Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heathen: An interview with David White

Bay Area survivalists Heathen return with a monster of an album in ‘The Evolution of Chaos.’ Have you read any of the press on it? All very well deserved praise for the creation of an album that might be their best yet. I spoke to vocalist David White and let me tell you. It was almost hard to put into words all the questions I had for the guy once I started thinking about it. Not only musical questions but also the time factor is as big a part of the Heathen story as their music. So I wanted to try and touch on that as well as historic and new facts.

Since 1986 (they formed in late 84) they have faced multiple year long periods of little or total inactivity due to management issues, personnel issues, label issues, disbanding issues, reunion issues so on and so forth. It seemed like every time they caught a break there was something to slow them down.

However it’s a new day for Heathen after working to reestablish themselves live over the past few years the end result is this new album and it's already a highlight of the new year. Let's hope some North America touring will be in the cards as the record demands it.

Where does Heathen fall on your list of priorities? Obviously you guys have been known to uh, take your time with things and we’re all getting older, so where does Heathen fit in your life in 2010?

David White: It’s definitely high on my list of priorities, especially now since all this is happening with the new record. My family is and always has been my first priority and we’re hoping that this record can do really well and who knows? Maybe be able to help my family a little too! But I work as a swim instructor by day but music is my obsession, so anything I can do to keep this thing rolling, to stay busy with music I’m doing it.

How much do you stay on top of the current Metal scene? Do you read up on either mags or on-line? How into the game are you these days?

I’m pretty into it. There is a lot of new stuff coming out all the time so I try to keep my ears open to a lot of it. As far as music in general I’m pretty well rounded so I listen to a lot of different stuff. I feel I’m a musician so I listen and am influenced by everything from classical to the newer stuff. But yeah, I try to stay up on what’s happening but my main focus has always been what I’m trying to do and what the band is doing. When we’re out playing live and there are newer bands on the bill I definitely try to check them out.

We played both the Thrasho De Mayo Fest in LA as well as the Keep It True Fest in Germany with a band called Merciless Death. They’re doing the old-school Thrash thing and I like them, Warbringer is another band I like, there’s a lot of bands out doing that style that I’ve heard and a ton more I’m sure I have yet to find. But I’m definitely open to everything. If someone passes me their CD I’m checking it out and if I can find any magazines these days same thing.

That’s good to hear, I know there’s a lot of bands out there, mostly of the older generation that don’t listen to anything outside of their own stuff. Maybe that’s the way they think it’ll keep it pure or whatever.

You have to try and stay current. Here in the Bay Area there’s some college and high school radio stations that still have Metal shows. Our main station is a classic rock station that still has a Metal show on Friday nights but that’s it.

As far as magazines, same thing there’s not many on the shelves, but there’s times you hit on the right places and there’s a few there. The guys from Rock Hard send me their magazine, which I can’t read because it’s printed in German (laughs!) but I like to look at the pictures…kinda like Playboy (laughs!)

How do you feel about the current scenes, the styles of Metal more specifically? I mean Heathen has always been this melodic band and I’m sure there’s some stuff out there that has you somewhat baffled at the attention these bands or these styles garner. How important was it for you to keep Heathen as pure as possible in the face of all these musical climate changes?

I think it’s just a natural thing to remain who we are. This is the type of music we like, yeah we like a lot of different styles but as a whole, especially for Lee (Altus) and I we tend to agree on a lot of different things and we like heavy music, but it’s got to have feeling. That’s why on ‘The Evolution of Chaos’ there’s a lot of different elements and there’s also a few things we venture into that we haven’t before. We don’t want to be afraid to go somewhere else and end up getting stuck in some rut, we want to be limitless.

If you listen to the middle part of “No Stone Unturned” or a song like “A Heroes Welcome” it’s definitely a stretch out for us. The original riff to that song was like a tribute to Thin Lizzy, a Celtic kind of feel which some people might say “Ah, that’s not Thrash!” or whatever but I think it can be appreciated by anyone who likes music. But to sum it up being melodic or whatever is just the natural thing for us.

Heathen has always been a band, like many Metal bands far more, well appreciated in Europe than here in the US. I know Lee spent some time there in the 90’s and ex-member Doug Piercy currently resides there. For instance the new album has been out a few months over there and the response has been pretty awesome, you know? Was there ever a time you felt like “Fuck this” let’s move to Europe??

Nah, it is what it is really. I mean this is our home, this is the Bay Area and I love it here, maybe if I was to retire I’d go to Hawaii or something to chill on the beach because I like to be warm! But to be inspired musically as well as challenged musically this is probably one of the best places to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to spend a concentrated amount of time over in Europe as far as the band is concerned, but this is home you know?

I think it’s important to try to make it at home, we had a really, really good showing in the States with the first record and I know there’s a lot of kids as well as older fans that remember us from the old days but I think it’s just a matter of getting the kids out as a whole for Metal in the States. I mean make it exciting again at the club level for the fans. All the big shows do really well, be it Ozzfest drawing all the Metalheads and Metallica doing the same, Megadeth too. The fans are there, it’s just a matter of reaching them.

Speaking of the first record, I have to admit speaking to you is very cool and I remember how “groundbreaking” the video for “Set Me Free” was at the time in 1987. There weren’t a lot of Thrash Metal videos out at the time and that served you well, you guys got a LOT of airplay back then. That had to be pretty mind blowing.

That was awesome for us, it really was. Even today people will tell me they see it every now and then on VH1’s Metal Mania, but I have yet to see it there.

You know right place at the right time is something no one can really say too many times about Heathen. However that was pretty much the definition of the phrase for you guys back then.

Yeah, I agree. It was all good but then unfortunately for us we had some management issues that prevented us from getting out on tour while the album was hot. That delay definitely hurt us but thankfully we did have the video to help us along sales wise. But yeah, that was a lot of fun back then…we’re actually gearing up to shoot a video for the new album…

Oh yeah? What can you tell us about that?

(David on the set of the "Dying Season" video shoot)

It’s going to be for the song “Dying Season” which is the first track off of ‘The Evolution of Chaos” and I had some ideas and our drummer (Darren Minter) contacted a film company out of the Sacramento/Folsom area and while we don’t have the biggest budget to work with, they were really intrigued about the challenge of doing a music video. One of the guys from the company came up with a treatment where it’ll take place on a battle field. I don’t want to give away too much information before it’s even done but as far as I can tell it’s going to be pretty cool.

The first major resurface of Heathen was at the 2001 Thrash of the Titans, how do you look back on that event some 8 almost 9 years later?

You know it’s funny, that show…my son was much younger when the band was originally together and then we split up. So as he got older he would hear this and that about the band, see pictures and all that stuff, right? So to be able to do that show and have my son there with me, all day was just…I mean he got to pull an all-nighter with his Dad!

A buddy of mine from Japan had come out to that show and he had a bunch of buddies he came with and at the time my son was learning to speak Japanese so he was way into hanging out with these guys. Then when the show was over all of us went out for breakfast at like 4 or 5 in the morning. As we walked up to the front door at 7 AM I just looked at him and laughed, that was our first all-nighter.

So that was a memorable event on many levels!

Definitely. But yeah, that was the original spark that started us up again, at least thinking about putting everything back together. A year later we were invited to do the Wacken Festival and that sealed the deal you know? We got to play in front of like 60,000 people and it was like, “You know what, I like this!”

You guys seem to be taking the Festival route, which is smart if you can do it as you play to a LOT of people in a shorter period of time versus killing yourself on the road for six months. How were the Thrash Domination shows in Japan last Fall (2009)?

Amazing…just amazing! Those kids had been waiting for us for a very long time and it was totally apparent. I mean it was just unreal; Kragen (Lum-Guitar) had played his first show with us at the Keep It True Fest in Germany which was a great crowd. But the Japanese kids were so out of this world, he keeps asking me when we’re going back!

A big part of Heathen was always the guitar duo of Lee (Altus) and Doug Piercy. Metal fans love their guitar duos and these two were always one of the best teams. I know it was strange for a fan to see Exodus without Rick Hunolt, maybe it felt weird for that band as well? But in Heathen is it strange to have an all new album out without Doug? Has he heard the new record, what does he think?

I don’t know if he’s heard it, he hasn’t, uh, called me to give me his examination of it (Laughs!) A few years ago we did do a reunion show with him and Carl (Sacco-Drums) at a club called Annie’s and that was a lot of fun. But he’s got two kids now and he’s busy doing his own thing. We couldn’t be happier with Kragen though, he was a big part of this album bringing in three songs. He fits in great.

You guys have a European tour kicking off at the end of April. How much are you looking forward to playing this new stuff live?

Oh man…we’ve been playing the old stuff for so long I can’t wait to get out there with the new material. Some of the shows we’ve played since we got back together we’ve played “Dying Season” and “Arrows of Agony” just to throw them out there, but man if we could go out there and play the whole new record I’d be beyond happy! I love the old stuff, but I’m really looking forward to being able to mix it up live.

Speaking of which, how do you look back on the Heathen catalog? Are you able to step back and look at things subjectively or are the songs so close to you they’re simply snapshots in time?

Well for me the songs and the albums are very much a big part of me. When I look back it’s an evolution of what we’ve done and how far we’ve come, another step towards…well whatever, really. It’s another piece of art that we’ve done and we’re trying to achieve a superior record than before. Like I said earlier I am proud of the old stuff, but at the same time I’m a little sick of it too. I mean for the longest time we technically only had two original records so I’m so happy to have a fresh record of material to pull from. In doing that I think it will give some life to the older stuff too.

‘The Evolution of Chaos’ was recorded and produced by and recorded with Juan Urteaga. I know some of the other stuff he’s both recorded as well as played on and this definitely is some of his best work. Was this your first time working with him?

Yeah, well we recorded our [2005] demo by ourselves on Pro-Tools but we didn’t really know what to do as far as a full-on mix, all the drum sounds and all of that technical stuff. So Juan being a friend of ours mixed it for us and really made that sound like an album! So we definitely wanted to work with him when it came time to do this album. So yeah this was the first time with him in the studio.

What was cool was to see was Juan was credited with a few lyrics and some music if I’m not mistaken. Was this a studio collaboration or how did this come about?

Yeah since he’s a singer, he used to sing with a Death Metal band…


Yeah, cool, I didn’t know you knew! So where I’m coming from the melodic side, he’s from the extreme side there were a lot of ideas and different suggestions where things worked out for the better! Some songs we would change a musical part or two or when it came to the vocals I’d throw out an idea as would he. The song “Controlled By Chaos” that’s a song where Kragen wrote the music as well as the lyrics and I recorded them with Kragen’s lyrics and melody.

After we did it I wasn’t 100% into it and thought I’d like to take a crack at a few ideas I had. So we did this while we were in the studio and Juan definitely helped on that one with some killer suggestions and I was open to that.

I started this interview asking you about how “into” the current scene you are. I mean it [the scene] is so different these days, everything has changed. With file sharing and downloading, to us old guys that’s foreign. I will never, in my life understand how someone couldn’t want…product. I don’t think I ever will.

Yeah well, unfortunately there’s a lot of people out there who think that everything should be free. My view on it is it’s really fucked up the music business for the artists. When the business started it were always the labels and the managers ripping off the artists. The labels and managers made all the money and even though laws were changed, they just changed the contracts. These days not only are you getting burned by the record company think about all the people that are downloading. Yeah that burns too.

Maybe there are people, the true fans that downloaded it [the new album] when it was not out here or whatever, they wanted to have it as soon as possible. But they went out and bought it when it came out here; I have no problem with that. Look at shelf space in major chains for music, it’s shrinking. That’s a direct reflection of all that downloading.

So I wanted to do something a little different for this interview. So after I spoke to David I found this classic Gene Ambo photo of the band. I saw Gene a few weeks ago at Alice In Chains and asked him if he’d give me some background info on the shot for this interview.

Gene Ambo: The shot was taken in Feb of 1988. This pic was taken in Debbie "Ty " Coons gangway in Wrigleyville. I 'm not sure where they were playing maybe Medusa's or Bedrock. All kinda blurry. I know we were hanging at Debbie’s and shooting pool and drinking after the show and we all wanted to do more pix .

I had shot them in California and with Paul’s [Baloff] other band Piranha so we had history. We had done a session in the basement of the venue earlier that day and at Debbie’s on her back porch that night. I ran a cord out her back door plugged in and we just hung out in the snow for about 10-20 freezing minutes.

Someone…Yaz (Mike "Yaz" Jastremski) started tossing snow around and hands got cold fast and everyone grabbed gear and beer and ran inside. It was like 10 degrees out. First thing I remembered was to not let my gear get wasted into drunken a beer-n-snowball fight...but I thought the snow looked so cool once I started shooting so I ripped a whole roll.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

330, 0330, 3.30, IIIXXX, Three-Thirty

Happy 3/30!!
A little background info on the holiday , here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Edenbridge: An interview with Sabine

So, None But My Own...My thoughts, my ideas, my tastes, my archives, my friends... When I started this blog, part of the attraction was to start fresh. I wanted this to streamline all of what I had accomplished with Midwest Metal, trim the fat (business and excess) and be left with what truly moves me.

Well, a huge part of MM was my initial co-Editor, the Mercyful Fate/Diamondbanger specialist Kain. So his tastes are about as night and day different than mine, but his passion for what moves him cannot be denied. He recently conducted this in-depth email interview with Austria's Edenbridge and I'm glad to include Kain and his influence on NBMO.

Congratulations on finalizing your 7th studio album, entitled 'Solitaire', which is due to be released in July 2010. How long was Edenbridge in the studio?

Thank you. The recordings for ‘Solitaire’ took three months. For us it’s more relaxing since we’ve been recording in Lanvall’s Farpoint Station Studio. So we are more free to use the perfect moment – magic moments.

Can you explain a little about the process Edenbridge uses? Are the songs and lyrics basically finished before entering the studio or does everything come together after you enter the studio?

Lanvall is doing pre-production. During this time he beholds himself more as a composer than as a guitarist he is on stage. This means, that he is putting the focus on the songs and not on single instruments. Sometimes I tell him some basic wishes how I like to use my voice, but generally he knows that very well. This pre-production doesn’t mean that everything is un-removable. Sometimes we change also things during the recording process, but mostly the songs are completely perfect.

There has been some band turn over in recent years, with only you and Lanvall remaining as original members. How comfortable has the writing/recording process been with the new members?

Every change of band members includes risks but also a chance for new energy. Of course every band member influences the progress of a band and their songs also if they are not directly write songs.

Looking at the tracklist for Solitaire, one song immediately got my attention, “Brothers On Diamir”. Is this song about the mountain climbing brothers Reinhold and Günther Messner?

Yes it is. Lanvall is a big mountain fan. We both like skiing and hiking in the mountains – we have a lot of them in Austria. But he would also love to live in a town very high up, while I more prefer the smaller hills for my life. Lanvall has been admiring Reinhold Messner since he’s been a little child. Messner lives his passion in the mountains, like Lanvall in music. The story of Reinhold Messners brother Günter, who died on his trip on Nanga Parbat, is very emotional of course and shows us how near beauty and pain can be together.

Do you use the Czech orchestra on Solitaire? Are there any surprises on this album? I mean, does Edenbridge venture into uncharted musical territory or is it a “play it safe” type of release?

Working with a real orchestra, what we used for our last album 'MyEarthDream' was a big experience and made Lanvall grew as a composer for classical and symphonic orchestras. He’s been studying the symphonies of Anton Bruckner (his classical favorite) for years, and so he learned how to use every instrument in an orchestra. Not very many musicians in the metal scene can do this on their own. Normally they need a classical composer for this important part of the music.

With 'Solitaire' due in July, will Edenbridge be playing the European Festivals in the summer of 2010?

At the moment there is nothing planned concerning the festivals, unfortunately.

Maybe a tour of North America in 2010?

Definitely, there is a plan for a North America tour in November, what make us very happy. At the moment we are checking out the possibilities.

Between 2002 and 2004 you lent your voice to several side projects. How did those projects work out? How come you haven’t had any projects in 6 years? Do you think you will be involved in any in the future?

At the moment I work on a project for an Italian project called Raven Black. It’s a very kind song called “Lullaby for a Wolf”. Many people write me, that they like the warmness in my voice. Of course it’s a big tribute for me to get so many offers for projects and it’s always an interesting challenge for myself, singing songs from different composers. It’s also always a step forward for me to develop my voice.

Have you been a singer since childhood? Do you have a non-metal vocal background or has it always been about singing metal?

You are right; since I was a little child music was a direct access to my inner self more than anything else. I recognized soon that music is bringing me to myself, to my emotions as to my inner force what I would define as soul today.

Especially my mother has supported my way unconsciously with her sensitive being. She loved to sing with me without restraint and without having the aim to reach something. We spent whole afternoons like this and had a lot of fun. The fact that I didn’t grow up with her, this common ground bound us together and this will last for a lifetime.

Besides I have been working on training my voice since I’ve been a little child. I have put a lot of effort that my voice sounds clear and I have experimented with that endlessly and on my expression. And I have also recorded everything with a simple cassette recorder and listened to it with critical ears. That was a lot of fun.

My wish was to become a professional singer from now on although I never made up my mind about stardom or fame or anything else. I also never had anybody as an example; I always listened to my inner voice when singing. I sang in choirs when I was a child. Later I took lessons at a very good teacher, who sent me on my inner way with her breathing and body exercises. This way I still follow.

The biggest challenge for me was to follow the inner desire to express my feelings in front of an audience. Because on the one hand I wished for nothing more than to touch other people with my voice, on the other hand it was my biggest fear to be on stage and attract all the audiences eyes. My stage experience before Edenbridge was just a girlie pub band where I was guitarist first and then singer, so I was not on the front.

With Edenbridge I jumped into the cold water in the year 2000, cause we changed from a project to a band with our first CD 'Sunrise In Eden' and immediately went on European tour. That was heavy for me. But I soon recognized how Lanvall´s music that suits me down to the ground, is carrying me and how the power of the boys in the band are layering down the ground, where I can venture outside. I face this as a life time developing process.

Are you a fan of any other metal bands fronted/co-fronted by women?

I like many bands which are fronted by women, but I’m not that fan who knows everything about a band or their band members. I think it would be great if also more bass or guitar players or even maybe drummers are women – why not? I love the band Heart for their performance and of course the voice of Ann Wilson is phenomenal.

Edenbridge is one of the few bands that don’t use the Beauty and Beast approach to symphonic metal. I think that is one of the things that make Edenbridge really stand out from the crowded pack, choosing only the beauty vocals.

When we recorded our first album we’ve been together for a project for years and at that time it was really something new that there is a female fronted singer in a metal band. Edenbridge stands for bringing heaven on earth and this means for me to realize that we have both sides in us – the heaven and the earth – the beauty and the beast.

This awareness brings us together with our real inner force. I see this as a lifelong learning and I adapted it as my way of vocal training. By the way we have choirs sung by the great male singers Robby Valentine and Dennis Ward (PinkCream 69) which also make our sound unique.

A lot of male fronted bands add a female voice here and there for effect. Moonspell and Cradle of Filth come to mind. Edenbridge employed clean vocals by D.C. Cooper on “Red Ball In Blue Sky” off Aphelion. Since then, have you ever been tempted to add a male voice for the occasional verse or line?

Lanvall and myself are big fans of D.C. Cooper and it was great working together with him. We had plans to ask Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery one time for a duet. It made me very cheerless when I heard that he died; much too early with only 45 years. Months later, a fan of us, who knew Mike personally, told me, that he spoke with Mike at a party and he was very delighted by my voice and Edenbridge and that he would have liked to sing with me. I never had the chance to get him known personally.

Going back to your cover of “For Your Eyes Only”, how did you select that song? Are you a fan of James Bond or just the song? Solitaire is the character played by Jane Seymour in the James Bond movie: “Live and Let Die”. Is this just a coincidence or a theme?

Lanvall likes the James Bond movies especially the older ones with Roger Moore and he had the idea for “For your eyes only”. I sang it a bit higher than Sheena Easton and of course we made a metal version. For us, a cover version only makes sense, if you can hear the difference to the original.

Solitaire in our case means the uniqueness of everybody on this world and remind us to our diamond connection which is indestructibly for better or worse.

In your free time, you enjoy photography and painting. Can you explain a little about these passions?

I like being creative in many directions and I have got a fable for pretty things. These things do not need to be expensive, so for example I like visiting flea markets. In matters of colors I’m definitely not typical for metal, because I love all the colors also for my canvas painting. At home I need a warm and nestle atmosphere and I like to reach that with colors, lights and good food. I like cooking.

What is the last good book your read?

I like reading books with themes of psychology and spirituality. All the books from Hal and Sidra Stone are amazing books for me. The other one which I lately read is called Feldenkrais for singers.

Are you a fan of the winter Olympics and cheering for Austria? Do you have any favorite sports?

Sometimes I’ve got the idea I’m the only one in Austria who isn’t interested in passive sports. I’m not able to share those enthusiastic for somebody I only know from TV. I think it’s very positive if people are connected in freedom from all over the world to this event, but it seems that in this kind I’m not very patriotic. For myself I like skiing, cross-country skiing, swimming, hiking and my body works, but I don’t like doing one of that to match with someone.

Any final words to your fans in America?

To all our fans thank you for your great support. We will do our best for coming to America with our next album and we hope to see many of you at our concerts. Have a look to our website and please sign up for a newsletter!

Thank you so much for your time. I know your fans are waiting very patiently for 'Solitaire'. Hope to see you soon on tour in America! Thanks again Sabine.

Thank you very much for your great questions. I hope to meet you onetime on tour in America. Hopefully soon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alice In Chains: Black to the Brawlroom 3.20.10

The smiles said it all.

At the conclusion of their triumphant return to Chicago’s famed Aragon Ballroom, Alice In Chains core members Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney could hardly control themselves. As they walked from stage left to stage right and repeated, they threw out guitar pics and drum sticks and profusely thanked the sold out Aragon attendees on a cold and blustery night.

Even though it was officially the first day of spring, Mother Nature as always, had other plans. While the dropping temperatures and snow covered streets gave the city an Antarctic visage the rousing welcome Alice In Chains received tonight was about as heartwarming as it gets.

Usually the headline act in a major city who are riding high on the successful comeback trail Alice has been on, need only to “show up,” right? After all, the tickets all 4,500+ of them had been purchased many months in advance and what, at this point do they have to prove? Apparently the “what do you have to prove” memo wasn’t passed on to Alice In Chains and this was crystal clear the moment the house lights went out.

Opening with “All Secrets Known” from their chart topping 2009 album ‘Black Gives Way to Blue,’ Alice (Drummer Sean Kinney, Bassist Mike Inez, Singer/Rhythm guitarist William DuVall and Guitarist/Vocalist Jerry Cantrell) set the tone for an evening of music unparalleled by their peers or even the ghosts of the band’s past.

“It Ain’t Like That” followed and to the AIC devotee that opening riff is like nothing else. Singer William DuVall went for the throat early and eases off nothing the rest of the night. For a “new guy” I will go on record here and say I can’t imagine them without him. That’s high praise, but it’s true.

“Again” off of the self-titled album is next before the crowd is addressed. The mood is a really good one, for a band that’s made both millions of fans and dollars via hymns of death, doom and destruction there is nothing negative about the party being thrown tonight.

That vibe continues with the first single off of ‘Black…’ “Check My Brain” acting as a huge sing-a-long reverberating throughout the faux Spanish courtyard known as the Aragon. I will mention the sing-a-longs because this and many others throughout the night were fucking POWERFUL! Seriously it was these passion filled voices that made me proud to always be a fan of music and the way it moves us.
The next three songs came from their 1992 masterpiece ‘Dirt.’ “Them Bones,” “Damn That River,” and “Rain When I Die” what can you say about a trio like that? The next portion of the set was definitely mellower but no less intense with current single “Your Decision” and ‘Sap’s’ lone inclusion “Got Me Wrong.” This song in particular was not only a “deep cut” in and of it self, but featured some amazing co-vocals by Cantrell as well as excellent guitar soloing by William.

“We Die Young” and “A Looking In View” brought back the audio heavy before “Nutshell” doles out the emotional heavy. This song is a nod to Layne night in and night out and the fan reaction allows it to live and breathe in the present.

From one extreme to the next “Sickman” from ‘Dirt’ rears its ugly head, this number led by Drummer Sean Kinney and his octopus like reach, drives the off-timed multi-directional song home. I don’t think enough can be said about the man and what he adds to the power and poise behind the kit of Alice. I’ve seen drummers play his stuff before on Jerry Cantrell solo tours, etc. and while more than adequate, no one can play like Sean.

Two new songs, “Lesson Learned” and “Acid Bubble” snap the crowd back to the present and it must be mentioned how the group live has grown by leaps and bounds. The last time I saw them (read HERE) they were on the verge of releasing ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ and road testing a few of it’s tracks. Tonight they not only perform these new songs, but by playing six of them, they built the set around them. Their intentions of being proud of the past yet living and looking to the now and beyond are what it’s about. “Acid Bubble” in particular was just fucking awe-inspiring! Jerry Cantrell remains the quintessential writer and performer and watching him song after song never gets old.

The haunting “Angry Chair” follows the not-so favorite “No Excuses,” which I will admit was not that bad in the moment, being surrounded by thousands of people singing along definitely helped. As they normally do, “Angry Chair” goes right into “Man In the Box.” William again just gave 150% and sang this song like its still fresh and uncharted territory and this is only a small reason of why he rules.

The band leaves the stage for a few minutes and come back with “Would?” and “Rooster,” another one-two punch from the ‘Dirt’ era and a great climax to an even greater show. I cannot say enough about the whole thing.

I was here at the Aragon back in 1993 for the ‘Dirt’ tour and am happy to have seen them back then because that was some great stuff, I mean it was beyond incredible. Not only the music but the vibe and the youthful intensity of it all. Tonight's performance was great as well, we're all just a little older and wiser, right?

As I mentioned earlier the band could’ve just shown up on auto-pilot and a good time would’ve been had by all. But this isn’t just any band; this is a band that judging by the smiles seems thankful for all the good coming their way.

Xtra special thanks to O.G. Frank and Adriana for always looking out!

Friday, March 19, 2010

You ever heard the story....

So another 3.19 passes. I promise this will not be a yearly thing, but special circumstances definitely call for a recap. That and the "viewership" here has grown tenfold over the past twelve months so why not share it?

Today marks the 20th year since Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood passed. 20 years is a long time and I don't want to dwell on it too hard, but where has the time gone? If you'd like, check out the post from last year, please find it HERE. I spun 'Apple' a few times today and I highly suggest you might do the same.

I've dug through the archives for some MLB material and came up with a really cool piece on the band from a 1994 issue of RAW Magazine. Of course in 1994, the look back at the short life and devastating death of Andy was done in hindsight as Pearl Jam was the biggest thing since slice bread in 94. Regardless reading this stuff now is as heavy as it was then.

At the very end I tagged on a small sidebar from the "Grunge Special" that RIP Magazine did back in 91, maybe?

(Click image to enlarge)

Today is also the 28th year since Randy Rhoads' passing. While I have yet to read the recently released 'I Am Ozzy' biography, I know in my heart of hearts if there's any Randy material within it cannot compare to THIS.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Machine Head destroy London... and my liver too!

So sometime in January I received a message from a good friend telling me, not asking me, but telling me, "unless I had a great excuse as to why not," I was going to London for my birthday. What could I say? It was an unbelievably cool gesture, not to mention a beyond generous gift that a month later I still can't believe I was on the receiving end of.

Next thing I knew it was 2/17 and I was boarding a plane for London. I was going to see my friends Machine Head headline a show in the UK on 2/18 and that was that.

Let the madness begin...Brixton Academy, SOLD OUT.

Robb and Dave with the Silver Award for 'The Blackening', over 60,000 copies sold in the UK. The same album that recently won Metal Hammer's 'Album of the Decade.'

I've seen over 45 Machine Head shows. Including headliners, supports, festivals, one off's...I've seen them in bars, clubs, theaters, sheds and arenas. Seeing them headline in London at Brixton in front of 5,000+ lunatics was surreal. They were all there for one reason and one reason alone. It was one of the greatest gig experiences of my life. From the pre-show meet up with old and new friends, it was nothing short of amazing.

Several times through the show I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing and I just looked around. I let it all soak in, this was such a mental trip to be here and I wanted to make sure it didn't go by too fast.

Brixton as a venue is a very important to the history of MH. They've recorded both of their official live documentations at this very place and as a fan of the band I totally took this into consideration. This is also the site of the last Max Cavalera era Sepultura show ('Under a Pale Grey Sky') as well as live albums by Priest and Motorhead.

The set-list was stacked. I mean all the bases were covered and the highlights were multiple. I know many bands say shit like "we're playing songs we've never played before, or songs we haven't played in X amount of years." We've all heard it and usually those tend to be a let down when they don't appease the fanatic in each of us.

All the touring Machine Head did with Metallica? They definitely learned to not only keep themselves on their toes with "deep cuts" and seldom heard songs, but also the die-hards. Those who attend multiple shows of which there were plenty here tonight.

2.18.10 Brixton Academy

Clenching The Fists of Dissent


Take My Scars

Bite The Bullet

Beautiful Mourning

Now I Lay Thee Down

All Falls Down – 1st time ever played

Aesthetics of Hate


The Burning Red

Exhale The Vile





After the Brixton show we went to the World Famous Crobar. A place Dave Grohl is quoted as saying he always remembers going in, but never remembers leaving...I can see why. Here in Chicago we have sports bars or martini bars or whatever the fuck else people make up to attract a crowd. The Crobar? It's purpose is clear and go in, you drink, you rock, you get fucking HAMMERED! That's it.

Walking in there for the first time is somewhat blurry now, but I do remember Saxon's "Denim and Leather" just BLASTING and knowing this was it, I was "home!"
At some point the bar was cleared and we were the only occupants, it was a killer way to end such a historic night.

The League of Nations Represent! (l-r)Ugly American with an even uglier hat, Ireland, United Kingdom and Norway. I don't remember that hat or this picture, but all these guys are like family and the vibe? Totally captured!

The above and below tell the story better than I. The above is leaving Crobar at 6:15 am Dave Grohl was right, don't remember a fucking thing!! Below is Big Ben as I saw it waiting for the elevator in my hotel. 6:45 am, no more thrash, time to crash!

A few more shots...

On Friday night we went to see Fear Factory @ the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

I'm not a huge fan of the band, but cannot deny they were excellent. Actually the show was cool as fuck, I got to watch Gene Hoglan jam for an hour and a half! Just fucking SICK!!!! Gene simply stated, put on a drum clinic and I couldn't stop watching the man work.

(watch his left hand...)
Hung out at the gig for a bit afterward and then it was off to a pub called the Big Red. Now we were only going to go for "a few drinks, maybe an hour."




This evening was above and beyond anything you could have ever planned. Use whatever word you'd normally use and multiply it by 10! The Big Red was another place I instantly felt at home in. From the "Americana" vibe of the Chuck Norris and Harley Davidson posters to the GODLY Nacho' me, this place rules!

In the above photo to the right is a guy named Paul Brannigan. He is the former Editor of Kerrang! Magazine and let me tell you this...I just went uber-geek on the guy as we talked shop about every-fucking-thing under the sun as it pertains to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.

And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING.
From bands we enjoy to gigs we've seen to dates and albums and people. He is a fucking great guy and he made this fanzine editor from Chicago's world by going toe-to-toe practically the entire evening.

Birmingham, UK 2-21-10

Hanging with old friends and new in Birmingham. Adam attempting a "hang loose" move with his foot which I, obviously found hilarious. The show was probably at least 3,000 people and just as vicious as the London gig. In fact, this was more the size venue I was used to seeing the band in after the grandness and enormity of Brixton.

Both shows had that undeniable vibe the band brings with them, so it was another really electrifying performance. Deep cut "A Nation on Fire" from their 94 debut was an instant highlight as was "Seasons Wither" from their "Through The Ashes of Empires."

2.21.10 - O2 Academy Birmingham

Clenching The Fists of Dissent


Struck A Nerve

A Nation on Fire

Ten Ton Hammer

Now I Lay Thee Down

Beautiful Mourning

Aesthetics of Hate


The Burning Red

Seasons Wither





So in closing, it was a trip of a lifetime. It was a great way to ring in my 39th year on this planet as every single detail couldn't have been executed any better than it was. I got to spend it with good friends/extended family, see and hear some great music, meet amazing new people and had a fucking blast the entire time.

In the immortal words of the friend that made it all happen...