The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Take 5 With Jason Becker

Call it a cruel twist of fate at the height of one's successful ascension or perhaps a forced portal into a higher state of mind and being.

When confronted with the degenerative ailment ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease), guitar ace Jason Becker of Cacaphony and the David Lee Roth band could've surrendered to negativity and hardly anyone would find fault with him. Yet the man bears witness to the resilience of the human spirit with his largely upbeat candor and a dignified continuance of his accomplished songwriting.

With the assistance of technology that responds to his eye movements, Jason Becker not only communicates with his family, friends and fans, he continues to work on his music craft, having written his solo albums Perspective, Blackberry Jams and Raspberry Jams as well as three new songs for a recently-released anthology spanning his work, simply titled Collection.

With an appreciation of all forms of music ranging from world to jazz to funk to soul to opera and classical, Jason Becker amplifies his heavy rock compositions with external textures that would leave many guitarists with their full capacities at a loss to keep up. If Becker was a prodigy of the six string prior to ALS, he has ascribed himself to something higher as evidenced on "Electric Prayer for Peace," one the brand new tunes he composed for Collection.

The Metal Minute welcomes with sincere admiration, Jason Becker...

The Metal Minute: Take us back to the Cacophony days with yourself and Marty Friedman. Obviously your paths would separate with Marty joining Megadeth for awhile and yourself with David Lee Roth long enough to record A Little Ain’t Enough. Still, a heck of a lot of music was made between you and Marty with the Speed Metal Symphony and Go Off! albums. I would say the testimony of your longtime friendship shows on your Collection album since Marty appears on “River of Longing (Reprise).” I can imagine what fun those Cacophony days were, particularly in Japan since I know Marty has settled there.

Jason Becker: It was such an incredible time for me. I was like a sponge and Marty was like the ocean. Every time we would get together in the beginning, I would learn enough for a lifetime. It just happened when we jammed or practiced. Marty was able to teach by example. After a while, I started becoming a lot more creative. We could just be jamming and one of us would do something cool. The other one would say, “Hey, what did you just do?” Then we would write a piece starting with that. He had an exercise where one guy would play chords and one guy would solo, but the guy playing chords would try to throw the soloist for a loop by playing the most nonsensical chord progression ever, without warning. The soloist had to try to make something nice out of his solo without time to think.

Touring with him, Jimmy, Kenny and Peter was such a blast! We played some complex, progressive metal, but we acted like we were in Poison. We didn’t have to constantly practice because we knew the music inside and out, so we got to party like rock stars. At first in our United States tour, I was a bit uptight, because I thought we had to be a certain way, but they showed me that as long as you put on a great show, you could also have a lot of fun, even if some of your shows didn’t get promoted right and not many people showed up. Or if the tour manager left the tour, and someone cancelled the Detroit show; I am so sorry, Detroit - I didn’t know what was happening!

Japan was so awesome! Our translator and I fell for each other. We are still great friends. Marty just knew a little Japanese at the time. He was totally at home there. We all shared an apartment. At night Japanese girls walked down the street outside calling out “Jason, Jason, Marty, Marty.” Fans treated us like Bon Jovi or something. They gave us many presents and the promoters liked to try to get us drunk. The people and country are so great. I can see why Marty moved there. He is still a best friend. I’m sure we would be making albums together if I could still play.

MM: Though your time with David Lee Roth was cut short due to ALS, whenever I’ve thought of your name, I always recall the big hype on MTV when it was announced you were taking over for Steve Vai in the DLR band, and I thought then, “Poor dude has to stand up to Vai and Fickle America isn’t going to cut him any slack! Glad he has some wicked chops!” How intimidating was all of that press and pressure, considering Vai was the man most guitarists of the eighties were measured against? It couldn’t have been easy actually filling the guy’s shoes!

JB: I wish I had seen that hype on MTV. I wasn’t aware of any hype at all; that would have been fun. I guess I should have been more worried about it, ha! I had a lot of confidence in my playing back then. I didn’t often think about how people would compare me to Vai. I had loved Vai, but it was my turn now. I knew I could do some great stuff. Only two things had me a little worried: Dave was wanting to go for a less guitar and metal oriented music, and I was hoping for a return to his more metal side. I had some really cool heavy songs that were turned down for songs that would be more at home on a Stones, Aerosmith, or pop album. That is great too, and it is his album, but I just wanted to blow people’s minds and get his metal fans back. I would have also liked to have more say over my solos, but it was still awesome, though. I learned so much.

Of course the other thing that worried me was when the ALS started affecting my playing. That was more scary than being compared to any guitarist. I don’t think people can tell when they listen to that album, but I sure can. It was just a little stiffer than it would have been.

MM: Well, that being said, bro, I salute your fortitude in overcoming such adversity to get your Perspective, Blackberry and Raspberry Jams albums completed. Not to harp or droll on your condition, but it’s nothing short of cosmic all of this music that has been housed inside of you and through sheer will we’re listening to it on those albums and Collection. Where do you find the grace to meet your life head-on and produce such dazzling songwriting?

JB: Aww, thank you so much. That is a tough question. I guess there are a few factors. One is that I am very lucky to have many people who are up to caring for me. It takes lots of people to keep everyone sane. My parents, Serrana, Marilyn, Dan Alvarez, Mike B., and many others, have an attitude of true love and compassion for their fellow humans, which is uncommon sometimes in extreme circumstances like this. I am amazed at how many friends and family can leave loved ones to fend for themselves. I don’t know, it can be tough for everyone.

My parents had taught me of the magic in life. This has stuck with me all through my life. Of course, I am not always happy and bubbly, but the core thought that life is beautiful is there, even with ALS. I think with love flowing between your peeps, you get a lot of strength from that. Humor is also a huge benefit. Forgetting about your troubles and cracking people up is priceless.

You mentioned grace. I think believing in something greater than yourself opens you up to greater possibilities. I think maybe my belief in the divine mother, love and music opens me up to more of the music in the universe. I don’t know; maybe I am just talking out of my ass.

MM: (laughs) Hardly. “Electric Prayer for Peace” is one of the three new songs on Collection and it appears the song was quite a production considering you had Joe Satriani, Dan Alvarez and Dave Lopez involved plus many others. With all of the mass layers contained within this 11-plus minute composition and the people who joined in the recording sessions, how blessed did you feel to get such complicated arrangements thought out amidst this considerable gathering of artists who brought different music schools to the table, i.e. electronic, hip hop, tribal, world unity music, etc?

JB: Yes, I was very blessed to be able to write this complex piece while still allowing room for other types of contributors. I wanted to mix Indian, classical, world and funk into this one piece. I love mixing different styles of music. I was able to compose the piece in my head, but with so many tracks Dan and I had a bitch of a time mixing it. I am grateful to the great Satch, Firkins, Lopez, Kennedy, Rameshbabu and every musician on that tune; and, of course, the incredible Dan Alvarez. They all brought a sound of their own that added a whole new life to it.
I wanted the lyrics to be as big as the piece and the musicians. The core meaning of the words is “may all beings in the world be happy and peaceful.” Putting that thought out there in the universe is a good thing I believe.

MM: To add to that thought, peace is a core part of your being, I can tell just by your work and your shanti ohms in Collection’s liner notes. First thing, what period of your music creation life has given you the most peace and why? Secondly, do you feel peace is so hard to work for some people they just take the easier street instead?

JB: Funny, sometimes I feel like a fraud because I am not always peaceful. I can still get worried and angry. I think all stages of my musical life have given me equal peace, believe it or not. Just the act of creating music is calming and it feels so good. Writing something that you feel connected to is blissful. I would have to agree with you on the second point. I can totally understand that as sometimes I just want to take the easy street.

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday 1/28/09

Shiver me everything, it's damned cold this week and the weather sucks (a regular ice bowl today, blech) and as far as I'm concerned, it's completely worthless, that is unless you're a kid or a ski bum, then a fool's paradise awaits thee... Snow and ice further dampens my sometimes cloudy disposition as I'm feeling my age with little man around and losing time for everything else. The body breaks down, everything hurts, sleep is precious but never enough when you get it. Then there's the dilemma of getting to work an hour away and day care opening late; yeah, baby, welcome to parenthood.

Anyway, let's keep the ranting to a minimum, shall we? Last week I did enjoy a chat with Mike Daly, author of the riotous Time Flies When You're in a Coma: The Wisdom of the Metal Gods, and also fellow musician in Whiskeytown plus oodles of other serious credentials. My chat with Mike was largely a way cool b.s. session since to me it sounded like our lives and attitudes growing up with metal were very similar. A righteous dude and I'm grateful for his time. Also found myself on the horn with Manowar and Dictators legend Ross the Boss in a brief chat which you will see here at The Metal Minute in due time. Ross was likewise super cool and we found ourselves talking at-length about The Dictators and The Ramones, so be on the lookout for that one shortly.

Just this very second I received confirmation of an incredibly special interview with guitar ace and former David Lee Roth slinger Jason Becker. Jason, as many of you know, has been battling ALS and I am thoroughly honored to present you all a Take 5 interview with this graceful and inspirational individual on Thursday.

A lot of variance once again in my spin list with the new Static-X becoming yet another addiction, although I would have to say Ritual was the heavy hitter following my dual review of Gypsy Re Bethe and company's reissues. For the record, I received very kind feedback from Gypsy himself about the review and I was humbled to read his compliments and reconciliation of past pain the Ritual albums initially received. He mentioned a possibility of a third Ritual album while he's largely been working on a flamenco-based solo album which ought to be equally sensual as Ritual's material.

On that note, cheers to you all, brothers and sisters in metal... No need to be shy or think yourself too cool to participate in this section. What the hell are y'all listenin' to out there?

Ritual - Valley of the Kings
Ritual - Widow
Static-X - Cult of Static
Ross the Boss - New Metal Leader
Scorpions - Lovedrive
Scorpions - Animal Magnetism
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Howlin' Wolf - The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions
The Nazz - Open Our Eyes: The Anthology
The Yardbirds - The Very Best of The Yardbirds
Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
Huey Lewis and The News - Sports
Fu Schnickens - F.U. Don't Take it Personal
MUCC - Shion
Marty Friedman - Exhibit A: Live in Europe
Moby - Everything is Wrong
The Amenta - Non
Maegashira - The Stark Arctic
Wino - Punctuated Equilibrium
Exciter - s/t
Dimension Zero - He Who Shall Not Bleed
Iron Fire - To the Grave
Thyrfing - Hels Vite

Loudness - "Burning Love" live, 1983

Saturday, January 24, 2009

CD Review: Exciter - s/t reissue

Exciter - s/t reissue
2008 MVD Audio / 1995 Magnetic Air Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One thing Depeche Mode and Exciter have in common: both released albums called Exciter at transient points in their careers and neither exactly lived up to their titular implications. A decent, stripped record for Depeche Mode, but their Exciter fails to leave a blazing trail of electro-heat like their previous recordings.

In the case of the Canadian thrash legends who made a small dent in the U.S. metal market with speed metal classics such as Heavy Metal Maniac, Violence and Force and Long Live the Loud, their changeover self-titled fifth album (also known around the way as O.T.T.) is a bit of a controversy unto itself. Prior to this album, Exciter had offended some of their contingency with 1987's Unveiling the Wicked courtesy of a nutty face-ripping cover, less emphasis on thrash and more on tunability, plus an overtly silly ploy to hop aboard the Headbangers Ball cashola-via-teen-angst plot that made Motley Crue, Krokus and Britny Fox richer with "I Hate School Rules." Consequently, brutal accusations of selling out were suddenly pinned to Exciter's backs.

Come the time Exciter released their 1988 no-name album, the lack of inspiration for a catchy title was the least of its problems. Drummer Chuck Beehler relinquished his vocal duties as the band expanded from a trio to quartet with the addition of new vocalist Rob Malnati. Sure, the trade allowed Beehler to pound harder on Exciter, but when the majority of the album is played at a mid-tempo power rock style with an unapologetic ply for a more mainstream sound--akin in its day to Breaking the Chains era Dokken--Beehler and Exciter inadvertently cashed in too many borrowed chips as a result.

Thankfully, Exciter bears a few thrashers, praise God, such as "Enemy Lines," "Scream Bloody Murder" and "Back in the Light," and honestly, they're all damned-fine metal songs yielding genuine respectability for a band that was right there at the beginning of the speed metal movement.

Alas, the exchange for these cool bursts of velocity comes in the form of embarassing jughead rawk tunes with prototypical lyric lameness reminiscent of the hairball hucksters Exciter was apparently seeking to rub elbows with. Is there any real excuse for a song about waking up with a hangover and drinking it away at the ass-crack of dawn, all in the name of living up to a metalhead stereotype with "Ready to Rock?" An absolute one-eighty in the wrong direction from more honorable songs such as "Victims of Sacrifice" and "Beyond the Gates of Doom" from Long Live the Loud.

The failure to generate much excitement, pun intended, on this album is a sad statement reflective of many proud metal bands who released self-capitalizing makeabuck (and certainly their most lacking) albums during the period of 1987 to 1988, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Krokus and Motley Crue being a few of the obvious offenders. The problem with Exciter is they were never a huge band, though their run with Megaforce Records in the eighties gave them a bigger share of the pie than they would've had otherwise.

Slow and sluggish in comparison to their first few albums, Exciter flops with philandering hard rock measures on "Playin' With Fire," "Dying to Live," "Eyes in the Sky," "I Wanna Be King" and the gang-chorus-assisted LA wannabe "O.T.T." (standing for the falsely advertised over-the-top, for the record) Some cool bass lines, a few shredding guitar solos from Brian MacPhee (his best manifesting on the all-too-brief instrumental closer "Termination") and Beehler's snub-nosed drum attacks (in particularly good form with the thundering rolls introducing "Enemy Lines") are the only reasons to stay put with the album's overt tawdriness.

Exciter squanders the talents of its inhabitants (the shadow of original guitarist John Ricci was still creating a phantom despite a gallant effort from MacPhee) with profit-flushing partyhead wannabe-ism all over this album, while the presence of Rob Malnati and his ear-scraping falsettos benefit them on the speedier cuts only. The slower Exciter goes, the more painful Malnati's coyote yowls become in accordance.

Worth a listen for its nostalgic value, Exciter is nonetheless a bit of a smudge on the tally sheet of a band who at least saw fit to return later with Ricci and Beehler in a mixed bag effort to restore what once was on The Dark Command, Blood of Tyrants, 2004's re-recordings collection New Testament and last year's Thrash, Speed, Burn. You get the feeling this reissue came with hesitation. 3 Inches of Blood may have resurrected the art of high-pitched wailing, but some shriekfests sound outdated no matter what codes of revival honor you can try and pin them to.

Rating: **1/2

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CD Review: Ritual - Widow and Valley of the Kings reissues

Ritual - Widow and Valley of the Kings reissues
2008 Shadow Kingdom Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Submitted for your approval, the strange case of England's Ritual...

One thing about the heavy metal revival, a lot of tremendously obscure bands are being excavated by loving admirers. While some are to be considered the eye (or ear) of the beholder, others are knockout gems or at least cornerstone acts who sadly never got their day and due.

Ritual is perhaps metal's most underachieved band in terms of album output per time spent as a unit. Having begun officially in 1973 and running quietly alongside Black Sabbath and Pentagram (both of whom bear shades in Ritual's doom-laden and cultish work), Ritual took a full decade to release their debut album Widow, right at the height of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Led by guitarist and vocalist Gypsy Re Bethe and featuring mainstay bassist Phil Mason, Ritual hedged their songs in London's rock and metal underground at the same time future legends such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead were coming up ever-so-slowly during the mid-seventies. Ritual issued the single "Burning" towards the beginning of their career, receiving spins on Alan Freeman's Friday Night Rock Show as well as The Tommy Vance Show before releasing their first proper record, Widow in 1983. Still, Ritual was confined to the stage and a series of cassette demos before getting their chance at a full-length recording in the form of Widow.

Listening to Widow in modern times, one of the most striking things is its primitive and archaic sound, particularly the random chop 'n slop drumming of Rex Duval. Still, reflections of Sabbath, Pentagram, Witchfinder General and slight hints of Hawkwind can be found in songs such as "Journey," "Rebecca" and "Burning." Gothic and polychrestic in a dark, sensual sense, Widow compensates its lack of production prowess and occasional disjointedness with textural and outlandish guitar lines from Gypsy Re Bethe.

Seamed together with various storm gust effects, Widow's cold physicality manifests on the slinky seduction of "Temptation" and Re Bethe's captivating chorus "You've changed my life, I looked into your eyes, you've changed my life, a feeling so right..."

Honestly, Re Bethe's summoning vocals are one aspect unto themselves, but his guitar playing is Widow's centerpiece, be it the elegant doom-meets-power metal instrumental "Forever" or his haunted solos splicing the cumbersome and quick-tempoed crunkfest "Never for Evil." Both understated and forceful on the opening licks of "Morning Star," Re Bethe peels off his own primeval riff salute to Tony Iommi as the song grinds on.

Widow's fate was left in the hands of an unmerciful press of the day, as well as a printing mishap in which the band's logo was left off of the album cover, forcing Ritual to promote copies of their album which audiences took them to be known as Widow. As metal history relates, there have been past and present incarnations of Widow, thus you can appreciate the frustration Ritual faced in the launch of their well-in-the-making debut, an undeserved stigma marking the band in future books and journals with a sleighted credit of Widow the album to the wrong band.

Though it would be another full decade before Ritual released their second and to-date last album Valley of the Kings (though releasing random singles here and there during the mid-eighties, including "Never Look Back," which appears on Kings) the band kept the faith by continuing to play gigs in underground clubs and maintaining a small tribe of followers.

Despite wrangling up redos of "Come to the Ritual," "Burning" and "Morning Star" from Widow on Valley of the Kings, Ritual by-and-large produced a superior-sounding effort in 1993. Much of the same affinities for Pentagram and Sabbath remain, yet a decided air of DiAnno-era Iron Maiden lurks all about Valley of the Kings ("Lady Night" and "Possessed," for example) though still relayed at a predominantly creeping, mid-tempo pace.

Another distinction to Valley of the Kings is Gypsy Re Bethe's affinity to tug and twang his guitar notes with bleeding sorrow on every song to the point of replication. Was he in a genuine blue period as of this album? Certainly there's a wrenching emotional encapsulation to Re Bethe's playing on Valley of the Kings, even when he whips out a complex solo on the pulsing "Kiss of the Nile." Nevertheless, you're going to have to acclimate yourself to hearing repeated high-note slides and prolonged squeals to the point you think Re Bethe is weeping flush down his tearful frets.

Despite this, songs such as "Naisha," "Gypsy" and "Kiss of the Nile" are given lofty grace because of Re Bethe's string wailing, while he serves up a gorgeous acoustic number "The Enchanted Princess," not to mention an ariose intro to "Lady Night." He and Phil Mason, along with the late John Gaster dress up "Come to the Ritual" and "Burning" with inflated pizazz, the latter already having become a staple song in the band's repertoire at this point in their career.

Baffling as that career may have been, Ritual's minute place in heavy metal is now revealed as nearly-silent practitioners of doom and precursory ambient metal. The problems facing Ritual, aside from printing fiascos and reviewer rail jobs, was their music was ill-timed when both Widow and Valley of the Kings were originally released.

Widow was a bitter pill to be spat out by a loud 'n proud rawk parish sermoned to by Priest, Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang and their subsequent American followers, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Dio, Ratt and Twisted Sister. Compared to all of that upbeat idealism, Widow was a huge downer, much as Saint Vitus and Bathory were upon initial contact to the party hearty metal crowd. By contrast, Valley of the Kings had a shot to ride on Cathedral's widely-accepted doom and sludge revival, yet heavy metal's popularity as a whole had queefed in America while Europe, Scandinavia, South America and Japan were hopping aboard the power metal and death metal trains. In other words, no matter how long they fought in trenches, Ritual was destined for obscurity.

Of course, now is a time for resurrection and perhaps newer audiences will give these guys a proper shot. Yes, Widow is going to take a couple of listens to uncork its deeply-wrought charms, but Valley of the Kings is mostly an instant-grab. Widow is raw, blustery and guttural, while Valley of the Kings is more polished and full of sentient sensitivity. All told, the dynamics between the two makes the long and weird story of Ritual well worth telling.

Rating: ****

CD Review: Spylacopa - s/t EP

Spylacopa - s/t EP
2008 Rising Pulse Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Intellects attract other intellects, particularly in music. It's sometimes hard to fathom a merge between Thom Yorke, Beck and PJ Harvey despite the sheer thrill factor of such a proposition. However, if you're really in-tune with what's happening in today's metal underground, reading a roster of momentarily extradited artists such as Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan, Jeff Caxide of Isis, Julie Christmas of Made Out of Babies and Battle of Mice, plus Candiria's John LaMacchia, proves more than relevant.

Granted, there's a teeming number of side projects cropping up every month (the Isis guys alone have so many external groups and solo pieces it's easy to lose count), yet it's hard to ignore the chance to hear Greg Puciato and Julie Christmas rail and croon amidst a slinky, drop-tuned metallic groove on Spylacopa's "Bloodletting" from their self-titled debut EP. The payoff between these two yelping vocalists is its own reward, much less the pounding rhythms and furiously tugging guitars on "Bloodletting" and its preceding track "Haunting a Ghost."

If you think this meeting arrangement of musical minds is irreverent on paper, certainly Spylacopa's gorgeous piano and coldwave currents on the surprisingly earthy "Together We Become Forever" plays cascading foil to the bombastic aggression previously issued. Irreverent is hardly apt description to such brave mood shifting, even as Spylacopa drifts out of the whispery synth ostinato completing "Together We Become Forever" before picking up the pace with the alt-punk-grunge stomper "Staring at the Sound." A little bit Mudhoney, a little bit Meat Puppets, a little bit Today is the Day, "Staring at the Sound" gets mucky and then subtly effervescent with buried distortion channels and a sonic-scrubbed guitar solo from John LaMacchia before disappearing into a calming key gorge.

LaMacchia's playing is wonderfully inspired on this project, naturally making the most of Candiria's hiatus and creatively fusing rock and metal strikes into obvious and subliminal spots. He smartly breaks through the shivery tranquility of the Dinosaur Jr.-esque "I Should Have Known You Would" with chunky chord interruptions which soon assimilate into the maudlin overtone of the song. A touching and graceful solo in the middle of "I Should Have Known You Would" adds thoughtful grandeur you likely weren't expecting at face value coming to this EP.

In fact, Spylacopa's entire project is a pleasant left-of-center shot filled with as much soothing charisma as blunt force. Ambient and forceful, this EP is so darned good it casts that special leave 'em wanting more ethos, particularly just to see what other designs are weaving inside these talented minds...

Rating: ****

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whattya Listenin' To Wednesday - 1/21/09

Howdy, cowpokes! Hope you guys are faring well under the blanket of freeze out there which always makes this time of year a bit of a drag to get through. Of course, I'm pleasantly surprised those Steelers got the job done over a very game Ravens team who deserve tremendous credit for their run this year. Kudos to the Cardinals as well for "shocking the world." Were they not playing my team in the big dance, I'd root for 'em. Unfortunately...

Let's hope the swearing in of Obama brings gradual changes for the good. I can't help but wonder what the fate of metal, punk and extreme music will be now that a liberal is taking over the front office. Historically in modern times, art and music has reacted swiftly and agressively when a conservative president has held office. Under the watch of Democrats, music especially tends to soften its stances and go into a generally quieter impetus. We'll see in the upcoming years ahead.

Dragging ass over here with my wife finally returning to work though her injured arm is still hurting, and the baby is a joy to be around most times, but let's face it; babies are babies and they wipe you out. After putting Christmas away over the weekend, I'm basically done in for the week, though I made a nice effort at catching up some review work and opened up a new slot with as an interviewer. Good times ahead. I should also be on the horn with Ross the Boss this week for a Take 5 piece coming atcha shortly here at The Metal Minute, so stay tuned as always!

It's a thrill to watch the baby develop a keen interest and aptitude for music, thus he got lots of jazz and classical over the weekend along with some Yardbirds, while foster pappy spun tons of new metal promo while working on the house in the middle of the night Saturday night. Little man likes a wide variety of music, which warms my heart, but he's going berserk over percussion and drums as a lot of children do, which really excites this drummer-that-never-was. So naturally Paul Simon's beautifully drum-heavy Rhythm of the Saints leads the charge of spins this week. Sweet also got a ton of spins as you can expect to see an Album You Can't Live Without selection featuring them upcoming shortly. Also had some seventies comps going, mostly one featuring 1975 with mostly great tunes and only a few stinkers. I've come to the conclusion that the seventies were the last great era of pop music and perhaps country as well.

Off to the showers and another weary day, as Madness would sing...

Paul Simon - Rhythm of the Saints
a lot of Mozart
Art Blakey - Drum Suite
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Red Hot and Cool
Dan Freedman - Art Attack
Sweet - Desolation Boulevard
Dimension Zero - He Who Shall Not Bleed
Harpoon - Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Origin Vol. 1
Sounds of the Seventies: 1975
Static-X - Cult of Static
The Yardbirds - The Very Best of The Yardbirds
Evile - Enter the Grave
Millions - Gather Scatter
Iron Fire - To the Grave
Exciter - s/t
Echo and the Bunnymen - Songs to Learn and Sing
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Nada Surf - High/Low
Scale the Summit - Carving Desert Canyons

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CD Review: Harpoon - Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide

Harpoon - Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide
2009 Interloper Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Is it just me or is grind metal getting faster by the nanosecond? On a day when a President Obama is sworn in with winds of change gusting slowly yet confidently from his back, American basements, garages and downhome studios bear the din of metal bands stepping up their residual tempos quicker than ever.

Granted, Chicago's (hometown of our country's enigmatic new leader) Harpoon has the advantage of digital assistance to jack their already noisome fuzz blender to velocities nearly undreamt from standard human beat processors. The more you spin their full-length debut (which is really the finished product of their self-titled demo released in May of last year with a few extra songs), only then will you begin to keep up with Dean Costello's manic drum programming.

Of course, upon initial greeting, Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide is going to feel like catapaulting down a flight of stairs courtesy of a vicious shove from your blind side. Literally, this album plummets at ludicrous speed as Dean Costello (also fielding bass and guitar duties) works his squelchy and buzzbombing riffs into the album's rambunctious rapidity while his shotgun partner, vocalist Toney Vast wails and rasps at will. For the record, the duo recently added a new bass player to their fold, D.J. Barraca.

With just enough engineering discipline and killer shred lines to avoid being a hackneyed shadow of Herman Rarebell (the grind group, not the Scorpions associate) and Pig Destroyer, Harpoon absolutely slays on minute-efficient cuts like "Throngs," "Buddy System" and "Walter Reuther" (aka "Walter Fucking Reuther") while flinging out bruising beats and swarming riffs on the 1:57 "Sloth-Ass."

Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide will sock you in the mush, make no bones about it. Still just a hair on the raw side with echoey beat replicants, Harpoon nevertheless benefits from slicker than grease note shrills plus the capacity to play in tandem to outrageous rhythm patterns that would give even Dave Lombardo the fits at times. Wielding blazing fast thrash and punk melodies in less time than an episode of Jeopardy doesn't hurt the cause, either. Both cause immediate information overload.

The digital era is making bands move faster than its hypothetical matrix can withstand. God help humanity if it has to keep up with Harpoon's incredulous speed.

Rating: ***1/2

Testament - "More Than Meets the Eye" video

Saturday, January 17, 2009

DVD Review: The Story of The Yardbirds

The Story of The Yardbirds
2008 MVD Visual/ABC Entertainment/HIQ Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Does it ever cross your mind why The Yardbirds never reached greater prestige in the annals of rock history considering they housed three of rock's most legendary guitarists in the form of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page? That statistic alone should've made The Yardbirds more than just a cult band emerged from the Swinging London era, yet rock 'n roll purists and garage addicts seem to be the only ones who genuinely embrace them.

The Yardbirds could've been The Rolling Stones' legitimate successor and not just their well-received replacements at the famed Crawdaddy Club in Britain. Despite the pedigree of these blues and soul twangers who each brought a different level of fortitude to The Yardbirds, it's each guitarist's departure that likely prevented The Yardbirds from achieving a greater stature than they enjoyed during the sixties. Of course, by the time Jimmy Page arrived, The Yardbirds were in a reinvention phase that was perhaps in reaction to what the Stones and The Beatles were experimenting with to much succes, yet was ironically off-kilter in relation. Also, the Jeff Beck-era "Still I'm Sad" may have been a momentary hit for The Yardbirds, but it was dark to the point of suicidal tendency. Even one of their best-written songs during Beck's tenure (and overall career) "Evil Hearted You" contained a deep moroseness out-of-step with the Yardbirds' largely upbeat contemporaries.

It's possible The Yardbirds were more in-tune with the sour social climate of the sixties and while they dabbled with psychedelics during Jimmy Page's run with them, The Yardbirds unfortunately lost touch with what initially made them striking: the blues.

The Story of the Yardbirds is a well-executed documentary outlining a band that had been enamored with American blues as many British Invasion acts of the day were. Accordingly, The Yardbirds had the distinction of playing with one of their sister country's swamprat legends, Sonny Boy Williamson. The Story of the Yardbirds shows a fledgling group led by the mop-topped Keith Relf on vocals and harmonica and a potent rhyhtm section in the form of Paul Samwell-Smith on bass and Jim McCarty on drums with guitarists Chris Dreja and a clean-cut Eric Clapton. As one of The Yardbirds' early managers describes Clapton of the day as a "dandy," fate would usher the disgruntled guitar icon out of the band, balking at the commercial overtones of the band's biggest hit, "For Your Love."

You have to wonder at Clapton's choice to leave, considering we got the bombastic Cream thereafter, yet Clapton himself ventured on the mainstream path with Derek and The Dominoes and his solo work. Although Clapton has produced some magnificent blues albums outside of his radio-friendly music, could The Yardbirds have gone further had Clapton stayed with them?

An even bigger question lies in what would've happened had Jeff Beck not grown distempered with sharing the limelight with Jimmy Page. Together the two were the KK Downing and Glenn Tipton of their time, yet Beck's disgruntlement left him shambling off to the tune of The Yardbirds' "Jeff's Blues" while Jimmy Page altered the course of the group before leaving himself to stake a claim at rock immortality with Led Zeppelin.

The Story of The Yardbirds moves briskly and makes its points while recovering lost footage complete with hand-clapping loudness and go-go dancers in the background, lending credence that they might've had a chance at bigger stardom had fate not intervened so forcefully. In the end, the confused Yardbirds rolled out as a foursome with inventive music still yielding some of the blues that initially launched them. Still, Clapton's exodus was the writing on the wall, despite the prowess of the band's core members. The survivors appear in the documentary to reflect on what was and where some of their London haunts were.

The triumvirate of Clapton, Page and Beck all give testimony to their contributions and their reasons for leaving a band at-large that probably had more to give than they were allowed. Ego certainly played a hand in dismantling The Yardbirds, yet when you watch this documentary, you see a band that clicked and were largely in the pocket. Even watching the bonus footage with Jimmy Page for a German television program in 1967 shows a veritably tight unit that sadly unfurled a year later, random reunions notwithstanding. Tragically, Keith Relf was electrocuted to death in 1976, effectively destroying any true shot at rekindling the Yard magic.

Arguably some of The Yardbirds' best music was done during the Jeff Beck years given "I'm Not Talking," "You're a Better Man Than I," "Shape of Things" and of course "Evil Hearted You." Regardless, this documentary presents other Yardbird tunes such as "Louise," "I Wish I Would," "Train Kept Rolling," "My Girl Sloopy," "I'm a Man" and "Dazed and Confused," all of which keeps things jiving harmoniously.

All-told, each guitarist brought a unique kitsch to a band revered by music heads and blues rockers. If there's a legacy The Yardbirds have left to rock's annals, it's having the savvy to recruit the best of the best of their time and place.

Rating: ****

Friday, January 16, 2009

Take 5 With Heri Joensen of Tyr

The term "Viking metal" carries with it an implied sense of honor even if there's something also carrying a bit of novelty to it as well. Given the fact there are so many Scandinavian metal bands writing thunderous power metal in homage to Viking lore, you have to question the integrity of the label "Viking metal," moreover, what it truly means to the bands performing it.

Tyr are one of the few bands who have legitimate claim to the style as they've been at it before there was such as term. Spin one of their albums, Eric the Red, Ragnarok or their latest epic adventure opus Land, and you will truly feel the cold wind in your hair as you plunge overtop brackish waters. Sharpen your cutlery and wrap yourself warmly. Tyr will have you yelling "Hail to the Hammer" as Manowar and Hammerfall have traditionally done for the metal legion with their strident epics assisted by soaring masculine vocals. A journey with Tyr is a nostalgic ride through pagan mountains and towering bonfires with which to toast yourself as they hoist you by the ears into a farflung yesteryear.

Guitarist Heri Joensen took a few moments in the middle of Tyr's European tour to talk with The Metal Minute...

The Metal Minute: The deity known as Tyr is said to be a one-armed god of war, but also a god of justice that reportedly sought the path of diplomacy before carrying forth hostilities. Doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence that we have a band naming itself after such a god in the political wartime climate we live in, eh?

Heri Joensen: You are right, it's no coincidence. We chose the name because of the story of the chaining of Fenrir the Wolf, in which Týr made a great personal sacrifice for the sake of the common good and to avoid war, and that is also part of our message, that there are some trigger happy lunatics in international politics today which might have done a lot more good for their countries and humanity as a whole had they sought diplomacy first.

MM: Call it “pagan metal” or “folk metal” or “Viking metal,” but this specific style of heraldry in heavy metal is reminiscent of Manowar and Saxon, who could be said to be champions of English or British heraldry. Now with Tyr and many other Euro, Nordic and Scandinavian bands paying tribute to ancient folklore in metal, do you feel what you’re doing is an extension of British and American power metal that celebrates knights, Medieval ages, heraldry and such? “Hail to the Hammer” from Land or “Regin Smiur” from Eric the Red are great indicators!

HJ: There is definitely something of that element in Viking/Pagan/Folk Metal. I have been listening to Manowar and Saxon since for as long as I have been listening to metal, and I would pay tribute to those great bands. But at the same time I think we have added something entirely new and unprecedented into the metal world. I do think you are right that the Viking thing at the moment is partly an extension of the Manowar and Saxon thing, yes.

MM: Tell us about Faroe Islands where you’re from and how it inspires Tyr’s music.

HJ: The Faeroes are 18 rugged stormy cliffs standing out of the north Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Iceland. They were populated by Norwegian Vikings about 1200 years ago, and we 48,000 who live there now are their descendants. The most obvious inspiration for us is the musical tradition that is present in the Faeroes, dating back to the Vikings.

MM: Land is your latest album, and it’s felt as if Tyr has taken us on a journey from Eric the Red to Ragnarok and now to Land, and the album itself bears a homecoming vibe to it. How have these albums taken the listeners on a journey, and moreover, how have they taken the band itself as each of them have progressed?

HJ: I'm not sure about the "going on a journey" thing. A lot of people say that listening to the albums makes them feel that they go somewhere and that there is a transcendent feel to the music. That was not specifically the intention with the music, but I can see that there is an overall storytelling feel of the lyrics maybe more than is usual with other bands. But don't get me wrong, I'm glad people see it that way because I'm sure it adds to the appeal of Týr. The albums have taken us, the band, on a journey quite literally with the constant touring, and we have been able to pursue a great way of living.

MM: I feel if anyone has a truly authentic Viking sound in metal today, Tyr does, particularly with your uplifting and rousing choruses. Hard to say what anyone would truly do from the point-of-view of a modern human being, but given the opportunity to be a true Viking in their glory days, how would you see your lifestyle being?

HJ: That depends a whole lot on your status. Today all are born free and can choose the path that one desires and can pursue any career. That was not the case in the time of the Vikings, so if one were to go back in time to be a Viking say in the year 950, one would definitely wish to be a free born man. In such case I guess I would do as most did and seek to increase my riches, go abroad to plunder, trade and plot against different royalties. I suppose I have that mindset, because that is practically what I'm doing with the band. Oh, and I'd be a fervent opponent of Christianity!

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/14/09

Howdy, faithful lot... As my good friend David Amulet was keeping this segment alive over at his site The Musings of David Amulet, it was left in limbo over here with my usual chaotic schedule, which has only gotten nuttier with a sick foster baby, a wife with an arm badly sprained while on-the-job and yours truly battling an upper respiratory infection for more than three weeks and trying to keep the household together.

I've been happy to keep steadier than expected here at The Metal Minute though with nowhere near the same regularity. Still, things maintain and I've been slowly pecking at my magazine work and review gigs from my side music clients. Having left my cell phone behind today, I missed an opportunity to cover a government meeting for a local newspaper, drat it. Then again, my little family's in such a floundered state only the cats Neo and Anubis are healthy.

Wifey and I sacked out last night in front of What Happens in Vegas. Of course, I have a Living Colour DVD to get written up, plus Lair of the Minotaur's War Metal Battle Master DVD, complete with the gory uncensored video for the title track. Hell, after reviewing the espionage thriller Traitor for DVD I passed out on Righteous Kill with DeNiro and Pacino, though I dug what I saw when I was awake. Then there's Tripping the Rift Season 3, also recently sent to me for review. I have Metalacalypse Season 2 in the DVD review pile, not to mention others for Pink Floyd, Pigface, Melvins & Fantomas, Gamma Ray, Kraftwerk, Patti Smith and Nickelback.

So anywho, 2009 is already revved up fine and dandy at The Metal Minute as Sean Yseult of White Zombie and Dan Lorenzo of Hades have checked in and later in the week expect a Take 5 interview with Tyr. Metal Maniacs currently has my interview with Gary Holt of Exodus, while the latest Hails & Horns magazine is running my pieces on Trivium, Nachtmystium and Hatchet director Adam Green. SPLAT!

Stay tuned for upcoming reviews here of Scott "Wino" Weinrich's solo debut album Punctuated Equilibrium, plus new stuff from Scale the Summit, Grave Digger and Spylacopa (which features members of Isis, Candiria, Dillinger Escape Plan and Made Out of Babies). Also be on the lookout for another Album You Can't Live Without in the very near future.

In the meantime, I've been pounding out my gift certificate acquisitions from the holidays, The Cure's latest, a lot of Beck, some red hot jazz with Art Blakey and I can't seem to shake myself loose of Chinese Democracy. Fortunately the baby is nearly as much of a music junkie as me, so the tunes are always flowing around here.

So step on up peeps! It's been awhile since this function's come to light, but bring out yer dead...

The Cure - 4:13 Dream
Art Blakey - Drum Suite
Art Blakey - Mosaic
Guns n' Roses - Chinese Democracy
Beck - Mellow Gold
Beck - Odelay
Beck - Modern Guilt
Deep Purple - Burn
Deep Purple - Who Do We Think We Are?
Blood Sweat and Tears - Greatest Hits
Duran Duran - Rio
Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
Asmegin - Arv
Eighteen Wheels Burning - Tweak'd Out Strung Up & Redlined
Dirtfedd - s/t
Metal Church - s/t
Metal Church - Blessing in Disguise
Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul
Sepultura - Nation
The Who - Tommy
Entombed - Wolverine Blues
Hank Williams - The Ultimate Collection
Common Rider - This Is Unity Music
The Mooney Suzuki - People Get Ready
The Blue Aeroplanes - Swagger
Dan Freedman - Art Attack
Eddie Cochran - The Best of Eddie Cochran
Fats Domino - My Blue Heaven: The Best of Fats Domino Volume One
Desmond Drive - I Called I
Iced Earth - Burnt Offerings
Cradle of Filth - Damnation and a Day
Lynard Skynard - Endangered Species

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Take 5 With Dan Lorenzo of Hades

Photo Credit: Frank White, Photo copy courtesy of Dave Brenner

I'd have to say in my six years in this biz I've made a lot of cool friends on the front lines and especially behind-the-scenes. While you won't hear me say "Ray Van Horn, Jr., close and personal friend of (fill in your favorite band name here)" I will say there's been members of bands past and present I communicate with on a regular basis and these are people I regard fondly. The way they treat me is the way they would anyone else, press perks or not.

Dan Lorenzo is one of these people. It's enough the man has kept me well-stocked with merch of projects he's related to, but talking with the guy is always for me like talking to a slightly older brother who's had a bigger taste of the pie, so to speak. Forever known in this metal scene as "Dan From Hades," by way of his customary introduction since beginning the cult thrash legend back in 1978, Dan has seen the quick ascension and the immediate plunge thereafter with Hades.

Some might say Hades (also consisting of Alan Tecchio, Jimmy Schulman, Tom Coombes, Scott LePage--and Ed Fuhrman as eventual replacement for LePage) broke up too quickly the first time around after two albums which are held to a standard by the group's fans, Resisting Success and If at First You Don't Succeed. Many missed the boat entirely when Hades returned in the nineties to release three albums for Metal Blade, SaviorSelf, The Downside and Damnation.

The fact of the matter is that Hades never reached the pinnacle of the success they proverbially resisted as their more-recognized thrash brethren such as Exodus, Overkill, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth, even though Hades shared the stage with each of them and many others during the rise of speed metal in the mid-eighties. A fateful European tour inadvertently split Hades apart and nobody ever really got to see what Hades at the height of their capacity could've conjured up thereafter. Lorenzo soon started his next band Non-Fiction, again enjoying a cult celebrity status in the New York and New Jersey region before retiring to his private studio for a series of homegrown solo records with a small ensemble of friends known as Cassius King.

Lorenzo later hooked up with his buddy Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth from Overkill to spawn the one-timer offshoot The Cursed, a sludge rock experiment that yielded a single "Evil, in the Bag" as prelude to their only album Room Full of Sinners and a lone show to promote it at BB King's in Manhattan, now a quiet, updated anecdote in the metal archives.

This is where I picked up my association with Dan Lorenzo in a dual interview with him and Blitz, certainly one of the coolest tag-team chats I've been offered. From The Cursed has come a regular way cool time (to coin the Ramones' tune) in continued back-and-forth exchange with Lorenzo. You might remember Dan wrote a guest piece here at The Metal Minute back in 2007, and if you're in the Jersey region, you probably know him as not only "Dan From Hades" but also "Dan From Steppin' Out Magazine" as one of their ad reps.

Dan and I had a recent conversation for Metal Maniacs magazine to discuss the new Hades' DVD, Bootlegged in Boston 1988 where fans have access to raw live footage as eighties' metalheads living in a low-def world can well appreciate. The DVD also features vintage interviews and more recent testimony as well as promotional videos for Hades, Non-Fiction and Lorenzo's solo tune "Frozen Planet."

Here at The Metal Minute is bonus footage of this interview with Dan Lorenzo for your edification:

The Metal Minute: Hades sort of got the jump on many of the elite thrash bands of the eighties, though it took a lot of hard work, starvation and pushing your group's original "Deliver Us From Evil" 7-inch to magazines such as Kerrang! in order to get noticed. All of that effort and sacrifice, and what I wonder is how did you view the thrash bands cropping up in your territory as well as the west coast, which widely gets credited as the birthplace of thrash?

Dan Lorenzo: We ended up being on Torrid Records whose first release was Exodus’ first album and then Hades was their third-ever release. I remember when Metallica first came here, we thought the band name was pronounced "metal-licka" and they played a show in front of 50 people. Hades' guitar player Scott LePage was one of those 50 people, so we knew about these bands because we were a part of the Old Bridge Militia; we were honored to play Metal Joe’s Basement. So we were in the scene early on and hearing rumblings of these other bands on the west coast and I remember Scott Ian would come to Hades shows and sing the chorus of "Denim and Leather." I didn’t know who these people were back then! I’d heard more about the bands that weren’t in Kerrang! yet. It wasn’t like I felt they were competition. Nuclear Assault called me up one time when Hades had broken up and I think I had an ad in The Aquarian saying "Guitar player available and looking for musicians." Somebody from Nuclear Assault--I think it was a temporary drummer--tried to get me in the band. I’ll never forget him calling me and asking "What do you think of ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ the new Metallica song?" I said "I Love It!" and he was like, "No, no, it’s too slow; we’re going to have all of our songs faster." I was like, "Well, I don’t want to be involved in it if all you’re going for is speed!" I was more into the songs; I don’t care about the bpm’s; I care about the songs!

MM: Let's go over Hades' return in the nineties when Metal Blade signed you guys to a four-record deal and only held you to three. Did you ever think at the time the prospect of a new Hades album would've been thinkable, much less three?

DL: Those were great years with Metal Blade and we appreciate it more than ever! Tim Gillis, the producer who’s interviewed on the DVD, told me before we did SaviorSelf, "I want you to put a new Hades CD out." He’d been telling me this for months and I was like, "I haven’t even played guitar in two years, dude, it’s not going to happen!" He kind of insisted and my guitar tech Dan Garber threw me a guitar. I was like, "Shit, once he throws me his guitar I’m going to start writing riffs and fucking record them!" I showed the song “SaviorSelf” to Alan (Tecchio) and he started moving with recording a record but there was no money for it and nobody was going to put out. The next thing you know, I hear Brian Slagel’s looking for some old school metal bands with a little bit of a name, I call him on the phone and he asks what I want financially. I’m thinking there’s no way he’ll give that to us, but he gives it to us, then we end up having three records with Metal Blade and I have to say every second of every day I appreciated Metal Blade so much because I thought at that point--I was 38 years old then--I’m thinking, "Man, I can’t believe somebody’s paying to release my little musical hobby!" It’s the most beautiful thing in the world and they’re flying me and Alan out to Germany to do some interviews and I appreciated every second of the three CDs we did with them. The European office was especially great to us.

MM: Bootlegged in Boston 1988 is the first proper DVD documentation of Hades and a lot of thoughts come to my mind as a viewer, such as who I was in the year I graduated high school and the area I lived which was hardly considered a metalhead's den. Being in your part of the country where a lot of music--especially metal--was being generated, I would imagine your life was far more memorable, especially having a band like Hades and putting your entire energy into it before breaking up the first time. Looking at Bootlegged in Boston 1988 from your eyes, what are you thinking about?

DL: Watching Hades I think we had a little something that was special and I think if we had proper management and a booking agent sooner, I think we could’ve made a far-larger dent. If we could’ve gotten over some personal issues... We went to Europe and stayed together through 1989 and 1990 and did the album that would’ve been Exist to Resist, the third Hades CD. I think we could’ve really made some noise because Torrid was doing a deal with Epic at that point and we would’ve had a video for MTV. It just kind of makes me sad, but I also think you ultimately end up where you should be. I think every band is as popular as they should be, even when people say "Oh, you guys were underrated" or "You should’ve sold more." I don’t know if that’s really true. I think you kind of get what you deserve in life a lot of times and as long as you have your health, you really end up where you should be. But it does make me a little sad and a little curious, like maybe when we die we’ll get to see a vision of what it would look like if we had done a couple of things differently. Sometimes watching the DVD makes me ultimately sad and when I speak with the other guys in the band like Jimmy Schulman, Ed Fuhrman and Scott LePage. I think they all think the same thing, that we were kind of a cool band, and that we could’ve and should’ve done a lot more than we did.

MM: I'd say the bootleg quality of this DVD is an acquired taste in the eyes the youth making up Generation Tech, but for us old farts, there's a huge endearment to bootleg video, wouldn't you agree?

DL: In this world you have newscasters who are 75 years old who look younger than I do because they’ve had $50,000 worth of plastic surgery! This DVD is just something that’s really raw and I didn’t want to trick anybody into thinking it was high production. That’s why I kind of insisted to Cruz Del Sur that I wanted to call it Bootlegged in Boston 1988 because it’s not high tech-quality footage, but there’s a certain charm to it. It’s very fucking eighties and I love it. I think this DVD is everything you’d want as a Hades fan, though in name it might be a little confusing since you think it’s just a Boston show, but there’s much more than that. You have all of these old interviews and old t.v. footage and for a Hades fan I think this DVD is an awesome buy. It’s pretty much everything you could want from almost every point of our career. Jay Bones, who did the “Frozen Planet” video from my first solo CD, put this thing together. I think people will dig it.

MM: That being said, the inevitable question in looking at this video and Hades' two separate runs together, do you wish the chemical makeup of the old days had more stablility?

DL: Absolutely, and it’s funny because now Jimmy Schulman and I are best friends. Back then we used to butt heads so hard because Jimmy’s the kind of guy who shows up late for everything and I’m the kind of guy who shows up early for everything. That’s what I do. He’s still the same; people don’t change! I’m right on the nose for an interview and Jimmy still shows up late for everything. At some point you end up saying you can’t fight this anymore; that’s who this person is and you love him anyway! He makes me fucking crazy, he’s always the least prepared guy, I know he’s always going to show up late, which is really terrible showing up late when you’re paying for rehearsal and recording time. Still, he’s my fucking brother! When we split up there was definitely a period of time when I thought I’d never, ever talk to Alan, Jimmy and Tom again. Then time passes and you realize you probably had more things in common than you would disagree with and probably looking back you should’ve put some of the petty stuff aside and done what was good for the common goal of the band, which would’ve been to stay together.

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Albums You Can't Live Without: Deep Purple - Burn

For 2009, The Metal Minute is starting a new random feature called "Albums You Can't Live Without." While this will be an opinionated segment to the site, perhaps you might find value or share the sentiments presented or best of all, be moved to check something out you might not've had the opportunity to wrap your ears around in the past.

This new addition to The Metal Minute was inspired by the gift certificate purchase of Deep Purple's Burn at an annual buy-one-used-disc-get-one free sale, as I had the opportunity to fill certain gaps in my collection of artists from varying genres such as Paul Simon, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Hank Williams, Death Cab for Cutie, Genesis, Lynard Skynard, Enslaved, Entombed, Nada Surf and others.

Suffice it to say, I used to listen to Burn on cassette tape back in the eighties but I'd neglected to grab it on CD and wowzers, did that sucker blow me away all over again! Wonderful when an album has such power to replicate its impact.

Hope you enjoy...

The depature of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had naturally made Deep Purple and rock fans more than suspicious in 1974 when Burn arrived along with then-unknowns David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes in the camp.

On the face, the entire prospect leading to Burn had everything against it, however you might say the mojo was perfect, considering Deep Purple daringly brought in not just one outstanding new vocalist but two. Rolling their dice on the backs of Coverdale and Hughes, the latter of whom filled Glover's bass position with outstanding precision, Burn turned out to be that rare triumph of a band momentarily splintered of founding members.

You might say Burn was fated for greatness as it was recorded in the same studio in Montreaux, Switzerland where Machine Head was conceived. You have to laugh at Deep Purple's sense of humor at calling this album Burn in a locale that inspired the epochal hit "Smoke On the Water" from the Montreaux nightclub that was supposed to host them in one of the original jazz festivals tossed by Claude Nobs. The club, as history relays, was torched the night Deep Purple was scheduled to perform.

Cheeky as hell to call the album Burn, but Deep Purple embodied the album's namesake with scorching guitar solos from Ritchie Blackmore (this album undeniably captures some of his best licks and wails ever) and a red-hot rhythm section aided by Hughes' game bass work and Ian Paice's metahuman drumming, particularly otherworldly on the percussion-heavy "You Fool No One."

While Ian Gillan remains the quintessential Deep Purple vocalist no matter what era or revision period they've toiled through, you have to appreciate a young David Coverdale working his chops smoothly and confidently (devoid of any Robert Plant caterwauling which was his unfortunate stigma cast by scrutinizing rock fans during the eighties), while Glenn Hughes cleans up right behind him. The two exchange seamlessly together on the funky "Sail Away," which helped take Deep Purple into braver songwriting territories. Blackmore's solo is mesmerizing on this cut, even as the strutting rhythm and melody drips masculine sexuality without being bluntly perverse.

The title song "Burn" is one of Deep Purple's best openers, right on par with "Highway Star" and perhaps even more majestic at a longer pace with nifty neoclassical fuses by Blackmore and famed keyboardist Jon Lord. As "Might Just Take Your Life" is the most traditional Deep Purple tune on the album, the next song "Lay Down, Stay Down" is a snarling riff fest driven by a monster beat that keeps the album on full thrust. The song's primary melody would later be hijacked on Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers album with "Nobody's Home."

"What's Going On Here" is one of the best blues rock tunes of the seventies with flawless execution and a stout tag team on the mike from Coverdale and Hughes. Coverdale's shining moment on Burn, however, comes as lone vocalist on the slow-stepped yet powerful "Mistreated," a laggardly rock epic which set its own precedent of the day. Heavy and seductive, "Mistreated" is a crown jewel of its time and certainly most hard rock bands who followed this point owe "Mistreated" a debt, whether they covered it or fused it into their own work.

For my purposes, it's "You Fool No One" that leaves me slack-jawed due to the Latin-heavy calypso tempo driving it as hard as vintage Santana as much as it motivates the entire Deep Purple lineup in 1974 to mash out funk and salsa into its heavy rock infrastructure. Never mind the vocals tower in splendid crescendos at times--breathtaking enough--but Blackmore's freestyling can bring you straight to your knees in deference, while the band raises its game to give him a bouncing vibe to propel from. "You Fool No One" might be Deep Purple's most accomplished song from a sheer playing standpoint.

While Machine Head, In Rock and Fireball are considered the be-all-end-all albums of Deep Purple's long and bizarre career, certainly Burn deserves to be put high on the band's mantle of rock masterworks. If Burn suffers in any way, shape or form, it's the needless gonzo synth instrumental "'A' 200" which could've been spared and still left the album a genuine bargain at only seven songs. Bottom line, though, Burn doesn't deserve dismissal just because Gillan and Glover were absent from this inspired outing.

You might call Burn a temporary revenge if not the launching pad for Coverdale's future success and Glenn Hughes' ascension as one of the greatest vocalists in rock history. Both he and Coverdale came from soul backgrounds and what they brought to the table on Burn and later projects justify their presence in the scene, much less unnecessarily villainized replacements within a rock legend.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

CD Review: Sepultura - A-Lex

Sepultura - A-Lex
2009 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If there's been one undoing to the legacy of Sepultura, one of metal's most innovative and important bands, it's the instability of infrastructure that has chased many of their listeners away. Sad enough most people outside of South America jumped ship after Max Cavalera split and created Nailbomb and Soulfly. Their resistance to Derrick Green has been unfair as the cat can command the mike in his own hardcore-bred candor and Green has proven himself reliable year after year with whatever Sepultura demands of him.

Sure, it took a couple albums of finding their direction sound-wise as of Against and Nation, but you have to hand it to Sepultura for their continued experimentation that made their vintage work Arise, Chaos A.D. and Roots three of the best metal albums of all-time. They tag-teamed with the Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo for a breathtaking collision of crunch chords-meeting feudal Japan with "Kamaitachi" on Against, while Nation was a daring issuance of Sepultura's ideals of one nation (a Sepulnation) living in unity and peace without the threat of annihilation, and featuring Jello Biafra's kicked-in vocals on "Politricks," to-boot.

As brutal as Sepultura's sound may be (thanks in large to Andreas Kisser's monster riffs which show no sign of wearing down), it's that cumbersome heaviness that allows the band to project their messages of utopia--either bluntly or subversively depending on the project. 2006's underrated Dante XXI exhibited Sepultura's capacity to translate literature into a metal mini-epic and now this year they take on Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange with a blistering, thrash-minded ode to joy, A-Lex.

If you've read the expanded version of A Clockwork Orange, you'll know the story doesn't end abruptly and insidiously as Stanley Kubrick's brilliant film leaves us. Alex has reached the age of 18, considered an old man in the company of a new gang, but when he is spotted with a picture of a baby, his suspicious and power hungry new droogs makes Alex suddenly see the error of his ways and he opts to leave his life of violence and seek a path towards true redemption, namely finding a wife and having a son. Though he believes one bad seed might beget another, Alex's choice to do right (brought to full circle when he spots his old running mate Pete with a wife and adopted fully into mainstream society) is the message devoid of Kubrick's film. While the statement of government corruption failing a juvenile delinquent to near death is powerful enough, the fact we see said minor turned adult choosing a better road of his own free will is much more ideal and you can see why Andreas Kisser and his Sepultura tribe seek to honor the novel on A-Lex.

Though Iggor Cavalera has now likewise left the Sepultura fold and only Kisser and bassist Paulo Jr. remain of the original lineup, the spirit has not left the band, no sir. A-Lex is just as passionate, just as fierce and frequently faster than most thrash bands out there. Wonderfully, they continue to experiment with rootsy percussion and tribal motifs on "Filthy Rot" (which, if you've read Burgess' novel, you'll know these words carry a double entendre in Alex's gang-related oddspeak) while building suspense on the immediate next song "We've Lost You" before erupting on the mid-tempo cruncher "What I Do!"

For the second album in a row, Sepultura has learned to finesse the aggression with details, such as how the hammering thrash base of "The Treatment" is spliced with more reserved tempos and escalating boom. You can picture the literary Alex or Malcolm McDowell screeching madcap while the government nastily works him over towards his "cure." The way this song is tailored, it sounds hostile, accusatory and even subliminally morose.

If there's one song on A-Lex that captures the entire project into one, it's the 6:51 "Sadistic Values," which has Sepultura largely creeping and skulking with jagged snare strikes and hollow guitar and bass lines which give way to an increased sense of agitation at the halfway mark. Kisser's riffs are almost too much to handle as "Sadistic Values" blares violently and catastrophically. Derrick Green snarls in terrifying candor along the way, increasing the drama of the song before it jettisons with vapor trails and climaxes in the final seconds with a grinding finish accompanied by wicked cello swipes. This is one of Sepultura's best-written songs ever, Cavalera or no.

If there's a sketchy part to A-Lex, it's the Beethoven section towards the end. You understand perfectly well why it's there as the 9th Symphony is integral towards telling Alex's story, however once you've already crashed your head in time to "Forceful Behavior," and the pounding "Enough Said," the "Ludwig Van" suite is a bit of a forced hand in which Sepultura streams their instrumentation into a classical chamber fugue and honestly, it would've worked better minus Sepultura's appearance. It's not dreadful or anything, but it does bring the severity of the album down notches.

On the other hand, the briefly-realized synth gestures guiding the uptempo "A-Lex IV" is a genuinely savvy tribute to Wendy Carlos' haunted score from the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. It is also decidedly all Sepultura's, particularly since it sets up a thrashy slam-dunk to close A-Lex with "Paradox."

Gripe all you will about Max and Iggor's lack of involvement in Sepultura. In this writer's opinion, all is at it should be. Cavalera Conspiracy ended up being a familial reunification conjuring up the best thrash output of 2008, while the remnants of Sepultura remain inspired and have meted out two successive albums in a row worthy of the hallowed eighties and nineties catalog. Iggor may be a superior drummer to newcomer Jean Dollabella, but that doesn't mean Dollabella isn't up to the task. A-Lex thrives from his methodic drives, being flashy only when needed. Otherwise, this is Sepultura continuing to reinvent itself as the punches meet them and thus becoming genuine artisans along the way.

Rating: ****

Monday, January 05, 2009

DVD Review: The Who at Kilburn 1977

The Who at Kilburn 1977
2008 Image Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

So very few bands in the history of rock 'n roll are considered to be larger-than-life. The Who is naturally one of those exceptions. Coming to any video presentation of their work is to be considered a jewel upon approach simply due to their legend. Could you imagine what Led Zeppelin felt like originally when The Who was grinding out their sets onstage? The Who played Woodstock and the Isle of Wight and of course many prestigious events and venues, as did Led Zeppelin in their own rightful time and place. Still, would you not feel inclined to think one begot the other?

By the time Zeppelin was winding down through their own incredible run and eventually canonized as ultimate rock lieges, The Who were still pounding away and still bearing the exuberance of their Tommy days and earlier as a mod rock act bursting out of the Swinging London era. Of course, time was a borrowed expenditure for the core Who lineup as maniacal skin slammer Keith Moon soon succumbed to his private debauchery and left The Who in a bit of shambles, though they managed to carry on sporadically over the years following.

1977 was perhaps a dark transition for The Who as you can see in The Who at Kilburn 1977. This performance, captured on a large stage in the northern London region of Kilburn bears a larger-than-life band exposed by their throbbing arterial veins. Having been away from the stage nearly a year when this show, captured for a behind-the-scenes documentary for The Kids Are Alright, reveals The Who shaking off a lot of rust initially before digging in and clicking like the master performers they are.

We see the band's inner turmoil played out in a public forum as Keith Moon comes to the gig wasted and swooning stupidly around his kit, nonetheless miraculously pulling the event off. However, he prophetically tells the audience he's going to disappear for three minutes and "overdose" while Pete Townsend begins the acoustic opening to "Behind Blue Eyes." Sadly cryptic is that Keith Moon died soon after this largely raw performance.

Moon also takes vocals at one point and caterwauls like his nuts are on fire, while Townsend and Roger Daltrey try to hide the horror on their faces. Townsend himself is the study of anger mismanagement as he verbally chides Moon in front of the crowd (you also see him venomously tweaking complex notes right at Moon's hazed face from his guitar in the attempt to confuse and derail Moon who can barely keep up). Townsend vehemently takes his frustrations out on a stage tech by swiping away a row of drinks on top of an amp, then knocking the amp off in the direction of the tech. At one point Townsend grumbles his displeasure to his bandmates that filming this concert was a waste of time as The Who struggles to get their shit together, all before a paying audience.

Daltrey and John Entwistle in turn seem fit to let Townsend work through his tirade and Moon through his loopy shenanigans until The Who indeed get their shit together and plow through the second half of their set like the legends they are. "Won't Get Fooled Again" comes off like any retro footage you've seen of this massive tune live with Daltrey swinging his mike around and nearly losing it to the universe and Townsend vaulting all over his side of the stage then sliding on his knees across the way towards Entwistle during the climax of the song.

This is perhaps the greatest asset to The Who at Kilburn 1977, watching a band at the peak of their talents finding themselves at odds with each other and with their execution, only to dig deep and save the day. It's kind of like watching a star quarterback tank in the first half of the football game with a couple of picks and down by 17, only to put it all behind him and toss three touchdowns to win the thing.

Townsend, the originator of the Rock God Pose, struts, swings, arcs and jumps to his heart's content in this show, which inspires his bandmates, despite their early-on misgivings, though no fault goes to Entwistle, who stands his ground and waits for the group to get in stride. In the end, The Who at Kilburn 1977 is just as electric as you could hope for in a DVD, if not more so because of the adversity it takes to get that kinetic energy buzzing.

Included on this DVD is an early performance from 1969 when The Who was touring the Tommy album at the London Coliseum. The footage is mixed from a couple of different cameras, one which is great, the other not so much, but considering the age of the film, it's still a wonder to behold as The Who belts out the majority of Tommy and some of Happy Jack along with a furious rendition of "My Generation."

In contrast to the Kilburn show, the London Coliseum performance is airtight. Notice the contrast between a less strung-out Keith Moon and his phenomenal presence on the stool. He's a virtual show unto himself, as are each of his mates. Though the Coliseum show isn't as grandiose and spectacular as what would come later, the precision and energy The Who gained for themselves while touring one of rock's first genuine concept albums is spectacular in its own right.

Rating: ****1/2

Friday, January 02, 2009

Take 5 With Sean Yseult of White Zombie

Like a hefty portion of heavy metal and punk fans, I had a major obsession with the horror genre, a passion which has continued to such lengths I have enjoyed the privilege of interviewing actors such as Bruce Campbell and Betsy Palmer and directors Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli, Stuart Gordon, Adam Green and of course, former lead singer of White Zombie-turned solo rock and horror icon Rob Zombie.

I've visited the camp where the original Friday the 13th was filmed on assignment for Metal Maniacs and I once took a trip to Monroeville, Pennsylvania on the outskirts of Pittsburgh just to the see the mall where the original Dawn of the Dead was filmed. I loved The Misfits and Samhain in my teens and still get a thrill by horror-themed rock, punk and psychobilly skulking around today's underground.

Prior to publishing this interview, I was watching the Vincent Price cult classic The Abominable Dr. Phibes. The point to this extensive monologue is that I am just as excited about horror as I am metal, punk and rock and it's carried far back from an early childhood spent around Kiss records, Scooby Doo and the Universal monster films (as well as repeat showings of The Tingler) shown on our local Ghost Host Theater each Saturday night.

As White Zombie rose to prominence in the early nineties following a decline in American heavy metal appreciation, I took pleasure that a Bela Lugosi flick had inspired a dirt-kickin' rock band that boasted a cool blend of sludge and bounce. I was also thrilled to pieces this band recorded an album named after one of the goriest bits of celluloid ever put down, Make Them Die Slowly (aka Cannibal Ferox). The fact White Zombie shared the same passion for horror as I did spoke loudly to me and the band's breakout album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1 became as much an addiction as Lucio Fulci splatter flicks.

White Zombie at the height of their game boasted a wicked-tight rhythm section with Ivan DePrume and later John Tempesta on drums with Sean Yseult on bass. Guitarist J. (Jay Noel Yuenger) fueled the riff attacks in White Zombie's later output, propelling a former sonic-scorched shock band into an airtight hard rock group with Rob Zombie providing center stage lunacy which would soon make him a megastar.

Things happen for a reason, as they say, since Rob Zombie has gone on to release multiple best-selling solo albums and has become a red-hot direction commodity of the horror genre, his best film being The Devil's Rejects, in this writer's opinion. The remnants of White Zombie scattered around the underground as John Tempesta has resided in other bands of notoriety such as Exodus and The Cult. Meanwhile, Sean Yseult has done quite alright for herself in her offshoot camp band Famous Monsters which has a propensity for sixties' surf and shlock including the 1999 album Around the World in 80 Bikinis (shades of the goofy mod-beach flick How to Stuff a Wild Bikini).

Yseult has also been in Rock City Morgue and has trudged through the goo goo muck with The Cramps. Still, most people affiliate the golden-locked bassist with White Zombie, which is releasing a comprehensive box set featuring all of the band's EPs and LPs, as well as a DVD featuring live footage and promotional videos, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. This showcase set shouldn't be an indicator that White Zombie is planning on reunification, however, it's a full-on examination of how horror films breathed life into a chunky distortion band that grew into a hard rock phenomenon.

The Metal Minute is pleased to bring you a Take 5 session with Sean Yseult...

The Metal Minute: Let’s begin with you originally meeting Rob Zombie since you were originally dating when White Zombie was on its way to being assembled. You were playing Farfisa keys in a band called Life before learning to play bass. I’m not looking for dirt, but I want to get a feel for what you, Rob and original White Zombie guitarist Ena Kostabi were like as people to get better insight into the genesis of the band. Suffice it to say, when you put all of the band’s work in succession as has been done on the Let Sleeping Corpses Lie box set, White Zombie was hardly a conventional group!

Sean Yseult: When Rob and I met, our relationship was pretty much based on wanting to start a band. It was all we did. We were very obsessive about it – Rob dropped out of school shortly after we started the band and got a messenger job. I was working three jobs, going to design school and working on the band every night. I grew up playing stringed instruments (violin, dulcimer, banjo) so the bass was easy to pick up right away. I also was trained in music theory, composition and improv at the age of 6 and had been writing full works ever since then, so writing rock/punk/metal riffs and songs was not that difficult either. I was really into Black Sabbath, but also the Birthday Party, the Cramps and the Butthole Surfers at the time. Rob was really into the Misfits and Alice Cooper. We both loved Black Flag so it all just kind of meshed together. As for our personalities, I was always pretty outgoing while Rob was pretty introverted. His main obsession more than music, was movies, which of course paid off! He would watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead over and over, a million times.

Rob and I didn’t ever know Ena very well. He was just the first guitarist we hired in a row of many, so I really can’t give you much background on him. He was in our band for only a few months. I met him and Ivan in the punk band Life that you refer to. That was our small pool of musicians we knew. I showed him the songs and gave him an idea of what we wanted. We recorded, then we reformed with a new drummer and guitarist all in a matter of three or four months. When Rob and I started the band, we were living in my first apartment at Delancey and Clinton (LES) and then got our own place on Ludlow Street. It was pretty rough, but not as rough as Ena’s apartment a block down, which got broken into so many times. They just smashed a hole in the wall instead of messing with the door and locks!

MM: (laughs) Talk about your humble beginnings! In the Let Sleeping Corpses Lie set, we get the resurrection of White Zombie’s original EP Gods On Voodoo Moon (along with the Pig Heaven, God of Thunder and Psycho-Head Blowout EPs), though minus “Black Friday” and “Dead Or Alive.” Legend has it 300 copies of Voodoo Moon were originally pressed and there are still roughly 200 copies lurking around in storage with speculation as to who has what in whose possession. If it’s alright, I wanted to make this a multi-pronged question: One, can you take us back to the days when White Zombie recorded the earlier EPs (which I’ve thought as of Sonic Youth meets the Cramps and Flipper) and what was rolling through your minds since White Zombie evolved into something wholly different, naturally. Second, why were “Black Friday” and “Dead Or Alive” missing from Gods On Voodoo Moon, and thirdly, would I assume rightly that the existing copies with those songs are being held for White Zombie artifact purposes?

SY: We recorded the six songs in the exact length of time it took us to play them, which was once. Then we made a 7” and could only fit four songs, so those two were just never released. We pressed 300 because it was the minimum and all we could afford. Rob and I walked them all over NYC to every record store, dropping off two to five records at a time. After getting rid of 100, we were sick of it and trying to move on. Rob and I split them up as well as all of the other vinyl. I still have all of it sitting in a closet! I suppose I should try to sell them all one day. I just haven’t had the time.

Going back to what was in our heads at the time, your assessment is pretty good. Although we were not Sonic Youth fans, they were certainly prevalent in the East Village and probably influential whether that was intentional or not. I always loved Flipper, also. As I said earlier, we liked Black Flag, who were going into a weird direction at the time, especially Gregg Ginn’s crazy solos. When we got Tom (Five) on guitar, that was something we actually mentioned to him. I would write bass riffs that were very driving and tribal with Ivan’s drums, very Birthday Party and Butthole Surfers-influenced. Then sometimes we would just tell Tom to go nuts and make some noise! Although Rob didn’t write music he was there in the rehearsal studio the whole time, saying, “yes,” “no,” “that sucks,” kind of like some crazy maestro who knew what he didn’t want. He would never add lyrics and vocals until the very end, sometimes not until we were in the studio! It’s crazy that we never worked with one single vocal hook or line. It was all riffs, always. We would practice in Ivan’s basement every night for hours. It was grueling, but as I said, we were obsessed. When a band plays and writes every day like that for years, they are bound to evolve.

MM: When I think of Make Them Die Slowly, I of course think of the carnage fest in Cannibal Ferox as I’m sure most people in the underground did when White Zombie put out that album after the distortion fest of Soul-Crusher. As White Zombie is noted to have changed focus with each album, I’d say there’s more of a punk (and the beginnings of metal) focus that drives Make Them Die Slowly with just enough shock value to it. The first half of “Acid Flesh” always gave me thoughts of Motorhead’s “The Claw,” but I’m trying to picture you guys watching the castration, breast hooking and disembowelments in Cannibal Ferox, aka Make Them Die Slowly (perhaps only outdone by Cannibal Holocaust, I’m sure you’d agree) and thinking “Holy shit, now there’s something to fuel our fires musically!”

SY: Yes, I agree with what you are saying. If you’d like me to comment about this record, I can tell you that we hated it and I never listened to it, due to the tinny production. We had already fully recorded that record once, which sounded a lot more like Soul-Crusher Part 2, and then again, because we were unhappy with that, and then Laswell stepped in and wanted to make it from scratch for a third time. Usually the third time is a charm, right? I’d have to say in this case, bad things come in threes! I suppose for people who don’t mind Laswell’s production of Motorhead, they might not mind listening to this record, but to me it sounds like the music got castrated.

MM: That's perfectly honest and I hear where you're coming from. When examining the path of White Zombie musically and how you guys suddenly became overnight sensations (there wasn’t a week I can remember in 1992 when you guys weren’t on the original Headbangers Ball) with La Sexorcisto and then Astro Creep: 2000, it’s fascinating how much groove White Zombie discovered along the way. Certainly the bounciness of the videos on the DVD of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie carries a different vibe than the live footage on that DVD, and I wonder sometimes if the sudden ascension to popularity was a shocker to you guys or if Geffen knew what White Zombie’s potential was and pushed you guys as hard as they could considering you guys were touring La Sexorcisto for more than two years, I believe? When looking back upon it, are you surprised by the way it all turned out and given the ultimate decision for Rob to go out on his own, do you think the cost for White Zombie’s fame was too great?

SY: We, as a band, toured because we loved playing live. Our audiences were the best and we put on the craziest audio/visual show we could to entertain them. Believe me, Geffen had no idea of our potential; all of the pushing and hard drive of the band came from us, not them! Although our fame might have seemed sudden to some, it was not a surprise to us because it actually came very slowly and gradually. We watched our audience grow from tour to tour, from small clubs to theaters, to halls, to 500 seaters, then finally selling out arenas! Nothing happened quickly. However, because there was this continual fanning of the flame, it was fun and exciting and we didn’t want to stop. We did tour La Sexorcisto for two and a half years, and then Astro Creep for a year and a half. Rob’s decision to go solo has nothing to do with the cost of fame being too great; we decided to break up before he decided to go on his own.

MM: You’ve been a part of The Cramps, who have always had the same sort of campy horror twitch as White Zombie and you’ve been in other horror-themed groups like Famous Monsters and Rock City Morgue. What is it about these fifties, sixties and seventies’ horror shlock eras that draws you into these types of acts? Somehow, I think that groovy ghoulie Farfisa had a hand in it...

SY: I only played with the Cramps for one tour, but I was always a fan and it was a huge honor to be asked. I’ve always loved creepy music, theme bands and of course the Farfisa. The Sonics have always been one of my longtime favorites as well. You can’t get much better than “She’s My Witch!”

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute