Stephen Heath ⫸ ⫸ ⫸ ⫸ ⫸ ⫸
Stephen Heath is a multi-instrumentalist songwriter and composer. From playing Gilman St in punk bands, to minimalist scores for experimental theater, he has kept a varied mindset in his musical pursuits. As a band member, he plays guitar in LA Takedown, drummed for JT Leroy’s band (sharing a stage w Lou Reed once), and spent 2019 on guitar with Weyes Blood. In 2020, he was slated to be on the road with Jess Williamson for her new record, but COVID.
Studio work and other tours include DA Stern, Death Valley Girls new ( 2020), Paul Bergmann, The Musical Tracings ensemble, & part of the Eager band for the premier of Allison Schulnik’s film by the same name.
Perpetual Doom is proud to present Gavin Gruesome, the first solo album from Stephen Heath. Known for his precision guitar work in L.A. Takedown, as well as for acts like Paul Bergmann, Weyes Blood and Death Valley Girls, Stephen lends his craft to a propulsive collection of original material—bristling with static, impulse, and freedom.
Gavin Gruesome is a record of fuzzed-out, wide-eyed rock’n’roll. Somewhere between The Dead Milkmen, Stan Hubbs, Jorma Kokounan and John Cale’s Vintage Violence. Ditching the studio for a 4-track app and ramshackle percussion, Stephen deliberately limited his process to find new, open spaces. The tracks were recorded briskly, preserved without much editing or processing. With each, the intention was to grab a moment. No surprise, then, that the songs have an impulsive bite. There is a raucous, layered energy to tunes like “I Really Lub You” and “Nothing Goes Away,” and a hazy mystique to the outsider ballad “Like a Train.” Look no further than the centerpiece cover of The Modern Lovers’ loner classic “I’m Straight,” buried beneath layers of noise and propelled by a percussion section consisting (mostly) of silverware. But for all the willingness to just let go, the record abounds with happy accidents. Listen for the interplay of lead guitar and melody on opener “I Can’t Take It” or the fuzzy, church-ready harmonies on “Rockin’.” They are the product of a practiced hand working to balance chaos with order. Hear that rumbling down below? Like tires on the night-time desert road that inspired the expansive instrumental “Just Dezzerts,” it’s all part of the journey.
The dynamic is also true of the lyrics on Gavin Gruesome. Inspired by a Walker Evans portrait of a Cuban coal miner, “We” speaks of isolation and loneliness—“Spent time in the mountains / Why does it get darker every day?”—inescapable experiences of our fraught present. The song reflects on the damage done to the land and the people who work it. And yet, the collection looks forward to brighter days in its playful submission of meaning to sound. Much like the wistful, energetic “Ain’t Right,” an instrumental that arrives like a cool breeze, it reminds us that we are still in motion.
Release Date: January 1, 2021