Stabbing Westward – Christopher Hall & Walter Flakus
Stabbing Westward is an American industrial rock band. Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus formed the band in 1986 in Macomb, Illinois. The band released an extended play in 1992, followed by four studio albums from 1994 to 2001. Stabbing Westward announced a dissolution on February 9, 2002. Two compilation albums were later released in 2003. Stabbing Westward reunited in 2016 to celebrate their 30th anniversary together, and has since continued to perform live shows.
Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus created the band when they were in college. They came up with the name while working at the college radio station WIUS-FM. During an interview in 1996, Hall stated, “Since we went to Western Illinois University, Stabbing Westward had a certain ‘kill everybody in the school’ vibe to it! The school’s way out in farm country and I was walking around like Robert Smith with real big hair, big baggy black clothes, black fingernail polish and eye makeup.
Moving to Chicago in 1986, the original lineup for Stabbing Westward consisted of Hall on bass and lead vocals, Flakus on keyboards, and Jim Clanin on guitar. In 1990, an extended play tape was recorded by an early conception of Stabbing Westward. The EP, called Iwo Jesus, was released in 1992 and featured four songs: an early version of “Violent Mood Swing,” “Plastic Jesus,” “P.O.M.F.,” and an early version of “Shame.” “Violent Mood Swing” was also included on the 1992 compilation CD The Cyberflesh Conspiracy.
Hall took a brief break to tour with the band Die Warzau as that group’s percussionist before continuing work on Stabbing Westward. Hall and Flakus later recruited Jim Sellers on bass and Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails) on drums, as Hall had met Vrenna when playing in Die Warzau. Vrenna played drums on all the demo recordings that ultimately landed Stabbing Westward their record deal with Columbia Records. Those demo recordings included “Violent Mood Swings,” “Lies,” and “Nothing.” They were recorded at a studio in Evanston, Illinois and included Stuart Zechman on guitar. After Vrenna returned to Nine Inch Nails, the band hired David Suycott, who was a Macomb High School friend of Flakus.
The trio added Wax Trax recording artist Stuart Zechman on guitar and David Suycott (Spies Who Surf, Machines of Loving Grace) on drums. In 1993, the band recorded in Eden Studios; London, England with producer John Fryer. This resulted in their major label (Columbia Records) debut album, Ungod, which was released on February 15, 1994. The band landed an opening slot on the Depeche Mode Exotic Tour in summer 1994 and opened North American tour dates in fall 1994 for Killing Joke, but Stabbing Westward album sales were still sluggish.
David Suycott abruptly dropped out of the band toward the end of the Ungod tour. Andy Kubiszewski was called in to replace Suycott’s position for the remainder of the shows. This fast replacement required Kubiszewski to learn all of Suycott’s parts while on his flight to meet with the band. Kubiszewski became a permanent fixture of Stabbing Westward.
The “Thread Mix” of the song “Violent Mood Swings” was included in the soundtrack to the 1994 film Clerks. The song “Nothing” was featured in the 1995 motion picture Bad Boys, but was not included on the film’s soundtrack release. “Nothing” was later included in the credits of the movie Johnny Mnemonic and both it and “Lost” were featured on the movie’s soundtrack. The songs “Lies,” “Lost,” and “Can’t Happen Here” were also all featured in the first Mortal Kombat movie in 1995; however, these songs weren’t featured on the CD soundtrack.
Stabbing Westward relocated to Los Angeles, California where they began work on the 1998 album, titled Darkest Days. Stabbing Westward continued to tour with bands like Placebo, The Cult, Monster Magnet, and Depeche Mode, while playing numerous summer festivals.
The self-titled album, Stabbing Westward, was released on May 22, 2001 and featured the hit “So Far Away”. The album did well in Australia, but ultimately failed to sell worldwide. Before a fifth LP could be recorded, the band did not sign for a new record deal and formally announced on February 9, 2002 that they had disbanded.
Stabbing Westward reunited in 2016 for two shows, which coincided with the band’s 30th anniversary. The first took place in Chicago on September 22, 2016 as a part of the Cold Waves Festival, a charity festival benefiting suicide prevention causes. The lineup featured Christopher Hall, Walter Flakus, Mark Eliopulos, and Johnny Haro along with Carlton Bost (mainly known from The Dreaming, and also the reunited bands Orgy and Berlin). Jim Sellers did not take part in the reunion because of work commitments. The second show took place at Dracula’s Ball in Philadelphia on October 31, 2016 at the Trocadero Theatre.
In a January 2017 interview with audioBoom, Walter Flakus was asked if there will be more Stabbing Westward reunion shows in the future. His response was, “We’ll see. I don’t have anything planned yet, but I’m always open to opportunities. It was great to get back on stage and play those songs again.” Dates for a full tour began to be announced in February 2017. The band also performed at the 2017 edition of Cold Waves Festival in Chicago, Illinois.
New material has been released since the band returned to playing live shows: a re-recorded version of the song “Plastic Jesus” (released on the Cold Waves V compilation on September 22, 2016) and a new song called “Home in You” (released on the Cold Waves VI compilation on September 28, 2017).
Stabbing Westward embarked on a U.S. tour from October to December 2018 by celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Darkest Days and performing the album in its entirety, along with other songs. A spring 2019 tour is also in the works.