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.
Joining Confessor

I started playing drums when I was seventeen years old.  One of my best friends had been trying to talk me into getting a drum set for awhile so that we could rock out.  I bought an old Pearl set (orange glitter, no less) from another friend of mine who was dating the girl I eventually married.  My parents were supportive, but no one wants to live in a house while their clumsy son tries to figure out the concept of timing on a drum kit!   We agreed that I wouldn't play when anyone was home.  That allowed me a small window between when I got home from school and when my younger brother got home from his school.  I was a shy kid, especially if I was out of my element, so playing in front of people was a huge hurdle I had to get over.  I wish there was a video of the first time I ever played drums around the friend who talked me into getting them.  He lugged his cabinet upstairs into my bedroom and I made him stand with his back to me for nearly the entire time.  As I recall it took over an hour for me to stop laughing nervously every time I was supposed to start a song!  My brother was sitting on my bed with headphones on to protect his ears and it was his job was to keep the beat for us.  We finally made it through some things but it was clear I had many, many areas to work on.

One afternoon the doorbell went off while I was playing.  I went downstairs to open the door and it was Scott Jeffreys.  I knew who he was from my senior year in high school.  He sang in a metal band called No Coment (yup, just one 'm') and I was in the best crossover band no one ever heard called Bloodbath.  Clearly, with a name like Bloodbath, and the fury of the punk gods coursing through our veins we would have kicked No Coment's ass in a street fight, but I spared Scott his life because he was a visitor at our house and I was curious about what may have brought "the competition" to my door.

Scott was seeing a girl in the neighborhood and had heard me playing a few times as he drove past our house.  He was trying to find a drummer who might be able to do a little more than the drummer of his current band, Confessor, was comfortable with and decided to ring the doorbell to see who the mystery drummer was.  He gave me a tape of his band and we were to catch up later.  I liked the music, and I had some ideas right away that could spice things up if I ended up being their guy.  I was intrigued.

I had always wanted to meet No Coment's lead guitarist, Graham.  I knew who he was from high school and he struck me as someone I would have gotten along with.  As it turned out he had become the lead guitarist for Confessor, and we probably met within a few weeks of Scott giving me that tape.  Graham and I hit it off right away.  I remember that the two of us went to five different places to eat the very first time we hung out together!  No, we didn't end up slurping up opposite ends of the same piece of spaghetti like in "Lady and the Tramp"... it was an onion ring from Burger King, thank you!  Or maybe a double with cheese from Wendy's...  hell, I don't remember.  I just know that we became inseparable from the beginning.

It took me just at a year of nagging Graham before he finally acquiesced and brought his rig over to get heavy with me.  I had moved out of the house by then, but I was able to keep my drums in my room.  I lived in a house with Reed Mullin from Corrosion of Conformity and a revolving door of other friends who either lived there or stayed on the sofa for the entire time I lived in the house.  Seems like all of the houses I lived in were like that.  Anyway, Graham came over and we played some Confessor, Trouble, and probably some Black Sabbath.  I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but it was damned sure a lot of fun.  Yes, he was allowed to face me. An hour of creepy giggling would probably have been viewed as a huge negative!  Within a few weeks he came over again with his rig, only this time he brought all of the guys in Confessor (minus the drummer, naturally) to check us out.  By then I had met them all several times.  They decided to give their drummer a couple of months to figure out whether or not he really wanted to dedicate himself to the band.  In the meantime I made sure that I knew all of the Confessor songs in case I got the spot.  I had been studying the tape quite a bit, plus Woody from COC and I used to go see them play all the time at the Fallout Shelter about three blocks away.  I was very comfortable with the material by that time.

A couple of months later, I was in the band!  My first show with them was on July 27, 1987 at the Brewery on Hillsborough St.  I'm not sure at what point the universe fell through a time vortex and 25 years were lost, but my calendar tells me that 1987 was a quarter of a century ago!  I think that makes me about twenty seven... or something close.  The band began to write more challenging music right away, and I think we were in the studio recording our first of three demos early the next year.  By the summer of '91 we had recorded our first album, "Condemned" and the rest as they say, is history.  Actually, the band have just begun a new chapter!  We were invited to play at the Maryland Deathfest earlier this year and we have just started to write another album.  I'm excited to return to what Confessor always did best, and I relish any opportunity to try and create something new.  There are many ideas that have been waiting for this chance, and I mean to take full advantage of it now that it is here.  More as things unfold...

Aug 27, 2012

The Moment that Changed Everything

I spent most of my childhood playing outside, riding bikes with my friends, or trying to catch crayfish in creeks like so many kids.  As I got a little older I spent a lot of time drawing up in my room.  In fact, once I was old enough that creeks and bicycles lost their luster no one had to look any farther than my desk if they wanted to find me.  I was always there hunched over, with my nose but a couple of inches away from the paper I was drawing upon.  Today my back would go out, my neck would kill me and I couldn't focus on anything that wasn't at least a foot and a half away if my life depended upon it, but back then I would spend hours on a square inch section of whatever masterpiece-in-waiting I was creating.  I would come downstairs for dinner, and go right back upstairs to continue drawing until it was time to go to bed.  All of that changed on my fourteenth birthday.

We always had music playing around the house.  At least up until we got cable vision.  I guess when you couldn't change the channel with the knob on the television unless you knew where the vice grips were it was easier to keep little ones entertained with music.  We would take turns selecting whatever we would play during dinner and I almost always chose The Beatles.  By the time I was in junior high school I was starting to come out of my shell a little bit and I began seeking out bands I could call my own to listen to with friends that also were just coming out of their shells.  I turned fourteen in 1981, and I still remember running around the house on my birthday to find all of the presents my parents had hidden for me. As I recall, I got something like a dozen albums that year and the one that made the biggest impact was Rush's "Moving Pictures".  I am quite sure that many little drummers were born of that album.  I still remember playing the beginning of "Limelight" over and over with awestruck enthusiasm waiting for that first tom flourish, a semi-flatulent call to arms for young boys and girls who also wanted to to live "... on a lighted stage" as described in that song.  I knew right then and there that I would be a drummer, and I know now that I will always be one. 

What a phenomenal year for hard rock!  Some of the biggest, most monumental records for huge bands came out that year, and for a kid who was just beginning to step out into the world it was exhilarating!  "Back in Black", "Moving Pictures", "Permanent Waves ", "Heaven and Hell", "The Mob Rules", "Women and Children First", "Fair Warning" and "Diary of a Madman" all came out in that 1980 - 1981 time frame.  And the next year brought "The Number of the Beast", "Blackout" and "The Electric Eye".  No mullet was too extreme, and I was in hog heaven!  I became obsessive about all of it, but Rush was the band I paid special attention to up in my room with headphones pounding my eardrums.  I wanted to play everything Neal Peart did on all of those records!  I "felt" every little nuance, and I actually had nearly all of his parts committed to memory before I ever even got my first drum set.  I knew every bass line, every shrill lead note, and every crack in Geddy Lee's vocals.  Rush championed geek-dome like no other band, and I was ready to lead their geek armies to whatever dork planet they could conjure up!  I knew that no women lived on any of the planets Rush and I would conquer together, but there would be time for that later.  I heard my calling, and the babes would just have to engage in pillow fighting and brushing each other's hair until my triumphant return...


Aug 26, 2012

Welcome to The Poundry!  Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Steve Shelton, drummer of the cult metal bands Confessor and Loincloth.  Music has been my vehicle for creative expression for over twenty five years.  I have had the good fortune of being in two bands dedicated to pushing themselves into uncharted waters which has made it possible for me to make my own unique mark in the world of drumming.  Playing drums has been endlessly satisfying to me, and in recent years I have found another comfortable home behind the lens of a camera.  In either pursuit I search for new angles from which to highlight things in ways I have never encountered before.  Whether I find myself micro-dissecting drum beats or combing through dozens of photos to find that certain elegance that exists within decay, I am always trying to find something that propels me further down the path of creative expression.  Within the coming weeks you will be able to find updates of all of my creative and some not so creative endeavors here, as well as opinions and perspectives from the little corner of the world my wife and I like to call "home".