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Salt Lake City Weekly Get Corked

Former shoegazers floor it on the electronic highway.

By Bill Frost

OCTOBER 6, 1997:  The City Weekly's Music Issue of Sept. 11, 1997 left at least two questions on everyone's lips: "Who the hell is Cork and why are they on the cover, man?!" Let's answer the last one first: We concocted/stole the idea of going to different local musician's bedrooms and getting shots of them surrounded by all of their cool stuff — one of the people who answered the call was Cork singer/guitarist Misty Murphy.

The photos went on to the art production department, who then — unbeknownst to anyone else — chose a shot of Murphy for the cover. They couldn't care less about musical cred or standing in the "scene" down there — they just want a cool picture. That's the story, you supposedly-snubbed bands, so stop whining.

I was pulling for Eric Hunter of PCP Berzerker's coffin shot for the cover, anyway.

Now, who the hell is Cork? If you've heard their single "Raining" on X96, you'd guess they were a techno-influenced guitar band along the lines of Garbage, Lush and Curve. If you've caught one of their rare live appearances, you'd figure My Bloody Valentine's hypnotic wall of noise, as well as the late-model hard stuff from Sara McLachlan, into the mix. If you'd seen them live two years ago, you would have been lulled to sleep: In the beginning, Cork was seriously depressing and gothically shoegazing: "Those were the dark days, let's not re-visit them, " Murphy says.

Then came Cork 2.0: After a series of line-up changes (about 10 musicians have been in and out of the band — Murphy is the sole original member), Cork beefed up the drums and guitars with the addition of Chad Wagstaff and a guitarist with some wicked sounds that, unfortunately, rarely coincided with actual melodies. Live, this version of Cork tended to be chaotic mess, like four people playing four different songs at once.

This line-up recorded a full-length CD early in 1997 that has since been shelved — why?

"Certain people decided they didn't want to play anymore, so we moved on and found new guys," says Wagstaff.

Those guys being guitarist Todd Winn and bassist/programmer/mad genius Brian Kessler, whose collective addition upgraded the band directly to Cork 4.0. If you're catching all of this computer-geek jargon, you may want to check out Kessler's Cork website at www.aros.net/~shllwsea/cork, where you can find the band's upcoming live dates and download a clip of "Raining" — it's the '90s, get used to it.

How did they find Kessler and Winn? "I was working as a stripper, you know, at the South-Eastern X-posure club, and they were my best customers," Murphy says, laughing hysterically. Actually, they were high school musician-clique buddies with Wagstaff.

"The previous guitarist wanted to do more techno, which is ironic, because we've moved more in that direction now. We've found our groove, this is the right combo," Wagstaff says proudly.

That's an understatement, really. Kessler's drum loops, samples and unorthodox bass style (pre-Cork, he was a drummer), as well as Winn's understanding of simple guitar dynamics, have given Cork a unique edge in Salt Lake City's mostly techno-phobic music scene: Not a lot of bands are mixing techno-beats and live instrumentation around here — not yet, anyway.

"It also helps that these guys contribute to the songwriting, whereas before, it all fell on me," Murphy says. "Their influences are very different from mine, so it keeps things interesting."

Cork is currently in the process of recording three or four new songs to accompany "Raining" as an EP, which may also become an interactive CD-ROM. "We're not going to blow 10 grand on a full CD to sell in stores — that doesn't work," Murphy says.

Wagstaff adds: "We want it for airplay here, as well as other states. So if we book a tour, people may have actually heard us before we load up the wagon."

Winn: "We really want to rock Vermont."

Kessler: "At this point, I don't know if it'll be more than just a demo — we'll wait and see about the CD-ROM portion. Maybe we'll just include a bunch of nude scans of Misty."

Winn: "No, put 'em on the website and require a credit card number to access it."

Murphy: "Yeah, sure — hell, I'm not a feminist."

Murphy gets the final word: "This may sound really corny, but I remember as a kid, listening to certain songs, having them move me in a certain way, and I can still get the same feelings from those songs now: I want to do that for someone else; I'd like my music to be everlasting."

She looks around and laughs, adding: "But we will never do a reunion tour to pay our mortgages!"

You can get the Cork sensation this month on Thursday, Oct. 2 at the Zephyr (opening for the Honeyrods); Thursday Oct. 9 at Liquid Joe's and Saturday Oct. 11 at ABG's in Provo (opening for Poink). Get on the e-mail list by sending your info to Cork@mindless.com, or visit the fine Cork website at www.aros.net/~shllwsea/cork — have your Visa or MasterCard ready.

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