The group started in 1989, when Adam Tanner and John Carson, burned out from failed rock bands, decided to make music for films, and bought 2 Akai S-950 samplers. Having technical difficulties, they asked their friend Lars Fox to help figure out how to use them, and Fox asserted himself as their singer. Their first songs came quickly, and the trio headed to Dancing Dog Studio in Emeryville, to record with David Bryson (soon to be a member of Counting Crows). A visit to radio station KUSF's local music show yielded an invitation to perform at a showcase within a few weeks of starting. Projected videos, synchronized with the music, were an important part of the band from the beginning, influencing and being influenced by other Bay Area bands including Neurosis and Consolidated.
They developed a large dedicated following in San Francisco over the next 2 years, playing with their friends in Consolidated often, and opening for touring industrial bands, including Nine Inch Nails. New local record label Spirit Music Industries asked them to put out a recording, resulting in Brown, introducing the group's ethnic industrial stylings. Next, the group added drummer Bruce Boyd (ex Pagan Babies) to the mix, resulting in a more organic punk feel. The new line up released Luddite on Spirit, much more a live band now, as opposed to Brown's more classic industrial sequenced machine grooves.
Faith No More / Mr Bungle singer Mike Patton championed the band, asking them to open for his band Mr Bungle, joining them for the band's first US tour, in 1992. This led to Alternative Tentacles' Jello Biafra asking the band to join their roster, which they did, releasing what many fans feel to be their best work, Slow Motion Apocalypse, in 1993.
Grotus toured relentlessly from 1993 to 1996, stopping only to record, essentially living in their van or rehearsal space. Many major labels were signing alternative bands in these heady post-Nirvana days, and Grotus was wined and dined extensively. They eventually signed with London Records. London released the more "rock" oriented Mass in 1996, with a remix EP ("Handjob") being released as a touring device in 1995 (for a tour with Korn, on their first headlining tour).
London was primarily interested in the atypical (for Grotus) song "Hand to Mouth", and when it failed to catch on a single, dropped the band two months after releasing Mass. After seven years, the group decided to call it quits.