45 Grave are an American gothic and punk rock band from Los Angeles, California formed in 1979. The original group broke up in 1985 but vocalist Dinah Cancer subsequently revived the band. 45 Grave are noted as one of the first bands to mix punk rock wi...
45 Grave are an American gothic and punk rock band from Los Angeles, California formed in 1979. The original group broke up in 1985 but vocalist Dinah Cancer subsequently revived the band. 45 Grave are noted as one of the first bands to mix punk rock with horror-themed lyrics, thereby positioning them as progenitors of the horror punk subgenre. Their unique appearance and morbid theatricality also distinguished them as innovators of goth rock as well as "deathrock," a term used to identify a subgenre of punk rock incorporating horror elements and spooky atmospherics.
The band was formed in Los Angeles, California during the punk rock movement. It formed out of another band with almost the same lineup called Vox Pop, which produced two singles. Its original lineup consisted of Dinah Cancer (formerly of Castration Squad) on vocals, Paul B. Cutler (formerly of The Consumers) on guitar, Rob Ritter (also known as Rob Graves, formerly of The Bags and concurrently of The Gun Club) on bass, and Don Bolles (of Germs and Nervous Gender) on drums. The name, according to Bolles, derives from a mysterious button he found at a thrift store that said "WE DIG 45 GRAVE".
In 1980, 45 Grave recorded their first released song, "Riboflavin Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Poly-Unsaturated Blood", included on the Los Angeles Free Music Society compilation album, Darker Skratcher. The song was a cover version of novelty song originally performed by Don Hinson and The Rigamorticians on their 1964 album release Monster Dance Party. The 45 Grave recording (as with the original, produced by Gary S. Paxton of Skip & Flip) achieved cult status and became a signature song of the band's live sets.
Early on, the band began by playing the Consumers songs that Cutler had written, with lyrics changed to fit Cancer's singing style, before concentrating on composing new material like "Black Cross" (issued as a single in 1981, featuring Pat Smear of Germs on guitar on the B-side "Wax") and a fast-paced punk song called "Partytime" (which was later slowed down and reworked on their 1983 debut album and sole studio release, Sleep in Safety. Another signature 45 Grave track, "Evil," was featured on MTV, and band members appeared as extras in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
Despite never achieving major success, 45 Grave are recognized as being one of the first American gothic bands, predating the formation of Christian Death. Allmusic cites them as a top artist in the goth rock genre, and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles lists 45 Grave and Christian Death as "early proponents of American Gothic Rock."
45 Grave's musical style is rooted in punk rock with a darker edge/horror movie aesthetic, representative of the genre deathrock/horror-punk. Compared to punk bands of the era, 45 Grave songs included stop-start mid-song tempo changes, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship due to Cutler's virtuoso guitar playing. Keyboards added to the spooky atmosphere of many songs and harkened back to proto-punk garage bands of the early 1960s. Cancer's high-pitched female vocals are usually used, but the whole band provides backing vocals. The band also has a connection to surf rock, manifested in the instrumental "Surf Bat" from Sleep in Safety. In the vein of horror punk artists, the band's appearance draws from horror films (Italian zombie flicks in particular) to create a camp gothic aesthetic. However, the band's lyrical themes don't often draw inspiration from horror films, instead adopting a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Return of the Living Dead
In 1985, a new, heavier version of "Partytime" was featured on the soundtrack to the film Return of the Living Dead along with tracks by bands such as T.S.O.L. and The Cramps.
The band reformed in 1988 for a brief tour, which was recorded and released as Only the Good Die Young. However, when Ritter died in 1990 from an accidental drug overdose, the band broke up once again.
In 2004, 45 Grave reformed to commemorate their 25th anniversary, with Dinah Cancer being the single remaining member from previous incarnations. Dinah Cancer posted on her MySpace blog, "I'm building this to keep the spirit of 45 Grave alive, introduce its magic to new fans, and as a personal commemorative of my best memories being the driving force and front person of 45 Grave. This is a part of my life that indeed changed me forever." One of the touring members involved in this lineup was Rikk Agnew, formerly of Christian Death.
Night of the Demons, a 2009 remake of the classic 1987 cult horror film, featured 45 Grave's title track.
In 2010, Rikk's brother Frank Agnew (T.S.O.L., Social Distortion, The Adolescents) joined the band. Frank Agnew brought the band closer to the classic sound of the Paul Cutler/Rob Graves era, and his traditional approach to the classic 45 Grave songs such as "Party Time" and "Black Cross" won rave reviews at their first few shows with him. The current lineup is fleshed out by a rhythm section consisting of Los Angeles goth-rock mainstay Tom Coyne (The Last Dance, Frankenstein) on drums and newcomer Brannden Blackwell on bass.
Pick Your Poison, 45 Grave's first new album in 27 years, came out in 2012 on Frontier Records. The album contains a mix of new songs, unrecorded old songs, and a remake of "Night of the Demons" for which a video was produced.