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Oedipus Rising 

How a Raleigh band flunked out, funked out and did something you (thankfully) have never heard before

The three members of Oedipus Dick met at Rock Star Academy. While studying such illuminating courses as "Load-Ins: Making A First Impression," "Trouser Stuffing" and "Groupie Management 101," Chip Steiner, Hank Marr and Tim Green realized that when they combined their various talents, the world of rock shuddered in fear. However, their studies began to suffer due to wild success and unceasing attention from the hundreds of nubile young temptresses lined up at their dressing room door. First, Chip flunked "Mike Posing," Hank blew his "Rolling Stone Interview" oral final and Tim, fried from a night at Moomba with Chloë Sevigny and a handful of GHB, simply blew off the presentation for his thesis, "Coping With The Realization That You Rock Harder Than Everyone Else."

OK, so none of this is true. In fact, the members of this sly Raleigh trio tend to thumb their noses at the thought of rock stardom. "Radio blows/We all know" winds the refrain from their irony-laden number, "Rock Star." But despite their protestations, the threesome may be dealing with said establishment more than they like due to their original, horribly catchy sound.

The whole thing started back in the '80s when Marr and Green were attending N.C. State. "We were in an '80s cover band ... well, because it was the '80s!" recalls Marr. Green pops an overhead light bulb and follows up with, "You know, we should start a future cover band." It's just this sort of clever twist that makes Oedipus Dick so damn endearing. Years later, Marr, playing standup bass for honkytonkers The Hiccups, hooked up with Steiner, who was drumming for Raleigh act Big Joe; the pair swung away from the country sound and plowed into more jazzy territory. Marr had a friend, an old bandmate that worked at Dorothea Dix Mental Hospital. He told the duo about a patient there, a troubled, deluded man who was obviously very bright and a talented lyrical composer. It seems that the patient, Ed (who referred to himself as Oedipus Dick) had grown up in Saxapahaw and always hoped to escape the numbing conformity of his hometown for the progressive, freethinking environs of Chapel Hill.

"He was attracted to Chapel Hill because it was a liberal-minded place in North Carolina, and he went there and found out that there was a whole lot of conformity going on there as well. It really disturbed him," says Marr. Ed often set up one-man protests on campus but, much to his chagrin, even these became fair game for wannabes.

"He was inspired by the protest scene on campus, but then he was equally turned off by all the people who just jumped on his bandwagon. He wanted to have his own protest." So Ed compiled his thoughts in numerous lyrics, which found their way into Marr's hands and became the blueprint for Oedipus Dick's satirical approach. Steiner and Marr laid down some basic tracks and Marr went to Green, a professional audio engineer by trade, for help mixing and adding vocals. Green was dumbfounded by what he heard. "They recorded the bass track first, then added the drums later, which is unheard of," says Green, "but it sounded so good the way they had done it." Nearly a year later, Green added his own maniacal keyboard act to the Dick's repertoire, replete with funky samples and odd synthetic noises.

On their demo disc (which can be heard at the band's Web site, www.oedipusdick.com), Marr's plucky and sometimes fuzzed-out stand-up bass sashays alongside Steiner's whispery snare and syncopated bass drum. Add Ed's brilliant, tortured lyrics to the recipe and you get a delicious concoction. For instance, there's the snotty putdown of Ed's former object of affection, a certain "Girl From Chapel Hill," a song with lyrics that state "I want a girl who can talk like that/Who talks like the girls in Chapel Hill/Someone to tell me what a pig I am/'Cause I'm not a vegetarian" and the truncated cheap shot at a famed Franklin Street's pizzeria that states, "I could work at Pepper's but my hair's too short and my body's not pierced and I don't have cool tattoos." "Malt Liquor," a paean to the exalted 40-ounce, buzzes with jazzy funk as Hank proclaims "Champale for the Ladies/But for us ... malt liquor." Perhaps the funniest track of all is the anti-trend anthem "Tragedy of Being Cool." "Johnny got a tattoo/He thought it looked the best/Now he won't take off his shirt/'Cause he's got Warrant on his chest." Finally, revenge for all the guys who wondered what that hot girl in the "Cherry Pie" video saw in that god-awful lead singer from one of the '80s most infamous one-hit wonders.

So what does a self-described "gutter jazz" band do when they're not rocking out? Steiner is a graphics specialist, Marr splices genes in UNC's pathology department and Green recently quit his gig as a studio engineer to pursue an interesting avenue of Internet commerce. His site, www.feedtheartist.com, allows you to log on and play with any number of audio and video files that Green himself created. While the site was just launched (it's still growing), Green hopes to have hundreds of samples available soon and is willing to post other artists' material, splitting the profits 50/50 and feeding the artists who in turn are feeding him.

The band has been busy preparing a whole mess of new material at Green's former place of employment, Soundtrax studios, courtesy of studio owner Perry Cheatham.

"Perry's been a mentor to me over the years and he's been very gracious to allow us use of the space," Green says. While most bands hunker down in a musty garage or smoky living room, the Dick enjoys a comfy, clean studio complete with tons of great musical toys. After a great set at December's Epic Records showcase at the Lincoln Theatre, the fellas have been inspired to push a little harder, expand their horizons a bit and play out more. In fact, you can catch the Dick at the Humble Pie's "Ultimate Players Ball." With a pair of local DJs opening up, pimps from every corner of the Triangle will be descending on Raleigh, ready to get their freak on.

Flash back to prom night at Rock Star Academy. Leather clad, scrawny guitar players paw underfed models in fetish gear over shots of cheap booze and lines of stepped-on blow. Three pranksters sneak in the backstage area with a bucket of pig's blood, dump most of it on the king and queen and break out in Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" to the slack-jawed amazement of the student body. While they don't go home with the sheepskin, the chancellor offers them an honorary degree. They laugh and dump the remaining blood on his shiny, bald head. EndBlock

  • Funky and eccentric, Raleigh's Oedipus Dick is proud to be on the "gutter jazz vanguard."

More by Zach Hanner

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