Punch Drunks

The men of Red Giant come out swinging -- on their record and at each other.

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Red Giant Peabody's, 2083 E. 21st Street 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 14, 216-776-9999
Red Giant: They sometimes want to kill each other, - just like any great band.
Red Giant: They sometimes want to kill each other, just like any great band.
Alex Perekrest points to a crimson gash on his forehead, an inch-long parting of the flesh that's coagulated into a small mound of dried blood.

"We got into a fistfight at the end of one of our shows the other day," says his bandmate, Red Giant guitarist Damien Perry. Grinning sheepishly, he eyes the wound, recalling the heated gig in Detroit, where the band opened for Clutch.

"We had been there since four o'clock in the afternoon," Perekrest recalls over a Bud Light at Edison's, a wood-grained Tremont pub, where bright watercolor portraits of DMX and Clinic hover above graffiti-covered church pews. "They gave us an open tab. So we sat and drank and drank and drank. It came time to play, it was kind of drunken, and people were coming up to us like, 'Wow, it was this and that, you guys played with passion.' And I'm like, 'We were hammered, what are you talking about? That sucked.'

"Then I went to him," the singer-guitarist continues with a nod toward Perry (pictured, second from right). "He was a little upset, and it triggered me, so we just turned it into a brawl. The next thing I know, we're wrestling, blood gushing from my head all over the floor of the stage. They took our drummer -- eight security guards grabbed him by his underwear and his neck -- they threw him out of the club, using his head to open the door. Five minutes later, I still had blood gushing from my head. I'm like, 'Dude, it's cool.' I consider it the flipside to the creative energy. What makes us work well together is what sometimes makes us want to kill each other. We inspire each other through difficulty."

Red Giant has certainly had its taste of difficulty in the five years since its last LP, Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound, an album of pulsating riff-rock calisthenics. They lost a drummer, split with their label, Tee Pee, and dealt with an injury to Perekrest. (A construction worker by day, he mangled his index finger a year ago doing stone work, which forced him to put down his guitar for a while.)

Adding to the delay was the time it took Perry to construct his own studio, Sonic Shrine, on the top floor of the house he and Perekrest (pictured, second from left) share on the near West Side. If the band's third full-length, Devil Child Blues (on Detroit's Small Stone Records), was a long time coming, it was also worth the wait: One of the best guitar records from these parts in recent years, Devil Child is all plus-sized riffs and bravado. Steeped in '70s-style overload, it recalls an era when guitars belched thunder, bands topped the charts with songs about hobbits, and the dudes in Grand Funk did drugs for breakfast.

Whereas many underground rock bands from these parts are distinctly evocative of their industrial surroundings, seemingly hardened by the rusty facade, Red Giant (rounded out by bassist Brian Skinner and drummer Andy Masalko) willfully loses itself in a galaxy far, far away. Perekrest sings of time machines and breathing fire in a gritty scouring pad of a voice. "I got a feeling outer space is right for me," he wails at one point, in a bluesy bray that helps ground the band's instrumental flights of fancy.

"Without the blues, nothing is all that cool," he says. "If you don't have some appreciation of blues music, you're gonna end up sounding kind of lame."

Perry and Perekrest's guitar interplay powers the record, however -- on everything from punk-rock temper tantrums ("Hoping for the Golden BB") to far-out, 80-proof jams ("John L. Sullivan"). The pair ends the Mongoloid rocker "Millennium Falcon" with a minute and a half of soloing that gets faster and more frenetic with each note. It's dizzying as a gutful of gin.

"As much as I try to confound this guy, I want to impress him with something I write. And I know it's the same with him," Perekrest says of their riff-swapping. "I know he's a great musician, I know he's a good guy on guitar, and I don't want him to shrug off my riffs. And vice versa. We get into fights -- that happens once or twice a year -- but the rest of the time, it's a healthy competition."

Red Giant will celebrate the release of Devil Child with a gig opening for its spiritual forebear, New Jersey acid-rock revisionists Monster Magnet, this Tuesday at Peabody's. When Monster Magnet hit town in September, frontman Dave Wyndorf lost his voice and recruited Perekrest to fill in for him at the last minute.

"It was funny being on the tour bus with Alex and Dave, going over the set list with Monster Magnet that Alex is gonna sing," recalls Perry, who looks the part of a heavy-metal lumberjack, with his booming voice, beard, blue-flannel shirt, and navy stocking cap. "I was just like, 'Man, this is fucked up.'"

"It was one of the rare times you see Dave childlike," Perekrest adds. "He was excited. He was like, 'Man, this is going to be historic!' I'm like, 'Really? I'm nervous as fuck, man.'"

But Perekrest acquitted himself well, belting out Magnet classics like "Tractor" and "Medicine" with bare-chested aplomb before the show descended into a free-for-all, with drunken fans invading the stage to mangle the Magnet catalog. Then again, chaos is to be expected when this volatile bunch takes the stage.

"We're not afraid of nothing, man," Perry says with a good-natured chuckle that deflates the boast. "We're meat-and-potatoes rock. It ain't no veggie rock."

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