Thrash On

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

It will be a kind of homecoming for Psychosomatic when the band plays Friday at the Lava Lounge in downtown Monterey. Although it is based in Sacramento, the band traces its origins to Salinas.

Back in the 1980s, San Francisco-based bands such as Metallica and Megadeth changed the face of rock music, combining the guitar pyrotechnics of heavy metal with the speed and energy of punk rock. This emerging genre, dubbed “thrash metal” by the music press, became hugely popular.

In Salinas in 1988, bassist and vocalist Jeff Salgado formed Psychosomatic, a five-piece thrash band playing mostly at clubs around the Bay Area because “at the time, thrash wasn’t really big in Monterey."

In 1990, Psychosomatic released a five-track demo titled, “... and now you’ve had it.” The band’s music caught the ear of Thrasher magazine, which featured two tracks on its compilation album “Pawns of the Apocalypse.”

This brought the band’s music to a wider audience, and Psychosomatic released another demo, “Strictly Spastic,” the following year. Over the next few years, the band recorded two albums, “Drunken Nights of the Round Table” and “Psychosatanic Drunkaholics,” but neither was released because of personnel problems. “People quit or got fired,” Salgado said. “We had lineup after lineup with a bunch of different people.”

In 1998, the band moved to Sacramento for a fresh start. “Nobody knew who we were there, and we ploughed through all the clubs,” Salgado said.

The new audience worked well for the band. In 1999, it finally released a full-length CD, “Tales of the Unbelievably Cheap," on Get Out Records. One critic described the album as “thrash metal paradise,” with its thunderous music and humorously vulgar lyrics. This album was followed by “88 to 97 - the Salinas Years," a retrospective collection of early material.

Psychosomatic continues to play at venues all over California. The lineup has stabilized as a trio; Salgado is joined by original member Justin Reyes on guitar and vocals and Sacramento native Toby Swope on drums.

The band performs as a sharp, tight unit and some of the riffs are so fast and furious they have to be heard to be believed. A new CD is planned for release in the spring, and sample tracks can be heard on the band’s Web site.

“The new album has a darker edge," Salgado said. “For example, we use drop tunings (tuning the guitars to a lower pitch) to sound meaner, and the blast beat (rapid beats on the bass drum and snare). ... It definitely has a darker feel.”

It has been a long, hard road for Psychosomatic, but Salgado _remains circumspect and optimistic.

“Everything that could happen to a band has happened to us," he said. “But I never wanted to quit. Every time something hit us in the face, I was like, ‘OK, what can we learn from this? How can we get better?"

The band’s dedication is paying off too. After nearly 20 years of playing, offers are starting to come in from major labels.

“And were still playing thrash! Other styles came and went; now there's a thrash revival -- even Anthrax has reformed - and offers are coming in from the Bay Area. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right one.”

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, January 26, 2006

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