Fusing hard rock muscle with the high-decibel rebellion of Detroit rock trailblazers such as the MC5 and the Stooges, Thee Hypnotics' maximum-impact approach came along just as the likeminded grunge explosion was starting to take off, and while the band never quite broke through in the United States, it won its fair share of press and popularity at home in the United Kingdom.
Comprised of vocalist James Jones, guitarist Ray Hanson, bassist Will Pepper, and drummer Mark Thompson, Thee Hypnotics came together in their hometown of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, a community not far from London. The group made its recording debut in 1988 with the single "Love in a Different Vein," and the disc made enough of a splash for the band to score a record deal with Situation 2, a subsidiary of the respected British label Beggars Banquet.
In 1989, Thee Hypnotics scored a minor hit with the epochal single "Justice in Freedom," which they soon followed up with an EP, Live'r Than God!, recorded during their first major British tour. Live'r Than God! also became Thee Hypnotics' American debut when Seattle's fabled Sub Pop label picked it up for American release, enriched with a handful of studio tracks. The band was bumped up to the official Beggars label in the U.K. (and RCA in the United States) for its first full-length album, Come Down Heavy, a relatively lavish affair that found Mark Thompson replaced by new percussionist Phil Smith, and Phil May and Dick Taylor of legendary British beat reprobates the Pretty Things sitting in. While the album was well-received in England, Thee Hypnotics' American tour (where they opened for the Cult) was derailed by an auto accident, and second guitarist Robert Zyn was added to the lineup to pick up the slack.
A second album, Soul, Glitter & Sin: Tales from the Sonic Underworld, was released in 1991 to less enthusiastic reviews, and after another round of touring Zyn was replaced by former Iggy Pop sideman Craig Pike. Sadly, Pike's short stint with Thee Hypnotics came to a dramatic close when he died of a drug overdose in 1992. In 1994, Thee Hypnotics regrouped with a new record deal (with Rick Rubin's American Recordings) and a new album, The Very Crystal Speed Machine, which was produced by the Black Crowes' vocalist Chris Robinson and featured several other members of the Crowes sitting in. The album was well reviewed but sold poorly, and proved to be the group's last hurrah. James Jones later sang with the group Black Moses, while bassist Will Pepper recorded with Epic Soundtracks and Hurricane #1. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi