This is a band that I discovered only in the last few years. Oddly enough, they are based close by in Detroit (I live in Ann Arbor). Here is the biography I wrote for Prog Archives.
DISCIPLINE is one of those rare cases of obscurity combined with reverence. Much like Änglagård was the Swedish phenomenon, DISCIPLINE was the U.S. counterpart. They are bands that released two highly praised studio albums in the ’90s, and then disappeared. The ensuing passage of time allowed them to become legendary. The most obvious difference from Änglagård being that the DISCIPLINE albums are still readily available.
Even though they did not have an official release until 1993, the band had been around since 1987. Guitarist John Preston Bouda, drummer Paul Dzendzel, bass player Mathew Kennedy, and singer/multi-instumentalist Matthew Parmenter began in a place that is not usually considered fertile ground for prog. When one thinks of Detroit (Michigan) music, it usually conjures images of Motown, Ted Nugent, or Iggy Pop. I lived in the area in 1987, and I can tell you that I was not looking for the next best thing to Marillion to emerge in my neck of the woods. However, they took the bull by the horns, and created a loyal following in the Detroit area. It wasn’t just the challenging music that drew fans. The live shows harkened back to Gabriel-era Genesis. Matthew Parmenter changed costumes for each song, and wore his now trademark mime makeup. This led to his nick name, The Magic Acid Mime. They had no recording contract, but their cassette tapes were very well received.
In 1993 Discipline recorded their first proper album, “Push & Profit.” It wasn’t exactly a smash, but it was a critical success. A supporting tour in Norway also proved that they had moved far beyond local hero status. To get proper albums out there, they created their own independent label. DISCILPNE, and Matthew Parmenter, are the only artists on Strung Out Records. “Push and Profit” was not your typical Neo fare. They took cues from many different areas of the prog realm. Where lesser bands using this approach might seem unfocused, DISCILPNE blended it together as if this is the way it is supposed to be done.
1997 saw the release of the much-heralded “Unfolded Like a Staircase.” Most (if not all) of the whimsy found on the debut was gone. This was a much darker album, and consisted of four long tracks. For this album, a Peter Hammill influence was very much in the forefront. That did not deter the fans, and it solidified what was to become their legendary status.
Although the studio albums were spaced out over four years, that did not mean these guys didn’t keep busy. They toured often, and played ProgDay for five consecutive years. Parmenter also appeared as a guest on other artists’ albums. However, by the end of the decade, it was over. Mathew Kennedy joined Parmenter’s nephew in Eyestrings, and Matthew Parmenter focused on a solo career. He released his first solo album, “Astray,” in 2005. The only other musician appearing on the album was Mathew Kennedy, so it wasn’t that far from home. DISCILPNE was not completely out of sight before this either. There were a series of live recordings released between 2000 and 2005.
So, that brings us to 2008. Just when you thought it would never happen, DISCILPNE is reforming. The band was booked to play NEARfest 2008, and is doing a small gig on their home turf, with fellow Detroit proggers Tiles. At this time, these are the only dates scheduled. We can only hope it will lead to a full reunion, and new music.
Since writing this, some things have changed. Amazingly Änglagård is releasing their albums again, and Matthew Parmenter has recorded another solo album called “Horror Express” (with the Peter Hammill footprint firmly stamped). I now have had the opportunity to see Discipline three times in concert. Mr. Parmenter no longer has the luxury of coming out from behind the keyboards (David Krofchok handled those duties for “Push and Profit,” and was gone before “Unfolded like Staircase”), but his face is more expressive than most fully staged theater. But that’s not all. The band has written a new tune called “Rogue,” so a new album seems inevitable.
Even without new Discipline recordings, the existing catalogue remains as relevant now as it ever was. Both “Push and Profit” and “Unfolded Like Staircase” are incredible albums. I would put them up against any thing of note today, or even the masters of the past. The quality, musicianship, intelligence, depth of composition, and sheer emotional power of this band should not be missed. For those interested in the stage theatrics from the ’90s, check out the “Live 1995” DVD. It’s pretty awesome.
MatthewParmenter – vocals,guitar,violin, programming, tambourine, recorder, synth
Jon Preston Bouda – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matthew Kennedy – bass
Paul Dzendzel – drums and percussion
David Kroftchok – piano, organ, synth, backing vocals
Matthew Parmenter – voice, keyboards, violin, alto saxophone, orchestra chimes
Paul Dzendzel – drums and percussion
Matthew Kennedy – bass guitar
Jon Preston Bouda – electric and acoustic guitars