Michael Yonkers

Originally recorded in 1968 and slated for release on Sire Records, Microminiature Love languished unreleased until last year, when it was finally unearthed by De Stijl Records (who put out a limited, vinyl-only pressing of the original album). Its creator, Michael Yonkers, is a legendary figure in Minneapolis music-lore, who, through his own modifications, created his own guitars and effects. However, Microminiature Love is no mere curiosity or feat of gadgetry.

Raised on a steady diet of Link Wray and the Trashmen, Yonkers pushed the boundaries of distortion and truly transformed it into a powerful voice. The songs on Microminiature Love defy immediate categorization, but in them are shades of Pere Ubu, the howl of Iggy, the blunt primitivism of the Godz, and the seeds of countless other underground heroes.

Michael Yonkers started his musical career as the leader of Michael & The Mumbles, who played proms and dances all over the Twin Cities area. Constantly refining and re-imagining their sound, the band gradually morphed into the Michael Yonkers Band with Michael’s brother Jim Yunker on drums and Tom Wallfred on bass. In 1967, Michael cut his Telecaster down to a plank; one of the many modifications he made to his equipment. He still plays this same guitar on stage today.

Soon enough, the band hooked up with Peter Steinberg, a local music impresario, who set them up with a contract with Sire Records. As Cecile Cloutier points out in her thorough piece from Minneapolis’ City Pages, this was one of many times throughout the course of rock history that the fertile music underground was being mined by the majors. At the time, bands like The Fugs, Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention had major label deals. For various reasons that remain unclear, dealings with the label fell apart and they and the band parted ways.

Yonkers continued to record and released several solo records on his own label, including Grimwood, Michael Lee Yonkers and Goodby Sunball in the early seventies. In 1971, Michael’s back was broken in an on-the-job accident in an electronics warehouse. Years of ongoing exploratory surgeries have done nothing to help the situation, instead ultimately disabling him further. His allergic reaction to the dye used in an X-ray procedure led to a degenerative condition of his spinal cord lining from which he suffers to this day. Dance has proven to be Yonkers’ greatest therapy and he has, as a result, been active in the Minneapolis dance community for years.

In 1997, Get Hip Records released a collection of songs recorded at Richfield, MN’s Dove Studios called Free Flight: Unreleased Dove Recording Studio Cuts 1964-69. The collection contained two of the songs heard on Microminiature Love; “Puppeting” and the anti-Vietnam War song “Kill the Enemy.” These tracks caught the attention of De Stijl’s Clint Simonson and launched a search for Yonkers that lasted over a year. Simonson eventually located Yonkers not through the music community, but through the local dance community.

Michael Yonkers still resides in St. Paul, MN and has recently played shows with such diverse bands as Wolf Eyes, Six Organs of Admittance and Low.

Upon its release last year, Microminiature Love immediately became a record-head favorite and Yonkers’ later albums began trading for not-insignificant sums. The original seven-song album is accompanied on this CD edition by six bonus tracks recorded circa 1968.

Dusted feature on Michael Yonkers!
Cecile Cloutier’s Michael Yonkers feature from Minneapolis’ City Pages

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