The Anatomy Of: Bionatops

Welcome to Heavy Blog is Heavy’s feature, “The Anatomy Of.” Taken from the Between The Buried And Me album of the same name, in which the band pays tribute to artists/bands that they feel have most inspired their songwriting, “The Anatomy Of” allows us to hand off the metaphorical microphone to bands so they can talk about their influences. Read more entries from this series here.

You may not immediately recognize the name Bionatops, but you’re likely familiar with the two dudes behind this oddball avant garde rock project. Ringleader Joseph Spiller is a longtime friend of the site, and is known for his band Caricature in addition to serving time in acts such as System Divide and Binary Code. Percussionist Jeff Willet has done session and touring drums for many acts in the past, most notably Black Crown Initiate and Aborted Existence. Their new project is unlike anything that their lineage may suggest; their debut album VOICES is wonky Primus and Mike Patton worship that often hints at thrash leanings. Get a rundown of the group’s musical ancestry below.

Anatomy lesson eh? Why not have some audio to go with it? For those that are just tuning in. Bionatops is sort of a themed deal and was something I threw together in the middle of the sessions for the new Caricature album to sort of break the tension and avoid writer’s block and dead ear during mixing.

The album, Voices,  is from the point of view of a lovable hillfolk kinda guy that may or may not be hearing things that are not there and may or may not be telling the truth with his stories. He isn’t sure either. This is the gateway drug to a land of a guy that walks through life to his own beat and is just out there to have fun. The gravity of what is going on in our world is not lost on me, but sometimes we all just need a  break from that serious and losing your mind to disconnect with reality to a more fun one seems more and more appealing by the day. This record is meant to be fun at all levels.

Welp… How y’all doin out there? Got that magic lookery box up to your face meats and readin this thing to see where them BIONATOPS boys come from, huh? Well we all appreciate that kindly. All of you right now are what we callin’ “The Early Adopters” being as you were nice enough and big enough supporters of original music and new artists to take the time to learn, listen, and tap nice things into those magic lookery boxes big n small. Thank you. Now let’s let the boys tell you where it comes from:

The Dillinger Escape Plan w/ Mike Patton – Irony Is A Dead Scene

So here we are on the first selection we are phoning it in already. I could lie to you and say something else, but that would be a lie. The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of my favorite bands ever. Mike Patton is one of my favorite forces in music ever. Them getting together was world changing. I could have easily gone with Calculating Infinity or Miss Machine, both of which melted my brains and face and made me see music differently, but Irony Is A Dead Scene just has it all when it comes to getting from point A to Bionatops. The voices, the overdubs, the tech, the heavy, the eerie. I am 96.7% sure that when this came out in my teen years, all space and time paused during my first listen and the sky opened up. Fairly certain I saw a unicorn made out of rainbows because of the sounds on this recording.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – Grand Opening and Closing

HAVE YOU EVER FRIGGIN HEARD THIS RECORD? If you weren’t in the know, you now are. SGM was an institution when it came to free thinking in music that was still listenable. From the look of the band, the album art, the production, the live shows with puppet show interludes and sideshow attractions, touring around in a 1960s tour bus, right down to the vast array of original and handmade instruments [many of which microtonally voiced] … they just embodied originality and taking that to heart while making the complete package. What they did you could not get anywhere else and since their indefinite hiatus [sparked in part by some of the members getting large government grants to further scientific exploration and research] no one has offered anything like it since. Grand Opening and Closing is the album that introduced the world to them and its absolutely breathtaking. The skits, tempo changes, signature changes, opened me up [along with everything else going on] to the reality that ANYTHING is possible if you have the talent and commit to it enough. It should be STRONGLY noted that SGM has a pristine catalog of music. ALL albums by them are amazing and worth checking out

Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz

2016 was a real C You Next Tuesday when it came to figures we all admired slipping away from this mortal coil that we call life. The loss of Ornette Coleman hit hard. If you want to talk about innovation and sending an entire genre into a tailspin while simultaneously elevating it to new heights and inspiring everyone from the top to the bottom to take on a little bit of the flavor… look no further than Ornette Coleman. Many musicians would see his plastic sax and scoff until he took the stage. At which time, he would then silence everyone with his virtuostic approach and ability, then after gaining the respect of his peers, he decided to go for it. The result is FREE JAZZ. For anyone who hasnt heard it or only casually listened to the album, the record is in stereo. However side left an side right are actually 2 different sessions of improv going simultaneously. Weaving in and out of harmony to dischord at any moment. It’s some of the most unique and beautiful controlled noise you will ever hear performed by some of the greatest musicians at the time [ever]

Symphony X – Underworld

This one might seem out of place, but I was listening the bajeeeeesus out of this record around the time I was writing VOICES. Though it may be heavily veiled and broken up into chunks, the melody of this record definitely slipped into my unconsceous and made its way into everything else thus creating the Biona-gumbo. I’ve been hooked on this glorious mix of cheese and stellar musicianship for years and I am consistently impressed by the output of Symphony X. They space things out, but they always make sure the wait is worth it. Fun side story: I used to work at one of those big box guitar/music stores in NJ and one of my coworkers was Mike pinella [keys of symphony X]. Sometimes on breaks he would get on a demo station with ableton [or something simmilar loaded up] and a midi controller and he would put together these insane arrangments that most people spend their entire life trying to get good enough to be able to create and then when break was over he would just close the session unsaved. I.E That beautiful man, Mike pinella has legit thrown away compositions like it ain’t no thang that most of us would kill to be able to create.

Primus – The Antipop

Phoning it in again. sheesh. Could have been any of their records really. I love them all. Earlier ones was just so full of energy and zaney songs that they are hard to ignore. Always loved that Primus was just a bunch of fun stories for the most part. yeah yeah tons of innuendo thrown in, but its all in good fun. Though many of my all time favorite songs are on other records by them, Antipop is not only the heaviest, but I feel its the most complete album flow wise and its definitely the heaviest. The title track, electric uncle sam, ballad of bodacious, Natural Joe, Laquer Head… heck all the tracks are just super fun fables with killer groove.

Tomahawk – Mit Gas

You know what? Ta heck with it! I was trying to not just drop that old Patton bomb again, but who am I fooling? The man is the king. Has done more projects than just about anyone near rock and metal. It’s hard to not throw a dart and hit a record with him on it. New Dead Cross is amazing, but it wasn’t out when I was writing the songs on Voices, so I cant really use that, but Mit Gas… maaaaaaaan did that album hit in hard with me. There is almost a minimalist approach to the playing on most of this record. They have some huge tones with the bass and drums that carry this record big time and then it seems they just knew how to use restraint to come up with these fantastic songs. Anyone that knows these players other bands: Melvins, Helmet, Jesus Lizard, Mr Bungle, ect ect, knows that the pallet they paint from sonically is quite lush and Mit Gas shows a group that has perfected knowing when and when not to add parts and go big then when to keep it simple.


Stream Bionatops’ cover of Primus classic ‘Jerry Was A Racecar Driver’ below:

If you like what you hear, just know that this is cover is congruent with Voices at large, which you can stream and purchase through Bandcamp. You can also purchase Voices in an extremely Limited Edition deluxe CD available now at this location.

Editor and founder of Heavy Blog Is Heavy. Social worker. Only doing this bio because of internal pressure to comply.