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 certainly want to make entries somewhat frequently. You don't want anyone thinking you've lost some point, you stop going back. On the other don't want to write too much. I know that people aren't going to check this every 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) did 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 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 & 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 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 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 can't touch it or look at it. Music moves in 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's about the flow of the sound through time.

Sheet music is NOT'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'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'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 - 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 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 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 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' 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 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 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 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 just the right 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'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 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.