Introducing Skurge, and experimental thrash jazz

Montreal’s Skurge headlines at Casa tonight. We asked them about their sound and its connection to their narrative, “Tales of the Toxic Transscape,”

Hal Jacques and Josh Fuhrman

Skurge is a local trio featuring saxophonist/vocalist Josh Fuhrman, bassist Hal Jacques and drummer Dennis William Lee. Since 2010, they’ve been developing their experimental thrash jazz sound and connected narrative, “Tales of the Toxic Transscape.”

Ahead of their headlining show at Casa tonight, I asked Fuhrman what’s up with all that.

Lorraine Carpenter: Tell me about “Tales of the Toxic Transscape,” the story on your website. How was it conceived, and what is the connection to the music?

Josh Fuhrman: It’s a small portion of a larger work-in-progress. Our first series of tunes had the same  title, but the songs have a loose narrative structure, and the story is a way of elaborating on this — not all of the story elements are explicit in the music.

LC: Experimental thrash jazz? What inspired this sound?

JF: The main influence here is John Zorn, particularly his Naked City and Torture Garden stuff from the mid-’80s. The compositions were short, often a minute or less, and featured a lot of abrupt changes in style and genre within a single tune. There’s some of that in Skurge as well, but not exclusively. I suppose the label is appropriate for a band that features tenor sax with blast-beat drums. There are a few other trailblazers in this style that we like, such as the Flying Luttenbachers and Mr. Bungle.

LC: There are precedents for heavy music + brass, but say jazz + metal to most people and they bristle. How bout a descriptive pitch in cinematic terms?

JF: If you imagine Quest for Fire with the soundtrack composed by the Lounge Lizards, that would be a good descriptor of what we’re trying to do.

LC: Toxicity is central to your imagery and your story — is this revelry or protest?

JF: It seems to be an increasingly defining characteristic of the environment we’re all living in. Bee colony collapse disorder, probably due to nicotinoid pesticides, fracking chemicals in groundwater, the huge amounts of radioactive water spilling into the Pacific ocean from Fukushima nuclear reactors, the growing garbage patch accumulating in the middle of the same ocean. We’re turning a huge area of Alberta into a toxic wasteland with the tar sands project. I wouldn’t say the idea is to revel in such things, but I like the idea of looking squarely at these things and forming them into some form of art, to make something beautiful out of the ugly, or to face the ugliness for better or worse instead of trying to run or avoid it altogether. ■

 Skurge play with Kids Eat Crayons and Cervidae tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m., $5

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