A crazed, symphonic cluster of chaos filled The Empty Bottle in Chicago on the evening of January 13th, 2009. Mouths ajar, everyone present knew this was the beginning of something unique; something strangely prodigious. Chicago had just been completely entranced by an anomaly: a demolition/jazz trio. Brain melting saxophonist Mike Forbes,visionary upright bassist Andrew Scott Young, and quixotically innovative drummer Ben Billington had just salted the city with only a pinch of their inexhaustible talent.
Ben Baker Billington was only 18 when he left his childhood home in Cleveland, Ohio. During the fall of 2004 he set out to study music business at DePaul University in Chicago. Even after the culture- shock of leaving his “relatively desolate suburb” he wanted only to dive head-first into this enormous, loud, lawless city overflowing with art. It would be almost four years before he would have the privilege of meeting the two men who would coalesce with him to create a new piece of Chicago underground history. After engrossing himself in loads of noise rock mixed with harsh electronics and free jazz, Ben Billington helped create the band Druids of Huge, a drums, guitar, electronics trio. During the years 2006-2009 Druids of Huge was performing often and Ben was living with his band mates. The house they resided in—referred to as “Applebee’s”—held a few shows a month and gave Billington the opportunity he needed to start developing his skills into a craft that now defines him as an individual musician.
Saxophonist Mike Forbes and bassist Andrew Scott Young first found one another in 2005, roaming the sweltering streets of Denton, Texas. Both young men had plotted themselves in Denton to pursue degrees in music. Young had seen Forbes perform at a local coffee shop and mentioned a good review in passing, though he was not yet familiar with the sax player who would inadvertently find him only a few nights later. Frustrated with the music program and the musicians within, Forbes felt deeply inclined to seek a bassist who would share the Kowaldian daze he had been trying to expand upon. One night, he set out to connect with a musician who would parallel his ambition and found himself at the Syndicate, an on-campus jazz bar. As Forbes watched the band play, he quickly detected this new partner and reveled in his discovery of Andrew Scott Young. Impressed by Young’s apparent talent and versatility, Forbes approached Young with a very serious and life altering question: “Hey man, you ever heard of Albert Ayler?”
One jam sesh together and both men were captivated by the energy and vision they shared. Quickly acclimated to one another’s style, Forbes and Young were a team through their obsession with free form music and their love of the beautiful, magical Mary Jane. Both men played in projects here and there, but as their infatuation with noise and the esoteric side of jazz grew robust,Forbes and Young started to feel stagnant in this little Texas town. They decided to take their vision to bigger places. Minds made up, Chicago was taken by storm.
They fled the south in September of 2007 and were promptly seeking a drummer to complete a concept they wanted to become a trio. Submerged in Chicago’s culture, they played with countless other musicians, but none felt correspondent to the style they were trying desperately to get off the ground. Forbes and Young delved into the free improv/jazz scene, but then quickly realized that the noise/punk/rock scene suited their social needs and expectations better. Already aware of Billington’s band Druids of Huge, they began to frequent the Applebee’s DIY house, where they met the young drummer. Intrigued by their potential talent, he invited them to perform at Applebee’s as the Forbes/Young duet, which he regales, “RULED.” Not much time passed before “jamming” was suggested amongst the three of them and Tiger Hatchery took its first breaths. Billington remembers, “I sort of just brought my sloppy ‘free rock’ vibe to the mix, but I quickly adapted to a more keen sense of improvisation and listening…it seemed natural…we knew we had something special going.”
As circumstances shifted and leases ended, it was time to find a new chapter in Chicago. They knew they wanted to be closer to Logan Square where all of the action was happening, but needed to find a place where they could still practice freely. As the forefathers of jazz and very good luck smiled upon them, a 16,000 square foot warehouse was discovered available for a ridiculously cheap price. Friendships grew strong as negotiations were conceived and it was decided that several drifting artists with similar needs would all band together and shack up in this enormous warehouse that would eventually become The Mopery, a legend to the DIY underground music scene.This industrial Chicago loft was the second story of a Milwaukee Avenue shopping complex turned DIY art space. Thirteen tenants at its greatest capacity populated an actual “tent city” while huge art installments were built to be destroyed and psychedelic depictions of mixed paint and media engulfed the walls. By day, it was a peaceful living space. By night, it was a raging free-for-all DIY warehouse party. Crusty punks and pink hipsters alike felt welcome to come unglued in this fantasia of ultimate indulgence. The word-of-mouth understanding about The Mopery and its reputation for hosting the most intense underground acts in the country made people excited to be there. Artists such as Stare Case, White Mice, Peaking Lights, Liturgy, Bloodyminded, and Hair Police are among the hundreds of bands that graced its stage. These amazing shows, held about three times a month, featured five or six acts. The music started around 11pm and sometimes lasted until 4 in the morning, often bringing out hundreds of show-goers. The Mopery brought so much business to the surrounding liquor vendors, convenience stores, late night food stops, etc., that keeping the cops away was an understood financial obligation. Extra time to finely tune their sound, combined with rampant exposure on The Mopery stage, brought Tiger Hatchery unforeseen amounts of recognition. Almost a year later, and with a hundred performances under their belts, Tiger Hatchery was taking steps and putting in the work that would eventually present them with valuable opportunities.
It was the middle of 2010 when diligent networking combined with Tiger Hatchery’s raw talent and hard work got the attention of a small, Cleveland-based record label and they were approached to record an album. The recordings took place August 14th on E. 71st Street inside of what is now called the “71st Door” by recording genius Michael McDonald. All recorded in just one day, the session yielded 15 takes that could easily be narrowed down to a solid album. The recordings just needed to be mastered and a release date was in the works! Chicago had proven to hold all of the opportunities and glamor these men had come here for, and the work was starting to pay off. Truth be told, Chicago’s glamor was a little too intense.
Less than two weeks after the recording had taken place, saxophonist Mike Forbes disappeared without a word for almost three days. When Young finally got a hold of Forbes’s brother in San Francisco, he was informed that Mike had clandestinely taken a bus there for some seriously needed rehab. “Based on our history together, it never crossed mine or Andrew’s mind that the band was over or that we wouldn’t play together again.” Forbes recounts, “It was a drug problem…not something I wanted to do.” The record release was pushed to the back burner by the band and the record label alike. “I think they felt there was no reason to push it forward when the near future had become so unpredictable.” The band members all focused on personal goals for a while, and it would be a year before their next tour. After a long-awaited reunion, Young told Forbes, “I knew you just needed to take care of your shit, man.”
Moving around the country became fairly prevalent amongst these band mates in the several years following. Forbes went back to Denton with the intention of returning to San Francisco to pursue culinary arts. Andrew Scott Young took a carefully earned opportunity to teach music in Seattle. Ben Billington currently resides in Chicago, concentrating on a plethora of projects including Moonrises and his solo act, Quicksails. Hell-bent on continuing to tour and expand their following, this squad of sensory slayers set out on their most recent (inter)national tour after being invited to play the renowned Suoni per il Poplo festival in Montreal, Canada during the summer of 2013.
Even more exciting, ESP-Disk’ has chosen to release those recordings done by Tiger Hatchery in Cleveland three years ago. Since the arrival of this news, Tiger Hatchery has made plans to expand their tour routes into the nether-regions of…the Universe. Is this the true beginning of what is to come from Tiger Hatchery? Is this a second wind of chances for those of us who never got to see the Mopery shows?! Is it true that we will all one day have Tiger Hatchery’s first legendary record, Sun Worship, to hand down to our little freeform-demolition-noise-loving tykes, whom we adore for sharing our excellent taste? Yes. The answer is finally yes.