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​Compared to a Phantom godheadSilo Hasn’t Left the Noise Behind … Yet

Music | January 13th, 2017

godheadSilo might have just played its last show ever in Fargo.

Or maybe not.

But, yes, they probably did.

Though you never know.

Talking separately to godheadSilo members, Dan Haugh and Mike Kunka, you get a different outlook on where the band is headed, though nobody can say for sure.

“I just consider it like AA, and go one day at a time,” said godheadSilo drummer, Dan Haugh. “We got offered shows on the east coast. So it was like, OK. January. Let’s do three shows in North Dakota, and go the rest of the way. So when this is done, we’ll just see what happens.”

Bassist Mike Kunka, tired from the late nights and small comforts of living on the road, feels a little differently. “I have a family. I should be in bed, but I won’t be in bed for like six more hours,” he said.

Kunka points to an adorable photo of his child from back home, and he explains the challenge of being present for a loud, late-night show in his frozen, estranged homeland. “Do I want to be here playing a show when I could be with my awesome kid who’s walking the world’s cutest goat? It’s hard.”

Kunka dismisses the possibility of doing more as godheadSilo, adding that he’s just not into all the work. Haugh, however, says, “Yeah, I would love to do another album. Or even just another seven-inch, or just have stuff online.”

Two guys. Two answers. Two completely opposite possibilities. Maybe they’ll meet somewhere in the middle. For now, just be glad you’ve got a quick 2017 tour to talk about. The band is currently on a short run on the northern east coast via a slog through the frozen Midwest.

When godheadSilo first emerged in the early ‘90s, Fargo’s local punk scene was just starting to generate some heat. These were the days of Exit 99, the Elk’s Hall and any other place that would allow a PA and some riled-up kids. The concept of a bass-and-drum combo was born of necessity. Their original guitarist, Phil Leitch, who founded the well-loved local zine, Yahtzeen, didn’t make it to a show, or quit before a show, or got kicked out ... The point is that from then on, godheadSilo was a duo: Mike Kunka and Dan Haugh. This was a curiosity back then, when youth everywhere were first glomming onto guitar-heavy grunge.

godheadSilo opened for and befriended many ‘90s scene favorites, like Nation Of Ulysses and Bikini Kill. They split town for Olympia, Washington, and there they quickly fell in with Kill Rock Stars, releasing some excellent EPs and a rumbling, surprise-silly-string-attack of a debut, The Scientific Supercake LP. They toured and toured some more. Soon they were signed to Sub Pop records, which, even in today’s diminished music industry, feels like the major league of indie rock.

For a couple of mild-mannered North Dakota kids, godheadSilo were fucking loud. Their quick and intense live shows were exciting. The sound, a blur of ear-splitting, chest-rattling noise mixed with a strange sing-song simplicity. It probably owes as much to North Dakota’s isolation from the rest of the punk rock scene as it does to Kunka and Haugh’s love for their contemporaries. They were powerful, but they also came across as a little sweeter than many other “noise” bands of the time. godheadSilo didn’t strike a menacing pose. They were young, wiry guys who liked drinking Mountain Dew. They smiled and mugged for their press photos. They zigged a little bit against the zagging of the ‘90s noise rock scene, and people paid attention. Every year or so, Fargo looked forward to Kunka and Haugh’s return to Fargo – a must-stop on most tours. The shows were usually packed, sweaty and special. They were never long enough. They were fucking loud.

Then, after their 1998 Sub Pop album, “Share the Fantasy,” an accident seriously damaged Dan Haugh’s hand, and that was pretty much it for about 17 years. Nobody thought they’d ever hear godheadSilo again, but then we did hear godheadSilo again in 2015, and it was still fucking loud.

“Preston Olson, in 2015, was like, ‘Hey, are you interested in playing the Ralph’s reunion show in Fargo?’ And I was like, I totally am into doing that, but I can guarantee you with 98 percent certainty that Mike will say NO,” explains Haugh. “ I was like, ‘You’re going to have to ask him. I don’t want to ask him.’ So Preston did, and Mike was like, ‘Oh, yeah. Totally!’”

Even then Haugh and Kunka saw the future differently.

This is familiar ground to people who saw godheadSilo last Saturday night at the Aquarium. They’ve been away for a while, so most of the interested individuals were probably there at the time. Others who are less aware of godheadSilo might be even less familiar with what godheadSilo have been up to since they first stopped. Haugh and Kunka have stayed surprisingly prolific, and they have even gone on to collaborate in another band. If you’re looking for some related material to enjoy, you don’t have to look far.

In 1998, after godheadSilo sputtered out, Kunka didn’t waste any time. He started Enemymine, which was a fairly short-lived band that added yet another bass player (Zak Sally of Low, later replaced by Ryan Baldoz). The band sounded a little like godheadSilo, but crisper, colder and a little sharper around the edges. When asked about Enemymine, Kunka said it’s a band he’d like to see play again, but there’s no chance of it happening.

Haugh has been busy with visual art, film work, graphic design and programming, as well as plenty of music. His first proper band (after his injury spurred rumors he’d never play again) was the Dirty Knives from New Orleans. He explained it was a buddy’s band. “It wasn’t my style of music,” said Haugh, “but I had a lot of fun playing it… I was too loud for them, so I quit.”

After Enemymine disbanded, Kunka joined Dead Low Tide with Coady Willis (Murder City Devils, Big Business, Melvins) and Nate Manny and Spencer Moody (both of Murder City Devils). The band recorded a single and an album in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Next, Haugh reunited with Kunka, and together they joined up with Spencer Moody for Smoke and Smoke. “My wife and I had some hard times in New Orleans. Her mother died. There was a house fire. Animals died. Everything was just getting suckier and suckier, and we were like, we gotta go back to Washington,” recalls Haugh. “So we moved to Port Angeles, and then Mike and I built a practice spot and did Smoke and Smoke.” They released an album, “Love Suffers Long,” in 2004.

Time Promises Power was another project that Dan initiated with Alec Vance, formerly of Shinola, while he lived in Port Angeles. “That band, I did the fundamental tracks,” said Dan. “So about 75 percent of what you hear is just the base tracks that I did. And then I’d just give it to Alec ... I’d tell him ‘It’s in C. BPM is 122. Go for it.’ So then he’d just add his own stuff, and we didn’t edit each other at all.” Haugh says he has another batch of Time Promises Power songs that are ready to release.

After a while, Haugh returned to New Orleans, and Smoke and Smoke called it a day. “My wife could not get a job out there, so she decided to start looking in New Orleans and just got offers immediately,” said Haugh. “At the same time, Mike was about to have a kid, and he was like, ‘I want to ramp this down and be a dad.’”

After Hurricane Katrina, Haugh re-partnered with Alec Vance for Chef Menteur, a band that is still active today. “It’s like ambient/prog ... stoner rock/’80s/ … it’s a lot weird stuff,” he said. “We don’t intend on touring. We just like making records and stuff.”

After Smoke and Smoke, Kunka stayed mostly quiet, running his t-shirt screen printing business and enjoying family life until the godheadSilo reunion. He also dusted off his Melvins collaboration, called (surprisingly) Mike & the Melvins. The album had been sitting unfinished since 1999. It finally saw its release on Sub Pop in 2016. Kunka masterminded a release-day promotion where the first Fargo fans who bought a copy got a $10 gift certificate to the city’s long-time grinder godfathers, Taco Shop.

That brings us to now, where godheadSilo appear to be ready to hang it up, at least for a while. “I would go on tour for Mike & the Melvins,” said Kunka, though he’s quick to say it’s not going to happen. “When you’re out of their circle for how many years, what do you expect?”

Other than that, Kunka thinks he’s done. He mentioned that he’d planned to do as many as three albums after Mike & the Melvins finally wrapped up, but now, after going through the rigors of a mid-winter tour, he’s thinking he could be down to like one…maybe. Though probably not even that.

Even so, Kunka also divulged that he’s played in “a band” with the drummer for Modest Mouse for a long time. (They haven’t written a song yet. They just jam.) He also pointed to Corey J. Brewer, who opened Saturday night’s show after locals, FUP, and said they have a band as well, though they’ve never played together. “It’s just a band in theory.”

Kunka’s cagey answers don’t exactly convince me that he’s telling the truth, but they don’t convince me that he’s finished with music either. Still, his waning enthusiasm appears genuine, at least for now. It’s clear that he continues to have music on his mind. If and when he picks up his bass, his buddy, Dan, appears to be ready and willing.

For now, a godheadSilo tour is underway. Nobody expected that either. They made it to Fargo one more time. And it was fucking loud. 

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