Sorry to hear of the death of Greg McCormick, better known as Itchy, who was one of the mainstays of Shock Therapy, a Detroit band that never had a lot of success locally, despite opening shows here for the Jesus And Mary Chain and Gang Of Four, among others, but made some major waves overseas, particularly in the U.K. and Germany. He was 44 and had been on the skids since he was sent to prison for an arson conviction in 2001. His bandmate Keith Jackson, now based in Phoenix, wrote the following tribute to his friend on Itchy's MySpace page:
My childhood friend is gone: Itchy & I started the group Shock Therapy in Detroit. I miss him. He was troubled...but I loved him. He was recently here in Phoenix and was pretty much homeless....I sent him back on a bus after staying w/ me for a week...Details are sketchy, but he was found in a field in Detroit on Wednesday.
We went to high school together, and had been writing and playing together off and on since.
Touring Europe and recording our brand of Detroit industrial noise. We had always written music together, and they were some of the best & worst times of my life.
He will be missed in many ways. The Detroit music scene owes this man respect..even though he was insane...Shock Therapy helped to spur forward a movement which put Detroit's underground on the map. God Speed you, my friend.
The following is from a 2005 Metro Times piece, titled "Where The Hell Are They Now?":
Take-no-prisoners techno pioneers rewrote the drug, death and jail song
Who: Original lineup: Gregory “Itchy” McCormick, screamer, co-founder; Keith Jackson, guitar; Bill Shepherd, drums; Thomas Buckley, keyboards.
Many local musicians passed through Shock Therapy ranks, including, but not limited to, Cliff Hill, Richard “Tex” Newman and Bill McNeil (Almighty Lumberjacks of Death and/or Country Bob and the Blood Farmers), Chris Connolly (Pub Life), Dean Hamlin (Betty Fords) and ex-Plasmatic Wes Beech. Other notables include Dustin Aller, Eric Hoskins (RIP), Ted Meeks (RIP) and Joe Santori II.
What: Frontline vendor of industrial and techno-punk that began as a reaction against much of Detroit’s early ’80s rock scene, particularly, Jackson says, mainstream bands “like Figures on a Beach and Rhythm Corps.” Largely ignored at home, and fueled by Itchy’s bizarre conduct, the band’s initial attitude was more fuck-you punk than it was German urbanity, but they became iconic in Germany. “Insane” and “genius” are descriptors ex-members often use in the same breath to describe the singer.
Where: Shock Therapy debuted in 1982 at Bookies. They opened many shows at St. Andrew’s Hall for mid-’80s heavyweights — including Gang of Four and Jesus & Mary Chain — and played often at the Free Style Lounge, the Red Carpet, Bookies, Todd’s and others. They headlined theater tours in Germany (“in a haze of drugs and booze,” Jackson says) before frenzied fans.
When: 1982-2001. Jackson and Itchy, two disenfranchised suburban kids from Farmington Hills, formed the Gerbils in 1981. Informed by technology, the band ditched the punk formula, adding keyboards and sequencers. They became DaDa, then Shock Therapy. By 1984, Shock Therapy’s industrial faceblast had blossomed.
What Happened: Group signed to local Metro America, which Jackson says was a “coke-funded label nightmare,” and recorded their debut in Nashville with programming-whiz producer Jimmy Hotz (Fleetwood Mac). The label bankrupted, and the band signed to Chicago’s Fundamental (and later, Berlin-based Dossier Records), who reissued the debut in Europe, where the band took off.
But Itchy’s stunts were legendary, and frustrated members often quit. Jackson says, “Itchy would tape acid and coke inside the synthesizers to get it through customs.”
Their tale is littered with nervous breakdowns, rampant alcoholism, coke-induced heart attacks and near-death experiences. “There’s sooooo many of those stories,” says Cliff Hill, Shock Therapy’s drummer from 1990 to 1995.
One late-’80s episode in Germany saw a spun-out Itchy nearly cash it in. The singer was balanced atop the steep roof of a youth hostel dressed only in his underwear. He was screaming bloody murder. Then he slipped from his perch and headed for the concrete five stories below. But by some fluke, he managed to catch the building’s exterior eave gutter just as he started to freefall. He hung on with one hand, still screaming with legs kicking and free arm waving. Band members formed a human chain down from an open window, one grabbed Hill by the ankles and he was yanked up to safety.
Where they are now: Itchy’s doing six to 20 for arson in Michigan’s Parr Highway Correctional Facility. He was sentenced in early 2001. German fans launched a “Take Action for Itchy” campaign (shock-therapy.de.ki) to get him out of jail. Jackson lives in Phoenix, and manages a pub and plays in two bands, the Glass Heroes and the Busted Hearts. Buckley lives in Austin and works a successful corporate gig. Shepherd died, reportedly from natural causes. The band’s “Hate is a 4-Letter Word” is a cult classic and club favorite in Germany.
EDITOR'S NOTE: According to an e-mail I just received, Bill Shepherd is alive and well and working for the U.S. government...so the report that ran in the paper three years ago is evidently wrong...though one has to wonder why it took three years for anyone to correct that fact...
Itchy, post-Shock Therapy.