Dr. Octagon Biography

Keith Thornton, New York, USA. More commonly known as Kool Keith while a member of groundbreaking New York, US rap group the Ultramagnetic MC’s, Thornton has also travelled under a variety of other pseudonyms - Dr. Dooom, Poppa Large, the Reverend Tom, Sinister 6000, Big Willie Smith and Mr. Gerbik. In the mid-90s, and now based in Los Angeles, Thornton unveiled his latest project, Dr. Octagon. In principle a band, it was effectively just his latest solo musical outlet. However, after attracting favourable reviews for his live shows, he alarmed his backers (including record label DreamWorks) by failing to appear for performances in support of Beck and refusing to answer messages. This all fuelled a reputation for esoteric behaviour that had been with him since his time in the Ultramagnetic MC’s. For example, he was said to have spent his entire five-figure advance from DreamWorks on pornography. However, he was indulged because of a precocious talent and, when he could be persuaded to marshal it, a prolific output.

Between 1995 and 1996 he recorded tracks with Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura, DJ Q-Bert (of Invisibl Skratch Piklz), DJ Shadow and appeared on a track with the UK’s Prodigy. The ensuing Dr. Octagonecologyst album was initially recorded for an independent label and featured a dazzling mixture of vibrant textures filled with Moog synthesizer, violin, flute, bass and even classical samples (including Pachelbel’s Canon) that strove to redefine the hip-hop genre. However, the lyrics were a different matter, reflecting Thornton’s obsession with pornography in lustful anatomical detail. As he told Rolling Stone magazine, ‘I wrote that album in one day. I was like, “Fuck it. I’ll write the sickest shit ever, just to bug out on it.”’ He followed this with Sex Style, released on his own Funky Ass label under the Kool Keith tag.

In the meantime, Thornton was finding further time to waste on his favourite distraction by launching his own pornography magazine, All Flavors. Thornton adopted the Dr. Dooom moniker for 1999’s First Come, First Served, before returning to his Kool Keith alias on subsequent releases. Dr. Octagon made a belated reappearance on a new studio album, the largely disappointing The Return.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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