Lightning Bolt (band)

Lightning Bolt (band)

Infobox musical artist
Name = Lightning Bolt

Background = group_or_band
Origin = Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Genre = Noise rock
Experimental rock
Years_active = 1994–present
Label = Load
URL = []
Current_members = Brian Chippendale
Brian Gibson
Past_members = Hisham Bharoocha

Lightning Bolt is a noise rock duo from Providence, Rhode Island, composed of Brian Chippendale on drums and vocals and Brian Gibson on bass guitar. The band met and formed in 1994, when the members of the then-trio attended the Rhode Island School of Design. The band signed to Load Records in 1997, and released their self-titled debut the same year. In total, Lightning Bolt has released four full-length albums, numerous vinyl singles, and appeared on several compilations.

Lightning Bolt are known for their guerrilla-style live performances, where they typically play on the ground rather than a stage, with the crowd gathered around them. The band's sound is typically loud and aggressive, though the group cites composers Philip Glass and Sun Ra as compositional influences.


The band formed while Chippendale and Gibson attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, and Chippendale had heard about "a new kid" who was a whiz on the bass guitar.cite journal
url =
publisher = "The Wire"
issue = #262, December 2005
accessdate = 2008-01-23
title = Lightning Bolt
last = Licht
first = Alan
] The two formed Lightning Bolt, with Brian Chippendale on drums, Brian Gibson on bass guitar, and with Hisham Bharoocha on guitar and vocals joining the group after their first show. Bharoocha left the group in 1996, with Chippendale taking over vocal duties. The only officially released music with Bharoocha was a track on the "Repopulation Program" compilation. [cite web
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-23
title = Lightning Bolt – Biography
publisher = Goldstar Public Relations
] For the first few years, Lightning Bolt was primarily an improvisational band, touring the United States for months at a time and "just playing". The concept of writing songs and recording an album didn't occur to the band until 1997, when Ben McOsker, founder of Load Records, approached the duo to record an album.

During these formative years, Chippendale and his freshman-year college roommate Matt Brinkman began to set up Fort Thunder, a disused warehouse space in the Olneyville district of Providence. The space eventually came to house a number of local avant-garde artists and musicians, including Brian Ralph as well as Lightning Bolt. [cite journal
url =
title = Fort Thunder Forever
first = Tom
last = Spurgeon
publisher = "The Comics Journal"
accessdate = 2008-01-23

In 2006, Lightning Bolt was deported from Japan days after they arrived to continue their tour from the UK. Band members were detained on arrival on the grounds that they did not have work permits. Their official appeal was rejected after 48 hours, and they were deported back to the United States. [cite web
url =
publisher = Lightning Bolt
accessdate = 2008-01-23
title = Japan Tour Canceled
] [cite web
url =
publisher = Drowned in Sound
accessdate = 2008-01-23
title = Lightning Bolt rejected from Japan
first = Colin
last = Roberts


Lightning Bolt have released a total of four full-length albums, a number of 7 inch singles and splits, and have appeared on numerous compilations. The band's first full-length album was a self-titled vinyl on the Load Records label. The record was initially released as a limited-edition vinyl of 750 pressings,cite web
title = Lightning Bolt
publisher = Load Records
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] and a 50-minute companion cassette titled "Zone" also later released. In 1999 the album was re-released on CD, including "Zone" as bonus tracks and alternate cover art. [cite web
last = Raggett
first = Ned
title = Lightning Bolt - Review
publisher = Allmusic
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] Lightning Bolt's second full-length album was "Ride the Skies", released in 2001, followed by "Wonderful Rainbow" in 2003. In 2005, Lightning Bolt released "Hypermagic Mountain", their most critically-acclaimed album to date. [cite web
url =
publisher = "Metacritic"
title = Hypermagic Mountain – Lightning Bolt
accessdate = 2008-01-14

The band starred in the 2003 tour-DVD "The Power of Salad". Lightning Bolt have also performed in DVD compilations such as "Pick a Winner" (2004) and "Sleep When You are Dead" by performance artists Mighty Robot (2007).

Rumors have persisted concerning the release of an improvisational album entitled "Frenzy".cite web
last = Strew
first = Rogue
title = Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain
publisher = Stylus Magazine
date = 2005-10-24
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] cite web
last = Gornick
first = Matt
title = A bolt of guerilla noise
publisher = Washington Square News
date = 2007-01-19
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] cite web
title = Lightning Bolt: Head Nothing, Heart Everything
publisher = Tiny Mix Tapes
date = 2007-02-14
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] A post on Lightning Bolt's official website in early 2004 read "The next Lightning Bolt album, Frenzy, is currently in the works over at Load Records. It is expected to be available at the end of the summer."cite web
publisher = Lightning Bolt
title = Lightning Bolt - News
url =
archiveurl =
archivedate = 2004-04-06
accessdate = 2007-09-08
] No further word was given, and the next Lightning Bolt album released was in fact "Hypermagic Mountain" in 2005. In an early 2007 interview, Chippendale said "When it comes to weird improv stuff, sometimes we're just at a weird stalemate." No official word has since been released.

Musical and lyrical style

The band's music takes cues from Japanese noise rock bands such as Boredoms and Ruins, although composers Philip Glass and Sun Ra are acknowledged influences. The band's sound consists of Chippendale's frenetic drumming, his usually incomprehensible vocals, and Gibson's rhythmic bass guitar – an example of which is the song "13 Monsters", where Chippendale sings a playground style counting chant through heavy distortion over the instrumentals of his drums and Gibson's bass guitar.

As the group's vocalist, Chippendale eschews a conventional microphone, instead using the type of microphone built into a household telephone receiver, held in his mouth or attached to a hood, [cite web
url =,catucci,25128,22.html
publisher = "The Village Voice"
accessdate = 2008-01-23
first = nick
last = Catucci
title = Fear of Music
] which is then run through an effects processor to further alter the sound. Chippendale has also used a KMD 8021 Drum Exciter, a simple drum-synth module, triggered by the bass drum.

Gibson plays his bass guitar tuned to cello standard tuning, in intervals of fifths (C G D A), using a banjo string for the high A. He used this four-string setup for several years, but has recently been seen using a five-string setup, tuned to C G D A E, with banjo strings for the A and E. [cite web
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-23
title = Lightning Bolt gets a real charge out of following its own path
publisher = "The Boston Globe"
first = Mac
last = Daniel
date = 2006-12-08
] Gibson also uses several effects pedals, including overdrive pedals, an octaver, a delay pedal, and a whammy pedal (pitch shifter). [cite web
url =
publisher = Lightning Bolt
author = John Rendeiro
title = Lightning Bolt – Photos

Like many noise rock bands, Lightning Bolt mostly plays extremely loud, aggressive music. In the film "The Power of Salad", Gibson attributes much of their success to volume:

We used to get more negative reactions when [we] didn't have as loud of stuff. It's just, be super loud and you're all set. (laughs) The rock and roll has been revealed. I do feel that that's the message - if there's any message, that's what it is. This is kinda what we do to keep ourselves excited these days. In "these" days - everyone knows what I'm talking about. (laughs)cite video
people = Peter Glantz, Nick Noe
title = The Power of Salad
medium = DVD
publisher = Load Records
location =
date = 2003

The band has reportedly never been a fan of the studio recording process. When they recorded five tracks for their eponymous debut album released in 1999, they discarded four of them and replaced them with lo-fidelity tracks recorded at various live shows from 1997 and 1998. However, their following two albums, "Ride the Skies" and "Wonderful Rainbow", were recorded more traditionally in a studio. For "Hypermagic Mountain", half the tracks were recorded in studio, while the rest were performed and recorded in a house direct to a 2-track DAT master tape, where the audio engineer was unable to tell exactly how the final result would sound.

Since the band has only two members and two instruments, their sound has a somewhat limited range, though this is often noted as a positive thing. In one interview, Gibson states that his experiences in Lightning Bolt "has showed [him] the power of an extremely limited palette."cite web
first = Ryan
title = Lightning Bolt: Interview by Ryan
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-03-21

Lightning Bolt's lyrics, when decipherable, are generally tongue-in-cheek, covering such topics as fairy tales, heavy metal clichés, terrorism, anarchy, and superheroes. They delve occasionally into more political subjects, such as the anti-Bush "Dead Cowboy" from "Hypermagic Mountain".

Live performances

Lightning Bolt are known for their so-called "guerrilla gigs", preferring to play on the floor of the venue rather than the stage, creating a tight circle of spectators around the band.cite web
last = Vowell
first = Zach
title = Photos: Lightning Bolt (Austin, TX; 04/18/07)
publisher = Pitchfork Media
date = 2007-04-19
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-02
] They have also been known to start playing only a few seconds after the opening band finishes, often taking the audience by surprise.cite web
last = Sisario
first = Ben
title = The Art of Noise
publisher = Spin
date = 2004-12-02
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-02
] In 2004, Lightning Bolt played on the doorstep of radio DJ John Peel's chalet at noon during the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, about which neighbor Steve Albini of Shellac and Big Black commented "Best alarm clock I've ever had." [cite news
first = Kevin
last = Harley
title = All Tomorrow's Parties, Camber Sands, East Sussex
url =
work = The Independent
date = 2004-03-31
accessdate = 2007-03-23
] They have also staged concerts in kitchens, on sidewalks,cite web
last = Maerz
first = Jennifer
title = Live Wire
publisher = "The Stranger"
date = 2003-10
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-01
] and in parking lots.



* "Lightning Bolt" (Load) (1997, re-released in 1999 with "Zone")
* "Zone" 50-minute companion cassette (Load) (1997)
* "Ride the Skies" (Load) (2001)
* "Wonderful Rainbow" (Load) (2003)
* "Hypermagic Mountain" (Load) (2005)


* "The Power of Salad" DVD (2003)


External links

* [ Official Website]
* [ Load Records]
*MySpace|laserbeast|Lightning Bolt
*allmusicguide|id=11:fnfpxq9kldte|label=Lightning Bolt
*MusicBrainz artist|id=978a36f7-85c6-44ca-a02e-7564e8fa8284|name=Lightning Bolt

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