Hailing from Los Angeles, Crazy Town have been counted out of the music industry a number of times during their short career due to drug problems and bad behavior. After a slow start, overnight success came with the release of their hit single “Butterfly.” Heavy touring and pressure to repeat their success pushed a few of them back to drugs and had many guessing the band was over, but they took the dismissal as an inspiration. Epic Mazur, the group’s lead singer, summed it up for Jill Pesselnick of Rolling Stone. “The classic Crazy Town story is just when you think that we were going to go away, we manage to seep out of our toxic waste bins and kill all the fishes anyway.”
For cofounder Mazur, a career in the music industry may have been a foregone conclusion. His father Irwin, who managed Billy Joel, moved the family to California when he was three. The child was often brought to recording sessions where he was exposed to the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. “There were a lot of addicts around,” he told David Keeps of Rolling Stone. “There [was] nothing mysterious and cool about taking drugs for me.”
Epic spent a number of years as a music producer and promoter, establishing a decent reputation and working out of an office with gold records on the wall. There he met Seth Binzer, known professionally as Shifty Shellshock, and Epic had found a soul mate. Shifty was a skateboarder at the time, with a few Levi’s commericials to his credit. “I was basically being a rock star without making a record,” he admitted to Teen Magazine. The two enjoyed the same kind of music, ranging from the Cure to Ice T. They dreamed about starting a rock band of their own, but the inspiration didn’t lead to action until the two started listening to the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to III. Impressed by the raw but catchy tunes, the young men decided it was time to give their band a try. Shifty wrote lyrics and Epic proved to be a one-man band. They called themselves the Brimstone Sluggers.
Unfortunately, the two also shared a serious and debilitating drug habit that, along with their hectic lifestyles, kept them from ever putting their songs on a demo. Things went from bad to worse, and at one point they were even in separate drug rehabilitation centers. It looked like their dream of having a band would end before it even began. Despite the obstacles, the two kept in touch. Both felt it was time to decide what they were going to do with their lives. “We wrote letters to each other,” Mazur told Joseph Tirella of People,”saying, ’When we get out, let’s just do this and not stop until we get a record deal. Let’s stop messing around.’”
Once they were released, they went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, determined to stay straight. They spent most of 1998 finally laying tracks on tape, and were discovered by Danny Ostrow (who later became a promoter for No Doubt). Later that year they put together the band that would become Crazy Town: bass player Faydoe Deelay, guitarists Anthony Valli and Rust Epique, along with drummer JBJ, and scratch master DJ A.M. This odd mix of talent was a big step toward the cofounders’ vision of creating a sound that mixed a full instrumental lineup with a heavy rap style.
Finally, in 1999, Crazy Town released their first album, The Gift of Game. It got little attention, despite the release of two singles. The band, already struggling with further drug problems, began to have doubts. Touring hard, they took a slot in Ozzfest, which could have been a great opportunity, but were soon sent home. Shifty, going through a relapse, told Gavin Edwards of Rolling Stone”I was drunk, going through my breakup, and I threw a chair out a window. They arrested me, and my management said, ’You need to come home and chill out.’So we lasted only two weeks.” Things didn’t get any better when they returned. Epic and Shifty went on another binge and disappeared for a couple of weeks. Only an intervention from friends prevented the two from killing themselves. Once again, they checked into rehab.
It could have ended there, but the album had one more track on it that was ready for release: “Butterfly.” Telling of the duo’s love/hate relationship with women, it’s a catchy song with a sweeping refrain. Epic told Carla Hay of Billboard that even in those dark times he held out some hope. “That song is the one we knew could be our breakthrough. In the back of our mind, we knew that if we faced our problems, pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, and turned things around, that song
Members include DJ A.M. , deejay; Faydoe Deelay , bass; Kyle Hollinger (joined group, 2002), drums; JBJ (left group, 2002), drums; Epic Mazur (born Bret Mazur), vocals; Rust Epique (left group, 2000), guitar; Shifty Shellshock (born Seth Binzer), vocals; Kraig Tyler (joined group, 2001), guitar; Anthony Valli , guitar.
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, c. 1998; signed with Sony Records, 1999; released first album, The Gift of Game,1999; toured with Ozzfest, 2000; single “Butterfly” reached number one on the Billboard charts, 2001; released second album, Darkhorse,2002.
might do it for us.” And he was right. The song received heavy rotation on MTV and quickly climbed the Billboard charts to number one. Suddenly, after months of doubt and pain, Crazy Town was a huge hit. When the dust settled, their debut album had sold 1.5 million copies and yielded three hit singles.
But now the hard work began. With a huge record under their wings, the band set out on tour to build their fan base and work on their sophomore effort, Darkhorse. Released in 2002, the album did not fare well with critics. Sona Charaipotra of People said that the album showed the group “desperately, self consciously attempt[ing] to avoid becoming one-hit wonders,” and called Shifty’s raps “as tired as the self-pity they repeatedly display on tracks like ’Change’ and ’Candy Coated.’”
Crazy Town take their fame in stride now that they realize the burden it can be. They’ve responded to the pressure by staying clean and focusing on getting respect as musicians, not pop stars. “We have to prove we’re aggressive punk kids—a real band and not a pop act,” Shifty told Keeps. “If a band like Crazy Town can get into the Top Ten, that’s one for alternative rock; that’s one more spot that Britney Spears can’t have.”
The Gift of Game, Sony, 1999.
Darkhorse, Sony, 2002.
Billboard, December 2, 2000; January 20, 2001
People, April 16, 2001; January 27, 2003.
Rolling Stone, March 15, 2001; August 2, 2001.
Teen Magazine, July 2001.
“Crazy Town,” Lycos Music, http://music.lycos.com/artist/default.asp?QW=Crazy%20Town (March 6, 2003).
Crazy Town Official Website, http://www.crazytown.com (March 6, 2003).