Charm Farm spent the summer of 1997 traveling the wilderness of northern Michigan, in order to commune with nature while recording their latest album in a mobile recording studio. The group wants to focus on recording their new album before deciding on a label. Always innovative, the band may be the first to take a recording studio into the wilderness.
Things started to happen for Charm Farm on the night that they swept the Detroit Metro Times Music Awards in 1995, taking home five awards including Album of the Year and Best Modern Rock Band. They also won two awards at the Motor City Music Awards that same year and the band landed a major label record contract with Mercury. They had major label interest before the awards, but the sweep clinched the deal. As a result, the band re-released their debut album Pervert on the label.
The band’s leader, singer/songwriter Dennis White, is the mastermind behind the diverse sound of Charm Farm. His musical background is solid, including a degree in Jazz from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. His background in the world-famous Detroit techno scene has had a major influence on Charm Farm. He spent years touring with Kevin Saun-derson’s Inner City. His multiple contacts in techno circles led to the inclusion of many of the most influential techno artists on the band’s remix single. Participants include Derrick May, Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin and Richie Hawtin. White is not only the singer and songwriter, but also produced the Pervert album and played bass, keyboard, guitar and drums on some of the tracks.
Charm Farm is a flashy, glam inspired quintet with techno influences and David Bowie-Roxy Music inspired vocals. Band members include Steve Zuccaro on guitar, Dino Zoyes on bass, Eric Meyer on drums, Ken Roberts on keyboard, and Taj Bell on back-up vocals.
The band eschews the grunge sound that became immensely popular in the early 1990s. They have called themselves an “alternative to the alternative.” The band rebelled against grunge and leaned heavily on glam influences. Dennis White tells Detour, “The grungier the scene got, especially in Detroit, the poncier and dancier and shinier I made sure my band was. We’re still so fun to hate because we dress in our little silver flashy shirts, and the people who are aggravated by that are exactly the people I like to aggravate, with their attitude that ‘We’re so cool and so sad and so real and we wear flannel shirts, but you guys don’t mean it because you dress in satin.’” Fortunately, the band survived the grunge era, which is dying a slow death.
However, the band is still know for their flamboyant style of dress, reminiscent of glam rock. Guitarist Steve Zuccaro responds to this in an interview published on the band’s web site. Zuccaro stated, “Oh, I don’t know for some reason we are lumped into the glam scene, we don’t look that glam. I mean Dennis wears glitter shirts and I wear a boa and plastic pants. Must be the fuzzy jackets, I don’t think we are that ‘glam.’ I guess compared to flannel we are glam.” Zuccaro failed to mention his own platinum dyed shock of hair and the band’s flamboyant publicity shots.
Innovators in Detroit, Charm Farm created their own scene when they found nothing exciting going on around town. The Love Club began as a showcase for the band, but soon took on a life of its own. It started as one-time date and soon evolved into a weekly event at The Shelter, a local Detroit dance club. It was truly a multimedia event, featuring local DJ’s, film, light shows and occasional drag queen competitions. Originally, the band’s performance was the focal point of the evening, but eventually club owners asked the band to stop playing live music and continue playing only dance music. The Love Club enjoyed a huge following and helped promote the band’s success indirectly.
Steve Zuccaro shed some light on the Love Club in an interview on the band’s website: “The Love Club was at the Shelter in St. Andrews’s on Saturday nights and was
Members include Taj Bell, backing vocals; Dennis White, singer-songwriter, producer; Eric Meyer, drums; Ken Roberts, keyboard; Dino Zoyes, bass; Steve Zuccaro, guitar.
Formed in Detroit, 1989; released Unharmed independently, 1989; released Flirt on PRA, 1993; released Pervert on PRA, 1995; signed to Mercury who re-released Pervert, 1995; promotes the Love Club, a multi-media night club event in Detroit.
Addresses: Office —Charm Farm P.O. Box 15356 Jefferson Ave., Detroit, Ml 48224. E-mail —[email protected]
the best above ground ‘underground’ party in the city for years. We are actually thinking about taking the Love Club on the road, using the same ideas that ‘made’ the club here, and getting great DJs and have a Detroit style showcase in every major city.”
The Charm Farm’s major label debut, Pervert, first caught on locally in Detroit when radio station locked on to the song “Superstar.” Dennis White explains his inspiration for the band’s breakthrough single, “Not everything was so beautiful back in the days of the Factory and Studio 54. The song is really sarcastic. We wanted to lay down a big fat disco beat and talk about how fantastic everything was back then. I finished that song after watching a documentary about [legendary pop artist] Warhol and there were all of these superstars being interviewed years later and they were either miserable or they regretted tremendously their image of themselves and their world from that time.” The song’s lyrics of course state, “Everything is beautiful, all right/Everyone is beautiful, tonight/All of us are superstars.”
“Superstar” was the breakaway hit on Pervert but it does not represent the rest of the album. Other songs on the album are less radio friendly and feature a bewildering array of sounds and music. White produced the album and used such diverse sounds as bagpipes and Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting, interspersed with the band’s music. The band’s objectives seems to be escaping the mundane and traditional guitar driven rock sound. White stated on the band’s website interview, “I wanted to make a record I could listen to without getting bored. No disrespect to guitar bands, but I’ve heard that Les Paul through a Marshall stack a million times before. Its like, what else you got?”
“Superstar” Remix, PRA, 1996.
Unharmed, Independent, 1989.
Flirt, PRA, 1993.
Pervert, PRA-Mercury, 1995.
Detour, July, 1996.
Hits, April 22, 1996.
L.A. Weekly, October 4, 1996.
Niagra Index, April 23, 1996.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from a phone interview with Steve Zuccaro on July 8, 1997.