Heavy metal group
With a name inspired by a disbanded motorcycle gang, there was bound to be an edge to the group called Galactic Cowboys. That edge was hard-driving heavy metal music of the same kind as groups such as Metallica and Anthrax. The Galactic Cowboys, however, set themselves apart by also emphasizing melody. The melody aspect garnered them reviews that compared them to softer rock groups such as the Beatles. Formed in 1989, the group released seven albums before disbanding after eleven years of working together. Marty Racine described their music in an article for the Houston Chronicle: "The Cowboys play a complex, deeply arranged music utilizing four-part harmonies, intricate instrumental passages, riveting guitar lines and … a thrashing contemporary rhythm that … can be compared to Metallica." Monty Colvin, bassist for the band, described their style to Mark Brown of the Orange County Register: "We're melodic and we're grungy at times. We just try to be heavy and melodic at the same time."
From The Awful Truth Sprang Galactic Cowboys
In 1989 bassist Monty Colvin and drummer Alan Doss were still playing together after their previous band, The Awful Truth, had split up. They pulled in vocalist Ben Huggins and guitarist Dane Sonnier to form a new group called the Galactic Cowboys. The Awful Truth had earned a reputation for originality that lingered in the music scene around Houston, Texas. Local producer and promoter Sam Taylor orchestrated an extravaganza of Houston talent for record industry executives who were interested in seeing what Houston had to offer.
Geffen Records took an interest in the new group, and within a year the Galactic Cowboys were signed with DGC, a division of the Geffen label. Soon they were in the studio recording their first album. Unsure of themselves, they handed total creative control on their self-titled album over to Sam Taylor. Not long after the first release, Don McLeese of the Austin American Statesman wrote, "The music … is almost as smart and imaginative as it is heavy, suggesting a popular potential well beyond preaching to the already converted." The album was released in 1991 and faced stiff competition with Seattle's popular grunge metal band Nirvana, who had just released their hugely successful album Nevermind.
Took a Stance
Undaunted, Galactic Cowboys returned to the studio to work on their second album. As they worked on Space in Your Face, they began to offer more of their own opinions about the direction of the music. This led to repeated clashes with Taylor, as well as with the studio heads at Geffen. Huggins explained the situation to the Colorado Springs Gazette: "On the first (album), we deferred everything to Sam. … [As] we listened to it as a band, we decided it wasn't the sound we wanted to hear." For the following album, Huggins declared, "We were relentless." One way in which they rebelled was to include two extra tracks on the release, when Geffen had stated there would be only nine tracks. The extra tracks, "Ranch On Mars" and "Still Life of Peace," are hidden on the recording. In 1993 their second album was released, and soon afterward the band was released from their contract with DGC. Sonnier also ended up leaving the band. In the meantime, two singles, "If I Were A Killer" and "I Do What I Do," became popular videos on MTV.
At this point the band contemplated breaking up. Fortunately for them, however, Brian Slagel and Mike Faley of the independent label Metal Blade Records went looking for the group after they left Geffen. Colvin explained to Chris Morris of Billboard, "We were going to call it quits for a while, and we went for like two weeks, and then Mr. Slagel called." The group signed with Metal Blade Records, and with their new guitarist Wally Farkas they began work on a new album. In 1996 they released their third album, Machine Fish. That year they opened for Anthrax on their European tour, and over the summer toured the United States. Morris wrote about the impact of Machine Fish in an article for Billboard: "[It] aggressively restates its unique combo of in-your-face force and melodic acumen."
Unique and Powerful
In 1997 Galactic Cowboys released their fourth album. The Horse That Bud Bought was criticized by some for being too tame, considering the precedent they had set with their other albums. Still, the group did not stray from addressing pertinent social issues, which had been a trademark of their earlier work. The album title came from a song, "Oregon," that dealt with Colvin's real-life experience of moving to a commune in Oregon with his family. Another continuing theme in their songwriting was their solid basis in Christian beliefs. The group is well known for their Christian viewpoint, but it is subtle and not the main focus of their work.
In 1998 they released the album At The End of the Day. Fans were ecstatic to find that the Galactic Cowboys had returned to their thrashing ways without sacrificing the harmonious mixing of their voices. Considered by many to be their best album, At The End of the Day marked the end of founding member Doss's time with the band. A replacement for Doss was found for the tour, but he was never officially replaced by anyone.
Called It Quits
In 2000 the group released their final album, Let It Go. They also announced their decision to end the band. Each of the members went on to engage in a different aspect of the music business. Colvin formed the band Crunchy and continued to release albums under that name. Doss took up management and production duties for several bands, including Ashbury Keys and Yorkk, through his company, Compound Recording Studio. Huggins's new band, Gristle, worked with Doss to produce a record. Farkas started his own record label, called Molken Music. In 2006 he recorded an ambient album under the name Xenuphone. Sonnier went on to form the Sonnier Brothers Band with his brother Len, who was also a member of Gristle.
While they no longer form a band, the former members of Galactic Cowboys have continued to make their mark on the Houston, Texas, music scene. McLeese had earlier described the Galactic Cowboys, saying that "the band boasts a killer rhythm section that is more than a match for those heavenly harmonies." A thrash metal band that can garner reviews that include the word "heavenly" must surely be missed for their unique contribution to the genre.
For the Record …
Members include: Monty Colvin, bass, vocals, songwriting; Alan Doss, drums, vocals, keyboard; Wally Farkas (replaced Dane Sonnier, 1995), guitar, vocals, keyboard; Ben Huggins , lead vocals, guitar.
Formed by Monty Colvin and Alan Doss, 1989; signed by Geffen Records, released self-titled album, 1990; released Space in Your Face, 1993; group left Geffen Records and broke their ties with original producer, Sam Taylor; original guitarist, Dane Sonnier, left group, mid-1990s; Wally Farkas joined as guitarist, 1995; released Machine Fish with new label, Metal Blade Records, opened for Anthrax's European tour, 1996; released The Horse That Bud Bought, 1997; released At The End Of The Day, 1998; Doss left band, 1998; released last album, Let It Go, 2000.
Addresses: Website—Galactic Cowboys Official Website: http://www.galacticcowboys.com/.
Galactic Cowboys, DGC/Geffen, 1991.
Space In Your Face, DGC, 1992.
Machine Fish, Metal Blade, 1996.
Feel The Rage, Metal Blade, 1996.
The Horse That Bud Bought, Metal Blade, 1997.
At The End Of The Day, Metal Blade, 1998.
Let It Go, Metal Blade, 2000.
Austin American Statesman, June 9, 1992, p. D5.
Billboard, April 20, 1996, p. 73.
Colorado Springs Gazette, August 27, 1993, p. F3.
Houston Chronicle, February 1, 1990, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1993, p. 9.
Orange County Register, June 3, 1993, p. F03.