Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Throbbing Gristle - Brooklyn Masonic Temple (4/16/09)

I don't know who reads this blog on a regular basis. But there is one person who I know reads every entry, and that's my father. So it is with him in mind that I write this entry about Throbbing Gristle.

I would describe my father as an above-average, yet casual music lover. He grew up mostly on classical music, opera - stuff like that. He also liked some folk - there are plenty of Kingston Trio and Seekers records floating around my parents' house.

He was never much of a "rock" guy....yet - he (and my mother too) was always accepting of my heavier tastes. Heck - there's even a metal or punk song here and there that he actually likes. He's open minded like that. I never once remember being told I wasn't allowed to listen to a certain type of music or told to "stop playing that noise!!!"....never. Oh - maybe I had the music on a bit too loud and was told to turn it down a bit.....but it was never a reflection of the music itself.

When I write something and refer to "metal" or "punk" or whatever....my father has a basic idea of what sound I'm talking about. He may not be able to differentiate between Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel or between Black Flag and Minor Threat....but he gets the basic idea.

Throbbing Gristle, however, is different.

My father doesn't know what Throbbing Gristle sounds like and without actually playing it for him - I really have no idea where to even begin describing them.

To me - it is as difficult to describe the music of Throbbing Gristle to the uninitiated as it would be to describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never seen it.

It is alien.

Imagine some planet that exists light-years away. On that planet is some form of intelligent life who uses sound in order to create an artistic statement and/or for entertainment purposes. Potentially - it might sound like what Throbbing Gristle sounds like.

The music that TG creates is so far removed from what we as humans normally regard as "music". In some ways, the sound lacks a humanity. Even when we hear a human voice, it sounds distant and very much non-human.

Probably by their own admission, TG were "sound artists" more than "musicians". If a needed sound did not already exist in some way - they would create it.

My blog is called "12 Notes is Enough" (did anybody notice that I completely fucked up the grammar there? - I just did...ah well...) - 12 notes being the standard amount of different tones that are used in Western music. TG really needed zero notes. Transcribing a TG song onto your standard musical staff would be punishment in hell...in fact, an impossibility.

In the end, though, TG are human beings and their music - underneath the strangeness - is very much a commentary on human existence.

To experience TG - it's important to listen not as a "musical" experience, necessarily - but more like experiencing an artwork that is made up of sound rather than paint, clay, etc.

TG is not a band of which I can share a whole lot of personal experiences with. I'm really not even sure when they entered my consciousness. I think I had heard of TG long before I had ever actually heard them.

The members who would become TG started working together back in the late-60s as a British avant-garde performance art group called COUM (pronounced however you see fit). As the members started working with sound and music more than performance and visual art, they found that their work could reach a wider audience and the focus shifted. The musical "department" of COUM became known as Throbbing Gristle and shortly thereafter, COUM dissolved completely, leaving only Throbbing Gristle.

There are very few genres of music that can be traced back to a single entity. However, industrial is one of those....and it all starts with TG (not that TG themselves weren't influenced, for surely the roots of industrial music arose from the avant-garde, the experimentalists, electronic music, musique concrete, the dadaists, etc.)....but "Industrial" as a pure musical form sprang from Throbbing Gristle and really - no one else (I suppose an argument could be made for Cabaret Voltaire).

They were the first to use the term (i.e. "Industrial Music for Industrial People") and their own record label is called Industrial Records.

In the early 1980s, TG broke up, with each band member going on to various solo works and band projects (i.e, Psychic TV, Coil, Chris & Cosey, among some others).

On April 16, 2009, Throbbing Gristle played their first show in the United States in about 25 years and their first show in New York ever. While I'm not a diehard fan of the band - if only for historical purposes - I had to be there.

The Brooklyn Masonic Temple is located in Fort Greene and is a beautiful building that has been having live music for a couple of years now and I have to say - it's quite the impressive venue. Aside from the venue itself being quite grand - the auditorium where the shows take place is spacious. There is a general admission ground level and an upper level balcony which has seating for the lazy. Sound was excellent as well.

I arrived just before the advertised "doors open" time and there was already a line around the block.

After milling about for a bit - recognizing no one (until spotting Mr. Dean Rispler a bit later on) - I bought a commemorative t-shirt as well as a copy of a brand new TG release - only available at their U.S. shows - 'The Third Mind Movements'. As of this writing, I have yet to give it a spin.

The first "demonstation" of the night (TG would refer to their live shows as "demonstrations") was a live accompaniment to the 54-minute 1980 Derek Jarman "fantasy" film, 'In the Shadow of the Sun'. TG had originally done an improvised score for the film which was released in 1984. I've never heard the original soundtrack, but my understanding is that this was a new version of the soundtrack, which seemed to me to be, in large part, also improvised.

After the film concluded, there was about an hour-long break during which the members of TG sat a table signing stuff. I had brought along my copy of 20 Jazz Funk Greats (probably the best known and most accessible of all of TG's albums although, believe me, it ain't all that accessible). Of course, this readily available CD paled in comparison to some of the truly diehard TG fans who brought along some unbelievable memorabilia - old singles, posters....some guy even had a huge piece of wood....no idea what that was.

The next part of the show was a visual/sound performance by someone named Peter (?) McClure. I have no idea who that is. It was essentially 45-minutes of staring at a screen which flashed lights in different patterns to a steady throbbing beat. Fairly minimalist in nature, interesting at times, but at some point, was very much looking forward to the conclusion.

Finally, the portion of the show that everyone was waiting for. Throbbing Gristle took back the stage and performed about 90 minutes worth of their older material.

It was a captivating performance. In some respects, the show was fairly boring. After all, most of what you're hearing is being generated by computers and synthesizers. It may not sound too exciting - essentially watching four people at desks with computers....but what you realize is that, behind the strange alien sounds - does lie four flesh & blood human beings....interacting....jamming.....being very human and very responsive - to each other & their surroundings. In a very warped way - it almost reminded me of a jazz performance....just without what we interpret as being traditional instruments.

The setlist: Very Friendly, Five Knuckle Shuffle, then an unknown song, Endless Not, Hamburger Lady (probably the highlight - a truly scary aural experience), What A Day and Discipline.

I walked away from the show in somewhat of a trance. To experience the live creation of these sounds within the live context - and full volume - in a room full of so many others - I couldn't help but be a bit mesmerized. When I do listen to TG, it is always a solitary experience....me and a pair of headphones....so to have experienced a band I generally enjoy in isolation with so many others was interesting. Although, as I went to the show alone and was by myself for pretty much the entire performance - I guess it was, in a sense, it's own form of isolation.

For those interested in learning more about this totally unique group of artists and would like to read further, there is a textbook-like biography of COUM and TG which I can't recommend highly enough if you're interested in the history:

Wreckers of Civilization by Simon Ford

There is also a book in the excellent 33 1/3 series of books about the previously mentioned 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Drew Daniel, which can be found here.

I leave you with a song from 20 Jazz Funk Greats....

"Still Walking"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Anvil!: The Story of Anvil! (and...uh....Anvil) - Gramercy Theatre - 4/7/09

This blog is still in its infancy yet I've devoted - what?....3 entries already to this band?

Anyway....on April 7th was the NYC "premiere" ("premiere" gets put in "quotes" because it wasn't really the first time the movie had played in NYC).

Gramercy Theatre - which some may know as the Blender Theatre - has been around since the late 1930s....but has only been a concert venue for about 3 years or so.

Place holds about 600 people with a nice-sized general admission area down front - and then a sorta balcony area with the seats for the lazy folk.

The ticket - which said doors opened at 6:30 - totally lied because we weren't let in until at least 7. As it turned out - the reason for the delay is because of all the V.I.P.'s they had to get in & seated first. Turns out - out of the 600 or so people that the place holds - only 50 tickets actually went on sale to the public.

So - about 550 people are VIPs and 50 people are "common folk"??...hmm....that seems to be quite the interesting reversal of the definition of "VIP" and "common folk" don't you think?

As I approached the doorway, I was stopped by security....for you see - I happened to enter the place just behind Jay Jay French (Twisted Sister guitarist - the guy with the glasses) - and papparazzi (no "quotes" - there actually was papparazzi there) were snapping photos of Mr. French on the red carpet (no "quotes" - there actually was a red carpet).

After the photographers had enough of Mr. French, was finally able to get in & take a seat....in the specially designated "common folk" section - which - thankfully, was pretty much right up front (good thing...after all - it's the "common folk" who actually REALLY wanted to be there).

Got to sat next to an awesome girl named Jen who happened to be wearing a "That Metal Show" t-shirt...turns out - we were at the same taping, although I'm ashamed to say I didn't recognize her. I was actually recognized a few times that night for being the guy on the Anvil-episode of TMS who stumped the Trunk by asking an Anvil-related question. Did later see a couple of other people from the taping who I had sat next to.

Right behind us was a couple who had already seen the movie - but prior to that - had never heard of Anvil. When they heard the movie was playing - they had to go because they just HAD to see the band live.

Excellent that the movie had increased the name-recognition of Anvil by probably a thousand-fold....the real question for this couple, though, is: are you now going to go out & buy some Anvil records? 3 years from now when Anvil are playing some club in New Jersey - are you going to make the trip?

After some talk with Jen & the surrounding fellow commonfolk (and spotting Dee Snider & Frankie Bello in the audience) - the movie started.

The movie was excellent.

As a longtime fan of the band - I enjoyed it on a couple of levels.

The obvious level is that - as a fan of the band (and even moreso, as a guy who has met them several times) - the movie is interesting because I get an insider's viewpoint of a band I already like.

But - truth be told - this could never be some documentary about Anvil....because a movie like that would have such a limited appeal it probably wouldn't be worth making (let alone pouring the amount of money behind it that VH1 has done).

No....this movie tells another story - utilizing Anvil as a vehicle in which to tell that story.

This story is - in a nutshell - about 2 guys who NEVER gave up on their dreams.

Who among us didn't dream of being something or doing something when we were kids? Who among us doesn't have a passion that, if given the ultimate freedom, we wouldn't just want to pursue forever?

Here are 2 guys - Robb Reiner & Lips - who started playing music together when they were like 14 years old....and now - in their mid-50s - are STILL playing together...still touring, still recording - despite the fact that they never "made it". They do it for the purest of reasons - the love of it....but that desire to "make it" never left them...it's not completely pure - and there's nothing wrong with that. It's not PURELY idealism at work.

As you follow the story - you follow them on a tour of Europe - well-intentioned but so poorly organized, managed & put together that at times it becomes comical. As a guy who's been on tour several times, I can completely relate to the failures....the clueless promoter at the club who pretends to know nothing about paying you at the end of the show, the pisspoor directions you're given to a club that are no help at all, being promised: "yeah, man - this show's gonna be HUUUUUGE" - which is correct if your definition of "HUUUUUGE" is - oh - 4 people.

The movie works because whether or not you've ever heard of Anvil - you can relate to what motivates these guys.....you're proud that despite every obstacle, despite making NO money off their band, despite their responsibilities to their families & jobs....they STILL find a way to make it work....because to NOT make it work would make everything else somehow less worthwhile.

At one point Lips articulated something that I've said many times....that working his mundane job was OK - it was fine - as long as there was a next show or a next tour to look forward to.

The movie also works because of the natural charisma of Lips & Robb...and the exact impression I've always gotten from them when meeting them at their shows translates exactly onto the screen.

You're rooting for these guys AND you like them.

The movie is great - go see it.

After the movie was done, Anvil themselves took the stage & played about 5 songs...from what I remember, the very short set was something like: March of the Crabs (with Lips standing in the middle of the audience), This is Thirteen, 666, and, of course, Metal on Metal. I think there was another song in there that I'm missing.

After they were done, people started filtering downstairs for the after-party....drinks, autographs, photos with the band.

The people I was hanging out with (the TMS crew!) stayed upstairs for a bit - and then - a thing that brought a HUGE smile to my face happened:

Lips comes out on stage by himself and starts PACKING UP HIS OWN SHIT!!!!

I couldn't believe it....these guys are being featured now in every major music magazine and newspaper, they just had their movie premiere in front of a packed Gramercy Theatre (with celebrities!), VH1 is throwing who-the-hell-knows how much money behind it....AND LIPS IS PACKING UP HIS OWN STUFF??!!!!

Wow - did that rule....and says a lot about no matter how much publicity & press they may get - Lips & his band truly do represent the common man....they ARE the common band.

Bottom line: if given a choice - I think Lips & Robb would have been way more comfortable sitting with us "commonfolk" than the VIPs.

One last cool thing: I met Mark Goodman (original MTV VJ)....neat!

For your viewing/listening pleasure:

Anvil live - "Winged Assassins"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Musical Box (Genesis tribute) - 3/1/09

Kind of weird that my second entry about a live show should be one about a tribute band.

I'll get back to the autobiographical posts when I get a chance....but the first bands I was ever in were all cover bands - this would be from 9th grade right through 12th grade. My metal band in 12th grade - Phoenix - had one original song ("Please Say Yes")...(you can all laugh - it's fine)....but I wasn't in a band that played only originals until I was a freshman in college.

As a guy who has now only been in original bands (save for the occasional cover song) - there's a part that now cringes at the idea of cover bands or - as has become quite the trend in recent years - TRIBUTE bands....a cover band that exclusively devotes itself to one single band....even often going so far as to duplicate the clothing, hair styles and even between-song banter that you would see if you actually went to see the real band themselves.

I've seen a handful of tribute bands over the years - not too many.

I saw Bad Animals a few years back - a tribute to Heart (they actually featured Mark Mendoza from Twisted Sister on bass)....some Pat Benatar tribute.....and an AC/DC tribute band.

The best tribute band I've seen (well - maybe up until now) - was The Australian Pink Floyd show.

I have very mixed feelings about seeing a band who's sole goal is to duplicate a band you are already presumably a fan of. I figure - if you're already a band and can play well - why not just write your own stuff?

The musician side of me can't help but turn my nose down to it a little bit.

However - the fan side of me can see where a tribute band can be kind of fun.

If you view a band not just as a group of specific people....but rather as an entire experience - then I suppose seeing a band duplicate Genesis' "Trick of the Tail" tour is really no different than seeing "Hamlet" in 2009....I mean - really - is it?

Does the fact that Shakespeare and his original troupe of actors are long dead bother anyone enough that they would just REFUSE to ever see Hamlet....and they would only enjoy the play by reading the script?

That seems absurd to me.

So if that seems absurd to me....I guess I really should have no problem with tribute bands.

I'm never going to see Genesis in 1976.....I'm certainly never going to see Pink Floyd again as Richard Wright is dead (his death still makes me sad)....but why should I deny myself the Pink Floyd EXPERIENCE....if it's there to be had....and had in a very high quality kind of way?

So - I went to see The Musical Box with some friends who are a part of my "hockey world" (i.e. fellow diehard Islanders fans who I hang out with in the virtual world of the Islander Mania message board - and hang out with in real life at Isles games and tailgates).

The show was at one of the BEST venues on the planet to see a show at: the legendary Westbury Music Fair.

OK - technically - the place is called The Capital One Theatre at Westbury....but to any Long Islander - the place will always & only ever be known as the Westbury Music Fair.

The Fair is a 2700-seat theater where the stage is in the middle....it's like a small indoor amphitheater. The audience is the donut and the stage is the hole.

When the full theater is being used - the stage will slowly rotate during the show so that the audience gets every angle - probably about 3 or 4 times - over the course of the show.

For the Musical Box, they closed off half the theatre - so they played to half-a-donut and the stage did not move.

The Musical Box (named for a Genesis song that was NOT played at this show) came on stage looking & dressing exactly like what I imagine Genesis actually did look like back in 1976....right down to the clothes (the white overalls with the Boston Bruins logo that Bill Bruford used to wear) & facial hair (the sort of ratty Butch Goring-esque facial hair that Phil Collins sported). I have no doubt that even the between-song banter was duplicated.

One thing I didn't realize until after the show was over was that they actually had TWO Phil Collins'...one guy up front doing the lead vocals - and another guy who played his drum parts....from my perspective - it looked like it was the same guy going back & forth between the drums & the mic - but that was not the case.

I'm bad at doing "reviews" - so I'm really not going to bother - this blog is more about my own personal experience with music and my reaction & impression - not to be a reviewer. But if you wanted to see a recreation of a Genesis show from 1976 - I'd have to think you wouldn't have been disappointed (of course - as I turned 3 in 1976, I wasn't there to witness the real thing to draw a comparison).

anyway - here was the setlist....

Dance on a Volcano
the Lamb medley: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/Fly on a Windshield/Carpet Crawlers
The Cinema Show
Robbery, Assault & Battery
White Mountain
Firth of Fifth
Supper's Ready
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Los Endos

It/Watcher of the Skies

Now go watch the REAL Genesis play Dance on a Volcano - live from JFK Stadium on the Three Sides Live tour - 1982.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Deathcycle (2003-2009) - the final show (2/28/09)

Ultimately - every band ends (unless you're the Stones, I guess).

The reasons why bands end are probably pretty limited....and yet again - the break-up of every band is also highly individual.

I've been in bands. All but 2 of them have broken up (and one of them I was only in for a segment of their career).

[quick disclaimer: I'm not a music journalist - so forgive me if I'm not always the best at describing bands. I'm a musician, you would think I might be halfway decent at something like that - but I'm simply not. I don't know how to write to give a proper description of what a band sounds like. I could write 20 pages about what Deathcycle sounds like - and you would still have no idea - so what's the point? I will, however, be doing the best possible thing short of buying a record for you - and actually provide a YouTube link to a song (if I can find one) so you can hear it for yourself.]

Deathcycle were four guys who played heavy, fast (for the most part), angry-with-a-mission, political hardcore punk rock. I'm not in the band & I'm not their spokesperson or biographer....but the band broke-up because not all of their hearts were into it anymore and - as far as I'm concerned - that is an absolutely perfect reason to end it.

I'm glad to know the guys in the band....anyone who has been involved with the Long Island hardcore scene for any amount of time knows Ron Grimaldi, Gary Bennett, Paul Delaney & John LaFata - not just as members of this one band - but as guys who have been a part of the scene forever - and have all been in (sometimes multiple) other bands - all of whom in one way or another made an impact.

Ron is my friend & my neighbor (literally....he lives 45 seconds away...all hail Bethpage!) - and I give him rides home from shows once in awhile so we have time to talk & discuss. If we all lived our lives that way Ron lives his, we would be living in a much different world...a much better world, I think. The guy also knows more about punk rock, metal & wrestling than you'll know by a million billion ka-jillion - and as a guy who holds an M.S. in mathematics, I'll tell you, that's that a really big number.

Gary & Paul, of course as anyone familiar with the local scene knows, were in what will probably go down as the single greatest hardcore punk band to ever be from Long Island: Kill Your Idols.

Maybe some people feel that it's a little too soon to declare this - after all they only played their final show a couple of years ago....but I simply don't see how it can't be true.

For these guys - their metal band, Black Anvil, fades into view as Deathcycle fades out - in a somewhat similar way to how Deathcycle faded into view as KYI was beginning to bow out.

Not clean breaks....just a fading out and a fading in. Life takes us from one journey to the next - and it's rarely a sudden left turn.

They keep making great music - that's what matters.

John, the drummer, I hardly know compared to the other three. His drumming on the Mind Over Matter 7"'s is incredible. I think he played with Madball for a little bit too.

So after two full-length albums and a bunch of EPs & splits of punch-you-in-the-face thought-provoking (and self-reflecting) hardcore....Deathcycle has called it a day.

I can see them - as many bands do - gain popularity as the years go by and the new kids to the scene are rediscovering old records for themselves. Unlike KYI, though, where I think it MIGHT happen one day....I highly doubt you'll ever see a Deathcycle reunion show or anything like that.

The final show was on my father's 68th birthday - February 28, 2009, at the Rock Star Bar in Brooklyn.

I missed most of the opening bands. I came in during Disnihil's set. Another blistering & brutal band....but tight as all hell and GREAT drumming from Little Anthony (who's now in a billion bands - but I'll always associate him with Sick Of Talk.....another Bethpage-ite) - who it's been great to see has just grown as a drummer over the years....he's still only like 4 years old or something - so it should be pretty sick to see what he's like 10 years from now.

Also caught Inhuman....another band who has been around forever without any breaks.

Deathcycle went on & played as if it were any other show....except for the show being longer. It wasn't a feeling of greater emotion than other shows - because these guys have always left it all out there after EVERY show.

I've never really seen these guys play longer than 25 minutes or so - but tonight it felt like they probably played more like 45....and damn - they absolutely should have! It's the last hurrah....a public closing of a chapter in your life.

At the end of the show - hugs all around and a few final band photos were taken.

While "Deathcycle" - the band - may now be done...."Deathcycle", as individual people, certainly aren't. Gary & Paul are already well into their metal band, Black Anvil (who I still have yet to see - that will have to remedy itself shortly)....and I hear that Ron has already started something up with some people.

Deathcycle left a solid legacy in the history of Long Island hardcore - great records that can be revisited - whether you just want to be pummeled by the sound - or re-read the lyrics a few times and be shocked or offended or provoked or inspired.


Deathcycle - 10 minutes worth of live footage from ABC No Rio, NYC - 4/7/07

Deathcycle MySpace page

Disnihil MySpace page

Inhuman website

Black Anvil MySpace

Kill Your Idols MySpace

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

That Metal Show taping (follow-up post) & The Anvil Experience!

Hey...first off....I am working on blog entries that will hopefully be posted by the end of the week. One on the final Deathcycle show and the other on seeing The Musical Box - a Genesis tribute band who I saw perform the show from the "Trick of the Tail" tour. Two completely & utterly different types of shows that I was at on back-to-back nights.

For now, though, I just wanted to mention that the episode of That Metal Show featuring Anvil (and - assuming I'm not edited out - yours truly in the 'Stump the Trunk' section) will air on VH1 Classic on Saturday, March 28th at 11 p.m.

ALSO...VH1 Classic is sponsoring "The Anvil Experience" - a series of dates where they will show the movie - "Anvil! The Story of Anvil!" - followed-up by a live show from the band themselves.

It'll be at the Blender Theatre at Gramercy on April 6th. There are a few other scattered dates around the U.S. as well.

For dates & info on how to get tix and all that - you can go to http://blog.vh1.com/2009-03-06/the-anvil-movie-get-dates-tickets/

Friday, February 27, 2009

That Metal Show taping

It's been 2 weeks since the last post. I was flattered that - even at in this blog's infancy - I did get a couple of people asking me why there hadn't been any new posts. Wow! People actually do check this blog...I'm blown away. Thank you.

Truth is - I'm a streaky writer. I cannot force myself to write. I mean - I could - but - it would suck. And - since this isn't a job or anything - I have the luxury of being able to write only when inspired. So - I can go 3 weeks without writing - and I can go a week where I'm writing something every day.

I guess on one hand....you certainly want to make entries somewhat frequently. You don't want anyone thinking you've lost interest....at some point, you stop going back. On the other hand....you don't want to write too much. I know that people aren't going to check this every day....so you don't want to come back & have like 5 things to catch up on....but who's going to read that? So you risk stuff getting unread.

This last paragraph was me thinking out loud.


see prior post about Anvil first.

Wednesday was the show taping. Took the day off work, got on the LIRR and met up with Jim Idol in Penn Station. Had some lunch and made it to the studio a little bit before 3.

Stood on line for awhile. Seemed like most of the audience were more Queensryche fans (Geoff Tate was a guest on the 2nd show they were taping that day)....but there were a few Anvil fans. This girl right behind us had a vinyl copy of Metal on Metal for the band to sign.

The producer handed out pens & paper for people to write down trivia questions for the "Stump the Trunk" segment of the show. For those who have never seen the show, this is the segment where about 5 guests ask a heavy metal trivia question to the host of the show, Eddie Trunk. If he's stumped, you get a prize from his "Box of Junk" (basically a grab bag with promo CDs in it).

I handed in a few questions (2 of them Anvil related)....so did Jim.....so did everyone, I guess.

We're led into the studio....which kind of looks how I expect it to, even though I've never been in a TV studio before. Lots of crazy looking cameras and monitors and soundboards. And then there's the set on the stage which I'm familiar with because I've seen the show. And then there are 3 sets of metal bleachers with 5 rows of seats a piece.

Jim & I are put on the top row of the bleachers on stage right. Each row is probably designed to hold 4 people....but we have to sit 5 in a row....so it's crowded. Being on the top row was actually not bad because we had the fencing at the back of the bleachers that we can lean back on. It only sucked for Jim who was on the end and had some screw jutting out of the back. But for me - it wasn't bad.

Before the show started this guy came out with a handful of index cards and started calling out names. These, of course, were the questions that had been chosen for the Stump the Trunk segment.

Both Jim & I got called. They had re-written our questions slightly and asked us to memorize them.

The director of the show comes out & explains that they "can" some applause & laughter....so basically - we have to do a few different types of applauses....and we have to laugh. It's kind of hard to laugh on cue....but when you're in a room with 100 other people all laughing...well....it becomes kinda funny.

Finally - the 3 hosts of the show, Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine & Don Jamieson come out and introduce themselves and welcome everyone. They sit down - and the show starts rolling.

They do an opening segment with just the 3 of them talking about some metal topic. Then, Lips & Robb Reiner are introduced, they take their seats and an interview commences - mostly focused around the movie which has been receiving all kinds of praise. This movie may end up being pretty big - which would be pretty mindblowing considering the complete anonymity of the band to all but diehard metal fans (and even many diehard metal fans stopped caring about Anvil years ago....I'm an obvious exception).

The interview goes well....Lips & Reiner both come off extremely genuine and down-to-earth....and perhaps themselves surprised that even in their early 50s, they're still a band, still put out records & still do some touring (even if they do seem to play mostly in front of only a handful of people on a nightly basis). They're also shocked at their current situation....being a band that's the focal point of a movie that's getting some major buzz. Whether the movie will actually create a new fanbase for the band or not, I don't know. The movie could be huge....it doesn't mean the band themselves will cultivate a whole new audience....although I certainly hope so - they definitely deserve it.

The "Stump the Trunk" section of the show came up and Jim and I and a few others went to the side of the stage. We did our thing & returned to the audience.

The questions we asked & whether or not we "Stumped the Trunk" will all be revealed when the show airs. No spoilers here!! (this is all assuming we don't get edited out....there's only about 20 minutes worth of show - but they shoot about 60 minutes worth of footage).

The show ends - and Lips & Reiner come out and talk to some people, take photos, sign autographs. Lips recognizes me - I introduced myself to him at one of the first shows I ever went to of theirs - from them on, I've always talked to him a little bit when I've seen them. I know firsthand how cool these guys are as people. Even when they had every right to be bitter - about being a band that was a huge influence to bands who got MUCH bigger than they ever did (Metallica & Slayer for starters) - but playing in front of 5 people....they were still 100% genuinely grateful for those who did show up....and always took the time to have a quick chat or sign an autograph. Now that they are getting a certain level of fame from this movie - I don't think they will be corrupted by it.

I won't say much about the second show taping. It was the same thing all over again - except now with Geoff Tate from Queensryche as a guest. I'm not a huge Queensryche fan - so I don't have a whole lot of personal attachment to comment on - which is kind of the point of this blog. It was a good interview and I guess it made me consider checking out some of the classic Queensryche records that I never did.

One difference that I couldn't help but notice is that while after the Anvil taping, they came right down into the audience to hang out for a few minutes.....Geoff Tate immediately walked off the set, bypassing the audience, and going directly to the back. This doesn't mean that he didn't talk to some fans or sign some stuff - he may have after it was all over....Jim & I didn't really hang out too long after the taping was done. But if he WANTED to meet some of audience members, he was certainly subtle about it.

With Anvil - the feeling was like..."thank you guys for making this all worth it...we're honored you dig our stuff....thank you for coming."

With Tate it was more like....he knew he was the star - he has been for awhile - and probably takes it for granted. I guess it's natural. He wasn't an asshole. It's just that he probably thinks (without actually thinking it) that you are the one grateful to be in the room with him....rather than the other way around - or at least some equal footing. It's not a judgment on the man - just an observation & a follow-up subjective interpretation. I could be totally wrong. Maybe the man is just private & shy. I have no idea. Maybe I'd be the same way if I was an internationally known rock star.

It's just an observation - something I took note of - and writing it here seems like the obvious thing to do.

I'm truly looking forward to seeing the Anvil movie. There's even going to be a book that follows. I think the movie is really more about the current situation of the band - and really the more general story of a bunch of guys who had a dream when they were teenagers....and are still chasing it 30 years later. If Anvil had ever gained TRUE success - there's a good chance they would have been long gone. It's because they've always been hungry and have always been chasing it....that's probably a big part of what's kept them going.

It was a unique experience....very much worth the vacation day I spent on it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

anyone can now leave comments

A few people said that they were reading the blog but weren't going to comment (or couldn't figure how to) because before it required setting up an account.

I have changed the settings so that anyone can now post a comment as an anonymous user.

I'd still like to know who you are - so if you're going to comment & you're so inclined - put your name in the comment....but if you would rather remain anonymous - even to me - that's perfectly fine.

Pianos (back on track)

Just because I didn't quite hit it off with the lower brass did not mean that I did not discover the love (or maybe at this point it was more of a "like") of playing an instrument during the elementary school years.

My timeline is a bit hazy - but I think sometime just after I had joined band, I started taking piano lessons.

My grandmother & mother both played a little bit of piano - and my parents bought a piano - and I took lessons for a few years from a very nice woman named Maryann (I can say her last name, but I won't even try to spell it) who I think was a music teacher in the same school that my mom worked.

I took lessons for about 3 years.

The beginning was awful of course...but as I now know - and hit upon in the "Trombones" post, that's a part of the deal.

When you play piano - or any musical instrument - your fingers have to do some weird things - things they're not used to doing. Before you can become competent, you have to get your fingers used to doing what they need to do to properly manipulate the instrument. All the "feel" in the world gets you nowhere if you have zero technique.

So - after time spent with various finger exercises and scales and learning how to read music (as slow & tedious a process as learning how to read words) - I finally got to the stage where I could actually play some decent stuff (a level I never approached with the trombone).

I wasn't great by any means. I have no natural talent whatsoever for the piano.

But the piano did teach me quite a number of things:

1. it taught me that I didn't just love listening to music....but that I loved PLAYING music....I knew I wasn't going to stay with the piano all that long....but I knew that I would keep playing music once I found the instrument that really felt right.

2. it taught me that I was willing to go through the hard work & the frustration for the "payoff".

3. it taught me how music worked. This is hard to explain if you don't play an instrument at all....and if you do play an instrument, explaining this statement is completely unnecessary. The non-musician music lover loves certain music and probably hates certain music...but it might be tough for them to explain EXACTLY why.

Music is completely intangible....you can't touch it or look at it. Music moves in time...you can't stop it & put it on hold so you can observe or analyze a moment in time....and even if you could - it wouldn't do you any good because music isn't about a single moment in time....it's about the flow of the sound through time.

Sheet music is NOT music....it's a symbolic representation that allows a person to APPROXIMATE a duplication of sounds that another person has created. It's never perfect & never can be. When we hear a Beethoven symphony - we can be so familiar with it that we know every second of sound....but since Beethoven didn't have recording devices....we can never REALLY know what it was he intended. We just do the best we can.

But music is not just simply random sounds thrown together....it's not "luck". Music has melody, harmony & rhythm. When I throw a pair of headphones on and listen to Pink Floyd's "Echoes" - the last thing in the world I want to think about is musical analysis....I want the music to just "work" and take me somewhere that maybe I couldn't get to on my own.

But as a musician....knowing about this stuff is crucial....it's more than crucial - it's essential.

There is no better instrument to learn about how music works than the piano. Melody, rhythm & harmony all wrapped in one instrument. How perfect.

Whatever instrument you want to learn....having a rudimentary knowledge of the piano will allow you to master the instrument of your choice far faster than if you had just started on that instrument first.

So - I wasn't very good at the piano....but it was an excellent springboard to future learning.

I think the moment I realized that my time with the piano was coming to an end was when my parents took me to audition for Usdan - which is a performing arts summer camp in Huntington.

Now - at this point, two things:

1. I had no interest in spending my summer at a performing arts camp....now - it sounds like a blast....but then - I just wanted to play sports all day.

2. I knew for a fact I was never going to be good enough to pass that audition. I'm positive I didn't want to pass it...and - sure enough - I didn't. I mean - seriously - when you play the theme from "Star Wars" as one of your audition pieces at a performing arts summer camp - you're lucky if you're not physically removed from the premises.

The audition in my memory reminds me of the scene from that movie 'The Man Who Wasn't There' when Billy Bob Thornton's character takes that girl who he thinks is so talented on the piano to audition for this piano teacher. The girl knows she's not as good as he thinks she is....and the piano teacher after hearing her play knows it, too....he ends up describing her as a "very good typist" or something like that....and that's pretty much how I played the piano....like a typewriter. No real feeling or talent for it....I didn't make the piano "sing"....I typed away & could play some tunes...but not much else.

I moved on....but I'm eternally grateful. If I had to choose the most influential musical time in my life....it was those years of piano lessons. It was the launching pad.

Anvil brag post

A little tangent from the formula.

So there's this metal band from Canada called Anvil. They've been around in one form or another since the late-70s....they were originally called Lips, put out one record (which is impossibly rare and has gone for hundreds on eBay) & then changed their name to Anvil in the early-80s.

Their first album was just a re-release of the album that had originally come out under the Lips name ("Hard 'n' Heavy" - this version isn't hard to find at all)....and they then went on to release 2 albums that every metalhead should have in their collections ("Metal on Metal" and "Forged in Fire").

They had a moment in the early-80s just as speed metal was really coming to the fore where they probably could have made a bid to be pretty huge. I have a video somewhere of them playing some arena somewhere in Japan I think (how's that for a totally non-committal sentence?)....but basically....they were just a year too early.

Metallica (who, by the way, were influenced by Anvil in a big way - as were a ton of other speed/thrash metal bands who ended up becoming a million times bigger than Anvil ever were - as it generally goes...) - came crashing into the scene about a year after Anvil - and that time difference was a HUGE difference (lots of things have to combine in just the right way for a band to hit it big...some of it - sad to say - really is pure luck).

Nonetheless, truer metalheads you will never meet, and Anvil plowed along, releasing records pretty regularly to a small (but devoted) audience. "This Is Thirteen", their most recent, came out in 2007 and is, indeed, their 13th studio record (there's also a live record & a pretty good anthology that was released as well).

I've seen Anvil pretty much everytime they've played in the NY area since their 1999 album, "Speed of Sound" came out (and if you haven't yet caught on to their album-naming formula, I'll give you the rest of discography right here: Strength of Steel, Pound for Pound, Past & Present (live), Worth the Weight, Plugged in Permanent, Absolutely No Alternative, Plenty of Power, Still Going Strong & Back to Basics)....probably about 7 or 8 times....and I don't think I've ever seen them play in front of more than 30 people.

Once I actually saw them play a late night show somewhere in Queens AFTER Iron Maiden had played MSG. I had such great hope for that show....every metalhead in the NYC area was gathered in one place for Maiden....that show let out around 11 - it was a Saturday night - surely at least SOME of that audience was in the mood for more & would take the drive/subway out to Queens for a late-night Anvil show....but....nope....it was my friend Harry & me - and the bartender.

Anyway....fate has shined a bright light on Anvil.

Turns out that British screenwriter/director Sacha Gervasi (he wrote the Spielberg film 'The Terminal'...and....incidentally...is also the voice behind the Jaguar TV commercials) - was a part-time Anvil roadie back in the early-80s. Gervasi just made a documentary released to HUGE critical acclaim (it was one of the hits at the most recent Sundance Festival....with actors like Robert Redford & Keanu Reeves becoming huge fans of the film - and I use the word "actor" rather loosely when it comes to Mr. Reeves) called 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil'.

As big a fan as I am of the band....I had to miss the movie when they gave it a one-off showing in Brooklyn last June....and I still haven't seen it (other than some clips you can find on the official website....some links are below).

Anyway....some of you may know of "That Metal Show" on VH1 Classic hosted by Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine & Don Jamieson. Well - they're about to start taping for the 2nd season - and on Wednesday, February 25th - one of the two shows they're taping that day will feature ANVIL! Trunk has become a huge supporter of the film & he's been talking it up on his radio show (actually had a great hour-long interview with Gervasi last week about it).

I put in a bid to get free tix to get into the taping - and I just got the confirmation that I'm in!!!!


OK - that's it for my brag....back to regular shit next time.

here are some links...

Official Anvil site

Anvil MySpace

Anvil! The Story of Anvil documentary

Sunday, February 8, 2009


....are an extraordinarily phallic instrument.

Ultimately, anyone who becomes obsessed with music at some point gets the inclination to actually give playing music a shot.

Becoming a good musician....even just a competent musician....takes a tremendous amount of hard work and discipline. There is no immediate payoff unless perhaps you only desire to play a triangle (and even that simple instrument does involve some technique).

The idea of playing music appeals to pretty much everyone. The actual work required to get to a stage where you're actually "playing music"...well....that doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone - and that's perfectly fine.

Remember learning to how to read? And how boring it was? Endless repetition of the ABC's and sounding out words and eventually you got to read about Dick & Jane and maybe the Sammy the Seal.

But after all the boring hard work, one day, you were able to read a book. Maybe you even wrote a book!

If you're reading this, then presumably you know how to read, and you're aware of the payoff of that hard work you did when you were younger (whether or not reading this blog is a part of the "payoff" or not can be discussed another time).

Learning how to play an instrument (and your voice certainly qualifies as an instrument) is analogous to learning how to read. Suffer through the hard work (musicians called it "woodshedding") -- and the payoff awaits you.

I, however, was not "paid off" with my first instrument - but that's my own fault.

I can remember being in 2nd or 3rd grade and having an assembly for students who were interested in joining band. I was interested...I went down with every intention of walking out of there with a pair of drumsticks.

The first thing we were told was NOT to pick percussion....there were already too many percussionists and first-year band students had to pick something else.

I walked out of there with a trombone.

Seemed like an interesting instrument....so I went for it.

I never enjoyed playing the thing. In the 3 years or so I "played" it - I could never figure out how to get a good sound - never really learned how to read music too well....and I wasn't taught the instrument properly. The subject of private lessons never came up....and the band director wasn't a trombonist - so he did the best he could teaching out of a book.

I wasn't motivated - and I sat in the back row of the band doing the best I could - but probably faking it or playing wrong notes most of the time.

For a brief moment, they switched me over to sousaphone....I doubt my folks were too happy when they delivered that thing to the house. I cared less about the sousaphone than I did about the trombone, so I switched back.

I entered junior high as a trombonist....more on that next time.

Quick band story from elementary school: for whatever reason - probably because we were learning how to play some Revolutionary War-era song or something - the band teacher asked anyone if they knew who John Paul Jones was.

I raised my hand and said that he was the bass player for Led Zeppelin.

The band director laughed....obviously - he was asking if anyone knew who Captain John Paul Jones was - but I definitely scored a few points with my answer.

CURRENT DAY: 2MA played a show at Trash Bar in Brooklyn last night - for Nick's 30th birthday.....Nick we've known going back almost to the beginning - he played in the Clap and then Cheri Love Affair. He's now in The Mess Around - and I was definitely impressed. Great charged-up rock. Their singer was pretty good too. Nick has turned into quite a guitarist. Nick is a true diehard 2MA fan. He's actually written - by far - the longest "review" of South of Canada. It was great playing his party.

Missed Doyle's new band (Let Me Crazy) because of the unbelievable underestimation I did of how long it would take to go from home to Aaron in Bay Ridge to Williamsburg on a Saturday night.

Koskuc's new band, Face Death, also highly recommended. They're 100% metal. Every song has at least something about it that catches your ear.....they write great riffs...good headbanging songs. Good stuff boys.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


My first exposure to music came from the sounds of my parent's stereo.

For the most part the records in their collection (which was predominantly my father's records) were classical....so my earliest years were spent with the basics: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach (a little bit), Chopin, Prokofiev...and lots of opera which I never really liked or developed a taste for.

The first pieces of classical music I really remember liking & wanting to hear over and over again was the Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz and - especially - Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky (better known among prog-rockers for writing Pictures at an Exhibition which ELP did an interesting version of).

My mother's tastes leaned more towards the pop & folk side of things....Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, and Pete Seeger being prominent.

The first records that came out of their collection that I really remember loving was the Beatles "Rubber Soul" (the Americanized 12-song version) and the "1967-70" compilation....and....more than anything else....

The Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack...and of course I'm talking about the ORIGINAL album version....the one with Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, and so forth.

This record was the first record I ever heard that really got under my skin. The first record that I was COMPELLED to listen to. To this day - I love it. The songs on it are great....the performances - both vocally & instrumentally - are tremendous....the story is interesting. It's got it all. Gillan's voice on the record is absolutely ridiculous and all you have to do is hear the song "Gethsemane" to hear all of the potential of a human voice....from the softest of soft to pure banshee like wails that he would become known for with Deep Purple....the song itself is an unbelievable vocal performance....but really, the album as a whole is just so well written.

I promise you - this will be the only time in this blog that I even mention Andrew Lloyd Webber. I can already hear you laughing at me. Truth is - my parents were Webber & Rice fans - and I was exposed to a lot of their stuff - both on record & stage (looking through the Webber discography, it's amazing how many of his musicals I've seen live (Jesus Christ Superstar not being one of them)...but I have seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, Cats, Song & Dance, Starlight Express, and Phantom of the Opera). I'm sure the snooty music critics thumb their noses down at Webber's stuff - but the truth is - there are some good moments in his music....and in his earlier days....he could write some pretty heavy shit if he wanted to.

But yeah....I think if I had to choose the starting point for my OWN adventure into music (rather than leeching off my parents' tastes) - it would definitely be the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack.

A quick current day going on: bought a ticket to see Throbbing Gristle in Brooklyn on April 16th....the forefathers of industrial music & first time they've ever played NYC. Easy listening it most certainly will not be....but I can't pass up the experience to see them.

Until later.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


This idea has been lingering for awhile.

To create a blog....a running diary....of my life as it has been intimately tied into music.

I'm 35 years old. In my life I've listened to thousands of records and seen thousands of bands. Like I think many of my fellow music lovers, I wish so much I had kept a "diary" like this from day one. It would be interesting to go back and see my thoughts on certain bands as they were first making their impression....to see the trends and phases of my listening habits over the years. To document shows I went to when I first started going and that - I don't know - that new feeling of something exciting in the air was hitting me. You know that feeling....maybe when you put on an old record you haven't heard in awhile...in just the right moment...you revisit that feeling, if only briefly.

By the time age 35 rolls around - a lot of people don't have the time to devote to music anymore...they don't have the time to listen to music anymore (much less get into anything new) or go to shows.

This is not my scenario. I'm single, I live alone (save for 2 felines), no children. I can't imagine anytime where I will grow out of being a diehard music fan....when I'm 70 - I'll still look forward to drinking beers in the parking lot of Jones Beach eagerly awaiting the Priest show (putting those guys in their 90s - but hey - with lifespans increasing all the time, I'm sure they'll still be there).

I've never become jaded about new stuff. Each generation has music that speaks to them more than others....that's nature - the way of life. There's some band way out there in the future made up of a bunch of kids currently in diapers who will BLOW YOU AWAY if you'll allow them.

Aside from being a music fan....I'm also a musician of sorts. I've been playing music since I was in elementary school. Although I haven't played...oh - I don't know how to say this...."skilled" music for several years.....I still love pounding away on my guitar for Two Man Advantage. If you're actually reading this, you've probably heard of us.

I'm not 100% sure what I want this to blog to be.

Well - I know what it's NOT going to be....it's NOT going to be a place where you're going to find rare records to download. There are plenty of sources for that. Go to Google Blog Search or download Soulseek and have a field day. The only stuff I may upload here are perhaps recordings of stuff I've been involved in....but we'll see if I'll even do that.

I guess first & foremost - the blog is for me. To document my thoughts & feelings on music....or a show I've been to.

For the reader? I don't know....I have no agenda....I hope you find it interesting. I suppose if you know me, it'll be more interesting than if you don't. If we're into the same stuff....I guess you'll find it more interesting than not.

I'd love to generate conversations within the comments....but I know I'm competing with about a zillion other things out there to read....things probably far more interesting & more well-written than this.

Plus - I'm not a great self-promoter....so not even sure how to even get my closest friends to read this with any regularity.

By way of disclosure....I'm not THAT well-rounded in my musical tastes. My first exposure to music was my father's classical music collection. I do like some jazz and some stuff outside the rock idiom....but - for the most part - I'm a rock guy....I like music that ROCKS....whatever that may mean....and to me - it could mean what YOU think of what I say something "rocks"....but it could also mean the early Dylan records - you know - just him & his acoustic....if that doesn't rock, I don't know what does.

I have a Germs tattoo on one arm & a King Crimson tattoo on the other....that pretty much covers the bases.

Until next time.