Along with Green River, '80s Seattle-band Malfunkshun is often cited as a founding father of the northwest grunge phenomenon of the early '90s. Unlike many future Seattle stars, the band and charismatic frontman Andrew Wood had ambitions for arena-sized rock stardom. But the band's sound, which combined the big hooks and anthemic choruses of heavy metal with the spirit of punk, had a profound effect on many future grunge superstars of the early '90s.
Malfunkshun gained attention in the mid-'80s thanks to Andrew's dynamic stage presence as a hippie, glammed-out rock & roll god, equal parts Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison. Each member of the band took on alter ego onstage personas. Wood's older brother, guitarist Kevin Wood, became Kevinstein, drummer Regan Hagar became Thundarr, and Andrew became known as Landrew the Love Child. By the mid-'80s, Andrew was relying heavily on drugs to fuel his self-created rock star persona and to compensate for his innate shyness; he entered rehab in 1985, but his problems with drugs were far from over. In 1986, Malfunkshun was one of six bands featured on the C/Z Records compilation titled Deep Six. Two of the band's tracks, "With Yo Heart (Not Yo Hands)" and "Stars-n-You," appeared on this album, along with efforts by fellow northwest grunge pioneers Green River, the Melvins, Soundgarden, the U-Men, and Skin Yard. This compilation is widely considered the first recorded document of grunge. With the exposure the band received from Deep Six, they soon found themselves opening for local Seattle legends like Soundgarden, the U-Men, and Skin Yard.
By late 1987 and early 1988, Malfunkshun was over. Andrew was living in Seattle and spending a lot of time with former Green River and future Pearl Jam members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. Wood, Ament, and Gossard's involvement in multiple Seattle bands was typical of grunge's incestuous lineage. They performed occasionally as a cover band called Lords of the Wasteland. They also began writing original material that would later surface in the form of Mother Love Bone, the band they would form in 1988. Sadly, Andrew Wood became a casualty of heroin, Seattle's drug of choice, and died of an overdose in March of 1990 just before Mother Love Bone's major-label debut Apple was to be released. Although the band never released a proper album, Return to Olympus, a collection of Malfunkshun's eight-track studio demos as well as some four-track recordings by Andrew, was released by former bandmate Stone Gossard on his Loosegroove label in 1995. Ten years later, a documentary called Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story started playing film festivals, debuting at the Seattle International Film Festival. It eventually saw home video release in 2011 as part of a Hip-O Select box set named after the film, and also included the Return to Olympus disc and unreleased Andrew Wood recordings. ~ Paul Tinelli
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