Friday, February 27, 2009

Spin the Black Circle II- The Light

As promised, here's the other article of interest from the February 1996 issue of Spin. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Death Star Press...

[The King and I in Memphis: Photo R. Flynn]

Chris Forbes of Metal Core Zine recently sent me some interview questions. I was honored. Metal Core has been around since 1986 and was rather influential to not only myself, but more than likely hundreds of mags that populated the underground like paper dinosaurs. The interview can be found here


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spin the Black Circle Part I- The Dark

Classick Spin Magazine Moment...

A poor man's Rolling Stone, the Hustler to the Playboy and the Pepsi to the Coke of general/popular music magazines, Spin...

Now Spin wasn't completely useless. I remember every now and then it having something cool enough to read. I remember Slayer being in there a few times, the first being back in 88 or so. But this issue??

Back in 1996 the magazine came out with this...

Featured in this harmless looking waste of trees was two of the most amazing stories. The first one is about the harsh realities of being a hair band in the late 80's/pre-Nirvana 90's and the after effects of said band...on your band. Fucking brilliant stuff. If you haven't read it I'll throw it up in a few days.

The other? A fascinating look into the years after the murders and church burnings, the paranoia and the selling of a scene not meant to be sold. Many of the top dogs of the era are interviewed here and what can I say? Made for some decent reading back then.

If you've read 'Lords of Chaos' like a lot of us nerds did, consider this an abridged version of the Black Metal tome.

(Click to Enlarge)

(Click to Enlarge)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Metal Maniacs: Read In Peace?

While it's been a few weeks since it was "announced" I'm still trying to come to grips with the loss of Metal Maniacs Magazine. I don't care what you think/thought of the magazine, if you thought about it all, but I need to say this...the thing was a pillar of the Metal community for-fucking-ever!

It's loss will affect the scene...mark my words.

I'll be the first to admit I didn't dig 100% of the bands featured, shit, I was probably hovering at about 40% if you really want to know. However I looked at Maniacs as far more important than my individualistic tastes. I never walked away from an issue disappointed, there was always something for everyone.

I'd been a reader since before Metal Mania morphed into Maniacs and can say with a straight face, have never missed an issue. Proud subscriber for well over a decade too...I'm going to miss it.

The support the magazine showed the underground? It was unreal. As it was a major part of the underground, Maniacs never waned in their dedication to spread the word of the "little guy." From demo reviews to the fanzines to the famous "shorts" every issue did the scene right. I was proud as hell to have been reviewed in MM several times over the years. As any zine editor will admit, a review in Metal Maniacs was easily 500+ mag sales. Not kidding, it was like opening the floodgates, think about it 500 x $3 = well, a lot.

There's just this huge void that will remain an open wound unless this magazine comes back. There's some great magazines out there, don't get me wrong. I'm a proud subscriber to many, but there was nothing like a new issue of Maniacs.

The way I look at it is there's some kid in Idaho or bumfuck Illinois who's going to go into the local grocery store and perhaps miss his/her chance at becoming exposed to some of the greatest music ever. Where else are you going to get a Absu or Electric Wizard, Cannibal Corpse, Kreator or Watain cover story to every store in America?

Like I've said several times, it's a shame. However I do not place all the blame on the economy. Sure it's a big part of it, but in my opinion the biggest blame should fall on the shoulders of you! Well, some of you. If you're one of the millions of people who download/steal music this is on you. I think this generation believes they're entitled to get everything for free.

They do not buy magazines because the information is free on the net. Same reason why some do not buy the records, because they feel they've bought enough over the years or whatever the excuse is.

I hope there's light at the end of the Metal Maniacs tunnel, I really do.

Seeing that it might be the end of an era, I figured I'd share my big Metal Maniacs 'interview' story with you. Back in October 2000 I was managing Usurper and the band was invited to play a show in New York at [the legendary] CBGB's. At that time the band's publicist was a guy named Jon Paris. Jon was killer, he had fuck all to work with and I'm sure every check he ever received while employed at Necropolis Records bounced. But like I said he was killer and did as much as he could for the band. [last time I heard his name he was working at SPV]

So Jon's based out of New York so he met us at the hotel and then it's off to do an interview with Metal Maniacs! I was on cloud 9 totally happy for the band to get the big-time exposure in the mag. The interview was going to take place at some restaurant with writer Vinny Cecolini, because as Jon Paris told us beforehand "Vinny likes his food!"

So we get to the place and sit down, Vinnie and Rick did most of the talking,
Jon Necromancer and I were opposite them. All I could remember was the worst fucking experience as Vinny would ask a question and then just shovel food down like a madman while pausing to ask another question and then back to the gorging. This went on for 30/40 minutes, I sat there blown away by the vulgar display of face stuffing.

Vinny might be a great writer or whatever and perhaps a helluva guy, but nine years later and I'm still a little disappointed. The article was OK, nothing to brag about and definitely not worth what the lunch cost.

Usurper 9:00 am October 2000, LaGuardia Airport NYC.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book: Off The Rails by Rudy Sarzo

One of the saddest tales of Rock and Roll will always be the senseless death of Guitarist Randy Rhoads in March of 1982.

There are a lot of Randy fans across the globe, myself included, but what did we really know about him? There’s of course the basics, the beyond gifted musical soul who helped form
Quiet Riot with Kevin DuBrow in the late 70’s. A masterful, classically trained guitarist who taught at his Mother’s California music school. His plucking from relative obscurity (outside of Los Angeles and Japan of course) to join Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz. His two records with Ozzy that sound as vital and innovative today as when they first hit record store shelves almost 30 years ago. And unfortunately, his untimely death.

‘Off The Rails’ is a tribute to Randy written by bassist Rudy Sarzo. Rudy of course is world known for his work with Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult and Dio, but he too was plucked from obscurity to join Ozzy’s first post Sabbath touring band. Actually it was Randy who recommended Sarzo for the job thus changing the Cuban’s life forever.

I’ve read a lot of rock books in my time. I’m from the school that each and every book tends to do one of several things to the reader. Some might go straight for the throat (‘
The Dirt’) some might expose the core of the “media creation” (‘Heavier Than Heaven’) and some deliver a great subject, but their own opinion tends to muddy things up a bit (‘And Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica’) I had yet to read a book so respectful and yet so brutally honest about the subject and it’s main cast of characters. ‘Off The Rails’ is that book.

The main characters here are an authors wet dream. Ozzy Osbourne (we’re talking the real Ozzy not the stepping in dog shit, mumble jumble, shaky jake TV Ozzy), Sharon Arden (Osbourne), Don Arden,
Tommy Aldridge, Randy, Don Airey and more.
Throughout his days with Ozzy and Randy, Sarzo was smart enough to keep a journal and the results are nothing short of phenomenal. ‘Off The Rails’ takes you on the ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary of a Madman’ tours. From rehearsals to the gigs to bus rides to the days off, Rudy’s memory serves us all rather well. There’s such a refreshing feel to the story as it’s one not too many people really know.

Throughout the years we’ve all been inundated with countless Ozzy stories, the dove, the bat,
the Alamo, psych wards etc. However to be “there” at the very beginning when every day was a make or break situation for the fledgling group is about as exciting as it gets.

The real meat and potatoes however is Randy Rhoads, the person. Sarzo’s acute memory of the relationship between the two band mates truly opens the vault. The reader gets to see a side of Rhoads you may have never known to exist. The guitar player everyone in the crowd wanted to be was a quiet, introspective and often a second guessing type of person. Dealing with all the big rock and roll circus stuff seemed to take its toll on Randy and his decision on his future with Ozzy as well as Rock/Metal Guitar.

There are so many things I’d like to be able to mention here, but feel it would lessen the experience of reading this book. I do have to mention how warming it was to read of Randy’s interactions with his fans. From his giving guitar lessons in the street to after hour hangouts with those who respected his playing, Rudy’s words help bring Rhoads to life. Sarzo it seems was as in awe of Randy as his followers. One has to be reminded though, that at the time of his death Randy and the band was still for the most part a struggling one. Some day’s they’d draw 12,000 people and then the next night 1,200.

In building an audience, something they obviously did beyond their wildest dreams, another included “bonus” is the inclusion of critic’s show reviews. Not sure whether to laugh or cry at these. The old saying the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well rock writers even back then were rather clueless. While the majority singled out and praised Randy’s prowess of his instrument, most also had a field day attacking Ozzy. From his stage presence to wardrobe to everything in between they were rather ruthless. However reading these reviews 25 years + after the fact, it’s safe to say Ozzy has had the last laugh.
Sarzo’s recollection of the dynamics between the Blizzard band, crew, support acts (including
Motorhead, Def Leppard, Girl, Waysted etc.) and managers/record label suits puts the reader in a “fly on the wall” position. There are several moments in the book where I was beside myself just blown away at the situations the band found themselves in. Of course Ozzy and Sharon’s exploits across the World are now legendary, but amazingly enough back in 81/82 times were so, so different. Could you imagine walking into a hotel room when Ozzy and Sharon are literally beating the shit out of each other?

Speaking of Sharon, although that “woman” has done some really unforgivable things, there’s a certain amount of “respect” she earned from me after reading this book. She was a chip off the old block and learned from one of the most ruthless managers, ever, her father. She called the shots, plain and simple. Reading of the trials and tribulations of the Heavy Metal touring circuit in its infancy and her tenacity, well it too gave me a “warm” feeling inside. The respect factor, it's only based on her pushing Ozzy to the brink for over 30+ years.

The March 19, 1982 chapter is one that I wish was never written. As with any subject where the outcome is death, you read it and maybe re-read it hoping something will change. You wish Metallica’s bus would’ve broke down. You wish someone had taken Bon in for the night. You wish Ronnie, Steve and Cassie would’ve been sitting in the back of the plane…you wish Randy had a guitar lesson scheduled that morning.

What I’m trying to say is ‘Off The Rails’ is about the closest thing to an honest Randy Rhoads/Ozzy Osbourne biography we’ll ever read. It chronicles the most essential period of Ozzy’s post Sab career. Ozzy can’t remember a thing from these days, and Sharon will try to block you from remembering and no one, not even me is waiting for the
Don Airey book. I’m very thankful to Rudy for opening his heart and mind for writing this and answering the eternal question…

“So, what was Randy Rhoads like?”