Experimental musician Kevin Drumm emerged from Chicago's improvised music scene during the 1990s, initially receiving attention for his innovative tabletop guitar techniques. After expanding his instrumentation to include laptop computers and analog synthesizers, he became one of the most acclaimed American noise artists, with releases on Mego, Hanson, Hospital Productions, and other labels. His work has spanned the extremes, from unrelenting harsh noise to nearly silent drone, and is influenced by heavy metal as well as free jazz.
Drumm was born and raised in South Holland, Illinois, playing in a handful of rock bands before relocating to Chicago in 1991 to work at the city's Board of Trade. He soon began his experiments with prepared guitar, applying objects including magnets, binder clips, chains, a violin bow, and even toenail clippers to distort the instrument's sound. In time, Drumm befriended a number of members of Chicago's growing improv community, including Jim O'Rourke (with whom he served in Brise-Glace, additionally contributing to Gastr del Sol's Upgrade and Afterlife album) and Ken Vandermark (appearing on the reedist's Standards). In late 1997, Drumm made his solo debut with a self-titled effort for Perdition Plastics. Folie à Deux and Duo, both split releases with Japanese guitarist Taku Sugimoto, followed a year later. Solo album Second appeared in 1999, and Drumm participated in a collaborative album with Werner Dafeldecker, Christof Kurzmann, Fennesz, O'Rourke, and Martin Siewert, issued by Austrian label Charhizma. In early 2000, Drumm's Comedy was released by O'Rourke 's Moikai imprint. Collaborations with artists such as Martin Tétreault, Axel Dörner, and Ralf Wehowsky followed.
In 2001, Drumm released a split EP with Pita (Peter Rehberg). The following year, he made his debut on Rehberg's Mego label with the colossal Sheer Hellish Miasma. The album received an unusual amount of attention for a noise album, appearing in Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of the Year list. By the end of the year, Drumm also released split or collaborative releases with Aaron Dilloway, Lasse Marhaug, Leif Elggren, and Mats Gustafsson. The solo album Land of Lurches appeared on Dilloway's Hanson label in 2003. More collaborations followed, including Out Trios, Vol. 2 with Jeff Parker and Michael Zerang, Mort Aux Vache with Dan Burke (Illusion of Safety), and Eruption with Weasel Walter and Fred Lonberg-Holm. Impish Tyrant, continuing in the style of Sheer Hellish Miasma, was released on cassette in 2004 (it was eventually reissued as a CD). A split LP with 2673 was released by Kitty Play Records in 2005.
In 2007, Drumm collaborated with Prurient for an album titled All Are Guests in the House of the Lord, released by Hospital Productions. He also produced Gauntlet with Daniel Menche, issued by Editions Mego, the successor to Mego. Drumm's solo cassette Purge was released by iDEAL Recordings (later reissued on CD). Drumm then released several albums of dark drone on Hospital, including the double CD Imperial Distortion and sparse single-track CD Imperial Horizon. The year 2010 brought collaborations with John Wiese and Tom Smith, as well as the five-CD box set Necro Acoustic. Drumm then began issuing an enormous amount of self-released cassettes and CD-Rs, but more widely available albums appeared on Editions Mego (Relief), Bocian Records (Crowded), and Pan (Venexia, in collaboration with Mika Vainio, Dörner, and Lucio Capece). The drone album Tannenbaum was released as a double CD by Hospital in 2013.
In 2014, Editions Mego released Drumm's Trouble, a single 54-minute piece of extremely quiet drone. Handmade Birds issued the live CD Wrong Intersection, and Erstwhile Records released The Abyss, a double CD in collaboration with Jason Lescalleet. The two also recorded Busman's Holiday, which was issued by Erstwhile the following year. In 2016, the French label Sonoris released Drumm's Elapsed Time, a six-CD box set of mostly unreleased material. ~ Jason Ankeny & Paul Simpson