Dec 31, 2012

Back from the End of Days...

Well, we managed to get back from our travels in one piece, and just in time to have Christmas with two different sides of the family.  Monica was pretty sick for about a week and is just now feeling normal-ish.  I made it through the last couple of weeks without catching cooties from anyone, even as the kleenex piles grew and grew.  I'm just now catching my breath while enjoying some solid down time after so much rock and holiday food.  It's nice to not have anything big looming on the horizon just yet.  

The shows with Sunn O))) went really well, and they were great hosts.  I've thrown a few photographs together while I try and piece together our trip.  In the meantime, thanks to Sunn, Pete, Randall, Dead in the Dirt, Ben and everyone else who helped make things run smoothly.  There was only one incident in which a band member went missing overnight, which is not that bad when you compare that to the kinds of things that can go wrong.  He did mysteriously pop up at the next city and the show, as they say, did indeed go on.

Click to see more photos from our trip.  I'll have more to post about our adventure in the days ahead.  Our homecoming show here in Raleigh is just a couple weeks from now, so hopefully I'll have some decent live shots of us after that.  For now I hope you will enjoy these...

Dec 12, 2012

When "rock" calls...

Well, we're off for our week long West Coast stint!  It's hard to believe that after twelve years of writing music, Loincloth is actually taking its magic show on the road! Fortunately for us, Rock knows no boundaries, so a group of four crusty musicians like us can still contribute to the world by kickin' our own peculiar brand of instrumental metal for the soul.  Thankfully, science provides us with pills to help with the kinds of things that never used to bother us! Not recreational pills mind you, but the "doc-in-a-bottle" type pills that make rockin' out a little less painful the next day!  Hell, if the The Rolling Stones can do it in their early 100's we should be able to kick some walker-'n'-caned ass in our 40's, right?

The adorable dog in the photo is Jasmine, and she's probably going to be a little mopey until I get back.  She'll forget about me when it's dinner time, and every time Monica takes her for an r-i-d-e ( if I type it as a word she'll go nuts! ) but she will definitely be on a pity trip for a few days.  Aww, who am I kidding?  I'll miss her too!  Almost as much as I'll miss her mother.  Monica, it's up to you to make sure that Jasmine feels loved while I'm gone.  I'm the bigger sucker between the two of us and she has grown accustomed to a certain level of spoiling!  Oh, note the framed photo on the wall behind Jasmine.  It's the original photo that the cover of "Iron Balls of Steel" was cropped from.  Maybe I'll post it and the missing image from the inside of the cd some day.  Right now I have to figure out how to cram all of my clothes, a bunch of Loincloth shirts, cd's, vinyl and some drum stuff into a suitcase. Here's hoping the Christmas rush prevents the TSA from deciding to pull every garment out of my bag out of boredom!

What tales there will be to tell once I get back!  Assuming of course that the End of Days doesn't really happen on 12/21/2012.  I've made a flag for a new nation..."Stevetopia", just in case the excrement hits the fan while we're in the air on our way back.  Someone has to start over, and I'm up for the challenge!  I will be a benevolent dictator, unless of course someone dares to disagree with my decrees.  Then Jasmine here will whine and pester my enemies into submission.  She is merciless in her pitiful cuteness!  Her dead bird breath is merciless too.  She's a self contained "good cop, bad cop" interrogation team.  No one can take her one on one.

More when we return...

Merry Christmas, everyone!  And safe travels!

Nov 27, 2012

A Pleasant Surprise...

The three best parts of my daily routine all have to do with Monica.  Getting to wake up beside her every morning; getting to kiss her goodnight every night and tell her how much I love her, and getting to see her in the afternoon when I get home from work.  Those are the things that make everything else melt away.  It isn't uncommon at all for her to ask me how my day at work was, and for my reply to be... "What day?"  It just doesn't matter once I get to see her in the afternoon.  I highly recommend that all of you seek out a Monica so that you can understand just how fortunate I am.  This afternoon, after dispensing with our daily mushy stuff, she surprised me with this little nugget:

Steve Shelton: 5 Key Performances

I knew about the Modern Drummer article months before it came out, but I had no idea there would be anything else.  That Hank Shteamer is a sneaky one!  You can also link to this article via the "Links" list ( Modern Drummer: 5 Songs to Check Out ) that appears on the right side of any page that you check out here at The Poundry.  Another plus to this article: I finally have a picture that doesn't make me look homeless!  My apologies to anyone who may be homeless now or was in the past.  If you could see some of the pictures I'm referring to you could probably make the argument that you never looked quite that rough.  I will concede that point in advance.  Craig thought I was joking about how I look in photos until he saw one of the pictures he snapped last weekend.  I like to think that seeing pictures of me makes everyone else feel better about themselves.  It ain't pretty!  

Thanks yet again, Mr. Shteamer!

Nov 24, 2012

Loincloth: Gettin' Wild in NJ/NY

Yes, there was man on Yeti action at Loincloth's first shows ever last weekend!  I was shocked to see it out in the open like that, but this is an ever changing world and one has to be open and flexible to either accept or participate in such bestial pleasures.  Lord knows what we'll see out in the audience when we get out to the West Coast next month, especially if many people take the Mayan "sky is falling" threat seriously.  If December 21, 2012 is to be the last night of life as we know it, Yeti lovin' may be the most sane thing we see on the Eve of Destruction!

Nov 21, 2012

Loincloth's Playlist

Few things in life are as exciting as a ten hour ride through truck stops and toll booths.  While public restrooms are a never ending delight, long trips require a good selection of music to keep everyone from chewing each other's socks out of boredom. Fortunately the van we rented for our first shows had a cd player, so we were able to rock out without having to hide our socks from the horrors of mindless oral fixations.  If you think a dog licking its paw out of boredom all night is annoying, try prying a guitarist off of your foot who is in a Chuck Taylor flavored, sock-chewing induced coma!  Do you have any idea how awkward it can be when they snap out of it?  And please, what's worse than socks soaked in saliva?  

Here are the cd's that kept everyone's socks dry this past weekend.  I always play it safe when I'm selecting music for social situations, especially if I don't know everyone's tastes. We kept it old school, and it worked out well for us.

Nov 10, 2012

Many Thanks to Hank Shteamer and Matei Tibacu!

I have been so much busier than ever before with the release of "Iron Balls of Steel" and the subsequent interviews, layouts, pending shows and all of the things that being in an active band demands.  Most of it has been enjoyable, and some of it has been richly rewarding.  It can be surreal at times.  Especially when you end up meeting people who have been profoundly affected by the music you have put out there.  There are plenty of people to whom thanks must go, but perhaps none are more deserving of recognition than Hank Shteamer and Matei Tibacu.

Nov 4, 2012

Challenges, pt.2: Adapting...

The most important thing for any drummer to remember when playing in a band is that he or she needs to fit that band stylistically.  A really busy drummer in a straight forward band sounds out of place, even if that drummer is phenomenal. My fallback argument for that scenario is that no one wants to hear Neal Peart play for AC/DC. Likewise, a straight forward drummer in a technical band can keep that band from fulfilling its potential.  Either way a drummer that isn't a good fit stands out like a sore thumb, and I prefer music that works as an entire package. Whenever an individual musician stands out in a band, whether it's because they are more advanced than the other players or because they can't hold their own, it keeps me from being able to enjoy the band as a whole.  Trying to "fit" the bands I have been a member of is what has posed the greatest challenge to me.  As bands evolve, any given musician's role can change. Being flexible and open minded can be crucial when trying to maintain balance through those changes.

Oct 25, 2012

Watch Out! It's On... Like Simon Le Bon!

Alright, ladies and gentlemen... these are the official dates for Loincloth's first shows ever! Sadly, our very first show was cancelled ( Wilmington, this Saturday the 27th ) because the headlining band's drummer quit.  I don't know that Wilmington was prepared to have it's entire skyline leveled by The 'Cloth anyway!  However the West Coast has been ready to fall off into the Pacific Ocean for quite some time now, so I think they will be prepared for the mayhem that will ensue once we throw down with Sunn 0))) and Dead in the Dirt!  Our first two shows will be with our friends in another instrumental metal band, Dysrhythmia.  I'd like to say "Whassap!" to Hank Shteamer in STATS, who will also be playing with us in New York City.  

The Dysrhythmia shows...

Nov. 16, Long Branch, NJ @ Brighton Bar w/Dysrhythmia
Nov. 17, Brooklyn, NY @ Public Assembly w/Dysrhythmia and Stats

The Sunn O))) / Dead in the Dirt shows...

Dec. 14, Portland, OR @ Roseland/Peter's Room
Dec. 15, Bellingham, WA @ The Wild Buffalo w/Black Breath
Dec. 16, Seattle, WA @ The Neptune Theatre
Dec. 18, San Fransisco, CA @ The Mezzanine
Dec. 19, Santa Cruz, CA @ The Rio Theatre
Dec. 20, Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda "The Power of the Riff" presents with:
             High on Fire, Corrosion of Conformity, Black Breath, Void Ov Voices

Finally, back home...

Jan. 19, Raleigh, NC @ King's

So there you go... Loincloth have waited the appropriate number of years to play our first show. Twelve years, to be precise.  Here's hoping we have aged like wine, and not like roadkill!  If you are confused by the Simon Le Bon reference in this post's title, you'll have to watch "Squidbillies" on Adult Swim ( Cartoon Network ) to know what I'm talking about.  Poor Rusty, he just couldn't sound bad-asser 'n hell even if his life depended upon it.

Oct 15, 2012


I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to buy a drum set.  I knew that I wanted to be able to play music with friends of mine, but I didn't know what kind of music we'd play, if I would be able to play competently or not, or whether I'd buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini  with my first royalty check.  Almost thirty years have passed, and I still don't know what I'll do whenever I get my first royalty check, but my sixteen year old Ford Ranger works just fine!  I feel truly blessed to have been able to travel with great friends, playing the music that we loved to play and to have put something out there that some people find inspiring.  People tell me that I have a unique style, and friends of mine who don't even dissect music the way I do know when they hear me on a recording right away.  I know that my style of drumming may not be for everyone, but I take the fact that I stand out to people as a great compliment.  No one may ever have noticed me as a drummer if I didn't do one thing when I was starting to play drums... challenge myself constantly.

Oct 8, 2012

Metal Moments: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Raleigh, North Carolina is not exactly a hotbed on the cutting edge of the national music scene.  There have been bands and songwriters who have been successful from the area, but the scene here is pretty small and very incestuous.  We were a small town that began to diversify in the late 50's and early 60's when Research Triangle Park was built.  Lots of New Yorkers with ties to IBM transfered to the area, and eventually New England's version of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria reached the shores of the area known as Cary, or the "Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees" if you are from Raleigh proper.  As far as I know, the area referred to as "The Triangle" ( those who came to work in RTP live mostly in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill ) still has the highest concentration of PhD's in the world which is great, but these people are not rockers.  Our next massive influx came in the 90's with the great hispanic boom that followed the Texas construction industry.  Great people, fantastic food, impressively ornamented Hondas and nicer pick ups than any of my North American friends, but like scientists in the 60's... not the culture from which metal gods are typically born, or should I say "bjorn"?  

When Confessor were beginning to make a name for themselves the only band that the whole world knew about from around here was Corrosion of Conformity.  Those guys were constantly touring, but they weren't metal enough to get the calls to be opening acts for some traveling bands, and they were too big to be opening for club acts anyway.  Confessor were the only band to call that could bring in fans when certain metal acts came through, so we ended up with some strange shows thrown our way.  Promoters in the area must have thought that all "metal" was universal, and that there was a sense of family between "big hair bands" and underground metal.  Underground metal felt about as much of a familial tie with its big haired cousins as Lyle and Erik Menendez felt with their parents.  Any time I ever saw an image of Poison, Skid Row or any of those bands a subtle command of  "kill... kill... kill" would begin to pull me away from whatever I had been doing. Several times friends of mine found me walking towards the west with an axe, always muttering "must... cleanse Los Angeles... must save us all".  That lack of understanding on behalf of promoters, and a real dearth of polished metal bands in the area made for some unlikely opening slots for us. 

Oct 5, 2012

It's About Damned Time!  Loincloth, Live!

Well there probably aren't very many bands who can say they have been around for twelve years without ever playing a single show.  It is quite possible that Loincloth is the only "active" band that can make that claim.  Our historic run is about to end though, and there are four guys who are incredibly excited to see that dubious distinction become a humorous asterisk in the footnote of their biography.  October 27th, Wilmington, North Carolina... the beginning of the rest of all our lives.  What will the world look like the next day?  Will Loincloth finally provide the flying cars we've been waiting for all of our lives?  Will they be able to find a suitable mountain to carve our likenesses for the future site of Mount Rockmore?  So many questions, so many possibilities...

When Tannon moved down to Raleigh so that Loincloth could finally finish writing the album we had envisioned for so long, we never thought about what would happen after the album came out.  In fact, there was no "after the album came out" as far as we were concerned. Tannon would move back to Richmond and we would all be proud to have our little dream realized.  End of story.  There had been some talk of trying to play a local show or two as we were writing "Iron Balls of Steel" but we saw early on that wouldn't be feasible.  We focused on writing everything the way we had to in order to be able to record before Tannon needed to go back home to Richmond.  Mix down, artwork and layout... aside from a few references to someday beginning to write our second craptastic album we were done for the foreseeable future.  It didn't take long though, to get the itch.  I applied some anti-fungal powder and caught up with the third best drummer in the band.

Sep 29, 2012

What a Girl!  Luna, 1998-Sep.11, 2012

All dogs are special, but sometimes one comes along that you bond with in a way that makes you feel less like a pet owner, and more like a brother or sister.  A partner. Our German shepherd Luna was one of those dogs.  Monica took Luna in as a rescue dog around the beginning of 1999 after falling head over heels for her at a shelter in Georgia when she still lived there.  She and her boyfriend at the time had to rush back to their house to get enough money to adopt her and get back before the hour long hold the shelter put on the adoption process expired.  They got back in the nick of time, just as another couple was getting ready to start the paperwork on her.  The four of them knew that Luna was a special girl.

Who knows what Luna endured at the hands of her original owners?  Monica said that she was terrified of men, and that if you called her with any amount of sternness in your voice she would cower and you would have to clean up an "accident".  Poor girl!  Before long, once Luna saw that there was absolutely nothing she would ever have to worry about again, she began her transformation into the proud, noble creature that I came to know later.

Monica and I bought our house together exactly nine year ago.  We started off with three cats and three dogs, all hers, all rescues, all with very distinct personalities.  Luna was the protector.  The patroller.  I never felt like I had anything to lose before Monica and I moved in together, but a protective instinct kicked in in me that I didn't know existed.  Luna's total devotion to Monica, and her own protective drive to stay in sight at all times made me feel completely secure that nothing would happen to Monica, or our home when I wasn't there.  I have loved every pet I've ever had.  Every dog, cat, fish, frog, tarantula and scorpion has made my life better and more meaningful, but Luna was the only one that made me feel like I was the one being taken care of instead of the other way around.  Luna slept in the hallway so that she could see everything that was going on in the house, and when she was younger she would wake up to make her rounds.  She patrolled the house and it was clear that she was protecting Monica and everyone else she loved.  We all slept well under her watchful eye.  

The relationship that Luna and Monica had was inspiring, and I will truly miss watching their caring and affection for one another.  If I called Luna or asked her to do something, she would look at Monica first to see that it was okay before coming over to me.  I'll never be as sweet, or as cute as Luna was throwing her toys up in the air and catching them, and I'll never look right wagging my tail upon seeing Monica when I get home every afternoon from work, even though my inner tail wags harder than she'll ever know.  Yes, I'll miss seeing them together but I will always take comfort in knowing that they were a perfect match.  They were meant to be together.  Luna will always be loved appreciated, and sorely, sorely missed.  Luna, if you have internet access in animal heaven, know that your mother and I cherish every moment we had with you, and that you made us better people.  We love you, we miss you, and please tell Ginger and Jake that the next time we see each other it will be forever.

Sep 21, 2012

Shipwrecked with a Stereo that Works

Okay, you know the drill...  You are stuck on an island for the rest of your life with a stereo that somehow works, a tree that produces bricks of extra sharp cheddar and whatever other bare essentials a person might need to make a life of sun poisoning and picking sand out of your nethers tolerable.  What are the ten albums you would want to have for the rest of your secluded life?  The same logic that allows for a decent stereo limits your library to ten, that's just how it goes.  We don't question these things, we just appreciate that there is a stereo at all.  Oh yes, and cheese... glorious cheese!

No compilations, no box sets, no cutting out irritating songs, no K-Tel nonstop dance parties.  Just a musical statement as intended by the artist.  I will accept full live albums, because I understand that there are people who fell in love with the band Kiss after hearing "Alive" when they were too young to know any better.  Even people I know and respect liked Kiss.  That's why you get your island and I get mine!  Even if our islands were within earshot of each other I don't think I'd ask you to turn Kiss down at night.  It would probably make me appreciate my own precious record collection even more!  I might have to swim over and kick your ass if you played Kiss loud before say, 11:00 am but after that would be fine.  I used to wake up to a neighbor who blasted eighties era Phil Collins at 7:00 in the morning.  I've put in my time as an overly patient neighbor! 

You may be shocked to see my own list.  I only had to think about a couple of these, but I think I could do it if I ever were to be shipwrecked.  The cheese tree is equally important, and since no one else would be around, the pungent and flatulent smell of extra sharp cheddar would offend only myself, and who cares what I think?

Sep 18, 2012

Sabbath vs Sabbath Live: The Flip

This is a necessary follow up to Sunday night's post about the musical alchemists who somehow took a tuned down bluesy approach to protest music, and through their own dark magic were able to invent "Metal".  I made my case, and am comfortable with my position, but I have to compare the two different line ups' live performances.  One line up was surprisingly great and the other, which I let myself get really excited about, was well... considerably less than great.  In fact, I could have put one of the performances on my list of "The Most Moving Shows I've Seen" though it would have been for the wrong reasons.  

I never saw Black Sabbath when they were still active rock gods.  When I saw them, they had descended from atop their mountain to remind us all of how our favorite kind of music had begun.  Ozzfest was not the kind of thing I would normally get excited about, but I knew it could be the only chance I'd ever have to see Black Sabbath.  Though It would not be the line up I really wanted to see, Monica and I felt like we should go.  We were both very glad that we did...

Sep 16, 2012

Sabbath vs Sabbath

Where would any type of music that ends with the word "metal" be without Black Sabbath? Almost every metal band points to them as an influence.  Their aesthetic spoke to millions of people who appreciated dark as much as light.  Some had even more reverence for all things morbid, morose and macabre.  I was one of those people...  probably still am!  Black Sabbath weren't the first band to step into the world of occultism, but they were the first to play such dark and eerie music while taking jabs at various establishment icons.  They picked at society's scabs and freaked a lot of people out.

Musically speaking Black Sabbath were very primitive, but they were able to spark something in people.  Ozzy Osbourne's vocals were rough and often clumsy, but he was as sincerely soulful as a man could be.  No one could sound like him and in forty years of trying, no one ever has.  He laid it all out there for you, and when you juxtaposed that with their tuned down riffs you had a band that turned everyone's head, either in joyful celebration or unnerved anxiety.  They really tapped into some new energy.  Enough energy to ignite an entirely new subculture.  Every black t-shirt you have ever seen with a band's ineligible logo came as a result of the Sabbath spark.  They should be on every thank you list of every metal band from now until the Hand of Doom touches us all.

Sep 11, 2012

The Case for Instrumental Music

When someone is a fan of metal, particularly truly "heavy" metal there is one sticking point that can make or break an otherwise inspirational band.  Typically speaking, the "singers" suck.  I mean, they really suck. The ones that actually have something to add to the music are fine, and sometimes even great, but the other ninety percent detract from what bands are trying to accomplish. Pop music doesn't exist without vocalists. The entire message of pop music and every bit of its appeal relies on oral communication. It's rare that the music itself matters much beyond providing a bed for the vocals to lay on, but metal can be aggressive, mean and heavy as hell without a singer at all.  I find that the music is often meaner than the vocalist, so for me the impact is lost when the singer can't match the intensity of the band. Bless their little hearts, a singer's over inflated sense of self worth ( made obvious by the fact that they think the stage is meant for them in the first place ) and the notion that their message of crippling insecurities or feelings of inadequacy is unique enough that everyone simply must hear what they have to say mean that they are driven to a spotlight. Metal is for "outsiders" and I am no exception to that rule, whereas the microphone is for narcissists.  I get to hide my own insecurities behind my over sized drum set.  Whenever I have something to "say" I use riffs or beats.  There is a lot of room for interpretation, and people can attach whatever train of thought they might want to what I do.  That free association is one of the things I love most about music, but lyrics often take that liberty away from a listener.

In Confessor, I always found that no matter how much attention to detail we put into the music it became a real chore to hear it in its full context once Scott put his vocals down. That isn't a knock on Scott at all, it's just illustrative of how language is the way that we are accustomed to receiving information.  Everything else takes a back seat, even if it's at a subconscious level. The singer takes the role of defining what we are supposed to be thinking about, and I would rather have the freedom to ascribe whatever random thoughts I may have to the music I listen to.  Ambient singers can absolutely enhance a band's aesthetic but they are few and far between, especially in a type of music that thrives on deliberate aggression.  I have been able to embrace the reflexive "need" for nearly all bands to have a vocal identity.  A singer really does humanize music and make it relatable for most, but not everyone needs that connection to identify with music.  With very few exceptions I prefer the dreamy, whimsical nature of music without the restrictive blinders that come with a singer's presence.  However, in the heavier forms of music that I tend to like most, a good instrumental band is a very rare thing indeed.  

Instrumental music does not require your full attention.  It makes for a wonderful background static to keep at bay the deafening roar of silence that makes me so restless at times.  You can drift in and out of instrumental music, especially if it is the dreamier variety that adds color to your day, slowly seeping into your thoughts without demanding that you scrutinize every note. Classical, jazz, dream pop, electronica... so many different vibes work wonderfully without vocals, but heavy music has not spent so much energy tapping into the endless possibilities of instrumental music.  Loincloth knew from the beginning that we could do whatever we wanted without having to use the vocally driven, heavy music template.  That template is the limiting factor that having a singer foists upon creative efforts.  Verse, chorus, some screaming... everyone uses the same framework.  When it's really bad a band will have interesting parts that go away when the vocals come in so that the singer doesn't have to compete with the band for space.  Weak.  Very, very weak.  There is also the fact that most heavy bands use aggressive singers, so the vibe is much more uniform from one band to the next, and it's hard to sing about things other than conflict if you're trying to show the world how tough you are. Life has a lot of things to celebrate, and I don't need to be yelled at all the time.

There is another thing about heavy music that limits what most bands go for whenever you find one that opts for an instrumental approach.  As a genre made up of self described social misfits, there seems to be a need to prove that their life's pursuit has made them just as talented as anyone in more widely accepted types of music.  Metal wants people to see that it has virtuosos around every corner.  It as a way of puffing its chest and proclaiming that our overlooked, picked on nerds can stand with your precious, pampered nobility on any stage and give them a run for their money.  It's bravado, and it comes out in the form of overly schooled scales and more disciplined than visionary riffs that are impressive feats of technological achievement, but are often flat and not very compelling.  I wouldn't blame anyone for leveling that same criticism at Loincloth, but we really aren't interested in showing what we are capable of as musicians as much as what metal is capable of as an art form. We wanted to celebrate heaviness and rhythmic confusion, not shine the spotlight on our individual progress as musicians.  It was music that inspired us, not a mirror.

I find instrumental music to be far more emotive than most vocal oriented music.  The ability to attach whatever train of thought I have at the moment to the music means that it is a more personal journey for me.  A singer is defining his or her own personal journey, and that can be a wonderful thing as well, particularly if they happen to nail some thought you may have had before or if they expand upon one of the questions about life that we all have. For the most part, there simply aren't many singers I want to listen to for forty five minutes. Their bag of tricks is usually limited to the two or three things their egos tell them are all they need to be the greatest front man the world has ever seen.  Think about this; we tend to lip sync vocal parts, but we head bang to everything else.  We reflexively repeat the language, but we are physically moved by the music.  Without vocals dripping off of every sheet of music you can feel what that inspiring music is all about.  You can hear the interplay between drum and bass, or the overlapping notes that guitarists use and the music begins to tell its own story. That vague story, and the flexibility of an association that suits your own state of mind instead of funneling you into a narrow path defined by a vocal narrative that may be miles away from where your head is, makes it possible for me to see metal's limitless creative horizon.

Sep 7, 2012

Five Albums that Make Extreme Metal Better

Good heavy music is a wonderful thing.  There is something about it that satisfies at a primal level.  I have spent my entire adult life playing heavy music and I can tell you that as a drummer I have a physical connection with it.  A tight rhythm section that knows how to emphasize heaviness creates a physical sensation for the listener, but to actually play the parts, to actively determine how the transitions are played out is something that resonates within me every time we get it right.  If it were any more physical than it is I would probably have an addiction problem!

It is very hard to believe how commercialized heavy music has become.  I understand its appeal to fans, but that it has become a lucrative sub genre of hard rock is something almost no one could have imagined when we started playing as a band.  Underground metal and punk rock were so counter-culture that mass acceptance was an anathema to everyone involved in the two movements.  It was a badge of honor to be immersed in something that seemed so extreme on the outside, so avant-garde.  Metallica blew the doors right off of their hinges and a curious world full of more comfortable music fans rightly poked its head into the dark underbelly it only spoke of in hushed whispers to see what it had been missing. Nothing has been the same in extreme metal since then, and I would argue that the term "underground" has lost almost all of its original meaning.

Quickly, bands by the dozens tried to glom onto what had been fresh and exciting only a few months earlier and as is true in all movements, the genre became watered down.  It became harder to find bands that had unique visions in a sea of lowest common denominator head banging.  I have no issue with "bangers".  What a person loves in his or her music is just as inspiring to them as what I love is to me.  But as is the case with all art forms, when so many people are satisfied with "less", it becomes harder to find artist who mean to create "more".  I got tired of being disappointed with ninety plus percent of what was coming out and I stopped trying to find new bands that were doing heavy music justice.  A few bands have kept pushing the envelope in creative ways and have stayed true to the sense of adventure that underground metal was born with.

Here is a list of five albums that I feel are shining examples of the kinds of worlds "heaviness" can create.
  • Godflesh, "Songs of Love and Hate":  Godflesh is the last "favorite band" I couldn't get enough of.  If machines have dreams, Godflesh would be the soundtrack to all of their nightmares.  I suppose they are ultimately an industrial band, but they are just as much a rock band of the darkest variety.  Godflesh utilizes more discordant notes, or "cluster tones" than you can shake a stick at.  The payoff is a catalogue full of lush, but incredibly dark and ominous guitar landscapes. The band uses repetition to drive home just how heavy the music is, and this is one of those records I can listen to several times in a row.  The vocals are brutal and it's easy to imagine blood flying out of Justin Broadrick's mouth by the end of most songs.  He sounds like he is either possessed by rage or gripped with terror most of the time, which makes the music more primal than it already is.  They do "ugly" in such a way that it becomes beautiful and elegant if you can get lost in it. That is the wonderful thing about so many minor notes and cluster tones... their world is just as limitless and colorful as that of major chord progressions, but the palette is completely different!  Equally melodic, but emotive in a very different way.  I have always been drawn toward the darker versions of things.  Well maybe not toast as much as music and art, but I love a sense of ominousness in creative pursuits and in nature.
  • Decapitated, "Organic Hallucinosis":  I never gave "blast bands" a chance.  Speed was the antithesis of heavy in my mind, but for awhile speed became the new heavy for many people.  It became a philosophical sticking point for me. Bands that were focused on playing faster and faster were really just watching each other masturbate.  It seemed to me an extension of the lead guitar mentality and while there is a dedication and athleticism I can appreciate, the music lacks so many of the things that I love most about metal.  It took Necrophagist, and the Decapitated to finally create something in the sub-genre I could sink my teeth into. "Organic Hallucinosis" is a fully realized, utterly bleak vision executed with surgical precision by clearly passionate metal devotees.  While Necrophagist has a flashier aesthetic,  Decapitated are the band that will just mow you down.  The drummer, who is tragically no longer with us, has the most awe inspiring way of bleeding fast, single stroke tom fills into double bass patterns with enough hi-hat and cymbal work to cover the transitions so that you feel overwhelmed by an undulating wave  of post apocalyptic beat downs.  The vocalist on this record is quite possibly my favorite of all singers in death/grindcore.  He doesn't sing as much as threaten, and it is very effective.  Also, the guitarists use surprisingly major chords at times to create powerful, bleak spaces.  This album takes no prisoners!
  • Celtic Frost, "Monotheist":  Celtic Frost was one of the bands I started to get into way back in the early 80's when underground metal began to do more for me than punk rock.  In a way, Frost was as punk as they were metal in that they had a similar flare for chording and picking.  They were primitive, but darker and edgier. By the time their third release was out they had lost me.  They tried to be more artful than heavy and it just didn't work for me anymore.  I had started following bands that used more schooled precision in their music and Celtic Frost dragged their knuckles too much for me.  Their final album, "Monotheist" finally shows what I believe Tom G. Warrior had been striving for all along.  Thirty years of knuckle dragging has made them the aped hands down best at primate brutality with more than a splash of anti-christian preaching.  They definitely adhere to the "less is more" doctrine when creating their caveman masterpieces, but they spice things up with truly dark, inspired electronic sound beds and sporadic, cryptic recitations from what seems to be a witch with emphysema.  Artful head banging for all of your agitated polytheist, Uruk Hai look-alike warrior friends.
  • Opeth, "Blackwater Park":  Opeth and Necrophagist were the two bands that restored my faith in extreme metal.  They are miles apart aesthetically, but together they create a very rounded picture of what kinds of things are possibly in the truest, rule-less world of metal.  Opeth tread dangerously close to renaissance fair music at times, but I can still appreciate that they are trying to create an entire world for their fans, instead of just a room or two. "Blackwater Park" stands out from their other releases to me because of its subtle departure from the traditional framework of underground metal.  Enough of a departure that it becomes a different kind of experience.  There is something about this record, as with Celtic Frost's "Monotheist", that almost feels like a concept record.  I like it when bands successfully weave in some kind of theme to tie different parts of an album together.  It makes it feel less like twelve snapshots and more like a movie, if you know what I mean.  A lot of people use Pink Floyd references when they speak of Opeth and the overall flow of this record is the strongest connection I can think of between the two bands.  Mikael Akerfeldt happens to be another guy whose cookie monster voice actually sounds really damned good, and on this record he hadn't become enamored of his own traditional singing voice yet, so there is a better balance of heavy and light than some of their later recordings.
  • Meshuggah, "Koloss":  People tried to turn me onto Meshuggah several years ago but I just couldn't do it.  I have never heard their oldest releases, but what I did hear I found to be too stiff and cold.  There were a couple of things that always wore me down pretty quickly, so when it was suggested that I may enjoy "Obzen" by someone who was never crazy about them either I thought I'd give it a shot.  I do really like most of that album but their latest release, "Koloss" shows that the band are willing to branch out more than before.  The rhythmic contortions are here and gone in a handful of seconds where they would have gone off on a micro-tweak exercise for an eternity before.  Meshuggah are punishingly precise band that raise the bar in such a way that anyone who wants to try to keep up is going to have to think of music in non-traditional ways.  I love seeing or hearing a different take on things!  They have a way of muting their guitar chunks that makes it sound like something just slammed into whatever building you happen to be in. They make the bass a prominent star in their mixes which makes them far heavier than most. The songs on "Koloss" are shorter and more varied than previous releases which breathes a new life into some of their signature guitar counterpoints.  Things that were repetitive before really benefit from the new, slower pace of many of the songs.  They have become more ambient than seems possible given the kind of metal they play.  I am very happy to see them expand their horizons, and I am even more excited about where they may go from here. 

Sep 4, 2012

Cymbal-ism:  Take Advantage of What Is Within Your Reach

As Loincloth's debut album, "Iron Balls of Steel" was about to be released Tannon and I were deluged with interviews and essay style pieces that we had to write about ourselves and about the band.  I have never been as up to speed with underground metal as any of the writers I have interviewed with, and unless they happened to mention one of the five or six drummers who played in one of the few bands that I really enjoyed I never had any idea who they were referencing when the obligatory "Well, you must love so and so from this band or that band" comments came up. My problem with drummers is the same problem I have with metal in general... there are hundreds of great drummers and dozens of well schooled bands, but only a small handful that are interesting.

In a brief effort to introduce myself to some of the drummers whose names I have heard for years but whose music was still unknown to me I looked online for videos of their performances.  What I found was exactly what I thought I would find.  Very "well educated" drummers in the sense that they were smooth, adept players but there were none that I found compelling.  Predictable double bass playing and zero vision ruled the day.  I gladly accept the title of "music snob".  I have no problem with that at all.  I love some very basic things, and some very complex things.  I just want a band to have its own unique identity.  I don't expect to be blown away by every drummer I hear, and there will always be a place in music for the drummer who can play in an understated way and drive the bands' music at the same time.  After all, there is no one other than Phil Rudd who should ever play for AC/DC.  I ask nothing of any specific musician, but ask instead of all musicians that they seek their own voice.

One thing that stood out in all of the videos of drummers was the lack of interest in cymbal work.  When I started playing drums the only guys who stood out as visionary were in prog rock bands.    Most metal drummers kept things pretty basic, but the underground scene was still figuring out what it was capable of and it was exciting enough to be a part of a genuinely new form of music.  Within a few years there was a kick ass drummer on every corner.  Metal, at least in its more extreme form lends itself to unbridled creativity.  That's the thing I appreciate most about the genre.  There is a pioneering spirit that keeps bands pushing themselves in ways that is rare in other forms of music.  Still, with the limitless areas of exploration in metal I just don't see that there are many drummers taking advantage of their cymbals in creative ways.  Cymbals seem to be an afterthought, but they can have real impact with some careful planning if you are willing to play around with them.

When I first heard Metallica's "Fight Fire with Fire" I just about lost it.  The accents at the beginning of that song were so mean!  It really helped solidify the notion that a well placed cymbal choke can make an accent many times more impactful.  I started practicing them all the time.  Eventually I began to insert accents like that at different points within a riff instead of saving them for intros and the ends of parts.  I had to learn how to choke a cymbal with one hand (sorry, no dirty jokes today) so that I could keep the ride or hi-hat going without interrupting the beat.  My fingers paid mightily for that and I will quote a popular, though ultimately mediocre horror movie brand as a warning to all who care to practice the move... "Oh yes, there will be blood!".  You will have sticks flying all over the place until you get your grip down as well, but hopefully you will find it all worthwhile. Choke a cymbal at the same time as a bass drum hit, or with a snare hit (no choice but to do it one handed that way) or as an exclamation point all its own without hitting anything else.  It sounds like an effect that way, and most people hear it very clearly.

Some of the things that I have kept as set moves within a song came about as a result of me trying to get anyone in the band to laugh at practice.  You never know when you might stumble onto something that sounds cool, so don't be afraid to play around with your cymbals.  The first song on Loincloth's demo has two quick, tight cymbal chokes on a china type that are floating all on their own without a bass drum or snare to make them true accents.  I remember doing that while making a stupid metal face at Pen during practice one day.  While the face was meant to enhance the absurdity of the choke, we all thought that it sounded pretty damned cool and I have played it every time since!  Sometimes I still think it sounds silly, but it really jumps out.  I call that, and other china chokes "spanks" because they sounds like someone getting slapped with an open hand.  It still makes me laugh, but I love it.  It looks ridiculous but it creates something that you can't get any other way.  That same song has a constant cymbal pattern (every third note) over a repeated seven note guitar pattern that I played on an effect cymbal to make the guys laugh that has stayed in the song ever since. The part is really thick and the cymbal is so tiny that I thought I'd get a chuckle out of them.  I did, but I got an ironclad pattern out of it, too.  It pays to play around.

I have a lot of different cymbals.  I use them all, and for me they keep things interesting. Some people may not like effects cymbals, but I think that there are ways to use them that help create different aesthetics.  I applaud any drummer who makes his or her kit sing, and that does not require an elaborate set up, just a musical personality.  I'll take a person who rocks a four piece over the guy with an enormous kit and cymbals all around him who does nothing with them any day.  I have a china type on either side of me, a small splash, a large splash, and two small china splashes that I set on top of each other like opposing hamburger buns.  They all have their uses, and while it's true that I could survive without them, I like having so much variation right at my fingertips.  Be silly, be adventurous.  Try to throw in something that you think will look ridiculous! I guarantee you will play something you never would have otherwise, and you may discover a thing to add to your bag of tricks!

Sep 1, 2012

The Most Moving Shows I've Seen

It is rare that I go out and see bands anymore.  There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is that my ears ring for several days after a show, and I need to be more selective about which bands contribute to my hearing loss.  There have been many good shows in my past, but a few in particular have made lasting impressions on me.  I would love for people to write me about their own experiences with live music which may have struck them as more profound than most.

These descriptions are in order of impact:

1) Mr. Bungle: Cat's Cradle, Carboro, N.C. 1999? - I had seen Mr. Bungle once before at The Brewery here in Raleigh and was one of the best shows I had seen at that time.  Even knowing how good they could be didn't come close to preparing me for this show in support of their next record "California".  The Cradle was sold out, and it was as packed as I have ever seen it.  It's hard to put into words what makes an event like a show something more than just a performance.  Mike Patton, love him or hate him, was like a mad scientist on PCP!  Sometimes you could see his head pop up with his mouth wide open, belting out vocals as only he can.  Sometimes you'd see an arm over the stage or even feet, which was confusing but amazing at the same time.  The entire band were an unstoppable force, and I've never seen so many people on a stage play even close to that tight before or since!  It was without a doubt the most indescribable show I've seen.  You can't describe certain drugs to people who have never tried them, and you simply cannot explain what was so mind altering about Mr. Bungle live.  I honestly can't imagine I'll ever see anything like that show again.
2) King Diamond: The Pier, Raleigh, N.C. 1997 - This was too good to pass up.  My favorite band, Trouble was opening this show and I had never seen them before.  There was no stop scheduled for this tour in Raleigh but some friends of mine and I called their booking agent so many times that I think they decided to go ahead and set something up here.  I thought I would flip my lid over Trouble live... loud... oh man!  I could not wait!  I thought that King Diamond would either be really good or so ridiculous that it would be hilarious.  Either way, I knew I would enjoy myself.  Trouble put on a good show, but they didn't blow me away. Basically, all of their decent parts sounded fantastic, but whenever they came around to the kinds of riffs I got wet thinking about their sound didn't do them justice.  It was frustrating, but it was the same way when I saw them a couple of years later opening for Danzig.

King Diamond was quite another story.  We were able to get in the club after he had his soundcheck obligations taken care of, but he was still out in the main room.  He had this weird, evil vibe about him.  Evil probably isn't the right word, maybe he put off a vibe like he was a conduit for things beyond most people's comprehension.  He looked like the kid from The Bad News Bears movie who smoked and rode a moped, only KD kinda creeped me out instead of just looking silly.  Once the band took stage, we were all held absolutely captive by their performance.  He was unbelievably energetic and he let us see a little more into that erie connection he had with his dark side.  A good friend of mine was at least as big a fan as we were and had been excited about the show as well.  Eventually she had to remove herself from the stage area because she was so freaked out by the sense that eye contact might not be the wisest thing with this guy. I saw her later in the set leaning up against a column towards the back of the club and she didn't want to be any closer than that. Most of the people I knew who saw that show felt whatever his aura was, and we all agreed he was not someone to mess with.

3) Slayer: The Warner Theater, Washington DC 1986 - I loved Slayer's first releases.  "Show No Mercy" showed me that there was a form of music that could get your blood pumping more than punk rock, and the "Haunting the Chapel" ep elevated the art form such that underground metal had the potential to be taken seriously, and other bands who wanted to keep up were going to have to put their big boy pants on and peel some skin back if they wanted to stay in the same league.  "Reign in Blood" made Slayer kings among the ranks of underground metal.  That record came out when Metallica was headed to the grammy awards, which was a double edged sword for the genre.  While Anthrax and Metallica were looking for a way to get invited "in", Slayer said "Okay you can do that, but why don't you just stay the hell OUT!  We'll rule the underground while you guys hobnob!"  This Reign in Blood show was going to be fierce!

Huge stacks of cabinets with huge upside down crosses, and a twenty foot drum riser... they were not joking around.  The lights went down and the first three tom flams at the beginning of "Raining Blood" exploded into the club with synchronized strobe lights.  It was on, man! Everyone rushed to the area of the historic theater between the stage and the first row of seats. It was so tight that if your arm ended up over your head it could be two or three minutes before you could pull it back down.  People were using my hair and anyone else's to pull themselves up so they could walk on our heads to the stage, just to come crashing back down on top of us all.  It was brutal!  No doubt there were panic attacks.  The crowd took on an energy all its own even as Tom Araya admonished them for taking what could have been one of the most amazing shows ever, and causing it to devolve it into a flurry of fists and spit while stage hands laid waste to anyone they could, just to try and get a handle on things. Security was covered in spit, and it seemed as though the audience was on the verge of becoming dangerous throughout most of the set.  Slayer were precise and lethal that night. People were stage diving off of the balcony at the back of the theater, and the first four or five rows of seats were flattened.  Down to the ground flattened!  A wrecking crew could not have been more thorough.  I remember wondering if the barely contained violence would turn into something horrible once the crowd spilled out onto the street.  What a crazy night!  

Steve's closet

I really learned how to play drums after I joined Confessor.  By that I mean that I began to develop a style once the band were writing music together instead of me sitting in my room, learning how to imitate other drummers.  We were all expanding our own musical vocabularies together and there was a sense of adventure every time we came up with a new riff.  I was given carte blanch to play around with beats and timings because we all loved how changes "felt" in the middle of a part.  By switching emphasis from one minor nuance to another a guitar part can sound completely different, and we were drawn to the idea of jarring the listener every now and then.  Musicianship had picked up a bit from underground metal's infancy and there were some bands that were becoming very creative in their own unique ways whose inspiration made it into our own music.  

Were one to dig through to the back of my closet, past the black tennis shoes and acid wash jeans, and even beyond the pompoms and lipstick one would find the last of my cassettes.  They would be in a shoe box beside the tube of old blacklight and Iron Maiden posters.  These albums had a lot to do with setting the stage for our own musical exploration.  They provided a rough set of parameters within which we knew we could do anything we wanted.  Commercial success hadn't dampened the pioneering spirit that made underground metal such a wide open landscape for people to roam. I still really enjoy each of these albums whenever I dust them off, and twenty plus years later... that is saying a lot!

  • Nasty Savage - "Indulgence":  What an abstract metal band!  At times they were mean like an underground Van Halen, but as bizzare as any horrifying geometric creature Lovecraft ever attempted to describe.  Their guitarists had such an interesting vocabulary of harmonies and a weird application of flourishes that they were an all-you-could-eat, ass kick buffet for me.  Powerfully mean, but without adhering to metal doctrine, "Indulgence" helped showed me how to be forceful and creative behind a drum kit.  It also gave the band the confidence to follow any train of thought to its end for the sake of creating unique spaces.
  • Fates Warning - "Awaken the Guardian":  I am not usually drawn to the kind of metal that descends from the school of riffery and of vocal exercises that Iron maiden dominates.  I loved them in high school but I just can't get myself back into that place.  While I readily acknowledge that Fates Warning would not have written what they did were it not for Iron Maiden, I liked this record far more than anything Maiden ever did.  This record was much darker, more emotive and meaner than Iron Maiden would ever conceive of, and where Bruce Dickinson drives me absolutely nuts with his mastery of soulless wailing, Jon Arch sounds like he is pouring his heart out in every song.  This is one of those albums that I can't put down for about a week whenever I get the itch for it.
  • Trouble - "Psalm 9":  I heard Slayer's "Show No Mercy" and Trouble's first record at roughly the same time in eleventh grade.  I was hooked on metal again, but this was far more compelling to me than the kind of high school smoking court style of party metal.  Those two records pulled me right out of the hardcore world I had been immersed in for a little over a year.  Slayer was the meaner band, and provided an even more physical release than did punk rock, but Trouble was the band that created the music that actually 'touched' me.  Their version of heavy was the most satisfying sonic experience I had ever had at that point.  Trouble's two guitarists sounded as though they were extensions of my own soul, and they were my favorite band for several years. The vocals haven't aged so well, sadly.  They were one of those bands where the vocalist got stronger with every album, but the musical spark that they had so much of on their first two records flickered away to almost nothing within a few years.  This record more than any other inspired Confessor to be heavy. Our heavy became very different, but there were more than a couple of Trouble inspired moments for us early on.
  • Destruction - "Release from Agony":  Graham and I were the two guys in the band who flipped hardest for this record.  Destruction had been one of those bands that had a touch of punk in them but were better musicians than most hardcore bands ever produced.  Still, they had a sloppy enough drummer that they sounded as though they were barely hanging on to the song.  That is, until this record came out.  "Release from Agony" was the most disciplined, face-peeling metal record I had ever heard back then.  There have been countless bands since who were much more schooled, but Destruction had a unique vision that had more to do with heartfelt, sonic evisceration than showing off.  They were, and are the guitar gallop masters and this record is a treasure of meanness. The vocals are something to get accustomed to, but that was the norm back then.  Nu-Metal hadn't defined the only "acceptable" vocal style as barking out plays from scrimmage, and there was a lot more music being released that was just about creating a distinct sound instead of a money flow.  This record had the first transition I ever heard that left me bewildered.
  • King Diamond - "Them":  I never liked King Diamond's legendary band, Mercyful Fate.  They weren't heavy enough or mean enough to get me past his vocals and the thin guitar sound.  I was very surprised when I really liked King Diamond's first record on his own but sure enough, I had found in KD one of my new favorite bands.  A concept album in the same manner as Queensryche's "Operation: Mindcrime", King Daimond's third offering, "Them" gave underground metallions a "Bat Out of Hell" stylized possession story with enough of an occultist theme to stay on the mantle next to the skull candelabra for a long, cold eternity.  Mickey Dee shined as the flawless metal drummer he was, and satan knows there are thousands of Andy LaRocque fans because of the King D records he  shredded his fretboard while recording.  You cannot play King Diamond without watching people's faces morph from all party and smiles to tortured souls trying to pull themselves out of a fire pit.  Those who understand the sublime beauty of his occult inferno line the pit with devil horn fingers turned up toward the sky, mimicking the flames with their own flickering tongues taunting the suffering masses below, but that's what being in the KD Club is all about!  

Aug 30, 2012

Really... we're going to be called "Loincloth"?

At some point during the winter of 1999-2000 I went to see The F-ing Champs at King's here in Raleigh, N.C.  I had been listening to a lot more instrumental music but heavy instrumental bands were pretty hard to find.  They still are.  I know there are some 'metalgaze' bands, but it takes a little more than that to get me going... maybe a lot more!  The Champs were pretty damned melodic and every rare once in awhile they would hit a spot that reminded me of my old friend Pen Rollings' bands, Butterglove and Breadwinner.  Both of those bands were really interesting, abstract, heavy bands who were a hell of a lot of fun to see live.  Confessor played with Butterglove about as often as any other band and we used to get into arguments about which band was heavier.  They insisted we were the heavier of the two, but trust me when I tell you they took the crown as far as I was concerned.  They had to be seen to be believed, and Pen had quite a devoted following around here.

I always thought it would be interesting to write music with Pen but he lived in Richmond Virginia and I was busy with Confessor.  We were still hatching our plan for world domination and there were so many minor details that there just wasn't time to play with other people.  So I was at The Champs' show and no less than three different people came up to me to ask about a band they had heard I was in with Pen.  How weird, right?  Three people at one show... something was up.  I hadn't seen Pen or talked to him in a couple of years, but I thought this imaginary band could be quite something were it to actually exist.  I decided to give Mr. Rollings a call. 

Pen and another equally fine chap I had met a few times named Tannon had gotten drunk and started a rumor that we were all in a band together.  They described this thunderous collection of riff slayers as a band that only would only write the kind of heaviness one found in metal introductions.  You know how it goes... there's a huge, dramatic intro with a fantastic build up that inevitably comes crashing down into some limp-wristed thin thrashy riff that doesn't even come close to living up to the promise of such an epic set up.  They wanted Cary and me to bring our rhythm section to their dream riffs, and we would push ourselves as far as we could while always focusing on staying heavy.  We talked about what would really thrill us musically and we were on exactly the same page.  That is, up until the point when Pen told me that the name of the band could be nothing other than "Loincloth".

I let it go at first, thinking that we could revisit the name of the band later.  However, they were adamant... it would be Loincloth.  It seemed so right to them.  The sun rises, night follows, and we would be Loincloth.  Duh!  The thinking was that this would force people to admit that they listened to a band with such a silly name.  We did all agree that metal takes itself way to seriously.  There are some bands that can pull off the dark imagery really well, but there are far more that just look ridiculous.  And are all metallions really the most rough and tumble guys you could ever find?  I have my doubts.  I tend to believe that you have to be able to laugh at yourself in order to stay grounded and believe me, I provide plenty opportunities to be laughed at!  

Almost every person I have ever told the name of our band has burst out in laughter, which helped me get over the name.  Generally speaking I don't like talking about the bands I'm in.  When you know so many people who are in bands it just seems predictable for a guy who looks like me to say "Dude, you should check out my band!" I have always tried to get out of mentioning the name Loincloth with sheepish avoidances like "Oh it's fine, you've never heard of us...", but people usually see through the attempt and press the issue.  "C'mon man!  What are you embarrassed by?"  Then they understand.  Now I think it's funny too, and when metal fans hear us they forget all about the name.  I met the singer for Suffocation a few months ago and he laughed as hard when I told him we were called Loincloth as I have ever seen.  It took him a good two or three minutes to be able to complete a sentence after that!  It was one of those fits of hilarity that almost goes away but comes right back.  It was delicious!  Totally worth it in my book.  

And so it is, I am in a band named after Tarzan's groin covering.  I have never been more satisfied by, or proud of a recording than I am of the Loincloth album.  Love it or hate it, it is an album that stands out from the rest.  No one forgets the name, that is undeniable. 

Aug 29, 2012

Early Influences

Well, if you read my previous post "The Moment that Changed Everything" you already know that Neal Peart's playing on Rush's monumental release, "Moving Pictures" is what made me realize I wanted to be a drummer.  I had a drum set when I was about three years old, but I don't remember it at all.  Were it not for a photograph or two I would have no idea whether or not that kit even existed.  I suppose it could have been an elaborate ruse perpetrated by my parents, but it seems like a lot of work to set up a drum kit for some random snapshots just to create some kind of Philip K. Dick alternate reality.  Photoshop didn't exist back then, and it just doesn't make sense that my parents would have fabricated such a thing, unless of course there is more to this hoax to be uncovered at some later date.  Maybe they will plant a "kill word" in a comment on this blog site one day.  Hmmm...

So Neal Peart was the reason for the season, though his style was not what I tried to emulate when I first started playing in bands.  Being able to play all of the Rush albums early on gave me the tools necessary to hammer out new ideas.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't very good but I wasn't afraid to try anything either.  My first band started off as a hardcore band, but as the main guitarist and I began to dig bands like Celtic Frost, Trouble and Slayer more than punk rock, the sound of the band began to change.  Metallica's "Kill 'Em All", Slayer's "Show No Mercy" and Trouble's first album (originally self titled, but once it became available on cd the title became "Psalm 9") created something much more tangible for me.  Punk rock was aggressive, but there is a certain jangly, annoying vibe that is almost impossible to escape.  The new underground metal scene was much more intense and mean, and the musicianship was so far beyond the clumsiness of punk that it was laughable.

Trouble quickly became my favorite band, and their drummer, Jeff Olson had just as much to do with the heaviness that drew me to them as anything else.  He had the sensibility of classic rock drummers, but he played so hard that you could feel it through the speakers! Man, did they ever change what I wanted out of music!  At some point or another Trouble was everyone in Confessor's favorite band.  It has always been apparent in our music, though once I joined the band we became more technical than they were.  Adding a certain amount of technicality was less common then and it really made us stand out from other bands, especially the bands who were into mid-tempo, heavy riffs like we were.

My favorite drummer is a guy whose music I was already a fan of before I started playing, but I never realized how amazing he was until I had been playing for awhile.  Once I thought I had several interesting rolls worked out, I needed a way to practice them to a metronome but I didn't have one.  I used AC/DC records to play those rolls over because they were straight 4/4 almost from beginning to end of every record.  I would turn the stereo up loud enough to hear the beat and practice my rolls on top of it.  One day I decided to try something else as a low-rent metronome and I pulled out Missing Persons' "Spring Session M".  By the time I got to the song "U.S. Drag" I stopped playing and picked my jaw up off the floor!  "Who in the hell is THIS guy?"  Terry Freaking Bozzio, that's who!  I am still awestruck by his vision and by how fearless he is as a drummer.  He is on a completely different plane from anyone I have ever heard.  He has been in a lot of bands that didn't create the kind of space he could really shine in, but he is the most creative and adventurous drummer I know of, and I point to him as one of the main reasons I am willing to try anything behind a kit.  I can't say that I sound like him.  There was a time towards the end of Fly Machine's existence that I sounded more like The Bozzio, but Loincloth and Confessor are enough different that I don't try to insert those same flourishes anymore.

The last drummer I can say had a measurable affect on my own "style" as I began to develop such a thing was Mickey Dee from his days with King Diamond.  I never realized his influence on me until several years later when I sat down with the first few Diamond records again, but  I think of him as the quintessential underground metal drummer.  Faster bands are more extreme than King Diamond ever was, and blast drummers are very different beasts, but Mickey Dee epitomizes power and perfection.  He never goes overboard but he always does enough, and does it smoothly enough that you know he could blow it out whenever he wants!  He always made the music more compelling but he had enough restraint to keep from hogging the spotlight.  It is a fair assertion to make that I take more of a lead role in defining the overall sound and direction of the bands I'm in.  That may not be what a lot of people are interested in, but I like to try and make the same riff "feel" different by making small or sometimes drastic changes in my own beats.  It's part of what makes the music fun for me and part of what people seem to respond to when they talk to me about the bands I've been in.  Mickey Dee has always been far more polished than me, there is no denying that.  Maybe I should go by the name Stevie 'S' and see if that changes my overall vibe.