Punk-metal trailblazers Thorazine return to raise the dead (squirrels)

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

"I was part of a movement that showed a generation of women they could rock out in any way they wanted."

NITRO/NEW: Thorazine as they appear today — Jo-Ann Rogan, Dallas Cantland, Elliott Taylor and Ross Abraham.
Sarah R. Bloom

Jo-Ann Rogan lays it all out cold: “Back in the day, I was part of a movement that showed a generation of women they could rock out in any way they wanted, even if it meant playing night-after-night with nothing but guys.” She and the rest of driving punk-metal band Thorazine were one of Philly’s finest in the ’90s.

“Now I’m here to say you can be a woman of a certain age and you don’t have to disappear into PTA meetings and cookie sales. You can scream and yell and rock out with the best of them and go to the PTA meetings. Women don’t have to become invisible at a certain age.”

Now 47, Rogan is reuniting the quartet she joined in 1993, the group that also featured drummer Dallas Cantland, bassist Ross Abraham and guitarist Elliott Taylor (her husband and the father of their two children). With her raging deadpan voice out front, Thorazine toured relentlessly and dropped two albums — Crazy Uncle Paul’s Dead Squirrel Wedding in 1996 and Vicious Cycle in 1998 — along with several singles and EPs. Personal dramas busted them up by the early 2000s.

Last year, the Dionysus/Hell Yeah label re-released Thorazine’s back catalog on iTunes, but the members hadn’t been in the same room for 10-plus years when documentarian Heather Gillespie tweeted Rogan asking what happened to the Dead Squirrel Wedding artwork. The cover was what it sounds like: 70 taxidermied squirrels arranged in a matrimonial scene.

“I told Heather I had no idea, so she wound up finding it in the basement of an acquaintance’s house where Thorazine left it in 1996,” says Rogan. Now, not only is Gillespie getting the little stuffed rodents restored, the filmmaker has started a documentary about the Wedding as a work of art and its connection to the band. 

“Thorazine was estranged when she contacted us, reunited in person for the first time when we filmed our interviews for her documentary, and discovered we had changed, but still had incredible chemistry.” Cantland and Rogan started emailing. They made a Thorazine Facebook page and quickly scored some likes. “We were so excited people remembered and cared that Dallas and I knew that we had to play a show,” says Rogan.

Though new songs may emerge one day, Saturday’s show concentrates the band’s back catalog and camaraderie. “Thorazine meant a ton to all of us,” she says. “To have it back in our lives is like having our cake and eating it, too.”

Sat., May 3, 9 p.m., $10, with Pagan Babies, Wally, Baptist Preachers and Bushmaster, The Fire, 412 W. Girard Ave., 267-671-9298, iourecords.com.

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