Joe Preston: A Brutal Five-Part Guide, From Earth and Melvins to Thrones
Photo by Jean-Marc Luneau
You know something's up when legendary South Florida-slash-Gainesville metal group Floor is playing a local show and it's not even the band we're most excited about.
We love Floor, its signature metallic hum, and bright pop flourishes. But next weekend, that beloved heavy-tuneage outfit will share the Churchill's Pub stage with West Coast one-man wrecking crew, Thrones (AKA Joe Preston), an elegant brute who's also a straight-up superstar of stoner rock.
Preston played bass on archetypal doom-drone band Earth's 1991 debut, Extra-Capsular Extraction. That group's chief songwriter, Dylan Carlson, drafted Joe and another bassist, Dave Harwell, to help redefine the low end in rock 'n' roll with thick riffs, languorous tempo, and obsessive tone crafting. In the '70s, Black Sabbath had created the template, and none of the infinite subgenres or niche variations, from power metal to grindcore, did much of anything besides crossbreed Tony Iommi's Sabbath-style riffage with various strains of punk and hardcore. But then, in the early '90s, Carlson and Preston reinvented and reinvigorated metal. Unfortunately, Joe's tenure didn't last more than a year. But hey, opening your resumé with Earth's first record ain't too shabby.
As a quick Google search will reveal, Earth's Carlson was not particularly pleased with his heavily bearded bassist's performance. But he was extra pissed off when Preston jumped ship to join Buzz Osborne and the Melvins. As with Earth, Preston played alongside Osborne and gang for only about a year. Thankfully, though, Mr. Thrones's membership with the Melvins was immortalized in the form of the immaculate Lysol LP, not to mention a handful of EPs.
High On Fire
In 2002, High on Fire (a descendent of mighty stoner-blues ensemble Sleep) was stuck without a bassist. But obviously, a band with that kind of weed-music pedigree can't just invite any ol' jabrone with a goatee, tattoos, and a killer DVD collection to sit in on bass. No, an outfit like High On Fire snaps its fingers and Joe Preston appears in a poof of gravity-bong exhaust.
Striving to create transcendental aural experiences using the broiling rumble of white-hot amplifiers, ganja-sludge royalty Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson started this increasingly dynamic minimal-drone project as a tribute to the first wave of Earth. That's right -- Preston was in the band that invented contemporary drone metal and that band's cult-like tribute act. This duo's list of collaborators reads like a multiple-personality-disorder nightmare, featuring every important character in contemporary metal and noise. And of course, Preston is on that shit like white on rice -- or shimmering THC crystals on dank nugs of Purple Haze. He even plays a jackhammer on the track, "Belülről Pusztít"! (FYI, the O))) is silent.)
Please note that we haven't even listed half of the notable projects in which this dude has been involved. To try to cover Joe Preston's entire discography would be not only exceptionally time-consuming but also permanently damaging to our hearing and very annoying to our neighbors. So instead, let's highlight his greatest contribution to the world of headbanging very slowly -- that aforementioned one-man wrecking crew, Thrones. Of course, Preston's decades-long record of band-hopping isn't the only argument for why he should maybe remain a solo artist. Thrones has yielded his most righteous, dynamic, and brutal work. What usually takes three to six people to accomplish, Thrones gets done with one man and his machines. And just as Sabbath turned rock into metal, and Earth turned metal into drone, Preston uses a drum machine, samples, and cartoonishly psychedelic vocals to make something new out of something old.
Floor and Thrones. With special guests, Holly Hunt and Kenny Millions. Friday, April 12. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The brutality begins at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 at the door. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
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