In 1985, the music scene in Seattle was in the early stages of what eventually became known internationally as grunge. The first recorded evidence of this emerging sound was the Deep Six compilation released in 1986 on the Seattle-based C/Z Records, a record label that Skin Yard bassist, Daniel House would begin to operate the following year. Of the 6 bands on that record only two had ever released anything previously: the legendary U-Men, and Green River (which later spawned Mudhoney and Pearl Jam). The other 4 bands had never been heard outside of the city. It was Deep Six that exposed the world to the first recordings by Soundgarden, Melvins, Malfunkshun…and Skin Yard.
Skin Yard was formed in Seattle in January 1985 by Daniel House (bass), and Jack Endino (guitar). They were joined by Matthew Cameron (drums) who had previously played with House in an instrumental power trio called FEEdbACK. Ben McMillan became the band's singer in April 1985 and Skin Yard’s first gig was opening for the U-Men on June 7, 1985.
Early in 1987, Skin Yard's first single and debut self-titled LP were released. That summer, Cameron left Skin Yard, joining Soundgarden two months later. Four shows were played with interim drummers, two with Steve Weid (later of the band TAD) and two with Greg Gilmore (later of Mother Love Bone). That Fall, drummer Jason Finn (later of Love Battery and The Presidents of the United States) joined the band, but left after only eight months for an extended stay in Europe.
In May 1987, Skin Yard found drummer Scott McCullum (aka Norman Scott) who ironically had once been all but hired for the Soundgarden drum position until Cameron had approached them to offer his services. Skin Yard's second record, Hallowed Ground, was released in early 1988. Scott left Skin Yard in May of 1989 after a particularly unpleasant U.S. tour, aptly remembered as "the tour from hell," but not before playing on the band's third album Fist Sized Chunks, which was not released until 1990.
Between McCullum leaving the band and the release of Fist Sized Chunks, Skin Yard effectively ceased to exist for over a year, and at the time didn’t expect to reform. They also never expected drummer Barrett Martin. Barrett was a powerhouse, and as it turned out, was with Skin Yard until the end. In early 1991, 1000 Smiling Knuckles – widely regarded as Skin Yard’s finest effort – was released. The band embarked on their third national tour in support of the record, with House leaving that March to devote more time to fatherhood. He was replaced by Pat Pedersen with whom the band recorded the posthumously released final album, Inside the Eye.
Prior to House’s departure, Skin Yard had already begun winding down. Ben McMillan had started Gruntruck with previous SY drummer McCullum and Accüsed guitarist Tommy Niemeyer. Pedersen and Martin had started jamming with Endino in Endino's Earthworm. After Skin Yard’s break up, Barrett joined the Screaming Trees and was with them until their final record. He remained one of the busiest musicians in Seattle, playing in Mad Season (with Layne Staley from Alice in Chains and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam), working with Peter Buck in Tuatara, as well as being a touring drummer with R.E.M.
Endino made several solo records, the most recent being Permanent Fatal Error, and he continues to record and produce records for other bands; his impressive production resume includes Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Afghan Whigs, Therapy?, High On Fire, Zeke, Nebula, TAD, Gruntruck, Titas, and (of course) Skin Yard. House continued to run C/Z Records from 1986 through 2001 when the Skin Yard rarities collection, Start at the Top, was released. In 2003, House moved from Seattle to Los Angeles. Ben McMillan died on January 28, 2008, a very sad day for all of us. He was 46.
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