Singles & EPs
Associated with the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) since the mid-'70s, avant-rock collective Smegma have been a long-standing influence on several generations of noise and experimental artists. With the musicians hidden behind ridiculous pseudonyms, Smegma offer a strange psychedelic improvisational music, throwing in all sorts of odd instruments as well as tapes and turntables. Perhaps most significantly, they've always maintained a Dadaist sense of humor, and have steadfastly avoided the self-seriousness of most avant-garde musicians. Over 100 individuals have performed as part of Smegma since the group's inception, and the collective has collaborated with Wild Man Fischer (1998's as Sing Popular Songs), Merzbow (Smegma Plays Merzbow/Merzbow Plays Smegma, 1996), Wolf Eyes (The Beast, 2003), and countless other noise, experimental, and outsider artists.
The group began in Pasadena, California in 1973 as a reaction to the bloated fusion rock of the day. They were unaware that other nearby groups also performed similar free-form experimental music. They became part of a gang of similar noise artists who gathered almost nightly in the backroom of the Poo-Bah record store in Pasadena, which in 1975 merged with the LAFMS. Smegma have always been a loosely run collective, and early members included Amazon Bambi, Chucko D.K. Fatts, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Dennis Duck, Cheezit Ritz, Cheezbro, Dr. Id, Dr. Odd, and Reed Burns. Ace Ford Farren, who joined the group in early 1974, introduced Smegma to crazed street performer and Zappa protégé Wild Man Fischer, and in two sessions, one on New Years Day of 1975 and one a few months later, they recorded some tracks with Fischer on vocals.
Smegma moved to Portland, Oregon at the end of 1975 but remained in touch with the rest of the LAFMS crowd. After appearing on various LAFMS compilations, their first LP, Glamour Girl 1941, was recorded and produced in their own studio in July 1978 and released by LAFMS the following year. They also released several 7" singles that same year on their own Pigface label. The next year found them sharing a 7" with industrial pioneer Non (Boyd Rice), released by Mute.
Throughout the '80s, Smegma kept a low profile and continued to put out LPs, singles, and cassettes on their own label, and occasionally played live. With their worldwide reputation firmly cemented, their LP Nattering Naybobs of Negativity was released by the U.K. label Dead Mans Curve in 1987 and the LP Smell the Remains by the German label Dom in 1989. More albums came out in the mid-'90s on the Portland label Tim/Kerr, including the LP Smegma Plays Merzbow/Merzbow Plays Smegma with Japanese noise artist Merzbow. In the late '90s, rock & roll author Richard Meltzer became their vocalist, adding his verbal ramblings and sardonic wit to their improvised sound. This lineup of Smegma contributed to The Completed Soundtrack for the Tropic of Nipples, a 2002 release which also included material by a Robert Pollard project called Antler.
Meltzer left Smegma in 2003, the same year the group collaborated with Wolf Eyes on an album titled The Beast. Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay played with the group later in the year, and their collaborative CD Thirtyyearsofservice... appeared in 2004. Live at No Fun Fest, with clarinetist Perry Robinson, was released by Italian label Qbico in 2006, and Smegma's collaborative LP with Carlos Giffoni and Metalux also appeared that year, as a split release between LAFMS and Giffoni's No Fun Productions. Endless Coast, a 2007 collaboration with Jazkamer, was also released by No Fun, and Smegma's 33 1/3 appeared on Important Records the same year. Various tracks previously released on 7" singles during the '90s were compiled on The Smell Remains the Same, an LP issued by Anarchymoon Recordings. Live! 2004, which featured Mackay as well as Jello Biafra and was released by Resipiscent in 2008.
In 2009 and 2010, Smegma shared a few split releases with Kommissar Hjuler und Frau. They also released another album on Important (Mirage) as well as a self-titled LP on La Station Radar. I Am Not Artist, a six-LP/DVD box set of material from the '70s and '80s, was released by Vinyl-on-Demand. Around this time, John Wiese, of Sissy Spacek and Bastard Noise, began performing with Smegma. Suite the Hen's Teeth, a collaboration with lutist Jozef van Wissem, appeared on Incunabulum in 2011. Smegma's LP Wild Blue Yonders was released by Sweden's iDEAL Recordings in 2012, and Ever and Anon appeared on Ultramarine later in the year. Egyptian label Nashazphone released Guff Vout Mulch, Smegma's collaboration with Blood Stereo, in 2013.
Wiese's Helicopter label released Mutant Stomps, an LP containing archival material from the group's early days, in 2014. Sonic Transgressions (with Winters in Osaka) appeared in 2015, and Live at the X-Ray Cafe, containing two performances from the '90s, was released by Voodoo Doughnut in 2016. A collaboration with harsh noise group Black Leather Jesus was released by Axis Mundi in 2017. Also appearing that year was Look'n for Ya, an LP of early, Pasadena-era Smegma recordings, issued by Italian label Alga Marghen. This was followed Abacus Incognito, another release of archival material, in 2018. ~ Rolf Semprebon & Paul Simpson