Regarding the band’s name, Andy Kubiszewski said: “essentially when Chris and Walter were putting the band together, they had a gig and there was a deadline for a name for the band, so they pulled out a bunch of album covers and they pulled out a record cover and it had an excerpt from, I believe it was an Eisenhower speech, where he was talking about communism coming to the west and he used the phrase “stabbing westward,” and they went oh well, “Stabbing Westward”, that will work.”
In truth, the phrase was used in a 1947 newsreel and spoken by an unknown announcer. The newsreel is included as part of the 1982 documentary film The Atomic Cafe.
Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus formed the band Stabbing Westward when they were in college. They came up with the name while working at the college radio station WIUS-FM. In a 1996 interview, Hall stated, “Since we went to Western Illinois University, Stabbing Westward had a certain ‘kill everybody in the school’ vibe to it! The school’s way out in farm country and the country is really close minded. I was walking around like Robert Smith with real big hair, big baggy black clothes, black fingernail polish and eye makeup. They just didn’t get it. We hated the town.”
Moving to Chicago in 1986, the original lineup consisted of Hall on bass and lead vocals, Flakus on keyboards, and Jim Clanin on guitar (Clanin later purchased, and as of 2013, operates the Dairy Queen in Macomb, Illinois). In 1990, a four song demo tape was recorded by an early conception of Stabbing Westward. This “EP” called, “Iwo Jimma” featured an early version of “Violent Mood Swings” (titled, “Violent Mood Swing”) which eventually wound up on the compilation CD, The Cyberflesh Conspiracy. Each of the three remaining demo songs were later reworked over the years (“Shame [Do You Think God Is Dead]” became “Shame”, “P.O.M.F.” became “The Thing I Hate”, and “Plastic Jesus” became “Dawn”). Original version of Shame was written before Stabbing Westward got signed toColumbia Records. It had different lyrics and it was about God, religion, and war.
Hall took a brief break to tour with Die Warzau as that group’s percussionist before continuing work on Stabbing Westward. Hall and Flakus later recruited Jim Sellers on bass and Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails) on drums, as Hall had met Vrenna when playing in Die Warzau. Vrenna played drums on all the demo recordings that ultimately landed Stabbing Westward their record deal with Columbia Records. Those demo recordings included Violent Mood Swings, Lies, and Nothing. They were recorded at a studio in Evanston, Illinois and included Stuart Zechman on guitar. After Vrenna returned to Nine Inch Nails, the band hired Dave Suycott who was a high school friend of Flakus.
The trio added Wax Trax recording artist Stuart Zechman on guitar and David Suycott (Spies Who Surf Machines of Loving Grace) on drums. In 1993, the band recorded in Eden Studios; London, England with producer John Fryer. This resulted in their major label (Columbia Records) debut, Ungod, which hit stores in 1994. The band landed an opening slot on the Depeche Mode Exotic Tour in Summer 1994 and opened North American tour dates in Fall 1994 for Killing Joke, but Stabbing Westward album sales were still sluggish.
David Suycott abruptly dropped out of the band toward the end of the Ungod tour. Andy Kubiszewski was called in to replace Suycott’s position for the remainder of the shows. This fast replacement required Kubiszewski to learn all of Suycott’s parts while on his flight to meet with the band. Kubiszewski became a permanent fixture of Stabbing Westward.
Also, their song “Nothing” was featured in the “Club Hell” scene of the motion picture, Bad Boys, as well as during the closing credits of Johnny Mnemonic. The songs “Lies”, “Lost” and “Can’t Happen Here” were also all featured in the first Mortal Kombat movie. However, these songs weren’t featured on the CD soundtrack.
When Stuart Zechman departed the band after the Ungod tour due to personal differences, the remaining band members found themselves without one of their major songwriters. New drummer Andy Kubiszewski took over some songwriting duties afterward. Prior to playing in Stabbing Westward, Andy had not only played drums in The The, recorded one song for Nine Inch Nails, and played in Prick, but had been the singer and songwriter in the Cleveland based Exotic Birds. Shortly after Zechmans departure Andy played the band dozens of demos and Exotic Birds recordings. Included were “What Do I Have To Do”, “Haunting Me”, “Sometimes It Hurts”, “Crushing Me”, “Slipping Away”, “Desperate Now”, and “Goodbye”. These tracks would later find space on both the Wither and Darkest Daysalbums. When the band headed to Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York without a permanent guitar player, they decided to play all the guitar parts themselves, with Sellers and Kubiszewski taking on most of the guitar duties. The band later recruited Mark Eliopulos after the Wither, Blister, Burn & Peelrecording sessions were completed to handle the live-element of the main guitar parts.
“Sometimes It Hurts” music video was supposed to be Wizard of Oz themed video, but the label feared they would be sued so they took out most references.
In 1996, the Wither Blister Burn & Peel LP became a success, landing them their first certified gold album, aided by the singles “Shame” and “What Do I Have to Do?” which granted the band heavy rotation on MTV, MuchMusic and radio. Tour mates for this album included Sponge.
Stabbing Westward relocated to Los Angeles, California where they began work on the 1998 album, titled Darkest Days. Darkest Days was envisioned as a four-act story by the band (but never marketed as such). This is the only release featuring studio work by Mark Eliopulos. The first single, “Save Yourself,” had success yet the album failed to sell as well as its predecessor. Stabbing Westward continued to tour with bands like Placebo, The Cult, Monster Magnet, and Depeche Mode, while playing numerous summer festivals.
The song “The Thing I Hate” was featured as the opening theme song to the game Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, which was also released in 1998. The song “Torn apart” was featured as a remix with Wink, on the Spawn movie soundtrack in July 1997. The song “What Do I Have to Do” was featured in 1997’s Masterminds. The song “Save Yourself” was featured in the 1998 films Urban Legend and Tekken in addition to the True Blood season five finale of the same name. The song “Haunting Me” was featured in the opening scenes of the teen horror flick The Faculty.
When signed to Koch Records, the band got new manager that wanted to turn the band into pop band. Christopher Hall, Walter Flakus and Mark Eliopulos were fighting against that decision. The manager fired Mark Eliopulos by pulling strings within the band and brought Derrek Hawkins as both a studio musician and live musician for the band, and a new producer, Ed Buller
The demo of self-titled album was darker. Old guitar parts from demos were muted and the new guitarist wrote new guitar parts that were more pop influenced.
Their manager hired out 2 members from Stabbing Westward to another band. After that band the did not renew their record deal. Before a fifth LP could be recorded, Stabbing Westward formally announced on February 9, 2002 that they had broken up.
Christopher Hall, Walter Flakus, and Johnny Haro reunited at one of The Dreaming’s shows in Las Vegas on November 15, 2013. Flakus would later join The Dreaming on a permanent basis. The band The Dreaming announced a North American tour in early 2015, featuring original Stabbing Westward founders Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus.
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