In the spring of 1996, RIP Magazine wrote, "With such intensity and dementia, Muthafist is definitely a name you'll be hearing from in the future." They were right. Ten years later, one of the heavier original rock bands of Charleston's '90s scene plans top kick up some serious dust with a reunion show.
The band formed in 1992 when singer Jim Payne, guitarists Robert Pepe and Brian Kivett, bassist Dave Marvel, and drummer Chuck McCormick got together to jam on some heavy-minded rock ideas inspired by the very acid-rock, old-school funk, and punk rock that fueled the Northwestern "grunge" movement.
"Muthafist developed an original sound mixing heavy melodic guitar with powerful soulful vocals and a 'fink' influenced rhythm section," says Marvel, looking back. "The band honed its sound playing all of the notable music venues in Charleston at the time, Myskyn's, Cumberland's, Café 99, Acme, and the Music Farms."
"I like to think we were not so much 'fink' influenced as 'funk' influenced," adds McCormick, "although I know we've all been influenced by finks from time to time."
Muthafist toured through the mid-'90s "from DC to Florida," playing small clubs, festivals, and warehouse parties. In 1994, they released a self-produced album titled Dwell. In '96, they followed up with a more polished and focused effort titled Greed, which benefited from the engineering efforts of famed producer Mitch Easter (of Let's Active).
Greed received positive reviews locally and nationally, but by year's end, the mates decided to end things amicably. Payne moved to Venice, Calif. Marvel moved to New Orleans. Kivett eventually moved to Rock Hill, S.C.
"Currently, Pepe, Chuck, and I live in Charleston," says Marvel, who still plays bass with local bands Swig and Hybrid Mutants, but looks 100 percent cleaned up in his current law office duds compared to his grungier longhaired days. "Kivett is still in Rock Hill and Payne is in Dallas. Chuck is the biggest musician about town — he plays in a variety of bands with local artist Kevin Taylor. He is also currently in Big Gospel Fuselage and Clint4. As is usual, Chuck and I both have several projects in various stages of development."
Nearly a decade after their initial breakup, Muthafist plan to pick it back up this week at Cumberland's with all the original members, performing most of their songs from their heyday.
"We may even attempt some covers of bands we played with back in the day, including 'Pod' which was written by Bison and covered for years by Children's Choir," says Marvel. "How many will all depend on how much practice time we get before the gig. This is our second show since the split, the last being at the Farm in Oct. 2003. That show went so well and drew such an impressive response that we vowed to do it again.
"We chose Cumberland's for this one, since those guys are like family to all of us," he adds, "and in my opinion, it's far better to see a band with 200 people in Cumberland's than it is to see one with 400 at the Farm. The Charleston music scene has changed completely since the mid-'90s, both in good and bad ways."
"It appears to me that the original acts actually get better fan response these days," adds McCormick. "That is, there seem to be more people actually going out to see a variety of original music, local or otherwise, than there used to be. I continue to be impressed with the quality of musicianship that I see in local acts these days. There have always been good players around, but it seems to me now that there are a lot more in town, no matter what type of music they're playing."
Muthafist share the stage with former colleagues 351 Cleveland at Cumberland's on Fri. Jan. 20.