Psychodrome
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Psychodrome

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Metal

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The best kept secret in music

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Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Days of grunge
When Psychodrome formed in early 1994, the metal scene, if not dead, was in a coma. Sure, Pantera, Megadeth, and Slayer were huge, but they were only beacons in an underground tunnel. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and their endless clones were Top Dog and to four young men in the fringes of grunge central, Portland Oregon, it seemed the Seattle taint was a blight that would never recede.

“The music scene in Portland back then was very Seattle-driven,” Psychodrome vocalist A.J. Binder said about their early days. “It was tough to get shows and get noticed. Luckily, we met Rod Black, who had just opened a club called the “NuBone”, on top of the old Eli’s. He booked many of our early shows there.”

Finding their groove
Psychodrome, which included A.J. Binder, guitarist Gabe (Barry) Johnston, drummer Jay Foidel, and bassist Ben Wand, performed regularly in downtown Portland. They concentrated on differentiating themselves from the other local metal bands who were also struggling to make their way.

“One of the things that made us special, I think, was that we were experimenting with different rhythms and beats to make our music more groovy.” Gabe Johnston reflects. “Because of our drummer, Jay’s, varied music background and training, he was able to flavor our songs with hints of dance and industrial beats.”

The results of this work can be heard in songs like “Attitude (Say It)”, “Of Two Evils”, “Dead Horse”, and “Run With Thieves”. Psychodrome recognized the importance of a catchy, foot-tapping groove, and the results helped them make their mark.

Memorable performances
Their live shows were a source of pride for the young band. A.J. broke open glow sticks and flung the neon substance on stage. Hair swung about relentlessly and the music was blistering and tight. “There were bands who didn’t want to play with us again because of our live shows,” A.J. recalls with beaming pride.

Over the next two and a half years, Psychodrome expanded into Olympia, Seattle, and Boise, playing weekend gigs to receptive audiences. “Kids loved us, wherever we went.” Foidel said.

An ending
“It seemed that by 1996 or so, we’d played out the Portland scene,” A.J. said. Indeed, after releasing two demos, dozens of live performances, and endless guerilla marketing and promotion, the members of Psychodrome were becoming wary. Metal was still on the rebound, and Psychodrome had run out of options.

In August, 1996, Psychodrome traveled to Boise, Idaho to perform their last show, although they didn’t know it at the time. “We busted our asses,” Ben Wand said with a sigh. “We were practicing three, four times a week. Playing shows whenever we could get them, mailing out press kits and making phone calls. We received rejection letters from the industry. I still have one from Mercury Records. We finally lost steam.”

As many musicians can attest, burnout is one of the top ailments afflicting a young band who does everything themselves. “These were the pre-Internet days,” Ben said. “We just didn’t have the means to cost-effectively reach the masses like we have today.”

Psychodrome floundered and the members splintered. This was September, 1996.

Resurrection
They kept a library of live shows and recordings, and in 2008, Ben posted some clips on YouTube. Gabe and A.J. viewed them and were inspired.

“I forgot how good we were,” Gabe said. “The stuff we were doing then sounded like the metal out now.”

In July, 2010, Ben received a text message from Gabe early one morning. It said that he and A.J. wanted to get the band back together, and that they were very serious. “My heart skipped a beat when I saw that text,” Ben said with a grin. “It came out of nowhere, but I was immediately excited about the possibilities.”

Psychodrome is in the process of mixing and mastering their five song EP that was recorded in 1996. It features five songs that captured the essence of four metal musicians trying to carve their niche into an uninterested music industry. Their hope now is that they can reach a new generation of metal fans.

“We’re all so excited about this,” Jay Foidel said. “It’s rejuvinating. We can’t wait to get back out there. What we had was so cool. People are gonna be impressed.”