Silent Language

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Silent Language was a short lived post-punk band formed by Lorna Donley after her first band Da broke up. The band included drummer Jed Fox, guitar player Philip Galanter, and (later) Geri Soriano on vocals, guitar, and keyboards. Silent Language played a number of live dates in Chicago but never made it into the recording studio. Described once by Steve Albini as sounding like a cross between the Pretenders and Gang of Four, Silent Language was one of those bands that showed early promise, but was torn apart by personal and interpersonal turmoil. They never released any records.

Ultimately this band amounts to, at best, a footnote to the Da story. - PG


History as told by Philip Galanter

The band started sometime in 1982 when Lorna Donley began working on material with drummer Jed Fox and a string of unknown guitar players. The initial 3-piece line up was completed when guitar player Philip Galanter joined the band that same year. Relative to most bands Silent Language spent a long time writing and rehearsing before going public.

Because Da had been a relatively successful band, especially in their home town of Chicago, Silent Language decided to play their first live gig outside of Chicago as a sort of warm-up. The band played at a Milwaukee dive frequented by local punks called Nikos under the name Psi-Bears.(Friend and former Da guitar player Dave Thomas came along to help, and ended up meeting his now wife and filmmaking co-producer Laurel Legler. )

The trip was a portent of things to come. The first evening Friday, May 6, 1983, went relatively well. Silent Language was not an audience friendly band, but the audience was attentive and appreciative although somewhat pressed to the back of the room. The next day, on Saturday, the band arrived to discover that due to some kind of equipment problem all management could offer was that the band play with just their guitar amps, unamplified drums, and a single vocal mike plugged into a single powered speaker. The band angrily refused to play without an acceptable PA system. That evening one of the bathrooms was significantly vandalized, and a number of microphones and other small equipment was stolen. The equipment was returned some months later.

Silent Language first played in Chicago at the Cubby Bear on Saturday, July 2, 1983. It was something of a double debut as it was also the first time Breaking Circus performed publicly. The negotiations between the bands prior to the show were somewhat contentious, and ultimately Steve Bjorklund demanded and received top billing on the posters and the more significant second position. Since Silent Language was the opening band they stiff- armed the Cubby Bear staff for as long as possible before taking the stage, so as to allow as many people to arrive as possible. By the end of the performance the audience was packed, and the response was very enthusiastic. Breaking Circus wasn't as lucky, and by the end of their set only about 1/3 of the audience remained. Breaking Circus would improve over time, but Silent Language would implode.

Silent Language was to have played a follow-up gig the following night, July 3, at Exit with the Effigies and Big Black. Past history between the Effigies and Da reared its ugly head and made last minute negotiations impossible. Since Exit was the home turf of the Effigies, Silent Language cancelled at the last minute.

Silent Language's next gig was again at the Cubby Bear on Saturday, July 23. Also appearing was the Interceptors which was fronted by Dave Thomas with drummer Bob Furem (both ex-Da), guitar player Santiago Durango, and bass player Pierre Kezdy. Occasionally joining them on stage for back-up vocals was Geri Soriano.

With various personal problems mounting, Silent Language began planning recording sessions in the Fall of 1983. (These were never to come to fruition.)

Given that a fairly strong buzz had formed around the band, Silent Language began seeking larger gigs. Cabaret Metro (aka Metro) was very interested in having the band open for a larger act, but this was to lead to further frustration. First Silent Language was booked to open for Jah Wobble, but then Wobble's tour was cancelled. Next they were booked to open for the Bush Tetras, but then that gig was also cancelled.

With frustrations reaching new heights Geri Soriano was recruited as a fourth member, thus adding an unusually talented singer who could also double on second guitar and keyboards.

In many ways the final straw came with Silent Language's first performance as a four piece at a WZRD event at Northeastern University. This event was already under a bad moon in that it had been scheduled for August and then moved to December 16, 1983. Also on the bill were Marko and Leslie and Silver Abuse. The event was to be broadcast live and also recorded on a Tascam multitrack recorder for later mixdown.

Unfortunately the fascist-hippies running the event couldn't manage their own logistics. Technical screw-ups delayed the performance and broadcast by about 5 hours past the posted performance time of 7 p.m.. By midnight Marko and Leslie had wisely jumped ship rather than perform in the middle of the night at a sparsely populated college auditorium. After a number of shouting matches between Galanter and the WZRD "technicians" Silent Language was finally able to play. Silver Abuse then played, and at some point singer Jaqui Disler climbed onto Jed Fox'es drums and started knocking them over and causing damage. She was apparently in no condition to remember that smashing equipment during a performance is perfectly fine as long as it's *your own* equipment. Fox and Galanter ran up on stage and confronted her in mid-performance. Some bitter words were exchanged after the event while breaking down the stage. Despite numerous attempts to gain access to the promised multitrack tapes they were never seen again.

This debacle further depressed the mood of the band, and they cancelled out of a gig for Sunday, December 18, with Ring of Fire (a post Strike Under band with Chris Bjorklund) and poet Deborah Oswald.

Without money or backing for recording, and a string of performance related disappointments, but most of all mounting personal problems not covered here, the band at this point was essentially broken in spirit. Donley decided that the only cure was to throw out all the old material and start writing all new songs. The rest of the band strongly disagreed. Galanter soon made official what everyone already knew by quitting, and the rest of the band soon dissolved thereafter.

This was reported in the April/May 1984 issue of Matter Magazine:

"Guitarist Phil Galanter left Silent Language because he says things in the band weren't moving fast enough. He's currently working 
with another band, Monads, and putting together a modest, non-commercial 8-track studio in Rogers Park with Jack Kontney, who's
involved in advertising production. Language's vocalist/bassist Lonra Donley says she's put the band on hold for a while. She's
taking a break from music, something she's been involved in for the last seven years, and she hopes at some point to work with
ex-Interceptor Dave Thomas mixing sixties rock stuff with performance art."

A couple years later Galanter and Donley teamed up with Therese Drda, the former drummer for Book of Holy Lies, to form a new band. Dave Thomas joined as a fourth but the band never quite jelled. Galanter and Drda split, and Donley and Thomas went on to recruit new members to form the Veil. The Veil later morphed into Hip Deep Trilogy which released a single CD that included three uncredited covers of Silent Language songs.

To date Geri Soriano has achieved the greatest musical success with her band Supreme Beings of Leisure. Philip Galanter is a visual artist, curator, and writer.

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