It's hard to say what Rocket From The Tombs is.

Rocket From The Tombs debuted in what's considered to be its classic version on New Year's Eve 1974. By August 1975 it was burned out and gone. In those eight months the band went through at least three different drummers and never recorded in the studio. Left behind were live recordings of songs that would become anthems: "Final Solution," "Ain't It Fun," "Sonic Reducer," "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," "So Cold," "What Love Is," "Life Stinks," "Amphetamine" and "Muckraker," among others.

Describing the band's live recordings from 1974 and 1975:

"Blazing amazing trails, they deserve to be celebrated, not consigned to a historical footnote." - The Wire.

"A record of great historical importance, envisaging the Punk-Rock revolution..... Furious songs full of tension and of a surprising modernity that deserve being regarded alongside the best songs of the MC5, Patti Smith, The Stooges or VU on the list of the seminal non-mainstream rock bands." - Les Inrockuptibles.

"It's flabbergasting stuff." - Billboard.

"The darkest, most desperately unforgiving sound." - Village Voice.

Twenty-eight years later, when RFTT finally took to the road:

"No on else in American rock, underground or over, in 1974 and '75, was writing and playing songs this hard and graphic about being f**ked over and fighting mad. No one else is doing it now." - David Fricke, editor of Rolling Stone.

"Rocket From the Tombs is not just the great lost proto-punk band of the '70s. It's one of the best bands of the 21st Century too." - Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune.

Is RFTT a punk band? No. It pre-dated punk rock.

Is RFTT alternative? No. It aspired to the mainstream.

Is RFTT legendary?

"Rocket from the Tombs was always doomed," said singer David Thomas. "Everything from Cleveland was doomed. Rocket from the Tombs is totally inconsequential and irrelevant. Pere Ubu is totally inconsequential and irrelevant. That is the power of Cleveland. Embrace, my brothers, the utter futility of ambition and desire. Your only reward is a genuine shot at being the best. The caveat is that no one but your brothers will ever know it. That's the deal we agreed to."

Brief History
Formed in Cleveland, Ohio, in early 1974, Rocket From The Tombs morphed into what's known as the classic version of the band (v.3) by the end of the year. That band stayed together for eight months, never released a record, played fewer than a dozen shows, and was heard and/or seen by no more than a few hundred people.

One of those few was Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. "Rocket opened for us in Cleveland," he said. "We were walking around after soundcheck saying, 'That's one scary group!' And I was saying to myself, 'I want to be in that band.'"

Rocket From The Tombs blew apart in August 1975. David Thomas and Peter Laughner went on to form Pere Ubu, taking along rock classics such as "Final Solution," "Life Stinks," and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." Cheetah Chrome and John Madansky formed the Dead Boys, taking "Sonic Reducer," "Ain't It Fun," "Down In Flames," and several others.

Through word of mouth and a frenzied trafficking in bootlegs, Rocket From The Tombs acquired an international status out of all proportion to its brief existence. (A band in San Diego even co-opted the name, calling themselves Rocket From the Crypt, and went on to have some commercial success.) Finally, in 2002 a cd of live radio and concert tapes from 1975 was released as The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs (Smog Veil Records). It was reissued by Fire Records in 2011.

UCLA scheduled a three day festival devoted to the music of David Thomas for Royce Hall, Los Angeles, February 2003. Thomas named it "Disastodrome" so nothing would go wrong. Rocket From The Tombs would open for Pere Ubu on the last day.

"We needed someone to complete the two guitar format," David Thomas said. "We kicked some names around but Cheetah was adamant that Richard Lloyd was the only man for the job. And as it turned out, Cheetah was right."

"An explosive, revelatory set," reported the Los Angeles Times.
RFTT Concert Poster

In June 2003 Rocket From The Tombs took to the road for the first time, playing in 6 cities to great acclaim.

A cross-country tour of 26 dates was organized for November-December 2003. A live-in-the-studio album called Rocket Redux was recorded by Richard Lloyd as a concert-sales-only merchandising item. (A commercial release followed on Smog Veil Records in February 2004.)

From the beginning Rocket From The Tombs has been a volatile union of incompatible individuals drawn together like moths to flame. The tour was fiery and excruciatingly intense. True to form when it finished in a snowy parking lot of a Red Roof Inn outside Washington DC, everyone vowed that this was really the end of the band, period, forever, and don't-call-me... but committed to an appearance at the Punk Kongress in Germany in September 2004 all showed up and all was forgiven... again. Individual projects delayed further planning but in 2006 Rocket From The Tombs got together in Cleveland for a writing session and played a series of dates over the summer. Then another flux of incompatibility intervened and nothing happened for awhile. And then there was another writing session but another flux and then more nothing happened. Etc.

RFTT 2010 studio
RFTT 2010.

In January 2009 the band got together again in Room 146 of the Red Roof in Mentor OH, rehearsed for a few hours and recorded a new single. I Sell Soul / Romeo & Juliet (Hearpen HR150) was released April 6 2010.

In August 2010 a new album, Barfly, was finished, David Thomas producing at Suma, Painesville OH. It was released September 13 2011.

The band decided to replace Richard Lloyd in the touring group for an undetermined period of time. Clevelander Gary Siperko, from the MOFOS and cow-punk band The Whiskey Daredevils, stepped in. A short US tour in December 2011 followed. At the end of the tour Cheetah Chrome announced that he was retiring from the road. He will remain in the group as a non-touring member, contributing material, recording, and from time to time, hopefully, appearing on stage. He was replaced by Buddy Akita from This Moment In Black History, possibly the best Cleveland band of the last 5 years. The roup toured Europe in May 2012 (see below).

Rocket From The Tombs is:
David Thomas - singer
Gary Siperko - guitar
Buddy Akita - guitar
Craig Bell - bass
Steve Mehlman - drums
Cheetah Chrome (non-touring member) - guitar, vocals

Cheetah Chrome Retires
Cheetah Chrome, a founding member of Rocket From The Tombs, announced his retirement in dramatic fashion at the end of a tour in the US in December 2011.

"I was half way down the steps to the dressing room after our set at Maxwell's in Hoboken," singer David Thomas said. "'Wait! Wait! I have something to say,' Cheetah told us. 'This is my last show.'"

"We were all not a little bit upset," Thomas said. "Pissed-off would be a good description."

"Thinking back on it," Mr Chrome said, "My advice to others is that it's not a good time to make the announcement, just before the encore of your last show."

Mr Chrome intends to retire from the road by the year's end in order to devote more time to his family and the responsibilities of raising his young son. Not wanting to leave the band in the lurch he promised to fulfill road obligations for the year.

"I know how seriously Cheetah takes his family obligations," Mr Thomas said. "All things considered we thought it best to re-configure the band sooner rather than later."

Buddy Akita will join Rocket From The Tombs in the 'Cheetah Position.' He's a member of This Moment In Black History, considered by many to be the best Cleveland band of the last five years. He will pair with the other recent addition to the band, guitarist Gary Siperko.

"I really enjoyed playing with Gary for the short time we had," Mr Chrome said. "He's really done his homework, and I think he's going to add a lot to the band's future."

"There was alot of pressure to resolve the situation," Mr Thomas said. "I try not to do things too fast on the basis that time reveals the best solution."

The best solution came in what's called the Jim Jones Model. In the mid-90s Pere Ubu guitarist Jim Jones told Mr Thomas that the state of his health would not allow him to tour anymore and he'd have to quit the band. Don't quit, don't tour, Thomas told him. Mr Jones remained a non-touring member of Pere Ubu until his death in 2008, contributing material, recording, and occasionally appearing on stage.

"I'm happy to be able to remain in RFTT as a non touring member," Mr Chrome said. "I've never meant it to be taken as I'm retiring, I mean, writing and recording are things that you don't just quit doing, they're in my DNA. I look forward to contributing in that capacity; and I'll definitely be popping up for gigs now and again."

European Tour Report
David Thomas was hospitalized May 5 in Brighton and spent almost a week in Intensive Care and then the High Dependency Unit with complications brought on by a severe infection. An ambulance crew had to resuscitate him for ten minutes. Craig Bell, Steve Mehlman, Gary Siperko and Buddy Akita, who had already arrived in Europe, and the band's agent, Berthold Seliger, urged Thomas to cancel the tour. Days of uncertainty followed with Thomas insistent on getting out of the hospital and on the road for at least some of the dates. The band found accommodation in Berlin and waited. The first eight shows were cancelled. Thomas was released in the afternoon of May 10. Against the advice of his doctors he rejoined the band in Paris on May 18 and performed five shows in Paris, Lyon, Nancy, Zurich, Stuttgart and Munich. The last two concerts in Treviso and Zagreb were cancelled.

The shows were exceptional and received enthusiastically. The band apologise to all fans who had tickets for the dates that had to be cancelled. Thomas is close to being fully recovered and he thanks all of the promotors and their production staffs for being so accommodating during his illness and he especially thanks the band, soundman Nadan Rojnic and Berthold Seliger for their loyalty, perseverance and patience through the chaos.

Other Releases:
"In Pursuit Of Your Happiness"
A contribution to the benefit album Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy. Produced by David Thomas at Suma January 2009. banner

RFTT Releases

Barfly (2011)
Vinyl, cd, and audio download

I Sell Soul 45
I Sell Soul b/w Romeo & Juliet (2010)
Vinyl and audio download

Rocket Redux
Rocket Redux (2004)
Cd and audio download

Day The Earth
The Day The Earth Met... (2002)
Cd and audio download

When It's Too Late...
When It's Too Late To Die Young (2003)
Audio download

Extermination Night
Extermination Night (1974)
Audio download

Back to the Top

Main Pages at the Home of Ubu Projex:
CalendarContactsHomeReferenceProtocolsUbutique (Shop) • Press Center

garage icon
An Irony-Free™ Site

Copyright & Terms of UsageSite MapAbout Us