Before there was “heavy metal” there was proto-metal: The prototype for what would become our beloved genre of rock. Various names are often mentioned when discussing this commingling of blues-infused guitar rock and psychedelic heaviness. Bands like Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and even Jimi Hendrix and UFO. Much of the emerging rock explosion came from Europe but there were other nascent bands emerging in America. In San Francisco there was Blue Cheer; in Detroit The MC5; and in New York, Mountain, Sir Lord Baltimore and Dust. This month, Dust will re-issue its two brilliant cult classic albums, 1971’s self-titled debut and 1972’s “Hard Attack“. Sony/Legacy will release the two as one remastered disc on April 16 and as Record Store Day exclusive vinyl version on April 20.
Dust was founded in 1969 in a small Flatbush candy store between four hopeful and aspiring youths: Richie Wise, Kenny Aaronson and Mark Bell would become one of the loudest power trios around, while Kenny Kerner would write lyrics and help produce the band. Tracks like “Suicide” and “From a Dry Camel” remain inspirational heavy metal classics and modern stoner rock bands like Red Fang continue to pay homage. Dust’s sound was fluid, exciting, and a glimpse into the future of metal. Oh, and loud, very loud. Offers guitarist/vocalist Wise:
“We were loud and fast, and it was just unreal. Even when we played low, we were 20 times louder than everybody else. When we got our record deal, I got three Marshall stacks, Kenny Aaronson bought four Acoustic 360 watt amps, Marc bought this huge set of Ludwigs with a big 28-inch bass drum. On stage, it was just an amazing amount of exhale – not a whole lot of inhale.”
“We formed in ’69, and the only bands in America that had some elements of that genre of music were Blue Cheer, Mountain, and two or three other groups,” recalls Bell. “MC5 and the Stooges were garage bands – they weren’t really heavy metal. So, you had Dust. We were definitely influenced by the English metal bands, and there weren’t really that many. There was Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the Who, who in their early careers were steeped in rhythm and blues, but with a heavy sound. But in America, there wasn’t any of this around – we were one of the first heavy metal bands in America.”
Kenny Kerner was the silent face of the band. He and guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise would go on to produce scores of great albums, among them the first two KISS albums.
“There were several incarnations of Dust before we determined the band worked best as a three-piece, with Richie, Kenny, and Marc,” offers Kerner. “At first, I believe the band was called the Rising Sons, which later morphed into Dust. We had several bassists, a different drummer, and god knows how many awful singers. For the band name, I specifically was looking for a short, easy-to-remember word that everyone could spell; a word used every day. DUST came up.”
Bassist Kenny Aaronson would have a stunning career playing with the likes of Bob Dylan, Blue Öyster Cult, Billy Idol, Billy Squier, Foghat, Brian Setzer, Dave Edmunds, HSAS (Sammy Hagar, Neil Schon, Kenny Aaronson, Michael Shrieve), Hall and Oates, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and Joan Jett among others.
According to Aaronson, the band’s high-decibel sound wasn’t for everyone:
“I remember we got hired to play this little club in Brooklyn, called Dynamite. It was on Coney Island Avenue. We went in there, and after two songs, they said, ‘GET THE F**K OUT OF HERE!’ I don’t remember who booked us there, but I just remember being there and feeling, ‘This is really not right.’ Because it was like a Top 40 teen club, and there we are, these three guys that are into Cream, doing original material.”
On March 12, Wise took time to talk about the upcoming Dust re-issues and shed light on why the loudest band of its time went quietly into that goodnight. He also talks about producing Kiss‘ debut album and its follow-up, “Hotter Than Hell“, and why he and Kerner did not produce the band’s third album. Take yourself back 40 years and listen to the full 40 minute interview below then make sure you hit your local record store on April 20th for the vinyl remasters from Dust.