Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Review: All Pens Blazing, A Heavy Metal Writer's Handbook by Neil Daniels

Most music related books come with a pre-determined audience, this I find is fact. I mean a book written about Slayer is going to attract one demographic and the chances of that spreading to other areas are usually quite slim. Unless it’s a crossover type of hit ala Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ chances are most have a built in audience. ‘All Pens Blazing’, the latest book by UK scribe Neil Daniels fits this bill to a T. Simply stated, it’s written by and for those who take the world of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal writings more serious than the average Joe.

The book is a collection of interviews with a slew of past and present music writers and their stories of how they came to be involved with Rock and Metal music journalism. So if the names Geoff Barton, Malcolm Dome, Xavier Russell, Peter Makowski, Dave Dickson, Neil Jeffries, Dave Ling, Steffan Chirazi, Ian Christe, Mike Exley, Matthias Mader, Joel McIver, Dave Reynolds, and/or Martin Popoff (who also penned the foreword) ring a bell, then ‘All Pens Blazing’ is about as informative and entertaining as anything out there today. If not, move along.

The interviews are pretty informative, especially the ones conducted with the “old guard” writers from Sounds, Record Collector and Kerrang! about what a totally different era they came up through. The polar opposite of today’s printed word versus those in the 70’s and 80’s are like night and day and the interviews here make that very clear. These writers, well some of them were like actual rock stars, they were there when the scene was in its infancy and delivered the interviews and features making them a lifeline to the music at a time when there was none.

If you’re a student of titles such as Metal Hammer, Raw, Metal Forces, Metal Maniacs, RIP, Circus, Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles, Classic Rock, Terrorizer as well as the titles I mention above then this is a great read and if you’re interested in becoming a Rock writer or just wanting to know more about the subject then the book becomes fairly essential. The only reason I say "fairly" is because people are far too smart these days to listen to anyone other than themselves when it comes to music. Watch for Part II coming later in 2010 with an improved layout.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Heavy Metal

Today, Heavy Metal turns 40!

February 13, 1970

Monday, February 8, 2010

Exodus: An interview with Rob Dukes

Touring in support of their recently released multi-disc DVD collection, the aptly titled ‘Shovel Headed Tour MachineExodus roared through town on a brutally cold January night. All I can say is the Exodus attack is alive and well people, they came, they saw and they conquered, it was a thing of beauty! I caught a bit of shit when I posted a quick re-cap of their show, saying they were as stong as they’ve ever been, but I stand behind it, 100% I dig Baloff and Hunolt too, but there’s no fucking with modern day Exodus, they just kill live! Post show I sat down with Vocalist Rob Dukes (with a one word comment by Drummer Tom Hunting) to discuss Exodus 2010 and more and here’s what went down.

None But My Own: Did your reputation as the “film guy” of the band make you the logical choice to take on the brunt if the work involving the ‘Shovel Headed Tour Machine’ DVD?

Rob Dukes: I don’t know…I mean Tom (Hunting-D) doesn’t even know to work a camera…

Tom Hunting: (laughing) Bullshit!

Nobody else wanted to do it!

What sets the wheels in motion to take on a project of this magnitude? We’re talking two full discs of material, tons of bonus footage…

Honestly it was me filming my life! It came about way after I had been doing it naturally over the years. What happened was we got the video from the Wacken people when we played there in 2008. Once we saw that I suggested we should buy that footage and put it together with the stuff I’d been filming as a documentary and release it all. I started going through the clips, which is all these things were, just bits from the road and I sat with it and watched it and watched it and it was really funny but it didn’t make any sense.

What I did was I went back and interviewed everybody, I had questions prepared and everything. Lastly I had a friend of mine do the actual interviews so the guys could say whatever they wanted, once that was done it mostly finished itself.

You’ve recently completed yet another successful touring run to close out 2009. Many of the last runs were with Kreator how were those shows.

Oh man, those were very cool, very cool. We’re actually trying to do a European tour with them. The crowds were so into both bands, we got along great with those guys so it was just perfect.

I think you guys are working probably as hard as you ever have, I mean I think it’s great and I hope the results speak for themselves as time continues. How differently do you prepare for shows and touring now then what you did when you first started with Exodus in 05? I’m sure in the beginning you had some trial by error moments, huh?

Totally man, those first few years were rough, I didn’t know what I was doing (laughing)! Seeing as I had never sung before in my life when we first started touring we were playing like, two hours every night! Our former manager was like “you’re never going to be able to do it!” So he took me to this woman for some technique lessons and all that and she told him, “He’ll never be able to pull this off every night.” But you know what? I did.

Yeah I had some rough nights, there were times I lost my voice but I finally went to see Melissa Cross in New York and she helped me get to a point where I can get up there and sing live every night and not have to worry about it. I don’t blow myself out anymore which is a good thing. I caught strep throat in South America, really bad. So bad my uvula was white, filled with pus and it had swelled up three times it’s normal size, it was just laying on the back of my tongue, right? I got up there and sang and 10,000 people had a good time, it was awesome.
I’ve been noticing a lot of kids, I mean a lot of kids are coming out and really getting into Exodus, Thrash, OverKill, Kreator etc. That’s got to be something to see from the band’s point of view.

It’s been really, really good to see that! Hopefully with the next record we’ll be able to like go out and play the whole thing! I don’t want to say we’re going to let go of the past, but we’re definitely happy where we’re at right now rather than counting on the past. So that’s the plan, to reach the kids with the new stuff and then that will lead them to discovering ’Bonded By Blood’ and ’Fabulous Disaster’ and all that. We want to stay relevant right now you know?

I mean compare what we’re doing right now to a lot of records and we just feel we’re faster, meaner, more aggressive or whatever and that’s what we do live. We’re not just out here living off the past and that’s important! Sure there’s places, like in South America where they’ll pay us specifically to play ’Bonded…’ so we’ll do two sets a night, one all current material and one just ’Bonded By Blood’, and I can see why, it’s pretty classic .

What can you tell me about the upcoming album ‘Exhibit B: The Human Condition‘?

It’s fast! It’s dark, the lyrics are really dark and I think there’s some really good stuff on it. I think it’s the best thing I’ve, personally ever done. I mean, I think it’s amazing.

This is record number three with you fronting the band…

Well, fourth if you count the ’Let There Be Blood’…

I’m talking about the original stuff, but we’ll get to ‘Let There Be Blood’ in a minute. But what I’m getting at is your background as a non-vocalist, it seems like you’re a work in motion. Each album has a bit of a different Rob Dukes sound. How did you approach this import third record with the band? Where are you pulling inspiration from?

I don’t know man, I’m really just trying to be a better singer. I think all the shows we’ve done have been such a great experience and that goes to show you what your limitations are, what works and what might not work. I think on the new record we were able to work with my abilities as well as stretching those limitations is something we definitely did.

I do some low growl-y stuff, some real high stuff, some harmonies as well as just some plain ol singing you know? From the beginning to the end it came out really cool, I think it’s cool that my voice is a bit different from track to track. One of these songs is one that I sang over two years ago and we were going to re-record it and I said, “why?” I thought it sounded fucking great at the time so we left it as-is.

I thought with ’The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A’ you definitely stretched things pretty far, your growth between ’Shovel Headed Kill Machine’ and ’..Exhibit A’ was pretty amazing.

Thanks man, I was happy then and I’m happy with what’s going on now. I just want to expand on what I can do and yeah, maybe the oldest of the old school fan might not like it, but what can a band do? You can’t put out the same album every time.

Speaking of the “old-school”, earlier you brought up ‘Let There Be Blood’ and talk about an uproar!! You guys got a lot of shit thrown at you with that album. How did you take it personally?

It’s all music, it’s just us doing what we want to do…I mean fuck everybody else and I mean that. Really, who gives a fuck what you think? We can do whatever the fuck we want! But it comes down to this, you’re not going to please everybody all the time no matter what it is you do. Be it a brand new album of all new material to what they think you should play live, what you should look like and it goes on and on.

So we’re here trying to please ourselves first and foremost. We wanted to hear those songs with an updated sound…listen, it’s unfortunate that Paul is not around because if Paul was here today he’d be singing with the band and I wouldn’t even be an issue.

Something new on the horizon is the recently announced Megadeth, Testament, Exodus North American Tour. This has to be pretty damn cool for you, huh? Unexpected but cool.

Yeah, that’s going to be fun, too bad we’re not playing Chicago though! It’s going to be secondary markets but it’s going to be very cool. I’m going to make an ass out of myself right now by making a complete assumption; but I’m thinking we’ll probably do another tour later in the year hitting major markets. So we’ll see everyone out there sooner or later!

March 01 - Spokane, WA - Knitting Factory
March 02 - Boise, ID - Knitting Factory
March 03 - Medford, OR - Medford Armory
March 06 - Calgary, AB - Big Four (TESTAMENT w/ guests)
March 07 - Edmonton, AB - Shaw Conference Centre (TESTAMENT)
March 08 - Saskatoon, SK - Prairieland Exhibition Hall
March 11 - Indianapolis, IN - Murat Theater
March 12 - Pittsburgh, PA - Palace Theater
March 13 - Buffalo, NY - Town Ballroom
March 15 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
March 16 - Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live
March 18 - Scranton, PA - Scranton Cultural Center
March 19 - Norfolk, VA - The NorVa
March 21 - Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle
March 22 - Asheville, NC - Orange Peel
March 23 - Memphis, TN - Minglewood Hall
March 25 - Houston, TX - Verizon Wireless Theater
March 26 - Austin, TX - Stubb’s Amphitheater
March 27 - Lubbock, TX - The Pavilion
March 28 - El Paso, TX - Club 101
March 30 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theater
March 31 - Hollywood, CA - Hollywood Palladium (TESTAMENT w/ special guests)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paul Baloff, Rage In Peace Feb 2, 2002

9 years gone...
Just a remembrance of original Exodus vokillist Paul Baloff who passed away on this day back in 2002.

Here's an interview with Paul from 1997. This was on the Midwest Metal site for a while, so it has the 2001 notes as well.

2001 Notes: I remember setting this interview up, I'm not too sure if I was supposed to speak to Baloff originally, but when the phone rang it was Rick Hunolt. God, what a disaster dude was a total mess and the interview just sucked. So I called Marco who I believe was still doing publicity stuff, told him that Rick was a shitty interview and what else can we do.

A few minutes later the phone rang again, this time it was the man himself, Paul Baloff. This interview is short and to the point and was cool to do and an honor to have Baloff in Midwest Metal. While their reunion didn't last long at all, it was worth it to have gotten the 'Another Lesson In Violence' album.

When the original line up of Exodus split with Vocalist Paul Baloff many felt it was the end of an era, the end of a special time for Metal. Now some twelve years later he has returned with the terror twin axe team of Holt/Hunolt, Drummer Tom Hunting a new bassist and a new live album.

Midwest Metal: What have you been up to for the past few years?

Paul Baloff: Well for a few years I had my band Piranha, we had a demo tape produced by James Hetfield and I pretty much beat that dead horse into the ground. I then played in Heathen and then after that I wanted to take a break from music altogether. I went to Carmel, CA. and I turned into a surf bum, and that lasted a while, but at one point I figured I had about seven years of wildness left in me so I decided to give Gary (Holt-G) a call to see what was up.

So I called him and he said he was doing an Exodus project and that I should move up right away, so I was like "Seven more years of wildness? Might as well be with Exodus

So you move to the Bay Area and how was it at first?

At first it was kind of weird but now it's even more insane than it was before. These guys may be a little bit older but they're just as insane as ever. Especially when they're away from their steadies.

You had a reputation like few others, both on stage and off, what I want to know was it all true? I mean anyone who say's they want to see a dead poser, that's classic!

It all depends on how much you've heard! But I suppose a good 90% of it was true, we've played in pools of blood on stage, we've cut ourselves open during "Bonded By Blood" in clubs before. The "dead poser" stuff was true, dead people in the streets but like I said, it all depends on how much you've heard (laughs)!

What was the first tune you guys jammed on when you regrouped?

Ummm, I don't know (laughs), I guess "Exodus" or "Bonded By Blood" maybe it was "Deliver Us To Evil" something heavy like that.

Let's talk about the new live album, 'Another Lesson In Violence'. The record is so clear yet brutal, how long did you have to soundcheck?

Oh a million years or so (laughs)! There were people in vans, mobile units and everyone communicated by walkie-talkies and if there was a sound problem it was hell. But the performance part was killer we were and are so into it it's not even funny, the tour is gonna crush!

You just returned from Europe where you played the Dynamo Festival, how'd that go?

Killer. It was the most people I've ever played before in my life, I usually never look at the crowd before we go on, there I peeked out like, two minutes before we went on and I freaked. For the first time in my life I freaked before a show but it was cool.

How's Jack fitting in? Was he all nervous in Europe, this being his first tour and all?

Jack rules. He rages, he's a chick magnet and he simply rules. He's the only guy on stage that doesn't move one million miles an hour, he just sort of stomps around in his little circle, Jack rules.

I know there's been talk of a new album for Exodus, what's the new stuff sound like?

Sort of like a 1990's 'Bonded By Blood' with, what I call, "Jungle Thrash" kind of stuff. I call it that because I don't know how to describe it, we've got some killer rhythms and stuff, all I know is it's heavy.

What are you looking to accomplish on the US tour? Is it a re-introduction, of sorts?

Just playing the best we can every night. I just saw a schedule of our dates and it say's we play twenty-six shows in a row, I hope someone told my voice that! And even though that's a lot of shows in a row, we'd like to get a grip on the scene you know, be at the point where we get to call our own shots I mean I don't even know if we'll be on the same record label next year. Who knows? We just want to be the heaviest we can be.

After you left Exodus, when the band continued on with Zetro what did you think of them?

I was really busy with my Piranha thing, and one of our goals was to try and catch Exodus, at one point I even had a song called "Crush Exo-Metal" (laughs). It's all kind of silly now, but it was heavier than they were!