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Friday, May 20, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tchkung! New Record Met By Pipes, Drums

Club preview

Tchkung!, record release party, with Elliott Bay Pipe Band and Seattle Kokon Taiko Drummers, tonight, at the Weathered Wall, 1921 5th Ave., $6. 448-5688 -----------------------------------------------------------------

For tonight's record release party, Tchkung! opted to play with a bagpipe and drum ensemble and a group of Japanese drummers who learn their music as a form of martial arts. That's not a typical night out in a Seattle rock club. But then again, neither is a Tchkung! show.

"Those groups go with us a lot better than a lot of Seattle rock groups," said Wrick Tahoma, one of several singers in the seven-member group. "A lot of punk bands share the same spirit we have, but musically, we have a lot more in common with those groups."

Formed two years ago, Tchkung! considers itself more of a collective than a band, and its tribal/industrial, drum-based framework allows members a lot of liberty in mixing and matching musical styles. Their instruments range from the Australian didgeridoo, congas, and the Middle Eastern tabla to oil drums, power tools and three stand-up drum sets.

But the group's performances often depend on more than the core membership of musicians. The band previously worked with a fire breather - "who met with a tragic accident," Tahoma said with mock solemnity - and now works with a body piercer who performs in front of the band. Occasionally, a welder assembles metal sculptures on stage during the group's set; once, he created a tree-shaped percussion instrument which was then handed over to the audience.

"We want to refine our tactics, like using a welder, and we want to have more audience participation, by passing out sticks and giving people instruments," Tahoma said.

In the past, Tchkung! has found better luck doing this at all ages shows than bars; they find the all-ages crowd energy more receptive to their brand of theatrics. According to drummer Yossarian, they usually engineer the audience collaboration for after the band's last song.

"We usually establish a really strong rhythm, a really deep bottom," violinist Molly Abbzug said. "There was one show where we had 100 people playing. I didn't think that many people banging on metal would sound that good, but it did."

"I remember that show," Tahoma said. "I left for a half hour, came back, and there were 14 people I'd never met before on stage."

Their song topics deal with a range of political stances, including support for labor organizations, endorsement of Earth First!'s sabotage of logging operations, concern for women's safety issues and a call for "Christianity to be pulled by the root." Because the lyrics tend toward the controversial, Tchkung! would like to involve the audience in discussions.

"We feel that's the next step," Abbzug said. "We had a show in Spokane where we lost half the crowd after our song about Christianity. We really want to allow people to talk about it rather than walk out."

"And not in a way where we ostracize them onstage," bassist Kether added. "But a dialogue, where we talk on equal terms."

Although their lyrics sometimes tend toward propagandistic proclamations, there's a great deal of thought, and sometimes research, that go into them. On Wednesday at 8 p.m., Abbzug and Tahoma will present their film, "Resistance: Sabotage and Music," at 911 Media Arts Center (117 Yale Ave N.) The film, which Tahoma describes as "a history of direct action and resistance," took the two of them over a year to make. It includes archival footage, recent footage of Earth First! activities and an interview with political historian Howard Zinn.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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