"This is an anthology, a selection of old and new. It's a collection of the past but moving forward. It's past and future."
Dark Arts is one of those bands that for some reason got lost in the shuffle. It was founded in Columbus, Ohio, by a man named Bob Katt, the "cool, older guy" who went to all the concerts in town and had been in a bunch of other bands. Initially there were five members: in '83 there was Bob on bass and percussion, singer Sue Ann Mason, drummer Dave Green, Bill Bruner on guitar and Stephanie Payne on keyboard. Katt is the one who brought everyone together and came up with the name: they were the 'art' band and they were 'dark'. Keyboard player Stephanie Payne, just like Katt, was also present at every musical happening. Young and eager, she would turn out to be the motor and musical mastermind of the group. When she decided to move to Los Angeles, California, Sue-Ann and new member Larry Altvater decided to tag along. By the time they made their first full album, on Phil Druckers (Savage Republic and 17 Pygmies) label Nate Starkman and Son, they had split up. Payne decided to move on and continued the band by herself, ever finding new musicians.
After the fall of '80, when she was at art school, Payne became more outspoken, headstrong and flamboyant. Driven by her love for music, she would eventually become a forerunner in the local scene of Columbus. The place to be back then was the (now unaffordable) High Street area. To ‘go out’ at the time was simply walk this street up and down. She and her friends would hang out there, check out the record stores, do graffiti at night (Payne on high heels). High Street lay next the Ohio State University campus, the home of the only real music club in the city, maybe even the state: Crazy Mama's. Everyone would go there for dancing and live concerts. Payne would scour music magazines and buy the weekly imports at the local record shops. There, Payne would beleaguer the city shop clerks, asking for their personal recommendations. Since what she liked was often not accessible, Payne took up DJ'ing at Crazy Mama's.
Asides from art school, promoting concerts, DJ'ing and record hunting Payne kept making music. Before Dark Arts, she played in The Girl Boys, a Janus-faced band that was either light, silly and acoustic but could also deliver a hard, dark, electric live set. The same applied to Dark Arts. Their wide-ranging music has a fey, nearly spiritual quality, drifting between folk music, ambient, Eastern European beat patterns and new wave. They were the 'art band' of Columbus, divergent, always changing their sets. They would print crafty flyers, project films and set up special lighting.
"When we played live, we would bring out lawnmowers, pots and pans and pipes we would smash rhythmically with a mallet. Anything that made noise. And then there was also the kraut-influenced, more ambient Dark Arts. I loved percussion, I loved beautiful things, but then, I could also whip out a chainsaw, you know."
Their first gig was in Bernie's Bagel & Deli, as Toy Division, playing Joy Division covers on toy instruments. Dark Arts' second show was a country and western themed performance.
STAFF COMMENTSPatrick says: Stroom go gloom! Here we have a retrospective of Stephanie Payne's Dark Arts project, dealing out the crepuscular ambience, monochrome indie and shadowy post-punk.