Tim Hemensley and John Nolan were members of Bored! in the late 1980s. Both left Bored! following that band's 1990 tour of Europe. Nolan then played with Hoss for a time, and the first five-piece Powder Monkeys played in early 1992, with a lineup of Tim Hemensley (bass, vocals), John Nolan (lead guitar), Adyn Hibberd (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jed Sayers (harmonica) and Timmy Jack Ray (drums). Adyn Hibberd left around June 1992, though he did play on their first single, "Yin Yang", released February 1993 on Dog Meat Records. Aydn's guitar tracks were left on only a few songs on the band's first album, Smashed On A Knee, recorded in 1992, but one song he penned and sang, "Ugly", was included and the album finally came out on Dog Meat in March 1994.
They put considerable effort into live performance and touring in this time. Jed Sayers had left by the end of 1994, and the band stayed a three-piece until the end. Their next release, in February 1995, was the five-track EP Straight Until Morning, which were recordings for a Triple J live broadcast.
The band released the single "The Supernova That Never Quits" in December 1995, with the second album Time Wounds All Heels following in February 1996. The second album is considered a much more coherent example of the band's sound.
Hemensley and Ray also played with the Peter Wells Band in 1996. There was some music industry interest in Time Wounds All Heels, but nothing resulted. The band reemerged in August 1997 with the 7" "Get The Girl Straight"/"Wasn't Born Yesterday" (400 copies, red vinyl) on the Death Valley label.
Most of 1998 was spent touring. A live album, recorded at an April 1998 Melbourne gig, Blood Sweat & Beers came out in early 1999 on Safety Pin Records (Spain) and on CD from Butcher's Hook Records (UK). They then went on a European tour, on which they recorded "Two Tub Man" and "Check This Action", both released as split 7" singles with the Hellacopters. They also recorded a new album with Hellacopters producer Fred 'Atlas' Estby entitled 'Lost City Blues', which saw a release on the Hellacopters White Jazz label. The album has never seen an Australian release. A 6-track EP was also recorded, Talk Softly & Carry A Big Shtick, which was released on Punch records and is now a collector's item, featuring rarely heard songs 'Breakdown Coming' and 'Positively Crapple Street'.
Timmy Jack Ray departed the group shortly after, reportedly due to escalating problems with heroin. His replacement was ex-Seminal Rats drummer Todd McNear. John Nolan suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 2001, the result of his heroin use, and was left with slightly impaired motor skills. Nolan spent several months recovering, and the group reconvened in 2002, recording a song for the Dirty Deeds soundtrack as well as a cover of legendary Detroit band The Dogs' 'Black Tea'. They played their first gig in over a year at the Tote, supporting punk legends The Dictators, and shortly after supporting Dead Moon. These were to be the last Powder Monkeys gigs.
After a lengthy battle with heroin, Tim Hemensley died tragically from an overdose on July 21, 2003. It was a devastating blow to the Melbourne rock scene, which had been severely depleted in recent years with the deaths of Guy Lucas (Philistines, Freeloaders), Mick Weber (Seminal Rats), and Sean Greenway (GOD, Freeloaders, The Yes-Men).
The final recordings were compiled on a CD entitled 'Outta Control Rock'n'Roll' and released on the Dropkick label in 2005. It featured three new songs recorded live at Sean Greenway's wake in 2001, as well as studio recordings of several cover songs including The Stooges 'Cock in my Pocket', a staple of their live sets for many years.