Thursday, February 2, 2012

Return of the King 10 Years later...2.1.2002

So how ya been?  I hope there are still some of you out there, truthfully I wouldn’t blame the lot of you for jumping ship, it’s been a long time since I last wrote anything.   I will sort of explain my hiatus in another entry, but for now I just wanted to see if I could still do this.  Still write, still convey passion and still really give a shit about all of this. 

In short, I’ve been through life’s wringer and I wasn’t sure what, if anything I was going to do with this place.  I actually had an “exit” thing in my head sort of planned out.  This blog has been a lot of things to me, mostly good and mostly gratifying.  However it’s also been a source of semi obsessive like behavior.  Like the magazine that preceded this, it was definitely an all consuming and at times became more important than “life” itself. 

But if I’m going to continue, which it looks like I am, I’m definitely going to take a different approach.  I’m so far behind on so many things I’ve wanted to write about.  Some are things that are near and dear to me, some are books, music, shows etc.  I will get to them eventually but for now I wanted to begin my journey back with some “comfort food” if you will.  

Thanks to ALL the emails, questions and suggestions since I last wrote, while I can’t get back to you all, I will try and knock out a few answers when I can.


It all started with a phone call.  Slayer was due to perform at the Madison Theater in Peoria, Illinois on the second leg of their ‘God Hates Us All’ Tour.  Now this wasn’t just going to be another Slayer gig, this was one of the first shows with Dave Lombardo back behind the kit.  For those who remember, Paul Bostaph had left the band again at the tail end of 2001 and Slayer had dates already booked for the first part of 2002.  They were in a bind. 

It was announced that Dave was going to do the tour, yet at the same time the band was going to be holding tryouts for drummers at the shows, trying to fill the soon-to-be-vacant throne.  As we all know, the short “fill-in” tour Lombardo agreed to has now reached it’s 10th year and those try-outs eventually led to nothing. 

So I contacted Slayer’s publicists to secure tickets and a photo for the Peoria show.  A few hours after that they called back to see if I was going to be using a digital camera, which I thought was weird, but I answered “yes”  as I had just recently received one for Christmas 2001.  They asked if I would be interested in heading down to the venue early to take pix of the drum try-outs to send to them for publicity purposes.  I said “yes” in a heartbeat and was pretty excited to be given such an assignment.  

Once I was confirmed to do all of this I wanted to try and set up an interview with Dave Lombardo.  Truthfully there hadn’t all that much written about him since the demise of Grip, Inc. and his foray in the Fantomas, especially from a Metal perspective.  I knew he had his own management at the time and I tried the manager’s office and had a hard time getting the guy on the phone.  This guy was also one of Morbid Angel’s managers and I was not going to give up so easily.  Morbid Angel was still signed to Earache Records and I was still managing Usurper, who was also on Earache at the time.  So I put a call in to the US label boss to see if he could pull some strings and make this happen.  Lo and behold my will was done and I was set to interview Dave Lombardo this very same day.

I arrived at the venue after a two hour drive, I was pretty excited at the day that lay before me and I figured nothing could go wrong, after all I was there on “band business” and I figured everything would be a breeze.  How wrong could I have been?? My first wall of obstruction was meeting with Slayer’s tour manager.  A little back story – 

I had met Slayer’s tour manager, let’s call her Billie Sue, back in November 2001 when I had interviewed Kerry at the Aragon Ballroom.  She was kind of a bitch, I mean I guess I would be too if I had to deal with “Slayer idiots” all day long, but I was far from your typical “Slayer Idiot.”  I was and always have been pretty damn professional when it came to interviews (showing up on time, not causing headaches, not demanding anything outside of what I was promised, ready to work, not being an autograph hound/fan-boy, not bringing a “posse” etc. etc.) but she was totally bitchy towards me.

At this November 01 interview she told me “I’ll give you 20 minutes with Kerry.”  I went in and started my interview, Kerry was totally cool and totally into the interview that when she came in to kick me out after 20 minutes he sent her away.  When she came in again, he again told her to “go” and that he had “nothing else scheduled, leave him (me) be.”  

So back to Peoria…I explained to her I was there to shoot the drum tryouts and she had no idea the publicists had scheduled anything of the sort and treated me like total shit.  I was pissed, I mean I was there at like 2:00pm and show time was at like 9:00!  What the hell was I supposed to do in a shithole like Peoria for several hours?  Alone?  Yeah I had my Dave interview, but that was going to be a half an hour at most…yeah I was pissed.  So she tells me to leave the hall while the tryouts were taking place etc. etc. 

There was no way I was going to go out to the freezing February cold to twiddle my fucking thumbs!  I told her “thank you” and left the building only to re-enter another door, head to the balcony and watch Slayer sound check and then the drum tryouts.  I mean come on!?  It was a two hour drive I had to go alone as to keep it professional and I thought her power-trip was a bit much. 

So I sat in the balcony while Slayer sound checked, it was killer.  It was my first time seeing Lombardo back with the band since the Clash of the Titans a decade earlier.  I then watched as the band (Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman and Dave) leave the stage as Kerry was the one in charge of auditioning drummers.  They set up drum kits on the floor and Kerry had a half stack set up and they’d run through a few songs with each of the hopefuls.  I didn’t have the greatest view of the two drummers, but they were decent at best.  The last drummer to try out was former Fleshold and ex-Soulfly skinsman Joe Nunez.  What made his audition different was Dave Lombardo introduced him to Kerry and actually let Joe use his drum kit on stage.  So he was “endorsed,” fully mic’d, the whole shebang.  

Joe was practically flawless.  He practically had the gig, but the reasons he didn’t take it were pretty funny

So after the auditions, I went back down to the floor, met up with Dave and went to do our interview.  We went to Slayer’s dressing room but Hatebreed was then sound checking and it was way too loud to have a conversation so Dave asked, “do you have a car?”  So we went and did our interview in my Ford Explorer…very memorable to say the least.  It was a great interview and while the truck is long gone, my memories of that interview ten years later are still crystal clear!  

The show itself was amazing, I had really just accepted the Paul Bostaph years when they played the aforementioned Aragon Ballroom show in Nov 01.  But seeing Dave back where he belongs was something all together different.  It was magical and all seemed right in the world.  I took some great shots that night; all that are in this entry are from 2/1/2002. 

This one here of Dave above was and remains my favorite from the night. 

Dave was back…Here's the interview from that night.  Funny thing, that solo album never materialized, but as with anything related to the man, it'll surely be worth the wait. 


**This writing is dedicated to my Aunt Jacquie who left us one year ago.  I couldn’t find the words 12 months ago to tell you what you meant to me and I still can’t.  Instead I decided to do what we do best and just write.  I love and miss you and think about you all the time.  Tommy            

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Orion" from Yankee Stadium 9.14.11

After watching Ray Burton's beautiful and touching tribute I felt compelled to share this.  I think the sound sucks on this Flip camera, I need a Zoom!  Regardless, here's "Orion" Cliff's masterpiece, executed with care.  Here it is from my view that night.  

Much respect to the Burton Family for making and sharing with us.


"Knock that shit off, Dad!"

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Big 4, The Bronx, New York - Yankee Stadium September 14, 2011

What you are about to read is a stream of consciousness in regards to the events of September 14-15th, 2011.  I need to stress, what I am about to write should not come across as gloating or in a braggart sort of tone.  This is just what I experienced during a brief 26 hour visit to the Rotten Apple! So read it, don’t read into it!

I think there are two very strong opinions on the whole ‘Big 4’ phenomenon.  And let’s face it, no matter what it is you think of it, it is a HUGE deal.  I’ve now been witness to two US ‘Big 4’ Festivals and I have had a total blast at each.  This stream of consciousness is definitely not a “review” of the show.  Basically both the Indio, CA show back in April and the one in New York share many a similarity.  However the differences between the two will be noted below.  Both will always be “deathbed” memories.  I’m serious.  I love my kids, of course.  Love my wife, without her I’m not here.  But my love of music? My music that has never left my side, my music that has been like a life saving device in my head ever since I can remember.  Some of these musical memories, especially those that have happened in the past several years sometimes leave me speechless.

I arrived into LaGuardia right on schedule.  No bags to check so I was out and about in a New York minute (sorry, last pun.)  It was a lot hotter here than in Chicago I could already tell.  In fact, it was hotter than fuck!  Back home it was a comfortable 40 degrees; here it was mid 80’s.  I jumped in a cab and instructed him to go to Yankee Stadium.  I was never the biggest sports guy in the world, but I love my baseball.  Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you it’s a big part of our family’s life.  I was excited as all hell to see the stadium.  It totally didn’t disappoint.  Even for a newer place, its vibe is inescapable; it was definitely an honor of sorts to be there, especially for this!  

I had time to kill so I tried to grab a burger at one of the many sports bars surrounding the area.  The first place I tried was packed with Metalheads!  Air-conditioning cranked it was wall-to-wall black t-shirts and it was insta-vibe.  Not that I needed a boost or something, but it wasn’t until I was surrounded by my kind that it all dawned on me.  I spent some time talking to local freaks before I decided to get on my way.  Crossing East 161st street I grabbed a slice and went on an exploratory walk.  

Sometime towards the end of my walk I received the call I was waiting for.  My friend Robb and his friend Monte had taken the subway in from Manhattan and were looking for me outside the stadium.  We ran into a friend of Monte’s named Todd Gordon.  Todd signed Exodus to their first ever record deal when he owned Torrid Records.  You may have seen him interviewed in ‘Get Thrashed,’ very cool guy.

So after some walking we found the check-in tent and we entered near what looked to be the receiving area of Yankee Stadium.  By this time it was about 3:45 and we headed straight for the stage.  There was a short video presentation of Anthrax getting an award from the president of the Bronx association or something.  We arrived backstage at about the same time as the band and watched the set from Scott Ian’s side of the stage.  
Us, along with Eddie Trunk and Mike Portnoy watched Anthrax storm the stage with new song “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t.”  I won’t go song by song but I will say this.  This was one of the best Anthrax sets I’ve seen in maybe 15-20 years.  Yes the first “reunion” show in 2005 was killer, but this was different. That felt cool, but this was way more serious and it was a set delivered with intent.  

1. Fight 'Em Till You Can't
2. Got the Time
3. Madhouse
4. Caught in a Mosh
5. Antisocial
6. The Devil You Know
7. Indians
8. Metal Thrashing Mad
9. I Am The Law

New songs sounded great, the band was giving it 110% and even though it’s basically the same set-list as Indio, like I said this was way different.  This didn’t feel like a heritage band playing 20 year old classics, and let’s face it there’s been a lot of times I’ve seen Anthrax act as one. 

Still can’t stand “AntiSocial,” and “Got The Time,” these songs went over huge.  What do I know?  Truthfully though Joey Belladonna kicks ass on ‘Worship Music’ and he killed it at Yankee Stadium.  

Speaking of killing, the Bronx crowd came to rage and rage they did.  This was one of the biggest differences between the two US shows.  The NY crowd was way intense.

Megadeth were next and well, they played.  Of their set-list we saw maybe three or so songs before deciding it was time to grab some food.  This is the second time in as many months I’ve chosen food over Megadeth, not just any food, but this time it was Yankee Stadium’s finest.  The spread was out of this world and it was great to escape the heat and relax for a while.  

I’m not saying I dislike Megadeth, but unlike Anthrax, what (little) I saw here left a lot to be desired.  The band was tight enough, but at the same time they looked under rehearsed…does make sense? Adding insult to injury, Dave Mustaine’s neck injury seemed to take its toll, vocally. Chris Broderick remains a highlight of any Megashow and watching him shred was what I missed most during lunch. 

1. Trust
2. Hangar 18
3. She-Wolf
4. Public Enemy No. 1 (new song I didn’t hear)
5. Head Crusher
6. A Tout Le Monde
7. Sweating Bullets
8. Symphony of Destruction
9. Peace Sells
10. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due 

Slayer on the other hand…Slayer were fucking great!  I was blown away by the band with Gary Holt in Indio, but this was next level kind of brutality.  I don’t know if it’s because Gary is so in-tune with the band at this point or what, but they put a hurting on the Bronx.

Opening with “Disciple” from 2001's "God Hates Us All,' the crowd were so into it the time between Megadeth and Slayer must have felt like forever in the crowd, when Slayer took the stage the place just erupted! The sound for the whole show was superb, the clarity during Slayer's set was remarkable.  So for the next 50+ minutes time stood still as the band tore through a catalog of classics and new ‘World Painted Blood’ material to a maniacal response.  

As I mentioned before Gary Holt has locked in with Kerry King and together they make a devastating pair flanking front man Tom Araya.  I’ll be blasphemous here and say the two Holt-Slayer shows I’ve seen have destroyed some of the Hanneman era stuff of the past several years.  Maybe it’s the new blood infused or maybe it’s just a satanic coincidence?  Not sure, but if Slayer continue to dominate live like this, they can tour for the next decade or so health withstanding.

In five months (February 2012) Dave Lombardo will celebrate his decade back on the throne for Slayer and I couldn’t imagine anyone else back there.  Paul Bostaph did a fine job during his tenure, but no one plays like Dave.  I was fortunate enough to watch the man work up-close for the first time in several years, his playing was simply extraordinary! He was like a metallic Keith Moon with the abstract way he attacks the kit.  It was amazing to see him work within the context of the band as the three stringed members of the band would come back to the kit and watch him and watch for cues.  Awesome.   

Also, I have to say the intro to “Raining Blood” was way fucking E-V-I-L!  I’m serious, I’ve heard that song how many times live?  Well this was the first time since oh, say 1988 that I actually got goose bumps during the intro.  Not fucking around, it was awesome!  

2. 'Postmortem'
3. 'Hate Worldwide'
4. 'War Ensemble'
5. 'Psychopathy Red'
6. 'Mandatory Suicide'
7. 'Chemical Warfare'
8. 'Silent Scream'
9. 'Dead Skin Mask'
10. 'Snuff'
11. 'South Of Heaven'
12. 'Raining Blood'
13. 'Black Magic'
14. 'Angel Of Death'    

Metallica took the stage at the early time of 8:30 or so and as much as I enjoyed Anthrax, as much as I enjoyed my catered lunch, and as much as I enjoyed Slayer…it was all over with the opening riff of “Creeping Death.”  People, you cannot fuck with the catalog of hits Metallica have up their sleeves and it’s almost impossible not to have a great time while the band is performing.  Sure you can stand there and critique or take pot shots at the band for a number of reasons, but at the end of the day they’re one of the most powerful live bands I’ve ever heard, stadium setting or not. 

Their set, like the other bands was very similar to Indio, but truthfully I felt it was a great selection back in April and still do now.   Well paced with old and new material, the new stuff was given an incredible response and the classics?  Again, just a wealth of material to choose from and all delivered like the band had something to prove.  I’ve been seeing Metallica live since 1986 and have yet to see them phone it in. 

Getting to re-live this show with my brother Robb was something I won’t soon forget.  Over the years we’ve talked at great length about Metallica’s impact on our lives.  When he toured with them in 2009 I felt privileged to get to hear stories and experiences and he has this way of including me in some of these experiences, tonight was one of those nights.  

Thanks to Metallica Security, we were allowed to watch the show un-obstructed from Kirk’s side of the stage…sitting on the stage!  No bullshit, it was fucking unreal, feeling the power of the band as well as the 40 or 50,000 in attendance was, yeah…something.  

1. Creeping Death
2. For Whom the Bell Tolls
3. Fuel
4. Ride the Lightning
5. Fade to Black
6. Cyanide
7. All Nightmare Long
8. Sad But True
9. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
10. Orion
11. One
12. Master Of Puppets
13. Blackened
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman

16. Overkill (w/ members of Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, & Exodus)
17. Battery
18. Seek & Destroy

The “Overkill” jam was something of a surprise and went pretty kick ass from what I can remember.  I got a bunch of shitty pix from it, but what I remember most was all the smiles and how much fun everyone was having and needless to say that vibe of metallic bliss was contagious because everyone around us was in a really good mood.  One of the coolest things I can think of was getting to see Gary Holt and Kirk Hammett jamming together!  

Really, if the original “Big 4” jam in Indio was jacked to see Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield on the same stage this was kinda similar for different reasons, of course!   Fucking “Battery” followed up the jam, it was a raging version and the night ended with the beach ball drop during “Seek and Destroy” and that brought the music to an end. 

We went back to the underbelly of Yankee Stadium to have a few drinks and talk to the assorted people hanging around.  I don’t want to start name dropping more than I already have, but as a fan of Heavy Metal I couldn’t believe some of the people I’d come in contact with over the course of the night.  While mingling, Robb got his invites to the after party and like I said earlier, he has this way of looking out for me. 

Which was very cool, but one small problem, we’re in The Bronx with no transportation and the after party is in Manhattan.  We’re sure the fuck not going to take the subway, ya know?  So as we’re figuring things out Robb disappears for a few minutes. He comes back saying he found us a ride and we’re good to go.  So this is a good thing, right?  I think it was a 30 or so minute ride and it would have sucked to take public transportation, especially being loaded and un-familiar with the subway system as a whole. 

We walk through several doors of the cavernous Yankee Stadium and arrive at an area with several totally blacked out SUV’s…next thing I know I’m in one of these SUV’s with Robert Trujillo and Metalli-scribe Steffan Chirazi and a few of Robert’s guests on my way to the ‘Big 4’ after party!  So take a moment to re-read that shit… I had my Led Zeppelin, “The Song Remains The Same” moment, me in a limo leaving a NY arena after the rock show!   It was one of the most surreal moments in my life and like I said, “he has a way of including me in these experiences.”   The after party was legendary and I had so many amazing chats with people from all over the globe, two weeks later and my head is still spinning.

So that’s it.  26 hours in the Big Apple with an experience to last a lifetime is a small price to pay for how I felt that morning headed back to LaGuardia.  I’m not sure how to end this really, it was one of those moments that I was fortunate to experience and I guess that’s the way to go out.  Many thanks to each and every soul I encountered on this trip, those I missed meeting and those who I had no idea were even there!  Eternal thanks to my brother Robb for ALWAYS having my back. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


For the past 25 years now, the date of September 27th has been a somber one.  No doubt about it, it's a heavy day for millions and millions of Heavy Metal, as well as all sorts of Rock music devotees.  As a weird metallic twist, as we remember the departed on this day we also get a chance to celebrate!

In Stores (what are those? right kidz?) Today is the new album by MACHINE HEAD, 'Unto The Locust.'  It's been a long time since I've put my head in "review mode" so I'm not even going to try.  This album is about as good as it gets and if you choose not to listen, or even check it truly is your loss. 

I think the goal of any band is to progress and try to build on what you've already done.  A LOT of bands end up running out of steam and end up writing and re-writing the same thing year after year.  This is not the case with 'Unto The Locust.'  It speaks to me, it satisfies me, it motivates me.  No matter what you listen to, music should do this for you.  As a fan, I'm extremely proud of this album, has it been worth the four year wait?  

"Music My Savior, Save Me"

9.27.2011 - 25 years gone. 

Funny enough, I agree with Mr. Mick Wall...Cliff would have loved the Lou Reed/Metallica stuff.  From what I've heard of it, it sounds about as against the grain as you can be.  Right up Cliff's alley.   Regardless, lotsa people missing you dude.  You left your mark and will always be remembered.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old Metal Mag -Slayer 1986

Old Metal Mag with Slayer doing press for their new album, 'Reign In Blood' from Metal Forces, Issue 20 Oct/Nov 86.