This is supposed to be the general band information page. I'm not sure where to begin. Claw Hammer (not Clawhammer which I find myself typing way too much) were a band started by Jon Wahl in 1986. Wahl had previously played guitar in the Pontiac Brothers and before that was rumoured to roadie for Agent Orange! Now, there's no way I'm going to attempt to get into Wahl's billions of musical connections and appearances, so I better stop there.

Starting from their first release, the "Poor Robert" EP, it was pretty obvious Claw Hammer were something different. It's ...well, it's hard to describe. There's an amazing amount of rhythm and blues going on, but at the same time there were definite art-rock overtones going on simultaneously. All this was topped by Wahl's hyper-crazed "yowl" - a vocal style which some found thrilling and may have alienated others. One thing Claw Hammer always did is sound different than anything or anyone around them, while never forgetting how to fucking rock. They could out-blues JSBX any day of the week, they could out-spazz the Jesus Lizard, and they could outplay all comers (especially live - Claw Hammer were SO good live).

A good insight into the music of Clawhammer would be the mass array of covers they produced over their career. Eno, Pere Ubu, Devo (especially Devo!), Patti Smith, Gordon Lightfoot, and of course Captain Beefheart himself. What exactly does this add up to? I'm not sure, but the Trouser Press calls it "dada-blues/hard-rock fusion". I guess that's as good as any for a place to start. And while all this talk of "bluesy" might make you think of boring ol' chord progressions, trust me - these guys could write great songs with great chords and melodies. They weren't all about feel, though they could pull out a wicked jam if the moment demanded it. I dunno, sometimes I hear things from people talking about Claw Hammer like they're a one trick pony er something, and I just shake my head. Every album they released should of been subtitled HEY, WE'RE NOT JUST FUCKING AROUND HERE...

This might be a good time to talk about the members of the band! Okay, when they started out, Claw Hammer was Jon Wahl on guitar and lead vocals (and harmonica, and sax, and whatever was laying around in the studio apparently), Chris Bagarozzi on 2nd guitar, Rob Walther on bass and Rick Sortwell on drums. Later Rick left (sometime between March 90 and November 91) and the amazing Bob Lee was brought in to play drums. Claw Hammer's first album came out in 1990 and their last in 1997 - though they have played as a live unit as recently as May 4, 2000 (from Bob Lee's site - check the links section). However, with Wahl currently releasing and recording solo material and other members of the band gone on to different things, it's a fairly safe assumption that they are no more.

I just have one more thing to say before I'm done this little primer, and that's talk a little more about Mister Chris Bagarozzi, 2nd guitarist and also occasional vocalist. No page I have ever seen has mentioned the earlier stuff where he'd take the mike for a song or two. I don't know if he wrote the songs he sang or whatever, but they were great, great songs, and his voice which SOUNDS like one you'd have after smoking Lucky Strikes and drinking bourbon for about 30 years straight - it was REALLY COOL. "Drop II" is one of my favourite songs from the first album - I always put that on mix tapes! And "Don't Walk Away"?? Fucking incredible! Not to mention on the Devo cover LP he takes over (the LP was recorded live) for a very ratched up Jon Wahl about 3/4 of the way in and does an incredible job. Really cool additions to the Claw Hammer sound, in my opinion.


Individual pages:
Jon Wahl
Chris Bagarozzi
Further reading:
Flipside Interview from 1990
Guitar Player article, 'circa '97?
Listening suggestions:
Mission To Mars (live, in .ogg format)
Hey Old Lady And Bert's Song (live "lounge" version, .ogg format)

Note: all sound files are in .ogg format - don't worry, if you got WinAmp it'll play it, and I'm sure Windows Crappy Media Player can as well. Just trust me, .ogg is a WAY better format for live stuff than mp3.