A lot has changed since the heyday of the American noise-rock scene, but Godheadsilo remains frozen in amber.
"We don't have the Internet at our house," says bassist Mike Kunka from his farm in Washington state. "I don't even really know what's going on. I just have a guess."
In the '90s, Kunka and his musical life partner, drummer Dan Haugh, originated a form of pulverizing, propulsive noise as loud as it was intense. Taking cues from scene luminaries such as Melvins, Hammerhead and Steel Pole Bath Tub, Godheadsilo formed in the pair's hometown of Fargo, N.D., using stacks of amps, a variety of stomp-box effects and a Frankenstein's monster of a drum kit to abuse the eardrums of anyone who wandered into their path. They worked with heavyweight indie labels such as Kill Rock Stars and Sub Pop, released three full-length albums and broke up in 1998, placing the band firmly in the post-grunge, pre-Internet moment. While groups like Lightning Bolt have cited Godheadsilo as an influence, look up the band online and you'll only find a smattering of information.
Now, Godheadsilo is coming unstuck from time, and getting back on the road. But if you ask the band members, this reunion isn't about correcting the record and asserting their legacy. The way they see it, it's not a reunion at all.
"Godheadsilo never really broke up," says Haugh, who lives in New Orleans. "I had a horrible accident, lost my ability to play drums for several years, and it was just kind of like a fade-away kind of thing."
Still, going quietly certainly isn't the way fans would have expected the band to end the first time around. In its prime, there weren't many bands that were louder. "We're so loud, it's kind of a bummer—not for us," Kunka laughs. Most Godheadsilo sets were breathtakingly furious, lasting no more than 20 minutes. "After 15, 20 minutes of that, you don't need any more," Kunka says. "It made it better for Dan. Sometimes he would puke after he played for 15 minutes. Do you want him to hit half as hard and play for 30 minutes, or get the full deal for half as long?"
But exhaustion did play a part in the group's demise. "Some years we would tour like eight or nine months, because there was no Internet, so the only way to show what you were doing to people was to put it in front of them," Kunka says. "We were trying our hardest not to have regular jobs. So we're like, 'We'll sleep in the van and split a pack of salami' or whatever. Dan and I were so bummed at how hard it was. By the time we started doing well, we were done doing it."
And there was that aforementioned incident involving Haugh, which happened just as the band was recording its second Sub Pop opus, 1998's Share the Fantasy. "I had an accident where my hand was almost cut off completely," Haugh says. "The doctors were like, 'You'll never play drums again.' A few years of intense physical and occupational therapy got it working again. It's still pretty wonky, but it can hold a drumstick just fine."
Luckily, Haugh's rehabilitation has come a long way since then. Kunka and Haugh first resumed playing together by backing up Spencer Moody's post-Murder City Devils band, Smoke and Smoke, in 2004. Then, last year, Godheadsilo finally responded to a recurring invitation to play a yearly tribute show for beloved Fargo venue Ralph's Corner, which closed in 2005. "It's like going to watch your dad play softball or something," Kunka says. "It was what I wanted it to be. It was fun. We never took ourselves seriously, so why start now?"
And now, Godheadsilo re-emerges in the Internet age, a time its members don't completely understand. "It seemed like the way to do it was to work hard," Kunka says. "Nowadays, you work really hard on your website." But he's not complaining. He is coming out of semi-retirement with positivity and humor, and an appreciation for what he and Haugh, his friend since their teenage years, managed to accomplish. "It's ridiculous how well we did for how shitty we were."
SEE IT: Godheadsilo plays Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water Ave., on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 30-31. 10 pm. $15. Saturday's show sold out. 21+.