Painkiller (band)

Last updated
Pain Killer
OriginNew York City
Genres Avant-garde jazz, experimental rock, grindcore, avant-garde metal
Years active1991–1995
Labels Earache, Tzadik
Past members

Painkiller (also known as Pain Killer) is a band that formed in 1991, combining avant-garde jazz and grindcore. Later albums incorporated elements of ambient and dub. [1]

Avant-garde jazz is a style of music and improvisation that combines avant-garde art music and composition with jazz. It originated in the 1950s and developed through the 1960s. Originally synonymous with free jazz, much avant-garde jazz was distinct from that style.

Grindcore is an extreme fusion genre of heavy metal and hardcore punk that originated in the mid-1980s, drawing inspiration from abrasive-sounding musical styles, such as: thrashcore, crust punk, hardcore punk, extreme metal, and industrial. Grindcore is characterized by a noise-filled sound that uses heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, grinding overdriven bass, high speed tempo, blast beats, and vocals which consist of growls and high-pitched shrieks. Early groups like Napalm Death are credited with laying the groundwork for the style. It is most prevalent today in North America and Europe, with popular contributors such as Brutal Truth and Nasum. Lyrical themes range from a primary focus on social and political concerns, to gory subject matter and black humor.

Ambient music is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. A form of slow instrumental music, it uses repetitive, but gentle, soothing sound patterns that can be described as sonic wallpaper to complement or alter one’s space and to generate a sense of calmness. The genre is said to evoke an "atmospheric", "visual", or "unobtrusive" quality.


The three primary members of Painkiller were John Zorn on saxophone, Bill Laswell on bass guitar and Mick Harris on drums. Zorn and Laswell work in the New York avant-garde music scene. Harris was the drummer for the death metal band Napalm Death, which partially inspired the creation of the band. [2] Several musicians have made guest appearances both live and in the studio, including Buckethead, Yamatsuka Eye, Mike Patton, Makigami Koichi, Justin Broadrick and G. C. Green of Godflesh, and Keiji Haino of Fushitsusha.

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".

Bill Laswell American musician

William Otis Laswell is an American bass guitarist, record producer, and record label owner. He has been involved in thousands of recordings with many collaborators from all over the world. His music draws from funk, world music, jazz, dub and ambient styles.

Mick Harris commonly known and credited both as Mick Harris or occasionally M.J. Harris, is an English musician. He's generally credited for coining the terms 'Blast beat' and 'Grindcore' to describe his ferocious drumming attack and the genre he helped create and popularize. Since the mid-1990s, Harris has worked primarily in electronic and ambient music, his main projects being Scorn and Lull. According to Allmusic, Harris's "genre-spanning activities have done much to jar the minds, expectations, and record collections of audiences previously kept aggressively opposed."

Harris left the band in 1995 to dedicate himself to computer music. Zorn and Laswell resurrected Painkiller and played with Yoshida Tatsuya of Ruins on drums. Hamid Drake joined the band for Zorn's 50th Birthday shows at Tonic in New York City. That show (which also featured Mike Patton as a guest) was released as a live album by Tzadik.

Computer music is the application of computing technology in music composition, to help human composers create new music or to have computers independently create music, such as with algorithmic composition programs. It includes the theory and application of new and existing computer software technologies and basic aspects of music, such as sound synthesis, digital signal processing, sound design, sonic diffusion, acoustics, and psychoacoustics. The field of computer music can trace its roots back to the origins of electronic music, and the very first experiments and innovations with electronic instruments at the turn of the 20th century.

Ruins is a Japanese music duo composed only of drummer/vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida and a bass guitarist. The group, formed in 1985, was supposedly intended to be a power trio; the guitarist, however, never showed up to the band's first rehearsal so the group remained a duo. The music touches on progressive rock, jazz fusion and noise rock.

Hamid Drake American musician

Hamid Drake is an American jazz drummer and percussionist.

In 2008, Painkiller performed a one-off show in France with the original line-up of Zorn, Laswell, and Harris, along with an appearance by Fred Frith and Mike Patton.

Fred Frith English musician, composer and improvisor

Jeremy Webster "Fred" Frith is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor.

Band members

Current members

Tatsuya Yoshida Japanese drummer

Tatsuya Yoshida is a Japanese musician; drummer and composer who is the only consistent member of the renowned progressive rock duo Ruins, as well as Koenji Hyakkei. He is also a member of the progressive rock trios Korekyojinn and Daimonji. Outside his own groups, Yoshida is renowned for his tenure as drummer in the indie progressive group YBO2, a band also featuring guitarist KK Null, whom he also joins in the current line-up of Zeni Geva and he has played drums in a late edition of Samla Mammas Manna. He has been cited as "[the] indisputable master drummer of the Japanese underground".

Former members


<i>Guts of a Virgin</i> 1991 EP by Painkiller

Guts of a Virgin is the first EP by Painkiller, a band featuring John Zorn, Bill Laswell and Mick Harris. It contains twelve tracks and was released on the Toy's Factory label in Japan and the Earache label in England in 1991. The cover art was censored in the UK after customs seized and destroyed the first shipment for violating the Obscene Publications Act.

Earache Records is an independent record label, music publisher and management company founded by Digby Pearson, based in Nottingham, England with offices in London and New York. It helped to pioneer extreme metal by releasing early grindcore and death metal records between 1988 and 1994. The label roster has since diversified into more mainstream guitar music, working with bands such as Rival Sons, The Temperance Movement, Blackberry Smoke and The White Buffalo. The company also hosted the 'Earache Express' stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2017 and will be hosting 'The Earache Factory' at Boomtown Fair 2018.

<i>Buried Secrets</i> (EP) 1992 EP by Painkiller

Buried Secrets is the second EP by Painkiller originally released by Toy's Factory in Japan and Earache in the UK, featuring guest appearances from Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green from Godflesh. Broadrick described the release as the result of various jams and improvsational sessions.

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Masada (band) band

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Praxis was the name of an experimental rock project, led by producer/bassist Bill Laswell and featuring guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia in nearly every incarnation of the band.

Painkiller: The Collected Works is a four disc box set that contains the two EPs Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets, the album Execution Ground and a live album previously released on the Japanese edition of Execution Ground.

<i>IAO</i> (album) 2002 studio album by John Zorn

IAO is an album by John Zorn released in 2002 on the Tzadik label. The album was inspired by Aleister Crowley and his follower, filmmaker Kenneth Anger and draws its title from the Kabbalistic identity of IAO, the initials of Isis, Apophis and Osiris, used as a magical formula in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and in Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass.

<i>Taboo & Exile</i> 1999 studio album by John Zorn

Taboo & Exile is an album by John Zorn which synthetizes exotica, hardcore punk, classical, jazz, surf and world narration. It is the second album to appear in Zorn's Music Romance Series following Music for Children (1998).

OLD was an American heavy metal band from Bergenfield, New Jersey, formed in 1986 and signed to Earache Records. It featured Alan Dubin on vocals, and James Plotkin on guitars and programming, both of whom would later form the experimental doom metal band Khanate.

<i>50th Birthday Celebration Volume 6</i> 2004 live album by Hemophiliac

50th Birthday Celebration Volume 6: Hemophiliac is a live album of improvised music by Mike Patton, Ikue Mori and John Zorn documenting their performance at Tonic in September 2003 as part of Zorn's month-long 50th Birthday Celebration concert series.

<i>50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12</i> 2005 live album by Painkiller

50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12 is a live album by Painkiller documenting their performance at Tonic in September 2003 as part of John Zorn's month-long 50th Birthday Celebration concert series.

<i>Talisman: Live in Nagoya</i> 2002 live album by Painkiller

Talisman: Live in Nagoya is a live album by Painkiller, a band featuring John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Mick Harris, performing live in Nagoya, Japan.

<i>Rituals: Live in Japan</i> 1993 live album by Painkiller

Rituals: Live in Japan is a live CD by Painkiller, a band featuring John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Mick Harris, performing live in Tokyo in 1991 with guest guitar and vocals from Haino Keiji. The album was released on the Japanese label Toy's Factory in 1993.

<i>The Unknown Masada</i> 2003 studio album by John Zorn

Masada Anniversary Edition Volume 3: The Unknown Masada is the third album in a series of five releases celebrating the 10th anniversary of John Zorn's Masada songbook project. It features 12 previously unreleased Masada compositions performed by Erik Friedlander's Quake (1), Rashanim (2), Dave Douglas (3), Tatsuya Yoshida (4), Naftule's Dream (5), Jamie Saft (6), Zahava Seewald (7), Koby Israelite (8), Julian Kytasty (9); Fantômas (10), Wadada Leo Smith and Ikue Mori (11), and Eyvind Kang (12).

<i>The Stone: Issue One</i> 2006 live album by John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Rob Burger, Bill Laswell, Mike Patton and Ben Perowsky

The Stone: Issue One is a limited edition live album of improvised experimental music by John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Rob Burger, Bill Laswell, Mike Patton and Ben Perowsky recorded at The Stone in 2006. The first 1000 copies were personally autographed by Zorn. All proceeds from the sale of this album support The Stone.

Tzadik Records American record label

Tzadik Records is a record label in New York City that specializes in avant-garde and experimental music. The label was established by composer and saxophonist John Zorn in 1995. He is the executive producer of all Tzadik releases. Tzadik is a not-for-profit, cooperative record label.

Submerged is a Brooklyn-based DJ, bassist, founder of Ohm Resistance and co-founder of Obliterati, American avant garde drum and bass and experimental music labels, and a prolific multi-genre electronic music producer, first notable for his work with Grammy Award-winning bassist and producer Bill Laswell in creating drum and bass - jazz fusion projects including their band Method of Defiance, and The Blood of Heroes.

<i>The Prophecy: Live in Europe</i> 2013 live album by Painkiller

The Prophecy: Live in Europe is a live album by Painkiller, a band featuring John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Yoshida Tatsuya, performing live in Berlin and Warsaw.

<i>Episome</i> (album) 2006 studio album by Otomo Yoshihide/, Bill Laswell/Tatsuya Yoshida

Episome is a collaborative album by Bill Laswell, Otomo Yoshihide and Tatsuya Yoshida. It was released on April 18, 2006 by Tzadik Records.


  1. Christie, I. Painkiller entry accessed 22 July 2008.
  2. Huey, Steve. "Pain Killer". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  3. "Pain Killer | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 December 2018.