Hard-hitting seminal rapcore quintet Bionic Jive was founded in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1998. The group has recorded and toured extensively, weathering the usual music-biz pitfalls and personnel changes to emerge by spring 2008 with a harder sound and its strongest lineup to date—vocalists Asayanda “Ako” Mack and Mark “Emerg McVay” Moore, guitarist Michael McGregor, bassist Richard Gartner and drummer George Robbins.
McGregor and Elyea founded the band in early 1998 by recruiting Gartner and Robbins, vocalist Derrick Burrows and multi-instrumentalist Chris Elsnor “TG1”. This original “funk metal” incarnation of Bionic Jive gigged heavily on the Phoenix-area scene before disbanding shortly after the 1999 release of independent debut disc The Six-Billion Dollar Band.
A second Bionic Jive lineup soon coalesced in 2000 around Elyea, Gartner and Elsnor (who had moved to drums), with the addition of vocalists Mack and McVay. This lineup caught the attention of Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records (U2, Sheryl Crow, Eminem, Gwen Stefani) and famous record producer (U2, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Patti Smith). Iovine signed Bionic Jive to Interscope; major-label debut Armageddon Through Your Speaker was released in October 2001.
The band subsequently hit the road, including short outing with Kottenmouth Kings and several weeks in 2001 supporting D12. Bionic Jive landed a prestigious spot in 2002 on Eminem’s nationwide Anger Management Tour, and the group organized self-financed national club tours in 2002 and 2003.
Single “Ricochet” from Armageddon Through Your Speaker appeared in commercials for hit 2002 film The Transporter, although the song did not appear in the film itself. Bionic Jive music was also heard in movie hits Resident Evil (2002) and The Italian Job (2003). Also during this period, the band achieved some airplay, shot music videos for ATYS songs “Pump” and “I Shot Lucifer,” and had music featured in video games Postal2 and ATV 2004.
Success notwithstanding, however, Bionic Jive was weakened by internal struggles and external pressures, and Elyea and Elsnor left the band in 2003. Little happened in the ensuing period, although Armageddon Unrealeased—a collection of early demos, remixes and material that didn’t make it onto ATYS—saw limited release in 2004.
While rumors of the group’s demise circulated, Bionic Jive struggled to replace Elyea and Elsnor. Gartner contacted original guitarist McGregor and original drummer Robbins in 2004 about material for a new Bionic Jive album, originally intending to write with them but to actually perform with a different lineup. The writing team’s renewed chemistry and strong material, however, resulted in McGregor and Robbins officially rejoining Gartner, Mack and McCay in yet another Bionic Jive lineup.
On its own website, Bionic Jive reassured fans in 2005 that the group was indeed alive and well and announced that work was under way on a new album. Recording at former guitarist Elyea’s Minds Eye Digital Recording Studio in Scottsdale, Ariz., the group achieved a much heavier/focused rapcore sound than any previous incarnation of the band. The resulting disc, Passion Over Politics, was released in 2008.