July 20th, 2011 at 8:35pm
Sean Yseult, White Zombie bassplayer, owner of a fun to say last name and the woman responsible for (something that’s supposed to be comical but comes off creepy and gross) in my youth, has released a one of a kind recording featuring herself, Phil Anselmo and Dime Motherfucking Bag Motherfucking Darrell.
“Dimebag Darrell, Sean Yseult and Philip Anselmo created this absurdity at 6am after a long night of drinking on a Pantera/White Zombie Tour in ’92. Recorded on Darrell’s 4-Track in his hotel room, the song was made up on the spot with Darrell on guitar (and drum machine) Sean on bass, and Phil singing. This comes from a cassette from Sean Yseult’s archives, never heard before!”
And it is nice to hear these guys having a blast at a time when they were young metal Gods. And it’s also nice that “Dawn of the Horrible Gorilla” is only like two minutes cause man, it sucks real bad. But who’s going to pass up a chance to hear this?
July 20th, 2011 at 5:33pm
How important was it to separate your solo project, Thomas Giles, from Between The Buried And Me?
Tommy Rogers: I think it was very important to separate the two. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people do solo projects that sound like their main band. I wanted to step outside of what I normally write and try something totally new.
What’s different about writing music for you from writing music for a group of people, like the members of Between The Buried And Me? Are the filters the same or do you allow yourself a wider creative canvas on which to sonically paint because you won’t have to entertain the interests of others?
Tommy Rogers: It’s really hard to compare the two. The method of writing is so different from each other. The writing for Pulse was randomly done over a two to three year period, so there was never a huge amount of time concentrated solely on that project. It was very relaxed and there was no pressure due to the fact that I didn’t let anyone know I was even working on a record. I had no deadlines and that created a sense of comfort that helped me get through the record without rushing. I wanted to make sure everything was exactly how I wanted before I announced that I was even going to record.
I hear a little Porcupine Tree in Pulse. Neat coincidence or are the Brits an influence?
Tommy Rogers: I’ve been a fan of them for years and I’m sure it’s a natural influence. I also feel I’m very influenced by a lot of similar artists as them… For example, The Beatles.
I also feel like ’80s electronic music and video games played a part in Pulse. Perhaps like “Catch & Release”. Off base here?
Tommy Rogers: I’ve been a huge fan of electronic music since high school and it’s something I’ve always been interested in writing. It was very natural to have those elements on the record. With catch and release I wanted to create a heavy industrial song. That was my interpretation of that thought.
Is Pulse the follow-up to Giles? Just wondering since you elongated the band name.
Tommy Rogers: The only similarities the two records share are the fact that they are both solo records of mine. Giles was an experience that never felt very natural looking back… And Pulse is about as natural as I can get. Giles is a fun record and a tongue-in-cheek look at pop music, and honestly I look back sometimes and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but what’s done is done. [Laughs] It was a really fun experience making that record even if it’s not my most proud moment, and that in itself makes it worthwhile to me.
How do you think you’ve grown as a songwriter since Giles?
Tommy Rogers: Just like anything, the older you get the more you learn. I’ve been writing music with four amazing musicians now for 10 years and that rubs off on me for sure. I’ve learned so much about creating moods, song structure, making ideas come to life in the studio, and most importantly I’m slowly starting to understand my voice.
Pulse is diverse. How do songs like “Scared”, “The Medic”, “Reverb Island” relate to one another? Do you see the song-to-song path as logical and connected?
Tommy Rogers: When I listen to this record I think it really sums up what goes on in my mind when I write. It’s hard for me to stay in one space… That’s a trait I carry over into normal life as well. That hardest part for me and this record was making all these songs fit together. It took a while to create a flow I felt worked…
The production on Pulse is interesting. It’s very soft and muted. Was that on purpose? Even “Medic”, which is the album’s heaviest cut, doesn’t have a very aggressive bite.
Tommy Rogers: I wanted the record to be very dark and mellow and I think the production hints at that. With songs like medic being more aggressive, I still wanted it to have a vibe that felt comfortable with the rest of the material.
Over how long of a period was Pulse written? Are you the type to write and re-write tunes until you’re spent?
Tommy Rogers: I randomly wrote the songs over a two and a half year span. I didn’t do a lot of re-writing, just improving on what I already had.
Do you think metalheads and hardcore kids are more open-minded now about music than they were, say, when Prayer for Cleansing were bopping about?
Tommy Rogers: Absolutely! I feel people are looking for new things in music, and in order to find that you have to be open-minded. I was even a lot more close minded back in those days… I think age has a lot to do with it as well. Regardless, I love writing and hopefully I’ll do it till the day I die.
** Thomas Giles new album Pulse is out now on Metal Blade Records. Order it here.
July 20th, 2011 at 12:26pm
There’s little more annoying on this planet than the immoral majority telling you how essential, transcendent and (huh-huh) seminal a particular extreme album is, when you know that it’s overrated as fuck. Hence, our new Wednesday morning column, “Disposable Heroes,” in which one brave soul sails against the current to inform all you clones why you can’t spell classic without “ass.” This week, Jeff Wagner yawns in the general direction of Anthrax’s Among the Living.
In writing this piece, I had to listen to Anthrax’s Among the Living for the first time in, oh, about 21 years. Before heading back in, I thought, “Maybe I’ll come around, find out I actually like it.” Stranger things have happened. And in that case, I’d have to be honest and deal with the Decibelords: “Sorry guys, I pitched the wrong album for this column. I like it. And it’s aged so well!’
But no, memory serves me: I find this album very difficult to listen to. And it has aged poorly. Among the Living is a great album… NOT!!!
I’m dating myself here, but when Among the Living was released in 1987, I could not wait. I was turned on to Anthrax via double-shot exposure to the Armed and Dangerous EP (1985) and Fistful of Metal debut (1984). A friend bought both on the same day, and we spent a good deal of time sequestered in his beer-soaked bedroom, thrashing and bashing the shit out of our impressionable teen brains with those albums. The energy of both was pure nourishment. When the band’s Spreading the Disease full-length was released later in ’85, it delivered. They weren’t playing with quite the same fury and abrasion as peers like Metallica and Megadeth, and hadn’t yet begun toying with the chunky, pseudo-hardcore elements that peeked through on later albums. From classy epics like “Armed and Dangerous” to rapid-fire ball-busters like “Gung-Ho,” they were onto something pretty unique. New vocalist Joey Belladonna’s clean, melodic approach bucked that era’s trend of exploring ever more extreme vocal depths, which was a cool pairing for the band’s intense but not-exactly-pure-thrash delivery.
Among the Living was gonna rule.
So, when I finally got my anxious 17-year-old mitts on the album, I tried to convince myself I loved it. Several years later I realized I didn’t want anything to do with it ever again and traded it away, along with my copies of State of Euphoria and Persistence of Time. No regrets.
My complaints with Among the Living are, in a nutshell:
- a huge handful of the riffs are gray masses of palm-muted monotony. As if they leapt ahead to 1991 England, stole riffs from hopelessly bland bands like Re-Animator and Cerebral Fix, and returned to 1987 New York and Anthrax-ized them.
- incessant gang backing vocals
- entirely forgettable songs such as “A Skeleton in the Closet” and “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” (not a decent moment anywhere, with terrible choruses, even non-choruses)
- hokey can’t-we-all-just-get-along lyrics like “One World.” I’m a pacifist actually, but please leave it out of my thrash or I’ll kill you.
- Joey Belladonna. It’s almost funny how lost Belladonna sounds on this album, but no one says anything, as if the album is too legendary to criticize.
So, okay, Among the Living has its moments. The very beginning is quite good: the creepy intro of the opening title track kicks into a “bust down the doors, we’re fucking back!” entry. Fat mid-paced riffs interlace with faster, double-bass drum-led action. It’s a dramatic intro. Then Belladonna enters, attempting to sing something, anything, over a monotonous, heavily palm-muted riff. He sounds terribly uncomfortable. The proverbial square peg in a round hole. “Off” and “strained” are two other words for it. And it’s all S.O.D.’s fault. Or partly.
When S.O.D.’s Speak English or Die was released in 1985, it was welcomed by the growing legion of fans digging both hardcore and the extremist metal of the day (thrash). The thing was legendary almost immediately. So, by late 1986, when S.O.D. mascot Sergeant D was as recognizable an icon as the ubiquitous D.R.I. mosh-guy, S.O.D. members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante seemed to feel Anthrax needed more of what S.O.D. were notorious for dishing out. I wasn’t present during the writing and recording sessions for Among the Living, but it sure sounds like they tried to cross S.O.D.’s crossover into Anthrax. Chunky rhythms! Less melody! Dumb mosh riffs! Faster faster faster! Tons of GANG VOCALS shouting asininely (and I quote): “N.F.L., Nice fuckin’ life!,” “Drokk it!” and “Stomp Stomp Stomp!” The end result: a clunky, crammed, uncomfortable sonic experience. Great stuff if this is your first thrash album; far from great if you’ve already discovered serious shit-your-pants thrash bands like Holy Terror and Dark Angel. As for my biggest Among the Living gripe: Belladonna went from fitting right in on the previous album to “Get this guy outta here. Now.” Of course, he stayed for two more albums, both of which are even worse than Among the Living.
Related to the whole S.O.D. connection, Anthrax were influenced by all the New York hardcore around them at the time. They used to get a lot of guff from hardcore purists for using the NYHC symbol, which Anthrax threw onto album graphics, T-shirts, and probably the butt pockets of their big ol’ shorts. But that was unfair. The band did in fact grow up in and around that musical/geographic neighborhood, and let’s admit it, Among the Living, with all its stiff riffs, rapid-fire vocal phrasing and gang backups, smelled way more of hardcore-influence than, say, Crumbsuckers’ complex thrash workout Beast on my Back. Another band that arose from the NYHC scene, Crumbsuckers got plenty of crap for that direction, too. Not being much of a hardcore fan is another reason I don’t like Among the Living and its pandering to that scene. I’ll take Beast on my Back any day.
The energy on Among the Living is formidable; the performances of the rhythm section are impressive; and I won’t begrudge thousands of metal fans their right to put this album on a pedestal. But I just don’t get it. And sorry, I’ll never buy Belladonna’s performance here. Look up “disingenuousness” in the dictionary and you might find a picture of Joey.
Anthrax were a better band when they played a more high-energy take on traditional metal, proven by Fistful of Metal, Armed and Dangerous, Spreading the Disease and, yes, even later, Belladonna-less album The Sound of White Noise. As for the full-on moshtastic happy-go-lucky knucklehead thrash band they evolved into starting with Among the Living, and carrying on into the next couple albums… well, I don’t regret getting rid of those albums, yet you’ll have to pry my copies of Terror and Submission and Darkness Descends from my cold dead hands…
July 19th, 2011 at 9:40pm
Unearth and the generous folks at Metal Blade Records have provided us with a little swag to give away to celebrate the recent release of the band’s new album, Darkness in the Light, and their current stint on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tour making the rounds through the middle of August (see dates at the bottom of the page).
All you have to do to win the officially official—and autographed!—Unearth piece of party memorabilia shown here is to answer this trivia question correctly:
What’s the name of the Mötley Crüe cover band that Unearth guitarists Ken Susi and Buzz McGrath and drummer Derek Kerswill were in with vocalist Brian Fair of Shadows Fall and bassist Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage?
Now, pay attention to the fine print here: In order to qualify to win this handy-dandy funnel-and-plastic tube combo (known in less refined circles as a “beer bong,” but we can’t in good conscience recommend you use it for such shenanigans), you have to send your answer to this email address: email@example.com. If you just shout the answer at your computer screen, you won’t win. If you post your answer in the comment selection below, you won’t win. You must send your carefully considered, mostly legible and totally correct answer to the email address that we have provided.
UNEARTH Tour dates:
07/19/2011 Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – St. Louis, MO
07/20/2011 Riverbend Music Center – Cincinnati, OH
07/22/2011 Comcast Center – Boston, MA
07/23/2011 Parc Jean Drapeau – Montreal, QC
07/24/2011 The Comcast Theatre – Hartford, CT
07/25/2011 Lost Horizon – Syracuse, NY *Off Date w/ All Shall Perish
07/26/2011 Club Texas – Auburn, ME *Off Date w/ Suicide Silence, All Shall Perish
07/27/2011 P.N.C. Bank Arts Center – Holmdel, NJ
07/29/2011 First Niagara Pavilion – Pittsburgh, PA
07/30/2011 Jiffy Lube Live – Washington, DC
07/31/2011 Susquehanna Bank Center – Camden, NJ
08/02/2011 Verizon Wireless V. Beach Amphitheater – Virginia Beach, VA
08/03/2011 Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek – Raleigh, NC
08/04/2011 Peabody’s – Cleveland, OH *Off Date w/ Suicide Silence, All Shall Perish
08/05/2011 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre – Chicago, IL
08/06/2011 DTE Energy Music Theatre – Detroit, MI
08/07/2011 Verizon Wireless Music Center – Indianapolis, IN
08/09/2011 Zoo Amphitheatre – Oklahoma City, OK
08/10/2011 Gexa Energy Pavilion – Dallas, TX
08/11/2011 New Daisy Theatre – Memphis, TN *Off Date w/ Suicide Silence, All Shall Perish , Red Fang
08/12/2011 Lakewood Amphitheatre – Atlanta, GA
08/13/2011 1-800-Ask-Gary-Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL
08/14/2011 Cruzan Amphitheater – West Palm Beach, FL
July 19th, 2011 at 3:59pm
Every other Friday (well, Tuesday just for today), Waldo the African Grey Parrot, frontbird of thrash-grind immortals Hatebeak, will get you caught up on the week’s latest “extreme” releases.
What’s up, guys? Sorry my column is running a little late, but hey, even your boy Waldo needs a vacation once in a while.
I got some old school in my death metal. DISMA release their utterly brutal first full-length, Towards the Megalith. This thing beaking slays. The ex-member roster reads like a virtual who’s who of punishing death, and this is not a disappointment of what you’d expect from the lineup. Disma’s first EP was stunning, and the follow-up is no joke. Guttural, visceral and any other kind of “ral” I can think of. If I was in Incantation now, I’d be running for the hills. Profound Lore has really been leaving my feathers ruffled lately, but they knocked it out of the park on this one. Worship the new old school. DISMA. 8 Fucking pecks.
DYING FETUS release History Repeats. I’m really squawking hesitant on this one. It’s assumed that this EP is really just for fans of the Fetus, and basically a release so they have something new to sell on their endless runs of the U.S. and beyond. That’s not really a bad thing either; it’s basically some covers and a new track. You know what’s more boring than death metal covers? A death metal band covering another death metal band, and while History Repeats certainly isn’t bad, I’m just squawking wondering why it’s necessary. Rumor has it that after this run, they will be writing and recording a new album, so maybe this is just a teaser, and a new Dying Fetus record will surely slay. I’m just a little confused of why this is around. 6 Fucking Pecks.
July 19th, 2011 at 9:35am
In a just world Swiss actor Bruno Ganz would be better known for his work in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Herzog’s Nosferatu or, yes, his chillingly-authentic turn in Downfall than he is for a four-minute-performance-cum-fodder for a seemingly endless series of YouTube parodies — “The Hitler Meme,” as the New York Times dubbed it a few years back. Have there been occasional flashes of homespun brilliance? Sure. See, for example, Hitler hating on Jay Leno (“Anyone who hasn’t dyed their pubes red in support of Team Coco, get the eff out”) or plotting his dream trip to Burning Man (“I wish I lived in San Francisco. I would build the scariest fucking art car, black with huge flames and skulls. People would see it and they would shit their pants!”). Alas, as Hitler himself put it in this meta-parody of the parodies, it eventually became “a bunch of geek losers with iMovie jumping on the latest nerd bandwagon.”
“I slaughtered millions, cut a bloody path of destruction across Europe, and for what? So I could be the latest juvenile web fad, no better than YouTube Fred or that stupid fucking hamster?”
Nevertheless, much as the Renaissance followed the Dark Ages so too have several recent heavy metal-centric rants re-instilled a bit of cleverness into the Downfall parody — for Decibel readers, if no one else. A sampling resides below — oh, and if you’re thinking of Googling “Hitler” and “Black Metal” looking for the funny, save yourself the time and disappointment in humanity.
Hitler on new Morbid Angel: “I’d only just got over the new Craptopsy album!”
Hitler on Metallica collaborating with “that cunt from the Velvet Underground”: “It’s not like anyone listens to Puppets and goes, ‘Awesome, but no Lou Reed?’”
After the jump Hitler complains about his lost-in-the-mail Integrity pre-order and more…
“If the last Integrity record you bought was Seasons in the Size of Days get the fuck out of my face”:
Pros and Cons of Heavy Metal:
Hitler plans to start a metal band: “Oh my fucking God, no, Jodl! Bagpipes suck!”
Hitler infuriated by the paucity of Big 4 dates: “My Fuhrer, Anthrax is a solid thrash band!”
July 19th, 2011 at 9:31am
Here are the new heavy metal CD releases for this week.
Ave Maria – Chapter One (AAP)
Avichi – The Devil’s Fractal (Profound Lore)
Chelsea Grin – My Damnation (Artery)
Crown The Lost – Cold Pestilent Hope (Gas Can)
Demonical – Death Infernal (Cyclone Empire/Metal Blade)
Disma – Towards The Megalith (Profound Lore)
Dying Fetus – History Repeats EP (Relapse)
40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire/Metal Blade)
The Greenery – Spit & Argue (Prosthetic)
Hail Hornet – Disperse The Curse (Relapse)
I Am Abomination – Passion Of The Heist EP (Good Fight)
It Prevails – Stroma (Mediaskare)
The Konsortium – The Konsortium (Agonia)
Pestilence – Doctrine (Mascot)
Ringworm – Scars (Victory)
Sarabante – Remnants (Southern Lord)
Toxic Holocaust – Conjure and Command (Relapse)
July 18th, 2011 at 8:47pm
Y’know, despite being erudite professionals here at the Deciblog every now and then there’s an interview that spirals out of control and onto matters unrelated to, well, anything that it was supposed to relate to like that phonecall to Steve Asheim about a Deicide tour turns into a fullblown dialogue concerning the merits of cheeseburgers and the all important subject of what’s for dinner. This Q&A with Karl Simon, guitarist for Indianapolis doom champs the Gates of Slumber, was one such deal. But hey, we can’t be the only two guitar dorks in the world, and even if we are: what the hell, it’s time we celebrated the unsung guitar heros in this world.
I mean, who doesn’t dig the Gates of Slumber‘s melancholy doom/NWOBHM; it’s carved from the strongest composite alloys of Sabbath, St. Vitus and Trouble. And besides, Karl Simon is a way more positive shred role model than those polished dudes whose only other commitment is topiary, yoga or pilates. Steve Vai? No thanks. He looks as if he buys his clothes at head shops and an ’80s cock rock garage sale. Now Karl Simon, he is a proper dude. If he isn’t on tour, double-fisting premium ales or playing guitar well he’s probably asleep. Or, umm yeah, maybe he’s got Toni Braxton on his iPod… Just to counterpoint the melodies, y’understand?
There are a lot of clean, subtle parts in your music, fingerpicking and so forth?
Karl Simon: “There was some fingerpicking in the old record but we actually have some clean parts on the new record. Y’know, well now I’m actually playing the amp clean too. For years I used to play the Tony Iommi signature amp, the Laney, and that was pretty hot.”
He’s added more gain as time goes on and you’re taking yours away.
KS: “Yeah, he’s played Marshall, Mesa, everything along the way but I think it’s Laney that’s his tone. When it comes to tone I could hunt and peck all day. I like to reduce my power just to the things that I lke, that way I don’t waste time on the tone, the tone the tone… I obsess over it! I have to rein it in sorta like an unruly child that wants candy, and if he’s got the whole fuckin’ candy store to look at he’s never going to get out of the store. This, this, this, or this? You stand a better chance of getting something, and it’s not that the guitar tone has to be perfect it’s just that you are ready with the riffs, the songs and actually doing the band. So yeah, I like to restrict myself. I love the Iommi because it was the best of vintage and modern; it was super-hot but it was idiot-proof. It wasn’t like a Mesa with a bank of knobs. It’s why I use a distortion pedal when using those vintage style amps. I used to have a Laney, a Marshall Plexi, all these vintage amps, but you have to turn them fuckin’ all the way up to eleven to make them sound good, and then there’s no stage volume and I can hear the drums and I can’t hear the vocals.”
What distortion pedal are you using?
KS: “The Electroharmonix Metal Muff; I loved it because it has the lead boost that though actually it wasn’t that hotter it added some treble. I don’t even use that feature anymore, if I want a little boost I have an Ibanez wah and roll it all the way to the treble which gives me a boost but doesn’t cause the shrill tone. That’s all I use. I used to fuck around with flangers, phasers and delays but, again, it’s too many choices. On the earlier records I just used to go mad with the attempt to be Tony Iommi with the super-fast hammer-ons, but actually it made me just sound like David Chandler not Tony Iommi. Not that there’s a problem with that; he’s the reason why I play the guitar… Well, you wanna be yourself. You’ve gotta do your own thing. Also, I got into thinking that I spend all this time on this on all I’m doing is aping other players. Is the solo better if it’s a flurry of hammer-ons or if it’s something you can sing, which I think is sorta more important, and that’s the Judas Priest influence coming out. They never really went mad.Extreme bands can’t hold a candle to that. It’s not high-gain; I think it’s a JMP maybe with a little distortion but you can’t replace that anger and just being authentic…”
What is your approach to writing like?
KS: “Ultimately, well it’s it’s not just riffs, riffs for the sake of riffs. A riff is really just a type of melody which should be working under a chord structure. And I name no names, but you hear a lot of bands who just pile a riff into a riff into a riff=;there’s entire genres of music that are like that… Riffs, riffs, riffs… But the best bands like that actually realise that they are actually writing a song, it’s dynamic with chord changes, progressions. They don’t think about middle eights. Some do, but yeah, the riff is key to having a hooky melody and bringing people in but if you are not thinking about where the change is, what is the song doing? All somebody really needs as a guitar player is a solid scale book, learn it and then go with their guts. 99 per cent of what I do as a player comes out of the natural minor scale. It’s like Ritchie Blackmore, you’ve go the blues scale and, wait a minute, if I add the natural second in then, wow! It’s classical music. It’s all in the feel, though. The key to anything is just spending time with it. I think it’s just important that people who want to play, play. Look at David Chandler; I’m not sure he knows a whole scale but that’s not what’s important, it’s playing from the heart. In key/out of key; it’s all in the ear. I mean I have relatively small hands, I’ve broken them through fist fights and stupid shit; I’m lucky I can hold the thing far less play it.”
Speaking of Dave Chandler, here’s Karl getting his amp signed by St. Vitus’ riff-lord.
How long have you been playing for?
KS: “I still basically consider myself a novice. I picked it up in 1998. I never played guitar before The Gates Of Slumber. I never played guitar in another band. I was a bass player, and then I was a singer before that. I was absolute shit as a bass player. You also have to think around what the chords are too. I play a classical guitar at home, too. Not that I am any sort of fucking virtuoso or anything like that, but at university I could get credits for playing guitar… I got Bs in it. When you play classically they expect certain things, like your thumb is always at the mid-point of the neck, using the right finger.”
Do you play a lot of acoustic guitar?
KS: “Yeah, more than I play electric to be honest, because it gives you differerent ideas, it up chords. For the Gates of Slumber, I don’t play anything but powerchords. It was always and is always about the most powerful chord you can play. I don’t even do the octave, it’s the strongest harmonic pairing. That’s why I’m lucky to have a bass player like Jason [McCash] ‘cos he fills in the gaps. The interesting shit is, hopefully, the vocals and the rhythm section and the power is the guitar. Hopefully people enjoy the lead break and whatever but…”
The Gates of Slumber “Ice Worm”
Can you read music?
KS: “Sight reading was a bitch. I never learned to do it. I learned to write sheet music and I can read it but not by sight.”
How important is it to have that bond with the band?
KS: “I am really fucking lucky, Jason’s been my best friend for years; I always wanted to play in a band with him for ages, and then he got it together and it was exactly what I had hoped it to be.”
How tough should you be on yourself as a musician? Is it healthy to self-analyze and critique?
KS: “Well if you’re easy on yourself the next thing you know is that you find yourself recyclying riffs. That’s something that I do all the time, though; but there’s really no other way to play an eighth-note chug. Y’know. OK, we have a couple of songs that gallop but we really don’t want to repeat ourselves. Sometimes you go through dry spells and when you get through it can be the best shit ever, it’s like songwriting with a hammer just beating through it. I’ve lost so many weekend evenings rather than going down to the bar I’ll be hacking away at it until three in the morning. That’s another thing, you’ve gotta set out time and practise. Put a record on and play along to it. Put it on and you’re in the band… Foot up on the bad! One guy who I learned a lot from was a guy rom back home called Terry O’Donnell. I went round his house one day and hear Toni Braxton at mind-shearing volume, like it’s filling the neighborhood, and he’s screaming. I’m like, ‘What are you doing!?’ And he’s like, ‘Trying to counterpoint her vocal line, I can’t figure out which chords they’re using!’ That’s why pop music works; they are thinking about melodies that lead you back to the hook.”
Quite possibly the first time we’ve had Toni Braxton on the Deciblog.
Yeah, there you have it, Toni Braxton, the unseen influence on the hand of doom. Play loud or go home
July 18th, 2011 at 10:22am
“All one-hundred-an-durty poundsa me dought I wuz invinsubble, and ya had ta think like dat back den cuz Noo Yawk City wuza different place, it wuza jungle.”– John Joseph
Cro-Mags singer John Joseph is a continuing topic on the Deciblog and for good reason: Dude is a busy guy with a load of stories. After his memoir, The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon, was published, we subjected him to a Q+A in the March 2008 issue. He finished his second book, Meat Is for Pussies, and recently signed on to give walking tours of New York City’s underbelly. But if you can’t make it to the Big Apple to hear John tell it like it was, we’ve got the next best thing.
Mightier Than Sword records released the audio book of John’s autobiography, and we’re giving one copy away to a lucky reader. To get a taste of what’s in store, the label set up a site that features audio clips. John’s plain-spoken words are so thickly studded with a New York accent, the chilling tales he recounts are that much more evocative. Really good stuff.
To enter for a chance to win a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight EST on Sunday, July 24.
July 15th, 2011 at 2:38pm
In the hours before an Eyehategod show, finding people lucid enough to begin a sentence let alone finish it is a challenge that someone oughta reward with medals cast in gold, silver and bronze. It’s an Olympian feat to just negotiate past the bodies laying strewn across the dressing room, and this is on the floor while there are couches are available. It’s chaos, naturally. But guitarist Jimmy Bower is a reformed character, a country gentlemen in fine repair, and he was more than happy to talk to dB about his background in playing music. Hey, for us it was either this or hit the sauce/etc. and join the casualties… The total fuck-out internal organ ablation could wait.
Where did your musical education come from?
JB: “It was pretty much country, man. My dad listened to a lot of Willie Nelson, Hank Jr., David Allan Coe, Merle Haggard… They used to used to call it “outlaw country” and I really liked it when I was a kid but like any kid I was embarrassed—like, I didn’t tell my friends, y’know! Ha! We were all into Kiss back then. But the older I got, dude, I always listened to Skynyrd on the radio but didn’t really listen; I delved in and out. But for a good three years of my life that was all I listened to. And the Melvins. It’s all about the parents. Music should be like a chore, hahaha! Make it a thing like manners. It should be instilled in them early. Everyone should own a musician! Haha!”
That’s just life down your way: you have to be a musician.
JB: “Being from New Orleans, culturally, it’s a good music hub. Jazz was pretty much created there; you go a little bit north to Mississippi, up there that’s where the blues all started. To me, it’s all poverty, people moaning their shit. They bend strings. They putt feeling into it and I dunno, it’s always been my favourite. Ever since I got clean I’ve done really good thinking back to when I was younger: it’s about the blues, brother. John Lee Hooker and stuff like that. That’s just what inspires and influences me.”
What came first: the guitar or drums?
JB: “I definitely started as a drummer, in 3rd Grade doing the snare drum, all that kind of stuff, and failed miserably and kinda got out! But, I was in a jazz band at high school. I used to bring my drum set to school and that’s where I used to play with a lotta kids who had a way smooth feel to them, bro. I had a great, great teacher; my jazz teacher, he got me into improv’ really early and that’s why I love to do improv’ on guitar. But Eyehategod is really structured, it’s got its blues-based bending but I like “Pick a key and I’ll talk to you in 30 minutes”, y’know! …Get a little smoke on, man; an E, an A turnaround and back to E and it’s a wrap, man.”
You’ve maybe got more chance to jam in Down what with you being the drummer setting the time.
JB: “Nah man, it’s a perfect setting for something that natural to happen. And yeah, dude there’s nothing like it.”
You’ve been rocking the over-sized bass drum lately.
JB: “Yeah, I was lucky enough to bring it over for a festival tour last year and man it’s really cool. It’s a 26” kick. We put a PZM inside the kick drum and mic it from the side too. At times it’s a bit of a problem but it’s a great sounding kit, though. It’s the same kit I rented from L.A. to do “Over The Under”, and the one we used in the studio was an original from 1978, and the one I have is a reissue and there’s only 50 of them. So that was a cool thing to get. It’s just tweaking it and getting the right heads; obviously, there’s no wood involved; it’s all chrome, it’s loud and there’s some dampening that needs to be done. Those little gel things they make work really well, it’s like jello that you stick to it like a bit of gum and it sticks but doesn’t leave any residue. It’s kinda creepy, hahaha! ‘Cos I like Remo Emperors, those are really cool heads. I just like to get that real open drum sound.”
Which drummers have really influenced you?
JB: “Oh, like the drummer from Hank Williams Jr., oh I forget his name—I did an interview for a drum magazine and I researched it and can’t remember it. He played with Elvis for a while. He’s got one of the best right feet… Vinnie Appice: the obvious one. Bill Ward. Like Bill Ward on the first three Sabbath records was like jazzy. It’s just killer, dude!”
From starting on drums and then playing guitar, do you find yourself playing guitar like it was percussion?
JB: “Very much so. I’m not that good a guitar player for the first thing. At all. It’s all very simple powerchords and stuff like that. But I love playing in this band on guitar. It is rhythmic. I started playing guitar because me and Kirk [Windstein] from Crowbar had gotten into Carnivore and the Melvins at the same time. When I was on drums I knew what I was going to do but on guitar I was hearing something else in my head, so I picked up a guitar and learned how to play. When we recorded the first record I had been playing guitar for six months or something. It is real rhythmic the way I play guitar. It is more the feel I put into it, I guess.”
I guess those sort of guitarists were the ones who had the biggest influence on you?
JB: “Buzz from the Melvins, he’s so innovative. You ask the right people about the Melvins and they know. [Lynyrd Skynyrd’s] Steve Gaines, Allen Collins, Tony Iommi, Hendrix… To me they’re all unique. The guitar is a beautiful instrument, man. To me it’s really easy to express yourself on guitar and learn. I don’t think it matters what amp you’re playing on so long as you get your point across and have that attitude.”
Everyone should play as many instruments as possible.
JB: “Yeah, if you call yourself a musician be a musician! I am working on a solo record. It’s all instrumental at the moment. Singing is the one thing that I’m not that good at but I think that I could pull off some Delta blues style vocals. But… Playing in front of my friends I’ll be all embarrassed and shy.”
Jimi Hendrix hated people watching him sing, too.
JB: “Yeah, your friends sometimes make fun of you sometimes. What a vocalist, though, you know what I mean: what were you worried about!?”
Do you get nervous before shows?
JB: “Of course, I’m nervous right now. I’m always highly strung on anxiety. Man, I just try to zone out and get over it. Just get on with it.”
But you’ve played thousands of shows, and it’s not like the philharmonic is coming to town.
JB: “Yeah, but I guess it’s just adrenaline that I mistake for anxiety or nervousness. That’s why you have a couple before the show and get yourself straight.”
That’s sometimes important just to get the game face on.
JB: “Well I don’t think it’s important. I don’t think you’ve gotta get loaded to play, that’s not what I mean. But to get into the right frame of mind, yeah.”
Is it the same with writing?
JB: “I like to write off-the-cuff. With Eyehategod we write off-the-cuff. We try not to write stuff at home. When we do, some of the best stuff we come up with is our improv’ jams where you just tape a 30 minute session and when you’re done you’ve got all these riffs.”
And like that you are never too precise. Eyehategod needs a bit of imprecision, chaos. You always said Confederacy of Ruined Lives was too clean sounding.
JB: “Too polished, man. Yeah, Dave Fortman did that record; he’s done like Evanescence, Mudvayne and a bunch of other different bands [and was guitarist in Ugly Kid Joe]. He’s a great producer; it’s the best sound we’ll ever get in our lives. But, for me, at that time we were maybe in that mode… I prefer it more raw.”