Silver Apples play The Luminaire in Kilburn, London this Sunday – 8th August. Sonic Boom, will be joining Simeon on stage for a handful of tracks.
Silver Apples are a psychedelic electronic music duo from New York City composed of Simeon Coxe III, who performs as Simeon, on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising (also named The Simeon), and until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. The group was active between 1967 and 1969, before reforming in the mid 1990s. They were one of the first groups to employ electronic music techniques extensively within a rock idiom, and their minimalistic style, with its pulsing, driving beat and frequently discordant modality, anticipated not only the experimentalelectronic music and krautrock of the 1970s, but underground dance music and indie rock of the 1990s as well.
Simeon was born in the mountains of East Tennessee and raised in New Orleans. Early on, his parents recognized his gifts in music and bought him a trumpet. By the age of ten, the young Simeon was a working trumpet player in a New Orleans dance band, specializing in pop and jazz. When he was twelve, he was struck by a car, and though he was not seriously injured, his trumpet was crushed and without insurance the family could not afford another one. He never played again, but the seeds of what was to become the incredible musical phenomenon, Silver Apples, had been planted.
When still a teenager, Simeon left the family nest to go to New York and seek a career as an artist. Although widely exhibited there, even at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art, he could not make a living at it and eventually had to take a job as a dishwasher in a summer camp in Connecticut. While there he jammed with some of the waiters and busboys who were bluegrass musicians and soon they were working regularly playing soul and rock, calling themselves The Random Concept with Simeon as the lead singer. In 1967, now back in New York, Simeon began singing with The Overland Stage Electric Band who were the regular band at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village.
One night, as a lark, Simeon plugged in an oscillator and began sweeping sounds around the room with gleeful abandon while the drummer, named Danny Taylor (who had previously worked with a young guitar sensation named Jimi Hendrix) pounded out rhythms in cutting edge experimentation. This so outraged the three guitar players in the band that they quit, leaving just Simeon and Danny . . . and Silver Apples was born.
This electronic rock duo featured Dan Taylor on drums and Simeon on a homemade synthesizer (later dubbed, ‘The Simeon’) consisting of 9 oscillators, with 86 manual controls to control, lead, rhythm and bass pulses and an assortment of sound filters, telegraph keys, radio parts, lab gear and a variety of second hand electronic junk. They quickly gained a reputation as New York’s leading underground musical expression. Although their live concerts were drawing a growing core of freaky fans, record labels thought of them as too weird, until a young exec at KAPP Records heard them. Shortly afterwards, in 1968, their first full-length album was released. The self-titled album rode the Billboard Magazine Top 100 list for 10 weeks. The first cut on this album, Oscillations, was released as a single, and made the Top Ten list in numerous cities. One music critic wrote, “What’s so amazing is that they make absolutely mind shattering music with all this junky equipment.”
Silver Apples created what are now widely regarded as the first rock-orientated albums to utilise electronic techniques. The pulsating, droning rhythms of the oscillators, backed by Taylor’s repetitive, free-form drumming, pre-dated the similar sounds made by Krautrock acts such as Can and Neu! by a couple of years, and the records later became a huge influence on such bands as Suicide, Spacemen 3 and Stereolab.
The second full-length album was released in 1969, titled CONTACT. A national tour was launched by the band’s recording popularity.
A third album was recorded in 1970, but not released when KAPP folded. Without a record label the band disbanded, and, except for an occasional bootleg release, was not heard from again until 1994, when a German label named TRC, without license, re-released the first two albums in a double CD version, complete with poster. Since then numerous artists around the world have released covers and samplings of Silver Apples material.
In 1996, Simeon re-activated Silver Apples, recording and performing with many musician friends and admirers. Some of the projects included a release of a 7″ vinyl on Enraptured Records of London which included on the A side FRACTAL FLOW, the first new song by Silver Apples in 26 years! It has since sold out through three pressings.
January 19, 1997 marked the re-emergence of Silver Apples as a live performance band. Before a celeb-packed audience at the Knitting Factory, this concert was hailed by the press as being better than anyone dreamed possible:
“The Gods of Space Rock re-emerge!” Now Magazine
“A timely return by the late 60’s technorock genius Simeon” The Village Voice
“Silver Apples… a beautiful and mysterious artifact.” The New York Times
“Simple weird magic. It’s pop from outer space.” New York Post
“Wielding the handle of a homemade oscillator like a whammy bar, Simeon, the King of Plug, drove his ensemble of brushcut technoids like Mad Max conducting Kraftwerk.” Rolling Stone Magazine
A 16,000 mile national tour was booked for the Spring, a 6-week tour of Europe started in the Summer and in the Fall the band played a tour of Japan. In all, Silver Apples played over 100 concerts in 1997 and 1998.
In July of 1997, thirteen songs were recorded with Steve Albini in Chicago and compiled into the band’s long-awaited, new CD from Whirlybird Records called BEACON. Released in late ’97, BEACON secured world wide distribution and has gotten rave reviews from critics everywhere:
“Given the band’s historical role in the development of an entire genre of music, Silver Apples deserves a biography and probably a shrine. In the meantime, this record will do just fine.” CMJ New Music Report
“A peculiarly pastoral version of cybernetic music, a hissing machine-in-the-garden driven by Simeon’s fey vocals, piping and fluting like an Elizabethan troubadour at the Court of the Crimson King” Spin Magazine
Another new CD, DECATUR, was released in 1998 and represents an entirely different aspect of Silver Apples’ interstellar sound. Silver Apples performed at the Terrastock II festival in San Francisco and at the Meltdown festival in London in 1998, hosted by the Late, great John Peel, who was a huge fan.
1998 saw Simeon and Peter Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom, of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum) collaborating on a musical collection called A LAKE OF TEARDROPS, which was released in early 1999 on Space Age Recordings (www.spaceagerecordings.com) and distributed worldwide.
1998 also marked the historic reunion between Simeon and original drummer, Danny Taylor. Dubs of the long lost third album THE GARDEN were found undamaged in a cardboard box in Danny’s attic. After a delay of almost thirty years, the material was released on Whirlybird Records, the band’s label. 1998 also saw the release of BEACON REMIXED, a much acclaimed collection of remix contributions from around the world of the Albini sessions.
Simeon and Danny performed their reunion concerts in the New York area, and it was after one of these, at The Cooler, that their van was forced off the road by another driver, causing the crash that broke Simeon’s neck, putting Silver Apples on hold and spelling the demise of Whirlybird Records. After over a year and a half of therapy, Simeon is back in action. To see him walk or perform today, you would not be aware that he is still partially paralyzed.
In 1999, Simeon teamed up with British musicians “The Alchemysts” for a CD now out on Woronzow (www.woronzow.co.uk) and Rubric (www.rubricrecords.com) to rave reviews. Simeon also remixed 4 bands, the CD now out on Third Stone Records worldwide (www.spaceagerecordings.com).
In 1999 Simeon moved to Fairhope, a small town and artists’ colony in southern Alabama, where he spent much of his recuperation time creating organic food and flower gardens, and converting an old chicken coop into a recording studio.
In January, 2000, Simeon performed at the Knitting Factory/Whitney Museum of American Art’s New York Festival of Electronic Music to a packed house. “WOW!” said one music critic. Silver Apples rides again!
During that year Simeon released new material to various labels around the world, which resulted in tracks being included on 7 new releases in 6 different countries.
In 2001 Simeon collaborated with 2 other artists in creating “Igyptzkon”, a multi-media art installation involving projections, animation and electronic music. “Igyptzkon” was exhibited at Gulf ArtSpace and again at the “First Night Mobile” festival, both in southern Alabama.
2002 marked the release of “Salad” on the French label, Tigersushi Records, which included a remix of the material by French electronic wizards, Shalark. An all-Simeon multi-media installation called “Tow-away Zone” featuring new music was exhibited at Gulf ArtSpace.
2005 sadly marked the year of Danny Taylor’s passing. He died of a heart attack and complications on March 10, 2005 in Kingston, New York. He was 56 years old.
Simeon continues to write, record and perform as Silver Apples, playing shows and festival dates around the world. Early 2011 will see the release of the long awaited Silver Apples documentary, ‘Play Twice Before Listening’ and a collaboration album with a who’s who list of contemporary artists who are either long time fans of, or have been influenced by Silver Apples.