28 May 2007

The Party's Over; We remember Missing Foundation

Missing Foundation harked back to the sound and style of early industrial provocateurs like Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten, not just in their tribal percussion onslaught but also in their theatrical social-protest stunts.

Led by Pete Missing, MF was a collective with several core members, several more auxiliary members, and a host of associates that swelled their ranks to as many as 20. Fueled by anarchist politics, the band favored agitprop slogans chanted over a cacophonous racket of metal, machinery, oil drums, garbage, and other found-object percussion, with guitar and other traditional instruments audible only occasionally.

Their anti-establishment screeds took aim at a variety of targets, but what truly mattered were the group's incendiary live events -- destructive spectacles that provoked civil disturbances, histrionic media outrage, and citywide bans by nervous club owners.

Even the band's logo -- an upside-down martini glass in the cryptographic Neubauten style that came to signify “The Party's Over" -- was the center of a widespread graffiti campaign on New York's Lower East Side, a discomforting weapon used to devalue properties and slow the area's gentrification (in keeping with the band's special concern for the poor and homeless).

MF lead vocalist Pete Missing was born in the Bronx in the late ‘50s, and got his feet wet on the New York music scene with the punk band Drunk Driving, which was formed in 1980 and actually spawned the future MF martini-glass logo.

Missing later moved to Hamburg, Germany, where he formed an early, short-lived incarnation of Missing Foundation in 1984 with Florian Langmaack. Helped by several extra percussionists and members of KMFDM, this group did perform live but soon broke up.

Missing returned to New York and started a new version of Missing Foundation in 1985, which also featured drummers Chris Egan and Mark Ashwill, as well as VKP and Adam Nodleman; Langmaack would later come to New York and rejoin as well, adding saxophone and sampling to the percussion-heavy mix.

The group's early live performances, including a notorious appearance at CBGB's, soon marked them as a chaotic and confrontational outfit whose fans couldn't be trusted to leave a venue intact. Missing took to singing through megaphones, in part because clubs would often pull the plug on the regular sound system.

With a core membership of Missing, Langmaack, Egan, and Ashwill, MF grew to encompass a variety of musicians, visual artists, and activists who contributed to the band's performances; some of them included Dave Kelly, Bones 23, and Mark Laramee, among many others. Missing Foundation's self-titled first album appeared in 1987 on the Purge/Sound League label, initially on cassette only.

Their second release, 1988's 1933 -- whose title and concept linked the modern U.S. with Germany just before the rise of the Nazis -- was nearly as musically primitive, but made a much bigger splash thanks to a concert in New York's Tompkins Square Park that sparked a full-scale riot. Various members had been arrested for political demonstrations, mostly on the subject of housing rights, but this incident was directly related to the group's performance antics.

In the wake of the riot, the FBI started tailing Missing, hoping to find evidence of violent criminal activity, and police raided his ex-wife's residence in search of weapons. New York's local CBS affiliate did a sensationalist three-part story (“Cult of Rage") on the band, flinging wildly inaccurate charges of Satanism and building them up into a malevolent menace on the level of the Manson Family.

In the midst of the hubbub, MF formed their own label, Humanity, and completed their third album, Demise, in 1989. They supported it with a European tour (American gigs were getting hard to find), and subsequently signed a contract with Restless Records, which reissued their first three albums in 1990. Also that year, the band released their proper Restless debut Ignore the White Culture, a somewhat more accessible effort that many aficionados consider the band's best. They next undertook a Gulf War-themed tour of Europe in 1991, burning gasoline and American flags at every show to protest American policy.

A final Missing Foundation album, Go Into Exile, appeared in 1992; its title proved prophetic, as the group subsequently disbanded. Missing moved to Berlin in 1993 and stayed there until 2000; living in an artists' collective, he worked primarily on visual installations, but also collaboration on the occasional musical project. Langmaack also returned to Germany, while Egan -- who'd done most of the band's photography -- became a photojournalist. Mark Ashwill died of cancer in 2000. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Well researched! Pete is still in Berlin, making art and music, and the party's over logo can still be found on walls all over the city.