Hamster Theatre is an ensemble that plays a fusion of jazz, rock, folk and world music and is influenced by 20th century musicians. There is no way to easily put them into a particular category as they seem to cross borders between these various genres. This group was formed back in 1993 by Dave Wiley and Jon Stubbs formerly of Big Foot Torso (Mark Fuller's band). Dave left that band and traveled Europe where he presumably was influenced by music not commonly heard in the USA. The first lineup consisted of Dave on guitar, keyboards and melodeon, Jon on bass, greg LaLiberte on saxophones and flute, Deborah Perry on keyboards and performing the vocals, Steve Doyle on guitar, and Josh Wright on drums. This lineup did some local gigs and released a low recording-quality cd called Songs From The Hamster Theatre (1995, Prolific Records). Eventually this lineup dissolved. A new revamped lineup was formed in 1996 by Dave and Jon. In addition to them both it included Mark Harris (Thinking plague) on winds and reeds, Mike Johnson (Thinking plague) on guitar, Mike Fitzmaurice on bass and Raoul Rossiter on drums.
This lineup recorded the live record Siege On Hamburger City which was recorded at the Mercury Café in 1998. This also marks the time when work on what was to become their first studio album began. This album was to be released on Cuneiform Records and therefore got the band to work on it with extra attention to details and they put into it much hard work. Released in 2001 it was called Carnival Detournement and mixed by Bob Drake (who also did it on The Public Execution. release). After the release of this album, the bass position experienced some frequent changes. Dave had Mike Fitzmaurice replaced and at first Dave and Jon performed the bass part in alternation. Then Raoul recommended that Brian MacDougal take over the bass part (he is heard on the Quasi Day Room: Live at the Moore Theatre). However, Brian moved on and was replaced by Erik Thorin who later joined Open Road and went on to tour with them leaving HT again without a bass player (only to come back to the lineup at the end of the tour). He was replaced by Matt Spencer who can be heard on The Public Execution of Mister Personality (along with Dave and Jon doing some bass playing). When he left to California, Erik came back.
So what do they play? Well, with their use of some wind instruments such as saxophones, clarinets, flutes and other exotic instruments such as accordion, banjo, mandolin, marimba and viola and of course the basic rock instruments, they manage to deliver a fascinating mixture of folk and 20th century classic music as well as a generous amount of avant-garde but with good measure and not too much to frighten the uninitiated. The music is rather cheerful and it is smooth and easy on the ear. They have created their own unique sound and their musicianship is evident.