Destroy All Monsters was founded in 1973 at the Art Department of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, near Detroit. The band, named after a 1968 Japanese horror film, consisted until 1976 of Mike Kelley (perc., tapes), Cary Loren (guit., voc.), Niagara (voc.) and Jim Shaw (guit.). It saw itself as an »anti-rock band«, conjuring up a mix of trash, noise and deliberate provocation to counteract the dominance of virtuosity in 1970s’ rock music and all the bombast that entailed. Experimental trashy horror films created by Cary Loren were often projected during the group’s performances. In 1976 Kelley and Shaw picked up their art studies again in Los Angeles and left the group, which at that point had not yet released any records.
In 1977 Niagara and Loren signed twin brothers Larry and Ben Miller (guit. and sax.) and the two renowned rock musicians Ron Asheton (guit.; previously with The Stooges) and Michael Davis (bass; previously with MC5), along with drummer Rob King. Destroy All Monsters released a series of singles with this line-up before the group broke up. Niagara and Asheton kept the band project going with various musicians until 1985.
The original band members reunited in 1994. They released compilations of their 1970s’ recordings and performed internationally from 1995 until Kelley’s death in 2012, with Niagara leaving the group in 1996.
born 1954 in Detroit, Michigan; died 2012 in South Pasadena, California
1973–1976: Studies art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (bachelor’s degree)
1976: Master’s degree at the California Institute of the Arts (where John Baldessari and Laurie Anderson were among his professors)
1977: Kelley, together with Tony Oursler, found the punk band Poetics, which exists until 1983
1997: Kelley and Oursler present the history of Poetics in an installation at documenta X
Late 1990s: Kelley perform with various artists (including Paul McCarthy, Cameron Jamie, Violent Onsen Geisha) using the band name Gobbler, as well as playing in Destroy All Monsters, his main band.
born 1955 in Detroit, Michigan
1973: begins studying art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
1977/1978–1982: Based in Los Angeles
1982: Loren and his wife, Colleen Kammer, open a bookshop specialized in artists’ books, The Book Beat, in Oak Park, Michigan, where they publish editions of 1960s’ artworks and music, as well as hosting discussions on literature
Parallel to Destroy All Monsters, which is reunited in 1994, Loren founds psychedelic folk band Monster Island in Detroit, also writing lyrics for the group
born 1956 as Lynn Rovner in Detroit, Michigan
Studies art at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada and at the University of Michigan Art School
born 1952 in Midland, Michigan
1973–1976: Bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
1976–1978: Master’s degree at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles