Golden Tones are an experimental progressive rock band formed in Chicago, Illinois; active from 1997–1999, and 2020–present.
The group existed in two distinct formations during its 1997–1999 lifespan:
Golden Tones (Studio)
The core trio of Christian Adams (vocals and instruments), Ron Kwasman (guitars), and Matthew Tucker (drums), recorded the band’s debut album, The Portable Thruster and Hyperspace Companion Kit (1998).
Golden Tones (Live)
The live performance line-up featured Ron Harvey (second guitar), Rob Seng (bass) and James Weber (keyboards). Currently, only Adams, Kwasman, and Tucker are considered official members of the band.
Despite going on hiatus in 1999, the trio remained in close contact and never closed the door on a possible reunion. During the pandemic of 2020, Adams and Kwasman resumed collaborating with an eye toward releasing a new Golden Tones record.
The resulting full-length album, Radiate Beyond the Sky, is scheduled for a late summer 2022 release. More information to come.
Long-time friends and collaborators, Adams, Kwasman, and Tucker had disbanded their previous group, Whitey, after three years of fruitless commitment. In early 1997, the trio chose to discontinue live performance in favor of a focus on songwriting and recording.
Golden Tones recorded and released their debut album, The Portable Thruster and Hyperspace Companion Kit, a double-disc set containing 34 tracks. The trio recorded the majority of the album on a Tascam 8-track, spending nearly a year before entering Dust Lounge Studios for mixing with Areos Ledesma. The 8-track tapes were bounced to ADAT for additional sound treatment before mastering. The record was mastered by Ed Tinley at Diamond City.
The album featured a dizzying array of sounds, styles, and textures; met with enthusiasm among the band’s underground music peers. Spin College Radio featured the album’s only single, “Rise Up”; released on the subsequent Spin compilation disc in early 1998.
The band’s musical foundation was rooted in the progressive hard rock of their previous bands, Whitey and Brain Kiss, but nurtured by a growing interest in a wide variety of somewhat obscure genres beyond “traditional”art rock.
The Portable Thruster’s epic scale showcased the trio’s finely honed chops, featuring diverse elements of 60s psychedelic pop, 70s art rock, 80s post-punk, and 90s experimental alternative rock. In addition to hybridization, the group also experimented heavily with improvisation and noise.
The early Golden Tones aesthetic was a lo-fi cross between Genesis’ Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Cheap Trick’s In Color. Some of the band’s major influences included: Adam and the Ants, Brian Eno, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, The Cure, Gong, Jane’s Addiction, The Kinks, Olivia Tremor Control, Pixies, Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground, and Yes. Later period Golden Tones is influenced more by King Crimson and Frank Zappa.
Despite expanding the line-up and rehearsing for several months, Golden Tones never actually played live. The group was scheduled to play a May 1999 show at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago; however, the show was cancelled in April when a fire caused considerable damage to the club. Several cassette recordings of the rehearsals survive.
The Portable Thruster has sold an estimated 150 copies to date, thought it was not distributed to local record stores. According to band’s manager, approximately 50 to 100 copies “are sitting in box in a storage space in San Francisco”; however, only a few copies of the original artwork and gatefold sleeve are known to exist
Hiatus and Reformation
In early 1999, the band went on indefinite hiatus as Adams moved to San Francisco. The move was amicable on all sides. Kwasman remained in Chicago while Tucker eventually relocated to SF, forming Henry Miller Sextet with Adams.
Kwasman went on to join or play guitar for Ike Rielly, David Singer & The Sweet Science, Margot & The Nuclear So n So’s, and others.
Adams and Kwasman remained in contact throughout the years, maintaining their close personal and musical relationship. In 2008, Adams left SF for the expat lifestyle in Southeast Asia, where he lives today. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Pangolia Pte Ltd.
Kwasman became an art director and co-owner of Invisible Landscapes.
In October 2020, Adams and Kwasman decided to collaborate on the follow-up to Portable Thruster.