Destroy All Monsters is a group in two parts: the artist collective and the straight ahead rock band.
DAM – The Beginning
Taking its name from a 1968 Godzilla film, the first version of Destroy All Monsters was a four piece of art students at the University of Michigan formed in Ann Arbor in 1973. Niagara, Cary Loren, Mike Kelley, and Jim Shaw not only made music – very primitive, noise experiments – but, where interested in visual arts from photography to film to drawing and collage centered around a house the group lived at dubbed “God’s Oasis” in Ann Arbor. The band’s first show was on New Year’s Eve 1973/1974 when they played a comic book convention in Ann Arbor – the set was a version of the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man”. In 1976, Kelley and Shaw left Ann Arbor for California. The pair would go on to have distinguished careers in contemporary art with their works being shown and collected in museums internationally.
For more on the early days of Destroy All Monsters, here’s a link to a 2011 feature by Rob St. Mary of WDET.
DAM – The Metamorphosis
After Kelley and Shaw left for the west coast, Loren and Niagara invited other musicians to join in for jam sessions including former founding guitarists of The Stooges, Ron Asheton and the Miller Brothers. Loren left around in 1978 as a more straight ahead band emerged under Ashston’s guitar, Michael Davis (former member of the MC5), and the others.
Destroy All Monsters was a staple in the scene often played their hometown of Ann Arbor at the Second Chance as well as Bookie’s and other clubs.
The band released three 7-inch singles during the Bookie’s era.
The straight ahead rock band version of Destroy All Monsters ended in 1985 as it morphed into a revolving punk rock super group Dark Carnival featuring members of the band, Niagara and Asheton, with other former members of various Bookie’s era bands like Jerry Vile of the Boners, Art Lyzak of the Mutants, Robert Mulrooney and Mark Norton of the Ramrods, Greasy Carlisi of the Motor City Bad Boys, and others.
In 1995, Niagara, Loren, Kelley, and Shaw reunited for an original Destroy All Monsters show. In 1996, without Niagara, that reformed version of Destroy All Monsters toured Japan. Additional one off shows, mostly connected to art exhibitions of the work, continued with the Loren, Kelley, Shaw version of Destroy All Monsters through the mid-2000s.
Various compilations of the earlier and later incarnations, as well as art books and magazine reprints, have been released over the past 20 years.
Since the mid-1990s, Niagara has gone to be come a respected and collected arts in her own right of mostly femme fatale imagery.