Along with the Gin Blossoms, the Refreshments, and the Pistoleros, Dead Hot Workshop helped transform Tempe, AZ -- the Phoenix suburb that houses Arizona State University -- into a musical hotbed in the 1990s. The guitar-driven lineup was led by singer/songwriter Brent Babb, who formed the band during the late ‘80s with help from guitarist Steve Larson, drummer Curtis Grippe, and bassist Brian Griffith. Dead Hot Workshop built up a sizable following with shows at Long Wong’s, Sun Club, and other Tempe venues, and the band began pursuing a wider audience after signing a contract with Tag Recordings, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, in 1994.
Like a number of Tempe-based groups, Dead Hot Workshop’s sound owed a good deal to the band’s surroundings. They played desert rock & roll with a country bent, taking influence from the likes of Neil Young, Johnny Cash, and the Replacements. Tag Recordings first unveiled that sound with the 1994 EP River Otis, which was followed one year later by the full-length album 1001 (the title of which referred to the Sun Club’s street address). Dead Hot Workshop supported those releases with several tours, but they failed to find the national audience that the Gin Blossoms had secured several years prior. Following the termination of their record contract, Larson quit the lineup in 1997 and later joined Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, a regional supergroup that also featured former members of the Refreshments and Gin Blossoms. Meanwhile, Dead Hot Workshop recorded their second album, Karma Covered Apple, as a trio. Brent Babb kept Dead Hot Workshop alive during the following decade with the help of several different lineups, although the closure of Tempe’s most influential clubs -- particularly Long Wong’s, which shut its doors in April 2004 -- signaled an end to an era.