Their name is a portmanteau of " ska " and " Mephistopheles ", of the Faust legend. As their name suggests, their lyrics are often playfully satanic in nature. After recruiting several friends, including keyboardist Brian "Underpants" Martin, the band was formed under the name Skatterbrains. It was changed to Mephiskapheles once the band realized that another band had already taken the name. After a lineup shuffle that saw Andre A. In summer , trombonist Greg Robinson joined alto saxophonist Alexander McCabe and trumpeter Osho Endo in the horn section, completing the section that would tour and record for the next six years.
The band continued to play live, winning the Brooklyn Lager Band Search in the World Beat category in and building a devoted fan base throughout the Northeast by performing frequently at colleges and bars. In , bass player Michael Bitz joined, replacing Vattel Cherry, who had taken over from original bassist Victor Rice soon after Mephiskapheles got started, in early Cherry left to tour with avant-garde saxophonist Charles Gayle. Originally released on the band's own label Pass The Virgin, it saw wider release after being licensed by Moon Ska Records for national distribution starting in A video the band produced for the song "Doomsday" began receiving airplay on MTV around this time.
Earlier, in its demo form, the song had been widely heard on television in New York as the soundtrack to a fitness-center commercial. Mephiskapheles was among the bands that regularly attracted capacity crowds to Wetlands during the New York City nightclub's golden era in the mids. After completing its first cross-country tour in , Mephiskapheles toured extensively through the U.
Soon after Mephiskapheles' first European tour, in late , drummer and creative force in the early phase, Mikal Reich, left the band to pursue a career outside of music. He was replaced by Wayne Dunton who recorded on the band's album, Maximum Perversion , and all subsequent releases. As the band's profile continued to rise, the band embarked on a national tour with British pop-punk icons the Buzzcocks in the spring of McCabe, one of Mephiskapheles' main composers during the fertile mids period, had ceased touring with the band prior to the recording of Maximum Perversion, the band on the road opting for a two-piece section with Endo and Robinson.
In late , Mephiskapheles shocked some fans' sensibilities when they toured the U. By , the band had gone through a major lineup change with Tween, Bitz, and Endo all leaving the band, for various reasons. Longtime Skatalites trumpeter Nathan Breedlove played on the album, but he did not tour with Mephiskapheles. After continuing to play live performances for two more years, the band stopped playing shows without any official announcement of a breakup. Robinson played guitar in this project.
The band self-released three songs on CD and played several shows before disbanding.
Worrell also appeared with Bitz and Jeselsohn in the band Burn Guitars. The band featured three bass players, a drummer, and no guitars. This band also played numerous shows but disbanded after recording one demo.
This band also recorded one demo. In Spring of , Tween and Worrell led separate Mephiskapheles reunion shows. Subsequent "Doomsday" shows have included Tween, Reich, and Rosenblum with new members, and have featured other music besides Mephiskapheles songs.
Since regrouping, Mephiskapheles has continued to stay active both on tour and in the studio. Bassist Michael Bitz returned to the band in , replacing Jeselsohn who left to focus on the Brooklyn Attractors , a band he cofounded with members of Westbound Train.
Guitarist Bill McKinney also departed the band in , going on to found The West Kensingtons , a Philadelphia-based ska band with former members of Inspecter 7. Mephiskapheles rounded out an eventful year with gigs in support of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Bouncing Souls, in addition to being the headliner for several shows. In late , founding keyboardist Brian Martin rejoined Mephiskapheles.
The band played in Honolulu in February and also made tours through the Southeast and Midwest. Mephiskapheles entered the recording studio in mid to begin recording its fourth album, a self-titled EP featuring music composed by Hahn, Bitz, Worrell, and Robinson, with lyrics by Worrell. The band was joined in the studio and subsequently onstage by former Burning Spear trumpet player James K. Mephiskapheles finished with a holiday tour supporting the Slackers.
Mephiskapheles played several Northeast dates in early before travelling to Denver, Colorado to perform along with Hepcat at Skalorado Fest.
In June, Mephiskapheles released its eponymous EP, the first new Mephiskapheles music in 16 years, on Meph Records, in inch vinyl and online digital formats. The EP was produced by Mephiskapheles, mixed by Gabe Kirchheimer, and mastered by Stephen Egerton , and can be downloaded from the band's Bandcamp page. Mephiskapheles also made successful headlining tours to the Midwest and Florida, in , as well as hosting its annual Devil's Night party i. A handful of shows supporting the Voodoo Glow Skulls filled out a busy and productive year.
Saxophonists Neil Johnson and Bourbon Zeigler had both left the band by early , clearing the way for their longtime sub, tenor saxophonist Fernando Leon to join. Leon also played on the band's EP but was not credited. Mephiskapheles continued to share the stage with established punk and ska-punk bands in , making separate East Coast runs with Less Than Jake and NOFX in the early part of the year.
Later that month, Mephiskapheles traveled to Montreal and played in support of legendary British glam rockers The Adicts at the official after-party for the Amnesia Rockfest. After a frantic five years of activity since regrouping, Mephiskapheles slowed the pace slightly in , playing several shows, occasionally venturing off the Atlantic seaboard such as to play a series of shows in the Midwest with Mustard Plug.
Jump Up released a 20th-anniversary colored vinyl LP edition of Maximum Perversion to mark the occasion.
Their name is a portmanteau of " ska " and " Mephistopheles ", of the Faust legend.
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