Jul 1, 2015

Cleaning Out the Closet

Wow, here's a blast from the past!  I thought you guys might get a kick out of these old Slayer photos.  I flipped out when I first heard Slayer way back in high school.  Slayer's first album and Trouble's first album were what pointed me down the long, dark road of underground metal.  I had an opportunity to see Slayer back in 1985 when they were touring for their second album, 'Hell Awaits'.  I was traveling with Corrosion of Conformity and D.R.I. here on the East Coast at the time. D.R.I. were friends with Slayer and had a show booked with them at L'Amour in Brooklyn, NY.  I ditched my hometown pals to hobnob with one of underground metal's true heavyweights.  One broken down van, an hours long wait in a hotel restaurant and several train rides later, all while dragging D.R.I.'s gear, we finally made it to the club. Sensing that I would eventually become a household name, at least here in my own household, I was granted access backstage and eventually found myself onstage while Slayer played, hence this shot of me and Dave Lombardo.  Yes, that is yours truly behind him; yes they were playing at that precise moment and yes, I really did dye my hair jet black for about a year.  I watched a home video at my grandparents' in which I felt like I looked a little too much like Eric Stoltz from the movie 'Mask'.  I think I bought a box of blue-black dye the next day! There was no helping my mug, though.  One must pick one's battles.  Don't ask where my other hand is in this shot.  I have been sworn to secrecy, though the look on Dave Lombardo's face might  make things clear enough.  That may have been the last time he let someone he didn't know on stage!  He was a great sport, and I even got him to make a goofy, 'Walk Like an Egyptian' pose right before they started a song.  Were it not for him stage security would probably have kicked my ass as well as the ass of Felix, D.R.I.'s drummer. We were rapidly heading towards an altercation with security when Dave Lombardo saw what was going on and told security to let us up onto the stage.  It was quite a night, and many years later it is still quite a memory.

Later the next year Slayer's masterful 'Reign in Blood' came out and underground metal was never the same.  They raised the bar and anyone who wanted to be taken seriously had to up their game.  I loved that record, and I think of it as underground metal's 'Back in Black'. You just can't make a case for any other band having a more influential album in the genre. Metallica were about to get much bigger than Slayer, but theirs was a different path that took them well out of the ranks of 'underground'.  By virtue of pulling underground up into the mainstream, Metallica were about to relinquish any claim they may have had to underground's throne as they had become the leaders of heavy pop.  'Ride the Lightning' and 'Master of Puppets' set the stage for them before Cliff Burton's death. By the time they had two more albums out there was no turning back for Metallica. Slayer were poised to make sure that dark metal's throne never left the realm of underground.  'Reign in Blood' had as much to do with cementing underground metal's dark side as anything else. Metal fans are predisposed to exploring darkness, and that was one thing Metallica never embraced as fully as Slayer.  I like plenty of bands who are not remotely satanic.  It's always been music first for me.  But when a band incorporate dark imagery in effective ways it adds another layer that sticks with me like a great horror movie.  At the time, Slayer's 'Reign in Blood' was perfectly dark, focused, and fierce.  'Reign' was to be the record that shook things up.

In December of 1986 Slayer played in Washington, D.C.'s Warner Theater, where I had just seen Motorhead on their 'Orgasmatron' tour the previous weekend.  Two huge shows.  Two very, very different shows, to be sure.  Both bands were fantastic, but this particular Slayer show was the best show I had ever seen until Mr. Bungle blew my mind in 2000 on their 'California' tour.  Slayer were brutal that night.  The crowd ended up getting almost completely out of control. You could feel it building all night long.  Slayer felt it as well.  At one point Tom Araya even admonished the crowd for turning a night that could have gone down as one of the most amazing shows in a long, long career into a near disaster.  I've never figured out what started it.  The road crew were vicious that night, but everyone had seen people being hit as they were drug from the stage before.  That wasn't new.  There were always two or three fans who would happily test the waters once a few adult beverages had loosened them up, and this particular crew were not having it.  For whatever reason though, the people never stopped jumping onto the stage. I have no doubt there were guys whose arms and hands were sore from trying to keep a 'World War Z' style onslaught of stage divers from overtaking the stage. 

To say that the area between the first row of seats and the stage found hundreds of us packed like sardines doesn't really begin to describe the experience.  Nor does it really address the smells in a scene like that.  Rim shot, please... yes, on the drums.  It was nuts man, nuts!  If your arm somehow ended up over your head it may stay there for three or four minutes.  If the pack shifted suddenly and pulled you off your feet you might not touch the ground again until the next verse, and even then you may only have had one foot on the ground.  I think anyone with claustrophobia would have had a complete meltdown. People were using anyone's hair they could grab to pull themselves on top of you like someone scaling a wall, then they walked on our heads like stepping stones to get onto the stage. That's how packed it was, you couldn't stop anyone from doing anything because you couldn't move, twist or even lower you head.  Once they got to the stage they either jumped back into the pit, landing on top of defenseless headbangers who couldn't move to catch anyone or to protect themselves, or they were dragged off by two or three dudes who started wailing on them. Spit was flying everywhere, and dripping off of all the mics and every one of the uniformed security crew who were forced into action by all of the insanity pouring onto the stage.  I began to worry about what all of that energy, and all of those amped up people would do when let back out onto the street.  It was intense to say the least, and more than a little scary.  I did manage to get some pretty good shots when I could actually control my arms.  I should have taken some shots of the place after Slayer's set.  The first three rows of seats were flattened.  Only the metal frames bolted to the floor remained, some blood, hair, probably a nose ring or two, and these pictures...

This last shot is from that long adventure in New York to L'Amour where I got to watch the set form the stage.  Slayer played 'Hardening of the Arteries' and let it bleed into 'Hell Awaits'. The outro of 'Hardening' is the intro to 'Hell Awaits', and I took this shot as Dave Lombardo began those big tom flams before the double bass kicked in. I can't believe that show was thirty years ago!  Time keeps rolling along, doesn't it? If that show really was thirty years ago, I must be around twenty seven or twenty eight. Yeesh!  Marcus wasn't even born yet! I wasn't in Confessor.  My drum set was brand spanking new and I was just weeks away from moving out of the house.  All I was concerned about was being able to see shows like these.

Well, I just wanted to share these photos with you all.  Surely, someone will find them interesting.  Tell me about some of the shows that floored you way back when.  Slayer, or Perry Como... whoever floats your boat.  


  1. I love the old Slayer stuff. My first proper concert was Slayer, back in the early 90's. My first proper tape bought and paid for out of my own money was South of Heaven (still my favourite Slayer album to this day)
    I kind of lost touch with them a bit after "God Hates us All" for some reason. I will always love the old stuff though. Legends!
    Being from Ireland meant that we didn't really get to see most of the bands we were into. We only got to see the bigger bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Maiden...all of which I love to death of course. Slowly but surely that changed as the years went by and I got to see Cannibal Corpse (I'm not a huge death metal fan but I love these guys and a few others...old Deicide, Morbid Angel and a few others)
    Dream Theater even came here once. Myself and Laura are both big DT fans. We used to travel to England to see them every tour between 2002 and 2010, before we became old and lazy.
    One of my favourite gigs of all time was Iron Maiden's ex-vocalist, Blaze Bayley. His solo albums after he left Maiden were great I thought. He played Dublin, there was about 100 of us there and it was great! Straight of the stage then chatting and signing autographs and all that, great vibe to the whole night.
    I have yet to see my beloved Confessor though, I'm sure that will all change when Confessor and Loincloth do that co-headlining tour of Ireland next year though : )

    1. Hey there, Keith! I started thinking about it after reading your comment, and the Slayer show at L'Amour may have been my first true metal show. There were plenty of punk and hardcore bands traveling through town, but metal never came much closer than Washington, DC or Atlanta which were about five and six hours away, respectively. More bands came through a few years after that, but no metal bands played here in the mid '80's. Lots of people have told me that I am clearly into Mike Portnoy, but I've never listened to Dream Theater. When I've watched his videos online I can't figure out why people think I listen to him. Maybe I'm missing something. Oh, I watched a boxing match the other night with a guy from your hometown. It was from a few weeks, maybe months ago. The guy's name was Andy Lee, and it was the fight in which he won the welterweight title from Matt Korobov. If you know him, ask him to write Confessor on one glove and Loincloth on the other and see how he does. He should win every time. As long as he can connect with his right cross I don't think he'll need any help. Please tell Laura "hello" from Monica and me.

  2. I don't know Andy personally but I probably know somebody that does or I may know someone that had recently discovered that their 2nd cousin's ex-boyfriend's brother in law once saw someone that looked exactly like him a few years ago.
    He has a fight here in Limerick later in the year I believe. He'll get some reception that night, Limerick is very proud of their local boxing hero.
    Throughout the years, whenever asked about favourite drummers, I always gave the same answer...your good self and Mike Portnoy have been my two favourites for 20 years or so now. So I'm an expert on the matter : ) And I do agree with you that your styles are very different indeed.
    My opinion is that Mike has taken a lot of influences from other drummers and when applied to that early Dream Theater stuff, they really came out with a bunch of really great records.
    And his personality really comes across on stage, which I like too. I haven't really liked anything he has done since leaving Dream Theater in 2010 though.
    On the other hand, you have created some sort of half-man, half-machine approach that the men, women and children of planet earth are yet to comprehend. Completely unique. Trend free. Unmistakable. When the rest of the planet realise what has been going on for the past 25+ years, then I'm pretty sure you'll be announced "Rythm king of the Galaxy" or something to that effect...

  3. "Rhythm King of the Galaxy" has a nice ring to it! You are too kind, dear Keith. I really don't know any Dream Theater. I guess my favorite metal drummers are all old school guys by today's standards. Mikkey Dee, Gene Hoglan, and the unbelievable Bobby Jarzombek. You always know when it's Jarzombek! Same goes for Dale of The Melvins, though they aren't exactly metal. None of them use cymbal chokes very much, and I don't really get it. Hell, Tommy Lee probably used them more than anyone else I can think of in Motley Crue's early days. I'm still waiting for the drum videos we filmed to come back to me. I think that guy has become very busy in the last couple of months. I always keep a lid on things I'm excited about because every time I let a secret slip something happens to derail things. This has proved to be no different. All Pounderers will know as soon as I get them, believe me! "Steve Shelton: Rhythm King"... Yeah, I like that. Thanks, Keith!

  4. I have no idea why the auto-correct on my phone insists on spelling "Rhythm" with no "h" first of all! We all knew the machines would takeover one of the days, I'm pretty sure this is the start of it.
    Mikkey Dee is a great drummer. Rock solid, then he'll rip your face off with a drum fill from hell...I like that.
    Love what Gene did with Dark Angel and especially the 2 albums he did with DEATH. He's a machine.
    Bobby couldn't be human either. Himself and his guitarist brother, Ron. Unbelievable!!
    Yes, looking forward to those videos. But these things can take longer than you might want sometimes. I wait patiently though : )

  5. Replies
    1. Maybe if you had ever bought me that pony as a child I would have had the confidence to go through life as myself instead of as the pony-less freak with the red hair! I'll betcha didn't think it would have mattered so much back then. I love you anyway, Dad! Besides, you were right, having a pony in the house would have been tough even with a fenced back yard.