With a visual image denoted by 50s silk shirts, tattoos and sideburns, Rocket From The Crypt formed in 1990 in San Diego, California, USA. Led by John Speedo Reis (1969, California, USA; vocals/guitar), who had played with hardcore outfits Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu, the original band comprised Reis, Petey X (b. Pete Reichert; bass), N.D. (b. Andy Stamets; guitar), Sean (drums) and Elaina (backing vocals). This line-up released 1991s Paint As A Fragrance and then fell apart. Reis, N.D. and Petey X were then joined by Atom Willard (b. Adam Willard, 15 August 1973, USA; drums) and Apollo 9 (b. Paul OBeirne; saxophone), and proceeded to build their reputation as a back-to-basics rock n roll band supporting such incongruous artists as the Misfits and James Brown, and also several west coast dates on the final Sun Ra tour. After a series of low-key recordings the band signed a contract with Interscope Records and then took a break to concentrate on Reis punk side project, Drive Like Jehu, just as Rocket From The Crypt were being tipped as one of the bands most likely to follow Nirvanas international breakthrough.
Augmented by trumpeter JC 2000 (b. Jason Crane) the bands most productive phase began in 1995. In April, they released The State Of Art Is On Fire, a six-song vinyl-only 10-inch record for Sympathy For The Record Industry. In September, they toured the USA to perform free shows for fans - an expedition that resulted in them having to sell their tour van and equipment to cover the costs. Accordingly, Speedo renamed the band the Ambassadors Of Very Good Will for the occasion. In October 1995, Hot Charity, a nine-song vinyl-only album with a pressing of only 2, 000 copies, was released on their own Perfect Sound label. By the end of the year, the band had completed the recording of their major label debut, Scream, Dracula, Scream!, which proved to be their most representative and consistent work. Produced by Speedo, the album utilized old tape machines and microphones to ensure an authentic, live-sounding recording, and was completed at Gold Star Studios (previously used by both Phil Spector and Elvis Presley). Employing an 11-string instrumental section, the album included typically blustering three minute songs such as Born In 69 and On A Rope (a surprise UK Top 20 hit).
Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Silverchair) took over production for the 1998 follow-up RFTC, which opted for a more old-fashioned sound than the garage rock of Scream, Dracula, Scream! Poor sales led to the band being released by Interscope, and after the release of the EP Cut Carefully And Play Loud at the end of 1999 Willard left the line-up. A new contract with Vagrant Records led to the release of Group Sounds (2001), which featured Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster on the majority of the tracks, and new member Ruby Mars (b. Mario Rubalcaba) on the remainder. The confusingly titled Live From Camp X-Ray (in was in fact a studio recording) followed in 2002, but with other commitments increasingly taking precedence little was seen or heard of Rocket From The Crypt in the next few years. The band played their final show on Halloween 2005. Reis concentrated on running his Swami Records label while continuing to play with pop punk trio the Sultans and the art rock band Hot Snakes.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.