OCTOBER 13, 2017
LUCY VOLPE (Publicist)
Seattle’s Gruntruck flickered into life in 1989, born from seasoned veterans of the Northwest music scene including vocalist Ben McMillan and drummer Norman Scott of early Grunge pioneers Skin Yard, lead guitarist Tom Niemeyer of metal thrashers The Accüsed, and bassist Tim Paul of PDX hardcore punks Final Warning. While in Skin Yard, Norman also briefly joined Soundgarden, and collaborated with Chris Cornell on a lesser-known band, the low frequency power trio Bass Truck.
While on tour with Skin Yard, Ben and Norman wrote a song in Tucson, Arizona, which had a vibe that Ben felt was worthy of forming a new band around. Before long Ben, Norman, and Tom began to collaborate on blending Bass Truck's sound with this new material, and brought in Tim Paul on bass to fill out the sound later that year. After several attempts at titling the new lineup, the name Gruntruck came to Ben while out record shopping. “It was like Bass Truck,” he said, “but more grunty."
The band soon recorded a full-length album for Seattle label Empty Records, with Skin Yard alum/legendary producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden) producing with Gary King. Inside Yours was released in 1990, and was released simultaneously in Germany on the Musical Tragedies label. Gruntruck made a video for the song Not a Lot to Save, with Henry Shepherd (brother of Soundgarden bassist Ben) directing, which soon found its way onto MTV.
In 1991, Gruntruck gained further exposure after opening for Pearl Jam on the night they recorded the music video for the song Even Flow, and during the frenzy of media and record label attention that had descended on Seattle, they signed a multi-album deal with Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner re-released Inside Yours later that same year.
In 1992, the band recorded their second album, Push, with Endino and King again in charge of production. Roadrunner released it that same year, and also licensed Inside Yours for release in Japan on the Appolon Records label. The track Tribe was made into a music video, earning an enthusiastic reception on MTV and rotation on the show Headbanger’s Ball.
1992 also saw the band out on tour for the first time. They joined Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees in support of Alice's Dirt across the U.S. and Canada. Early in 1993, they joined Pantera for a European tour. Tim left the band shortly after their return to Seattle, and was replaced by Alex Sibbald of The Accüsed.
Shortly thereafter, a video was made for Crazy Love, which garnered generous airplay on MTV and a rare snark-free mention on the show Beavis and Butthead, where a stunned Butthead mused, “I must be hallucinating now. I can’t believe they’re playing something cool. These guys rock!”
Following a particularly grueling tour of the States, Norman left the band and was replaced by Josh Sinder, also of The Accüsed.
Even though the band was at the height of their popularity, they were struggling to make ends meet while fulfilling contractual obligations to Roadrunner Records. Major record label Polygram offered to buy out Gruntruck’s contract for $1 million, but Roadrunner refused. Subsequently, on the advice of their attorney, Gruntruck filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to break free of their contract. The label sued to block the bankruptcy petition, resulting in a precedent-setting case that has been cited in subsequent cases, written up in legal journals, and eventually inspiring major congressional legislation. The court ultimately ruled in Gruntruck's favor, but the litigation would exact a severe financial and emotional toll on the band.
The lineup of Ben, Tom, Alex and Josh released a three-song EP, Shot, on Betty Records in 1996, with Endino and King producing for a third time. The new lineup attempted to recapture the momentum Gruntruck had enjoyed before the lawsuit by stoking a bidding war for the newly available band. However, at a showcase in Los Angeles with A&R representatives from nearly all of the major labels in attendance, the music industry was uniformly perplexed by singer Ben’s decision to perform with his back to the audience and the band remained unsigned.
In 1997, the original lineup was reunited after Norman and Tim rejoined to play extensively in local venues, and the band began working on new material together as well as with a side project called Mona Diesel. Some of the songs written during this latter collaboration would find their way back to Gruntruck.
These new songs were the foundation of what was envisioned as their breakthrough third album, and the original lineup began a two-year journey recording in five different studios in and around Seattle with both Jack Endino and Martin Feveyear (Queens of the Stone Age, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees) producing.
Once the self-titled third album was complete, the band ramped up their live performances around Seattle in preparation for the album’s release. Then in 2003, the band took what was envisioned to be a brief hiatus to give Ben time to recover from his recent health issues. Tragically, Ben died in 2008 after succumbing to complications resulting from diabetes.
The finished third album languished in the vaults until 2016, when Jack Endino mentioned its existence to Found Recordings head, Scott Blum, who enthusiastically embarked on a journey with the band to bring the album to the world. The self-titled third album Gruntruck will finally be released October 13, 2017 by Found Recordings, and the remaining original members will honor the late singer's memory by reuniting for a limited number of live performances with a guest singer later in the year.