Naked City (band)

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Naked City
Naked City.jpg
Background information
OriginNew York City, New York, United States
Years active1988–1993 (brief 2003 reunion)
Labels Elektra Nonesuch, Avant, Earache, Tzadik
Past members John Zorn
Bill Frisell
Fred Frith
Wayne Horvitz
Joey Baron
Yamatsuka Eye

Naked City was an avant-garde music group led by saxophonist and composer John Zorn. Active primarily in New York City from 1988 to 1993, Naked City was initiated by Zorn as a "composition workshop" [1] to test the limits of composition (and improvisation) in a traditional rock band lineup. Their music incorporated elements of jazz, surf, progressive rock, classical, heavy metal, grindcore, country, punk rock, and other genres.



In Naked City's characteristic early style, songs were often performed at astonishingly fast tempos, drawing on thrash metal and hardcore punk's emphasis on extreme speed. Many songs were quite brief, and typically switched musical genres every few measures. One critic described the band's music as "jump-cutting micro-collages of hardcore, country, sleazy jazz, covers of John Barry and Ornette Coleman, brief abstract tussles — a whole city crammed into two or three minute bursts". [2] This fast-change tendency was inspired in part by Carl Stalling — a Zorn favorite — who wrote music for many Warner Bros. cartoons, that featured frequent shifts in tempo, theme and style.

Naked City's first album was distributed under Zorn's name by Nonesuch Records and featured a Weegee photograph of a dead gangster on its cover, along with macabre illustrations by Maruo Suehiro. [3] There was disagreement between Zorn and the label over cover art on subsequent albums. Zorn wanted to use explicit S&M pictures, images from 19th century medical archives, and execution photographs, most notoriously of a Leng Tch'e victim; Nonesuch refused. Zorn ended his relationship with the label, releasing subsequent Naked City albums on Shimmy Disc and his own Avant and Tzadik labels.

On later releases, the band varied their stylistic approach and repertoire to include pieces from modern classical composers such as Alexander Scriabin, Claude Debussy, Charles Ives, and Olivier Messiaen, whose works are featured on the album Grand Guignol . Leng T'che featured a single heavy metal music piece, over 31 minutes in length. Torture Garden was made up of several "hardcore miniatures", and Absinthe was ambient and noise textures.

Zorn discontinued Naked City after Absinthe when he felt "... the need to write music for other ensembles, in other contexts, with new ideas". [2] A brief reunion occurred in 2003 for a few shows at European jazz festivals.

Cinematic connections

The group covered numerous film soundtrack cuts, including work by Georges Delerue. Heretic was intended as the soundtrack for a film starring Karen Finley.

The tracks "Bonehead" and "Hellraiser", from Torture Garden, are featured in the opening sequence of Michael Haneke's film Funny Games and its 2007 remake.

Band members

Live members


Related Research Articles

John Zorn American composer, saxophonist and bandleader

John Zorn is an American composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist, and multi-instrumentalist with hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, and producer across a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore, classical, surf, metal, soundtrack, ambient, and improvised music. He incorporates diverse styles in his compositions, which he identifies as avant-garde or experimental. Zorn was described by Down Beat as "one of our most important composers".

Wayne Horvitz American musician

Wayne Horvitz is an American composer, keyboardist and record producer He came to prominence in the Downtown scene of 1980s and '90s New York City, noted for working with John Zorn's Naked City among others. Horvitz has since relocated to the Seattle, Washington area where he has several ongoing groups and has worked as an adjunct professor of composition at Cornish College of the Arts.

Yamantaka Eye Japanese singer

Yamataka Eye is a Japanese vocalist and visual artist, best known as a member of Boredoms and Naked City. He has changed his stage name three times, from Yamatsuka Eye, to Yamantaka Eye, to Yamataka Eye, and sometimes calls himself eYe or EYヨ. He also DJs under the name DJ 光光光 or "DJ pica pica pica", and has used numerous other pseudonyms.

<i>Naked City</i> (album) 1990 studio album by John Zorn

Naked City is an album by John Zorn, released on Nonesuch Records in February 1990. The band assembled by Zorn for the album would later be known as Naked City. The album is characterized by its covers of movie themes and its fusion of various musical genres.

Erik Friedlander American musician

Erik Friedlander is an American cellist and composer based in New York City.

<i>Grand Guignol</i> (album) 1992 studio album by Naked City

Grand Guignol is the second full-length studio album released by John Zorn's band Naked City in 1992 on the Japanese Avant label. The album followed Torture Garden, which was a compilation of "hardcore miniatures" from Naked City and Grand Guignol. The album is notable for the inclusion of cover versions of pieces written by classical composers, the guest vocal of Bob Dorough, and also, like Torture Garden, a selection of "hardcore miniatures" which are intense, fast-tempo, brief compositions, which feature the wailing of Zorn's alto sax, and the screams of Yamatsuka Eye.

Fred Frith discography Recordings by Fred Frith

Fred Frith appears on over 400 recordings. This is a selection from bands he was/is a member of, collaborations with other bands and musicians, and his solo recordings. The year indicates when the album was first released. For a comprehensive discography, see the Discography of Fred Frith by Michel Ramond, Patrice Roussel and Stephane Vuilleumier.

<i>Leng Tche</i> (album) 1992 EP by Naked City

Leng Tch'e is the fourth release from John Zorn's band Naked City. It consists of a single track, running at just over half an hour. It was first released on the Japanese Toys Factory label in 1992. Unlike Naked City's previously material, which was known for its fast tempo and rapid transitions between a variety of heterogeneous styles, Leng Tch'e is a more avant-garde take on sludge metal. It was reissued in 1997 along with Torture Garden in the double-disc collection Black Box.

<i>Heretic</i> (Naked City album) 1992 soundtrack album by Naked City

Heretic is the third studio album by the band Naked City, used as a soundtrack for the underground S/M film Jeux des Dames Cruelles. The album utilises different combinations of band members in duos and trios with the entire band performing together on only one track "Fire and Ice".

<i>Torture Garden</i> (album) 1990 compilation album by Naked City

Torture Garden is an album by John Zorn's band Naked City featuring Yamatsuka Eye on vocals. The album is a compilation of the "hardcore miniatures" that were also released on Naked City and Grand Guignol. The album was originally released on vinyl and cassette by Shimmy Disc and on CD by Toy's Factory in 1989. Following controversy over Naked City's album covers it was re-released in 1996 on Tzadik Records with Leng Tch'e simply as Black Box. The tracks were also released as part of Naked City: The Complete Studio Recordings in 2005.

<i>Naked City: The Complete Studio Recordings</i> 2005 compilation album by Naked City

Naked City: The Complete Studio Recordings is a five disc box set that contains all of the studio albums released by Naked City during their five-year history.

John Zorn appears on over 400 recordings as a composer or performer. This is a selection of recordings released under his name, bands he was/is part of, collaborations with other musicians, and significant albums to which he has contributed. The year indicates when the album was first released and any subsequent years if the following release included additional material.

Punk jazz describes the amalgamation of elements of the jazz tradition with the instrumentation or conceptual heritage of punk rock. John Zorn's band Naked City, James Chance and the Contortions, Lounge Lizards, Universal Congress Of, Laughing Clowns, Midori are notable examples of punk jazz artists.

<i>Spy vs Spy</i> (album) 1989 studio album by John Zorn

Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman is a 1989 album by American composer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist John Zorn, featuring the compositions of Ornette Coleman performed in the brief intense style of Zorn's hardcore miniatures.

<i>Black Box</i> (Naked City album) 1997 compilation album by Naked City

Black Box is a compilation album by John Zorn's band Naked City featuring Yamatsuka Eye on vocals. The album is a collection of the "hardcore miniatures" from Naked City and Grand Guignol that were originally released on Torture Garden in 1990 and the extended piece Leng Tch'e which was only released in Japan in 1992. This compilation was released on Tzadik Records in 1996.

This discography features albums released by guitarist Bill Frisell, released recordings of bands and projects he was/is a member of, and albums on which he appears as guest musician. Labels and dates indicate first release.

Avant Records was a record label in Japan that specialized in avant-garde jazz, avant rock, and experimental music. The label released more than 80 albums between 1992 and 2004.

<i>Absinthe</i> (Naked City album) 1993 studio album by Naked City

Absinthe is the final recording from the band Naked City. Unlike the band's other genre-mixing releases, the music on Absinthe is consistently in an ambient and noise style.

<i>Miracle Mile</i> (Wayne Horvitz album) 1992 studio album by Wayne Horvitz

Miracle Mile is an album by American keyboardist and composer Wayne Horvitz's band The President recorded in 1992 and released on the Elektra/Nonesuch label.

<i>Simulacrum</i> (album) 2015 studio album by John Zorn

Simulacrum is an album composed by John Zorn featuring John Medeski, Matt Hollenberg and Kenny Grohowski which was released on the Tzadik label in March 2015.


  1. Archived November 14, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 "John Zorn's Naked City". 1993-08-20. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  3. "John Zorn - Naked City". Discogs.