Dr. Know’s Kyle Toucher on Reviving the Legendary Punk Band, Working Special Effects on ‘Battlestar Galactica’
Whether onstage grinding out punk-influenced riffs or in front of a computer screen creating epic starship battles, Dr. Know’s Kyle Toucher knows one very key thing: “It’s a very simple equation Give the fans what they want – and then exceed their expectations. They will come back.”
That’s just what Toucher (rhymes with ‘Voucher’) is up to these days, having reactivated his legendary Oxnard, Calif. (aka ‘Nardcore’) crossover band, Dr. Know. Had the band not called it a day in 1991, they would be spoken of with the same reverence as fellow punk-metal pioneers Corrosion of Conformity or DRI. For those in the know, 1988’s Wreckage In Flesh, with Kyle’s snarling, freak-out vocals and Black Flag-by-way-of-Black Sabbath riffing is an unsung punk-metal classic.
Toucher now 50, freely admits that a big motivation in reforming Dr. Know was “to set the record straight.” Recent years had seen a version of the band with vocalist (and one-time Courtship of Eddie’s Father child actor) Brandon Cruz singing – badly. “Watching the videos of those guys was like watching somebody fuck your girlfriend,” Toucher admits. Ironically, the very day that the “fake” Dr. Know called it quits via a press release was the day that that the re-tooled Dr. Know (with guitarist Tim Harkins, drummer Mike Vega and bassist Mike Purdy) first met about reforming. Over a year later, the band returned to the stage in November of 2011, pulling nearly a thousand fans at the Ventura Theater in Ventura, Calif.
Watch Dr. Know’s Live Set from Feb. 2012 at Slidebar in Fullerton, Calif.
Blowing minds visually has also become part of Kyle CV. He’s also made a career for himself as a digital effects artist on such shows as Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. “I was sitting at home probably in 1995 and Babylon 5 was on and I noticed that all the effects and spaceship shots were obviously done by computer. I hadn’t seen CGI space stuff since The Last Startfighter so I shut myself away and started researching who did what, what software was being used. I said to myself ‘why the fuck not?” Kyle actually owes it all to none other than Slayer, who covered the song “”Mr. Freeze” on their Undisputed Attitude album of Slayer-ized punk punk nuggets. “I was offered about seven grand,” Toucher recalls. “I took the bread and put the money and put it into a very high octane computer. (Slayer) allowed me to launch my visual effects career!”
Watch Slayer Perform Dr. Know’s “Mr. Freeze” Live in 1996
Kyle is quick to find the common ground between both his musical and visual effects careers. “I want to create the kind of shows that I want to see. I want to create the shots that I want to watch. I also want to make the kind of records that I want to buy.”
The culmination of Kyle honing his effects skills is a 90-minute pilot for a Galactica spin-off entitled Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. Sadly, it may never actually be seen as it currently resides in the network executive “We Don’t Know What the Fuck to Do With It” zone at the SyFy channel. The reason? ” Budgetary issues. Kyle disagrees. “The show was monstrously affordable considering what you were getting,” he says. “It was like 7.5 million dollars which is the Craft Service budget on a Transformers movie!” Without the network’s knowledge a highly charged minute and a half long unofficial trailer (called a ‘sizzle reel’) hit the web and instantly went mega-viral. It’s frakkin’ awesome. “It’s spaceships and shit blowing up,” says Toucher. “It’s a sci-fi-space-opera-hardware-action show. We’ve got enough teen vampires and people talking about their problems.”
No one is actually sure how the presentation footage got out (The powers that be removed it from You Tube almost instantly) but Kyle doesn’t seem particularly remiss. “This is the show we’ve always wanted to do,” says Toucher about the show, now rumored to be debuting online. “Everything you see there is CG; the sets, the Galactica bridge, the ice planet. We had tons of ideas. If the series had gone on, we would have seen sea battles, a giant air battle over Caprica City, Cylon basestar taking out planets. Crazy shit.”
Listen to “Wreckage” From Dr. Know
With a string of sold out shows throughout the So-Cal area and a recent showing at the Punk Rock Bowling festival in Las Vegas, word of a galvanized Dr. Know is starting to spread. Already, they have been added to the Los Angeles stop on the Power of the Riff festival tour with Southern Lord heavyweights, Black Breath.
When asked if a new Dr. Know album is in the cards, the answer is emphatically “yes”. For the moment, however, Toucher & Co.’s agenda is to get out there to remind old fans just who Dr. Know really is and to make plenty of new converts in the process. Let’s be clear. This is no nostalgia trip. “The songs allow themselves to be modernized,” says Kyle. “There’s room for them to be heavier, thicker and tighter than what’s already there. It still sounds like Dr. Know. It’s just like taking a go-kart and turning it into a muscle car.”