Recently, the R6 Implant played a four-band bill at Fubar alongside the Conformists, Porcupine (featuring Hüsker Dü's Greg Norton) and Flipper (on its 40th-anniversary tour and featuring David Yow on vocals). Something happened that night, and it's been the case at a lot of R6 Implant shows. Namely, the band surprised an audience that was largely unfamiliar with its work with an absolutely crushing set.
That surprise factor is understandable. Though the band's inception dates back a full decade, a series of hiatuses, the presence of day jobs, a slowed-down album completion and other factors have meant that the R6 Implant has kept something of a low profile. In keeping, each time the band has reappeared on the scene, at least a portion of the audience is treated to a first-time introduction.
The group's membership is deep in experience. On vocals, it's the unmistakable Scott Randall of longstanding local metal act Fragile Porcelain Mice, joined by fellow Fragile bandmate (and equally inimitable) Dave Winkeler on bass. On drums, it's Shawn O'Connor (a.k.a. Defenestrator Stonecrusher) of the time-bending math-rock outfit Yowie. The guitarist and newest member has been aboard for a half-dozen years now; he's the group's in-band recording engineer/producer Tazu Marshall, known for his board work at both Utopia and Clayton Studios.
"There are people who are surprised to see me and Dave there, being familiar with Fragile, or they know Shawn's band Yowie," Randall admits. "We first got together — Dave, Shawn and I — about ten years ago, during one of Fragile's hiatuses. And then we would stop playing. Yowie's toured Europe a couple of times, and Shawn's gotta focus on that. We've taken our own hiatuses here and there. We started up again about a year ago. And while we had the record recorded back in 2015, it's taken us a while to work on it."
Winkeler's cousin Jim Winkeler was playing in the Conformists, Randall explains, and knew Yowie from one of the many times the two likeminded acts had performed together. He introduced the band to O'Connor at a Jesus Lizard show in 2009. O'Connor and Dave exchanged numbers and got together, just bass and drums, and came up with the foundations for a few songs within just a couple of practices. Initially, the band played with guitarist Derek Yeager, who'd been with Sine Nomine, before Marshall took his place in 2012.
Marshall, a well-known and highly regarded local musician who usually plays the bass, remembers answering a Facebook notice that sketched out the requirements for the guitarist gig: "a pro attitude and ability to count to nine." The band, he found, suited his wants and needs perfectly.
"Personality-wise, it's a zero-bullshit scenario, which is rare when dealing with people," he says. "I love playing with Dave. He's a bass hero to me, and it's pretty cool to not be playing bass, with him in the group. I've always been a pretty huge Fragile Porcelain Mice fan, and this music is a more complicated, math-rock version of the same kinda thing, I'd guess. Some people have called it Fragile Porcelain Math. The skill level of those dudes is way up there, and I love doing this choppy, complicated stuff that can be confusing to some people."
The Fragile effect is for sure in play with R6 Implant. Says Marshall, "Scott and Dave have such distinct sounds that if you put them with any other people, they'd still sound like themselves. You can't change that, nor would you want to."
Randall is characteristically self-deprecating in discussing the ways in which Fragile fans will find an immediate comfort zone with R6 Implant.
"I'm a one-trick pony," he cracks. "We are playing something a little bit similar, and with me and Dave there's been some concern about that. At first, I wondered if I should try to sing differently. There are going to be comparisons due to my kidnap-victim vocals and Dave's bass, but it really is different with Shawn and Tazu. Dave and I were looking into playing more music together, and whatever would come of that would be fine."
When the band started recording in 2015, it found itself rerecording and then mixing, and now the album is complete — and though the perfectionist in Marshall would like another crack at it, he'll have to wait a little bit longer. The band's nine-song, self-titled debut is set for release during a July 20 show at the Schlafly Tap Room alongside Buttercup and Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship. Then, after playing some of these cuts for the entirety of their time together, the band's members will spend a good chunk of the remaining 2019 calendar in the woodshed, writing new material for Marshall to wrestle with in the new year.
Select shows will also follow, though in moderation. The model offered by the Flipper show — in which the group supports a complementary, national act — might be what the band's members pursue for the short term. That said, they're open to challenges.
"Obviously, everybody's got day jobs," Randall says. "Inasmuch as possible, we're open to going out of town on weekends; we definitely don't want to wear out our welcome here. Yowie's done European tours and stuff like that, and if that opportunity ever came up through his connections, we'd definitely consider it. We've got to write more, come up with more stuff, play whatever big sets we can."
Randall, discussing his motivation in playing music in tandem with a long career in teaching, says he still loves playing live after all this time — especially given that aforementioned surprise factor.
"There's a corny rush of playing in front of people, especially with this band, since not a lot of people know about us," he says. "There's that immediate reaction that you get, and it's really, really nice to surprise people. And that's still happening. I've done this most of my adult life. If I didn't have this outlet to play music or create, there'd be something missing. That day's going to come sooner than later, obviously, but as long as people aren't like 'This is sad,' then I'd like to do it. If it is sad, it's time to quit."