Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Special Thanks From Disarray

I have been thanked on film credits, in books, and on various band releases. One of the bands to thank me (well, to thank my 'zine Married Punks, actually) was the TN based metal act Disarray on its 1996 release, Bleed, which I was sent a cassette copy of to review back in the day. It wasn't the first band to thank me, but it was the one of the few bands that wasn't punk, and appearing on its "Thank You" list opened the door to getting a lot of new readers and a lot of metal bands sending material our way.

Bleed was just five songs, but they were five really good songs, and the band went on to do even better things. From what I can see, the band's last release, Edge of My Demise, came out in 2007. The band started in 1995, however, which makes its legacy a lot longer than many of the bands we reviewed in the 'zine. (A song from the band did appear on a 2008 tribute album, too, it should be noted.) What happened to the band? I have no idea. I imagine it's the same thing that happened to many bands. Back in the day, though, this was a metal band I enjoyed listening to, and I was bummed when my cassette copy of Bleed was eaten by my tape player. I could find a new copy on eBay, along with releases from Mr. Big and Van McCoy, but I doubt I will. Not because I don't like the band or didn't appreciate being thanked, but because I doubt it will be as good as I remember it being. My tastes have changed, and while I still enjoy metal of all sorts, I'm more discerning these days.

Still, it was pretty cool to be thanked by the band at the time, which is something Maiden never did for me.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Soundtrack to Depravity is Classic Rock

Those who have read my novel Black Devil Spineor even just read the reviews, know it is not a light read meant for the beach or the easily offended. For the years I worked on it I described it as my "sex and violence" manuscript. Those who read it know that is an accurate description.

Throughout the novel there is a constant reference to classic rock. Songs punctuate some scenes. Why? It's the music one of the main characters likes quite a bit. This meant that I had to listen to a lot of it while writing. While I don't hate classic rock, it is not exactly my go-to music ... especially not for writing.

But it worked.

It worked really well, actually. In fact, while editing and listening to  even more classic rock I found that songs were matching scenes ... and I had not written those scenes to the music. The Stones. Eric Clapton. Rush. Bad Company. Those bands had somehow infiltrated the manuscript in places, and editing felt almost magical. Everything just flowed.

Some people have told me that they thought the music to which I wrote the book would be death metal or industrial. That didn't fit the mood. Not at all. It was too on the nose. I was writing about real people doing bad things, and the character of Martin Springer would call that stuff "noise." It would distract him from his art and murder.

I am not recommending you read the book. Like I mentioned, it's not for everyone. If you are easily offended or squeamish, forget it. But if you are mildly curious and have a strong stomach for violence, I would love for you to pick it up and drop me a note. If you're a classic rock fan, all the better, but I may have ruined a song or two for you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Power a Secret Holds ...

The title to this blog posting is a play on The Dead Brothers' song "The Power a Secrt Holds," which can be found on the incredible Voodoo Rhythm Records Records to Ruin Any Party Vol. 3. I have had nothing but praise for the label and these compilations, and this one, complete with Juke Joint Pimps, Pussywarmers, Urban Junior, Reverend Beat Man, Possessed by Paul James, Bob Log III, Andy Dale Petty, Roy and the Devil's MC, and many more doesn't disappoint.

But I, like Peter David, digress ...

It's been about two years since I've last had a post here. Why? I've been busy. Very. Busy. Black Devil Spine came out, which meant I was listening to classic rock for months of editing. (Classic rock is a huge part of that story.) I also started the Sinful Cinema series, which is proving to be popular with film fans. So, yeah, blog posts took a backseat to other ventures.

As I was cleaning the house and tossing out stuff, I was listening to this compilation, and when Reverend Beat Man's "Jesus Christ Twist" came on I thought, "I haven't written a blog post in a while!" What better music to inspire a new posting? Voodoo reinvigorated my love of music, and now it's served as a catalyst to getting the blog going again. I can't promise this will be a regular thing, but I'm sure going to try and make it so.

As to be expected, I believe that anyone who appreciates excellent music should march out and find this CD. Sure, it's six years old, but the music is as timeless as sunsets and funeral rites. There's blues trash, swamp rock, psychedelic, and just about everything else to stir the heart. I'm not saying this because I received it free to review, either. This is stuff I'd be recommending regardless of how much I had to pay for it. Trust me, this is worth it, as are the other two volumes in the set.

Maybe next time I'll delve into how music fit into the writing of Black Devil Spine. Maybe not. In the meantime, you've got some trash blues to enjoy ...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Backseat Education - Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction.  If that name made you grin, you know of the band.  The year was 1988.  Tattooed Beat Messiah was released (some fools would say “dropped” these days), and the world of hard rock would never be quite the same.  I was a fan from the first track, which was the “Wolf Child Speech.”  It was over the top.  Ridiculous.  Not to be taken seriously.  Perfect.  It was what hard rock should be.

It’s no surprise that this band came out of the same era that gave us Sigue Sigue Sputnik (affordable firepower), Adam and the Ants, and Mötley Crüe.    

The music was blistering and the lyrics didn’t take themselves all too seriously … or at least one hoped they didn’t.  Zodiac Mindwarp (Mark Manning) put a lot of swagger in those tales of debauchery, and that’s what made it so great.  Sure, there were other bands out there of this ilk that sang songs of wine and women, but none looked or sounded like this one, and few seemed so real.

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction never got much of a following here in America.  It made an appearance here and there, and some college stations played its songs, but for the most part it was merely a footnote in musical history, while insipid garbage like Mr. Big (1989 actually marked the band’s debut album, but it was formed in 1988) captured audiences’ ears and hearts  -- easy listening for the easily distracted.  I don’t know why this was the case, but perhaps it was due to the fact that Zodiac Mindwarp and company looked like a bunch of coke-up bikers who may be Nazis while Mr. Big looked like a bunch of Bon Jovi fans from the Midwest who dreamed of playing the Cloverfield County Fair.  Me?  I’ll take biker Nazis over cowboys any day.  The rest of America, sadly, didn’t feel the same way.  Oh, what could’ve been…

Enjoy the video.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hank Haint's Blackout

Man, when it comes to a label that has a knack for getting great one-man bands, nothing beats Voodoo Rhythm Records.  Case in point?  Hank Haint.  He even covers an old GG Allin song (“Don’t Talk to Me”)!  How could you possibly go wrong with this guy?

On May 25, 2012, Blackout was released on an unsuspecting world.  You, the listener, is first subjected to “Keep on Walking.”  You think, “This can’t possibly be a one-man band.”  You are, of course, wrong.  Just like the times you thought there wasn’t a cop around and that one time you swore she was 18.

There are 12 other songs (including the Allin cover) that will only serve to strengthen your disbelief.  When you think about the fact that he only started working as a solo act five years earlier, you will chastise yourself for wasting the last half decade doing … what?  Not this, that’s for sure. 

Blues trash with a punk attitude is how this music has been described.  That is about as accurate a description as one will get.  It’s too raw for the “hip” crowd., and too obscure for mainstream music lover.  It’s in that void to be enjoyed only by the daring and the lucky. 

Of course, this may not be your thing at all.  You may lean more toward pop or, Heaven forbid, hip hop.  You may be wondering what the fuss is about.  It’s one guy, after all.  How hard can that be?  He goes into the studio, lays a track, switches instruments and lays another track.  Well, he performs live, too.  And not with a backing band.  One man.  Many instruments.  The touch of death!

My only complaint?  I would’ve moved “Pissing in the Sink” to the last track.  It is the perfect way to end an album.  As it stands, “Untitled,” the last song, isn’t a horrible way to end it (and one can easily see why it is the last song), but “Pissing in the Sink” would have been the feather in this mighty cap. If that is the only complaint one can muster, you know it is a solid release.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Frozen Angel

I haven’t seen the movie that this soundtrack is from, but if Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle and Voodoo Rhythm Records are behind it, I know it has got to be good.  First, some history, and then we shall delve into Tino– Frozen Angel.

Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle has been around 20 years.  You’ve most likely never heard of the band.  For the uninitiated, it combines blues, garage, psychedelica and some folk to create a sound unlike most anything else out there.  “Unique” doesn’t do it justice.  Three brothers.  Guitars.  Truth.  It is primitive.  It is otherworldly.  It is necessary listening for those who think outside the box.

Adding another feather to its ornate cap, the band has done the soundtrack to a documentary about Martin “Tino” Schippert, aka Frozen Angel.  Tino was the first Swiss president of the Hell’s Angels.  He started as an activist.  He ended up dead in Bolivia.  Without seeing the film, I must say that the story itself would have me intrigued, but the music only serves to heighten my curiosity.  It is eight songs of primarily instrumental swirl, with snippets of the movie seemingly thrown in.  I can imagine its place in the documentary, and I must say it seems to fit the subject matter, as well.  It is unlike most soundtracks I’ve heard, and that’s a good thing.  If music could be ephemeral…

If you are a film soundtrack collector (I know you are out there – I used to be one), then this is something you must look into.  If you like any of the musical descriptions I gave, this must also be sought out post haste.  Granted, it is not for everyone … or even most people … but that’s because the majority of people have no idea what they are missing and would rather stick with the tried-and-true over the dirty unknown.  This is for the seekers of the unusual, the transgressive, the bizarre … music for music lovers.  Those who look at music as art, and not as entertainment.  Forge onward, brave bastards.  This is the soundtrack to your dreams.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Let's Start a War at the Whitehouse, Said Wattie One Day

The first release I ever bought by the Exploited was the 1986 cassette, Live at the Whitehouse.  I had heard the band a few times on our local college radio station, and I liked what I heard, so I set out to the music store to procure whatever Exploited I could get my hands on (which is how one bought music in the days before downloading).  The store I went to wasn’t well-stocked with anything but pop and heavy metal, and Live at the Whitehouse was the only Exploited to be had.  As it stands, it wasn’t a great listening experience, as those who have heard it can attest to. 

If you are familiar with the Exploited, a live album delivers exactly what you’d expect.  The sound is raw, angry and turns to buzzsaw noise in spots.  The release I bought was a full live show and featured some great songs, including “Let’s Start a War,” “Horror Epics,” “Wankers,” “I Hate You,” “Dogs of War,” “Sex and Violence,” and “Punk’s Not Dead.”  That’s a satisfying line-up of classic Exploited songs despite the dodgy sound.  Couple that with cover art that shows a partially destroyed Capitol Building (not the White House, oddly enough) and you can’t help but capture a young punk’s heart.

The band, which has had roughly 3,859 members through its years of existence, has always had its share of controversy, and violence followed many of its shows.  (I wasn’t there when it played Airport City Music Hall in PA, but I heard that white power skins maced singer Wattie when he took the stage.  For those who remember shows at that venue, skinheads were a constant source of misery, as were the bouncers. The reason for the attack was Wattie’s anti-American beliefs.)  For many, the Exploited has always symbolized the best and worst of what punk rock was and should be.  For me, it was just an energetic, politically angry band that seemed more interested in slogans than real change.  It was entertaining, but nothing I’d formulate a political philosophy around.  (Remember the Barmy Army?)

Live at the Whitehouse may have been my first Exploited purchase, but it was far from my last.  Sometimes those purchases felt shameful, like when I would purchase really creepy porn from seedy shops reeking of bleach and sweat, but others were moments of sheer celebration.  Not every release was worthy of the effort it took to make it, but all of them had moments of sublime chaos.  (My own sublime chaos that was linked to the Exploited came when one of the releases was playing on the car stereo as my friends and I were engaged in a high speed chase with a cop.  We were winning the race, the flashing cop lights not making the best headway, when we flipped the car.  We slid something like 116 feet on the roof until we hit a boulder.  As I spat out windshield glass, the cop on the scene told us to get away from the car I was still inside because gas was flooding out and he thought it would explode. The Exploited continued to play on the stereo.  Surreal.) 

These days the band doesn’t much resemble that which it was in 1986, which is a good thing.  Bands should evolve over time.  I’m not sure that what the Exploited has become is much worth pursuing, but seeing its skull logo on a shirt still brings a smile to my face even if the new music leaves me kind of cold.  I will say, however, that the later stuff is far more cohesive and better produced than the band’s earlier releases.  It’s as if the band took the power of metal and matched it with the anger of punk and came up with something that works for it.  That said, it doesn’t fully work for me.

At least I have the memories…

Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to the Past ... Cartoon Monsters and Humboldt Mist

The Groovie Ghoulies is my favorite band named after a cartoon.  Alas, the band no longer records its version of pop punk tunes, but the memories linger on.

Recently I was driving to work listening to the Freaks on Parade release.  It first came out in 2001 on Stardumb and was later re-released by Surfin’ Ki 13 years later.  If that isn’t a testament to the band’s sound, nothing is.  Listening to it reminded me of how timeless the music sounded.  It was fresh.  Upbeat.  It could’ve been recorded the day before.  All good music (except the blues) should sound that way.  (The blues, it should be noted, should always take place in the past.  It gets its magic from a time period long expired, and while the sound remains strong, it does not and should not sound contemporary.) 

We all have these bands we forget about for a few years, and once we break them out again and give them a listen we wonder why we waited so long in the first place.  Driving through the Humboldt mist was one of those moments, brought on by not one particular song, but all of them.  I thought back to my when I did my ‘zine.  I thought back to different times, different mindsets.  Different everything.

I wasn’t riding a nostalgia trip.  I wasn’t pining for the old days or lamenting how today’s music leaves me cold for the most part.  I was just, not to sound too California stupid, being “in the moment.”  The air was cool on my face.  The wipers did the occasional whisk across the windshield.  I had the stereo cranked, not to assault the pedestrians, but to immerse myself in that mindset albeit briefly.

I’m not the biggest fan of pop punk.  I tend to like my music with more of an edge, but this was a band I could get behind.  I tolerate a lot of pop punk bands, but this one was always different.  That misty morning reminded me why.  Say what you want about it, but it is still one of the best things to come out of Sacramento.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This Ain't No Blues Show

The idea behind Boogie the Church Down is simple.  It’s the Juke Joint Pimps versus the Gospel Pimps.  Blues versus gospel Louisiana style.  The end result is that Voodoo Rhythm Records has another winner in a long line of champions.

Harmonica.  Drums.  Guitar.  Choir-like choruses.  It’s 14 songs that my daughter found incredibly odd and “old-time” sounding.  That it is, and I love it.  It’s a combination that works.  In fact, it is so cohesive that even after hearing it you may wonder where one band begins and the other ends.  I’ll tell you: it doesn’t matter.

Songs like “I Feel Guilty,” “Juke Joint in the Sky,” “King Roland’s Prayer” and “Keep Your Arms Around Me” are pure pleasures.  They fit in at church or a dark bar.  They cause toes to tap and heads to nod.  They inspire sinful hip gyrations and animalistic copulations.  Praise the Lord and pass the salt, Momma needs a spanking tonight.  These songs, for better or for worse, are a celebration of life and all that comes with it. 

I listened to this CD almost exclusively for two weeks before writing a review for it, as it was important to me that it sunk in properly before I tried to break it down into what worked.  Even now, however, I’m not sure I can do it right.  The fuzzy vocals coming from my speakers seem so organic, yet so powerful … I’m not sure there are proper words for what this release does to listeners.  

“King Roland’s Prayer” asks why it always rains on the song’s crooner.  It’s an honest question.  The answer, however, isn’t what’s presented in the song.  It rains because the music is magic.  Old blues is magic.  Gospel is magic.  Poverty row pontifications in song are magic.  It changes the elements.  It mutates.  It devastates.  That’s the answer.  Both line-ups, though, would argue that.  That’s fine just as long as they do it in song.  Anything else would be a tremendous waste of talent.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Future is Now

Die Zorros’ Future is exactly what you’d expect of the band … and then some.  The band’s second release on Voodoo RhythmRecords is 17 songs of their own design and creative covers (mostly instrumental) of some other acts like Amy Winehouse (“No No No,” the opening song), Black Sabbath (“Black Sabbath”), the Rolling Stones (“Paint it Black”), the Beatles (“Walrus Eats Taxmen”), and Rod Stewart (“Sailing”).  The band’s original numbers include “The Shark,” “Zorros in Afrika” and “Streets of Baltimore.”  Again, all are primarily instrumental.

To understand Die Zorros’ sound, you have to picture a garage surf band tinged with some psychedelica.  There really is no better way to describe it.  I guess you could add some jazz and metal to it, too.  Not bad for a band that claims it started as a theatre and poetry slam project.

The release is available on CD, LP and cassette for all you completists out there.  It may seem like a step backward (despite the album title), but it actually makes sense.  Voodoo Rhythm always puts music ahead of everything else, and while it doesn’t long for days past, it also doesn’t ignore it, either.  MP3s are cold.  Cassettes bring back high school memories, back when discovering new music was harder than just logging on and doing a Google search.  Future is that gem you would find, hoard and only share with a few like-minded people.

And while I hate the Beatles, I must say that this cover is light years ahead of anything that band did.  Thanks to Die Zorros, I can even now tolerate a Fab Four number.  Who would have seen that coming?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me some dough!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

25 Years of Monsters

2011 marked 25 years of the Monsters’ existence.  25 years of garage rock psychostomp.  25 years of Switzerland’s own making what is decidedly American music better than Americans.  With Pop Up Yours, out on the legendary Voodoo Rhythm label, the Monsters solidifies its stranglehold on the world. 
This release is 14 songs that maintain that patented Monsters sound while at the same time sounding a bit more polished than previous releases.  That rawness the band is known for remains, but it is a pristine raw, if that makes any sense.  Think of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All versus the black album.  Then think the opposite.  That is pristine raw. 

“I Want You” opens the CD, and there is no mistaking what band you are hearing.  It’s a great way to start the release, and it captures your attention immediately, and you attention will be held until the final number, “Into the Void,” which is a moody, slightly sinister piece.  In between there are 12 other songs that are just as catchy and destructive, like candy dynamite.  “More You Talk, Less I Hear You,” “Ce Soir,” “Ain’t Crawling Back to You No More” – there is no stand out because they all stand out.  It’s a Monsters release.  What do you expect?

At this point in my life I have exactly one band related tattoo.  That tattoo is from a Monsters press release from years ago.  There is a reason why that is the only one, and this release exemplifies it.  It is one of the few bands that is timeless and I know won’t disappoint whenever it releases something new.  I can’t say that about many, but I can confidently say it about this one.

If you haven’t heard the Monsters before, this is an excellent place to start.  Frankly, any of the band’s releases are a good place to start, but this one may be the one that can honestly ease you into the experience.  Every other one kind of just throws you into the pool when you least expect it.  This one just gives a gentle nudge.  Either way, you end soaking in it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this to review.  Clicking on a link may cause me to earn a commission.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Music to Mate By

It’s 8:38 a.m. on a Friday morning as I write this.  Humboldt County is at 42 degrees.  The sun is creeping over the trees and a bird is chirping incessantly somewhere near my bathroom window.  Outside, the morning’s music is shattered by a car stereo blaring some kind of country tune.

It seems that the people around here with loud car stereos only play hip hop or country.  I never hear anything I’d define as “good.”

This obsession with assaulting the world with your music seems odd to me.  I’ve witnessed males (and it is usually males who do this), turn up the stereo at the approach of a young lady/teen girl.  It’s the equivalent of showing their pretty feathers.  “Look at me,” it says.  “I have Kayne playing!”  I’ve never seen these ladies just hop into the car and rip their tops off unless they were hookers.  (If that’s the case, you don’t need the music, chaps.  Just wave a Jackson around.)  In fact, most of these ladies ignore them and go on about their day.  Dejected, the young men will speed off looking for some new, easier conquest.  Perhaps a drunk aunt.

Music as a mating ritual is nothing new.  Barry White is often the one that comes to mind.  Prince.  Justin.  Skinny Puppy.  You name it.  Almost every band has had one of its songs used to woo a potential conquest into bed or onto his or her knees.  It is kinder and more legal than a date rape drug.  It shows insight into the hunter’s interests.  It lets the hunter know if his or her prey is worthy of his or her advances.  Music, when used to induce sex, is a far more interesting and accurate barometer than, say, the clothes you are wearing.  A woman should not be expecting romance if her beau puts on Cannibal Corpse and starts stripping off his clothes.  However, if she starts stripping in turn, that beau knows he is going to be in for a good time.

If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy ...
I always thought it would be amusing to invite some potential sexual conquest into the Compound for a little experiment.  I’d have a few candles lit for mood lighting.  I’d do my best to charm and seduce her.  Say all the right things, make all the proper compliments.  I’d then ask if she’d like to hear a little music.  She would, of course, agree to that.  Why?  It offers a break.  While I get up to put on a CD, she can think things over.  “Do I want to do this?  What if he thinks I’m fat?  Did I shave?  Yes.  Does he care?  What will he think of that Ohio State University tattoo on my ass?”  In the span of time that it takes to get up off the couch to put a CD into the player, she can either commit to the act or find a way out.  She doesn’t need the music.  She needs time.  And time is what I give her … and then I start the CD.

Kidz Bop Volume 23.  Tiny voices singing “Let Me Love You.”

She realizes she has made a terrible mistake … or she thinks it’s really funny and takes her clothes off because nothing gets to a woman like humor.  Either way, it’s a win win for me as long as she doesn’t run from the house and call the police to report me as some weird pedophile.

You can have your Kanye and whatever else you think works.  I’ll take a chorus of prepubescent voices singing in high-pitched tandem any day of the week.  If that doesn't scream romance, nothing does.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Worst Band Interview Ever

I’ve been lucky enough to interview a lot of bands, big and small, in my time.  I’ve done it for ‘zines, magazines and websites.   Along the way I’ve even been able to interview a few favorites of mine, too.  Some of those interviews have been great.  Others were … not.  Only one band, however, stands out as the worst band interview I've ever done.  But first, an explanation of how the whole thing works.

When I interview bands the process starts in one of three ways: I either contact the band myself with the hopes I can get the interview picked up by a magazine or website, I get assigned the interview by a publisher, or a band (or its PR people) contacts me.  When I go freelance, I pick the bands, which means I’m selecting bands I like or that I think have something interesting to say.  When I get assigned a band to interview, it means I either have to accept the assignment or decline it.   When a band contacts me it is much the same way.  I can accept or decline.  I’ve declined a few in my time.  Korn comes to mind.  Its management team wanted to fly me to Los Angeles for a meet-and-greet and set me up with the band for a one-on-one.  I was scheduled to interview the Misfits at the same time, so I declined, which led to Korn’s people saying, “What have the Misfits done lately?”  (At the time, American Psycho was just due to come out after the band’s apparent demise many, many years earlier.)  I replied, “You know what?  Korn is just another boy band to me, and I’d turn it down even if I wasn’t busy.”  That went over horribly, but it’s Korn.  Who cares?  The guys can’t even spell.

This is what it looks like when cartoons come to life.
Back when I wrote for Tattoo Savage I was assigned band interviews from time to time.  I actually helped start its music section, so when something needed to be covered, I was the guy the editor called.  She knew I could make deadline, and I rarely turned down a piece.  One of those bands I was assigned turned out to be so horrible that I can’t even remember most of the interview, only the problems associated with it.  That band in question?  Coal Chamber.

Coal Chamber’s first big release had just come out, and I was reviewing it for the magazine.  The editor at Savage thought an interview would be a good idea.  Since I needed money, I accepted.  I had, as always, a deadline I had to make, so I quickly drafted some questions and called the band’s PR guy to set up an interview.  I got a date and time a few days in the future, and then I waited.

When the time came, Coal Chamber did something no other band has done to me – it skipped out on the interview, which was thankfully to be done by phone.  I’ve had bands be late to interviews (The Offspring had a bus breakdown when I interviewed it right after it broke the Billboard charts, but still made the interview despite being hours late and needing to set up for the show), but this was new to me.  It was unprofessional and annoying.  The band was not a huge name, but the magazine I was interviewing it for was a big deal, so blowing off the interview was not a smart move.

The next two calls I made met with the same results.  The PR guy was an apologist for the band, which means he played his role just right.  He didn’t care that I had a deadline, which was fast approaching, and cared even less that if I didn’t get an interview in then the magazine would have a lot of white space to fill.  Eventually he told me to call in about three days because the band had a break on its tour and some down time, so it would be the perfect opportunity to get my interview done.  The band, he assured me, was excited to talk to me.
Should I have been surprised?  No.

I called and finally got a hold of them, and then they turned out to be the worst thing an artist or entertainer could be: boring.  I’ve had bands that weren’t the most talkative or interesting, but I’ve managed to turn the interview into something worth reading.  A few questions in told me that would not be the case here.

When I interview a band I have some generic questions to fall back on in case the band member is a bit of a bore.  These questions usually lead to interesting stories that I can actually work a readable interview out of, but that was not happening here.  I had to use all my standard questions, and I was getting one word answers to all of them. When I pressed for stories, I would get nothing.  At one point I fell back to one of the questions I hated to ask, but figured it would, at the very least, lead the interview in a new direction that I could capitalize on to save the sinking ship.  I asked one of the members what he would be doing if he weren’t in the band.   It was a throw-away question, but I figured I would have to get something good out of it.  Again, I was disappointed.  “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Working at McDonald’s?” 

Yes, that was his answer, and it was somehow fitting.  If he wasn’t in Coal Chamber he’d be fucking up your order in the drive thru.

I ended the interview frustrated and angry.  I had to take the band’s horrid answers and formulate them into something someone would want to read.  I was able to do it, and it was published, but it was a mess and embarrassing.  I told the editor I would never deal with the band again, and after hearing how it went, she decided that the magazine would be steering clear of it all together after my piece ran.  I’ve ignored the band ever since, too, but whenever I pass a McDonald’s I have to wonder if that guy ever found his true calling.  Who knows?  By now he may have promoted to assistant manager, but I doubt it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me so cold hard cash used to buy anything but Coal Chamber releases.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Foreskin From the Warlock -- The Strange Fascination With Foreskin 500's Manpussy

How do you take a band called Foreskin 500 seriously?  What happens when it puts out a release called Manpussy?  Well, you put it in the player and are blown away in so many different ways.  That’s when you take it seriously … kind of.  (And as aside, do not do an image search for the band and album unless you are prepared for what you might see.)

From the ashes of Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500 made its brief mark on the music world as a hybrid metal/industrial band, allegedly playing its first show with the infamous Pigface.  With three releases (and a few singles) under its belt, my exposure to them came with the 1994 Basura!/Priority Records release mentioned earlier.  I bought it strictly because of the Warlock Pinchers connection.  I kept playing it because it is so good.

After a short intro plays, “Ticket to Hell,” opens the CD with the proverbial bang.  If I raced cars on any kind of level beyond video games, this is the song I’d play right before the race.  It’s a fast, brutal speaker burner that you think would set the tone for the rest of the release, but then “Permatortise” starts and the whole mood changes to something more psychedelic.  It is one of the strangest transitions on a CD I’ve ever heard, but somehow it works.  How?  Sort of the same way John Christopher’s The Little People works – it just does.

The rest of Manpussy follows the same eclectic suit.  You hear an adrenaline pumper like “Highway 69,” and you think you are back on the standard metal/industrial track and then “Kiss Me” happens.  It all makes for a release that is equal part schizophrenic and brilliant composition.  It evokes little in the way of actual emotions, though, but it does get the heart pumping.

Foreskin 500 holds a special place in the music collection of those who are fortunate enough to remember the band.  And while it isn’t like Warlock Pinchers, it is a natural progression from where that band was headed.  I find myself listening to it less these days, but when I do revisit it I enjoy it just as much as I did on the first day I heard it, and there aren’t a lot of releases I can say that about anymore.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this, idiots! Clicking on a link may earn me some dough.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pretty Pig to the Slaughter

Magic?  Anger?  Experimental nonsense?  Nazis on a warpath?  Death in June’s All Pigs Must Die has been called all those things.  No matter what you call it, though, it is amazing.

The story behind the album goes something like this: Douglas Pearce, Death in June’s masked face, had some issues with the business practices of World Serpent Distribution, a company he helped create.  When Pearce finally got fed up, he made this album as a ritualized magic attack to take it down.  Yes, that’s the story, and if you don’t believe it keep in mind that Pearce himself has called the release “a cleaning, an act of revenge and contempt.”  (Take that, Rage Against the Machine.)

Regardless of what one thinks of that tale, the 2001 result is a stunning work of art just shy of 40 minutes in scope.  Part neofolk and part experimental mind destroyer, these 11 songs will have an effect on you … and for some, that effect is far from positive.  There are people cannot stand to listen to the songs because they sound so “wrong” and “evil.”  Others, like myself, have no problem with Pearce’s “We Said Destroy II” and “Ride Out!”  And yes, that is Boyd Rice doing the narration.  (More magic at work.)

Just looking at the cover of All Pigs Must Die lets you know you aren’t in for the usual Death in June release.  A masked Pearce wielding a knife amongst the Three Little Pigs makes for quite an alarming photo.  It looks clandestine.  It looks sinister.  It looks like a warning, and it is a running theme throughout the work.  When you play it … well, that feeling doesn’t go away.

The title song is the first thing you’ll hear on the album.  It’s a calm, though somewhat disturbing tune.  “Tick Tock” is next, and is the first time listeners hear Rice’s voice.  It’s also calm and somewhat uncomfortable.  Song five is where it all starts to change.  “We Said Destroy II,” mentioned earlier, kicks the spell into full gear and takes any previous serenity and extinguishes it.  By the end of the album, senses are left reeling and fans divided.

I know where I stand on this release.  It has been said it is too self-indulgent, and that is true, but that is what makes it so remarkable.  It can’t be anymore self-indulgent actually, but it’s that way for a reason.  It was created with one thing in mind (and it should be noted that World Serpent did go out of business), and that “thing” beats the usual self-indulgence that is really just nonsense masked as soul-cleansing.  Pearce’s agenda here makes this unique in the annals of music history.  He understands that music can be magic (something I believe the old blues performers understood, too) better than any other performer alive today, and that shows here.  Death in June has rarely disappointed me, and this is no exception.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this for review.  If you click on a link, you may earn me a commission.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Struttin' Cock in Arcata, California

There are about three bands I’m interested in seeing live these days.  Well, that may be a bit of an understatement.  I’d see anything on Voodoo Rhythm’s label, so that’s a stable of bands.  The other two are Death in June and NashvillePussy.  When I got word that Nashville Pussy was coming to Humboldt in February (Valentine's Week, no less), I was filled with the kind of internal conflict you only read about in literature or see in movies like Twilight or Throw Momma From the Train.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see the band.  Far from it.  The problem was that there were two things keeping me from buying a ticket.  One: there would be people there.  I hate people.  I don’t mind them individually, but put them in a group and suddenly what was tolerable on a one-on-one basis produces the most murderous thoughts in my mind.  As if the fact that Nashville Pussy wasn’t putting on a personal show for me wasn’t enough, there was the second problem:  the venue, which was Hum Brews … in Arcata, California.  Arcata is one of those places I do my best to avoid.  The people, the “vibe,” and even the town’s layout makes me froth at the mouth as if imitating Cujo.  If Al Qaeda was taking a poll of places one would most like a dirty bomb to be detonated, Arcata would have my vote.  Sayonara, Trust Fund Babies.

Then there was the fact that it was on Sunday night and I had to be at work early Monday morning.  That barely registered on the radar, as I usually only get three to four hours of sleep a night, but I’d be lying to say that time wasn’t a factor.

I remained conflicted right about up until the show date.  It seemed like an easy choice – just fucking go.  It really doesn’t get much easier than that.  For me, however, the cons were outweighing the positives.  Arcata.  People.  In order to help mitigate this mental stalemate, I decided to repeatedly call Hum Brews.  I figured if the show started just about on time and there was no opening band, I could actually tolerate the event.  So, a few days prior to the show I started calling, and must have done so about five times.  Every time I called I spoke to someone different.  Every time I got the same answer.  Band takes the stage at nine.  No opening band.  I figured that really meant the band would go on at 9:30, but I was convinced there would be no lame-ass opener.  I was partially right.

Butter Licker, RC/DC and I arrived at Hum Brews around ten of eight.  Why?  None of us knew.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I do know it wasn’t to take in Arcata’s atmosphere.  College kids who can’t handle their organic liquor and aimless thirtysomethings whose chief goal in life is to win the Pot Olympics are hardly people I want to converse with in any capacity other than to say, “Sorry I ran over you with my car.”  Since the show wasn’t set to start for about another hour, we waited, watched hockey coverage on television and had discussions about the fluid nature of reality and stealing artwork.  (Butter Licker did not like my example of the brain not being able to react properly to what it was seeing, and RC/DC did not appreciate my approval of art theft.)

About quarter after nine, the doors to the band area opened and we are the first through after paying our admission.  My initial thought was that the area was small and the stage far too compact.  A bar at the back of the room promised that if the music wasn’t your thing, overpriced drinks could soothe your savage soul.  We ended up taking a seat against the far wall.  I figured the band would take the stage in about fifteen minutes, sweat like hell, and we’d call it an evening.

By the time 10:30 reared its head, I was getting antsy.  The guy who let us through the doors had told me that Nashville Pussy’s rider said “no openers,” but when the band members got there they were apparently surprised by the fact that there was no opening band.  My guess is that they expected to go on around 10:30 because that would give the opening band time to do its magic.  When the musicians saw there was no opener they took it easy backstage and then came out to kick ass.
The crowd was small, though I wasn’t too surprised.  Arcata, while playing host to a lot of various musical acts, has little in the way of what I would call “good taste in music.”  Stale hip hop, faux indie a-go-go, and the ever-present reggae crap is the town’s musical backbone and it leaves much to be desired, though the people eat it up and little else.  The band took to the stage, however, and just started blasting through its sleazy Southern rock as if it were playing to an arena-sized crowd.  One song after another with little banter in between.  There was a moment when the singer, Blaine Cartwright, dedicated a song to Humboldt because he’s a lifelong “pothead” and we’ve been keeping the quality up and making America realize weed isn’t so bad.  (I guess those aimless thirtysomethings have something they can take pride in after all.  Let’s hear it for personal achievements!)  Nashville Pussy played a bunch of my favorites.  “Go to Hell.”  “Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Out of Your Drunk Daddy,” “Wrong Side of a Gun,” “Struttin’ Cock” and so on.  Beautiful.  Insane.  Tight.  I had reviewed some of the band’s work back when I used to write for Tattoo Savage, and I can safely say the years have done little to slow the act down.  That said, there was a new addition to the band that caught my attention.

Butter Licker snapped this of Buitrago in action.
I found it fairly hard to ignore the bassist, Bonnie Buitrago, who was filling in for the super cool Karen Cuda while she was taking a break from the tour.  She was playing with a wild skill and abandon that floored me.  Few things in life are sexier than a woman kicking ass at something she is really good at doing.  Butter Licker agreed with me.  RC/DC didn’t, but only because she wasn’t paying attention.  I, on the other hand, barely noticed the rest of the band.  Buitrago was that demanding of my attention.
All in all, I made it through the night without gutting someone and had a pretty damn good time.  Nobody from Arcata attempted any kind of lame conversation with me, much to both of our good fortune, though Butter Licker was touched by someone she and RC/DC dubbed “Molester.”  Arcata didn’t give me some rare disease, either, and the only downside of the night was the ringing in my ears that served as a reminder that I was at a great show. 

Still, fuck Arcata.  Enjoy the dirty bomb.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid to get in the show.  Clicking on a link can earn me a commission.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Burning Louisiana Sun

The story goes like this: Mama Rosin and HipboneSlim and the Kneetremblers met in France while performing at a blues festival’s Voodoo Rhythm jam stage.  You can’t really say the rest is history because there was no history until this release, Louisiana Sun, came out.  Mama Rosin together with Hipbone Slim and the Kneetremblers.  If you are familiar with the two bands, your reaction was probably a lot like mine.  “What?”

Mama Rosin is Cajun from Switzerland.  Hipbone is rockabilly from London.  Both bands are terrific in their own right, but when you first think of their sound combined … well, it’s not exactly peanut butter and chocolate.  Then you hear “Voodoo Walking” and think, “Okay, this is going to work.”
The two bands complement each other so well that it sounds like a brand new musical entity, though you can hear elements of the bands in each song.  If you are familiar with the bands, you can’t help but be a little mystified by it all.  If you never heard either band before, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out where one band begins and the other ends.  It sounds like one cohesive unit of musicians who have been playing together for years. 

There are a dozen songs to choose from here.  Not a single one is over three-and-a-half minutes long.  Not a single one is a disappointment, unless you don’t like this type of music.  I’m a fan of Cajun and rockabilly done Voodoo-style, however.  Foreigners once again prove they can do our music better than ourselves.  They still believe there’s magic in it, something that was beat out of our musicians in the ‘80s.  And for you surf fanatics, the title track is a take on “California Sun.”  You know the song.  It’s been in about 800 commercials.  It sounds better here.

Another brilliant release from Voodoo Rhythm.  

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I DID receive this CD to review, and clicking on a link=commission.