UV stamped. Now you’re inside and everybody is as wet as you except theirs is perspiration, you immediately meld with the swaying mass and become one with them drinking in this frenzied punk-funk fusion with attitude, this bebop meets Godzilla with harp-o-batics from hell. You’re at the right place to be in Chicago tonight, you’re at a Convulsions gig.
Timeout London: Pick of the Day, Dec. 29th 2003
“ . sweaty, US blues punkers!”
Convulsions: Shaken and Disturbed!
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THE CONVULSIONS - "SHAKEN & DISTURBED" Hard gin soaked, smoke stained Chicago blues rock with soul!...THE CONVULSIONS - "SHAKEN & DISTURBED"
Hard gin soaked, smoke stained Chicago blues rock with soul! Complete with Hammond organ, harmonica, trumpet and blazing guitars, this band knows how to do it right. With a voice reminiscent of Howlin' Wolf and a band that sounds like it's ready to explode, The Convulsions have been leading the charge in Chicago blues for nearly a decade. Prominent Berlin DJ Lord Litter calls it "the hottest, punkiest, funky British Rhythm 'n Blues available in the USA. This ROCKS!!!!!!!!"....
A Band that demands to be seen
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Here is a band that demands to be seen. With a rare mix of energies and anything but subtle flavors,...Here is a band that demands to be seen. With a rare mix of energies and anything but subtle flavors, the individual members combine to form a sound that is uniquely "The Convulsions." Ben blows such a mean harp that at least twice I had to duck as a note blew right past me and out the door. I think he hit a guy across the street..... Intense!
The Live Band all other Live Bands Are Judged By
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The Convulsions, it should be noted upfront, play no down-tempo songs. The Chicago-based "British ...The Convulsions, it should be noted upfront, play no down-tempo songs.
The Chicago-based "British R&B" band, headed by English ex-pat Ben Ruth, is nothing if not energetic. Their first CD, Shaken and Disturbed, is from track one to track 13, a raucous, adrenaline-stoked jam fest with a half-crazed, alcohol-soaked party sound that mixes the driving beat of early British Invasion R&B, the hard-partying wail of post-electric American blues, the bass-and-brass swagger of funk and ska, and the smart, challenging instrumental spontaneity of late-Miles jazz, all played at headbanging speed.
It's sort of like designing a strong mixed drink specifically to kill the brain cells of music fans who know enough to pick up all the varied musical references.
This sound of this CD clearly has more to do with the culture of the pub live show than the carefully crafted studio session. Several tracks were recorded live. The character of the concert reminds me of early Madness shows in the 1970s: tons of goofy energy, with lyrics belted in a cockney beyond the listener's comprehension. This show, however, directs more of the focus on the musicianship.
Several tracks are instrumental, with genuine improvisational jazz spirit.
Ruth, who reportedly came to Chicago to seek out the sort of blues that inspired him as a young man, drives the jams with a mean harmonica. His frenzied ascensions on the high notes of the harp scale will remind most listeners of Blues Traveler's Johnny Popper. He also underscores tracks with hammond organ.
The CD label assigns mini-descriptions to each track that give a sense of the range of styles: the manic harp-driven lead track "I Think I'll Pass" is dubbed "rip rock length." The brass-coated "Walk With Me" is termed "Ska Radio play length." The band's soulful side is reflected in "Swear It's Not You (Mowtown Length)." "50 Pounds" (which actually weighs in at only 5 minutes) is named "Modeski, Martin & Wood length."
To compare oneself to Modeski, Martin & Wood (not to mention Miles Davis) is to set a pretty high bar, but it's difficult to dislike anything about the album because any sloppiness can easily be chalked up to the band's propensity to get caught up in the convulsive spirit.
The band plays rock and jazz clubs alike--and even the Old Town School of Folk Music.
A Waterdog Records exec has said the Convulsions are the live band to which they compare all the live shows the label considers (even though "Shaken & Disturbed" is not a Waterdog product). That's a high recommendation, and an easy one to understand after hearing this CD.
Typical 90 min set:
Smoking in Germany
Get Your Groove On
Grown Up Pony
Hole in the Head
Swear it's not You
Give Me Something
Outta My Life (cover - Lee Dorsey by way of the Kingsmen)
Don't Know What to Tell You
Hillbilly Snot Rag
What're You Tryin' To Do
Doctor (cover - Ray Charles by way of Humble Pie)
Set number - currently 8 sets of material split 70/30 original / cover (all our covers our adapted)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.