In downtown New York City, in 1979, painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and performance artist Michael Holman founded their industrial-sound band, Gray. Jean named the band after Gray’s Anatomy, an important reference source for his paintings and the perfect name to capture the haunting, machine-like ambient music the band wrote and performed. Besides Basquiat and Holman, other members of the original group were Nicholas Taylor and Justin Thyme. Vincent Gallo was a member of the band for a short period of time nearer the end of their first incarnation. In the Whitney Museum’s catalogue for Basquiat’s 1991 Retrospective, Robert Farris Thompson, professor of Anthropology at Yale, wrote this about Gray: “They worked the Mudd Club, CBGB’s, and Hurrah’s in New York, where Blondie and the Talking Heads were at that time emerging. They performed, in other words, at the epicenter of New Wave. Here they contended for space and recognition with a style that, in Basquiat’s own words, was ‘incomplete, abrasive, and oddly beautiful.’” In an Interview Magazine review (Jan.,1981) Glenn O’Brien wrote: ”Gray became an industrial sound effects band. They played on scaffolds…. Lately, they’ve really developed their own groove... It’s sort of an easy listening bebop industrial sound effects lounge ensemble.” Just after Jean-Michel Basquiat’s passing in 1988, Holman, Taylor, Thyme and Vincent Gallo, re-united as Gray and performed at Basquiat’s Memorial at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in the Citicorp Building.
In 1996, the making of the MiraMax feature production Basquiat brought Gray’s three original members (Holman, Taylor & Thyme) back together as they reenacted one of their legendary gigs at the Mudd Club with Tony Award winning actor Jeffrey Wright playing Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Besides reuniting for the camera, all three original Gray members played various other roles in the making of Basquiat. Holman wrote the script with Julian Schnabel and contributed 2nd unit footage; Taylor composed and produced the song ”Suicide Hotline Mode” (aka “Traveling Up”) for the soundtrack and Thyme gave a cameo performance along side emerging star Benicio Del Toro.
While reenacting their Mudd Club gig, the members of Gray realized that 1990’s pop/ambient music, sounds a lot like what Gray was doing in the past. Inspired by their own historic sound, the band decided to return to the studio to create and record new music. This “new” Gray sound evolved from industrial bebop to electronica with poetic vocals and groovy beats. Gray has already earned music soundtrack credits including: the documentary feature films “The Radiant Child” (produced by David Koh and directed by Tamra Davis); “Downtown Calling;” the feature narrative film “Downtown 81,” starring Debbie Harry and Jean-Michel Basquiat (written by Glenn O’Brien); BBC documentary, “Shooting Star,” from the British television series, ”Without Walls” (presented at the Serpentine Gallery, London, March, 1996); and a Basquiat documentary segment on CBS’s Sunday Morning, With Charles Kuralt. “When we first came out,” says Gray member Justin Thyme, “...we were over most people’s heads. But I think the times have finally caught up [to us]. Now our sound is very palatable, pop, while still maintaining our poetic edge.”
UPDATE 2010: Michael Holman and Nicholas Taylor have reunited once again to produce the first Gray album ever, titled, ”Shades of…” on their own label, Plush Safe Records, that hankers back to Gray’s sonic roots - industrial noise melded with electronic atmospheres. This multi-track compilation includes and involves sample tracks from Gray’s earliest recordings and performances, with samples of Basquiat’s music and voice. Included is a solo performance by Basquiat (recorded by Justin Thyme) called “Suicide Hotline,” where Basquiat, in 1980, called a suicide hotline, and in dramatic, and darkly teasing fashion, reads bits of his poetry to the hotline operator, never allowing the operator to know for sure if the “caller” is insane, suicidal, or simply toying with him. The effect of the piece is powerful and disturbing, yet poignant and moving in a way only Basquiat could produce. The other tracks range from Stockhausen inspired fugues, to trip hop lanced throw downs. Holman & Taylor were fortunate to work with John Cale’s drummer Dean Anthony on this new music, as well as fabled Tubes drummer, Prairie Prince and Downtown Scenester/drummer, Lenny Ferraro. “Shades of…” is not only a living piece of New York history, it’s also an audio interpretation of a journey to where Taylor & Holman see the future of music. Gray has not only returned to their sonic roots, they are also planning live performances that pay homage to their early Downtown gigs, where they performed inside, around and on top of sculptural works of art; like their infamous “Ignorant Geodesic Dome” stage set that brought the house down at the Mudd Club in 1981.
Contact Michael Holman @:(212)567-2494
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