In 2002. The Bad Things were formed out of the ashes of A Midnite Choir, a cult favorite in Seattle’s underground cabaret scene. Taking their name from a Midnite Choir song about alcohol DT’s, former members Jimmy “the Pickpocket” Berg (accordion, vocals) and Austin “Mad Wilcox” Quist (upright bass, musical saw) began as a two-piece, busking on the wet, Seattle sidewalks under the “Bad Things” moniker.
The band has gone through countless lineup changes since then, eventually growing into the 5-piece ensemble that you see today which includes G. Miles “Captain” Panto (banjo/electric guitar), Brendan Patrick Hogan (trumpet/keys) and Steve “Lord” Kamke (drums and percussion).
After an extremely limited edition debut release in 2003, they recorded their first proper CD with the legendary local producer Kearney Barton (The Sonics, The Ventures, The Kingsmen, etc.). The self-titled release was put out on their Silent City Records imprint in 2004 and is now currently out of print. Two more albums followed: 2006’s Vaudeville Show and 2008’s It’ll All Be Over Soon.
Over the last 12 years, the group has built up a ridiculously devoted cult following through their raucous live shows, including opening slots with like-minded bands like Devotchka, Balkan Beat Box, Firewater, Woven Hand and Slim Cessnas Autoclub. They’ve been linked to the “gypsy punk” and “steampunk” movements, but neither truly encapsulate the eclectic musical style of the band. In a given setlist, the band can play raucous punk-inspired folk music, dark cabaret soundtracks, tender torch songs, classic country, Balkan rave-ups, epic sea shanties, circus music and Mexican polka. Couple that with their seamless sets and theatrical aesthetic and you get what the group describes as “Junkyard Cabaret”.
Their eclectic style has enamored them to the Pacific Northwest’s burlesque, circus and cabaret communities and the band has provided the soundtrack to countless productions ranging from ramshackle to extravagant, including The Breaking, a hit cabaret-show which tells the story of a seedy, subterranean cabaret, set to a Bad Things soundtrack and performed by The Can Can Castaways.
In 2010, The Bad Things were lucky enough to collaborate with Danbert Nobacon, co-founder of UK anarcho-pop legends Chumbawamba, an early inspiration for the group. The album, entitled Woebegone was released in 2010 on Nobacon’s Verbal Burlesque Records. Nobacon has since become an unofficial member of The Bad Things family, with his songs being included in their regular set lists and through semi-regular appearances at the band’s live shows.
After losing their long-time practice space to a catastrophic fire in the spring of 2012 and, just a few weeks later, losing two musical compatriots in the Cafe Racer shootings, The Bad Things spent the rest of the year recouping their losses and playing benefit gigs. The following two years would see the band going through a series of lost friends and family, including the band’s biggest fan Daniel Adam Driskill. Their epic show-closer “Death of the Inferno” began to take on a whole new meaning as it became the send-off song for their lost friends and family. It’s now rare for the song to be played live in Seattle without seeing someone in the audience wiping away tears.
Through it all, the band was working on their most recent release After the Inferno, released in September of 2014. While tragedy certainly informs the record, it’s also the most uplifting of all their releases. The dark humor remains, the focus on the seedier sides of life is still present, but all contained within a bright, inspirational record that shows the band moving beyond their “dark cabaret” roots and into a more mature, Americana-inspired sound. A sound that could only be produced by the eclectic collection of talent that is The Bad Things.
The title After the Inferno suggests a rebirth and certainly The Bad Things of today are a much different band than the scrappy outfit that stumbled through ramshackle street sets over fifteen years ago. Their past has been wiped clean by fire, they are emotionally raw and hardened by loss and tragedy. Yet, they’ve matured musically and remain cautiously optimistic, looking to the future, armed with their arsenal of gallows humor. The Bad Things forge forward into their next decade as a band that will never be easily stereotyped or classified. Raise your glasses and consider yourself warned!
Jimmy “The Pickpocket” Berg – Accordion, vocals, keyboards
Austin “Mad Wilcox” Quist – Upright bass, sousaphone, musical saw, vocals
Gregg Miles “Captain” Panto – Banjo, electric guitar, dobro, vocals
Brendan Patrick Hogan – Trumpet, piano, organ, keyboards
Steve “Lord” Kamke – Drums, percussion
Sef-Titled EP The Bad Things limited edition -2003
The Bad Things The Bad Things Silent City Records -2004
The Bad Things Vaudeville Show Silent City Records – 2006
The Bad Things It’ll All Be Over Soon Silent City Records – 2008
Danbert Nobacon & The Bad Things Woebegone Verbal Burlesque Records – 2010
The Bad Things After the Inferno Silent City Records – 2014