Dr. Onionskin has a long and somewhat interesting history. Born Shane Ries, he had a brief career in the 80s in mod and power pop bands (a fact I only recently discovered), but first came into CCM prominence with the oddly effective project Hymn Jim’s Gospel Gems (1995), which fused traditional hymns with dance music. He re-branded a year later as Dr. Onionskin and changed styles to acid jazz, releasing the quirky, instrumental and semi-brilliant Split Pea Soup.
Then in 1996 he changed styles again, though still building on jazz-electronica fusions, and emerged with Bully and oh my gosh, what a record! Even for people not widely into electronica, the album was incredibly well-received and made it to many of the year’s “best of” lists. I bought a cassette release of the album and it very rarely left my tape player for the better part of 2 years.
Being mostly instrumental, ‘Christian’ electronica is rarely known for faith statements or bold lyrics, but there are hints here and there on Bully. And of course in a subculture known for heavy drug use, it was easy for believers to stand out simply by not celebrating the cultural norms associated with the genre.
Ries released a handful of other albums and singles well into the early 90s and has also recorded under the pseudonym of Alfa One Seven.