Philly band Punch Drunk recently released a new double single and will be dropping an EP to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The single “I, Ego” came out June 18 on Bandcamp and Spotify, and will be followed by a new video and six-song EP entitled “Crash Method” later this summer.
Developed in the early ‘90s, they’ve recently rebooted, maintaining their distinct but updated sound of “humanoid experience cyberpunk, bionic hardcore and sci-fi electronic industrial metal” as only they could create.
For 2021, Punch Drunk plans to release singles, EPs and videos from their “Crash Method” sessions of songs written from 2019 to the present. Plus, a return to the live stage is also programmed into their operating system.
Punch Drunk – Steve Saputelli, Scott Skerchok, Eriq Ellixson and Jeff Winner – performed with a number of well-known acts in its early years. Saputelli and Skerchok met in the Philadelphia underground punk scene of the late ‘80s, and after working together in an electro metal band called NEVER, they formed Punch Drunk.
After nearly appearing as a side stage act on a leg of Lollapalooza in ’94 they were suddenly “derezzed by the Master Control Program.” But in ’98, they performed a sold-out reunion show, and in 2002 a collection of 14 songs from their EPs and cassettes entitled “Upload the Past, Download the Future” was released on Floating Fish Media with international distribution.
Now in the present and on their 30th anniversary, they announced a new
single with more music and video to come, and have been programmed to
perform on stage once again.
PW recently caught up with Saputelli to talk about the anniversary and new music.
Punch Drunk is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Talk a little about how the band was formed and how the group and the music have evolved over the years.
I was introduced to Scott Skerchok by Philly punk legend and close friend Brubaker (R.I.P.) around 1991, saying “You guys will make beautiful music together.” In our earliest form sitting on the floor of my studio apartment with our music equipment and noise-making gear, we learned digital sequencing and sampling.
At first, we collaborated with local band Deadspot in a project called Never. It was short-lived, so we decided to start our own band. Building a sound from punk, metal and new wave, along with mysticism and esoterica, the songs and aesthetic became self-propelled after we added themes from sci-fi movies like “Tron,” “Terminator,” “Robocop” and “Lawn Mower Man.”
We took it up a notch by bringing in Eriq Ellixson and Jeff Winner, who helped expand our theatrical and performance art – also giving us a presence online in the early days of the web, special effects, and contributing music ideas, as we pushed for an over-the-top hyperactive, quirky and intense sound. We went from heckles and clearing out rooms to endearing ourselves to audiences who began to appreciate our efforts, responding in a “What is this? I don’t know, but it’s fun!” kind of way.
Our first show was at Silk City Lounge in 1991, making this our 30th anniversary. It was hosted by Kathy Hughes, who later opened Tattooed Mom’s on South Street.
Punch Drunk has evolved by gaining musicianship and production skills. We are writing with a more solid dance groove under metallic guitar production. We have also remained loyal to our caustic fast tracks that are part of our classic sound.
I wrote about technological salvation versus its dystopian prospects, and sang about illumination, stimulation overload and my personal experiences. Today, I find inspiration that adheres to our band concept about Algorithmic Destiny, Deep Fakes and Virtual UNReality.
How has the Philadelphia music scene changed over the years? Are there any current artists you’d like to collaborate with?
The underground music scene declined for a while, and although they’re great, it seemed DJ nights replaced live band performances, but with a return to venues hosting more local bands again and combining the two into one event. I do miss the camaraderie of the old days. Now, it’s splintered with multiple events of the same genre happening across town on the same night, by separate groups of people in their own crowd. But you’ll always meet amazing and talented people in Philly if you go out, support and take part.
We would like to collaborate with local artists for remixes of our songs, otherwise we’re a self-contained act, but we are open to it!
You’re releasing a new double-single and EP. Can you talk a little about how both the single and EP came about? When do you think they will be released, and what will be the best way for your fans to access the music?
Having all stayed good friends over the long hiatus, in 2019 we suddenly began making new Punch Drunk music like a mysterious force sparked us back into action. Ideas were circulating between Scott and I, and they grew across Google Drive during the lockdown. The single “I, Ego” had many versions, but we hung in there because it felt like a merging of our older and newer styles, plus the lyrical concept of an artificial intelligence transcending its ego in an encrypted status update worked perfectly.
Our new single and EP will be on Bandcamp and Spotify. The double single was released on June 18.
You’ve performed with Godflesh, Ween, KMFDM, Machines of Loving Grace, Cop Shoot Cop, Consolidated and many more during your most active period of the early ‘90s, as one of the first cyberpunk acts to exist. You’ve also headlined popular Philly venues like The Trocadero and The Khyber. Are you eager to get back on stage, now that the pandemic is easing? What will your fans experience when Punch Drunk once again takes the stage?
As a musician and contributor in other live acts, I am eager to get back on stage, and Punch Drunk hasn’t performed since 1998, so we are looking forward to playing again. I am hoping Philly venues can rebound soon and am sympathetic to the ones that struggled or closed during the pandemic. There is no streaming show or Zoom jam that can compare to the live show experience.
We are adding a live drummer for our return to the stage, continuing with our costuming and visuals, performing new songs and some “classics” too!
What’s ahead for Punch Drunk in the coming months and years?
After our double single, we will release a six-song EP. After that, we’ll release another single and EP. We are making music videos and will book some shows into next year.
We’ll continue to create into the future, even if we slightly stray from the sound and aesthetic, maintaining what makes a track sound like us, although I don’t think we’re allowed to “mellow out!”