Toiling Midgets

Toiling Midgets and Green Monkey Records are proud to announce the release of the new LP, “Sea of Tranquility,” a record informed by the past but created looking to the future.

The first taste was the digital single and video “Arachnid” June 28, 2019. It is a dense guitar instrumental, reflective of much of their experimental, psych/prog/jazz/punk/post-punk/noise rock work over their 40-year history. It is largely the work of the two main surviving group members, Craig Gray and Seattle-native Paul Hood. The single was released in advance of their successful July/August 2019 tour dates in Germany and Finland. The Toiling Midgets touring band is Paul Hood – guitar/vocals, Simon Bell – bass/vocals, Craig Gray – guitar and Daniel Benjamin – drums.

Sea Of Tranquility” (vinyl LP and download) will be released by Green Monkey on September 20, 2019. It includes new material developed by Craig and Paul using vocal outtakes from the late Ricky Williams plus music composed and recorded for this project with singer/bass player Simon Bell, and mixed by Michael Davidson in Seattle. Also making an appearance on the record is Penta Swanson, graciously lending her voice to one summer psycho drama!

Originally formed as an instrumental trio, the Toiling Midgets were born in 1980 from the ashes one of San Francisco’s first punk bands, Negative Trend, with founding members Craig Gray – guitar, Tim Mooney – drums and Nosmo King – bass. A young Paul Hood who had honed some chops as a bass player in Seattle punk bands Meyce and The Enemy, joined in short order, switching to improvised and often lyrical feedback guitar. The unpredictable wild man, Ricky Williams, completed the original line up with his Bowie/Iggyesque free form vocals and lyrics.

Never an entirely vocal or instrumental group, their roughly 50/50 blend of vocals and instrumentals is hauntingly beautiful at times and at others soaring and almost anthemic. The music is much closer to rock (although, rock like you may have never heard it before). Craig and Paul’s (the remaining original members) guitars circle and intertwine one another throughout the “Sea of Tranquility” challenging each other to take that next step.

This new record (and make no mistake, this is new stuff) stands proudly with the other 16 or so EPs and albums that they have released over their 40-year recording career. New day!

New recording has already begun with the current lineup and old catalog is being worked for even more future releases.

Remember to play at maximum volume

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Toiling Midgets
Origin San FranciscoCaliforniaUnited States
Genres Post-punkpost-rockinstrumental rock
Years active 1979–1983, 1989–1997, 2007–present
Labels MatadorRough Trade, Fistpuppet, Thermidor, Toiling Midgets Media
Associated acts Negative Trend
American Music Club
  • Craig Gray
  • Paul Hood
  • Simon Bell
  • Daniel Benjamin
Past members
  • Nosmo King
  • Tim Mooney
  • Ricky Williams
  • Aaron Gregory
  • Tom Mallon
  • Annie Ungar
  • Mark Eitzel
  • Joe Goldring
  • Joanna Hood
  • David Ripley
  • Carla Fabrizio
  • Lisa Davis
  • Erich Werner
  • Mark Sullivan

Toiling Midgets is a rock band from San Francisco, California formed in 1979 by members of San Francisco punk bands Sleepers and Negative Trend. They have been active on-and-off since 1979, with their early 1990s lineup getting most attention due to the involvement of Mark Eitzel of American Music Club. They reunited in 2007.


Toiling Midgets was formed in 1979 by drummer Tim Mooney, of The Sleepers and Negative Trend, and guitarist Craig Gray also of the local San Francisco band Negative Trend, guitarist Paul Hood from Seattle’s Punk bands Meyce and The Enemy, and bassist Nosmo King (aka Johnathan Henrickson).[1] Initially an instrumental band, they added former Sleepers and Flipper singer Ricky Williams to its lineup in 1980.[1]

This lineup of the band recorded the first Toiling Midgets album, Sea of Unrest, produced by Tom Mallon and released in 1982 by Rough Trade Records.[1][2] The album was described by Jordan N. Mamone in CMJ New Music Report as a “junkie-rock monument…beautiful, yet horribly-sick stuff”.[3] The album was included in Andrew Earles’ 2014 book Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996.[4]

Williams and King left the band, with Aaron Gregory (bass, ex-Maggots) and Annie Ungar (guitar, ex-Gun Club) joining, this formation recording the instrumental Dead Beats album, released on Joe Carducci‘s Thermidor label in 1985.[1][2]

After a few years on hiatus, in 1989 Hood, Gray and Mooney reunited, initially again as an instrumental band, with Joe Goldring on bass, but they recruited singer Mark Eitzel (for whom Williams had been an influence) of the American Music Club in 1990.[1][5][6] />The new group released the album SON on Matador Records in June 1991, by which time Eitzel had left the band.[1][2] After touring in the summer of 1991 to support SON drummer Mooney and bassist Goldring left the band. Mooney went on to join the American Music Club, which Eitzel was still fronting, and Goldring later formed Touched by a Janitor and Enablers. They were replaced by drummer and long-time producer Tom Mallon and bassist Erich Werner, formerly a member of Telepaths and The Blackouts. Williams returned to the band and recorded 6 songs as well as a show in the fall of 1992 but died on November 21, 1992, due to respiratory complications and a mixture of drug and alcohol abuse.

Mallon, Werner, Gray, and Hood continued with keyboard player Mark Sullivan (Lucky, Motorcade) joining, and Paul Hood’s sister, violist Joanna Hood (who had performed with the Loma Mar Quartet and Paul McCartney) also joining briefly. The group went on an indefinite hiatus in 1997, but reformed in May, 2007 to play at Dirkfest, a June 7–June 8, 2007 festival taking place at Slim’s and the Great American Music Hall, respectively, honoring the late Dirk Dirksen and to play the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair (June 10, 2007). There was a short tour of the Northwest in November, 2009. A new LP was recorded in 2011 but remains unreleased. Tim Mooney died in June 2012.[7]

In 2013 Ektro Records released a live album Toiling Midgets Live at the Waldorf 1982.[8] Tom Mallon died in January 2014 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.[9][10] Ektro Records put out the career retrospective double LP A Smaller Life in 2015 and an accompanying cassette A Smaller Tape in 2017.[11][12]

A new album has been recorded by Hood and Gray with new vocalist and bass player, Simon Bell. A July 2019 release is planned for the new LP. A short European tour is planned for late July and early August 2019 with the addition of Daniel Benjamin of Sea and Air on drums.


The Toiling Midgets formed in San Francisco in 1980 as an instrumental trio made up of Craig Gray (Negative Trend) guitar Tim Mooney (Sleepers, American Music Club) drums and Nosmo King (Negative Trend, 5th Column) bass. They played one gig this way then added guitar player Paul Hood (Meyce, Enemy) who was in attendance at the first show. This lineup recorded a demo that year with producer and future drummer Tom Mallon (American Music Club). In 1981 they added singer Ricky Williams (Sleepers) and recorded more demos with Tom Mallon. After hearing them Rough Trade San Francisco decided to put out the LP “Sea of Unrest” on the Instant label.

After a brief Northwest tour in the summer of 82 guitarist Annie Unger (VS, Gun Club)was added on 3rd guitar and Aaron Gregory (Maggots) replaced Nosmo King on bass. New instrumental material was recorded and released on the Thermidor label in 1983 by which time the band had
broken up.

In 1989 Gray, Hood and Mooney reformed the band with Lisa Davis (American Music Club) on bass. After recording new demos with Mallon singer Mark Eitzel (American Music Club)was added. The LP SON was recorded with this lineup with Mallon producing and released on the Matador label. Lisa Davis quit and was replaced by Joe Goldring (Wade, Enablers) on bass. This version of the band toured the US in 1991. Goldring and Mooney left the band in 91. Tom Mallon was added on drums and Erich Werner (Telepaths, Blackouts) was asked to play bass. In 1992 Williams returned to play some live shows but passed not long after. Mark Sullivan (Lucky, Steakhouse) was
added on keys in 1994. This version of the band played through 1996 when they broke up again.

A benefit for the San Francisco promoter Dirk Dirksen brought them back together in 2008 and they played shows sporadically, recording an unreleased LP in 2011. In 2012 Mallon was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed in 2014. Gray spent the next 3 years working on archival material which was released by Ektro Records in Finland.

In 2018 Gray was working with some old outtake vocals by Ricky Williams to which Gray and Paul Hood wrote new music. More new music was recorded with singer/bass player Simon Bell. This was all put together for the new release “Sea of Tranquility”, a record informed by the past but created looking to the future. The song “Arachnid” from the LP was released on June 28th. The LP will be out in September of 2019