Duane Denison

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Best known for his cutting edge guitar work with the confrontational punk outfit the Jesus Lizard, Duane Denison is one of rock's most challenging (yet oft-overlooked) guitarists. Surprisingly, Denison's…
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Best known for his cutting edge guitar work with the confrontational punk outfit the Jesus Lizard, Duane Denison is one of rock's most challenging (yet oft-overlooked) guitarists. Surprisingly, Denison's early musical interest wasn't punk rock - as he earned a degree in classic guitar at Eastern Michigan University, and even studied with renowned classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. But at the same time, Denison also paid attention to the guitarists in such art-rock bands as King Crimson, Roxy Music, Public Image, Magazine, and Killing Joke. By the late '80s, Denison joined up with ex-Scratch Acid members David Yow (vocals) and David Sims (bass), to form the Chicago, IL-based Jesus Lizard. With a drum machine originally supplying the backbeat, drummer Mac McNeilly was welcomed onboard in time for the group's full-length debut, 1990's Head. Several more independent releases followed throughout the early '90s (1991's Goat, 1992's Liar, 1994's Down), during which time the quartet built a large cult following due to their explosive live show (being championed constantly in the press by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain didn't exactly hurt, either).

The middle of the decade saw the Jesus Lizard sign on with Capitol Records, but after only two more releases, 1996's Shot and 1998's Blue, the band split up. Denison continued to guest on other artist's recordings (a practice he'd been indulging in since the early '90s) including the Revolting Cocks' Linger Ficken' Good, plus a pair of releases each by Sally Timms (To the Land of Milk & Honey and It Says Here) and Firewater (Get Off the Cross, We Need the Wood for the Fire and Ponzi Scheme). Denison then formed the Denison-Kimball Trio along with ex-Mule percussionist James Kimball, issuing three albums, Walls in the City, Soul Machine, and Neutrons. The ex-Jesus Lizard six-stringer also served as the touring guitarist for Hank Williams III from 1999 through 2001, during which time he caught a live show by Mr. Bungle (at the insistence of a bandmate in Williams' group). Denison was impressed by Bungle's singer, Mike Patton, and shortly after the two were introduced, decided to form a band. Denison donated some nearly completed original compositions to the project, which soon adopted the name Tomahawk, and welcomed in ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier and current Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis. With the group recording the album via tape swapping (all four members were never in the same room at the same time), the group's self-titled debut was issued via Patton's label, Ipecac, in 2001.