WEB EXCLUSIVE: Twisted Music For Damaged People

Shelley Blundell


Credit: Steve Schirra

Think you’ve got a handle on progressive jazz metal?

Think again. That is, unless you’ve seen Co-Conspirator.

This three-piece outfit based out of Akron is anything but run-of-the-mill. In fact, they may just be the bastard children of an unholy union between John Coltrane and Slayer.

“We’re non-conformist in the truest sense,” said Morgan Phelps, the bass guitarist for the outfit. “I know that makes us sound like pseudo-arty farty wankers, but we’re really not.”

Indeed, these down-to-earth clowners are anything but pretentious. Their music, on the other hand, may give listeners a different idea.

“If any of us brings anything into the practice space that sounds like anything else out there, we won’t use it,” said Tom McCain, lead guitarist and vocalist for the band. “We never came in and said ‘we’re going to play crazy music to play crazy music,’ we just all had different influences and grew up different musically.”

Even though all three have differing musical backgrounds, they all listen to a lot of jazz.

And it shows.

In what can be best described as a funky blend of progressive rock, jazz and metal, Co-Conspirator’s sound pushes its listeners both musically and mentally.

“We never got a negative response, but we did get a lot of blank stares at first,” Phelps said.

Indeed, the band, who has played together for a little more than three years, had quite a hard time at first finding bands to play with whose sounds didn’t absolutely clash with theirs.

A task that seemed almost impossible, considering the variety of music styles and influences expressed in the band’s music.

Eventually, it all came together. Spending a little more than a year perfecting about eight songs, the band began playing in smaller venues such as Annabell’s in West Akron and developed quite an avid following.

“We may not have a lot of people at our shows, but we have about 20 or 30 hard-core fans that we’re very thankful for,” said drummer Ken Kimmel.

“We’ve been getting a lot more new faces and that’s good to see, because it means our sound is starting to catch on.”

The band acknowledges their sound is very difficult to take at first. While Phelps has a base in classical jazz training, McCain and Kimmel are largely self-taught through books and playing by ear. But all have become well-acquainted with their instruments and sometimes write pieces that overestimate their capabilities.

“Tom will come in to a practice and play a piece and I’ll just look at him with sheer hatred,” Kimmel said. “But it’s good – I was so tired of learning all types of theory and not getting to use it in bands I was in before; we all push each other way past our own limits.”

Pushing the limits of musical convention is what this band all about it, even though it may sometimes sound quite twisted. But what else could you expect from a band that plays twisted music for damaged people?

Co-Conspirator will be playing the Lime Spider in Akron Oct. 23, the Outpost in Kent Oct. 28 and Screwy Louie’s Nov. 11. For more information on the band, or a sample of their unique blend of twisted music, visit their page at www.myspace.com/coconspirator.

Contact features reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].



Lime Spider in Akron:  Oct. 23, 9 p.m.

Outpost in Kent:  Oct. 28, 10 p.m.

Screwy Louie’s in Kent:  Nov. 11, 9 p.m.