Michael Gross, Freak Magnet Singer, Dies

Atlanta lost another remnant of its rambunctious late ‘80s/early ‘90s rock scene on October 1st, when Michael Gross – singer for Freak Magnet, Beefhead, The Bleeding Jerrys and perhaps a few other ephemeral outfits – died in the early hours of October 1st in Kentucky, where he had family. He was 49.

Prior to arriving in Atlanta in the late ‘80s, Gross had been attending the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied piano and voice, but, refusing to obey the dress code, didn’t make it past his first year. After a stint with punk band The Bleeding Jerrys, “his gritty, venomous snarl was a natural addition to the quickly solidifying Freak Magnet lineup.” (A line from my story on Freak Magnet from Creative Loafing, December 29, 1990.) Erupting from that archetypal late ’80s collision of punk/garage and barebones hard rock/metal (what would be dubbed a few years later, in more refined forms, as grunge), Freak Magnet (with Gross using the stage name Michael P. Nuissance [sic], the P for “public,” I presume) borrowed their name from a live album by The Fluid, and took inspiration from other bands on Sub Pop’s early roster. On the other hand, they weren’t averse to covering “Good Girls Don’t” by The Knack if they were sufficiently buzzed. They released a 7-inch single on local label WorryBird Disk in late 1990. After petering out by the mid ’90s, Gross and Freak Magnet guitarist Marty Perkins formed another group called Beefhead that I seem to remember put out a CD, or at least a demo CD-R, right? Or is my Alzheimer’s flaring up again?

A heavy drinker, Gross eventually developed liver disease, but, tragically, continued indulging in alcohol. Early this year he had gone to Costa Rica to get treatment at a facility, but was hit by a car while there, accelerating his downward slide. Family members brought him back to Kentucky in July, where he continued to struggle and decline. He’d expressed hope during his last year about making music again, in some form, but sadly his liver gave out before any such aspirations could be fulfilled.

We offer our sincere condolences to Michael’s family and friends.