Tomahawk's Duane Denison: 5 "Gnarliest" Books You Need to Read | Revolver

Tomahawk's Duane Denison: 5 "Gnarliest" Books You Need to Read

Jesus Lizard founder and Nashville librarian backs grim tales of Russian gulags, Mexican witches and more
duane denison tomahawk jesus lizard PRESS 2021 retouched, Elizabeth Gregory
photograph by Elizabeth Gregory

Get your vinyl copy of Tomahawk's first new album in eight years, Tonic Immobility, at Revolver's store.

In January 2021 Tomahawk dropped "Business Casual" — a vitriolic cut from the alt-metal supergroup's first new record in eight years, Tonic Immobility. Founding guitarist Duane Denison describes the song as "a mocking look at the life of work in America" — a subject he, more so than many of his rock contemporaries, is intimately familiar with.

Sure, he's put in work as a founding member of influential Nineties noise-rock icons Jesus Lizard and logged plenty of hours with rockabilly crew the Legendary Shack Shakers, country royal Hank Williams III and, of course, Tomahawk, which also features Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, etc.) Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle) and John Stanier (Helmet).

But Denison also works as a librarian in Nashville, which makes him a (library) card-carrying member of the 9-to-5 club. "I've always found inspiration in books," he says, "whether from historical figures and fictional characters or from scores and sheet music. Nerds rule."

Inspiration can (obviously) take many forms: sometimes it comes from uplifting stories and music — other times it's found through a deep-dive into humanity's darker side. In the latter's spirit, we recently caught up with Denison to get his thoughts on the "gnarliest" books you should read. See his picks below.

'Graphite' by Varlam Shalamav

Graphite - Varlam Shalamav
Tales from the Russian Gulag, where the guards are brutal and the inmates are worse. Then there's the weather ...

'The Abstainer' by Ian McGuire

The Abstainer - Ian McGuire
Anglo vs. Celtic mayhem in late 19th-century Manchester, where cops, criminals, informers and allies all seem interchangeable ... and doomed.

'Hurricane Season' by Fernanda Melchor

Hurricane Season - Fernanda Melchor
Not-so-sunny Mexico is the setting for this saga of sleaze, violence and witchery  ... and hidden treasure?

'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy

The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Post-apocalyptic U.S.A. has our heroes traveling a scorched earth inhabited by scavengers and predators. You don't want to hang out with them.

'High Rise' by J.G. Ballard

High Rise - J.G. Ballard
It's anarchy in the U.K. when the residents of a wealthy apartment building revert to tribal warfare when the amenities begin to break down. Not even the dogs are safe ...