Craig Rosen discovered go-go at a men’s room in Union Station. Returning home from Wisconsin’s Lawrence University in 1981, he stopped to use the bathroom. There, he noticed scrawled graffiti on the wall: “Ain’t no funk like Trouble Funk.”
Intrigued, he asked around and soon learned that Trouble Funk was a band playing the local funk style known as go-go. Rosen was dropping out of school to bring his new wave band, Static Disruptors, to Washington. He and his bandmates went to a Trouble Funk show, and like so many D.C. transplants, they were immediately hooked on go-go’s layered percussion and call-and-response chants.
“During that show Big Tony did his whole ‘Drop the bomb on the white boy crew’ thing,” recalls Rosen. “We felt very recognized.”
Eventually, Static Disruptors settled in a group house in Northeast not far from members of another go-go band, Mass Extinction. When Rosen spotted them hanging Globe posters, he introduced himself and convinced them to teach Static Disruptors how to play go-go’s distinctive “pocket,” the music’s essential beat. Soon the Disruptors had written their first go-go song. Rosen sold his collection of 3,000 Marvel comics to finance the recording and printing of “D.C. Groove,” which was released on Bill Asp’s WASP Records in 1982.
With an increasing number of recent documentaries, exhibits, and concerts celebrating D.C.’s punk and funk scenes of the ‘80s, Rosen and Disruptors guitarist/bassist Kenny Dread have decided the time is right for a reissue. Now “D.C. Groove” is available digitally on iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud along with its B-side, “Feed the Fire,” a track more reminiscent of Gang of Four than Trouble Funk.
“D.C. Groove” was hardly a monster hit in the way that Chuck Brown’s “We Need Some Money” or Rare Essence’s “Body Moves” were. Still, it garnered some airplay on WOL, and led to opening sets for Trouble Funk and Mass Extinction. Rosen remembers the latter as the first time they played “D.C. Groove” for a black audience. “The crowd rushed the stage,” he says. “That was when we knew we could cross over and that our song was genuine.”
On “D.C. Groove,” which lifts Trouble Funk’s signature drum roll for its opening, lead talker Rosen name checks Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, and Mass Extinction. (An interesting footnote: Providing the song’s background “party noise” vocals were John Gibson and the late David Byers, both members of The Enzymes and Tony Perkins & the Psychotics. Byers went on to become H.R.’s original guitarist and co-wrote “Who’s Got the Herb?” the H.R. song later covered by 311.)
Static Disruptors broke up in 1983, with several members morphing into funk/reggae band Outrage. Now Rosen does poetry outreach with at-risk teens in Los Angeles. Dread lives in Ireland, where he performs acoustic music and yoga kirtans. The only original Disruptor who remains in the D.C. area is drummer Jeff Wagner, owner of WagTech sound. The band has reunited twice, most recently at the 9:30 Club in conjunction with the 2013 “Pump Me Up” exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
While Static Disruptors never pierced mainstream consciousness in the Washington area, the band does deserve a place in D.C.’s musical history. “Here’s a bunch of young white dudes who just rolled into D.C. a year earlier, chanting, ‘Who’s the baddest in Northeast? Static D’s! Static D’s!’” says Dread. “Static Disruptors mashed up go-go and punk power chords years before the Beasties or Chilis threw down a dance groove.”
Top photo and design by Lauren Deane. Bottom photo via Globe